Monthly Archives: March 2013

Science Kids!

Thanks for staying with me last week. It was a hard, but important subject to cover. This week was much lighter on the news front. I was really excited to see a bunch of cool kids in this weeks science news. I loved science as a kid, still do, and I’m trying my best to make science fun for the next generation. It is always nice for me to see cool things happening with kids.

There were TWO kid fossil stories, this week alone:

  • At Southampton University, in England, nine-year-old, Daisy Morris, discovered a new Pterosaur. Not only was it a new Pterosaur, but it was a whole new genus! Not only that, but the new specimen was named after her, Vectidraco daisymorrisae. I have some serious envy.
  • In Oxford, ten-year-old, Bruno Debattista, discovered a 300-million year old horseshoe crab footprint. You have to check out his picture, he has a great smile.
  • At the end of 2012, Eric Stamatin and Andrew Gainariu of Michigan, found a Mastodon axis bone in Eric’s backyard. If I were them, I would be out digging every day.
  • For the last of the fossil finds, we go to Russia. Yevgeny Salinder, an eleven-year-old, in Cape Sopochnaya Karga, found an almost fully intact Mammoth. Paleontologists nicknamed it after Yevgeny, who goes by Zhenya.
  • Nineteen-year-old (not really a kid, but he’s younger than me) Boyan Slat, from Delft, has designed a ocean going machine that would clean up plastic debris. He has a TED talk up that is really good.

For your weekly picture, I give you the Geckoella jeyporensis, which was re-discovered in India. It is super cute.


I have been writing a lot on my own novel, and reading fiction, so I don’t have a good book for you this week. I can tell you that I’m very much looking forward to My Beloved Brontosauruscoming out this April. The author (one of my favorite science writers) is Brian Switek, who I have been following since I happened upon a post of his about giant ground sloths. He will be in Portland in May, giving a lecture at Powell’s! I’m very excited. You can find him on Twitter @Laelaps.

Thank you for reading, feel free to share. 

To Em Dash or Not to Em Dash?

2-dashesUsing an em dash, or not, came up after my last post. I had decided to use an em dash to add a splashy effect, because I think em dashes are neat and under-used (at least correctly). My darling husband, had the opposite view point.

Historically, em dashes are used for emphasis—or interruption—in a sentence. They are used to make a point. The name ’em dash’ comes from the fact that the dash is the length of the letter M. Whereas the en dash is the length of the letter N, and a hyphen is the shortest of them all. (See the above graphic.)

An em dash should be used with no spaces between it and the word(s) that it modifies. The em dash can be used in pairs: He was looking for treasure—buried treasure—along the coastline. Or on their own: He finally found what he was looking for, a chest buried in the sand—it might contain enough gold to raise a fleet! (I like pirates.) Just make sure you use them in the appropriate setting, or people will get fussy.

There are many people out there that hate the em dash. I agree that it has been, and can be, over used, and there are many people out there that don’t know how to use it correctly and place the little buggers willy-nilly throughout their text. I think, with the proper usage, they can be a highly effective tool to enhance your writing. Plus, they look cool.

One of the many problems with em dashes, is the fact that they are old fashioned. There isn’t a em dash key on modern keyboards, in fact, people used to use two hyphens in a row instead of an em dash. I don’t know if there has ever been a key specific to our little em. It is easy to get around this. Most Word programs will automatically change a double hyphen into an em dash, and if you are a Mac user, there is a short cut: SHIFT, OPTION, and MINUS key. Voila! Em dash. For PC users, it’s ALT+0151.

There are many famous authors who love the em dash, and there are many famous grammarians who hate it. In my opinion, both points of view are valid. Just remember, use it sparingly, use it for emphasis, or interruption, and find your own writing voice.

Thanks for reading, and please share.

Bad News Week

I was planning to write about something fun and science-tastic this week, but the news was full of the Steubenville Rape case. I found it hard to pay attention to much else. Instead of a light and fluffy Weekend Wrap-up, I felt the need to post this instead.

There has been a lot of talk about Rape Culture, and what that is. Many people don’t seem to think this is something we need to talk about, but I think it is vitally important. This is the best info-graphic I’ve seen so far. I hope it answers some questions, and outrages people enough to make some change happen.


As a female shaped person, a survivor, a feminist, a parent of a boy, and a person of the world, I feel that the best time to change our attitude is now. For the first time in memory, I have seen women and men get outraged—publicly—about rape. It seems like now is the time to take this initiative and run with it. If we are going to make our world safer for each other, we need to talk about this. We need to have open communication, we need to change our opinions that women are objects, we need to remember that consent is key. With out EXPRESS verbal consent, there should be no sex acts: no matter the mix of parts involved. Women aren’t the only people that get raped, men aren’t the only rapists. We need to remember that words can hurt just as much as actions, and we need to allow people to live their lives without fear.

