Monday, June 29, 2009

New Book and a New Day

Kids, have you ever had a really bad day? No, make that a really bad week? The kind of week that you want to go to your room, crawl into bed and stay there until you are old enough to drive? You know- you had a fight with your best friend. You forgot your homework and got a detention, your dog growled at you and your mom made you do dishes and not go to the mall. That kind of day and week.

Well, adults have those kinds of weeks, too, except we are old enough to drive and we still have to do all our work. It certainly had been one of those weeks, when suddenly, everything changed.

Our new book arrived on our doorsteps and it was pretty good. One of my books won 3 awards. A wonderful publisher offered us a contract for a book. Someone wanted to print a chapter from one of our books and use it for an exam. (Can't tell you which chapter, but you should bone up on our First Science Books if you are in the Southern United States). I had the best lunch with two of my friends who are brilliant writers who told me not to feel bad about not being wanted. And I found shoes on sale.

The lesson is this: life may sometimes suck big time, but then it gets better and forget whatever was wrong.

Friday, June 19, 2009

moon rock contest

Wouldn't it be neat to own a piece of moon rock? Here's your chance. Go to the New Scientist web site and click on the link to the contest. Write in the best short quote and you could be the proud owner of a small hunk of rock.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

whale babysitting

When your parents go out do you have a favorite babysitter? Maybe it's your aunt who lets you stay up late, or perhaps it's the teenager next door who makes popcorn, but what about a whale for a babysitter?

Mother sperm whales like to eat squid that live deep in the ocean, too deep a dive to take along their kids. Scientists in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, have discovered that these kinds of whales form a babysitting co-op. The moms gather in a circle and watch over each other's calves. The moms not only babysit, but they also feed other calves protecting them from Killer Whales and other predators until their mother returns.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

letter to editor- sans edit, digital books, BEA

For those of you who read the Vancouver Sun, my letter to the editor appeared in today's paper. They shortened it to fit within the usual space, so here's the long version

RE: "It's far too soon to terminate books" Ceri Radford, Page -A17, June 11, 2009

Ceri Radford's article, "It's far too soon to terminate books" (Page -A17, June 11, 2009), was in the same self-righteous tone as those prognosticators in the early 1900's who said that cars would never replace horses, or who claimed that if man was meant to fly, God would have given him wings.
Wake up. Already some of the major North American publishers at Book Expo America (BEA) seem to be abandoning books in print form. At the annual show last week in New York, I was given large format postcards at the Harper Collins booth. Each card had the image of a book cover, and on the back was the book identification number (ISBN), information about the book, the author, the publication date, and a free download of the book when I went to the publisher's web site and put in the 16 digit PIN number. The book was then downloaded into my computer, in my choice of formatting, and I had access to their new front list of books. Next year at BEA the majority of publishers say they will be giving out their new releases in this manner.
Why is this good thing? Frankly, digital books are better for the environment. Let's start with how a book is made. Trees are cut down; they are then turned into paper pulp, which means chemicals are spilled into our waterways killing fish. The pulp is turned into paper, shipped off on trucks, processed, printed and shipped off again to a warehouse, which then sends off the books. There is a very large carbon footprint in this process, while downloading a book into a computer requires no gas, little energy and no pollution. There is never extra stock to be warehoused, and there is no waste. Publishers who are worried about their profits love digital books because, let's face it, they cost very little to produce., nothing to ship or store, and there are no returns.
As for school books, I hate to agree with Governor Schwarzenegger, but he is right. California ought to move its science and math textbooks to digital books. Yes, it is going to save the state an estimated 30 million dollars, but that's missing the bigger picture. Science changes every day but science texts are only updated maybe every 15 years. Having the latest information available to students will mean that children aren't learning old and outdated science. In BC, one of the grade 9 science texts is available on a CD, while the grade 10 science text is available on line. The only thing stopping teachers here from using these texts is the lack of computers in each classroom.
So will digital readers supplant paper? Yes. For those of us who like to read in bed without waking the person next to us, a backlit Kindle is great. I don't have to wear my glasses because I can make the font bigger. It always remembers what page I'm on. It weighs less than the 10 books I take along on holidays.
As an author of children's books, I think that digital books will be good for my work. I can create an app and people can purchase my books that are out of print directly from me.

NOTE- If you want to see the books that HCI offered at BEA, go to the website:

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

california text books

According to a news report California is set to go with digital text books for several subjects. This is going to be a projected savings of over 30 million dollars. Which brings me back to my previous blog about BEA and digital books. The next generation will be reading everything on line- from their texts, to their bedtime stories. (see June 1, 2009). This means no trees are cut down, no fish die from chemicals used to make paper pulp, no shipping costs, no waste if the books aren't sold, immediate updating of materials, and you can never lose your book. For anyone with bad eyesight, you can enlarge the font, and teachers can email homework and check out assignments on line. It's a smaller carbon footprint, better for the environment, and it means more accurate up-to-date information in important areas like science.
Perhaps it's not such a bad thing afterall.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

5 minute chocolate cake recipe

Erin C sent along this great recipe and photos. I'm just off to try it.

