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Haru No Yabuiri Day



I can barely spell it and can’t say it, but I think this is my favorite holiday EVER. I just found out about it; it’s another Japanese one, and translates to “no work for the overworked.” In other words, kick back and take a day off.

Of course, we’re not in Japan and I’m not Japanese, but it’s nice to dream.

Coming of Age Day


I know today is Martin Luther King, Jr. day, and I certainly don’t want to belittle the importance of that holiday, but I figured everyone would probably be talking about it, so I’d talk about something else.

Today is Coming of Age day in Japan. The Japanese consider you to be “of age” when you’re twenty years old. But as you probably remember, or are experiencing now, doesn’t it just stink when your friend’s birthday is in February and yours is in November, and she has her driver’s license for 9 months longer than you? Well, the Japanese have solved that quandary quite efficiently by creating this holiday. It doesn’t matter if your birthday’s in January or December; as of the second Monday in January, everyone with a birthday that year has “come of age” and can partake freely of any and all privileges thereof.

For me, and I think for most American teens, I had three “Coming of Age” days; my sixteenth birthday, my eighteenth birthday, and my twenty-first birthday. Of course, on my sixteenth birthday, I practically pushed my mother out the door on the way to the DMV to apply for my driver’s permit. (I flunked my first license test and had to wait until sometime the next summer to drive alone). On the eve of my eighteenth, which I think was my personal favorite, I waited until after midnight (no more Cinderella license!) went to Turkey Hill, and bought a scratch-off lottery ticket and a pack of cigarettes. (Disclaimer: Don’t smoke, kids, or you’ll end up a midget like me.) My twenty-first was much more low-key…dinner with my parents and future husband at Chili’s, and my first legal Bloody Mary.

How did you, or how do you plan to, celebrate your milestones?

George, the cancer-sniffing schnauzer

I’m not a big fan of schnauzers in general, having been on the sharp end of their rather short tempers one too many times when I worked as a veterinary technician. However, I found one schnauzer who’s worthy of acclaim. His name was George.

After an illustrious and action-packed career as a bomb-sniffing dog, you’d think George would be ready for a quiet retirement; a soft couch and a pantry full of Milk Bones. Instead, like many baby boomers, he moved on to his second career: cancer sniffing dog. See, a dog’s sense of smell is 220 MILLION times stronger than a human’s. They can detect trace amounts of bomb ingredients and drugs; can even pick out money that was simply handled at the same time as narcotics. So a few brilliant individuals made a wide intuitive leap—what if a dog’s sensitive sniffer could be trained to pinpoint cancer cells?

The experiment was a sound success. After training, George could correctly identify skin melanomas 99.7% of the time. He even saved one patient’s life, by repeatedly indicating a mole on the man’s skin which had been examined by three separate doctors and biopsied twice, with negative results. George’s persistence caused doctors to completely excise the mole and send it for cell-by-cell analysis. It was found to be a Stage II melanoma. If it had been left untreated for one more year, the man would probably have died of cancer.

Unfortunately, George succumbed to a brain tumor in 2000. But his work has opened up doors for research to continue in this field, and for more dogs to prove, once and for all, that they are indeed man’s best friend.

 

Haven’t read Surviving Serendipity? What are you waiting for?

Inspiration

The most common question people ask me is, “How do you come up with this stuff?” Okay, this is kind of embarrassing, but I’ll spill. You want to know how I really come up with all these ideas for books? I play pretend. In my head. And yes, I’m 28 years old.

See, it starts like this; I’ll get an idea. Just a flash, like a mini-scene from a movie trailer. I’ll see a character, and then—I start playing her. Acting out scenes in my head.  

The really sad thing is that I’m jealous of all my characters. Insanely jealous. I would love nothing more than to be abruptly abducted to a faraway planet, only to have my true identity as royalty revealed. I would kill for a chance to be able to talk to spirits, to move in the world of the undead. And shape-shifting into a wolf? I shudder with longing.

So, I guess you could say my inspiration is a lust for adventure. And until the time when I can live my own, you can keep reading about them.

