Tuesday, March 30, 2010

water made out of thin air

The April 2010 issue of Diablo Magazine has a section dedicated to Eco Awards. The East Bay of Northern California is proud to boast that it is the epicenter of the eco-arena with an abundance of eco-friendly entrepreneurs and jobs.

There were some pretty incredible inventions, but I really liked the Ecoloblue water cooler winning for "Causing Plastic Bottles To Disappear." This is really amazing. The Ecoloblue's tag-line is "pure perfect water made out of thin air." Working similar to a dehumidifier, the Ecoloblue takes water vapor and condenses it into drinkable water. Pro tennis player Wayne Ferreira invented the water bottle-less cooler after seeing the amount of plastic bottles discarded by players after events.
What's even more amazing, other than the technology, is that this water cooler could potentially reduce water shortages and provide clean water for people in places that lack drinkable H2O. The Ecoloblue produces up to eight gallons of water a day. Not bad.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

car of the future

In Shanghai, GM, in partnership with the makers of Segway, unveiled a concept for future cars. These cars are for city-use, seat two people, run on electricity from a regular home electric outlet, they communicate with other cars on the road to reach destinations faster and avoid traffic or accidents, and they go up to 25mph.

Reading the comments section of the full article, here shows that there are a lot of mixed reviews. Most people think the future car is too small to be safe, makes for lazier people (why not just walk) and don't like that there is no storage space, or they think it's just another harebrained idea from GM. Others think it's high time we put our environment first, some think this car is the perfect solution for the overcrowded polluted streets of China, where the future car concept is aimed - "GM says an EN-V is about one-third the length of a traditional car. A parking lot could hold 10 times the number of EN-Vs as regular cars."

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"rear gear butt cover"

When someone invents something like this it's either pure genius or, or not... in this case it might border on genius - they're sold out... Rear Gear Butt Covers for your Cat and Dog.

(photo from Etsy shop RearGear)

Monday, March 22, 2010

the plastiki sets sail!

(photo from Flickr Farewell Plastiki photosteam)

The Plastiki (the boat made out of 12,500 plastic bottles and other waste materials) set sail on Saturday, March 20th out of a harbor in Sausalito, California. I sadly missed the launch (I was out of town celebrating my birthday). If you missed the launch too, you can watch it on the Plastiki blog.

It looks like the crew got a bit of a slow start since they are using mainly wind power, but now they are on day 3 and things are speeding up. Skipper Jo Royle writes on the Plastiki blog that the they've been getting some rogue waves pushing them around, but that they're doing a good job of recovering.

It's crazy to think that "roughly 50% of plastic bottles end up in the ocean" thus the creation of the Plastiki to open our eyes..... read more FAQ on the Plastiki here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

it is a two-letter word


That's right, the word "it" is not my friend. For that matter "but" likes to bully my writing, too (I'll get to that word another time, though...)

For now I'd like to focus on how using too much of it can be a bad thing - a detriment to your writing. It is a lazy filler for better, more descriptive words, words that can help move your story forward and draw your readers in.

It was pointed out to me a few weeks ago while my manuscript, Trevelyn's Shimmer, was being critiqued. Apparently I'm partial to the word and I didn't even know I was using it so much. Using the word it instead of describing what it is, is lazy writing. Of course, sometimes you can't avoid using it. When you're using it to represent an inanimate object, a person, animal, or a thing with no distinguishable gender previously mentioned in a sentence, there's really no better choice? Or is there...?

adjectives - easy! not too many!

I'm not suggesting painting your manuscript with floor-to-ceiling adjectives to replace it. But why not try to use them where you can? Or if you have an object with an unassigned gender, assign it one. Why not? Foreign languages, other than English, assign every word a gender. In Spanish a table is a she, a car is a he. In French a book is a he and a bike is a she. And universal knowledge holds that a boat is a she - she's a beauty!

Here's an example of a passage from my manuscript where I clearly used the word it one too many times: "The balloon had grown – again. It pinched against the corners of the closet as though it were a giant ducking its head and hunching its shoulders. It squeaked and rubbed against the walls attempting to wiggle loose, but I threw the weight of my body against it and closed it back in, hoping that it wouldn’t pop."
It count = 8. You probably didn't need me to highlight the its to realize how many there were - an annoyingly high amount.

Now here's the sentence revised with adjectives and gender assigned to replace it: "The balloon had grown – again. The swollen, red rubber pinched against the corners of the closet like a giant ducking his bulbous head and hunching his aching shoulders. The balloon squeaked and rubbed against the walls attempting to wiggle loose, so I threw the weight of my body into the spongy material and closed it back in."

It count = 1. Better, right? At least I hope so! In assigning a gender to the balloon and describing the balloon as "swollen, red rubber", or having a "bulbous head", I've turned the balloon from an inanimate object to an actual character in the book - which was something that I had been trying to do!