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug (MicroSafe)
Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly.Pour in the milk and oil and mix well..Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts.The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed!Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.EAT ! (this can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly more virtuous).And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world? Because now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night!

DUH! if you are addicted to gaming you sleep less

In possibly the dumbest study ever funded, scientists have found that if you are addicted to gaming, you sleep less. Here's part of the article from Science daily:

"Excessive Gaming Associated With Poor Sleep Hygiene And Increased Sleepiness
ScienceDaily (June 8, 2009) — Computer/console gamers who play for more than seven hours a week and who identify their gaming as an addiction sleep less during the weekdays and experience greater sleepiness than casual or non-gamers, according to a research abstract that will be presented on Monday, June 8 at SLEEP 2009, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies

Results of the study indicate that excessive gamers have significantly poorer sleep hygiene and sleep less on weekdays than other gamers; a significant positive correlation was found between the hours of game play and sleepiness. Gamers who reported that their gaming interfered with sleep slept for 1.6 hours less than other gamers, while those who claimed to be addicted to gaming slept one hour less on weekdays".

So there it is everyone, turn off the games and go to bed. Scientists had to study this to figure it out. Honestly!

Monday, June 8, 2009

buddies, horse and bird

When you are tense, what do you do to relax? Do you play a video game? How about taking a walk with your dog? Or maybe you can lie back on the cool grass and watch the clouds go by. If you were a horse, what would calm you down? As strange as this might seem, some people put birds in the pasture with their horses. The birds sit quietly on the animal's backs and it seems to relax the horses. Both creatures appear to like each other's company the horse does not buck or gallop off when a bird lands on its back.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tiffany Glass, Met Museum

This is a Stained Glass window made by L. Tiffany, and it is in the large interior courtyard of the Met Museum in NY. If you used the audio guide to the museum, it would probably take you a year to make it through the entire collection. The Tiffany windows found in this area are like paintings and they take your breath away.
There is a story told about Tiffany that he once made a fabulous window for a wealthy man. The man who commissioned the work looked at the window and said to the artist,"I wanted a swan in the lake". Allegedly Tiffany threw a rock through the window, breaking it. No idea if this urban legend is true.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Japanese Desserts, NY

OMG! This was probably one of the strangest places in NY. This very spacious store, that looks like belongs in Japan was just off 5th Ave, near Saks. It featured designer "desserts" and I used a quote here because each of these tiny bites cost about 5 buck US. Beautiful cherries on the right side of the photo were real cherries in a flavored gelatin. I lugged these treats back on the plane and they were much the worse for the wear. Certainly my family did not appreciate the effort, which is an understatement. If ever you are in NY, you must see this place because it is like an edible museum. (USA Minamoto kitchoan- 608 Fifth Ave. NY)

DALI, Met Museum, NY

Close up of Dali painting
What does this look like to you? An ear, right? If you got up really close you would find that it is made up of tiny dots that seem random and odd. This is a painting by Salvadore Dali in the Met Museum in NY. It was really wonderful because when you were next to the picture you only saw a blurr. It's hard to understand how he could see what he was paining.

Time Square without traffic

What would happen if you closed off traffic at one of the busiest intersections in the world? Well, that's just what they did in New York. The Mayor, in quite frankly, an inspired move, put up barricades and made Times Square into a pedestrian only area. There are lawn chairs, loungers, bleacher seating, and odd chairs in the middle of the street where people plunk themselves to watch..... other people watching them. It's so much fun. There were tens of thousands of people there day and night, just happily sitting around doing nothing. It was amazing.

graveyard book, BEA, way too cool

This is the man who brought you Coraline, Graveyard Book, and other amazing books. Yes, that's the real Neil Gaimon at BEA. You wouldn't believe the line to get close to him. But the most interesting part of this signing was the unsigning. Instead of an ARC (advanced reading copy) the publisher HCI gave out over-sized postcards that had a PIN number. You go to the Harper Collins web site, plug in the PIN number and the book is downloaded into the format of your choosing. Not only was Gaimon's new book being distributed this way, but about a dozen other novels were also being passed out in the same manner. This is the end of books as we know it at BEA. Sad, but true and it makes perfectly good sense. Publishers don't have to print books to pass out, books won't be sold on Ebay, and everything is better for the enviroment. You won't be able to share your book with anyone as it's only one download/PIN, but you also won't have to pay for the shipping back to your home. Personally, I'm old school. I love books and putting a postcard on my book shelf looks pretty lame.