Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Is James Bond an Altruist?

James Bond and altruist?...Now, before you go have a bird and laugh me off the blogosphere, just hear me out...Well, after I tell you what I thought of the latest Bond motion picture, Casino Royale, that is...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Altruism at the Heart of True Happiness

While on holiday on British Columbia's beautiful west coast I read an inspirational article in the Vancouver Sun that I'd like to share with you, given that it reflects my thoughts too. It also just so happens to keep with last week's Friday Feature, which showcased the excellent blog Climate of Our Future. Written by D. Todd, the Vancouver Sun article reflects our biological imperitive for altruism to achieve happiness.

The search for true happiness has been going on for millennia and remains the subject of discourse for philosophers. Yet, it continually seems to elude many of us the more we pursue it.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Arc of Time by Nina Munteanu

The Arc of Time was first published in The Armchair Aesthete (Pickle Gas Press) in 2002. It has since appeared in the Romanian avant-garde speculative ezine, Imagikon. Then it was picked up by Ultra! and more lately SFera Online. Now it’s here, an ancient Earth tale retold by an alien… The Arc of Time will reappear in a short story collection entitled, "Natural Selection" by Pixl Press (an imprint of Starfire World Syndicate).

Friday, July 20, 2007

Climate of Our Future

My Friday Feature today is a wonderful blog called Climate of Our Future: a discussion on climate change. Why am I featuring this blog? Yes, there certainly are many blogs out there devoted to environmental causes and to climate change, particularly. I really like this site for several reasons.

First, let me introduce you to the mandate of the blog: " Climate of Our Future is a blog meant to open a discussion of global climate change by providing articles, resources and opinions that provoke our readers to thought and action. We’ll attempt to describe how our world’s climate is changing, what’s causing it, and how we can correct it.

Although the discussion of climate change and its manmade causes can be controversial, we can all agree that it’s important to do everything we can to safeguard our environment and its natural resources. Toward that end we’ll also be providing links to information that will allow us to reinvent ourselves as a more sustainable society

Maintained by Deborah (founder) and Francis (contributor and webdesigner), this site blazes with a passionate devotion to better our world and help us to understand planetary issues as they relate to us both globally and personally. Deborah and Francis accomplish this daunting task by using a variety of sources, material and opinion. These include the incredible gamut from the original poetry of Jolene Siah to the use of lobby group and conservation organization news releases (e.g., Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, WWF, Ocean Conservancy) to magazine articles, press releases and articles and finally to opinion pieces by guest bloggers such as Florida Weather Info Lady.

Speaking of the personal connection and individual innovation (a hallmark of human ingenuity), one of my favorite posts is this one, in which a Chinese farmer has fashioned a solar panel using beer bottles to provide his mother with a warm bath every day.
So, what is it that I really like about this site? The posts are thoughtfully chosen and written. If they are quoted, the writers are careful to include the source (a must in this area of controversy). Deborah and Francis don't waste time "proving" the issues of global warming by entering into ridiculous argument of validation. They just go about their reporting, looking at problems to solve, issues to highlight and personal stories of victory to tell. I like that. I like that a lot.
I'm a scientist and both I and my scientific community has been convinced by irrecontravertible evidence since the past twenty years of "global warming"... Okay, the picture is naughty, but I like it! But, seriously, instead of arguing whether it is occurring or even who or what is to blame, let's get on with the business at hand: doing something about it. I leave you with Deborah's testimony:

Says Deborah: "I am very passionate about our environment. Growing up and spending most of my life in the Sierra Nevada Mountains has given me a deep respect for nature. I have seen many changes to the local climate over the years. There is smog now coming up from the valley poisoning the flora and fauna. This is why I started the blog, to raise awareness. Some say it’s too late to change anything now. I disagree, there is still so much we can do."

I agree, Deborah. Just don't stop...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I just saw the latest movie of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series (Order of the Phoenix) and with the 7th and final book pending days from now, I couldn't help revisiting my review of the 5th book, "The Order of the Phoenix". Here is my review (which first appeared in Aoife's Kiss):

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Thoughtful Blogger Award!

