National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as November, is coming up. Planning on taking part? Here are 25 Things You Should Know About NaNoWriMo.

To hit 50,000 words in one month, you must write at least 1,666 words per day over the 30 day period. I write about 1000 words in an hour, so you’re probably looking at two to three hours worth of work per day.

The rest of it is more… colourful, but here at the Neighbourhood Blog we try to keep things PG.

At NeuroTribes, a number of very bright people are thankful for their the high school teachers that gave them a passion for learning early on.

“Those who do not articulate their rights have none,” was the statement that Mr. MacTamaney wrote on the blackboard on the first day of school at Monroe-Woodbury High in New York state.

Oh Comely Magazine gives authors the chance to pitch their ideas to an Internet public and get funding to write their books through online donations– the world of publishing gets more and more creative by the day!

Listen to Ernest Hemingway accept the Nobel Prize! Perhaps you are already familiar with his acceptance speech, which, like his stories, is simple and powerful:

How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.

At the Smithsonian, 5 Historic Female Mathematicians You Should Know. An inspiring list for a largely male field! Here’s an example of how rough ladies had it back in the 19th century:

[Emmy Noether] grew up in Germany and had her mathematics education delayed because of rules against women matriculating at universities. After she received her PhD, for a dissertation on a branch of abstract algebra, she was unable to obtain a university position for many years, eventually receiving the title of “unofficial associate professor” at the University of Göttingen, only to lose that in 1933 because she was Jewish.


The Telegraph has the story behind the famous civil-rights-era photo below, and the difficult reconciliation between the two women captured in it:

“I just had hoped that I could show this picture and say, ‘This happened, and that happened, and now…’ and there is no ‘now’,” [said Hazel (left)]. “And that makes me sad. It makes me sad for them, it makes me sad for the future students at our school, and for the history books, because I’d like a happy ending. And we don’t have that.”

And lastly, the NYRBlog on Obama’s secret memo authorizing him to order the deaths of US citizens without trial.

But [Anwar] al-Awlaki was not on the battlefield. He was in Yemen. And he was not even alleged to be a part of al-Qaeda or the Taliban, the two entities against whom Congress authorized the President to use military force in a resolution passed one week after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which continues to provide the legal basis for the war on al-Qaeda and the conflict in Afghanistan.


Coffee hasn’t always been the world’s most popular addictive substance: check out Luke Fentres’ article The Devil’s Drink over at Lapham’s Quarterly’s blog, Roundtable.

The dark beverage was accused of possessing the same intoxicating effects that Muhammad had warned against with alcohol.

On behalf of those of us who have to see you before your morning espresso shot, maybe there’s something to it…

The Smithsonian Magazine has compiled a list of the Top 10 Books Lost to Time, comprised of a number of titles even Bill says he’s never heard of, ranging from The Bard himself to Sylvia Plath.

We all like inexpensive books, but are we aware of the economic machinations that allow us to purchase brand-new titles for a “reasonable” price? (Not used books, of course.) Michael Jecks sheds some light on the issue:

As a result of the end of the Net Book Agreement that fixed prices, bigger stores like Waterstone’s, Borders and others demanded bigger discounts. Publishers like Headline were delighted to offer discounts to push ever larger print runs. They could make money from economies of scale. That is why almost all the local shops have disappeared. They cannot compete in a market so heavily rigged against them.

I can think of a few people who might find this handy guide interesting (Clint, you had better be reading our blog): How To Write A Love Poem.

When is the right time in a relationship to present someone with a poem? A good question. The line between creepy and romantic is ever shifting. Some people might like a poem written about them at first, and then later come to find it creepy and taser you. Others might, upon first reading, feel creeped out and then later come to love the poem you wrote. You never know.

You really never do.

Benefiting from the misfortune of others: The Yes Men on Alessio Rastani and the economic crisis.

“Every night I dream of another recession,” Rastani said, and explained that it’s possible to make huge money from a big crisis even when millions of others lose their life savings, and worse.

A brief article on Montrealer Jean Beliveau, who’s just returned from an 11-year walk around the world.

Beliveau left Montreal on the day of his 45th birthday, August 18, 2000, after his small sign business went bankrupt. He decided to run around the world to try to escape that painful episode in his life.

Check out his website at http://wwwalk.org/. 

At the NYRB, three short stories by Wells Tower with art by John Currin: Post-Darwinian Experiments in Consciousness and Other Stories.

For those of you who admit to a bit of confusion regarding the fairer sex, BrainPickings has unearthed: a map!


Click over to BrainPickings to view the full-sized image, it’s worth it. On a related note, check out the cover of Jonathan Franzen’s The Discomfort Zone and note the striking similarities!


