Custom Search

What writers write when they 1) aren't writing, 2) are avoiding writing or 3) need a word count to convince their spouses they are writing.

Origami n' Stuff 4 Kids

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Putting it into perspective: "The Known Universe"

From the American Museum of Natural History:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mindblowing Cardboard Entertainer from Italy

Ennio Marchetto is a world renowned and awarded comedian who has created his own theatrical language mixing mime, dance, music and quick change costumes made out of cardboard and paper. In 18 years Ennio has performed in over 70 countries for more than a million people. His show has received numerous awards and international critical acclaim.

He does impressions of stars and singers using paper costumes that transform from one person into another.

Friday, December 11, 2009

This Ain't Your Momma's Grandma

We ought to learn a thing or two from the Brits. First Susan Boyle, now Paddy Jones, a 75-year-old grandmother who blew away judges with her victory in Spain's version of "Britain's Got Talent."

Not only does Jones wear a daring dress and perform flips and slides during her salsa routine, but she even "feels up" her dancing partner, 40 years her junior. Check out the expressions of the judges.

Jones, who has seven grandchildren, only took up dancing five years ago, after the death of her husband.

Something for us all to aspire to, ladies.

Need help sticking to your diet this holiday season? Here's some unappetizing things you can deep fry...

Deep fried scorpions...

Deep fried soda...

View the complete list of artery busters here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mystery Spiral in the Skies Over Norway

And an animation of the scientific explanation...spiral ejecta from a failed Bulava ICBM launched from a nuclear submarine in the White Sea...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tourist Smuggles 44 Lizards in his Underwear


"A 58-year-old man from Germany was attempting to board a flight when he was searched by Customs officials...officials discovered a small package concealed in Hans Kurt Kubus underwear. The package contained eight separate hand-sewn compartments that held 24 geckos from five different species and 20 live skinks from two species."

Read the full article.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Surfers Riding on the Backs of Monsters, December 7, 2009

And photos of Waimea Bay by MICHAEL GOULDING, The Orange County Register:


They came from all over: veteran Australian surfer Tom Carroll, who severely injured his ankle while surfing at WaimeaBay.

Anyone got a spare?

High Surf at Shark's Cove, North Shore O'ahu

This is where I often go tide pooling, off of Pupukea.

A view of Shark's Cove, the same area seen when the video pans left. The size of people standing on the pool's outer rim give you a sense of scale. Bigger waves are expected tomorrow, with the High Surf Warning extended through Wednesday. Organizers are 90% sure that the Eddie Aikau Invitational will be held tomorrow.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

DOH! The Hawaii Department of Health's Public Relations Fiasco

Glass sculpture of the H1N1 virus, by installation artist Luke Jerram.

In a world where viruses exchange genes more readily than Tiger Woods exchanges mistresses, is it any wonder there's so much confusion over swine flu?

Although reports indicate the U.S. outbreak may have already peaked, with Wisconsin (6222 cases), Texas (5151 cases) and Illinois (3404 cases) recording the most infections, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano advises we not get too smug— a second wave of influenza may be imminent. And despite an increase in the production and availability of vaccine, most Americans remain leary of anything the Feds can squeeze into a syringe.  Nevermind the sweaty guy coughing in the airline seat next to you, with his eyeballs rolling back into his head— it's become patriotic to be paranoid.

Face it, folks– while much ado was made about Napolitano, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the pork industry insisting the virus be referred to by its scientific name, H1N1 (Lipstick on a pig! Political correctness!), a pandemic is still a pandemic. In this pressurized cabin we call Earth, we're all breathing recycled air. Think of vaccination as the oxygen mask we don before helping our fellow passengers.

So, how did the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH!) screw up? First off, let me say that the DOH is filled with hard-working professionals dedicated to protecting and improving the "health and environment for all people in Hawai'i," and certain circumstances, like the shortage of H1N1 vaccine, is beyond their control.

However, as with FEMA, the Civil Defense or any other government agency involved in disaster management, we rightfully expect the DOH to inform and guide us. When President Obama declared H1N1 a national emergency, there should have been protocols in place. Releasing public service announcements without establishing an adequate supply and distribution, nor the capacity to track the distribution and administration of vaccine only compounded the public's frustration and confusion.

