Friday, August 31, 2007

Meme: five old posts (looking back)

Ilker Yoldas, over at The Thinking Blog, kindly tagged me with this 5 old posts meme, so for my Friday Feature I’d like to present a small history of…your guessed it… my Friday Features (which incidentally represent the areas of my blog, which include 1.environment; 2.literature; 3.blogger/celebrity interview & review; 4. science & technology; and 5. science fiction/writing. It’s sometimes hard to believe that I only started this blog a few months ago. I’ve posted over 75 posts and met over 7,000 terrific people. So, here are my five:

1. “What’s Your Ecotype?” -- This was my first Friday Feature (May 11) and showcased Ian Parnell’s challenging and instructional blog on the environment. Ian is an environmental scientist with lots of practical knowledge and provides a lot of sound and practical advice on environmental stewardship that can be taken in doses most of us can handle. Oh, and by the way…what IS your ecotype? Take the quiz here!

2. “Banned Books: How many did YOU read?” -- this post (May 25) featured the Forbidden Library of Janet Yanosko. Her library boils overfull with an oozing cornucopia of 'demoralizing', 'blasphemous', 'racial', 'offensive', 'obscene', 'anti-Communist', 'Satanic', and 'anarchistic' literature. Ah, yes, you say! How subversive. Check it out! Its librarian, Janet Yanosko, has indexed books by author and title with explanation of why the book was banned along with her own amusing rather pithy remarks. Find out what forbidden books YOU’VE read here!

3. “ ‘Make it so!’ says Jean-Luc Picard” -- this was my first abduction (June 8) of a blogger/celebrity for a Friday Feature interview and I had a lot to learn as Jean-Luc deftly navigated my challenging questions and drank all my coffee! Join Jean-Luc on his continuing adventures aboard the USS Enterprise along with his wacky crew. Jean-Luc provides entertaining journal installments almost daily; he’s indeed a prolific writer! Check his latest journal entry here.

4. “Ilker, the Thinking Alien & Aurora Borealis”(June 22) -- Of course she’s totally gone and redesigned her site (which is fabulous) but I was initially drawn to the thinking alien (the one featured in the thinking blogger badge everyone covets) that graced her original blog design. Ilker’s site is rated one of the top 100 blogs and is described as “more than just a source of amusing facts and interesting information. It is a stream of consciousness intended to be succinct and thought provoking. A cornucopia of eclectic topics; from exciting ideas to cultural curiosities.” It is also well researched and truly compelling; go check out what’s on Ilker’s mind now.

5. “SF Writer” -- I featured the hugely gargantuan website of Canadian SF writer, Robert J. Sawyer (August 10) and gave him a great ride aboard my ship too!...Or did he give me a ride?... Okay, not only is it HUGE, but Rob’s website is an incredible resource of material for beginning writers looking for answers for anything from manuscript formatting to landing an agent. He also has information and links to some great articles on futurism, marketing, the science fiction genre, Canadian SF, and his own books. Go amble through his rich thicket of resources here.

And, like Ilker says, it’s bad karma to break a meme, so I tag the following five people with the challenge to do the same: Deborah; Joel; Peggy K; TekSavvy; and Markk.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I LoveYour Blog Award

It seems that it’s a week for memes. I just received yet another wonderful award: this one from WalksFarWoman: herself an accomplished writer and storyteller (catch her latest published story here on Karen Mason’s Nameless Grace site), a philosopher, and a woman who dispenses great wisdom and inspiration. If the byline of her blog, Kissing the Dogwood (“Being the Best You Can Be”) isn’t hint enough, check out her philosophy posted on her blog. Here’s a small excerpt: “I have endured many of life’s slaps and knock outs but still I came around and ventured onwards because I knew I was here for a purpose, but aren’t we all. Low self-esteem, lack of confidence, loneliness, heartbreak, abandonment, rejection…I’ve had them all - and laughed in their face; they won’t defeat me, walksfarwoman is enduring and passionate and also very importantly - forgiving, you must be too…I offer my friendship to you unconditionally … Who am I? Just a traveller journeying with an open ticket between life and death, always learning, always smiling, always happy to greet a fellow traveller.”

