Friday, December 28, 2012

This week I signed up for Twitter, mainly because I wanted to scoff my name before some other Linda Zajac got their hands on it.  You can catch me at @LindaZajac.   I also added a Twitter link on the right hand side of this website.

Lately, I'm enjoying plenty of family time and writing time too.   

After getting this detailed email about Chasing Ice, I decided to go on Saturday 1/5 instead of Friday night, weather permitting.

Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor Street in Hartford, CT.


Fri. 1/4: 5pm, 7pm       Sat. 1/5: 2pm, 5pm, 7pm*       Sun. 1/6: 2pm, 5pm, 7pm      Mon. 1/7: 5pm, 7pm**
Tues. 1/8: 4pm            Wed. 1/9: 5pm, 7pm            Thurs. 1/10: 5pm, 7pm 

*Post-film presentation and Q&A with Laurence Gould after the 7pm screening. 

Laurence Gould is a professor of physics at the University of Hartford. Gould was a keynote speaker at the Heartland Institute's 2009 International Conference on Climate Change 

**Post-film discussion with Brian Glenn and the Appalachian Mountain Club after the 7pm screening. 

Brian J. Glenn is a Research Fellow at the Dukakis Center for Public Policy at Northeastern University who studies how perceptions of political issues lead Americans to support certain policies and not others. The discussion will focus on how Chasing Ice presents the issue of global warming. What are the elements of a powerful argument? Is this movie convincing, and if so, why? 
My free public skating trip to Hartford turned out to be a costly one.  Not only did I hurt my back really bad when I fell only once, I also crippled my camera, which was in my pocket.  Brilliant.

Thankfully, the pulled muscle is back to normal, but the camera is not.  Thus I am now posting photos from the past.   This is a mountain lion we saw at San Diego Zoo this past summer.  It was a good thing it was in a cage because it was eying and growling at a young child.   

Friday, December 21, 2012

In mid-February I'll be spending a few days at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference.  I got a press pass, which means I get in for free.  I also booked a room in Boston.  It's an opportunity to learn more about current science research and check out a conference that I've never been to.

I also joined the American Chemical Society.   I'll give it a try for a year and see how it goes.

There is also a nonfiction conference that has spurred my interest.  Once again, it's within driving distance.

21st Century Children's Nonfiction Publishing Conference, June 14–16, 2013.
State University of New York ~ New Paltz

I received an email from the Highlights Foundation about their great selection of writing workshops for 2013.

Last Sunday, with a seriously hurting back, I supervised a kids' craft session at the arts center.  Although it was exceptionally painful to get out of bed and to get into the car, I am so glad I went.  It was a diversion from the pain and also from the sadness at Sandy Hook.  The kids had such a great time that they kept coming to the table to decorate another snowflake.  The kids enjoyed it so much that I ended up making 40 more snowflakes and sending them to the siblings of the Newtown tragedy on behalf of the arts center.  I wrote the card out to the kids and included two bags of Hershey's Hugs.  It was a small act of kindness for a heartbroken town.

The sunset shot was taken as I drove by the Major Michael Donnelly Preserve in South Windsor.  I was following a friend while glancing leftward at the pink and purple sky.  Impulsively, I pulled in the lot. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Chasing Ice - a "hauntingly beautiful" documentary

Chasing Ice

Acclaimed National Geographic photographer James Balog was once a skeptic about climate change. But through his Extreme Ice Survey, he discovers undeniable evidence of our changing planet. In Chasing Ice, Balog deploys revolutionary time-lapse cameras to capture a multi-year record of the world's changing glaciers. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Traveling with a team of young adventurers across the brutal Arctic, Balog risks his career and his well-being in pursuit of the biggest story facing humanity. As the debate polarizes America, and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Chasing Ice depicts a heroic photojournalist on a mission to deliver fragile hope to our carbon-powered planet.
"As much as one may intellectually believe in climate change, to see it actually happening has the power to stun a viewer into wordlessness." - Ty Burr, Boston Globe
"The "green" teams looking into such energy sources as solar, wind and nuclear are often ridiculed. Watch "Chasing Ice" and see if you laugh." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
(USA, 76 mins, In English)
Fri. 1/4:
Sat. 1/5:
Sun. 1/6:
Mon. 1/7:
Tues. 1/8:
Wed. 1/9:
Thurs. 1/10:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I was dismayed that not one person mentioned reading my editorial, so I did a poll to find out why.   Was the word "climate change" in the title a turn off?  Not really.  Apparently the editorial's placement in Sunday's paper was less than desirable.  Most people skipped that section.  That left me less than satisfied.

Today I sent the heart of the matter to the heart of the problem.  At a little over four pages, the email was long.  The length was necessary to explain the science in a way that any reader could understand.

