Monday, December 31, 2007

Late Christmas Present


Your Merry Christmas may depend on what others do for you. But your Happy New Year depends on what you do for others—anonymous (originally posted on NoDirectOn)

On December 25, I got a Christmas present I didn’t realize I’d gotten until today, when I checked Technorati for news…So, here I am thanking Jos at NoDirectOn for a lovely award, the “You Rock My Socks, Mr. Present

Here’s how Jos explains it: “Jon of El Gigante Verdoso presented me with the "You Rock My Socks Award", and Ann of A Nice Place In The Sun invited me over to pick a Christmas Tree Gift from her page. From Ann's selection, I have chosen "Mr. Present", as he seems to be crammed with lots of nice little gift-wrapped items, and can be used all year through, not just for Christmas… In the past year I have come across, and have started to enjoy, your blogs. I have met most of you also in blogging communities, or at occasions were awards were passed on, or were some serious LinkLOve was shared. Thank you all for sharing what you did, on your blogs, in comments, in community messages. Your blogs do encourage, year round, the same energetic and imaginative sense of wonder that is apparent throughout the Christmas season. Make Blogs – Not War! Thank you all! You Rock My Socks!”

His instructions are simply this: "If it's your turn to choose one, two, or all three of these gifts to adopt, and decide to pass them on, please pass them to the most magical and imaginative blogs on the internet. Blogs that encourage, year round, the same energetic and imaginative sense of wonder that is apparent throughout the Christmas season." (Mr. Present idea from Ann of A Nice Place in the Sun).

Soon after, I received another wonderful award from Drowsey Monkey, one I could really relate to: the Mad Skillz Award! Drowsey Monkey got the award from Olga, the Traveling Bra. It was originated at Mommified Me who designed it "to honour those who are really good at some crazy things." This is why Drowsey Monkey gave me this award: "for her MAD SKILLZ at sci-fi. Her blog is always an excellent and thought-provoking read!" Gee.... (embarrassed but beaming smile)...

And, then on Sunday, December 30, I had the honor of being included in a list of very impressive bloggers by Jos again at Blue Ribbon Bloggers! for the blogging buddies award. Thank you so much, Jos, for this wonderful award and what it represents!

Jos ended with these inspiring words, which I will aspire to: “I hope the new year will bring just as many fun, interesting, thought-provoking, warm and inspirational blog posts, to and from each of you, and just as many nice comments, tips and suggestions, as we all have seen in the past year.”
So, here are my choices for the blogging buddy award:
I could name so many more...But it's getting late and I must stop. There are so many of you! Not to worry... there are more coming... :)


I’ll end with the same comment I made to Jos’s wonderful post:

…The very best to you and yours in the new year. May it be full of the magic and wonder and surprise that makes us so very much alive.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Christmas Story


This 2004 post by the editors of the Vancouver Sun says it so well, I'd like to borrow it literally:

...The 2,000-year-old Christmas story...offers profound lessons in what is important in the proper conduct of one's affairs. Its messages have immediate applications in contemporary life whether one is Christian or Muslim, Jew or Buddhist or atheist.

It is the story of the greatness of little people--a carpenter and an unwed mother--and their ability to change the course of the world despite the oppressions of tyrants and the arrogant plans of mighty powers. A reminder of the importance of striving for humility and not being too quick to judge others on the basis or their apparent condition.

It's the story of the homeless and of the refugee--for Joseph and Mary have more in common with those who visit shelters for the homeless or afflicted and those who flee political persecution than they do with we who are so comfortable. A reminder to look with mercy and compassion upon those who come seeking refuge.

It's the story of the importance of resisting orthodoxy and holding true to one's beliefs--as did the wise men who persisted in following their own star and witnessed the birth of a new world. A reminder that the most important path is the one we set for ourselves by our own moral compass, not the path dictated by the established view or urged by popular fashion.

It's the story of the frailty and folly of certainties in military might--as Herod discovered when he sought to save himself by slaughtering the innocents and instead was defeated by the Prince of Peace and a spiritual force that came to outlast his dynasty. A reminder that those who seem humblest among us are as worthy of our respect and compassion as are kings and emperors.

It's the story of the importance of wonder and of its acceptance--as the shepherds acknowledged when they gathered in the fields to listen to the singing of angels, not yet grasping that God was giving them his only son to redeem their sins. A reminder that it's never a good idea to be too quick to dismiss what at first we can't comprehend.

