Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Neither Here Nor There" by Nina Munteanu

"Neither Here Nor There" is an allegorical story which first appeared in Another Realm. It is scheduled to appear in a short story collection entitled "Natural Selection" by Pixl Press (an imprint of Starfire World Syndicate).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Darwin's Paradox at Bakka-Phoenix Science Fiction Books

It's Canada's oldest science fiction bookstore. Located in Toronto's funky Queen Street West, this shop has hosted many a big name science fiction writer signing, including Robert J. Sawyer, who used to work there during his salad days. Those of you passing through Toronto, Canada, or who live there, you can now find my book, "Darwin's Paradox" on the shelves of this genre bookstore. And if you can't find my book, it's only because it's temporarily sold out! (so I was told the other day). More were on order and may have arrived by now.

I will nonetheless be appearing there this Friday to sign the last remaining copy (or others, if they've arrived) as Bakka waits for more to come in (very soon!). If you live in or are visiting Toronto, please consider visiting this independent bookstore dedicated to good science fiction, and support the independent bookstore industry by buying something from the knowledgeable and friendly staff (well, you know which book I'm going to suggest!).

Here's their address: BakkaPhoenix Books697 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON, M6J1E6, CANADA.

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 Visit for more about her writing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Nina's BookTour

My book tour is in full swing! What a hoot! My second book signing took place in my own home town at Black Bond Books. And we sold out! I was was the bookseller! ... :) ... I was heartened to see some old friends from my community, who'd responded to the article in the local paper, the Delta Optimist. People showed up from ... well ... all over (as far away as Coquitlam!) to buy my book. WOO! HEE! Again, as with the previous signing, friends and family coaxed me to leave with rhe promise of drinks and appetizers... Do you see a pattern emerging here? ... (Nina grinning from ear to ear). Next is Toronto, to several Chapters-Indigo-Coles bookstores.

On another wonderful note:

I've been honored yet again by that fantastic blogger, Deborah, over at Climate of Our Future. Geez, girl! We have to stop meeting like this!... :) ... She bestowed upon me the "You're an Amazing Blogger" award.

I must thank Deborah for this beautiful award and the incredible gesture behind it. I am truly honored, Deborah. You are extremely kind. Here's what Deborah said when she got hers from another fine blogger:

"Francis my dear co-author and author of Caught in a Stream, surprised me this morning with this AMAZING award. I am deeply touched by this. Francis is the amazing one as far as I am concerned. I can ask for assistance on anything and he is right there to lend a helping hand. I feel together with his help Climate of Our Future is what it is today. Thanks so much Francis for such a delightful surprise."
My dearest friend, Jean-Luc Picard also honored me with this wonderful "Colors of Friendship" award. Thanks, Jean-Luc! You are a true friend (and I'm not just saying that because of the fine Picard wine you gave me...) ... :) This blogging community is indeed a diverse, many coloured community of friends. And I am so glad to be a part of it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Our Modern Matriarch--Friday Feature

Today’s Friday Feature is someone who I’ve been meaning to feature for some time now…Well, now is NOW. So…Here is Tricia Ares: our Modern Matriarch.

Her smile is wonderfully open, almost mischievous; her eyes sparkle with a compelling mixture of youthful zest, challenge, and wisdom. Her stance is forward…in motion, like the woman, and her hair flames out like a tempest. She’s “a complicated chic” (her words).

Tricia Ares of Modern Matriarch currently carries a BA in English Literature and is currently working on her Master’s thesis in English Literature. This scholar brings over ten years experience writing and publishing in newspapers, literary journals and online. And it shows. Her words are carefully chosen, eloquent and sharpened to a fine point by a lucid mind beyond her years. Amid competent advice in matters of writing (e.g., the Ideal Length for Your Book; Are you an Active or Passive Reader?) reviews, and interviews, our Matriarch provides an insightful distaff dialogue on matters of the heart and soul.

Modern Matriarch started blogging last May, around the same time I started my blog. But, while this Alien stumbled through Blogspot, cobbling posts and images together, our Modern lady had her act together from the beginning; Tricia’s site was elegant, professionally laid out and extremely well written. It still is, although she’s currently revamped her site (I wouldn’t even know how to start vamping, never mind revamping!). The Matriarch's tag line reads “Reading, Writing, Reflecting”, which tells us the area that her blog lies in. But there is so much more to her and her blog. The quote she chose to place on her sidebar gives us a little more information: "And where the words of women are crying out to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives." Audre Lorde--Transformation of Silence.

