Sea creatures have many teeth, drawing and photo by author
Sea creatures have many teeth, drawing and photo by author


Not every creature (or everybody) has them, but most vertebrates (That includes people) do have a working set of pearly whites. Here is a depiction of a few various types of sea creatures, all complete with a well developed set of choppers.


Five Disturbing Trends From 2012 That I Hope Are Not Continued In 2013

A municipal graveyard near Otley, Yorkshire, Great Britain, from Wikipedia, photo by TJ Blackwell

The Mass Killings

Two mass killings in the U.S. during the second half of 2012 have saddened and shocked the entire nation. The last one in Connecticut was particularly disturbing because of the large number of school children that died and since its occurrence happened so close to the Christmas holidays. I hope that finally universal awareness that over 10,000 handgun deaths a year is way too high for such a technologically advanced country as the United States. However, bringing the number of deaths down in the future, may be not be so simple. The silver lining in this ominous cloud is that the goal has been clearly defined.

Journey; photo by H. Koppdelaney

Awareness Of Global Warming

The situation with global warming is twice as complicated as the first issue. Awareness of the extent that global warming affects our lives is much more varied. Take for example the current cold snap that has gripped Southern California and the Southwest. Even though weather scientists attribute the root cause of this weather phenomena to unseasonably warm winter temperatures over Greenland, there will be many that see the cold weather outbreak as proof that global warming is a hoax. Please note that unseasonably warm temperatures have also found their way into Alaska.  And then, there still remains the common scenario that even if global warming was more readily acknowledged, the solution to the problem may still prove to be very elusive.

photo by H. Koppdelaney

Fifty Shades of Anything

English author E.L. James (Erika Leonard in real life) got this ball rolling with Fifty Shades of Grey. The popular piece of erotic fiction quickly sold millions of copies and soon thereafter morphed into the Fifty Shades Trilogy, which now includes two new volumes, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. So far the bundle, which is somewhat derivative of Stephanie Meyer’s characters in the Twilight series. So far, Miss James has sold over 65 million copies worldwide, making her one of the most popular modern authors.

Stylistically, Fifty Shades of Grey has fallen under the slang of “mommy porn”, due to the age and gender of a majority of its readers. The trilogy definitely falls under the catch-all category of erotica, but more specifically is labelled as BDSM or dominance/submission erotic fiction. Critical reception has varied widely, as many authors have joined the bandwagon and put out their own version of Fifty Shades. These titles range from 50 Shades of Alice In Wonderland to 50 Shades of Obama (or Romney)…..your choice.

Self Published Erotic Authors

Sites like Smashwords are filled with the works of amateur erotica authors, who now due to the ease of self-publishing an e-book, are putting out one title after another. Presumably following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Anais Nin, Erica Jong, Anne Rice (alias A.N. Roquelaure), Henry Miller, Mark Twain, Marquis de Sade and Susie Bright, these budding authors will all probably be millionaires by year’s end.

Movie still from The Life of Pi

Loss of Biodiversity

The biological diversity of our planet has been decreasing, as of late. This sad fact has been well documented by many scientific organizations and more often than not the root cause is closely related to man’s economic activities on the planet. Some good news is out there, in that conservation efforts are still quite numerous and their practitioners are often very optimistic and dedicated towards this issue.

“All The Rains Down In Africa”

Painting by Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, entitled South West African Landscape with Termite Hill, Umbrella Trees and Mountains in the Background; from Wiki Commons

24 Million Dollar Book Deal Is Awarded to Popular English Author

An octogenarian English Author by the name of Wilbur Smith has just earned a six book deal worth 15 million pounds….. or about 24 million American dollars. And the weird thing is that Smith is not going to write the entire manuscript for all six books. He will merely provide the basic outline or treatment for each novel and other writers, including his wife,Niso, will complete the manuscripts. In fact, it is definitely possible that Smith may not be around to see all six books published. According to his publisher, Harper Collins, the last book will be published by the end 0f 2015.