With CDC guidelines clearly stating priority should be given to "pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age, healthcare and emergency medical services personnel, persons between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old, and people ages of 25 through 64 years of age who are at higher risk for 2009 H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems," how could the DOH justify giving 7,174 state workers priority status for H1N1 vaccination, putting them ahead of the CDC's target populations?

These workers were identified as critical personnel:

"Positions (which have) to do with continuity of operations of government," (Civil Defense spokesman Ray) Lovell said. "You don't want a whole department to shut down because you lost key people, out with the flu."

The list includes critical workers for everything from the taxation department to the health department's clean water branch to the transportation department.

Eloise Aguiar, Advertiser Staff Writer

Great. I feel much better knowing that my good friend, who has muscular dystropy yet can't obtain vaccination, can still be taxed if he falls ill. Indeed, first-responders and emergency workers, and even employees critical to our infrastructure such as waste management workers and such, should be vaccinated. But the taxation department?

Granted, the program to give priority to state workers has been temporarily suspended in response to the public uproar, but it's too little, too late. Part the DOH's responsibility is to calm the population and avoid this kind of public relations disaster when we need them most. And they can't blame this mess on state furloughs— that's becoming a tired excuse— nor can they blame it, as one Honolulu Advertiser commentator noted, on the failure of private doctors to comply with paperwork, not when healthcare workers not employed by the state still go unvaccinated.

Step up to the plate, DOH, and learn from this experience. I applaud you for your good work and intentions, but get it straight now, before you face more serious challenges like SARS and H5N1 (Avian Influenza).

Surprise! Too many Asians and Pacific Islanders in Hawaii for Palin!

In the New Yorker's review of Sarah Palin's new book, "Going Rogue: An American Life," critic Sam Tannenhaus reveals what her father says is the real reason she left Hawaii Pacific University after only one semester:

(Palin) is equally circumspect on the issue of ethnicity, pointing out that Todd, whom she met in high school, is “part Yupik Eskimo” and opened her to the “social diversity” of Alaska. (Wasilla is more than eighty per cent white.)Palin, though notoriously ill-travelled outside the United States, did journey far to the first of the four colleges she attended, in Hawaii. She and a friend who went with her lasted only one semester. “Hawaii was a little too perfect,” Palin writes. “Perpetual sunshine isn’t necessarily conducive to serious academics for eighteen-year-old Alaska girls.” Perhaps not. But Palin’s father, Chuck Heath, gave a different account to Conroy and Walshe. According to him, the presence of so many Asians and Pacific Islanders made her uncomfortable: “They were a minority type thing and it wasn’t glamorous, so she came home.” In any case, Palin reports that she much preferred her last stop, the University of Idaho, “because it was much like Alaska yet still ‘Outside.’ ”

Recession humor: SNL skit on Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Amazing Art of Alyssa Monks

The photorealistic art of Alyssa Monks:

Smirk 48x64, oil on linen, 2009, Alyssa Monks

Baptism 42x56, oil on linen, 2008, Alyssa Monks

The Race 72x96, oil on linen, 2007, Alyssa Monks

Kuntz-Kamera Museum of St. Petersburg

'Kuntzkamera' (is) a museum in St. Petersburg. It’s a really strange place, was founded by Russian Tsar Peter the First. He collected different weird stuff all over the Russia to this museum: freaky people and animals preserved in alcohol, torture instruments, strange paintings and much more.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Writing Workshop with Pat Wood, November 14

Best selling author, Pat Wood, will be holding a one-day writing workshop on Saturday, November 14, at the University of Hawaii Lab School Campus.

Bring writing samples and Pat will work with students on pitch and synopsis, plus give sample critiques. The morning session will be geared toward writers of all genres of FICTION (literary, mystery, historical, YA, romance, supernatural, etc.) and those who write memoirs. $85

Lecture format talk about publishing and the business of publishing. Find out how to query, if you need an agent? Should you have your complete manuscript written? Q&A to follow. $50.

Take both sessions for $125 ($10 discount) plus an opportunity for individualized feedback on your revised piece (after the conference) from author Patricia Wood by email.