The name of her blog, Modern Matriarch, tells us even more. Tricia describes a matriarchy as “a nonhierarchical society in which decisions are made by consensus. The term originates from the Greek “meter” for mother and “archê” for beginning or origin.” She goes on to describe traits of Matriarchal Societies as being: non-violent; having sexual freedom; venerating ancestors; with a close integration/interaction with nature.

And if you still don’t get it, she posts some “critical bits” under her picture. There are three of them so far, and they include:

Matriarchal VS Patriarchal: Two Forms of Society: “Many define patriarchal thought as “Active Doing” while matriarchal is defined as “Being”. In his book Alphabet Versus the Goddess, author Leonard Shlain proposes that the essential characteristics of this matriarchal outlook are holistic, simultaneous, synthetic and concrete while the patriarchal outlook is linear, sequential, reductionist and abstract. His fascinating thesis is based on right brain/left brain dominance and the influence of literacy on the human mind and the development of social structures. His theory diffuses the idea that pre-historic matriarchal cultures where exterminated by more aggressive patriarchal societies but rather evolved into patriarchal societies as communication shifted from image based to word based.”

Replacing the Terms “Masculine” and “Feminine”: “I propose the use of the terms intuitive ways of being and rational ways of being. Although on the surface these may appear to be gender specific behaviors, they are not. Admittedly they are ways of being more readily identified with one gender over another based on our long standing social biases. However, these terms allow us to separate the ways of being (which are not necessarily related to biology) from gender (used within the context of this post to convey biologically specific differences).”

Man vs Woman: the Epic Journey: “Maureen Murdock, family therapist and educational consultant has developed an epic cycle for women. I have not only utilized this model to analyze modern feminine literature, but to better understand my own spiritual journey”

Being a follower of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Tricia’s summary of the “Heroine’s Journey”. Here it is:

The Heroine’s Journey
Separation from the Feminine
Identification with the Masculine and Gathering Allies
Road of Trials: Meeting Ogres and Dragons
Finding the Illusionary Boon of Success
Awakening to Feelings of Spiritual Aridity: Death
Initiation and Descent to the Goddess
Urgent Yearning to Reconnect with the Feminine
Healing the Mother/Daughter Split
Healing the Wounded Masculine
Integration of the Masculine and Feminine

Here’s Tricia’s Mission Statement, which she wrote back in May (back when I was still foundering in my blog-identity—you may have noticed that I still haven’t quite figured it out).
Says Tricia:
· As I manifest my destiny, I weigh each decision against these guiding principles:
· As an artist, it is my duty to be fearless in my self-expression and to discover the ancient path of the feminine narrative.
· As a spiritual being, I take comfort in connecting with the universal whole.
· As an individual, it is my obligation to seek new opportunities to challenge my intellect and honor my body as a sanctified temple.
· As a mother, it is my sacred duty to cherish my daughter while facilitating her own self-discovery.
· As a wife, it is my honor to appreciate the gift of my husband’s companionship while serving as a source of strength, joy, and inspiration.
· As a member of society, it is my task to model the benefits of cooperative coexistence.

Quite a mission our Modern Matriarch has set for herself. But then again, that’s who Tricia is. She is our Modern Matriarch, a quintessential Don Quixote in search of truth, justice and honor. A woman, whose gypsy blood (I KNEW there was a reason why I liked her!) compelled her to travel the world in search of “place” only to find it in her heart and soul. And in her gift to us as our Modern Matriarch. A woman who barely veils her idealism and incredibly generous spirit beneath crisp wit and vigorous repartee (check out her picture again).

In a post responding to my bestowing upon her a “Nice Matters Award”, Tricia had this to say: “Now I confess, being nice is well . . . nice, but not necessarily my natural inclination. As you may have noticed, my sentimental piece Born Again was quickly followed by my snarky little post Stilleto. That was intentional. After all, one does strive for balanced reporting, and I’m a complicated chic. The title of the blog says it all. Though I embrace the ideals of matriarchal culture, I am also very modern. I learn and adapt quickly. As a result, I tend to mirror the behavior of others—well to some extent. I am who I am, but how I treat someone depends primarily on how they treat me. Those who have been kind and generous, receive kindness and generosity in return. Those who have been judgmental have found themselves judged. Those who have been cruel or callous have found themselves cast aside. It’s not that I hold a grudge; I’m just not interested in perpetuating their negativity, or cowering down to it…I’m not Mother Theresa, and I’m not Hannibal Lector. I’m somewhere in between, bonding with others who also inhabit the murky waters of humanity.” After which our Modern Matriarch, being the writer, editor and reviewer she is, revisited her post and reposted this: “The original post found below should be taken with a grain of salt. Rather than delete the post, I will let it stand. Perhaps someone else will learn something from my stumble along the path to living cooperatively. The attitude found in the original post does not represent the values I have embraced in my personal mission statement, and must therefore be relinquished. As I strive to live cooperatively instead of competitively I have decided to focus on paying it forward, not paying it back. Special thanks to Nina (and others) who saw through my prickly defenses, and believed I was a better person than I was allowing myself to be. You’re unconditional love and support is greatly appreciated. Nice Does Matter. Thank you.”