 

Haven’t read Surviving Serendipity? What are you waiting for?

Moonlight


On Saturday night, a special lunar event was happening; the moon, by some trick of perception that scientists aren’t even able to fully explain, appeared larger than at any other time during 2009. At least, I think it did. We were having a big nasty blizzard here, so I didn’t get to see it.

Am I weird for liking the fact that the scientists can’t explain the phenomenon? I write fantasy and supernatural thrillers, and in order to do my job right (or, at least, this is what I tell myself) I sort of have to believe in dragons and unicorns and, well, magic.

I got a t-shirt right before Christmas that I haven’t even worn yet; it says, “Magic is all the stuff science hasn’t made boring yet.” Here’s hoping they fail to explain a lot more in the future.

Oh, and since I missed this particular astronomical event, I searched some of the others coming up in 2009. My favorites are:

Meteor Showers: April 21-22, May 5-6, July 28-29, August 12-13, October 21-22, November 17-18, December 13-14

Lunar Eclipses: July 7, August 6,

July 1, 2009) — Uranus stationary (yes, I am incredibly immature)
The body appears motionless in the sky due to the turning point between its direct and retrograde motion.

 

Haven’t read Surviving Serendipity? What are you waiting for? www.amazon.com/Surviving-Serendipity-Jacquelyn-Sylvan/dp/1590805860/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1
 

THERE he is!

sunshine

 

Ever since being “assigned” this blog topic, I’ve had that stupid song, “You Are My Sunshine,” playing in my head. Of course, I don’t know all the words (are there even any more words?), so all I’m hearing is, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happeeeee, when skies are grey, you’ll never know deeeear, how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine awaaaaay.” Cute, right? Sing that about fifty times back to back in an annoying squeaky little kid’s voice, and see how cute it is. Blech.

Of course, part of this is because sunshine has become such a touchy topic here in the Poconos. Sunshine is great; it’s warm and bright and cheerful. However, when you radiate sunshine onto a canopy of white snow, you get watery eyes and possibly permanently damaged retinas.

Sorry, I’m bitter. I miss summer.

 

Haven’t read Surviving Serendipity? What are you waiting for? tinyurl.com/6z3gp3


coffee?

why I hate literary fiction

I've been brooding over this topic for over a week now, after a very disappointing experience with the book Blindness, by Jose Saramago. I was really excited about it; the back cover promised an innovative, unique story. However, when I began to read, I found several things missing. Like punctuation; there was nothing beyond periods and commas. I don't even remember seeing a question mark. Conversations between characters took place in the same sentence, the only indication of a change in speaker the capitalization of that speaker's dialogue. I only got about halfway through the book, but essentially it was like reading one long run-on sentence.
There were also no character names. People were referred to as the doctor, the doctor's wife, the taxi driver, the thief, the girl in the dark glasses, the boy with a squint.
This is not the first time this has happened to me. I'm an avid reader, so I pick up pretty much any book that gets buzz. And I'm often disappointed to find either a wonderful story, hidden in the debris of an 'innovative' writing technique, or a bad story so completely camouflaged by flowery, distracting writing that the reader doesn't even realize how bad the story is until the end, when all the characters have died horribly, and you're left unfulfilled and mildly nauseated.
For me, you don't need to mess with the language to make a book beautiful. The story should do that. There are good writers and there are great writers, but the purpose of the writing shouldn't be to exist for its own sake. It's there to draw you in, to make you forget you're reading and make you believe, instead, that you've just fallen into a dream. It's kind of like the Oscars; there's a reason that awards like Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design are relatively minor awards. You don't make a movie about the background or the clothes; those things are just there to make you believe that what you're seeing is real.
Now, please understand, there are books which are classified as literary fiction which I've actually enjoyed. But even experts in the genre admit that classifying it is tricky. But overall, I think that fiction should be about the beauty of the house you've built, not all the cool things you can do with the hammer.

Jacquelyn Sylvan
Author, Surviving Serendipity
www.sylvaniamania.com