So you know why I was delighted to find that she just loves my blog! Enough to bestow this award to me:Here are a few blogs, which, in turn, I think you'll just LOVE:
You can pass this award on to any other deserving blog. Now, go forth and multiply! :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Artificial Intelligence: Part 3—Cyborgs & Evolution

Artificial Intelligence: the ability of computers to perform functions that normally require human intelligence—Encarta World English Dictionary, 1999

Cyborg: a fictional being that is part human, part robot—Encarta World English Dictionary, 1999

Michio Kaku, author of “Visions: how science will revolutionize the21st Century”, predicted that sometime beyond 2050, AIs would acquire consciousness and self-awareness. MIT artificial intelligence guru and transhumanist, Ray Kurzweil, agreed in his 1999 book “The Age of Spiritual Machines” that sentient robots were indeed a near-term possibility: “The emergence of machine intelligence that exceeds human intelligence in all of its broad diversity is inevitable.” Kurzweil asserted that the most basic vital characteristics of organisms such as self-replication, morphing, self-regeneration, self-assembly, and the holistic nature of biological design can eventually be achieved by machines.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Meme: the Nice Award

Well, it's meme time again. This one is a wonderful award that Deborah at Climate of our Future bestowed upon me because, for some reason, she thinks I'm NICE (but that's not what my coffee mug said about me; I'm an Aries) and this blogosphere is incredibly full of nice people.

Sometimes we forget the word and what lies behind it; sometimes we simply take "nice" for granted; sometimes we undervalue "nice", preferring to exalt "courage", "cleverness", or "innovation". But like integrity, honor, and humility, NICE is one of the traits we most appreciate deep down. I'm truly honored that Deborah decided that I merited this award. And I cherish it for what it means. Thanks, Deborah.

In the spirit of good memes, I honor the following people with the NICE Award: Nathalie, Jean-Luc, Bob, WalksfarWoman; and Tricia. You all truly light up the blogosphere with your kindness, compassion and inner light. Now, go forth and tag five other nice people!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Post script to Conversion 23

More convention fun and games...Okay, I threatened fellow members of SF Canada that I'd show these videos. Here are two of them (of course they aren't all of them!):

The first is actually self-incriminating. It was taken by that troublemaking author, Jennifer Rahn, as I was preparing for my reading of "Darwin's Paradox":

This next video demonstrates that publishers are...well, very strange, but that university professors are even more strange. This is Karl Johanson of Neo-Opsis Science Fiction Magazine showing us his ability to...well, you figure it out; but pay attention to the expression on Robert Runte's face (seated beside Karl, looking on). I guess he gets out more than I do...

Don't try this at home, folks!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What's in a Name: Find your Name Sake

Melanie Faith over at A Quiet Symphony tagged me with this cool meme about "your name". At first I thought...well okay...I felt lazy... But Melanie's picks were intriguing, though. Then as soon as I started looking (I did a search for just "Nina" as well as "Nina Munteanu") I came up with some cool stuff! Thanks, Mel! To continue the meme, I choose: Jennifer, Virginia, Teresa, Kathleen and Bob. Go at it, if you dare...

The rules are simple, folks:

2) Click on Google images
3) Type in your name and search
4) Repost (w/ a link) the picture of the oddest, craziest, strangest, coolest, oldest, etc. person that shares your name. Post multiples if you find a few you like.
5) Have fun with it and pass it on.

The name "Nina" actually means "little girl" in Italian and is a common name in Italy, as well as Russia. It also stands for a Babylonian goddess of the watery deep and the daughter of Ea. Well, you pick which is most appropriate...Here's what I found for "Nina":

1. Nina Fresa Low Rise Jeans...don't I wish my *** looked like that!

2. Nina Moric: Italian actress, model and singer...rather accomplished, wouldn't you say?

3. The Nina, one of Columbus's ships. It was very small (66 feet long) and was the only ship of a fleet of 17 to survive a hurricane in 1495...I can only hope to prove as resilient!