Yes, Tricia, it does. And now the secret’s out!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Mmmmm...I can smell that turkey and almost taste that pumpkin pie now .... Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I have a lot to be thankful for ... (see previous posts): an incredible and supportive family, my loving husband and cherished son; a warm and welcoming community where I reside, engaging and kind friends and a wonderful blogging community that has become a real "home" for me complete with warm and sincere friends who have become so very close and dear to me (you know who you are!). So, I give thanks along with my neighbours to the south on this their day of thanks ... Thanksgiving Day.
For those of you not familiar with this celebration, Wikipedia gives a wonderful description. It goes like this: "Thanksgiving meals are traditionally family events where certain kinds of food are served. As is evidenced by the tremendous level of travel, significant effort is made by family members to gather for the Thanksgiving celebration. Family participation is notably inclusive ranging from the very youngest to the most senior. First and foremost, turkey is the featured item in most Thanksgiving feasts (so much so that Thanksgiving is sometimes facetiously referred to as "Turkey Day"). Stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn, turnips, rolls, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie are commonly associated with Thanksgiving dinner, although it was quite probable that many of these culinary items did not feature in the first Thanksgiving in 1621.[2]. Often guests bring food items or help with cooking in the kitchen as part of a communal meal."

According to Wikipedia, "Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, is a traditional North American holiday to give thanks for the things that one has at the conclusion of the harvest season. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and on the second Monday of October in Canada."

The earliest Thanksgiving events were held in the British Colonies, at present day Berkeley Plantation in Virginia in 1619 and at Plymouth in present day Massachusetts in 1621.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Darwin's Paradox: Book Signing at Chapters

Yesterday's book signing at Chapters in Richmond, B.C. was incredibly fun and truly a blast! A second only to that kraglet swimsuit competition on Rigel 9. Despite the fact that I'd sold and published two books prior to "Darwin's Paradox", this was my first big bookstore signing! And I was jazzed. I knew ahead of time, though, that many of my friends couldn't make it; I'd informed them with too little notice. Likewise, my relatives are few and far away (well, being an alien...). Given that friends and relatives are--with the exception of J.K.Rowling, that is-- customarily where an author gets her audience for a signing, I was prepared for a solitary experience, a sole journey. Instead, I got a soul journey...

Prior to going in I had entertained foolish notions of sitting behind a stack of books, bored, as strangers milled past without a glance in my direction. Well, the word bored isn't in my vocabulary and, besides, that isn't my style (as those of you who know me would certainly testify; though I've been also known to have my shy really! Especially when it comes to THAT....well, you know...I'm too embarrassed to say...) So, when I arrived, energized with a Starbucks cinnamon latte in hand, I donned my sales robes and made a point of greeting my stranger friends. We all had something in common, after all: we all liked books. Determined to sign off all the books Chapters had been kind enough to get for this event, I hailed the merits of my book ("Look at this beautiful cover!) to one and all like a French market vendor...and soon--to my surprise--my off-key singing voice actually brought people flocking forward and I made friends with some wonderful people (who probably don't sing). There was Mark, for instance, a young Vancouver student who studied evolution; there was Karyn, an avid science fiction fan and another Karin, also an avid reader; there was Jacek, an aspiring writer who is writing a very interesting YA novel, who came with his son; there was Craig Bowlsby, a local TV show producer (who I wangled an interview'll see my interview of him here live on this blog later!); there was Kuldip, who wanted to talk philosophy during the whole three hours I was there; and Brenda Carr, another wonderful writer who is currently marketing her mythic fantasy novel (look for it soon!); and so many other wonderful people. My sole journey had become a soul journey. And I did manage to reduce that huge pile of books into a small rubble. It would have dwindled to nothing except that my husband and son wanted to celebrate and successfully lured me away with promises of wine and rich food.

Speaking of souls, Mel over at Monday Morning Power (see my last post), who bestowed upon me the badge for a "winning attitude", would be proud of me. He recently gave me another gift: the gift of friendship (see below). This is how Mel explains it:

"I didn’t start blogging until May of this year. As you may know, the reason I started blogging was to have a vehicle to put out my “Empowerment Process,” which I have been posting in installments. However, what I got was a home for friendships that I feel are as real as the ones in my “real” life. For this I am more thankful than words can express."

