I feel like Chicken Little with the end of the month approaching. The zines go live on May 1st so I’m up to my eyeballs in proofing and writing. Have to get everything done by Thursday because on Friday, I’ll be a Malice Domestic (if you’re there track me down and say howdy!).

I took some photos of what blooming in the garden but haven’t had the time to post them.


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April and the Azaleas in bud

Well, today was a beautiful day.  Since we got most of our shopping and errands done yesterday, we were free to work on home projects.  So once I caught up on email and entered the books it was out to the yard to clean up.  We managed in half-hour bouts to get most of the leaves off the ground by the side of the house and along the retaining wall of the side yard.  We pulled a lot of weeds too.

We also managed to pull a lot of poison ivy plants from an area about eight feet by ten feet.  Before we did that, I had to pull on my elbow length gardening gloves.  After that bit of weeding it was into the house change, shower with Burt’s Bees Farmer’s Friend Poison Ivy Bar Soap.   I had three or four rounds of poison ivy last year and I’m hoping to keep on top of it this year — not get it and manage to clear more of our land from the vile stuff.  It’s been moving closer and closer to the cleared area of the side yard, orchard, and house.  We need to get it back from where we spend our time.

We managed to get quite a bit done before I was to sore and tired.  Hubby tries to keep me down to half-hour work limits so I don’t overdue.  I’m always let’s just do this one more bit and then the next day I can’t get out of bed or move.  So, he’s right.  I’ve been doing much better but the short periods of hard labor and then resting are much easier to take.  Even though he tends to do more.

Today it was in the 90’s and so far we managed not to turn on the air conditioning.  We did turn on the fans in the living room though to mix the air.  It was great.  But now it’s thundering out and I think I hear the pitter-pat of rain on the windows.  So we may not get to finish the side yard tomorrow if the leaves are all wet.


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Hugo Award that will be given during Anticipation 2009As many of you know, I’m a fan of science fiction and fantasy among other forms of entertainment and enjoyment.  Usually, hubby and I attend the World Science Fiction Convention which this year will be held in Montreal and is called (this year) Anticipation.  Members of the convention get to nominate and vote for the Hugo Awards which are given out at a ceremony held at the convention.  A friend pointed me to this great article on voting for the Hugo Awards. Kate Heartfield has raised many of the issues that have niggled at me for a long time.

We attend Worldcon every year that we can manage it. We attended our first as our honeymoon — we’d gotten married the weekend before the convention. Ever since, we celebrate our anniversary by attending the world science fiction convention and we’ve only missed three since that first one. We’ll be missing Anticipation this due to a variety of events including the current economic situation in the US. This year, because we were attending members of the last convention, we did nominate for the Hugo awards but we’ll be ineligible to vote for them.

Each year it has been a bit of work to figure out what to nominate (it has to have been published or first presented during the previous year), and once the nominees are announced to gather all the works and view and/or read them. But we, as do many others, take this privilege seriously. Hugo awards are presented to the best work of the previous year. The list of winners is impressive and many of the books, stories, and media that has won has withstood the test of time and is still remembered and read by fans of the genre.

Yet, each year when the numbers are published it seems that only about five hundred people (plus or minus a couple of hundred depending on the category) take the time and effort to nominate and vote for these awards. When the convention is in the US, membership (those attending is in the thousands (4-6,000) when the convention is outside the country the numbers are fewer but still many buy supporting memberships in order to nominate or attending in order to vote (whether they attend or not). Yet the numbers who actually nominate and vote remain fairly constant.

[NOTE: I’m not bothering to look up the actual numbers. These numbers are out there in the internet but I’m going from my memory and impressions and I’m fairly sure I’m only off on specifics and it’s the generalities that I’m talking about.]

When we first started attending the conventions, we had to go out and find all the nominated works and read them and then vote. One rule we’ve had is if you don’t read/watch it you don’t vote in that category. These awards are for the best and if you don’t know that category and haven’t read in it or haven’t read anything published in the appropriate year then you can’t make an informed decision.

Over the last several years, publishers and authors have been making the works available to members of the convention so that they can read all the nominated works for free. Of course finding and viewing the nominated works in the media categories is a bit trickier but the advent of Hulu, NetFlix and other sites have made this easier also.

So, why don’t the members who are eligible nominate or vote? I don’t know. For the last several years, I’ve been asking and some of the reasons I’ve been given are:

  • I don’t have time
  • My vote won’t count, it’s sewn up before we even get to nominate/vote
  • I’m not an expert on the field, I just read it for fun
  • No one cares what I think
  • I don’t read any of the people who get nominated (follow-up question: did you nominate the ones you do read — answers is usually, No, why bother)
  • Why bother, the best stuff never wins (follow-up question: did you nominate or vote — answer, No)

In point of fact, these answers are pretty similar to why people, in the US at least, don’t vote in their political elections. What I can’t understand is how you can expect that your choices would ever win if you don’t bother to get out there and nominate (too late for this year) and vote. I get truly baffled by the people who say “my opinions/wishes/vote doesn’t count” and then a follow up shows that these same people don’t nominate or vote or let their opinions/wishes be known. Seems to me if you sit and do nothing, you can’t expect to have your opinion/wishes taken into account.