Walks Far Woman certainly took a long stroll to give me this incredible award! Thank you so much, Walks Far Woman! Speaking of thoughtful, this site is a flowing stream of reflections and images that brace the soul and challenge us to be more, to live more, to love more, to care more.
The thoughtful blogger award was conceived by Christy at Writer's Reviews and is given to those "who answer blog comments, emails, and make their visitors feel at home on their blogs. For the people who take others feelings into consideration before speaking out and who are kind and courteous. Also for all of those bloggers who spend so much of their time helping others bloggers design, improve, and fix their sites. This award is for those generous bloggers who think of others. "
This is what Walks Far Woman said: "Nina blows me away because she’s an expert in a subject I know little of but she writes in such a way that makes it uncomplicated and intriguing." That means so much to me.

I've put a lot of thought into this and now pass on this award to those have certainly made this blogosphere such a nice community for me:

  • Somerset Bob (Kingsley), who's friendly and warm advice to fellow bloggers has made this place a little less daunting for many of us;

  • In Cinq (Adria Balgassi), who excudes warmth and kindness and beauty at every turn;

  • Jean-Luc Picard, who appears to be everywhere all at once (I don't know how you do it, Jean-Luc--perhaps you've mastered time-travel-- but I admire your kindness and enthusiastic presence);

  • Zephyr1, whose tireless and caring nature fills the blogosphere with her radiant dedication; and,

  • Steve Tennant (Time Line Journey), whose quiet, unassuming nature and great sense of humor make this place smaller and cozy.
Please visit Christy at Writer’s Reviews for an explanation of the different awards and the guidelines for passing them on. You can choose one for a dark or light background and resize if you wish.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Aliens too Wierd to Spot?...

Just to follow through from my last post on habitable planets and water...

According to the National Academy of Sciences panel, extraterrestrial life may be so wierd we couldn't recognize it, says Maggie Fox of the Vancouver Sun. The panel suggested last Friday that NASA's approach to "follow the water" may be too parochial and works only on the assumption that life everywhere is like life on Earth, based on water, carbon and DNA. But the panel of experts convened in Washington Seattle, contend that this approach may miss something exotic.

The purpose of a report commissioned by the U.S. space agency from the National Research Council (that advises the federal government on scientific issues) was to "be able to look for life on other planets and moons iwth an open mind," said John Baross, professor of Oceanography at the University of Washington and chair of the committee.

What might they look like? Will they have intelligence? Would we even recognize it?...We should perhaps be looking to the science-fiction writers of this planet for some ideas on other "life" forms...Of course, I always knew that...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Water Worlds Outside our Solar System

Last Wednesday, scientists announced that they'd spotted the first planet beyond the solar system that has water--the precious ingredient for life as we know it. Only one hitch, though...This watery world, about 15% bigger than Jupiter, has an atmosphere whose temperature is hot enough to melt steel. Which means that the water exists only as superheated steam.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Rockin' Girl Blogger!

...Oops, I missed my Friday Feature yesterday (I was caught in a high velocity windstorm out by the HD189733 system and didn't make it back until today. But...when I got back, I was surprised by this cool very pink thing! So, hey, I'm just a rockin' SF Girl! Thanks, Zephyr1 (definitely a rockin' girl herself) at Climate of our Future for tagging me with this cool award. I immediately thought of several awesome girl bloggers and found that they'd already had bestowed upon them this neon pink badge of coolness. But I'm going to link to them anyway, because you may wish to visit their rockin' sites :)

They include:
  • Theresa (Sqt), whose site Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin' Blog is the coolest (I may be a little biased, given my love for space travel and such);
  • Adria (in cinq), whose poetry/photo project continues to inspire so many of us
  • W for Wonder, another rockin' site on subjects I love
  • Walks Far Woman, whose idea for a blog and insightful thoughts I find compelling
Well, you gals already have this pink badge emblazoned on your site. So, here are five rockin' girl bloggers I have tagged with this award:
  • Orbitgal's site is devoted to wonderful self-expression, thoughtful ideas and photos that sparkle with feminine energy
  • Peggy K's two blogs (e.g., Biology in Science Fiction and Women in Science) rock with strong girl power that linger in our thoughts like a rich dark coffee
  • Jennifer Rahn's generous nature and creative sense of humor characterize her blog, Random Synaptic Transfers, with an aluring female energy
  • Tricia's The Modern Matriarch is an incredible distaff reflection of the world that surges with female lightening--uplifting and challenging
  • Karen Mason's exuberance and selfless devotion in creating and maintaining a site dedicated to my next book, Darwin's Paradox merits special mention for the female trait of giving. Thank you, Karen; you're a rockin' girl blogger!