"There is something very special and unique about blogging friendships. In “real” life we all have to first get by the physical and superficial aspects of each other before we can get into who we are, really. In “real” life there is so much bull shit that we have to put up with, that sometimes developing true friends becomes very difficult. I feel that with blogging friendships there are no superficial aspects to it; the barriers do not exist. We open up in our writings as to who we really are. We bare ourselves and say “this is me.” For many of us this is the only way that we can truly express ourselves, our opinions, our strengths and our fears. I have also discovered a level of INTEGRITY amongst bloggers that I have not found in “real” life."
Thank you, Mel! You are a wonderful friend. I, in turn bestow this gift to all my blogging friends on MyBlogLog and Blogcatalog, my blogging communities. You folks ALL rock! I'd like to specifically mention the following bloggers who have added so much to make this place a home for me:

Jean-Luc (The Federation)...for your loyalty...(and being so SEXY)
Karen (Nameless Grace)...for your impeccable grace (and for always correcting my spelling! But mostly for your love and faith in me)
Tricia (Modern Matriarch)...for your justice and diligence (and clever make me think)
WalksFarWoman (Kissing the Dogwood)...for your compassion (and wonderful sense of make me smile)
Bob (Somerset Bob's Place)...for your honor and integrity (and all those drinks you sent me on Facebook!)
Deborah (Climate of our Future)...for your indomitable spirit (and ALL those MEMEs...geez! You know I love 'em! ... :)
Adria (In Cing)...for your joy and clarity (and endless enthusiasm)
Erik (AuthorsDen)...for your incredible sincerity (and stubbornness! I love our discussions! You keep me honest and I hope you keep doing so...)
Theresa Lucas (Fantasy and Sci-Fi Lovin' Blog)...for your impeccable mind (and warped sense of humor!)
Mel (Monday Morning Power)...for your positive attitude (and rather twisted sense of humor!)
Jennifer (Random Synaptic Transfers)...for your kind friendship (and warped sense of humor...wait...there's a wierd trend happening here...WARP NINE, MR. SPOCK!)
Virginia (Sumptuosity)...for your generosity (and all those beers we slugged back...and will slug back in the future! You slugger, you!)
Lynda (Reality Skimming)...for your sincere and down-to-earth goodness (and your crazy wonderful laugh)
Princess Haiku (Princess Haiku)...for your poetic wisdom (and astute calmness)
Melanie (A Quiet Symphony)...for your beautiful words (and REALLY twisted sense of humor!)
Jon (Chimeric Day Dreams)...for your gentle wisdom and beautiful mind (and beautiful everything.)
Heather (Heather Dugan)...for your kind spirit (and your incredible voice!...Hey, maybe we should do an audio book...oh, we ARE? GREAT!)
Margaret...(who doesn't even have a blog!) for your incredible and steadfast loyalty and friendship for aeons (God knows how you could stand me that long!)

more to come...there are so many of you!...
And here they are! Bloggers who welcomed me so long ago, when I first began blogging. Bloggers who welcomed me with kind advice as my blog clunked along on its new wobbly legs. Bloggers who provided comments and words of encouragement, challenges and amazing humor on my posts. People like:
I'm so looking forward to meeting more bloggers out there and making friends with you.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Monday Morning Power: Friday Feature

Well, I’m close to the wire this time but here is this week’s Friday Feature! ... See if you can figure out who I'm featuring…This blogger has dedicated his site to “the development of your attitude, which is your ultimate power.” I so like that way of thinking! His content includes essays, articles, poems, links, inspirational stories, quotes, research, and music all, says our inspirational blogger, “focused on the pursuit, capture, care and feeding of a positive mental attitude.”

Aw…You guessed…It’s Mel Kaye (aka Monday Morning Power, MMP, Killeris, Powerkis [I like that one] among other aliases) of the blog, Monday Morning Power. And if you didn’t know, well you obviously haven’t visited his site yet (OR read my title!). And, boy!— are you in for a treat!

Mel Kaye has been in the sales field for over 30 years and is currently Vice President of a major organization. He dispenses his wisdom with style, humor, alacrity and great showmanship. His advice is not pedantic, yet displays the confidence of a man who knows what he’s talking about and sincerely wishes to help. On his sidebar profile, Mel says: "Attitude is what lies beneath everything. It is the main key to happiness....there I go again. I believe that sharing something positive with the world is what we are all meant to do." Mel’s titles say everything about what his posts are about: for instance there’s his series entitled, “Are You Prepared for Success?” Another recent post is called “Timing is Everything.”

