The brain is a random info eating monster

While people are more comfortable with that which is familiar, the opposite is also, counterintuitively, true: our brains crave novelty. As noted in the articled linked, “all of us have felt the pleasure of acquiring information.” I think this is why shows like Jeopardy! are enjoyable and also why people love memes from IFLScience.

the Alex Trebek

While Jeopardy! is loads of fun for showing off the (mostly useless) knowledge we’ve amassed, most people who are all, “I f*cking love science,” are really more into amassing tidbits of info. They’re not actually into science. Science isn’t about just a collection of cool factoids; it’s a way of thinking about and approaching the mysteries in the world and universe around us.

Science isn’t immutable facts set in stone that you go around impressing your friends and competitors with. In fact (hah), science isn’t about “facts” at all. Science is about discovery and experimentation and changing one’s mind about the how things work when provided with new evidence that may be contrary to what was previously acknowledged to be the best working theory. So don’t say you love science if you’re not prepared to change your outlook on something when the experts say that new research show that a certain pet view is, at best, half-baked and, at worst, totally wrong.

(And don’t get me started about the general populace confusing the scientific use of the word theory with the layperson’s use of it.)

So, it’s great to want to accumulate random bits of knowledge and make your stimulus-hungry brain happy–I love to do it, too–but “IFL science” should really be changed to “IFL trivia.”

Hey! Did you know that some bats have poop that sparkles because they eat insects whose exoskeletons are made of a shiny substance called chitin? IFLTrivia!

Luck!

As the Lunar New Year approaches, East Asians’ thoughts swirl around “luck.” The Chinese are all about luck. Ever notice how many Chinese restaurants have the word “luck” or “lucky” in their names?

lucky red (and gold) envelopes for New Year Money gifts

Coincidentally*, this email newsletter I get from Referio also talked about luck on Monday. Ryan Kay wrote:
It’s been said that the people who succeed in life are the ones who make the most of their time. They don’t sit around waiting for things to happen. They take control of their lives and make things happen.

As Seneca once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” 

In other words, success is often a matter of being in the right place at the right time. But it’s also about being prepared when that opportunity comes knocking.

So if you’re looking to get ahead in life, don’t wait for things to happen. Make them happen. Get up and seize the day. It could be the start of something great.

I loved this sage bit of advice. It also reminded me of something my team in the Indiana chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator noticed: there are members who read all the newsletters and emails our chapter sends out. We don’t send out very many, usually just once a month. But when we do, it’s because we have terrific opportunities to announce. The members who keep on top of them are able to partake of those opportunities, some of which have limited spots or time frames. It dawned on me and my team that those members are ones who have made things happen in their careers and have books published.

It’s not a coincidence. Luck really favors the prepared!

Are you ready for luck to land in your lap? Then actively position yourself to catch it.

Happy Lunar New Year!

The unexpected

I’ve been spoiled by watching The Umbrella Academy (and, to a lesser extent, Knives Out: Glass Onion). I now crave the unexpected…and not just a plot twist, but a highly quirky, somewhat off-kilter, but still in-line-with-the-story-and-characters plot twist. Nearly all other films/series fall short of this new expectation.

Whuuuuu??

Case in point: Netflix kept pushing the movie The Pale Blue Eye on us and a friend gushed about how good it was, so I decided to watch it with the fam. I came out of it fairly disappointed. It was through no fault of the acting (I’m a fan of Gilliam Anderson, Toby Jones, and Christian Bale) or the generally solid storyline. But there was nothing unexpected. I could predict what was going to happen and why, so I was a bit bored. (SPOILER ALERT: I also don’t care for sexual violence as a plot device)

Considering that Agatha Christie wrote a pretty surprising plot twist with And Then There Were None in 1939, I kind of expect more from mystery stories 80 years later.

What about you? Watched anything lately that knocked your socks off? Anything you care to recommend?

Well, hey there, 2023!

The holidays flew by, didn’t they? I hope you had a restful or productive time, whatever you set out to have.

I promise myself to adopt a good attitude this year (channeling this delightful Johnny Nash song that’s one of my favs) in addition to making some other changes.

What changes? Well, I’ll be sending out my newsletters once a month instead of quarterly…I’m making them shorter but more frequent. Check out the first issue of 2023 and hit the big SUBSCRIBE button at the top left of that page if you like what you see. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

Speaking of giveaways, there will be a giveaway of large bundles of kid’s books at the Multicultural Children’s Book Day‘s Read Your World Party on January 26th. It’s free to participate, so please join us! I’m an author sponsor.

What changes are you making this year?

These are a few of my favorite things

Some of my fragmented, yet very strong, memories from my youth involve cute stickers. This is why I watched this video from JetPens unblinkingly, like a cat staring at a goldfish in a bowl. My taste in stickers have matured a little but I still love them.