Finally, when we rise on Christmas Day to open our presents, whatever our own faith might or might not be, we should pause for a moment in our merriment to think of the other central message in the Christmas story, which is not the presents themselves, but what they represent--which is someone else's expression of love, generosity and selflessness on our behalf.

Our true wealth, the Christmas story tells all of us, resides not in presents, but in people. Not in what we receive but in what we give. And our most precious gift should be love and compassion for those among us who are poor and persecuted, homeless and harried.

These universal truths are inherent in the Christmas story and are meant for everyone, which is why the celebration has secular effects beyond its spiritual core.

Indeed, I could not have said it better... So, with those thoughts to ponder, I wish you a joyous Christmas!

Christmas Eve and “Mother’s Night”


I find it interesting that so many of our traditional Christian celebrations not only coincide with already existing pagan traditions and other secular or religious beliefs and philosophies, but in some cases resonate in tone and intent. I feel that all faiths and beliefs serendipitously, if not intentionally, align on some greater, Gestalt-like scale. Let’s look at Christmas and the pagan Yule for example.

According to Wikipedia, “Yule [Jol] is a winter festival associated with the winter solstice celebrated in northern Europe since ancient times and which fell on December 25 upon establishment of the Julian Calendar in 45 BC. Its Christianized form is called Christmas, which is essentially the symbolism and traditions of Yule with the Christian story of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth superimposed upon it. Yule traditions include decorating a fir or spruce tree, burning a Yule log, the hanging of mistletoe and holly, giving gifts, and general celebration and merriment.

In pre-Christian times, Germanic tribes celebrated Yule from late December to early January on a date determined by a lunar calendar. When Christianity was just beginning Christmas was set on the dates of Yule. During Christianization Yule was suppressed by the Christian Church, with many of the traditions being adapted to the new holiday.[2] Thus, the terms Yule and Christmas are often used interchangeably[3], especially in Christmas carols.”

Yule celebrations at the winter solstice predate the conversion to Christianity. The custom of ritually slaughtering a boar on Yule survives in the modern tradition of the Christmas ham and the Boar's Head Carol. Other symbols and motifs associated with the modern holiday of Christmas are derived from traditional pagan northern European Yule celebrations. The burning of the Yule log, the decorating of Christmas trees, the eating of ham, the hanging of boughs, holly, mistletoe, etc. are all historically practices associated with Yule. Another widespread Yule tradition, and one that persists in our Christmas festivities today, was the decoration of the house with greenery.

“According to the medieval English writer the Venerable Bede, Christian missionaries sent to proselytize among the Germanic peoples of northern Europe were instructed to superimpose Christian themes upon existing pagan holidays of the area, to ease the conversion of the people to Christianity by allowing them to retain their traditional celebrations. Thus, Christmas was created by associating stories of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the central figure of Christianity, with the existing pagan Yule celebrations, similar to the formation of Halloween and All Saint's Day via Christianization of existing pagan traditions” (Wikipedia).

According to the 8th Century monk, the Venerable Bede, Christmas Eve coincided with the ancient pagan “Mother’s Night” (also known as Helya’s Night):

"And the very night that is sacrosanct to us, these people call modranect, that is, the mothers' night, a name bestowed, I suspect, on account of the ceremonies which they performed while watching this night through."

The “mother” connection and the “watching” ceremonies of Mother’s Night consisted of the commitment of children to the protection of a goddess, ancestor, or the female deities known as the Disir. The ceremony became Christianized and the “mother” was naturally equated with the Virgin Mary, Christ’s mother. It is through no accident (despite the explanation I provide above) that the pagan winter solstice celebration of “Mother’s Night” should coincide with Christmas Eve, which belonged to Mother Mary, who was about to give birth to our savior. The Winter Solstice was considered a time for new beginnings, the birthing of the coming spring from the dead of winter, a time of light after dark, of hope and renewal. During the medieval Winter Solstice, houses in various parts of northern Europe were decked with fir and evergreens to welcome the coming of Hertha, goddess of light, domesticity and the home or the winter mother goddess, Rozhnitsa. How fitting that this pagan celebration was adopted by the Christian celebration of Jesus’s birth through Mother Mary.