His latest post when I last checked was called, “Best ‘Out of Office’ automated replies”, which is quite funny, in a addition to pointing out some of the foibles of having a bad attitude…Here are a few:

1. I am currently out at a job interview and will reply to you if I fail to get the position. Please be prepared for my mood.
2. You are receiving this automatic notification because I am out of the office. If I was in, chances are you wouldn't have received anything at all.
3. Sorry to have missed you, but I am at the doctor's having my brain and heart removed so I can be promoted to our management team.

I particularly like his post entitled, “My Mother Taught Me…” in which he lists several sagely proverbs that he’d interpreted from what his mother had said…Hilarious. Here are a few:
1. My mother taught me to appreciate a job well done: “If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning.”
2. My mother taught me religion: “You better pray that will come out of the carpet.”
3. My mother taught me about time travel: “If you don’t straighten up, I’m going to knock you into the middle of next week!”
4. My mother taught me logic: “Because I said so! That’s why!”
5. My mother taught me more logic: “If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you’re not going to the store with me.”

There are a lot more, but I’ll let you go to his post and laugh your guts out. I still really like the one about ESP, Mel! (silly grin).

I admire Mel for his honesty, persistence and dedication to improving our attitude. On his sidebar, Mel says, “A dose of "Monday Morning Power" and a cup of coffee and you're ready for whatever awaits you.” I couldn’t agree more, Mel. Thank you. The Blogosphere thanks you.

Prompted by my last week’s Friday Feature in which I featured that elegant lady, WalksFarWoman of Kissing the Dogwood, Mel bestowed upon me his wonderful “Winning Attitude Award”. Mel explains: “This award is based on positive thinking and is meant for those blogs who base their existence, in part or in whole, on Positive Winning Attitudes.” Thank you so much, Mel! I am honored.

On another positive note, Here is the latest press release on my book, “Darwin Paradox”, which, thanks to you and others, is doing quite well out there. For those of you (e.g. authors, artists, etc.) who want to see what a kicking press release looks like, this one, produced by Karen Mason (Internet marketing wizard and SEO), is worth taking a look at. The release also gives you a good idea of what my book is about. So, if you’re curious, take a look.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

SF Canada Members' News: Nina Munteanu's SF thriller Darwin's Paradox now out

SF Canada Members' News: Nina Munteanu's SF thriller Darwin's Paradox now out

Darwin's Paradox Is Out Now

My book, Darwin's Paradox is out today!

Besides Amazon (e.g., in the U.S.:; in Canada:; in the U.K.:; in Germany:; in France:; in Japan:, the book can be found throughout North America (both at stores and through their online webstores) at:
Barnes & Noble
White Dwarf Books (Vancouver)
The Sentry Box (Calgary)
Bakka-Phoenix Science Fiction Books (Toronto)
Blackwell Books (UK)
various online bookstores (as an ebook)

You can also buy or order the book at Target (, one of the major department stores in the U.S. as well as India and Malaysia, Wal-Mart, or purchase it online at, another major retail store. And those are only the ones I know about (the writer tends to know paltry little when it comes to publishery stuff).

It's been only half-a-day and I noticed that it's ALREADY temporarily out of stock/sold out at some stores. YOU did that! Thank you so much! Those of you who haven't ordered it yet, not to worry...go ahead and order...more are coming!

Here's the ad for the book:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bloggers with Integrity -- meme

One day away from "Darwin's Paradox" Launch at Amazon (and other bookstores around the world)...I'm kind of beside myself, looking on and whispering: "Hey! Comb your hair, girl!"... Oh, in honor of the book, Karen Mason, created the really neat widget of "Darwin's Paradox" over to the right there. If you like the book, or what I write here, or just plain like "me" (embarrassed grin) ... and want to support/advertize the book, please go ahead and put the widget on your site. I thank you so much for your support, dear reader.

Well, speaking of recognition, that impeccable woman over at Climate of Our Future has done it again; waged MEME! This time, she's awarded me with an incredible award, "Bloggers with Integrity" with an added tag of "Keeping it Real":

Deborah, you have no idea what this award means to me. I humbly thank you. Deborah received the bloggers with integrity award for "social conscience". Here's what she had to say about it, quoting Edward Abbey: "It is not enough to understand the natural world; the point is to defend and preserve it." And Deborah is doing an impeccable job of raising awareness and providing solutions with her excellent blog, Climate of Our Future.

The Oxford Dictionary defines integrity as: wholeness, entirety, soundness, uprightness, honesty. These are all traits that I strive to achieve in my daily life. And keeping it real is perhaps my calling, particularly here on the blogosphere, considered by many non-internet users and non-bloggers as a vacuum or nonsensical black hole (which it couldn't be further from). As both scientist and artist, I interpret my world through my unique filter, integrating disparate-looking items and weaving them into a tapestry of meaning.