For more information, contact Jacqui Pirl: 224-4008 or
Limited openings. Only 25 openings left.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Amorous Rare Parrot Shags Wildlife Photographer

There are only 125 kakapo left, so few that each has been named by conservationists. These ancient flightless parrots can live 95 years and as long as 125 years.

More kakapo info:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

U.S. Forest Service Warns Against Campers Drinking Tecate Beer, Eating Tortillas and Playing Spanish Music

I've been making it my goal, these past few years, to visit as many National Parks as I possibly can. Undeterred by recent legislation allowing guns in the parks, I must now rethink packing spam in my cabin.

This from Think Progress:

The US Forest Service issued and then retracted a Labor Day warning advising hikers to “beware of campers in national forests drinking Tecate beer, eating tortillas and playing Spanish music” because “they could be armed marijuana growers.” A high-ranking Forest Service official in Colorado also identified people speaking Spanish and eating Spam or Tuna as “warning signs of possible drug trafficking.”

Smokey, why you be a hating bear?

Finished digital art for a children's book

And here's the finished work, from a book I wrote and illustrated, Whales' Tails and Turtle Trails:

©2009 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kseniya Simonova, a testament to the power of art

Sand artist Kseniya Simonova moved audiences to tears creating an animated painting on an illuminated screen memorializing the Great Patriotic War, which killed one in every four Ukrainians.

Hands dancing across the table in a choreography of fine finger strokes and broad sweeps, she transforms lovers into bomb raids, flames and finally, hope.

Ms. Simonova is the winner of Ukraine's Got Talent.

Friday, September 4, 2009

creating a digital albatross for my latest children's book, feather by feather

The Laysan Albatross (Moli, or Phoebastria immutabilis), with an 80 inch wingspan, breed in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

1. Creating feathers using a general leaf template.

2. Next, grouping feathers together.

3. Now it's time to create a framework on which to paste my feathers.

4. Finally, colorizing the feather patterns completes the albatross.

5. Now that I've established the distinctive markings of the albatross, it's time to stylize the bird so that it's more appealing to children. I've enlarged the eyes and the beak, and have added a lei:

©2009 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved.

dolphin slaughter in Taiji cove

This year's dolphin slaughter had been suspended, thanks to the efforts of cinematographers:

"The Cove exposes an atrocity of unimaginable brutality. The dolphin slaughter depicted here is committed yearly and without knowledge of the general Japanese public, even though they could be buying highly-toxic mercury-laden dolphin meat disguised as fish from their local supermarkets."

disturbing hatchery practice: male chicks ground to death


"A disturbing undercover video shot at a large egg hatchery in Iowa, shows unwanted male chicks being thrown into grinding machines while they are still alive...According to the MFA website, nearly 150,000 male chicks are hatched and killed every day at the Spencer hatchery. The chicks are separated according to sex, and the males are thrown into grinding machines. Females are debeaked by a laser that slices off the ends of their beaks."

Ed Rondthaler:The nonsense of english spelling

Saturday, June 20, 2009

freaky frogs...the Surinam toad

The Surinam toad is one nature's most unusual creatures. It's actually a frog, which spends its entire life cycle in tropical South American rivers and canals.

With its flattened body and triangular head, it can easily be mistaken for leafy debris while waiting patiently for a meal to swim by--unsuspecting fish, worms and bugs are sucked into its large mouth with surprising speed.

What makes them unique is their reproduction. After the female lays her pea-sized eggs, the male places them on her back and pushes them into her spongy skin. The eggs incubate as mom's new skin slowly develops and covers them, keeping them safe and out of sight.

Eventually the eggs hatch inside the skin pockets, and the babies develop through the tadpole stage. In 70 to 120 days, fully formed froglets pop out of mom's back!

Here's a video of a Surinam "toad" giving birth:

©2009 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved.

Monday, April 20, 2009

so you want to write a children's book

It's been said that writing for children is more difficult than writing for adults. I suspect this is passed along by children's authors compensating for the condescension they sometimes face, real or imagined, as the featherweights of literature. Tell someone you write for children and you're likely to hear, "Have you thought about writing a novel?" After all, how difficult can it be to write a children's book? We all have childhood experiences from which to draw, and this is where the misconception of children's writing as child's play arises.