And finally, wondering what’s going on on Wall Street? Read the manifesto from Occupy Wall Street, excerpted here on BoingBoing. Read the whole Declaration of the Occupation of New York City here.

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.


We’ve sniffed out another article on the sense of smell (hahaha), this one from the Scientific American suggesting that the nose organizes smells by how pleasant they are. 

The participants evaluated the pleasantness of each smell; amyl acetate, which smells like bananas, received the highest overall rating for pleasantness. The garlic-like diethyl sulfide received one of the lowest ratings. Other chemicals, such as the main component of vinegar, acetic acid, elicited mixed reactions.

Also, another article the misleading title of which led me to expect crazy animal hijinks: Virtual Monkeys Write Shakespeare, from the BBC. Still cool though:

Mr Anderson’s virtual monkeys are small computer programs uploaded to Amazon servers. These coded apes regularly pump out random sequences of text.

At the New Yorker, Nicholson Baker buys a Kindle:

Maybe the Kindle was the Bowflex of bookishness: something expensive that, when you commit to it, forces you to do more of whatever it is you think you should be doing more of.

Online political activism has become a familiar concept after 2010’s WikiLeaks fandango. The Financial Times examines the past and future of infamous “hacktivist” group Anonymous.

The increasingly likely threat of apprehension isn’t enough to dissuade many Anonymous supporters from what they compare with “sit-ins” – conscious acts of trespassing that inconvenience their targets while bringing the underlying issues to wider attention.

Is taxing the rich to reduce the national deficit “class warfare”? Plenty of wealthy Americans seem to think so: New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman takes a look at class divisions in the US.

Republicans claim to be deeply worried by budget deficits. Indeed, Mr. Ryan has called the deficit an “existential threat” to America. Yet they are insisting that the wealthy — who presumably have as much of a stake as everyone else in the nation’s future — should not be called upon to play any role in warding off that existential threat.

Salon.com profiles one of my very favourite webcomic artists, Kate Beaton, whose comic Hark! A Vagrant has been getting all kinds of press lately owing to her recent book published by Drawn and Quarterly. I tried to find a representative comic to put below, but they’re all so great that you’re just going to have to check it out for yourself.

NPR asks: can computers reconstruct your dreams? Scientists have been working on technology that may be able to help those unable to speak communicate.

An expert said he expected any mind-reading capability would appear only far in the future.

Giving us all a chance to get our acts together.

If you never want to get anything done at work/school ever again, try Draw A Stick Man.

The New Yorker tells us what Facebook really wants:

One way to change something big is to get people really riled up about how you’ve changed something small. Repaint the boat, and let them to argue about that. By the time they’ve realized that green is no worse than blue, they won’t have the energy to wonder whether it was a smart idea for you to set sail for Australia.

The important stuff should come later today at Facebook’s F8 developer conference. Here, Facebook is likely to announce major new partnerships with publishers and music and video companies.

Really, though, did anyone ever know what “poking” someone was all about?

And, since I couldn’t find the perfect Kate Beaton comic, here’s a picture from my personal files:

That’s courtesy of The Annotated Weekender, and I think it perfectly captures the undying nature of the human spirit, or at least the undying nature of my human spirit.


Happy Wednesday!

An online game called Foldit provides a clue to the AIDS puzzle.

By using a game developed by researchers at the University of Washington, players were able to come up with a viable structure for a protein that is crucial to the early development of AIDS. Foldit allows users to assemble potential proteins out of different molecular building blocks, and video game players ended up accomplishing what scientists could not.

Compare sizes of everything, from the absolutely minute to the incomprehensibly huge. This is pretty rad.

From New Scientist’s CultureLab, an interview about smell with Molly Birnbaum, author of Season to Taste. As a certain philosopher once sang, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

Towards the beginning of my experience I could smell this one smell all the time. The only way I could make sense of it was that this smell was coming from within me, that it was probably my brain.

If you’re still mystified by this summer’s riots in England, you’re not alone: try on this article from the New Scientist (again), which attempts to go a little further than the simplistic descriptions that have been offered so far.

Throughout history, one of the first casualties of riots has always been scientific understanding.

Check out these totally kickass coins, currently being minted in Canada. Don’t expect to get them back in the change from your latte, though, those bad boys are gonna cost you $25 or so.

Wondering what’s up with those crazy kids with their iPods and jeggings? National Geographic examines the teenage brain.

As we move through adolescence, the brain undergoes extensive remodeling, resembling a network and wiring upgrade.