This integrity award came originally from Shinade at the Painted Veil, another cool lady who practices integrity. Here's her mantra: I am interested in everything that God has created within this universe. And I have an almost unquenchable thirst for knowledge. And my grandest dream and prayer is for peace in the world and that no-one lack for any need.

I nominate the following bloggers with integrity:

WalksFarWoman for bringing so much "Love and Understanding" to the blogosphere
Princess Haiku for bestowing us with "Beauty and Refinement"
Somerset Bob for tirelessly and cheerfully sharing his "Humble Wisdom"
Jean-Luc for warming the blogosphere with his "Kind Heart"
Tricia Ares for teaching us with her "Impeccable Words"
Karen Mason for bestowing her "Selfless Devotion and Gift of Knowledge" to so many members of our community
Ilker Yoldas for firing us with her "Passion for Blogging and our Community"
Adria for providing us with a "Mirror of Ourselves"
Jon for astutely providing us with a "Sense of Place"
Melanie Faith for bringing her "Quiet Symphony of Hope" to the blogosphere
Joel Gruber for lighting our Community with his "Faith and Inspiration"

There are so many more bloggers with integrity out there ... Go find them, guys! Off you go!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What the Fractal?...Images of Chaos

What else, when chaos draws all forces inward to shape a single leaf
--Conrad Aiken

...Following on the heels of my last post on "balance" and the "mandala", I wanted to ask you if you'd ever pondered the wondrous nature of self-similarity of shapes that make up our natural world. From atoms and orbiting electrons to galaxies ... we see self-similarity in objects from small to large all around us. In the clouds above you, in a piece of coastline or a river network. Scientists call these shapes fractals.

So, what is a fractal?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Kissing the Dogwood--Friday Feature

Today’s Friday Feature belongs to an inspirational woman, a selfless, kindhearted and incredibly insightful lady I am proud to call a friend as well as a fellow blogger. And her wonderful blog. The tag line to her impressive and popular blog reads: being the best you can be.

The quote she chose as her moniker is one by George Eliot: "Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away".

Yeah…you guessed it. I’m proudly featuring WalksFarWoman of Kissing the Dogwood.

Her posts flow like a rich brook, running from a prayer by Max Ehrmann to a touching personal story to her own inspirational photograph and tagline or poem or WalksFar’s own acrostic poetry. In all cases there is something to learn and contemplate and stir the heart. Delivered from a humble and caring heart, her lessons in moral integrity embrace the reader with such warmth one leaves with a lighter heart, a warm smile and the glow of having been touched by an angel. Which brings me to my personal favorite of her posts: Touched By Low Flying Angels. Here it is:

Many years ago my little son and I were sitting having breakfast and as was the norm we’d be trying to outdo one another with compliments, it was our booster session for the day ahead besides it also made us laugh.
“You’re a boy genius” I told him.
“You’re beautiful” he replied, his lovely smiling face pinned behind corrective specs which led to a hard time with bullies at school.
“Your cheeks are more delicious than rosy apples!” I scoffed - and then in all innocence he said …
“and you’re a low flying angel!”
It took my breath away because I couldn’t imagine why or how a 6 year old would think of this especially since it was a saying I’d never heard before and one I have never forgotten because it made me ponder that there really could be angels moving freely among us here on earth. So from pondering I went to believing, not only that I am claiming to have encountered many of them, here are just three.

After which she named three bloggers to whom she dedicated the post. WOW! Blew me away, WalksFar!

WalksFarWoman is an impeccable writer and teller of stories, parables and anecdotes. One thing you might not know about her (although it isn’t any stretch of the imagination from her blog) is that she is an accomplished and published writer of short stories. She recently published one in Karen Mason’s impeccable webzine, Nameless Grace. Here’s WalksFar’s post…quite revealing, don’t you think?

Hold the Front Page!

Okay, I admit the title is a bit over dramatic but I’m allowed to get carried away every now and then! If you like stories like “Careless Whispers” then you may enjoy my latest one “The Tapestry of Life” just published at Nameless Grace. It’s the tale of Dorothy and how a private dilemma became a personal triumph directly affecting complete strangers in the process. (Then, just like her, WalksFar does a plug for another writer…me!) While you’re there why not check out the exceptional talent of SF Girl, Nina Munteanu - you won’t be disappointed. Thanks to Editor Karen for her encouragement and support!

But who is this elegant incredible lady, WalksFarWoman? Who is she really? A woman who uses words like “gobsmacked”… A while ago, I tagged WalksFarWoman in a meme and here’s what she had to say:

“My friend Nina / SF Girl from The Alien Next Door tagged me with this enterprising meme originally started by Mel from Monday Morning Power. Everyone must realise by now I am hopeless at meme’s the intention is always there but the meme side burner becomes the back burner until they eventually fall down the behind the cooker! However since this meme is rather different and short AND also easy I ‘ve done it! Nina, you are not only encourageable but a gorgeous lady to boot!”