I envy those for whom writing comes easily. I agonize over everything I write and everything I submit. However, as Arnold Lobel once said, "I cannot think of any work that could be more agreeable and fun than making books for children." That having been said, here are a few thoughts for those hoping to write their first children's book.

Your story's length, language, complexity and conflict resolution should be age appropriate, without underestimating the reader's intelligence. Board books, picture books, easy readers, fiction for young adults- children's book formats seem endless and vary widely, depending on the developmental stage of the reader. Likewise, your manuscript's length will depend on the genre. As a general guideline, picture books usually have 32 pages, young middle-grade fiction, 40 to 60 pages, middle-grade fiction, 60 to 100 pages, and young adult novels, 175 to 200 pages. There are, of course, exceptions to everything, as J.K. Rowling has so famously shown us.

Knowing your audience is complicated in today's children's book market- kids don't buy books, adults do. There's an entire genre out there, exemplified in Jon Scieszka's and Lane Smith's twisted fairy tales, that appeals to both adults and children. Still, you mustn't loose sight of who you're writing for. You can't write 90 pages about a kitten's separation anxiety and expect to find an audience.

However, I must confess that unless I am designing a board book, I rarely begin writing with genre and childhood development in mind. If I had to think of my audience from the first sentence, I'd never get started at all! No, writing is a selfish endeavor. It's only after I've written my fourth or fifth draft that I become conscious of the reader. Editing can be just as excruciating as writing (and sometimes more so).

You've edited your story, tested it on a captive audience of kindergartners, gotten constructive criticism from friends, family and if you're lucky, a librarian, and you think you're ready for publication. Where do you go? There's no surefire method to getting published, much less getting out of the slush pile. However, do some research before rushing off to mail your original hand-written, fully illustrated masterpiece, complete with a marketing plan for plush toys and PBS programming. Publishers don't want your big marketing ideas; they want a great story. Make sure, too, before you send anything off, to go online and research manuscript submission guidelines for individual publishing houses.

Go to the library and bookstore and find a publisher that has produced books similar to yours, then obtain their submission guidelines and names of editors. Good resources are "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books" by Harold Underdown and Lynne Rominger, and the "Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market." Join the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Internet resources include The Purple Crayon ( and the SCBWI Home Page (

Remember, you don't need to find an illustrator. Having an illustrator may actually discourage the publisher from considering an otherwise perfectly good manuscript. Editors and art directors are fully capable of visualizing your manuscript without illustrations; it's their livelihood. In addition, publishers have many artists with whom they regularly work, and will select one whose style best fits your writing and their budget. Your manuscript should be strong enough to stand alone.

Above all, persevere and remember to have fun. In the words of Garth Nix, "Never believe the first twenty publishers who reject your work. For the twenty-first, submit something new."

Good luck!

©2009 Tammy Yee

Saturday, April 18, 2009

feed the bears, cull the stupid...

Is it too much to ask people not to hug the bears?

I'm sure even Neanderthals, whose bones reveal crushing fractures sustained during hunting, never wrestled game for the sake of Bambi needing a hug. And look what happened to them–gone forever, because they never thought to throw a stick at a mammoth rather than get up close and poke it in the eye. Every Cro-Magnon knows that just angers Barbar.

But you can't fault Neanderthals for being surly. After all, Barbar did have a nice suit and a spanking set of wheels.

Yet every week, some dope jumps a fence or swims a moat to cuddle with carnivores.

What was that woman thinking, cavorting with polar bears at the Berlin zoo (April 13, 2009)? Just four months earlier, a lonely man jumped into the cage of the zoo's celebrity, Knut. Luckily, the 440-pound polar bear was lured away with a leg of beef. Yet experts have the gall to claim it's Knut who is the psychopath who'll never mate. How ironic.

And at the Beijing Zoo, Gu Gu has bitten a third victim, a man who jumped into the panda pit to retrieve his son's–get this–toy panda. Gu Gu's previous victims were a teen who thought the cuddly icon needed a hug (he was mauled so viciously emergency personnel could see "the bones in his legs"), and a drunken man who bit the panda back. What's a 240-pound pseudo-bear gotta do to get some R-E-S-P-E-C-T?