Congratulations, Rockin' Gals!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Gaia Hypothesis

The Gaia hypothesis proposes that living and nonliving parts of our planet interact in a complex network like a superorganism. Named after the Greek earth goddess, the hypothesis postulates that all living things exert a regulatory effect on the Earth’s environment that promotes life overall.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

I'm a Schmoozer! The Schmoozing Award

Zephyr1 over at Climate of our Future, must think I schmooze a lot, because she's just honored me with this cool award. Thanks, Deborah and Francis!

According to Maurica author of Maurica wishing on a falling star, schmoozing is the natural ability “to converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection.”

"Good schmoozers", says Deborah, "effortlessly weave their way in and out of the blogosphere, leaving friendly trails and smiles, happily making new friends along the way. They don’t limit their visits to only the rich and successful, but spend some time to say hello to new blogs as well. They are the ones who engage others in meaningful conversations, refusing to let it end at a mere hello - all the while fostering a sense of closeness and friendship."

So, now it's my turn to bestow this award on 5 other schmoozers who I think you will find are just as kind and considerate:

You are all super schmoozers. You make the blogosphere a place of friendship and community.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Longevity Thesis by Jennifer Rahn

Today, for my Friday Feature, I've lured onboard my ship Jennifer Rahn, author of the dark fantasy Longevity Thesis, for an impromptu interview—she thinks we’re here to watch anime! Not to worry...

Jennifer is not one for heights—apparently, if she gets more than four feet off the ground her hands lock and she can’t let go of whatever she’s hanging on to—so, I offered to transport us to my ship via my crystal beam device, even though its annoying transit squeal makes you a little queasy. Despite this, Jennifer insisted on us using it...She must be a Taurus...So, I made the calculations and we set off. I remember glancing at her between gritting my teeth to the screaming crystal beam as she blithely popped a chocolate-covered marshmallow with toasted coconut she'd gotten from Picard’s into her mouth (I had no idea she knew Jean-Luc that well! All he ever gave me was red wine—albeit, a wonderful Merlot from his own vineyard...).

Anyway, once onboard, we settle in the aft lounge with two Labbatts Blues (she’s a Canadian, after all, eh?) and I let her glance in curious wonder at the view of the Earth below as I prepare my onslaught of questions by skimming the blurb of her book on her awesome publisher’s site, Dragon Moon Press, that I cued on my handheld:
Apprenticed to the Graduate Supervisor from Hell . . .
Deformed by the Desert he had been born in, Antronos had fought hard to overcome the stigma of being a surface dweller and make his place in the underground civilization of the Temlochti State. Finally accepted in academia, he graduates with a degree in medicine and accepts a position as a graduate student in the laboratory of Sen Vernus, a Professor Emeritus who demonstrates an extensive and arcane knowledge of longevity.

The weak-willed Lord Jait possesses psychic power he has no idea how to use—power that Vernus can use to possess others. The 'longevity' studies progress from stealing body parts to control over entire beings. Can Antronos resist the mind invasions of Vernus or will he destroy Lord Jait, the very man he has vowed to save?

Mid-way through Jennifer's appreciative swig of her beer, I sock it between her eyes with my first question:

SF Girl: “Being an ecologist alien, I was both curious and entranced with the setting of your book, Longevity Thesis. You mentioned that Temlocht (one of five regions of this world) is a Desert wasteland, where magnetic forces (actually magical forces) cause the Desert to rearrange itself constantly so that travelers get lost and the landscape is always changing with the undead appearing and disappearing; people who live on the Desert surface are considered freaks or barbarians by the ‘civilized’ population who live underground. What inspired you to create these incredible settings and did you draw from any personal experiences?”

JR: “Hmm...” She purses her lips in thought. “It seems I can’t answer this question without revealing what a nerd I am—”

SF Girl: “Nerd? What’s a nerd?”

JR: She ignores my interruption with a few dismissive blinks—another Taurus trait, I think—and doggedly proceeds to explain, like she would to a child, “They were inspired [partly] by the Rutherford Library on the U of Alberta Campus, which is the most amazing library I’ve ever been in...with several levels and ancient books...”