The intention of the meme was to answer the question: why do you blog? And I was so curious to find out why WalksFarWoman blogged (though I had a very good idea!). Here is her answer:

“My name is WalksFarWoman and I blog because…Kissing the Dogwood is my spiritual home. The idea evolved from an inspired moment as did the name and took me completely by surprise. It was like being given a map and a destination which I was compelled to follow - and in doing so have had the journey of a lifetime! Just like the elements of a successful life, blogging is all about good communication, learning through experience and also gathering hope, joy and a liberal dressing of laughter wherever we can. My favourite post is always my most recent so here it is - ‘Mermaids Cove’.”

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who wanted to see WalksFarWoman on this meme. Mel of Monday Morning Power, commented: “You finally gave into the pressure, and I am glad that you did. This list did not feel right without you on it.”

Go have a look at her favorite post. It is truly inspirational and says so much about our lady, WalksFarWoman. In her philosophy tab, she says: "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."
Thanks for travelling this way, WalksFarWoman...good friend...fellow traveller...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Sacred Balance

A few years ago, amid the calamitous rush of a crowded mall I stumbled across an island of utter and focused peace: three Tibetan monks, dressed in their characteristic orange togs, were crouched on the mall floor, quietly and diligently creating a mandala. The noise and clatter of the mall melted away as I realized that I was witnessing something sacred.

The monks were essentially creating a sandpainting in the form of a circle that often represents the Universe. The word “mandala” loosely means “circle” and comes from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. It represents wholeness and can be interpreted as a model for the organizational structure of life itself—a cosmic diagram that reminds us of how we are all related to the infinite and an existence that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Synchrony & Spontaneous Order

I saw, or thought I saw, a synchronal or simultaneous flashing of fireflies. I could hardly believe my eyes, for such a thing to occur among insects is certainly contrary to all natural laws—Philip Laurent, 1917

I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation. Between us and everybody else on this planet. The president of the United States. A gondolier in Venice. Fill in the names. I find that a) tremendously comforting that we’re so close and b) like Chinese water torture that we’re so close. Because you have to find the right six people to make the connection…I’m bound to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people…every person is a new door, opening up into other worlds—John Guare, Six Degrees of Separation, 1990

“At the heart of the universe is a steady, insistent beat: the sound of cycles in sync,” says Steven Strogatz in the opening to his compelling book, “Sync: the emerging science of spontaneous order.”

He then goes on to describe how every night along the tidal rivers of Malaysia, thousands of fireflies congregate in the mangroves and flash in unison, without any leader or cue from the environment. “Even our bodies are symphonies of rhythm, kept alive by the relentless, coordinated firing of thousands of pacemaker cells in our hearts...almost as if nature has an eerie yearning for order,” adds Strogatz.

This raises a profound mystery that has baffled scientists for many years: the existence of spontaneous order in the universe. It defies the first and second laws of thermodynamics.
James Prescott Joule laid down the foundation of the first law of thermodynamics, which expresses the universal law of conservation of energy and identifies heat transfer as a form of energy transfer. It’s most common expression is: “the increase in the internal energy of a thermodynamic system is equal to the amount of heat energy added to the system minus the work done by the system on the surroundings.” The second law of thermodynamics expresses the universal law of increasing entropy (a classic example of increasing entropy is ice melting). Over time, differences in temperature, pressure and density tend to even out in a physical system that is isolated from the outside world. Rudolf Clausius said it this way: “the entropy of an isolated system not in equilibrium will tend to increase in time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium”.

Temporary synchrony, which usually occurs by accident, can be found everywhere and is hardly worth noting (e.g., pigeons startled by a car backfiring will take off at the same time); persistent sync, however, is something entirely different. Persistent sync comes easily to human beings and gives us pleasure: we like to dance together, sing in a choir, play in a band. Says Strogatz, “we interpret persistent sync as a sign of intelligence, planning and choreography. So when sync occurs among unconscious entities like electrons or cells, it seems almost miraculous.”

A new science is emerging that is devoted to studying sync and centres on the investigation of “coupled oscillators”. Two or more oscillators are said to be coupled if some physical or chemical process lets them influence one another. The result is a conversation of synchrony leading to a harmony of action; chaos leading to order and a direct contradiction of the second law of thermodynamics.