Obviously these folks never head of Alaska's beloved Binky (1974–1995).

Orphaned near the Beaufort Sea and brought to live at the Alaska Zoo, Binky was notorious for mauling people. In 1994 an Australian tourist, obviously mistaking the bear for a koala, climbed over barriers for a photo up against the cage. With her peripheral vision compromised by her camera's viewfinder, she didn't notice Binky reaching its massive paws through the bars until it was too late. In a much publicized video, the bear caught the victim by the leg, mauled her, and claimed her shoes as its prize.

Hardy Alaskans do not suffer foolish visitors. A star was born. Binky merchandise was hot–bumper stickers, coffee cups and t-shirts with slogans, "Send another tourist, this one got away" and “Binky for Governor: Take a Bite Out of Crime.” The bear even inspired a children's book, "Binky's Trophy," written and illustrated by Millie Spezisly.

Not to be outdone, six weeks after Binky's Aussie appetizer two drunken teens squeezed through the fences around her cage and jumped into her pool for a moonlight swim. Announced an Anchorage editorial cartoon, "Hero bear prevents youth from drowning."

Let's hope they weren't skinny dipping.

©2009 Tammy Yee

crazy for cats

Cats, cats, cats.

With 88.3 million cats in U.S. households, they've replaced dogs (74.8 million) as America's most popular pet. That's a lot of kitty litter.

What is it about these sharp-clawed predators that fascinates us? Ask the ancient Egyptians, who kept them as pets 4000 years ago.

What began as working relationship (mouse eats grain, cat eats mouse–when pharaoh is happy, everyone is happy) later became an obsession as cats became associated with Bastet, the goddess of fertility and motherhood. Pampered at temples devoted to Bastet, they were mummified and buried in huge communal graves.

What most don't know is that this devotion wasn't always pretty. Cat mummies became so popular that by 300 B.C., young kittens were sacrificed in large numbers as temple offerings. So many, that in the late 1800s an English company bought 38,000 pounds to sell as fertilizer. That's 180,000 cat mummies in a single shipment!

However, Egyptians weren't the first cat-lovers.

Kitties have been coughing up hairballs and dead birds on earthen doorsteps far earlier. In 2004, a human and a cat were found together in a 9,500 year-old Cyprus grave. And in 2007, a study in the journal Science found that the granddaddy of all house cats was a desert wildcat, Felis silvestris lybica, which roamed the Middle East 10,000 years ago and continues to do so today.

Now that cats are here to stay, here are some funky facts about our fickle feline friends:
  • Wild species of cats are native to all continents except Australia and Antarctica...Sadly, most of the thirty-six cat species are in danger of becoming extinct within the next twenty-five years.
    (Natural History Museum)

  • Cats have remained relatively unchanged since they first appeared 30 million years ago.

  • A house cat can jump nine to ten times its height, the equivalent of a professional basketball player jumping more than 60 feet.

  • A group of cats is referred to as a "clowder", a male cat is called a "tom" (or a "gib", if neutered), and a female is called a "queen".

  • A domestic cat's sense of smell is about fourteen times as strong as a human's.

  • Cats have a third eyelid, the nictitating membrane. And unlike humans, they do not need to blink to lubricate their eyes with tears.

  • Cats lack a gene required to taste sweetness...which would be unnecessary, since such a gene is only advantageous in animals that consume plants.

  • Most cats sleep 12 to 16 hours a day, to conserve energy between hunts.

Cat records:
  • Smallest cat: the Rusty-spotted cat, Prionailurus rubiginosus, found in India and Sri Lanka. Less than half the size of a domestic cat, it stands seven inches high and weighs less than three pounds.

  • Largest cat: the Tiger, Panthera tigris. Males can weigh as much as 700 pounds, are ten to eleven feet long (not including tail), and can eat 80 pounds of meat in a single sitting.

  • Rarest cat: Iberian lynx. Only 100 to 150 are believed to survive in the wild, a result of dwindling habitats and decline in prey.

Be sure to make some Big Cat origami I've designed:

©2009 Tammy Yee. All rights reserved.

Copyright ©2016 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved. No portion of this web site may be reproduced without prior written consent.