This brings me to a simple point I wish to make about faiths and beliefs on this planet Earth… First off, I am a Christian. I believe in God and I personally believe that not only did Jesus walk this sacred Earth but that he was the son of God. This belief forms and underlies my actions daily as I interact with peoples of many faiths, beliefs and philosophies. The more I interact, the more I feel we are the same. And although it is important to celebrate our differences and the diversity that keeps us vital and alive, it is critical that we acknowledge how similar we are.

In an article by Douglas Todd in the Vancouver Sun, a Muslim academic, a Roman Catholic archbishop, a Jewish scholar and rabbi, and a Protestant minister provide four views of Jesus, God, and ultimately of their tolerance and inclusion of others’ beliefs:

Jesus is one in a lineage of five prophets that began with the first human being, Adam, Moses and Abraham”—Seemi Ghazi, UBC Muslim academic.

The first sound of the son of God on Earth was the cry of a child. The eternal son of God who became flesh is truly God and truly man. It is a mystery we cannot plumb.”—Michael Miller, Roman Catholic archbishop.

Jews find fulfillment with God not through Jesus but though the Torah, or Jewish scriptures.”—Robert Daum, Vancouver scholar and rabbi.

When he is called the lamb of God, the son of God, we need to take that metaphorically. Jesus is the lens through which God is illuminated for Christians.”—Gary Patterson, Minister at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church.

Here are some other interesting notions:

Did you know, for instance, that virtually all of the more than 70,000 Muslims in British Columbia (where I live) and elsewhere believe in Mary’s virgin conception? The Koran, however has the angel Gabriel involved in the birth of Jesus and focuses on how Mary felt alone and terrified while in labor.

Despite the different status that Jews and Christians give to Jesus, there are distinct similarities between the teachings of Jesus and other Jewish sages.

The traditional Christian claim that Jesus is the only begotten “incarnate” son of God, providing the exclusive route to salvation, remains a key theological sticking point for the Muslim, Jew and liberal Protestant. The archbishop said that the Christmas story is about how “the all-powerful God became humbled like us” through the birth of divine Jesus. The others, however, do not view Jesus as the only son of the Supreme Being, whose visitation on Earth and resurrection were necessary for all to attain eternal life. The Protestant joined the Muslim and Jew in not accepting the traditional concept of humanity’s “original sin”, which had to be atoned by Jesus’ sacrificial death. Instead, writes Todd, they seek “ongoing redemption in a mystical sense through developing a deeper relationship with God.”

So, despite differences, Muslim scholar, rabbi, minister and archbishop agreed that people can grow in their own faith through inter-spiritual and respectful dialogue (I emphasized respectful).

No religion is an island—Abraham Joshua Heschel (20th Century Jewish teacher)


Have a Wonderful Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Cookies


Well, Christmas is just around the corner and I'm doing my last minute Christmas baking... I have a wonderful list of Christmas things that I make only now and the boys always ask for them. I only have time to make their favorites (oh, and mine!) this year... I've been a little busy, promoting a certain book... I've made up my list of Christmas baking from an eclectic group of resources: some come from my Mom's list of traditional German baking like Berliner Brod; others come from friends and cookbooks I've run across over the years. Here's a favorite of mine:

Christmas Tequila Cookies:

1 cup dark brown sugar 1 cup (two sticks) butter 1 cup granulated sugar 4 large eggs 2 cups dried fruit (dried cranberries or raisins) 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans 2 cups all purpose flour 1 bottle Jose Cuervo Tequila (silver or gold, as desired)

First, sample the Cuervo to check quality. Take a large bowl. Check the Cuervo to be sure it is of the highest quality. Pour another 4 ounces in a measuring cup and drink. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of the butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon sugar. Beat again.
At this point, it is best to make sure the Cuervo is sti ll OK. Try another 4 ounces, just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break two leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit, picking the friggingfruit off the floor. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers, just pry it loose with a screwdriver.

Sample the Cuervo to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift 2 cups of salt or something. Check the Jose Cuervo. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table.Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven.Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner.

Finally, throw the bowl through t he window, finish the Cose Juervo and make sure to put the stove in the dishwasher.