SF Girl: “You’ve described Longevity Thesis as dark fantasy. What do you mean by that?”

JR: Her eyes sparkle with the challenge of my brilliant question. “Well, the story is a bit macabre in places. Hard science is unnecessary for explaining the overall plot, and it is also extremely far-fetched. Ergo, dark fantasy.”

SF Girl: “How long did it take to research and write Longevity Thesis?”

JR: She gives me a slanted smile. “I think I wrote a really awful version of it when I was twelve—there were spaceships and dimensional crossovers in it back then—and then seriously started trying to write it properly when I was twenty. I first tried to get it published sometime between the ages of 26 to 28, and then realized that it needed some serious reworking. I was in the Critters Workshop for about three years and ran the novel through 3 or 4 times. The final rewrite took 8 months (all spaceships deleted) and was finished in December of 2003. So, in total, [it took me] twenty-one years.”

WOW! Maybe that’s why she called it the Longevity Thesis.

SF Girl: “What makes you write?”

JR: “I suppose the desire to remain somewhat sane. I need an outlet and this is it. I get a lot of satisfaction and peace from having a story come together.”

SF Girl: “How did you get started writing?”

JR: “Uh...I think it was when my Mum first gave me a pencil [when] I was two...”

SF Girl: I curb a frown at the brazen cleverness of her response and scramble for an equally clever comeback as Jennifer pops back another mouthful of Blue and lets her gaze stray to the window facing the breathtaking view of the Earth. “Earlier, you told me that you’re currently working as a post doc in the cancer research field. In a prior post on your blog, you mentioned how you had to put to rest the question that some of your academic characters (e.g., Jait and Vernus) in no way resembled your previous PhD or MSc supervisors...So where DID they come from?”

JR: I catch her shifting in her chair and let a predatory smile tug my lips. “[Some] are complete fabrications, [others] are all seeded from slivers of my own personality, which were greatly exaggerated for entertainment purposes. Atronos [arose] from a weird dream I had...I decided to include him in the novel because I needed a ‘glue’ character to string all the sequences together—”

SF Girl: “But didn’t your PhD supervisor say—” I catch her glancing around in search of a screen...I’d promised her anime, after all. Calling my bluff, Jennifer surges to her feet with a pointed glance at her watch.

JR: “Oh, I’m late for a lab session with my two trainees. Thanks, SF Girl.” She claps the beer down on the table and adds, “I really must go!”

Then she activates the crystal beam without me showing her how (another Taurus trait, I guess) and disappears. Lab session...Sure...I know better...She’s probably off manga shopping.

...I leave you with an excerpt of Longevity Thesis, Chapter One:

Chapter 1: Awakening

Antronos was being swallowed by the Desert. He stood petrified, watching a great wall of sand heave upwards and seethe past him overhead, covering his world in red gloom. Turning to look back towards his mother's hovel, praying it hadn't disappeared, he found he was somewhere else entirely—in an instant, all had changed. The sky churned and a vortex of wind stretched down from the red, sooty clouds to touch the ground and tease the sand into a great column that tipped sideways, and slowly writhed towards him, like a great, opened maw. At his feet, stones were sliding towards that opening, becoming caught up in the spiralling wind and tumbling out of sight. He called out to his mother, his trembling, skinny hands clutching the few dried brambles he had found, as he continued to turn in a circle looking for what he knew would not be there. Hell had returned.

Longevity Thesis will be on sale this September at Amazon.com. You can pre-order it now.

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Review of Kushiel's Legacy by Jacqueline Carey

I should first tell you that I generally don’t read fantasy. I am not a fan of epic quests in foreign unpronouncable realms by a superfluous cast with equally unpronouncable names. During college days I read Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” and confess that, while I did enjoy it, I was not inclined to pick up anything else like it. I am equally not keen on reading a story about a hero and his furry-beast friends who must conquer through magic and swordplay some evil warlord to save some helpless damsel in distress. Okay, not all epic fantasies are that transparent but they do tend to adhere to Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey”—to a fault.

Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy by Tor Books consists of three rather large books: Kushiel’s Dart (a hefty 910 pages); Kushiel’s Chosen; and Kushiel’s Avatar, with a fourth and fifth in the saga, based on another character (Kushiel’s Scion and Kushiel's Judgement). Kushiel’s Legacy is definitely an epic fantasy. But, thankfully for me, it couldn’t be further from its stereotype. Epic, yes—in size, scope and granduer. Fantastic, also, in its brilliant imagination and masterful delivery. But it is so much more.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Bloggers for Positive Global Change Award

I, along with four others, have been honored as the first recipients of the "Bloggers for Positive Global Change" award conceived by Climate of Our Future. This award was created by the COOF team to commemorate blogger's efforts around the world to share their knowledge, thoughts and inspirations in making this a better, healthier, more sustainable world.

The four other initial recipients of this excellent award include:

So, in keeping with the participation rules below-- I, in turn, bestow this Bloggers for Positive Global Change Award to the following 5 bloggers:

  • What's Your Ecotype: an informative treatise on environmental issues with practical advice and solutions
  • Princess Haiku: an ode to the beauty that surrounds us and permeates through us, providing a path toward improving how we perceive our selves and our world and therefore how we act
  • The Green Fingured Photographer: optimistic musings of a man living his life with a genuine dedication to improving himself and his world, one photo at a time
  • Seacoast NRG: a well-written advisory on energy, conservation, climate and the impetus for change that informs and challenges us to act
  • Got 2 Be Green: a down-to-earth summary of tips on living an environmentally friendly life one step at a time
Fellow Positive Global Change Award recipients, it’s easy to participate in this meme. At minimum, you can proudly display the BPGC badge (click here for the image url) on your blog and bask in the glow of our collective good will. If you are sharing the kudos, however, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging.

The participation rules are simple:

1. When you get tagged, write a post with links to up to 5 blogs that you think are trying to change the world in a positive way.

2. In your post, make sure you link back to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

3. Leave a comment or message for the bloggers you’re tagging, so they know they’re now part of the meme.

4. Optional: Proudly display the “Bloggers For Positive Global Change” award badge with a link to the post that you write up.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Canada's Birthday is Princess Diana's Birthday

I am a believer in the autopoietic nature of life in the universe, that events in our lives are not just random events, but simply not understood in a seemingly chaotic mosaic. I think everything has a "meaning" in God's eyes, whether we discern it or not. For that reason, I am not surprised that Diana shares Canada's birthday. In some very fundamental ways, this iconic yet unassuming humanitarian embodies the nature and spirit of our nation.

Diana was a philanthropist, characterized for her sense of style, charisma, humour and charity and her selfless devotion to her children, indeed to all children of the world.

Diana became well known for her charity work and her participation in the campaign against the use of landmines, a cause which garnered a Nobel Prize in 1997 in tribute. She also helped to decrease discrimination against victims of AIDS.

In 2001, Bill Clinton said of the Princess: "In 1987, when so many still believed that AIDS could be contracted through casual contact, Princess Diana sat on the sickbed of a man with AIDS and held his hand. She showed the world that people with AIDS deserve no isolation, but compassion and kindness."

True to her humble nature, Diana also made clandestine visits of kindness to the sick, turning up unannounced with instructions that her visit was to be concealed from the media.

Diana could have been a Canadian. I'm proud that Canada shares her birthday.

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day, Canadians! Canada Day marks the establishment of Canada as a Dominion on July 1, 1867. It's a federal holiday celebrated annually on this date. Here are a few facts about Canada:

  • Canada is the 2nd largest country in the world by area

  • Canada became a confederation of four British North American colonies in 1867

  • it remains a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and maintains a parliamentary democracy

  • in 1982, Prime Minister Pierre Eliott Trudeau pushed through the patriation of the constitution from Britain, enshrining a Charter of Rights and Freedoms based on individual rights in the Constitution Act of 1982

  • Canada is officially bilingual with English and French

  • its official national sports are ice hockey (in winter) and lacrosse (in summer)
But what about the interesting stuff, you ask. Okay...okay...
  1. Did you know that our national animal is a large aquatic rodent and appears on the Canadian nickel? The hardworking beaver!

  2. Or that Canadians consume more macaroni and cheese dinners per capita than any other country? Hmm...not sure I'm proud of that...

  3. Or how about those 'loonies' and 'toonies' we use to buy all those mac & cheese dinners? Those are what we call our 1-dollar and 2-dollar coins...because of the loon on the dollar coin; clever, eh?

  4. or that the alcoholic beverage Canadians usually prefer is beer? No need to explain that one! :)