The mass synchrony of fireflies observed in Malaysia, Thailand and Africa not only flashed in unison, but in rhythm. Scientists now explain that their flash rhythm is regulated by an internal, resettable oscillator: every firefly is continually sending and receiving signals, shifting the rhythms of others and being shifted by them in turn. “Out of the hubbub, sync somehow emerges spontaneously,” says Strogatz. “Fireflies organize themselves…Sync occurs through mutual cuing, in the same way that an orchestra can keep perfect time without a conductor.” But the insects don’t need to be intelligent. They just do it. Like birds flying in formation during migration. Or electrons synchronizing by the billions and passing through impenetrable barriers. But why do they do it? What’s the advantage to synchrony? In many cases in biology communal sync may be tied to reproduction. To use the example of fireflies, several suggestions include: 1) males synchronize their flashes, blink in concert, to better attract females; 2) there is a higher chance during synchronous flashing for mistaken identity and mating and to confound predators.

All we know is that the tendency to synchronize pervades the universe, from atoms to animals, and people to planets: female friends or co-workers eventually find their menstrual cycles synchronizing; sperm swimming side by side toward the egg beat their tails in unison; the tides have locked the moon’s spin to its orbit. Strogatz and others suggest that the defining commonality to these sync phenomena is mathematics: the mathematics of chaos theory and self-organization; the spontaneous emergence of order out of chaos. What Strogatz calls “synchronized chaos”.

Art Winfree, of Cornell University, discovering an unexpected link between biology and physics, showed that mutual synchronization is analogous to a phase transition.

Rhythms of sync abound in humans: heart rhythms, brain waves, menstrual cycles, cell division cycles, waves in the gut, and circadian rhythms, to name a few. Circadian rhythms of sleep duration, alertness and REM march in lockstep with the body temperature cycle. Rhythms of short-term memory, secretion of melatonin, and several other cognitive and physiological functions run on the same phase relationship. Even single-celled algae exhibit circadian rhythms. This prompted Strogatz to suggest that “for more complex, multicellular creatures like ourselves, it might be that the whole organism is made of trillions of clocks. In other words, we might not have a clock; we might be a clock.”

“As a society, we have become obsessed with connectedness,” said Strogatz. He goes on to describe how we are making sense of complex networks that have recently infiltrated our lives. “Networks whose reach is immense, whose structure we can only dimly perceive, and whose functioning bewilders us.”

Network theorists, when they study an abstract pattern of dots connected by lines are concerned with the pattern, the “architecture of relationships, not the identities of the dots themselves. One can draw a metaphor with information, what it is and how it is dispensed and shared among people. László Barabási, a Transylvanian physicist showed that the distribution of links on the Web is skewed to the left with a very long and heavy tail to the right. A handful of sites on the Internet are much more connected than others, with many more incoming or outgoing links than average, with the billions of remaining pages languishing in obscurity with no incoming links at all.

What network theorists found was that the Internet, despite being an unregulated, unruly labyrinth where anyone can post anything and link it to any other page at will, is self-organizing (recall my earlier post about autopoiesis) and follows the same pattern that persists in the ‘small-world’ (e.g., with a tendency to ‘short-cut’ and cluster like the brain) and “scale-free” (wide range) patterns so prevalent in Nature (e.g., “the food-web of species preying on one another; the meshwork of metabolic reactions in a cell, the interlocking boards of directors of a large corporation, even the structure of the English language itself” says Strogatz). Laszlo Barabasi, a Transylvanian physicist, showed that the Internet was both fragile and robust, showing properties of resilience much like living cells (e.g., in protein interactions, the most highly connected proteins were the most important ones for the cell’s survival; not unlike CNN and Yahoo on the Web). The Web is also very fluid and those ‘nodes’ or clusters change (not unlike a low budget hit that starts out slowly and builds by word of mouth).

Strogatz notes that “we still have almost no clue how the interlocking activities of…genes and proteins are choreographed in the living cell.” He notes also that these phenomena, like most others in the universe, are fundamentally nonlinear. He leaves us with these interesting thoughts:

"Chaos theory revealed that simple nonlinear systems could behave in extremely complicated ways, and showed us how to understand them with pictures instead of equations. Complexity theory taught us that many simple units interacting according to simple rules could generate unexpected order…Sync has offered penetrating insights into everything from cardiac arrhythmias to superconductivity, from sleep cycles to the stability of the power grid.” What next? Singing algae?...

...Are you in sync?...

Recommended Reading:
Barabási, Albert-László and Albert Réka. 2002. Statistical mechanics of complex networks. Reviews of Modern Physics 74: 47-97.
Jung, Carl G. 1973. Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principal. Princeton University Press, New Jersey
Strogatz, Steven. 2003. Sync: the Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order. Hyperion, New York, N.Y. 338pp.

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 Visit for more about her writing.