Monthly Archives: February 2007

Need sleep? Eat and drink.

I’m a chronic insomniac. I don’t know when I’ve had seven hours of uninterrupted sleep. I can’t remember. Over the years, I’ve adopted certain techniques to fall asleep, but it’s also the staying asleep that’s the problem for me. I knew there were certain foods that helped, but I wasn’t sure why. Here are the top ten, taken from Beauty Eats on Yahoo! Food, and what they do to your body:

  1. Bananas. They’re practically a sleeping pill in a peel. In addition to a bit of soothing melatonin and serotonin, bananas contain magnesium, a muscle relaxant.
  2. Chamomile tea. The reason chamomile is such a staple of bedtime tea blends is its mild sedating effect – it’s the perfect natural antidote for restless minds/bodies.
  3. Warm milk. It’s not a myth. Milk has some tryptophan – an amino acid that has a sedative – like effect – and calcium, which helps the brain use tryptophan. Plus there’s the psychological throw-back to infancy, when a warm bottle meant “relax, everything’s fine.”
  4. Honey. Drizzle a little in your warm milk or herb tea. Lots of sugar is stimulating, but a little glucose tells your brain to turn off orexin, a recently discovered neurotransmitter that’s linked to alertness.
  5. Potatoes. A small baked spud won’t overwhelm your GI tract, and it clears away acids that can interfere with yawn-inducing tryptophan. To up the soothing effects, mash it with warm milk.
  6. Oatmeal. Oats are a rich source of sleep – inviting melatonin, and a small bowl of warm cereal with a splash of maple syrup is cozy – plus if you’ve got the munchies, it’s filling too.
  7. Almonds. A handful of these heart-healthy nuts can be snooze-inducing, as they contain both tryptophan and a nice dose of muscle-relaxing magnesium.
  8. Flaxseeds. When life goes awry and feeling down is keeping you up, try sprinkling 2 tablespoons of these healthy little seeds on your bedtime oatmeal. They’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a natural mood lifter.
  9. Whole-wheat bread. A slice of toast with your tea and honey will release insulin, which helps tryptophan get to your brain, where it’s converted to serotonin and quietly murmurs “time to sleep.”
  10. Turkey. It’s the most famous source of tryptophan, credited with all those Thanksgiving naps. But that’s actually modern folklore. Tryptophan works when your stomach’s basically empty, not overstuffed, and when there are some carbs around, not tons of protein. But put a lean slice or two on some whole-wheat bread mid-evening, and you’ve got one of the best sleep inducers in your kitchen.
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Writing progress — Entropy

I found a word count widget at The Zokutou Word Meter, which is very similar to the one NaNoWriMo uses. I’ve decided to post that widget at least once a week to shame me into writing. Ah, I mean motivate me. Here’s my progress on the latest work-in-progress, Entropy:

Writing Progress: Entropy

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
99,626 / 120,000
(83.0%)

Entropy is the story of how the use of monoculture and genetic modification of foods provoke a potential global famine in the year 2096.

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Writers and Science Fiction

I’ve always been frustrated by literary authors such as Margaret Atwood who adamantly deny that they write science fiction. Over at the New York Review of Books, I found not necessarily an explanation, but a rationalization of using the SF mode without calling it by that name:

“Ambivalence toward technology is the underlying theme, and thus we are accustomed to thinking of stories that depict the end of the world and its aftermath as essentially science fiction. These stories feel like science fiction, too, because typically they deal with the changed nature of society in the wake of cataclysm, the strange new priesthoods, the caste systems of the genetically stable, the worshipers of techno-death, the rigid pastoral theocracies in which mutants and machinery are taboo, etc.; for inevitably these new societies mirror and comment upon our own. Science fiction has always been a powerful instrument of satire, and thus it is often the satirist’s finger that pushes the button, or releases the killer bug.

This may help to explain why the post-apocalyptic mode has long attracted writers not generally considered part of the science fiction tradition. It’s one of the few subgenres of science fiction, along with stories of the near future (also friendly to satirists), that may be safely attempted by a mainstream writer without incurring too much damage to his or her credentials for seriousness. The anti–science fiction prejudice among some readers and writers is so strong that in reviewing a work of science fiction by a mainstream author a charitable critic will often turn to words such as “parable” or “fable” to warm the author’s bathwater a little, and it is an established fact that a preponderance of religious imagery or an avowed religious intent can go a long way toward mitigating the science-fictional taint, which also helps explain the appeal to mainstream writers such as Walker Percy of the post-apocalyptic story, whose themes of annihilation and re-creation are so easily indexed both to the last book of the New Testament and the first book of the Old. It’s hard to imagine the author of Love Among the Ruins writing a space opera.

