Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-08-29

  • My beagle demands a walk! And he shall have it! #
  • Scarey! The FDA in the US isn't testing the seafood from the Gulf because "it'll be fine, trust us!" #
  • Scott Pilgrim=4/5 stars (-1 for miscast Cera). It should get an Oscar for best editing. One of the slickest editing jobs I've ever seen! #
  • 'Live for yourself, and you live in vain, live for others, and you'll live again' #
  • I hate being sick. -_- #
  • Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody. – Franklin P. Adams #
  • RT @lfpress: special report by @AlexWatLFPress about living with a terminal illness on the streets of London. #
  • Is thinking of buying a Cannon EOS 550D DLSR Camera. (aka Rebel T2i) #
  • Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out. – Samuel Johnson #
  • His name was Robert Paulson #
  • Someone had piled garbage around a telephone pole on King, just EOA, and lit it up at 4. Quite a blaze going before the FD arrived! #ldnont #

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Nathan Bransford’s Advice on How to Write a Novel

Advice from the blog of literary agent Nathan Bransford on how to write a novel:

A nice collection of notes and tips for would-be novel writers out there. (Like myself, admittedly!)

Looking for Some Weekend Watching?

Looking for something to watch this weekend? This website has a list of 100 classic sci-fi and horror films you can watch online for free! However, be warned that some are on Hulu (so you can only view them from the States) and the more recent ones also seem to be US-only. Still the classics make the list worth a look!

Goodbye Nana

This morning my 99 year old Grandmother, Dorothy Ollerton, breathed her last breath.

She was the last of her generation in my family, and managed to outlive her elder sister by 2 years, which I think rather pleased her. (Them being rivals to the end, but only from her side.) She also managed to see two of her great grandchildren born and although they’re probably too young to really remember her, I think they’ll have a sense of her in their hearts.

She was born in Hamilton, Ontario- the daughter of an engineer sent over from England to settle and work in a booming industrial city. The middle of three children, she was raised in a big house in the core of Hamilton in a very proper British manner, and I wonder if my own great grandfather was pleased when she met a handsome young factory worker on the tennis courts in Gage Park one summer evening. They’d needed a fourth for pairs, and a friend brought him along.

It was to be a long engagement, however, as The Great Depression took it’s toll on them like many others, but still they persevered, finally marrying in their 30’s. She worked part-time in a flower shop, and he worked for Westinghouse producing appliances, and together they raised two fine girls who were the envy of her sisters. For various reasons, neither her elder sister Elsie, nor her younger sister Beryl, had chosen to have children, and so my mother and Aunt ended up with not One mother but Three! Something that didn’t always please my Grandmother, but led to some interesting holiday dinners.

And boy could my grandmother cook! Unlike her two very un-domestic sisters, Dorothy was a master of her domain in the kitchen. Most of my memories of her involve food in some way, whether it be eating her homemade black-currant jam on toast at their small kitchen table, her marvelous apple pies, or the turkey dinners that came to mark each of the holidays. Even at 92, my grandmother was making full-course Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners by herself, and cut back on nothing with age. Sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing, peas, gravy and lavish deserts made each holiday a joy to behold, and it was only because the seniors apartment she and my grandfather moved to had a small kitchen that she finally took a break from cooking. (With both a mix of regret and relief, since she cooked as much out of duty as pleasure in her elder years.)

I should not imply my Grandmother was a saint. She most clearly was not in any sense of the word. She was jealous of her sisters from the day she was born until the day they were both gone, and put the capital “M” in the term “Middle Child Syndrome”. She was petty, and once stopped talking to her elder sister for years because of a single careless remark- not even being willing to tell Elise what she’d said to cause all the trouble in the first place. She could also nag with the best of them, and if there was a nagging competition then I suspect she would have gotten first place. We often remarked that my grandfather deserved a medal for staying with her all those years (50+!) and I’ll always wonder how long he’d actually been going deaf before he let anyone know…

But, despite all her flaws, she was at heart a good person who cared deeply about others, and deeply loved both her children and her grandchildren. My sister and I were her only grandchildren, and she lavished her attention on us during our visits, which were of course never as frequent as she’d like. She made sure to always have some home-made sweets ready for us, and loved to play with us and fuss over us.

I couldn’t have asked for a better grandmother, or better childhood, and she was a large part of that.

Shortly after my grandfather died a few years ago, she collapsed and needed to be moved to a nursing home. Her condition steadily weakened, both physically and mentally, and in the end she was alive more in a technical sense than any meaningful way. Slowly her periods of sleep went from hours to days, and in the end she only opened her eyes for the briefest of moments.

The last time I saw her alive, she couldn’t wake up, but still managed to sing along to her great-grand-children’s singing. Mouthing the words in her sleep as they sang. Still trying to be part of the party until the end.

To any who read this, and still having living grandparents, I ask you to call them or get in touch with them soon and let them know what they mean to you. You never know how long they’ll be with you, and you should enjoy them while they’re still here. Too often we say “later”, but too often, it becomes “too late”. I enjoyed having mine around for 39 years, but for most it will be far shorter. Their love brought you into this world, so let them know it’s with love that they’ll leave it.