Many years none of my nominees make the ballot. Many years people on the ballot are ones that I’ve never read before — and who have later become favorite authors. By taking part in the process, I’ve found authors I might not have found otherwise. I’ve at least done my part to see that the best in the field gets a fair chance at the spotlight.

So, why do so few chose to exercise their option to make a difference and to celebrate the best in the field?

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The Power of Positive ThinkingI’m not sure how we got on the topic but, while trapped in the car for some long driving as we ran errands today, Hyperion and I got to talking about positive thinking sort of as an off-shoot of wishful thinking being related to quantum physics (which is for another post).  Anyway, in kicking this topic around I began to crystallize some of my thoughts on it.

Most people have heard of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s book The Power of Positive Thinking. The basic premise is that if you feel good about yourself, good things will happen to you or come to you. This is also the basis behind The Secret by Rhoda Byrne where your positive thoughts are like magnets that cause good things to come to you. It’s also the basis for many of the books that instruct how to use your mind to concentrate on what you want and to have what you want come true.

But what I think is that by putting yourself into that place where you are concentrating on what you want, you begin to change yourself and your attitudes. From listening to some of the people who have read these books and dedicated themselves to following the various steps, there seem to be two types of outcomes. One is nothing much happens because they wish or think positively about what they want, but then they don’t do anything but wish or think.

However, the other group not only thinks positively, but they also begin to act in ways that cause the “good” thing/event to happen to them. They take a class in adult education, local technical school, junior college, or evening college courses, or go to the library and study up on what they’re hoping to gain — which is usually, better pay, a vacation, a promotion, or whatever. It’s the activities they are performing to aid them in gaining their goal that helps to change their attitude and gain them the abilities (concrete skills) that eventually gain them their positive outcome. It’s not just the positive thoughts beamed out in the universe; it’s the positive thoughts that are beamed inward that encourage the person to take their future into their own hands and make it better.

People don’t work in a vacuum.  They are worked upon by those around them. If others don’t think much of a person, that person internalizes that and acts accordingly, believing they aren’t worth much. If the other inflates a person’s ego, they also have problems when their expectations and their skills don’t match. However, if by focusing on a goal and then working to actually bring expectation and skills into alignment, their goals are often achieved. Usually not in the manner expected, but in a manner that, in retrospect, actually is what was wanted or needed.

On the other hand, people who simply sit and wish the good to come to them and never do anything to gain that change in their lives are bound to be disappointed and always looking for the next book that might have the key that actually will work for them — as long as they don’t actually have to do more than think about it.

My grandmother used to say, “If wishes were horses even beggars could ride.” This was usually whenever, I complained about wanting something but wasn’t actually planning to do any of the work to earn it. Yes, you need positive thinking but you also need good old fashioned work to reach the goals you set for yourself.

What’s your take on this?

Hyperion AvatarHyperion here:  I freely admit to being a total muggle; sometimes even Gayle despairs at my total disdain for the other-worldly.  For all the above post, there’s a fair bit of romance in her soul.  She may not depend on the magic to do job by itself, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s none out there.  She still has hope.   But, as for me?  “There’s no such thing as magic!”  That’s just the way I’m wired.   Well, there is one exception.  I think Gayle is pretty magical … but then I’m a bit biased, and the matter is not open to scientific inquiry.

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Reading is Fun Decorative Art Poster Print by Maurice SendakThe other day, I was reading a book while waiting for my husband to get through the check out line and I was so engrossed that I was giggling at all the jokes and funny scenes. I looked up to find several people in the cafe area just staring at me. Luckily hubby finished and came to pick me up to leave.

Okay, is that was weird. I began to wonder, don’t other people react to their reading material? Don’t you laugh at the funny parts? Cry at the sad ones? Get angry when the main character does something so stupid you think they should be sent to Jail and do not pass go…

I cry at movies too, or laugh, depending. But, I’ve noticed that most people don’t react at all. They sit stiff and bland and then leave when the lights come up.

I usually only go to movies during matinee periods, and if it’s a weekend there are kids there (if the movie is rated for them). Children and sometimes teens get involved in movies and react to what’s happening on the screen. Adults … not so much.

Now, I’m thinking maybe it’s the same with books and reading. Do you react when you read? Do you keep it all in if you’re in public? Do you get embarrassed if you react aloud when reading in a public place? Is that why reading is considered a solitary activity? Hmmm…lot to think about here.

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Girl Knitting Giclee Poster Print by Walter LangleyToday I read Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s Yarn Harlot blog (the April 16th entry) where she had meticulously documented a problem she’d run into while knitting a cabled cardigan. She has pictures of how each side was knitted following the instructions given, then as knit following the errata sheet, and finally how they should look if you match your knitted cables to the photo of the completed project in the magazine.

