Friday, July 29, 2011

Meet the Writers: Michael Connelly

Barnes & Noble/Nook presents their ongoing series Meet the Writers with best-selling Los Angeles crime writer (and Castle palMichael Connelly, who discusses his favorite authors, what he feels is crucial to a writer's education and plays coy about who he would like to see cast as his legendary Detective Harry Bosch should Bosch ever finally make it to the big screen.

If you're a Connelly fan, a Bosch fan, or just a writer interested in the fine art of character development, there's a great book called The Lineup: The World's Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives.  The chapter in which Connelly discusses how he came up with Harry Bosch is a master class on how to develop a character so fascinating that he has endured for twenty years and almost as many novels, not to mention also appearing in a number of short stories.   As Connelly says in the B&N interview, "I think the greatest teacher of writing is reading."  If that's the case, Connelly's chapter in The Lineup should be required reading for aspiring writers.

It's a little late notice, but the e-book version of The Black Echo (the first Bosch novel) is being offered for $0.99 by all e-book vendors during the month of July.  I just bought mine off Amazon.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Atlantis Submarine Tour

When in beautiful Kailua-Kona, be sure to take the Atlantis Submarine Tour.  Mom, The Bro and I did and we had a blast.

Passengers are taken out to the sub (which when surfaced can be seen from shore) via boat.  The trip out is only about 5-10 minutes, during which time the crew reviews safety precautions.   In fact, the entire tour only took a little over an hour, but a lot is packed into that hour.  The benefit of this is that you can easily fit an Atlantis trip into a day's itinerary with plenty of time to do other things.

Our guide was a very funny, personable guy who bore more than a passing resemblance to Zachary Levi on Chuck, in fact I don't remember his name because I just thought of him as "Chuck".  In addition to being a fun host, Chuck is also a Hawaii native and had great stories about his own experiences with Hawaiian reefs and ocean life that added an aspect to the experience that you just don't get with someone who is guiding a tour from a script, no matter how well-written.

Pulling up alongside the Atlantis.  Forget everything you learned about submarine rides from Disneyland - this is the real thing!

The Atlantis descends into the coral reef slowly, eventually reaching a depth of 100+ feet.  On the way you get to see a ton of local sea life.  During our trip I spotted parrotfish, a puffer fish, butterflyfish, pennantfish, durgons and yellow tangs (see fish card at the end of the post).  No sharks though - they are nocturnal.  The tour also included a couple of sunken boats, including one that bit the dust after its owner got drunk and accidentally set it on fire.  Not to worry - the ocean and its residents have taken full possession of the boats and they now support vibrant reef life.  The thing about sunken boats is that until you see one up close and personal, you really don't get the full force of just how surreal it is, both in terms of seeing them dead on the ocean floor and how easily the sea co-opts them.

 Our ride.

Some interesting factoids about the Atlantis tour:
  • The sub is battery-powered.  The batteries runs the length of the bottom of the sub and can last up to 100 hours, although they recharge every 50 hours.  Our sub, the Atlantis VII, can carry 48 passengers and is 65 feet in length.
  • During our dive, we reached a depth of 109 feet.  When the tour ended, it took them about a minute to get back up to the surface.  The sub is capable of diving as deep as 150 feet.
  • When not in use, the sub is docked at the Honokohau Marina, which lies roughly halfway between Kona Village, where the tour originates, and Kona Airport.  It is towed back and forth between the marina and the waters off the village each day.  We had actually seen the sub docked when we came back to shore after my Dad's burial.
  • In addition to Kona, Atlantis tours are available in Waikiki and Maui in Hawaii, as well as Guam, Aruba, Barbados, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Curacao and St. Martin.
One of the kids sitting with us in the sub was so taken with the experience that he announced to his dad that he wanted to be an "ocean scientist".  As for us, we had a great time and highly recommend the Atlantis tour.

As we headed back to shore, Not Chuck told us that these crew members are contractually obligated to keep waving until we're out of sight.  We thought he was kidding.

A few days later I was hanging out at Old Airport Beach around 4pm and noticed a boat offshore that reminded me of the one that took us out to the sub, heading north away from Kona Village and toward the marina.  And sure enough...

Atlantis and mothership heading home.

Links: Atlantis Submarines Kona - Atlantis Hawaii on Twitter - Atlantis Hawaii on Facebook 

Hawaiian reef fish.  We actually saw some of these:

Monday, July 25, 2011

New writing competitions: The Writer's Digest Short Story Genre Competitions

Writing competitions continue to evolve.  Writer's Digest has just announced a new series of short story competitions:
Writer's Digest is proud to announce 6 new short story genre competitions.