Cherry Mistmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Edge Science Fiction Publishing



For today’s Friday Feature, I’m showcasing Canada’s largest genre book publisher, Edge Science Fiction Publishing. It wasn’t always so…In fact, it wasn’t until a recent merger with Tesseracts and then with Dragon Moon Press, both now imprints of Hades Publications, that this dynamic publishing house gained its new notoriety. Notoriety?...Well, let me begin with the beginning…

A press devoted to Science Fiction and Fantasy literature seemed like a natural extension to Brian Hades' previous experiences in publishing books on theater, magic and the performing arts. Over a mug of hot chocolate (now standard at all planning meetings), he worked out a business model that would both establish EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing and allow for its future development as a well-established genre publishing house.

In a 2006 interview with Celu Amberstone at SF Canada, Hades explained how EDGE got started: “…The idea of starting a dedicated SF&F publishing house began in the mid 1980's—and was spurred on by a January 1989 Quill and Quire article entitled "SF: Welcome to the Golden Ghetto". The article featured a very young bookseller-turned- author by the name of Tanya Huff. Unfortunately the Canadian market for science fiction and fantasy was very small at that time and there really wasn’t that much opportunity for a new publishing venture. EDGE had to wait for better times.” Then in 1997 Hades met Lynn Jennyc at a meeting of local independent publishers and they started assembling the building blocks that, one year later, became EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing currently encourages, produces and promotes thought-provoking and well written science fiction and fantasy literature, specializing in trade paperback and hardcover novel-length (75,000 - 100,000 words) science fiction and fantasy literature.

Since its award winning publication of Marie Jakober's "The Black Chalice" in 2002, life has been on high speed for this Calgary publishing company. It quickly gained recognition from readers and writers alike for its critical selection of engaging speculative fiction. EDGE's authors come from Canada, the USA, New Zealand and Australia and have garnered world wide recognition and by winning a number of awards; including a Canadian Aurora Award and Australian Aurealis Award and an American ForeWord Magazine Award.

In 2003, EDGE acquired Tesseract Books, the publisher of the highly respected and extremely popular "Tesseracts" anthology of Canadian short speculative fiction. Since its inception 22 years ago, the Tesseracts anthology has featured 344 short works and more than 200 Canadian authors, editors and translators -- including such well known writers as Margaret Atwood, Robert J. Sawyer, Spider Robinson, and William Gibson, to name a few.

Dragon Moon Press came into being in 1993, when Gwen Gades opted against law school after finishing her BA in history. At the suggestion of one of her professors, she decided to incorporate her love for science fiction and fantasy into a career as a publisher.

The name for her publishing company came in a dream, according to an article by J.J. Rahn in On Campus (University of Calgary). Gades recalls being struck by inspiration in the middle of the night with the image of a dragon—an archetype of fantasy—and the moon—a standard of science fiction—coming together as one.

Since the first printing of "Daughter of Dragons" in 1997, Dragon Moon Press has established itself as a leading Canadian publishing house whose dedication to first time authors and writers of literary excellence earned the company a place in the hearts of readers around the globe. The company has produced a number of books over the years, including the very popular "Complete Guide" series, which includes three guides to writing Fantasy and a soon-to-be-released guide to writing Science Fiction, plus an number of award-winners, including this year's top prize in the ForeWord Magazine Award.

Tee Morris, one of Dragon Moon Press’s authors refers to Gades as a woman bent on world domination. Gades says her goal is somewhat smaller—to capture enough of the market to expand to a mid-sized press. The merger with EDGE has, no doubt, provided her with this. In the short term she reflects, “I’d like to walk into any bookstore and find our books on the shelves, have a few breakout authors make the leap to big presses and be able to say ‘Oh, I discovered him/her’!”

Now with the merger of EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publications, Tesseract Books and Dragon Moon Press, this publishing house now has more than 90 titles in print, making it Canada's largest genre-specific publisher. Brian Hades and Gwen Gades (Geez, their names rhyme—they MUST belong together!) expressed their delight with the merger or Vulcan "Mind Meld" of Literary Proportions, as they called it: "We are both committed to producing quality books which feature today's best Science Fiction and Fantasy authors. We know readers will find a wonderful variety of both short fiction and novel length books to choose from ... including works by some of the world's finest writers."