4. Naughty Nina, a magic story game that features a mischievious little girl who reminds me of someone...

5. Nina Shoes--glitter pumps. OOHHH! How'd they know I just LOVE shoes!

6. Haute Couture Nina Ricci is one of the most prestigious names in French fashion design. It was founded in 1932 in Paris (my favorite city) by Madame Ricci and her son, Robert Ricci. The last time I was that thin was...well...perhaps never... :)

7. La Nina is an extreme phase of a naturally occuring climate cycle: cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean creates an impact on global weather patterns for an extended time...Yeah, I can dig that! Just don't get me mad!

8. Nina Simone is a smoky jazz singer, songwriter and pianist as well as civil rights activist.
9. Nina Munteanu (my true namesake!) is a German Balkan singer of "Randolina Music"

10. Nina Munteanu...well, there's me too! This is a pic of me trying to look smart at a convention several years ago.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Con-Version 23: Calgary's SF & F convention--2007

Today's Friday Feature is Con-Version 23. It was a blast! Held at the Radisson Hotel in Calgary August 10-12, 2007, the convention committee (volunteers from the CSFFS), chaired by the ever-competent and continually cheerful Kirstin Morrell, did an admirable job to make this convention a resounding success. Literary guest of honor was Jack McDevitt (Seeker, Omega, Odyssey, Ancient Shores) and the science guest of honor Calgary's own Rebecca Bradley, also a fantasy author (Lady Gil series), but there primarily for her expertise as an ethnoarcheologist, specializing in Egypt, and the Sudan. Features publisher was Brian Hades of Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

Kirstin kept me out of mischief by putting me on so many panels, I was literally running from one to the other...That's okay; I needed the exercize. And I still managed to find the Slave Auction (one winner pictured here with her prizes), Masquerade, Filking, swordfighting demo, and "Phantom of the Space Opera" show, which strangely resembled a twisted drug-induced version of several Star Trek shows in one...

Here are a few highlights of the con:

1. prior to the convention, a few of us explored Calgary and found ourselves at the Sushi Boat where I marvelled at all the little boats carrying sushi...(I don't get out much)... From left to right, Virginia O'Dine of Bundoran Press, Karl Johanson of Neo-Opsis Science Fiction Magazine, Nathalie Mallet, author of The Princes of the Cage and Dominic Maguire of Bundoran Press.

2. I met my Dragon Moon Press publisher, Gwen Gades, and EDGE Publisher Brian Hades again. After some money was exchanged, Brian promised not to sing. From left to right is Gwen Gades, Nina Munteanu, Nathalie Mallet, and Brian Hades in the back.

3. After doing a reading of "Darwin's Paradox" I rewarded those who had stayed to the bitter end by giving away an original work of art by illustrator, Teresa Young.

4. I had a great time serving on panels like this one on small press with Brian Hades and Janice of EDGE.

The best part of the con was meeting old friends again and making new ones. The Calgary community in general and the SF & F community, specifically, is a lively, warm and very welcoming one. I had the honor and pleasure of meeting for the first time great authors like Jack McDevitt, Nathalie Mallet, and Jennifer Rahn, in addition to new rising stars like Adria Laycraft (look out for her!) and first prize winner of the Robyn Herrington Memorial Short Story Contest, Calvin Jim. I also met my excellent editor, Tim Reynolds of Dragon Moon Press, for the first time. It was wonderful to visit with fellow SF Canada members like Marie Jakober, Allison Sinclair, Lynda Williams, Robert Runte, Karl Johanson and Virginia O'Dine as well as Canadian author Danita Maslan.