Kibo summit of Mount_Kilimanjaro
Kibo summit of Mount Kilamanjaro, photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim

Smith’s Background

This man is named Wilbur Smith and he has a been a popular English adventure writer for 50 years, though not as many in the U.S. are familiar with his lexicon of African tales. During his writing career, Smith has penned over 30 novels, accounting for 120 million pounds of sales. His first book appeared in 1933 and was called When The Lions Feed. His latest novel, Those In Peril, was released in 2011. Though born in Rhodesia (now called Zambia), Wilbur now lives in London. Nine of his stories have been adapted to film or television.

Wilbur Smith signing books, from Wikipedia photo by Richard001
Wilbur Smith signing books, from Wikipedia photo by Richard001

Wilbur Smith’s Worldview

Having been born and raised on the African continent, Wilbur Smith has always claimed that this place of vast vistas and stunning herds of wildlife has always been his greatest inspiration. Nonetheless, Mr. Smith has  sometimes been criticized for having an “old school” vision of Africa which might be a bit sexist and racist. However, his readers obviously enjoy his storytelling and do not seem the least bit bothered by his viewpoints on life.

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Summer In The South

Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia
Oak trees often provide a shaded reprieve from the hot Southern summers

My Southern Summer Experience

Because of Winn Dixie is a charming children’s/middle grade story set in a small town in Florida during the hot summer. In a way it reminds me of our family visits to the Carolinas, which always occurred during the hottest time of the year, August, because that’s when we had the time to make the 500 mile drive from Maryland and then spend several weeks on the hot coastal plains. Our summer sojourn always included a trip to the beach, which was a nice reprieve from the hotter weather amidst the piney woods.  When inland our summer days included minimal daytime activity and a daily swim in an artesian pool or pond to cool off. Somehow we made it through the nights without AC and our frequent social gatherings always occurred indoors or at a cool and shady outdoor location. All of these childhood memories seemed to have been revived somewhat, when I read Kate DiCamillo’s charming little story that is slowly becoming a classic tale that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

About The Book

What I enjoyed most about the story was its eccentric yet believable cast of characters that were expertly weaved together throughout the short tale. Also enjoyable was the slightly irreverent atmosphere towards organized religion and the Old South that became the background for this short novel. Winn Dixie turns out to be the name of a dog, who acquired his unique handle because he  was found wandering by a young girl at the popular grocery store chain of the same name. The two turn into the best of buddies and the book follows their ensuing adventures that occur during summer recess.

This book makes for a quick and easy read, but you can watch the movie (made in 2005) on your DVD player, if you prefer. Published in 2000, this book quickly accumulated several awards and is becoming a classic read, for booklovers everywhere. The story appears to be loosed based on the author’s personal experience, who moved to Florida (from Pennsylvania) with her family at a very young age.

Florida in Winter
Florida consists of more than the popular places such as Miami, Key West and Orlando, from Wikipedia

Roadside Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly By the side of the Road
Monarch Butterfly By the side of the Road

Unexpected Delay

My journey took an unexpected delay, when I found out there was no bus service from Winnipeg to Minnesota. My response was to hoof it. This took a quite a long time because I decided on a rather untraveled route that lead Southeast to the American town, called Warroad and the nearby Lake of the Woods. The one benefit of this lengthy journal, was that I had lots of time to examine things left along the side of the road. It was remarkable how you could sense the presence of a nearby town by the great increase in of certain types garbage such as beer cans, soft drink bottles, coffee containers and plastic wrappers. And then the opposite effect would occur, as you passed through town and headed back for the wide-open rural spaces. And sometimes vehicular traffic has the habit of creating its own objects at the edge of the highway.

Common sulphur butterfly of Minnesota
Common sulphur butterfly of Minnesota

Roadkill Insects

There is a lot of beauty and tragedy expressed by these flying insects that lie motionless along the side of the road. Though I doubt they amount to a significant portion of the butterfly population, it still seems a loss to find just one of these flying beauties sitting on the road shoulder. The marvelous little insects seem frozen in time, for their delicate bodies are so well preserved. Most likely these insects are not the result of a direct collision, but instead, they were probably overwhelmed by the heady winds created by larger vehicles. In fact, quite a few could be seen still fluttering the wings and very much alive, but unable to fly.