There is also a strong current of conventional hard-edged naturalism at work in much post-apocalyptic science fiction that may further serve to draw and to reassure the mainstream writer. If the destruction is sufficiently great, life and its appurtenances are reduced to a finite set, mitigating the demand for baroque inventiveness imposed by other kinds of science fiction, while the extreme state of the natural world —global ice, global goo, global ocean —serves to reflect the extremes of human psychology, of grace under the ultimate pressure. The great British tradition of the post-disaster novel pioneered by M.P. Shiel’s The Purple Cloud and John Collier’s forgotten masterpiece Tom’s A-Cold, retooled in the Fifties by John Wyndham and John Christopher and brought to a kind of bleak perfection by J.G. Ballard in the early Sixties, is very much a mainstream naturalist tradition, cold-eyed and unadorned, and novels like Christopher’s No Blade of Grass and Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids were popular successes that found a wide readership. For the post-apocalyptic is also a mode into which mainstream readers may venture without risking the stain of geekdom.

The status of relative legitimacy enjoyed by the literature of global disaster may in part result from the fig leaf that a satiric or religious purpose provides, and from the congeniality to conventional realism of a world without supercomputers, starships, or eight-foot feline warriors from the planet Kzin. But perhaps it is mostly a measure of the growing sense in the minds of readers and writers alike, since the mid-twentieth century, of the plausibility, even the imminence, of the end of the world. Instantaneous global pandemics, melting ice caps, and transgenic eco-calamity have joined large-scale nuclear exchange as stalwarts of the front page of the daily newspaper. Meanwhile the old retro apocalypse is selling better than ever these days, reformulated in science-fictional packaging as the Left Behind novels.”

But here is another explanation as well from IROSF, which also tickles my fancy, about why readers of literary fiction rarely make the jump to SF: unrecognizable images.

“The transmissibility of story is dependent on an understanding of (and, we would argue, interest in) the themes, motifs, props, and characters of the genre in question, from the wise old wizard of fantasy, to the plucky gal of chicklit, to the foreign planets of science fiction. But literary and mainstream fiction are not free of tropes either: the gut-spilling, angst-ridden, pseudo-autobiographical protagonist is a figure that appears repeatedly and almost exclusively in stories categorized as literary and mainstream.

When familiar tropes are missing or unfamiliar tropes present, this can lead readers to reject a story outright. […]

By the same token, when literary writers adopt science fictional language, while still employing their core emotional tropes, the result is often oddly unsatisfying to genre readers. Kirstin Bakis’ Lives of the Monster Dogs (1997), Michel Faber’s Under the Skin (2000), Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003), and Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow (1996) are examples of this trend. Reading them with genre expectations impedes the transmissibility of story because the tropes are misaligned. An experienced genre reader has expectations of genetic engineering, time travel and alien body snatcher stories. Excellent as these books are, those expectations are not met in them.”

The whole discussion is more than ironic, since literary writers can easily migrate to the SF World while denying it, but it is nearly impossible for an SF writer to migrate to the literary world. If you’re tagged with the SF genre, tag, you’re it.

Is it really a question of the world changing, or recognizable landmarks, or simply snottiness?

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Kellylee Evans Nominated for a Juno Award

JAZZ NEWCOMER KELLYLEE EVANS
nominated
FOR JUNO AWARD

Less than a year after the indie release of her debut CD, “Fight or Flight?” jazz singer and songwriter Kellylee Evans has been nominated for a 2007 Juno Award for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year. She has been nominated alongside Diana Krall, MollyJohnson, Elizabeth Shephard and Lori Cullen.

This year’s star-studded award ceremony will be hosted by Nelly Furtado and will take place April 1st in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Musical performances by The Tragically Hip, k- os, Billy Talent, Gregory Charles and Three Days Grace have recently been confirmed.

Kellylee Evans has been earning rave reviews for her soulful music and charismatic performances since her second place win of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition in 2004. The judges for the competition included Quincy Jones, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Al Jarreau. With the release of her debut album, "fight or flight?" this past May, her music has been reaching out across the world, garnering her praise, national radio play and strong sales. The CD is comprised of 11 original songs from Evans, whose songwriting chops earned her comparison to Aimee Mann, Elvis Costello and Ron Sexsmith (Brian Lush, gr8pr@aol.com

For more information about this artist, and to hear some of her music please visit the websites below.
www.KellyleeEvans.com
www.sonicbids.com/kellyleeevans
www.myspace.com/kellyleeevans
CTV’s JUNO Awards website:
www.junos.ctv.ca
Official JUNO Awards website:
www.junoawards.ca
CARAS website:
www.carasonline.ca

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