In the end, the sign of a good convention is sheer exhaustion...I guess Lynda beat me to it... Thanks, by the way to Jennifer Rahn and Nathalie Mallet for some of these pics...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Literary Mind Meld

In a literary "Mind Meld" of universal proportions publishers Brian Hades and Gwen Gades announced on August 11, 2007, that three publishing imprints, EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, Tesseract Books and Dragon Moon Press, have merged to form Canada's largest genre publisher of Science Fiction and Fantasy. This triumvirate publishing house now has more than 90 titles in print.

In a recent presentation at Calgary's annual convention of Science Fiction and Fantasy fans, Brian Hades, publisher of EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, and Gwen Gades, publisher of Dragon Moon Press, expressed their delight with the merger: "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."

About Dragon Moon Press: 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 guide books on writing Fantasy and a soon-to-be-released guide book about writing Science Fiction. Oh, and, of course, one of my favorites (:D) "Darwin's Paradox".

About EDGE Science Fiction Publishing and Tesseracts Books: 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. EDGE authors have garnered world wide recognition by winning a number of awards - including the Canadian Aurora Award, the Australian Aurealis Award and the ForeWord Magazine Award (USA).

About Tesseract Books: In 2003, EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy acquired Tesseract Books - the publisher of the highly respected and extremely popular "Tesseracts"anthology of Canadian short speculative fiction.

About the Tesseract Anthology Series: 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.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Artificial Intelligence: Part 2--The Invisible Computer

Long-term, the PC and workstation will wither because computing access will be everywhere: in the walls, on wrists, and in ‘scrap computers’ (like scrap paper) lying about to be grabbed as needed — Mark Weiser, Xerox PARK

The Internet is like a twenty-foot tidal wave coming thousands of miles across the Pacific, and we are in kayaks — Andrew Grove, CEO of Intel

...By means of electricity, the world of matter has become a great nerve, vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time. Rather the rough globe is a vast head, a brain, instinct with intelligence — Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The House of Seven Gables” (1851)

I'm back from (and survived) "Conversion 23", the SF & F Convention in Calgary, Canada. It was COOL! And a resounding success, not to mention FUN. I'll post more on it shortly (when I get a few choice pics that I'm sure you'll enjoy, if not raise you're eyebrows is a convention, after all.) Meantime, here, as promised, is Part Two of my series on Artificial Intelligence, following my previous post, Part One -- Neural Implants:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Virtually Yours by Nina Munteanu

In keeping with the theme of AI, here is a love story that blurs the realms of virtual and real. This variant of "Beauty and the Beast" strays into the area of disturbing plausible scenario of a brain implant. "Virtually Yours" was first published in Hadrosaur Tales and later reprinted in Neo-Opsis Science Fiction Magazine. It was translated and published in Nowa Fantastika in Poland and Bli Panika in Israel. Virtually Yours was nominated for the Aurora Award and the SLF Fountain Award.

Monday, August 13, 2007

What Type of Writer Should You Be?

Are you a poet who sees the beauty of the world around you? Or a potential romance writer? Perhaps you have the makings of a screen writer stirring inside you just waiting to get out. Thanks to Melanie at "A Quiet Symphony" I found this quiz site that lets you figure out what kind of writer you are (should be) case you didn't already know, that is...:) The choices are limited and it's kind of cheesy but I thought I'd have a little fun with it. It consists of about 10 questions and in the end I got what I already knew:

You should be a science fiction writer. Your ideas are very strange...I already knew that!...and people often wonder what planet you're from (yeah, like I'm going to tell you!). And, while you may have some problems being "normal" (why be normal?), you'll have no problems writing sci-fi. Now you're talking! Whether it's epic films, important novels, or vivid comics...Your own little universe (yup!) could leave an important mark on the world! WOW! I'm so enlightened now.
Now you try it! I dare you!

I think one of the main reasons I fit into the Sf category was how I answered Question 4: what inspires you? I selected "what if" scenarios.