The Arctic Fritillary
The Arctic Fritillary is associated with the peat boglands of extreme northern Minnesota

Different Varieties

Interesting species such as this arctic butterfly dwell in the bog areas of Northern Minnesota. Here, just south of the border this colorful Lepidotera is at the very southern limit of the range. Still the northernedge of this state sits very near the Great Plains and the northern birch-maple woods, so the diversity of habitats is significant. Pictured below is a butterfly of unknown identification.

Another roadside butterfly
Another roadside butterfly

Groundhog’s Day In Maine (today the green grass is visible everywhere)

the groundhog
Closeup Groundhog (Marmota monax) by Eiffelle courtesy Wikipedia

Today in Maine the sun came out and shown brightly for the whole day, but the temperatures remained just a few degrees below freezing. Just about everywhere the grass is visible, a rarity for this part of the country at any time in February. Two weeks ago we had a good snow cover, but a heavy came and washed most of the white stuff away. Snow can be found only in the piles that the snowplow drivers left behind and on the lee side of buildings, where a few shady spots remain.

However, there must be something to that old folktale, for we are forecast to receive some snow tomorrow evening (not much, but it’s still snow), more possibilities on Saturday (but according to our illustrious weatherman that one is suppose to be a near miss), but the weather service is watching a developing storm for early next week. All proof that the lowly woodchuck knows more than we give him (or her ) credit.

Actually, Groundhog’s Day has grown in popularity, as of late. (I think the movie might have something to do with that), for now the participants in Punxsatwney, PA number near in the tens of thousands. Punsatawney Phil is the name of the rodent in Pennsylvania, but he is not alone for groundhogs all across America and Canada have decided to join Phil.

There is quite a list and here are some of the more interesting names. They include Sir Walter Wally from Raleigh, NC, French Creek Freddie from French Creek, WV, General Beauregard Lee from Snellville, GA, Staten Island Chuck from Staten Island, NY, Octoraro Orphie from Quarryville, PA and Spanish Joe from Spanish, Ontario, just to name a few. So far none of the female half of the population has been bestowed with such an honor, but I’m sure that day is coming soon.

Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania
Punxsatawney Phil on Groundhog's Day 2005, photo by Aaron Silver coutesy of Wikipedia Commons

One interesting note is that this day follows at the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox, a date that was important to both the Christian and pagan cultures of Northern Europe.

For the Christmas the day is called Candlemas, a feast day that is connected to the Purification of the Virgin and the end of the epiphany season.

To the pagans the halfway point marks Imbolc, and it is celebrated with bonfires.

So happy Groundhog’s Day everyone and if you haven’t got anything better to do you can rent the movie. It’s a classic.

Mispelled Wurds and Why Your Cat Might Want To Kill You

Cat's Eye
Cat's Eye by Guylaine Brunet courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

There was a great post today over at BookEnd’s concerning ten words to stop misspelling. I even think misspelling was one of the mispelled words. But the best thing about the 10 misspelled wurds is that they were part of a poster published by the Oatmeal Company. You can see the poster here,; its very funny.

Now for those of you who constantly search the web, you might have encountered the Oatmeal Company, for many places have posted guidelines for submitting ideas to this company. I think they are looking specifically for writers, who could come up with good material for greeting cards, but they have great titles for their posters as well. I visited them today, and my favorite was one entitled, How To Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting To Kill You. This web page is definately worth a visit.

And the really funny thing about the whole poster is that it is all absolutely true. Anyone who has either owned a cat or just lived under the same roof with one, will quickly understand that all the examples are truly based on a deep understanding of animal behavior, especially cat psychology.

So, for all your writers, especially those that can handle comedy, and have not fared so well in the slush pile, there is the greeting card market eagerly waiting with outstretched arms. Sounds like fun, think I’ll try writing some jingles tomorrow.

In the meantime godd luck and don’t despair Ground Hog’s Day is just around the corner.

E. Autumn

P.S. Here is a picture of a Galician cat from Spain and a look inside it’s diabolical mind, coutesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Gato en Marin (Galiza) by Beninho