Monday, February 29, 2016

Monday Wisdom from Helen Keller

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.

Sometimes all a suffering person needs from me is my faith that they can overcome their sorrows. This does not mean that I an absolved of responsibility to act when I should, but it does not mean I must do for others what they can grow by doing for themselves. I am not entitled to deprive someone I love of the experience of their own resourcefulness.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Monday Wisdom From Eleanor Roosevelt

The giving of love is an education in itself.

I have long believed that what is wrong with the world is not too much love but too little. Therefore, let us be bold in our loving, boundlessly generous with our hearts. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Starry Skies and Other Wonders

Crazy times, these. Elections. Zika. You name it. And yet this is an awesome and beautiful universe we live in. Here are some things that lifted my spirits:

Milky Way over the Pinnacles in Australia , Image Credit: Michael Goh. Made of ancient sea shells (limestone), how these human-sized picturesque spires formed remains unknown. In the background, just past the end of the central Pinnacle, is a bright crescent Moon. The eerie glow around the Moon is mostly zodiacal light, sunlight reflected by dust grains orbiting between the planets in the Solar System.

Meditation and aerobic exercise done together helps reduce depression, according to a new study. The study, published in Translational Psychiatry this month, found that the mind and body combination – done twice a week for only two months – reduced the symptoms for a group of students by 40 percent. ... "We are excited by the findings because we saw such a meaningful improvement in both clinically depressed and non-depressed students," says Brandon Alderman, lead author of the research study. "It is the first time that both of these two behavioral therapies have been looked at together for dealing with depression."

Star Forming Region S106, Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Legacy Archive; A large disk of dust and gas orbiting Infrared Source 4 (IRS 4), visible in brown near the image center, gives the nebula an hourglass or butterfly shape. S106 gas near IRS 4 acts as an emission nebula as it emits light after being ionized, while dust far from IRS 4 reflects light from the central star and so acts as a reflection nebula. Detailed inspection of a recent infrared image of S106 reveal hundreds of low-mass brown dwarf stars lurking in the nebula's gas.

Prehistoric Asterid Flowers Found Perfectly Preserved in Amber. “The specimens are beautiful, perfectly preserved fossil flowers, which at one point in time were borne by plants that lived in a steamy tropical forest with both large and small trees, climbing vines, palms, grasses and other vegetation,” said team member Prof. George Poinar, Jr., from Oregon State University. ... “They show that the asterids, which later gave humans all types of foods and other products, were already evolving many millions of years ago.”

Pleistocene Mammal Rusingoryx atopocranion Had Dinosaur-Like ‘Nose’ This wildebeest like bovid with characteristics of a hadrosaur: “It appears that both Rusingoryx atopocranion and hadrosaurs evolved their nasal domes in a similar way and that it also developed in the same way as the animals aged from juveniles to adults,” they said.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Fruitful Absence

It's been a while since I've blogged regularly. I've put up some quotes-to-think-about on Mondays, and soon will be hosting a series of guest interviews from the contributors to Realms of Fantasy.

This does not mean my writing has come to a screeching halt, however! Quite the opposite: I've been working on two and sometimes three projects. One is the next-next Darkover novel (Thunderlord is scheduled for this August, so this is The Laran Gambit, which I hope to turn in by the end of 2015.) I'm about 10K words into it; it's got some forward momentum building to the first thing-changes-everything moment. I've heard writers say they don't like to talk about a new project because their creative energy goes into the talking, not the writing. That's somewhat true in this case. And besides, why talk about a book that isn't even finished when one that is ready to go will be coming out soon? This is what happens when writers turn in one book and dive right into the next, while publishing takes its sweet time. If you're curious about Thunderlord, check the blog archives here. I posted snippets of chapters from the first half of the book. And I'll blather on about it as the day approaches.

The other big project is a combination of fiction (sword and sorcery) and non-fiction (commentary on my own sometimes very dark journey of healing from my mother's murder). I've spoken about the latter, sometimes to large audiences, but writing about it, especially as intensely as I have been doing in the last couple of months, is much more immersive. I have no idea if anyone will want to read it, but the writing has been filled with revelations for me. Here's a bit from the introduction:

Because I am a writer, much of what I experienced — not the external circumstances but the emotions and insights — made its way into my stories. In the first few years after the murder, I wrote a short story, “Rite of Vengeance” (Sword & Sorceress V, ed. Marion Zimmer Bradley, DAW, 1988) about anger and revenge; it also contained a glimmering of understanding of how these could destroy me. I followed the same wounded heroine in “Crooked Corn” (Spells of Wonder, ed. Marion Zimmer Bradley, DAW, 1989) and eventually used these two episodes as the basis for a novel-length work, The Haunted Ring. The good news was that this gave me a sense of completion; the bad news was that it simply did not work as a novel. Eventually, I set it aside as a poignant but essentially dead-end exercise. 
Years and much recovery later, this book presented itself to me again. I was speaking to a class of law students, trying to explain what it was like to live through the violent death of a loved one. I scribbled a few notes on the “stages” of healing — numbness and shock, anger and vengeance, letting go, re-engaging with life, and so forth. It occurred to me that The Haunted Ring was not a deeply flawed, episodic, meandering novel. It was a healing journey disguised as a fantasy-adventure.
Here then is that story, with my own commentary about how I now understand what all this was about for me, and some queries that have been helpful to me. Stories keep our intellects busy while the deeper parts of our psyches resonate with things that are not easily put into words. Every person's experience of tragedy is different. How we make sense of what has happened to us also changes with time. A reader brings his or her own history and temperament, beliefs and visceral reactions, to the tale.

The way I've structured this book, each chapter of story is followed by commentary about my own experiences, reflections on larger issues of clawing my way out of the darkness and then creating the life I want, and queries for reflection. I'll keep you posted about the progress of this piece. It's in revision now, but because it is so emotionally intense, it's hard to predict when it will fly along and when I have to take a breather.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday Wisdom From George Bernard Shaw

Better to keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.

And better to admit our errors and make amends when we can, and be our truest, most honest, most courageous selves!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Monday Wisdom From Mark Twain

To get the full value of a joy, you must have somebody to divide it with.

Share something wonderful with someone you love today.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Guest Blog: Cardiovascular Health and Sexual Identity

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States. And it’s growing, largely because the factors that lead to CVD are growing too: obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diets based on meat, and physical inactivity. We have data on how CVD risk varies depending on sex, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. But we don’t have strong data on how gay, lesbian, and bisexual peoples risk factors add up to actual CVD risk.
CVD risk is often calculated using data from the Framingham study, a massive multigenerational study started back in 1948. The risk calculators that still come from that study today are some of the most well validated calculators we have. A physician can plug in a few numbers and get a good estimate of your risk of having a cardiovascular-related event over the next few years. The calculators are publicly available, but really do need training to interpret.
Why do I bring up the Framingham study? Because the study I’m examining this week uses those same calculators and other factors to try to estimate the cardiovascular risk of lesbian, gay, and bisexual cisgender people. Let’s take a look at what they did!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Monday Wisdom From Ralph Waldo Emerson

When friendships are real, they are not glass threads of frost work, but the solidest things we can know.

Thank you, my wonderful friends, for carrying me through times so dark I could not stand, let alone walk.