I’m always blown away when someone post articles like these. If you’re a knitter these details are the treasures that the internet provides. You learn there are problems and how to fix them, hopefully before you’ve beaten your head on the wall in frustration because you can’t make it look like the photo and you know it’s your fault.

The Yarn Harlot often has such posts and I treasure each of them. Other authors of knitting blogs perform a similar service to the knitting community, some with the same depth of coverage, and some with less, but the Yarn Harlot manages to do it with humor and wit allowing the reader to feel that they could have figured this out too if they tried.

But what it comes back to for me is the effort to document the process that was gone through in putting together such a post. For example, if it was me, I’d have ripped the thing out so many times trying to make it work and then IF I found the errata sheet, I do it all again several times trying to make it look like the photo. Then I’d spend a bit of time trying to convince myself that the photo and the newly minted cables actually matched and then either living with the difference or giving up entirely. I really don’t know if I’d then actually spend the time to examine the photo closely and then attempt to figure it out on my own.

Now, if I got to this point, I’d have my one piece of knitting and then if I even thought about letting others know, I’d have to reconstruct samples of all my attempts in order to document the problem, the changes, and the solution. But these knitters, such as Stephanie, continually go out of their way to instruct, inform, and help us become better at the craft we so much enjoy.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You’ve given me years of joy, information, and insight and I haven’t yet said how much I appreciate it. Thank you, to all the knitting bloggers out there who do so much for the community.

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Cafe Chocolats Art PosterScience Daily for April 7th had an article on how Caffeine Reduces Pain During Exercise. Professor of kenesiology and community health, Robert Motl has been studying the effects of caffeine on pain during exercise. He began by noticing that he always had a cup of coffee before going out to train and felt it helped him workout longer and perform better when he was a competitive cyclist.

Early in his research, Motl noticed:

“caffeine works on the adenosine neuromodulatory system in the brain and spinal cord, and this system is heavily involved in nociception and pain processing.” Since Motl knew caffeine blocks adenosine from working, he speculated that it could reduce pain.

Even more interesting to me is that the results were pretty much the same whether the test subject was a caffeine junkie or someone who barely ate or drank anything with caffeine in it. (Remember caffeine is in more than just coffee, it’s also in chocolate, soft drinks, and many other foods and beverages.) This particular study was only interested in pain and exercise and did coffee make a difference. For other activities or pain related problems caffeine might not work.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll notice that the research about coffee/caffeine and its impact on people’s heath is very much dependent on what research you’re reading. It’s good for you. It’s bad for you. It’s okay in moderation. You should never touch the stuff. It might help reduce the pain during exercise.

What to believe?  I don’t know. I’ve never really paid attention to whether or not having coffee before I do my exercise routine helps me do more exercises or push on harder on the ones I do. I guess now I’ll have to keep that in the back of my mind.

Personally, as I’ve said before, I have a liking for a good cup of coffee but I reduce my intake for health reasons and so that when I have a migraine, drinking coffee will have more of an effect on alleviating the pain. Could it be that this pain blocking effect also works a bit with migraines or is it only the blood vessel dilation/contraction effects that are at work?  I don’t know but I will keep my eye out for more research on the effects of coffee/caffeine on health.

And I’ll also ponder whether the quality of that cup of coffee has any effect on the results of the research. After all if it’s a truly gross cup of coffee I might prefer the pain of the exercise. Would you?

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Learning PosterIn our current technologically driven society, education is the key to getting and keeping a good job. It’s not just enough to have a high school diploma for many jobs; a college education is required and often a masters or a doctorate as well. Even those who manage a good job with just their high school diploma find that they must actively keep up with the changes in their field in order to stay current with the changes technological innovations bring to all segments of the economy and job market.

So image my surprise when I saw this article On the Net: College too expensive? Try YouTube on Physorg.com. From the article:

More than 100 schools have partnered with YouTube to make an official channel, including Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Yale and the first university to join YouTube: UC Berkeley.

There are promotional videos like campus tours, but the more interesting content is straight from the classroom or lecture hall. Many schools have posted videos of guest lecturers, introductory classes and even a full semester’s course.

You can check out what’s available on the http://www.youtube.com/edu.

I was already aware that MIT had put some of their course material on line and had bookmarked the site. If you have the time check out MIT Open Courseware.

However, the article lists some other sites that are also available for people to check out. Personally, the only site that I repeated go back to because it’s got interesting talks about current issues and each is only about an hour long, is Ted Talks. It’s a nice break in my day and I can usually knit or spin yarn while watching and listening. (I hate doing only one thing at a time and it helps me to concentrate when I can keep my hands buys while my ears are listening.)

So, if you also enjoy learning new information because every bit of knowledge is a gem that will help you look at the world, life, and the people around you in new ways — check out these options to investigate areas of interest at no cost to yourself except for your time and effort. Knowledge once learned can never be taken away from you and you never know when what you learn today will be of vital importance to you.

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