They are celebrating, folks! And well they should! You can get in on the celebration. EDGE is putting on one heck of a Christmas sale on some of its books. Some are going for as little as 50% off regular price. My book, Darwin’s Paradox, is even selling for less! Check it out here.

As for notoriety…well, have you never attended a science fiction & fantasy convention and heard Brian sing SF karaoke? Or seen his vivacious wife, Anita (a ball of fire, by the way) dance the Lambada? Or experienced Gwen Gades’s rendition of a gold Bratislavian dragon hunting prey?...Well!... In my scientific career as a consultant and field scientist, we have an unspoken rule that “what goes into the field stays in the field.” If I were to follow the same code of ethics here, I had better shut my mouth right now…(big smile, though…I like all red wines and the finest quality chocolate…hint, hint…)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dark Matter—A Matter of Faith?


Does ‘Dark Matter’ to Philip Pullman?...

Dark Matter… “Dust” … call it what you want… It makes up 90 percent of our universe, according to astronomers. This makes the kind of matter that you and I see rather exotic; while we must accept the existence of the most common element, dark matter, on ... well ... faith. You see (oh, another bad pun!), dark matter doesn’t emit or reflect light and doesn’t interact with what we think of as ordinary matter. Yet, this invisible particle is faithfully being credited with playing a crucial role in shaping the visible cosmos. Dark matter is some form of matter theorized to exist that cannot be observed by radio, infrared, optical, ultraviolet, x-ray or gamma-ray telescopes and is theorized to be MACHOS, WIMPS, or GAS (see this site for more info on this incredible particle).

Monday, December 17, 2007

You are When You Were Born...Really?--Meme


That great gal over at Footsteps, Heather Dugan, voice artist and great friend, tagged me with this crazy and fun astrological meme. So, it's silly and kind of goofy (like that picture of me when I was a wee imp...I'm squinting in the sun!)... but I can play. Before I do, though, you have to first read Heather's meme post here. ...Now, wasn't that funny? I really liked how she added a photo of herself when she was a little kid. Nice touch. I think I'll copy it. So, what you're supposed to do is find the month you were born from this mysterious omniscient list that no one quite knows its origin but somehow ended up on The Climate of Our Future blog. Then paste it on your blog and bold the traits that you agree with, admit to having, own up to, maybe even proudly wear... Okay, so now it's my turn. I was born in April:


APRIL: Active and dynamic (I play road hockey). Decisive and hasty but tends to regret (okay…maybe sometimes). Attractive and affectionate to oneself. Strong mentality. Loves attention (Oh, yeah!). Diplomatic (I think so, but you better ask my husband). Consoling, friendly and solves people’s problems. Brave and fearless (most of the time). Adventurous (SF Girl!). Loving and caring. Suave and generous. Emotional (okay, I admit it; ask my husband…) Aggressive (okay, I admit it; ask my husband). Hasty ( I like to call it expeditious). Good memory (except for the year I was born). Moving (have you read my soap operas?). Motivates oneself and others. Sickness usually of the head (HEY! That isn't a nice thing to say!) and chest. Sexy in a way that only their lover can see (AND SOME!!!...oops, that’s my ego showing again…).


So, now it's time to select my 12 victi--er spirited candidates ready to reveal themselves completely!... First the rules...

Here they are:
1. Mention the person who tagged you and create a link back to them.
2. Copy-paste the traits for all the twelve months or provide a link to the list, like I'm doing here.
3. Pick your month of birth.
4. Highlight the traits that apply to you.
5. Tag 12 people and let them know by visiting their blogs and leaving a comment for them.
6. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve done it!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Rupert Sheldrake and the Physics of Angels—Friday Feature


Back when I was at the bar at Vcon and Boba Fett had staggered off to bed in a drunken stupor, poet extraordinaire, Rhea Rose (e.g., Tesseracts anthologies) joined me and after a few more drinks, we were having a very lively conversation. That’s when the name Rupert Sheldrake came up. Not that this botanist and follower of Goethe should be construed with heavy drinking...however, some of his ideas DO resonate with what some scientists would disregard as science fiction....Let me explain...

