Wednesday, January 29, 2014

HEDONISTIC ESCALATOR


                                                                             



As a writer I find the development of language and unique and quirky words and phrases interesting.   I wonder if you can guess what the title of this post refers to.   Maybe a one way ride from the parking garage to the world's best shopping mall?

No, the term refers to the need for a person to keep increasing the thrill level to get the same satisfaction as the initial indulgence provided.    

This is similar to the inevitable behaviours of the winners of large lottery prizes.   Despite protestations of plans to pay off the mortgage and credit card debits, inevitably these individuals start to purchase more and more expensive luxury items.   What thrilled them initially, no longer thrills them and they need to spend more and more extravagantly in an attempt to feel the enjoyment they once felt.

Maybe I can work this term into my current work in progress!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Soon it will be reality, not dystopian





If you have read either When Bees Die or Wandering Wilderness, the two books in the series about what would happen to the world if all the bees die  or  if you are interested in the crisis of the disappearing bees, whether based upon reading my books or not, here are some interesting links:

Bad news for bees

Tracking their own destruction


You can see in the photos above and  below the amount of pollen that bees transfer from flower to flower and perhaps imagine how this would be done by hand.                                                       


















Tuesday, January 21, 2014

You could feel humble or insignificant




This photograph is from the Hubble Site where you can look at, download (for free) and wonder at the most amazing photographs of space.  The photograph above is of a star forming region and so, yes, those are all stars.   I must confess to not knowing whether they will all have their own entourage of planets to revolve around them.   



My research indicates that scientists estimate the number of stars in the universe as (approximately) 10 to the 22 to 24th power, which for those whose knowledge of exponents is hazy, it is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, or one septillion.


This is not really that much when compared to the googol which, yes, is how the word 'Google' which we all know and love came to be.   A googol is  1.0 × 10100


I'm not going to write '1' followed by a 100 zeroes;  you can just visualize it.   It was picked by the creators of the company, Google, to signify the vast amounts of data the search engine could produce.   Apparently, despite their  prodigious computer savvy, they were not immune from making spelling mistakes.  Google was not called Googol.   Even geniuses have their small imperfections!

All this is interesting to think about and research but too much can keep you awake at night and cause despair about the insignificance of your own life. After all there are the over 7 billion people in just our small little corner of the Universe known as Earth.   





Or you can choose to believe this version!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

SEASONLESS LIVING


                                                                     




Living in a climate with four seasons I've often wondered what it would be like to enjoy the same climate all year round.   Not just any climate, mind you, but a pleasant, sunny, warm to hot, with a slight breeze all year round kind of climate.   Since the West Coast of Canada is currently green, I must sympathize with the many cities, states and provinces that are buried under centimetres, inches, feet and even meters of snow.    Those inhabitants are no doubt wondering the same and have better reason.

I've heard a few times that an endless summer becomes tedious in its own way.   I know, I know, many people would like to try tedious for a while and have serious doubts that they would grow weary of it.  Perhaps in another lifetime or two.   An article I read years ago . . . no, upon reflection I think it was a piece of research from  a University psychology department . . . came to the conclusion that the ideal climate to live in was one with four district seasons but with none of them too extreme.   Sufficient rain to allow gardens to flourish and keep mucous membranes moist.   All in all, a delightful variety and even unpredictability, the kind that makes the weather a daily topic of conversation.   There might be a definite decline in the pleasant and civil interactions that one has with the person in front of you in a queue or the restaurant hostess preparing to seat you or the neighbour on their front porch as you stroll by with your dogs if you can no longer comment on the weather.  

I suppose you could always say,  "Another day in paradise!"

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

THE WINNING COMBINATION






                                                                     



I find this to be a fascinating  topic.   By a winning combination I don't mean achieving fame and fortune but rather the not so simple combination of ability and traits that enable a child to complete their education with a moderate amount of success, attain adulthood, move away from home, remain financially solvent  and engage in positive relationships with others.   A moderate amount of happiness should also factor in.  I can't deny that brains and beauty have helped some but some of the factors are less obvious.   

It seems, according to some research, something called  grit (and I'm not referring to what you put at the bottom of your budgie cage) and resilience, including the ability to cope with challenges and persevere through frustration, count for more than almost anything else. 