Let's face it - the word can be like cancer eating away at your prose. If you are like me and let it rob your story, go through your manuscript and highlight the word so you can see where it is unnecessary. Then think outside of the box and stop being a lazy writer! :)

If you're partial to it, what are some of the tricks you use to bag this naughty two-letter word?
(it count in this post = 31)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

say it with a wave

Staying on the topic of the beach and the big beautiful blue, I spotted a wordless picture book at Copperfield's bookstore the other day that blew me out of the water.... Wave by Suzy Lee (Chronicle Books, 2008). I can't really explain this book, you just have to see it for yourself. Not only is Wave my new favorite wordless picture book, I'm making Suzy Lee flipside's featured artist this month.

"A sunny day."
"A curious little girl."
"A playful wave."

"Artist Suzy Lee has taken these three simple elements and created a visual tour de force that needs absolutely no words to tell its universal story." I couldn't say it any better than that. I love wordless picture books because you can make up your own story, or you can just enjoy the illustrations. I think it would be fun to sit with a group of children and ask them to write one word for each picture which they feel best describes that picture. I'd be curious to see what they'd come up with. Play along yourself with the three pictures posted below if you like. I've added my own words.....




Suzy Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea and now lives in Singapore. She has also produced several other beautiful wordless picture books like La Revanche des Lapins (Revenge of the Rabbits) and ALICE in Wonderland, both of which I'm itching to buy.

(Lee, Suzy. Wave. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2008).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

we got more bounce in california...

As I said in an earlier post, photo pops was in town the other week road-tripping through California. Living amongst the trees and rivers of Colorado, he was in need of some serious beach time and he found it. The following photos were taken in Newport Beach in Southern California, and along the Sonoma Coast winding along Highway 1 from the Russian River to Bodega Bay. 4-18-10: UPDATE: Photo Pops tells me that the elephant seals were near Hearst Castle just a few miles North of Cambria, not at Newport Beach. Oops! Sorry about that.

Blind Beach along the Sonoma Coast.

Goat Rock Beach on the Sonoma Coast.

The clouds are moving in. Nature-made water tunnel at Goat Rock Beach.

The Elephant Seals were out in full force near Cambria (see update above). If you've ever been around these guys during mating season then you've heard the loud roaring noises the bulls make.

Ah, I like to think that they're cuddling here, but something tells me this is a protective pose..... Never get too close to a cow and her pups. Don't let the blubber fool you, they can move faster than me and you on sand.

"Feed me!"

(All photos property of Richard Hagar. Any unauthorized use is prohibited and illegal).

Monday, March 15, 2010

critique groups - are they for you?

A couple of weekends ago I attended an SCBWI workshop on forming and running a critique group given by Becky Levine, author of The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide.

My own critique group experience has been varied. The first group I joined was an extension of a 6-week course on writing for children, taught by an editor from a major publishing house. The three other students and I sent a chapter to each other every week which we’d read and review then discuss at the following class. This was great because most people stuck with the deadlines, but looking back, my only criticism would be that everyone was too nice. Yes, too nice. Not to say I wanted anyone to be mean – nobody wants an evil CG partner beating up their prose – we were just too nice in the sense that our feedback was too timid. If critiques are passive then nothing substantial gets done. After that CG ended, I started a group of my own with one of the girls from the class. We met every Sunday and once a week to critique, bounce ideas off of each other, challenge ourselves with on-the-spot writing exercises, and ended the day with a glass of wine or two... sometimes three - Thursday nights weren’t always so productive, but they sure were fun! And finally, my latest CG is one I joined through the list of interested critiquers provided by SCBWI. My writing buddy and I have been posing the tough questions to one another about our novels. Rewrites are constant. Thinking so hard about plot changes that my brain actually hurts, has become normal. But learning more about myself as a writer has been the reward. When you’re pushed to work harder than you ever have before on your book, the image of it bound together by a hardcover with the name of a respected publisher on the spine becomes that much more realistic. Like boot camp for your novel - how can it not get stronger?

At the seminar, Levine said there are two fears that keep people from joining critique groups: 1) the writer is afraid their writing will be trashed, and 2) the writer fears they aren't skilled enough to make solid critiques. She also said that the number one most important factor to have is trust, because with trust, respect is born. This is so true. Sharing your novel, your baby, essentially, can be nerve-wracking for many writers.

In the end, to decide if joining a CG is right for you, why not just try and find out? Levine gave good advice saying you don't have to commit right away. Ease your way in to see if it's a fit. There are a lot of factors involved with finding the right group. And when you do find a good fit, Levine recommends adding one person at a time. Go slow.

My own personal experience has been pretty positive...maybe that’s just luck, or maybe it’s part of the theory that you get what you give. If you’re willing to put the time in to give wholehearted critiques, others will likely do the same.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

trip to the beach

Photo Pops was in town this week from Colorado. We took a trip to the beach one day, a Northern California beach which means it was bloody cold and breezy, but green and beautiful. The dog beach was closed. We found a way around that though, and Sadie saw the ocean for the first time.

Here we are walking to the dog beach. I'm struggling to keep my hood on in the wind.

And here we are in the car doing the classic "bunny ears" pose.