You know what else I love? Sleep.

Like this bear, I’d like to nap until Spring. I won’t, but I’ll let this blog take a little hibernation until the new year. In the interim, I’ll consider what Janna Morishima advised me in that consultation I mentioned previously and think about how to combine my blog with my newsletter content into a cohesive package that works for me and serve my readers.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season!

What I (re)learned this week

1. Don’t participate in chat (on Zoom, and possibly in life) and don’t answer questions.

As often happens in a public forum or group, someone will ask a question to which I know the answer and then people act like I’ve not replied at all. Case in point: last weekend, I attended an online event.

Someone asked a question in the chat and I knew the exact answer to it because I’ve heard several industry professionals talk about it. Someone else partly answered the question, and then I chimed in to answer the specifics. The person who asked the question thanked the first person and then *crickets* to my reply.

The person who partially answered then asked the question of the moderator/panel who said precisely what I typed into the chat. Luckily, I didn’t have the camera on because I got a WTF look on my face similar to the one on this Tufted Titmouse:

2. Don’t engage. Period.

To that end, my husband kindly shared this meme he found online with me.

Calm is THE goal I want to reach, so I’ll need to stop interacting with people. Hah!

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I won a consultation with the AMAZING Janna Morishima, agent and creator of the graphic novel community called Kids Comics Unite. She gave me excellent advice for revising my website in the one hour that we chatted this past week. Janna also shared ideas on what to do with SEO and my blog. So, over December, I think I’ll be doing some planning for the new year and preparing to implement some of the strategies she suggested.

In the meantime, I’ll stick with more bird drawings. I hope you like them!

And because of the title I chose, I have the David Bowie song running through my head now.

Bird (on the) brain

There’s been a lot of talk about birds recently…that ginormous bird platform named Twitter, the other ginormous bird called turkey that people in the U.S. often have for Thanksgiving.

But I’d like to share some birds unrelated to either one because I don’t want to get started on venting about Twitter’s new evil overlord nor about the injustices brought on the indigenous population since that first Thanksgiving meal.

I’ve been keeping up with nature journaling and some of those sketches happen to be birds. Birds are fascinating and delight me most of the time (also do not get me started on Brown-headed Cowbirds). I’ve not spent much time studying their anatomy even though I’ve bought the Cornell Bird Lab home-study course on bird biology, so I’m hoping that doing these types of sketches will help me get better at drawing them.

Do you have a favorite bird? Is it your favorite because you can draw it, or because it comes to your feeder daily? Or perhaps it’s the tastiest?

Also, when should I stop sharing these posts on Twitter? All these questions…

Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion by Shannon Stocker

Check out Patricia’s review of my friend Shannon’s terrific book!

Children's Books Heal

Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion

Shannon Stocker, Author

Devon Holzwarth, Illustrator

Dial Books for Young Readers, Biography, Apr. 12, 2022

Suitable for ages: 4–8

Themes: Music, Deafness, Listening, Feeling, Resilience,  Percussion, Biography

Opening: “This is a story of music. Of obstacles. Of strnegth and hard work. Of all you can accomplish when you dream. If you only . . . listen.“usPublisher’s Synopsis:

A gorgeous and empowering picture book biography about Evelyn Glennie, a deaf woman, who became the first full-time solo percussionist in the world.

“No. You can’t,” people said.
But Evelyn knew she could. She had found her own way to listen.

From the moment Evelyn Glennie heard her first note, music held her heart. She played the piano by ear at age eight, and the clarinet by age ten. But soon, the nerves in her ears began…

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A funny insight happened on the way to volunteerism

I recall a co-worker who could carry on two conversations simultaneously: one on the phone and other other with people in the room with her. I marveled at her ability and declared I could never do that. I mean, I can barely handle one conversation.

But I discovered something very interesting this past Monday when I on a call with my dad. I phone him twice a week and have him tell me the story of Journey to the West. Our conversations are in Cantonese, my mother tongue. My grasp of it is somewhat rusty having lived away from a large Cantonese population for 30+ years, but I’d still categorize myself as functionally bilingual speech-wise. While I was on the phone to dad–because it’s mostly him talking and me interjecting with a reaction every so often–I decided I would work on the VoteForward letters I’m writing for the GA election runoff.

I wasn’t sure I could do it given that I could’t carry on two conversations at the same time. To my complete surprise, I was able to compost and write the messages in each of the letters in addition to addressing the envelopes WHILE ALSO understanding everything my dad said (in fact, I processed so well, I realized he was repeating a segment of the story he had already told me previously).

This got me to wondering if different parts of the language areas of the brain, for processing (Wernicke) and speaking (Broca), are being used for the two different languages. If I had free time to go down that rabbit hole, I totally would. I love neurology and linguistics.

Have you had any fascinating insights or discoveries recently that you want to investigate further? Do tell!