What if...I'm fascinated with "what if". Our lives are full of "what ifs". They're the stuff of our imagination. Our dreams. And, sometimes, our nightmares...We base a lot of our regrets and guilts on those nasty "what ifs". Here's a sad one I've been carrying around for a while...

A few months ago, I started half-waking up in the morning here and there, thinking I heard Sammy, our cat, outside meowing. Rather plaintively. Then I would hear him by his favorite place, happily crunching on his dry catfood...and I would fall back asleep and forget what I'd heard. It repeated several times...that kind of sad meow, then finally went away. We have a lot of cats in our neighbourhood, so I didn't think much of it. So long as Sammy was okay...

One morning we all got up to find Sammy gone and realized that he'd stayed out all night (we always bring him in nightly because of the coyotes that live in the field behind our house). The boys finally found him inside the small tool shed; he must have strayed inside while my husband was working outside the day before and got trapped inside (he knows he's not allowed inside, but he's a cat). Turns out he had a reason to be there; when the boys let Sammy out they heard a little plaintive call of a cat. It came from behind the wall of the shed! We realized to our horror that a cat was trapped behind the inner wall. Herb quickly figured out that it must have crawled into a small opening at the roof and fallen down a good nine feet between the cramped outer and inner walls. Herb set quickly to work, hacking open the wall to free the poor thing. When we finally got him out, he was a mess, blind and pussy and (pardon) literally rotting. My son and I rushed him to the vet (with blind thoughts of adopting him) who pronounced him too far gone: he'd hurt himself in the fall and had literally starved to death over the course of a few weeks and during the entrapment he'd been infected by vermin (it only takes a few days, apparently for that to start) which had eaten him alive. The vet then euthenized the cat. Herb closed up the gap in the shed roof so no other event like that one could occur again. I can't look at the shed anymore and not think of his suffering. I have no words to describe how that makes me feel. I'm haunted by it. What ifs...I keep thinking, what if I had checked when I'd first heard those calls? What if?...
photo of cat borrowed from

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Artificial Intelligence: Part 1--Neural Implants

Cannot we let people be themselves, and enjoy life in their own way? You are trying to make another you. One’s enough.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We used to treat the brain like soup, adding chemicals that enhance or suppress certain neurotransmitters,” said Rick Trosch, an American physician who works with deep brain therapies. “Now we’re treating it like circuitry.”

Ray Kurzweil noted in his book, The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999) that we were increasingly combating cognitive and sensory afflictions by treating the brain and nervous system like a complex computational system. He cited examples of cochlear implants together with electronic speech processors that performed frequency analysis of sound waves so that deaf people could hear and understand voices. Other scientists have worked with retinal implants, small solar-powered computers that communicate to the optic nerve, that together with special glasses communicating to the implanted computer by laser signal, permit a blind person to see.

Research labs are developing a vast array of “intelligent” wearable devices that can enhance memory, awareness and cognition. Digging deeper, microchip implants, such as radio frequency identification devices (RFID) inserted in humans, are gaining momentum.

Friday, August 10, 2007

SF Writer

Today’s Friday Feature has been called “the largest genre writer’s home page in existence” by Interzone. It was “widely believed to have been the first science fiction author site” according to Reuters. And John Robert Colombo proclaimed that, “it’s not a home page—it’s a mansion page!” This award-winning site contains over a million words, 530 documents and 25,000 links. No, it isn’t Boing Boing…(I just love that name, so I added it here :). If you’re into science fiction (as a reader or a writer), you may have guessed by now (okay, the title gave it away, didn't it? And that Ontario Licence plate): it’s SF Writer, the official website of Canadian science fiction writer, Robert J. Sawyer. And if you haven’t heard of it or stumbled upon it, you should. Here’s why:

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Co-evolution: Cooperation & Aggressive Symbiosis

Most impediments to scientific understanding are conceptual locks, not factual lacks...We know ourselves best and tend to view other creatures as mirrors of our own constitution and social arrangements.
Stephen Jay Gould, Bully for Brontosaurus
The evolution of species naturally arises from its response to its landscape, climate, access to shelter and nourishment, as well as the nature of its interaction with its community (e.g., competition and cooperation).