It's as simple as this: choose your genre. Start writing.

No prompts, no pressure, no limits. Enter your most imaginative work in 4,000 words or less. Each and every one of the 6 new competitions offers the chance to win $1,000!
The deadlines are staggered by genre, so be sure to check the page for the particular story you want to submit:  Science Fiction/Fantasy - Thriller/Suspense - Young Adult - Romance - Crime - Horror

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm

Mom, The Brother and I hit the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm (note: audio and video will start playing automatically) during his visit here in Hawaii last week.  My Mom had previously been there with my Dad a couple years ago, but it was a first for The Bro and I.

The idea behind Ocean Rider is not to breed seahorses to repopulate those found in ever decreasing numbers in the oceans, but to provide seahorses bred to be pets for aquariums and private owners, allowing the already wild seahorses to remain so rather than being captured due to demand.

Besides the fact that it just makes sense, these seahorses are just much better suited for life in the confines of an aquarium.  Ocean Rider found that after a couple of generations their seahorses began exhibiting domesticated behavior, especially when it comes to feeding.  If you have two aquariums, one with wild-caught seahorses and another with Ocean Rider-bred seahorses, they will react very differently when people enter the room.  The wild seahorses will hide.  The domesticated seahorses, on the other hand, will eagerly approach, looking to be fed, much like a dog or cat.  This difference is crucial as it means increased longevity in captivity.  A wild-caught pair of seahorses will usually only survive a few years in captivity, which means they will need to be replaced on a regular basis.  Not so the Ocean Rider seahorses, who thrive in captivity for years.

We got to see this in action during the tour.  Barrels of young seahorses eagerly awaited our arrival, and when we dumped a cup filled with food into the water, they raced for it en masse like they were running the Kentucky Derby.  I could almost hear, "And they're off!"

A few weeks before we visited I'd seen a nature show about a program that breeds and raises salmon before releasing them into the wild, hoping to replenish their numbers.  It's a noble cause, but it's not working so well and the reason is because the salmon are being raised in captivity and their food is being provided for them, so they are just not cut out for life in the wild.  Once released, a large number of them succumb simply because they are no longer in their element.  There is a difference between domesticated and wild animals and Ocean Rider recognizes this.

When purchased, the seahorses are packed in water and oxygen filled plastic bags just like in pet stores, then securely boxed up and shipped via Fed Ex.  They arrive, we were told, not only alive and kicking, but happy and healthy and eager to be fed.  And what do they eat?

Brine shrimp.  Aka Sea Monkeys.  Oh, the humanity.

After years of breeding more traditional types of seahorses, the farm has also begun trying to cultivate Leafy Sea Dragons.  This breeding program is in its infancy, but the hope is that someday they will be able to expand it to protect the species in the wild.  We got a quick glimpse of several of them (I've also seen them at the Long Beach Aquarium).  Given their past success, I can see the farm making a go of this as well.

Not only do you get to feed seahorses, but you also get to carefully handle one (a staff member gets them to curl their tail around your finger).  It's a lot of fun and really the only thing I can criticize Ocean Rider for is their lack of self-promotion.  This place is truly the best kept secret in Kona.  If you visit that part of the Big Island, be sure to check them out.  The seahorse farm is just north of Kona Airport and it's time and money well spent.

Image snicked from their website, since flash photography is not allowed and none of mine turned out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

He was just trying to help...

Hey, apparently it's shark week here at To Live and Thrive: Great white shark jumps into great white shark research boatShark sighting, indeed!
Gennari said Monday's incident was the first time he'd heard of a great white jumping onto a boat, but said the fish could have mistaken the boat's shadow for prey or been disturbed by another shark.
I've heard of it:

Monday, July 18, 2011

He can still bury it

Because it wasn't enough to be one of the greats at your chosen sport: NHL MVP and two-time Stanley Cup winner Joe Sakic pots a million dollar hole-in-one during a celebrity golf tournament. 

I love how Sakic's the last guy to realize what he's just accomplished.  Nice shot, Joe!

Angelenos 1, Carmageddon 0

Carmageddon, which was supposed to destroy Los Angeles from the inside, has come and gone with unexpected success.