Goodbye Nana. I’ll miss you.

“Apple Pie”

Huxley vs. Orwell

Found on

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.

Sounds to me like Huxley is winning this round….yay! 😛

Chinese Muslims

So today I came across an interesting bit of information I didn’t know.

It seems that in the Yuan Dynasty the Mongolian rulers didn’t trust the Han Chinese to administer themselves, so instead they imported (sometimes by force!) large numbers of Muslim Arabs and Persians to serve as their mid-level administrator class and serve as their tax collectors. These people were called the Hui people, and became the ethnic group known as the HuiHui’s.

Some interesting tidbits about the Hui:

  1. The name Hui is an abbreviation for “Huihui,” which first appeared in the literature of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). It referred to the Huihe people (the Ouigurs) who lived in Anxi in the present-day Xinjiang and its vicinity since the Tang Dynasty (618-907). They were actually forerunners of the present-day Uygurs, who are totally different from today’s Huis or Huihuis.
  2. Islamism also had great impact on the political and economic systems of Hui society. “Jiaofang” or “religious community,” as once practiced among the Huis, was a religious system as well as an economic system. According to the system, a mosque was to be built at each location inhabited by Huis, ranging from a dozen to several hundred households. An imam was to be invited to preside over the religious affairs of the community as well as to take responsibility over all aspects of the livelihood of its members and to collect religious levies and other taxes from them. A mosque functioned not only as a place for religious activities but also as a rendezvous where the public met to discuss matters of common interest. Religious communities, operating quite independently from each other, had thus become the basic social units for the widely dispersed Hui people. Following the development of the Hui’s agricultural economy and the increase of religious taxes levied on them, some chief imams began to build up their personal wealth. They used this to invest in land properties and engage in exploitation through land rents. The imams gradually changed themselves into landlords. Working in collaboration with secular landlords, they enjoyed comprehensive power in the religious communities, which they held tightly under their control. They left routine religious affairs of the mosques to low-rank ahungs.
  3. During the Ming Dynasty, the Hui navigator Zheng He led massive fleets in making as many as seven visits to more than 30 Asian and African countries in 29 years. This unparalleled feat served to promote the friendship as well as economic and cultural exchanges between China and these countries. Zheng He was accompanied by Ma Huan and Ha San, also of Hui origin, who acted as his interpreters. Ma Huan gave a true account of Zheng He’s visits in his book Magnificent Tours of Lands Beyond the Ocean, which is of major significance in the study of the history of communication between China and the West.

More information on the HuiHui people here .

I also found this page about Foreigners and how they’ve historically become part of Chinese culture:

Interesting reading! It even includes a few tibits on intermarriage and assimilation! I didn’t know Kaifeng had a large population of Chinese jews! (Heck, I didn’t know there WERE Chinese Jews!)

What if Kurosawa Directed Star Wars?

Now and then, something comes along that just oozes cool, and one of these things is…

Which is a set of customized action figures done by a skilled toymaker for a “lost” Kurosawa film that bears a striking resemblance to a film by George Lucas set in a Galaxy Far-Far Away. I especially love Han and Fetababe (Boba Fett), but of course Obi-Wan gets the final prize.

Creating a Writer’s Step Sheet in Powerpoint

Since some people love their powerpoint, I thought I’d share the following I found on how to make a writer’s step sheet using it. Enjoy!


When I wrote a 1,000 word article, I don’t need an outline. I can keep everything straight in my head. In fact, in many cases, I create an outline and then flesh it out. I can’t possibly keep all of the twists and turns of a novel in my head. I get lost. When I don’t have an extended outline, I can lose my way, or worse yet, spend many hours writing material that I throw away.
You can easily create a stepsheet in any word processing program that provides outlining capabilities, and you can also create a stepsheet using special programs that you can buy on the Internet. You’ll know what’s right for the way that you write. Here’s why I sometimes use Microsoft PowerPoint to create a stepsheet:

  • It’s easy for me to drop in one item on one screen.
  • I can set Microsoft Powerpoint to display a slide show that displays every slide automatically, or any number of slides–like the slides that comprise chapters 1, 2 and 3 only.
  • I can make a voice recording for each slide, and have the PowerPoint show read me the stepsheet. In this way I can hear as well as see the spreadsheet.
  • I sometimes export the spreadsheet to a Microsoft Word document, and use it to write my novel.

It’s easy to create a stepsheet in Microsoft PowerPoint. All you need to do is open a new PowerPoint presentation and start typing. However, these tips make it easier for me to use the stepsheet that I create. Perhaps, they will also help you.

More here.

An interesting technique that might also be applicable to Audio Drama planning, using each Powerpoint Slide to represent a scene and then having notes and moving them around as needed to structure the show.

And it’s still better than most of the movies on SyFy!

King-Kong as remade by kids in the 1970’s. Reminds me of the stuff I used to make on my old super-8mm video camera way back when. I wonder what happened to those reels?

Twin Stars Book Two ends!

With the release of Showdown (part 3), my audio drama series Twin Stars has finally reached it’s Book Two finale! Thanks to all who have supported this show so far, and Book Three will start to air in December after a much-needed break!