I found a number of really good blogs to check out, written by women and men. If you are interested, click the links and share with everyone you know. This change starts with us.  

Finally, I’ll close with a science tie in. Elise Andrew is the creator of I Fucking Love Science (one of my favorite Facebook pages) and recently joined Twitter. The response she got was a perfect example of why we need to change our cultural opinion of women. 

Thank you for reading about this difficult topic. I hope that I can inspire someone to change for the better. We all need to work on being more compassionate, myself included, let’s start today.

A Note About Gerunds

ger·und [jer-uhnd]


  1. (In certain languages, as Latin) a form regularly derived from a verb and functioning as a noun, having in Latin all case forms but the nominative, as Latin dicendī  gen., dicendō,  dat., abl., etc., “saying.”
  2. The English -ing form of a verb when functioning as a noun, as writing in “Writing is Rad.”
  3. A form similar to the Latin gerund in meaning or function.

Origin: 1505–15;  < Late Latin gerundium, Latin gerundum  that which is to becarried on, equivalent to ger ( ere ) to bear, carry on + -undum, variant of -endum,  gerund suffix*

*From dictionary.reference dot com.

* * *

Why are gerunds important? They serve all sorts of purposes. We couldn’t be coming or going without them. They can be a very effective way of adding (see) to a text. The problem comes when they are used as the start of a sentence fragment. And sentence fragments have their place, but not in most prose–especially if the fragments aren’t intentional.

One of the common mistakes that new writers make is using these sentence fragments. It makes some sense that leading with gerunds would add depth and mystery, but using them in this fashion is not proper grammar. Poetry often uses this technique, but poetry has its own rules. Rules that confuse me. There’s a reason I stick to prose and non-fiction.

I am editing a book for my lovely husband, Mr. Portmandia, and I have caught a fair number of these sentence fragments. He has given me his permission to use one of these ‘Gerund-ences’ to show you all a real life example.

Jerking upright, out of an instantly forgotten nightmare.

Where is the subject of the sentence? What happened after the nightmare? What caused the jerking? It does add a feeling of fear and foreboding, but it falls flat. It makes me think of a commonly used goodbye technique. “Have a good one!” Have a good what? “Goodbye!” works just fine, thank you.

So, what’s the solution? Rewrite the sentence! Editing is your friend.

There are a number of ways to rewrite a sentence fragment.

  • Use a comma (that’s what they’re for) to attach it to the previous sentence, if appropriate.
  • Create an ending for the sentence that tells us who the action is being directed towards. EX: Jerking upright, out of an instantly forgotten nightmare, Cassandra flicked on the light to scan the room.
  • Or rewrite the sentence completely. Leave out the gerund for another time. EX: A sound jerked Cassandra upright, out of an instantly forgotten nightmare.

Let your writing shine! Cut out sentence fragments, and leave the gerund where it is supposed to be, making your prose awesome.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to share.


Welcome to the Weekly Wrap-up

Hi, All,

Thanks for stopping by. This will be my first post on my shiny new work blog. I read a lot, and I like to share cool new ideas. I thought this would be the perfect forum to post science, health, and tech news. I’ll be posting links, photos, and book recommendations.

This week has had some interesting news about cloning endangered and extinct species. Not like Jurassic Park (shoot!), but the idea could help replenish species that are endangered. As far as bringing back extinct species! I don’t quite know how I feel about that, but I think it is a science worth looking into.

Two great people to follow on Twitter, if you’re interested in stuff like this are Brian Switek: @Laelaps and Carl Zimmer: @carlzimmer. They have been having an interesting discussion today. I think it’s definitely worth a follow. (The conversation and the people.)

My suggested book is about Extinction and Island Biogeography, which ties in perfectly with this idea, is The Song of the Dodoby David Quammen. This book is more than worth your time. While reading about the ideas on cloning extinct species, I thought of this book. Song of the Dodo is incredibly well written and is full of great background information for tricky propositions like this. Mainly, as a counter point on the sustainability of the idea. We have managed to cut our world up into so many ‘islands’ there might not be any place for resurrected animals. We are having a hard enough time keeping the ones we still have alive.

Finally, I have a photo of a Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger), one of the animals that has a chance of resurrection. Cute little thing, isn’t it?


Thanks for reading! Feel free to contact me for any of your writing or editing needs.