The following article suggests that grit--the trait that makes someone keep trying new approaches in dealing with a lack of success rather than just giving up--is what makes the difference between success and failure in education . . . and in life.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

BOOK VISIBILITY


                                               




I had time to amuse myself over the holidays in what is likely an unusual way.   At least it was harmless, non-addictive and non-fattening.   It could be called marketing research since it has to do with visibility and discoverability of book titles, something that must concern all authors.  What I decided to was to try  out the searchability of various e-book sites using both my own books and others.   In this case I first tried to search for When Bees Die both by title, author and then by various applicable subjects.



Barnes and Noble:   Using the title, the correct book came up as well as the sequel.  Same for author.   However, if you had forgotten the title as well as my name and only that it was something to do with bees you would give up before finding the book.   Entering 'bees' in the search box leads to over 9000 possibilities with fiction and non-fiction interspersed with children's books.  Following conventional wisdom that most people will only search a few screens before giving up, I did not come across When Bees Die.  But specifying the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre did bring it up in the second position.  

Yay B & N.  Too bad that a search of 'bee virus' only brought up one book on the topic of various disasters including killer bees.


Kobo:   The book appeared under both title and author as well as the subject, Bees, but interestingly, not when 'Death of Bees was searched'.  But if you attempt to find the book under the Science Fiction genre you're in for some frustration.   The genre is not broken into sub-divisions like dystopian or post-apocalyptic and you'll have over 30,000 titles to sift through.  If you try to search by title (cleverly choosing z - a instead of a - z) you'll discover that all foreign titles come first for some reason.  A search for 'bee virus' produced a multitude of books with the word 'bee' in the title even Aunt Bee's Mayberry Cookbook.  But even in quotation marks, "bee virus" did not produce When Bees Die.


Amazon:   They are reliable at coming up with the book title first although various books that happen to have the word 'die' somewhere in the text (there must be a multitude of those) follow soon after.   Quite  a few books use an analogy of bees dying after they sting to compare it to an unpleasant, lethal type of personality that is still around.  A search of 'bee virus' will produce both books in the series and some others of interest including a novel with a plot involving the introduction of robotic bees for pollination after the world's bees had been wiped out.   Hmmm!

Various articles have been written on the topic book discoverability, for example here  but so far, no solution has been found.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Addicted to Distraction

                                                                         



Putting aside winning a lottery, success in life, including financial success, generally requires concentrated and focussed effort for extended periods of time.  One of the reasons I often recommend music lessons for children is because proficiency on an instrument is not something that can be rushed.   It cannot be bought, it cannot be hurried.   There is no overnight delivery, there is no bypassing or gaming the system.   You just have to put in the time and effort.   Focus with no distractions.  For that, you will be rewarded by slow incremental improvement and eventually the satisfaction that comes from mastery of a difficult skill.

I was interested to read that according to a study at Northwestern University the diagnosis of ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, increased 66 percent between 2000 and 2010.   This condition greatly impacts all kinds  of learning.   Why has this occurred?   Are there simply more diagnoses as more parents have their children assessed?   Or are children  truly more distracted?  The study goes on to state that this condition can arise from an addiction to the dopamine-producing effects of endless stimulation and interruption that comes from text messages, e-mails and the non-stop action of video games.

I read elsewhere that the average person checks their cell phone up to 150 times a day.   I've often seen the cell phone placed beside an individual on their desk, at a restaurant, or at the very least in their easily accessible pocket.   Would you be offended if someone you were dining with paused while you were mid-sentence, expressing deeply held beliefs or feelings, to answer a cell phone beep?   If an adult can't restrain themselves in this situation, what hope is there for a child learning algebra?   Anything at all boring or routine or perhaps challenging and requiring concentrated attention will lead to a restlessness that is relieved by the beep of a new text or message.

What will happen to concentration and focus?






Thursday, January 2, 2014

Banned List


                                                                     




I wonder if other people have a 'banned list'?   You probably know what I mean.   These are stores, businesses, or services that have offended you to a considerable extent.   I'm not talking about an off day or an indifferent clerk or a mediocre meal.   No, the store's behaviour/service has bordered  on the rude and offensive or, at the very least, indifferent in the extreme.   You've been treated like a nobody and worse, when you point this out, there is the deafening sound of  silence in response.  Nobody cares.

This may be a case of YMMV?  You know, your mileage may vary.   Another person might love the store or be very satisfied with the service.   But generally I find that if I had endured a sufficiently offensive service to march the business straight to my banned list, never to darken  my door again or even let the name cross my lips, well, what do you know, I haven't been the only one.

I won't mention the name, but I must confess to a small pleasure upon reading about the financial woes of  a certain department store.   I resist the urge to shout  'See, I warned you that death and destruction would be visited upon you'.   I'm joking!  (I think).