In an interview with Rupert Sheldrake, interviewer John David Ebert of Quest Magazine asked the same question that Immanuel Kant asked in 1781: Can there be a science of metaphysics? Kant’s answer was: there can never be science of metaphysics because science, by its very nature, is concerned with a recondite analysis of tangible things within the world of space and time…Metaphysics, on the contrary, is concerned with transcendent intangibles, such as God, the soul, freedom, and immortality. Sheldrake’s answer was quite different. Ebert added that “Metaphysics…has always looked askance at the earthly plane as a place for confirmation of the validity of its ‘truths’.”

And yet, some of our most creative scientists are already trespassing into the territory of metaphysics, which Kant had insisted should remain separate from science.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Multiple Independent Discoveries: genius or monkeys?


As a follow-up to my last post, dcr in a blog post entitled “Isaac Asimov: Prophet?” wrote:


“Nina, a.k.a. The Alien Next Door, has an interesting post today on Isaac Asimov and al-Qaida. Did bin Laden model his efforts off of Asimov’s Foundation series? That is something you will have to figure out for yourself. As Nina mentions, sometimes life imitates art…The examples she mentions are of individuals that have been inspired by certain books. But, there have been other cases where an author has written about events eerily similar to events that later occurred in real life, where no individual can be said to have been moved by the novel to take certain actions.”

Monday, December 10, 2007

Isaac Asimov & the al-Qaida?

Thanks to my friend, Josh, I became aware of a strange article by Giles Foden, which appeared in the Guardian in 2002 that linked classic SF writer Isaac Asimov to the al-Qaida. WHAT? You may very well ask. Entitled, “War of the Worlds” Foden's article in the Guardian cites an item that appeared in an authoritative Russian studies website claiming that Isaac Asimov’s 1951 classic Foundation was translated into Arabic under the title of “al-Qaida”; and, furthermore, that Bin Laden may have been inspired by the novel.

Okay…bizarre as it may seem, here is some of the foundation (pardon my awful pun) for this assertion:

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Get a Free Copy of "Darwin's Paradox"!


SQT, over at Fantasy & Sci-fi Lovin' Book Reviews is giving away a copy of my SF thriller, "Darwin's Paradox". So, if you're interested in getting a free copy, check out her very cool site, here, and all you have to do is post a comment saying you're interested. Good luck!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Chapters & Nina's Toronto Book Tour


It’s Friday and my Friday Feature is dedicated to Chapters-Indigo-Coles Bookstore, a wonderful Canadian book chain that has wisely--and to my ecstatic pleasure--decided to carry "Darwin's Paradox" in every store across the country.

I just got back from my book tour in Toronto, Canada, and had a blast! Upon arrival at the Pearson International Airport, my brother and sister in law picked me up and graciously hosted me in their home north of Toronto. I didn’t realize just how gracious they were until I got there and discovered that they were in the midst of redecorating their home. But they were cool with me staying there and my sister in law even offered to act as my guide through Toronto’s maze of highways and suburban sprawl—so long as I didn’t mind visiting a hundred bathroom and tile shops between bookstores. I congenially agreed and settled into the groove. I even picked up a few tips along the way. Did you know, for instance that 1/2” thick cementitious ceramic tile backerboards are recommended over greenboard sheetrock for tub and shower enclosures, because the latter aren’t sufficiently water-proof in areas subject to heavy amounts of moisture? Well, there, you learned something just as I did.

As for Toronto…I saw it all…and I can tell you where every single Chapters-Indigo-Coles bookstore is, too! Toronto is really a network of many smaller historical “villages” with unique character, ethnic culture and history, glued together by a “connective tissue” of highways, urban sprawl and shopping malls. Toronto (tə’rɒntoʊ/, local pronunciation [trɑnoʊ]) is the largest city in Canada and the provincial capital of Ontario. Located on scenic Lake Ontario, the city is the fifth-most populous municipality in North America, with over 2.5 million residents. Considered one of the world’s most diverse cities, Toronto is also a global city and one of the top financial cities in the world. It’s come a long way from “the place where trees stand in the water” (Iroquois meaning for “Toronto”).

I started my tour in the northwest, including the Indigo Bookstore at Yorkdale Shopping Centre, which was in 1964 (when it was built) the largest enclosed mall in the world. There I met some wonderful readers, including Cathy Paxton (pictured here with me).

In the next several days, my intrepid sister in law and I meandered from one end to the other of greater Toronto’s sprawling network of villages and towns in search of bookstores. Our trek took us through 40 km winds, horizontal sleet and freezing rain and ice. Undeterred, we pushed on, confident with the knowledge that most Chapters-Indigo-Coles were equipped with a Starbucks where we could sample their latest gingerbread latte.