And in music news, Arcade Fire snagged Canada’s prestigious Polaris Prize on Monday night for last summer’s album The Suburbs. Hardly a surprise after their Grammy win earlier this year, but congrats all the same.

“Just so you guys know, all this stuff makes us profoundly awkward — for real,” said [guitarist Richard Reed ]Parry.

The Polaris Prize is awarded by Canadian music critics, broadcasters and bloggers every year to a record of any genre.

Machinarium is one of the current top pics for app games on itunes. Amanita has made some of the most beautifully designed and inventive computer games I’ve seen. Take a minute and check out a much earlier game called Samarost. I think you’ll find yourself instantly fascinated.

A video Bill says will bring you to tears of laughter. (I haven’t watched it yet, because I’m in public, and that would be embarrassing.)

From the LA Times, the secret elitism of eating organic in China.

“It is for officials only. They produce organic vegetables, peppers, onions, beans, cauliflowers, but they don’t sell to the public,” said Li Xiuqin, 68, a lifelong Shunyi village resident who lives directly across the street from the farm but has never been inside. “Ordinary people can’t go in there.”

In celebration of the 250th anniversary of Laurence Sterne’s famously bizarre Tristram Shandy, FlavorWire has compiled a list of 10 of Literature’s Most Notoriously Incomprehensible Classics. So in case you thought you were alone in your confusion over Finnegan’s Wake… you never have been.

Over at the Guardian, the world’s greatest travel writers talk about their favourite travel books.  Here’s Paul Theroux quoting Apsley Cherry-Garrard, documenter of Robert Scott’s infamous 1912 Antarctic expedition:

 “If you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore. If you are a brave man you will do nothing; if you are fearful you may do much, for none but cowards have need to prove their bravery. Some will tell you that you are mad … And so you will sledge nearly alone, but those with whom you sledge will not be shopkeepers: that is worth a good deal. If you march your winter journeys you will have your reward, so long as all you want is a penguin’s egg.”

Dinosaur Feathers Discovered in Canadian Amber. And yes, they predicted your next question:

Villarica also did io9 readers a favor and asked McKellar whether this discovery could lead to a Jurassic Park scenario. McKellar said:

“Put simply, no. The specimens that we examined are extremely small and would not be expected to contain any DNA material. To put this into context, the only genetic material that has been recovered from amber is from lumps of mummified insect muscle tissue in much younger Dominican amber that are approximately 17 million years old and well after the age of dinosaurs.”

From the NYRB, an article entitled Circus Elephants that is not about elephants at all, but rather Monday night’s Tea Party-hosted GOP debate.

Love Edward Gorey? We do too. Brain Pickings has a feature on Gorey’s letters to Peter F. Neumeyer, friend and collaborator, who has just released a book of the letters and illustrated envelopes called Floating World.

“In light of his body of work, and because of the interest that his private person has aroused, I feel strongly that these letters should not be lost to posterity. I still read in them Ted’s wisdom, charm, and affection and a profound personal integrity that deserves to be in the record. As for my own letters to Ted, I had no idea that he had kept them until one day a couple of years ago when a co-trustee of his estate, Andras Brown, sent me a package of photocopies of my half of the correspondence. I am very grateful for that.”

Ted indeed.

And lastly, Wendy McNaughton speculates on the snacking habits of the literary greats:

Wendy illustrates a lovely little column called Meanwhile for the online literary magazine The Rumpus.

Would you like to take part in planning and assembling a multimedia celebration of the Wolseley community – history, highlights, people, places that make Wolseley special?

I am hoping to find a group of Wolseley residents with diverse talents who are willing to put some time into this project, with a view to presenting it at the 2012 Wolseley Arts Festival and also making it available on DVD and/or print form for later use by school or community groups.

Continue Reading »

Money Trees??

They say money doesn’t grow on trees, but these photos from Colossal seem to suggest otherwise…

Apparently there is a practice in certain parts of the UK of hammering small-denomination coins into tree-trunks that scholars suggest may come from an 18th century Scottish of putting florins into trees in the hopes that the tree would alleviate illness.

The Atlantic has a preview of photographer Christopher Payne’s book of photos of 19th-century mental asylums; the images are as unsettling as you’d expect from that subject matter:

From Publishers Weekly, 5 Great Author Interviews from Charlie Rose: Siddhartha Mukherjee,  Steven Pinker, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood and David Foster Wallace.

And the New York Times suggest that Computer-Generated Articles Are Gaining Traction.

“I thought it was magic,” says Roger Lee, a general partner of Battery Ventures, which led a $6 million investment in the company earlier this year. “It’s as if a human wrote it.”

The future is now!