If that produces no results, I will conclude that some folks are not representing this entire country.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned the arboretum at Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill.  These photographs were taken there.  Sunshine made the apricot (in autumn) leaves of the weeping katsura glow.  While I was waiting for plaster to dry in the casting area, I noticed this monstrous leaf dwarfing a standard oak leaf.  The woman said it was an elephant magnolia, but online I couldn't find any evidence that such a magnolia exists.  Could it be a southern magnolia? 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Climate Change in a Nutshell

I wrote an editorial about climate change for the Hartford Courant and was surprised to find it in Sunday's paper.  I whipped it up out of frustration that neither candidate was bringing up this important topic.  At the time, I didn't even consider it a clip. Here it is:

Climate Change in a Nutshell

When we crack the shell and get to the meat of the matter, climate change is not about politics and it's not about religion.

The big issue is not the cost of gasoline.  It's the level of carbon dioxide in our air.  Although carbon dioxide rose and fell in human history, it has never been as high as it is now.  Carbon dioxide is higher than at any time in the past 800,000 years.  We are way off the charts.

Extra carbon dioxide in the air is linked to higher temperatures, which affect the availability of water in many places all over the world.  Extra carbon dioxide in the air is absorbed by oceans, which causes them to be more acidic.

Increased acidity and warming ocean temperatures harm corals.  Fish from coral reefs are a source of food for more than one billion people worldwide.  Climate change is a tough nut to crack, but burying it will only make the problem grow.

* Published in the Hartford Courant (11/11/12)  and the Journal Inquirer (12/1/12 - a later version)

As of this writing, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is 391.03 parts per million and rising.

You can find current carbon dioxide levels here:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Saturday I taught a K-2 science class called Razzle Dazzle Jellyfish.  It was great fun!  I told stories, asked questions and explained hands-on activities.  The kids were enthusiastic and eager to answer questions.  They don't realize it, but they learned some pretty sophisticated science.

On 11/15 and 11/17, I'll be running a grizzly bear science class. If the weather is suitable we will be going outside for a little bit, so dress warmly if you are participating.

Also, I hope to schedule a free hands-on science program for kids.  Parents are welcome too.  I'll post those details when I arrange the class, hopefully real soon!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dinosaur State Park - Rocky Hill, Connecticut

The big news this week is that two people nominated me for a membership in the American Chemical Society.  I am quite flattered, considering I do not have a chemistry degree like most members.  I will pursue this because it's an opportunity.  It looks good on the resume and the publications/resources will likely be helpful.        

One night this past week, I dreamed that I came to the realization that breaking into "The Club" was simply not possible.  My subconscious had thrown in the towel.  Terrific.  Perhaps deep down, my recent efforts to diversify were interpreted as moving away from the goal.  This reminded me of some lunchtime SCBWI chatter.  Someone brought up the definition of success.  Each of us had our own interpretation.  Someone said if you aren't meeting your goal, make a new goal.  I thought about those words.

What is my goal?  Is it to publish a book, educate children (and adults!) about climate change, break into new markets or something else?  It's all of those.  I have many, many goals, perhaps too many.     

How cool is that!

About a week ago, I brought a bucket filled with supplies to the casting area at Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill.   I made a cast using an actual 200-million-year-old dilophosaurus print.  It took a while for my cast to set, but I was delighted when I lifted it off the rock.  Once it was dry, I lugged all that stuff back to the car.  It was pretty heavy.  Next time, I'll post some photos of a couple of interesting plants in the arboretum.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I've been watching the presidential and vice presidential debates with interest.  Granted, I'm not an expert on many of the topics they discussed, but I do know quite a bit about science and climate change.  The focus seems to be on the cost of energy when, by far, the more important issue is what are we going to do about carbon dioxide levels that impact atmospheric temperature and the health of our oceans.  This has yet to be discussed.

Here is a link to a description of a couple of kid's classes I'll be running in early November.  There will be plenty of interacting and I have lots of fun activities planned.  I hope to see you there!

Speaking of classes, I took one myself.  It was fascinating stuff that I stumbled upon while doing research for one project I'm working on.  The professor and grad students used shrinky dinks (how fun!) to explain how they are doing their work.  We poured goop called PVMS (I think that stands for polyvinylmethylsiloxane) on our designs.  After shrinking, the design was raised slightly because the ink gets denser when it shrinks.   When the plastic hardened, they cut out plastic cubes.  (top photo: butterfly shrinky dink covered in hardened plastic with a square cut out of it) After drilling holes they injected dye into the tiny channels of these reverse images.  (bottom photo: reverse image glued to glass slide with dye injected into holes)   It was a really interesting way to understand the work they are doing.     

Friday, October 12, 2012

This past week I spoke to an editor.  During the phone conversation, some of the things I mentioned got misinterpreted.  Perhaps I didn't explain my thoughts well enough or maybe the conclusions were a stretch?  For example, I may be disappointed when an editor moves out of editing science books, but that doesn't mean I'm pessimistic about the direction of the industry.  Au contraire.  This line of thinking brought me to the subject of climate change.

Often the words of scientists, writers and speakers on this controversial subject are challenged, misinterpreted and distorted.   It is amazing that despite a sinkhole of research by scientists all over the world, there are attempts to convolute the facts by mixing science with religion and politics.  As a writer who writes about climate change, I can expect that some day my words, written or spoken, may be misinterpreted, distorted or challenged.  When that day comes, I want to be ready to fire back an arsenal of proof. 