After doing the mall scene in suburban Toronto, we took the subway on Friday downtown to the funky part of Queen Street West where we had lunch at East, whose designer washroom was more attractive than most people’s livingrooms. As the sun briefly broke through the clouds, we walked to Bakka-Phoenix Science Fiction Bookstore. It was just what I’d expected, located in an old building complete with brick façade and casement windows. Inside, I found a friendly staff, headed by Chris Szajo, the manager. As I autographed the last two books, Chris assured me that more books were on the way.
My sister-in-law then tirelessly led me through the downtown core from Eaton’s Centre to the Largest Bookstore in the World and then, as the darkness fell over the city and the city lights reflected the falling snow, we ended up in the business section where Darwin’s Paradox was also for sale in several bookstores tucked in among fancy cafes where Toronto business men and women discussed the stock exchange and the coming environmental crisis.

Then, on December 1st, true to Toronto’s efficient way of doing things, and in the great spirit of Christmas, it snowed heavily, creating a winter-wonderland, complete with icicles and sparkling snowflakes. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

My last signing took place at Indigos in Markham in the Woodside Mall. What a send off for me! Not only had they already sold a large number of the books, but I proceeded to sign-off the rest to an interesting and incredibly vibrant and diverse group of readers who engaged me in diverting discussions on evolution, Darwinism, women’s issues, technology and the environment. Here are just a few of the interesting people I met: there was Mark, an orthodox priest; Lauren and Louise, lovers of historical fiction; Alvin a young University of Toronto engineering student; Nadira, a physician; Tristan, a science fiction reader and his mother; Rodica, a fellow Romanian with whom I shared a few Romanian words (mulţumesc, Rodica!); three Margarets (No! They didn’t know each other!); and Michael Fuller, an ecologist with the University of Toronto.


I must thank the managers of the book stores who hosted my signings, all of whom made me feel so welcome; particularly Mary, Kevin and Scott of Chapters (Woodside Centre in Markham), who put on a great show for the book and even got me one of those Starbucks coffees! Thanks, everyone!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Seven Weird & Random Facts About Nina Munteanu


Thanks, Deborah at Climate of Our Future for tagging me with this 7 wierd or random facts meme. I just love these!

Here are the rules of the Meme:
Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.
Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Here are Deborah's weird facts:
1. she has MS: I didn't know that, Deb!
2. she likes to keep to herself and work: well...you seem pretty social to me...
3. she prefers Jeeps to Cadillacs: great choice, Deb!
4. spinach salad is her favorite food: okay, you're allowed a few strange choices.
5. sleeping under the stars is her favorite way to sleep: wonderful and romantic!
6. cutoffs, and t-shirt are her favorite clothes: yeah, comfortable.
7. the mountains are her favorite place on earth: this I knew, Deb!

Okay...well, here are seven (and only seven; I could write a book!) strange and weird facts about ME:
1. I'm an author and I can't spell
2. I speak five languages (none of them very well: English, French, Romanian, German, Swedish)
3. I failed First Year University Chemistry
4. I don't watch TV
5. My high school career assessment concluded that I was best suited to be a sargent in the army (writer was way down the list)
6. I opted out of Grade 11 biology to take typing (then had to challenge the exam when I decided to pursue a science degree at university)
7. I was chased off the Serengeti Plain by a horde of biting soldier ants.

Now for the fun part: to tag 7 others who we want to find out more about... I choose as my vict-er-fortunate candidates:
Joanne at The LaidBack Buddhist
Lozster
Jennifer Rahn
Heather Dugan
Greg's Brain

Now, don't be shy. If you can't think of anything, you can make it up (I did!)...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Aliens Among Us



In a remarkable article in the Scientific American, Paul Davies reports on scientists’ pursuit of evidence that life arose on Earth more than once, providing evidence for a plethora of life in the universe.

“The origin of life is one of the great unsolved problems of science,” writes Davies. “Nobody knows how, where or when life originated. About all that is known for certain is that microbial life had established itself on Earth by about three and a half billion years ago. In the absence of hard evidence of what came before, there is plenty of scope for disagreement.”

And a plethora of disagreement there is.