After completion of the partial destruction of the Mulholland Drive Bridge, the 405 Freeway was reopened 17 hours ahead of schedule yesterday and there was much rejoicing
One driver in a Hyundai coupe seemed to be relishing his brief roadway freedom, gliding across all four lanes from the center divider to an exit lane and back again.
It didn't take long for things to return to normal. 
Traffic remained light and free-flowing on the northbound 405 Freeway until 4:59 p.m. Sunday, when a collision forced a lane closure, the first post-Carmageddon SigAlert.
That worked so well, let's do it again next year!

Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's all fun and games until the sharks show up

Shark sighting in Kona Village:

Note the surfers.

Sharks for the Sheraton!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

This is pretty much how I felt when I first saw this trailer the other day

Seriously, did Adam Sandler lose all his money to Madoff or something?  I can't think of any other reason to make this movie.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Darth Vader at Disneyland

This is hilarious and reminds me that it's been way too long since I've been to the Magic Kingdom.  I'm putting it on my list of things to do once the big family drama/exile to Hawaii has been resolved.

Clip via the awesome Death Star PR Blog.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

No wonder you're going out of business

The Los Angeles Times, covering the hard news others back away from:

Here's the "story", in case you're interested.  And now you're all caught up with the world.

Image snicked from  Seriously.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Twitter wins the internets yet again

While giving the world a place to vent after the Casey Anthony verdict yesterday, Twitter produced this gem:

What made it so awesome was this response:

Possibly the greatest tweet EVER!!!

People on Twitter were seriously upset by the verdict, so much so that Dexter started trending.

Then today, President Obama's apparently ill-advised Twitter townhall event took place.  Some of the best (and by best, of course I mean snarkiest) came from iowahawkblog:

And this twofer:

His complete list can be found here.  The complete Twitter list is here.

The following was my humble contribution.  As far as I know it didn't get selected.

Yeah, I may be on a list somewhere.

Short story contest alert: Zoetrope All-Story

The fifteenth annual Zoetrope: All-Story Short Fiction Contest is open. Enter now at

GUEST JUDGE: National Book Award-finalist Jim Shepard will award the top prizes.

PRIZES: First prize is $1,000; second prize $500; and third prize $250.

LITERARY AGENCIES: The three prizewinners and seven honorable mentions will be considered for representation by William Morris Endeavor, ICM, Regal Literary, the Elaine Markson Literary Agency, Inkwell Management, Sterling Lord Literistic, Aitken Alexander Associates, Barer Literary, the Gernert Company, and the Georges Borchardt Literary Agency.

DATES: Entries must be complete by October 3, 2011. Results will be announced at the website December 15 and in the Spring 2012 issue of Zoetrope: All-Story; and the winning story will be published as a special online supplement to that Spring 2012 issue.

GUIDELINES: Complete contest guidelines are available at the website. Please read them before submitting.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Is that a bat in your pocket or are you just enjoying the game?

Call me old fashioned but I really think the new Amarillo Sox mascot is, in a word, inappropriate.  Hey kids, say hi to Pervy the Sock!

Suddenly Vancouver's Green Idiots are looking like sharp dressed men.

Sadly, it appears Pervy's reign will be a short one:
...the Sox mascot was supposed to look like a sock but looked nothing like (General Manager Mark) Lee had requested. Instead of a soft looking sock-type mascot from nearly head-to-toe, the foot portion of the sock stuck straight out about 2 feet at the waist.
“It was not the way I wanted it,” Lee said. “I’m very disappointed in the lady who did it, and I’ve told her so. She is going to fix it to the changes we want. I want to say on the record, if we offended anybody, I apologize.”
Oh admit it, you couldn't have bought this much publicity for your minor league team.  Also, why put the unfortunate costume out there in the first place?  Did they think maybe no one would notice?

You want to know what a kickass mascot looks like?  Looks like this:

Disturbing photo of Pervy snicked from Josh's Blog, which very accurately described him as "the Halloween costume of a sex offender".  Awesome pic of awesome Bailey snicked from his Facebook page.

Happy 4th of July everyone!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Customer service fail: Borders online edition

I tried to order a couple of books from today.  I say "tried" because when I entered my shipping/billing address I got this error message:

I double-checked the address to make sure it was okay.  It was.  I tried putting the apartment number on a separate line.  No dice.  I've lived at this address for over ten years.  It's definitely valid.  Finally I gave up.  More business for Amazon, I guess.

No wonder Borders is going out of business.  If they have any brick and mortar stores left, maybe I'll get to use the gift cards I was trying to use today.  Other than that, I won't bother trying to order online from them again.