Monday, August 6, 2007

A Wizard of Earthsea

When my boys were gone on holiday and I had to stay home to work, my good friends down the street took pity on me in my solitude and invited me to supper and a movie at their house. I gladly accepted, always ready for company and to mooch... :) ... The movie turned out to be a wonderful fantasy they rented from the video store that had been made in 2004 by the U.S. based Sci-Fi Channel: A Wizard of Earthsea.

When they announced the title of the movie, I recognized Ursula le Guin's masterpiece of some time ago. What struck me with surprise was that my friends not only didn't know the writer, but they had introduced this 2004 movie as a Harry Potter clone! "It's got dragons and wizards and even a wizard school, like Hogwarts in it!" they claimed. And so it did. But what they didn't realize was that A Wizard from Earthsea came long before J.K. Rowling even began to think of Harry Potter.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

What Form would Your Patronus Take?

In the Harry Potter fantasy novels by J. K. Rowling, a Patronus is an insubstantial animal form protector created by the advanced Patronus Charm spell, and one way to defend against Dementors and certain other dark creatures (Wikipedia).

Friday, August 3, 2007

Science Fiction & Fantasy Conventions

Today's Friday Feature is the website for Con-Version 23, Calgary's premiere science fiction and fantasy convention, run by Calgary's science fiction and fantasy society. It takes place at the Calgary Radisson Hotel on August 17-19, 2007, and yours truly will be participitating in the con by sitting on writing, publishing and science panels and possibly giving a reading of my new book, "Darwin's Paradox".

If you've never been to a science fiction & fantasy convention before, well...what can I say...First of all, you might like to check out this link to a rather amusing but candid look at a previous convention (also at Calgary) entitled: "Conversion: where geeks go to get laid." Conventions have, I suppose, a reputation to keep up...The article starts out this way:

"I went to ConVersion XIX looking for something I could understand, like what I saw in Trekkers. Somehow, I thought being able to recite most of Babylon 5 and the good Treks from memory would be sufficient to carry me through three days. It didn't. By the end of the weekend, I had only begun to understand what true science fiction and fantasy fandom was about."

Aside from the wonderful costuming, earnest role-playing and music-making in the halls and larger venues, panels often provide erudite and entertaining seminars and workshops for would-be and established writers and readers of the genre. Panels also explore current issues in science and technology. Media tie-ins with guest appearances of cast and crew of shows may also occur. Panels usually comprise of four to seven "experts" who have assembled to discuss topics ranging from "the advantages of e-book publishing" to "issues of global warming". Workshops on writing, swordplay, or costuming are also common. In short, each convention is a unique and evolving creature, as determined by its participants. Each convention provides opportunity for all who attend, with each attendee making his or her personal mark on the kind of convention it will prove to be. So, I don't really know what to expect when I attend Con Version 23 in two weeks. But I know I'll be enjoying myself. And I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Is James Bond an Altruist? -- Part 2

In Chapter Three of his exquisite book, "The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation", Matt Ridley recounts the tale of Tosca, the heroine of Puccini's opera of the same name. Faced with the terrible dilemma of her lover Cavaradossi condemned to death by Scarpia, the police chief, she is offered a deal: if Tosca will sleep with Scarpia, he will save her lover's life by telling the firing squad to use blanks. Tosca decides to deceive Scarpia by agreeing to his request, but then stabbing him dead after he has given the order to use blanks. She does so, but Scarpia chose to deceive her too: the firing squad does not use blanks and Cavaradossi dies. Tosca commits suicide and they all end up dead.

Tosca and Scarpia were playing the most famous game in all of game theory: the Prisoner's Dilemma, which applies to any conflict between self-interest and the common good.