Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Help end the mass slaughter of dolphins

The Japanese fishing industry labels dolphins as "pests" and conducts a mass slaughter each year to keep down the dolphin numbers so that competition for fish such as bluefin tuna is reduced.

Dolphins are rounded up in underwater pens, deliberately disoriented by the excruciating noise of metal poles being struck beneath the water (especially painful and cofusing for echolocators like dolphins), then hoisted from the water by their tails--still living--and dropped onto truck beds or tied to bumpers and dragged to slaughter areas where they are mortally wounded by machete and allowed to flop and bleed on the concrete floor until dead.

The dolphins are then cut up, packaged, and sold to grocery stores in Japan. This needless, brutal slaughter happens by the tens of thousands every year. Please sign a petition to stop this practice here.

I would also encourage you to watch the accompanying YouTube video of the slaughter. It is terrible, but it is important that we fully grasp the scope and brutality of this slaughter.

Thank you.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cooperation among fish

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) has released a fascinating article that details a new discovery: Groupers and Moray Eels coordinating to hunt for food in the Red Sea. Groupers can hunt quickly over a reef, but if prey goes into a crevice, it can't be reached. Enter Madame Moray, who quickly dives in and continues pursuit. Groupers and Morays have been seen hunting, swimming side by side, looking like two friends out for a stroll. Apparently the grouper solicits the moray with a special nod of the head at the entrance to the moray's hole. Fascinating! We so underestimate animals. You can read the entire article here.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Lessons from NaNoWriMo

For the second time (first was in 2004) I participated in National Novel Writing Month--or NaNoWriMo as those in the know refer to it. The goal is to write a novel in a month--50,000 words minimum. A lot of novices particpate in NaNoWriMo and many writers with higher literary aspirations look down their noses at NaNoWriMo, but just like anything, it is what you make of it.

I used it as a motivating tool and found it really helpful. I tend to write really slowly and sweat every word, and I recognize that it isn't always the best way to write. Certainly not the way to get to a deeper level in my writing. I'm not even sure why I write so slowly on a normal day. Fear? Perfectionist tendencies? Avoidance? All of the above?

For me, NaNoWriMo becomes like the exercises we did in art school to force us to loosen up: things like drawing from the shoulder and not the wrist, doing 30-second gesture drawings, and blind contour drawings (drawing without looking at the paper). Both of the last two exercises encourage really focusing on the object you want to portray, but not examining (or criticizing) your results until you are finished.

When I write FORWARD ONLY during NaNoWriMo--without looking back--it's like doing a blind contour drawing. I'll eventually take a look at it and go, "yikes!" but I will also recognize that I have learned something very valuable in the process--that "seeing" your subject is at least as important as portraying it--and I will find a surprising beauty in some aspects of what I have drawn.

So, 30 days and 50,000 words later, I have five new short stories (no, I didn't write a novel, but again, it's how you use NaNoWriMo that's most important--how you make it work for you) and a new recklessness to my writing that takes me to more surprising and exciting places. Yes, I have a lot to go back and edit and tinker with, but you can't make a finished sculpture without a whole mess of clay.