These photographs were taken at Woods Hole Mass.  One speaker discussed how eel grass was vanishing in the estuaries on the Cape.  David, my partner-in-crime, was studying an old piece of cedar found on a Cape Cod beach.    

Thursday, October 4, 2012

In September, I worked very hard writing eight test passages that utilized new common core standards.  Since I'm not a terribly fast writer, my initial thought was that I would use research from published material to save myself some time.  No.  No.  No.  They didn't want material that the test taker may have read.  So, in a short amount of time, I did a LOT of research for a little bit of writing (less than 250 words) and I learned a tremendous amount.  The majority of my passages involved some aspect of climate change.  This pleased me immensely.

I was disappointed to learn that my ChemMatters article that was originally supposed to be published long ago, has once again been pushed off until February or April of 2013.  It will be a "clipless" year.

Today, I took a watercolor class at the new Vernon Community Arts Center.   I LOVE LOVE LOVE the place!  Yesterday, I spoke at length to the person in charge.  We nailed down some dates for the hands-on children's science classes I'll be teaching.  We decided to offer them at various dates and times to see which would draw the most participants.  These reasonably priced classes will run in November as follows:
Saturday  11/3     1-3pm        Jellyfish
Thursday 11/15   6 -7:30pm   Grizzly bears 
Saturday  11/17  10-12pm     Grizzly bears

I have ideas for a class for adults and I also mentioned a hands-on presentation that I would be quite happy to give, all were met with enthusiasm!

 It was feeding time in one of the labs at Woods Hole.  We got to see these miniscule anemones eating sea monkeys via the scientist's high powered microscope. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Yosemite National Park - Panorama Trail

This past week I attended two writing-related events.  The first was a marketing seminar called "Crafting a public identity."  The audience was made up of writers, dancers, photographers, artists, and actors.  They mentioned putting the basics in place first, things like a website, email, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  Check. (and no I'm not interested in Twitter).  I left pondering how to diversify, educate, and collaborate.

Yesterday, I went to a writers' luncheon where those in attendance discussed their smartest moves and struggles.  Most of the attendees wrote nonfiction.

I am dismayed at the changes in publishing.  It seems that at this time, when science is getting a bad rap, it's more important than ever to get the information out there yet there seems to be a dwindling pile of science editors on the trade side of publishing.    

The top photograph was taken on the Panorama Trail in Yosemite.  It was a beautiful trail that started at Glacier Point.  We hiked down a ridge with an easy grade and numerous switchbacks.  The first couple of miles had almost constant views of the glacier-carved valley.  We started too late to catch the Glacier Point shuttle at the bottom, so instead we hiked to the top of Nevada Falls then trucked uphill all the way back.

I think the second photo was Vernal Falls.  My size 8.5 foot was dwarfed next to a gigantic sequoia pine cone.  Yowzy!  We were at the park within the hantavirus time frame and received an email from Yosemite, but we camped far enough away from the Valley of the Mice, so it wasn't a concern.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I am finally at a lull and can spare some time to post.  I am quite grateful to the folks at Woods Hole for giving me the opportunity to hear scientists, learn about research and view labs and technology.  I came back all charged up to write some fresh stories.    

These photographs were taken at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.  When the land was given to WHOI, there was a stipulation in the agreement that WHOI had to take care of the pet cemetery.  My goodness they had a lot of pets.  I spotted the osprey nest on the premises, but apparently the birds don't like peeping Toms.  I was told the nest was currently unoccupied.   Afterward, I found the osprey cam website.

  One day we visited the site of some research projects such as this marsh study.  Another day, I went with another fellow to interview a scientist and wound up in the wrong building.  OMG, I haven't laughed so hard since before my mother died last year.  It was great to feel like myself again.      

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Zion National Park

I'm working on some stuff that is due October 1st.  I'll tell you more about that near month's end (when I find out if I'm doing this right!).

Tomorrow morning, I'm off to Woods Hole!  I put a lanyard on the camera to hang it around my neck so it is not in my hands, but easily accessible.  If it gets too heavy, it's going in the backpack.   

These are photos of wildlife at Zion National Park.  The flower is a Sacred Datura which has many names such as moon lily and jimson weed.  It's not the only thing that wilts in the mid-day heat.  "This is a poisonous, narcotic plant that can lead to death if eaten."  It is HIGHLY toxic and I think back on how close I was to touching it when I photographed it (this is the kind of stuff that would freak out my mother when she'd read my blog!).

There are quite a few lizards in Zion.  This little guy was glued to a woman's baseball cap.  She said her friend put him on her cap and he stayed there.  Realistically, while she is walking, where is he going to go?   The mule deer didn't budge when half a dozen or more people stood there taking photographs.  


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Zion National Park - The Narrows

I expect to be quite busy churning out pages in September, so I'm not sure how often I'll be posting here.  It has been a long while since we've had a writing group meeting.  Next week, I'll meet my friends to review material.

These photographs were taken while we were hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park.  It was an exciting and fascinating hike in a slot canyon.  We rented water socks, special shoes, and a pole from Zion Adventure just outside the park.  With temperatures at 105°F, the cool interior of this canyon was the only place to beat the heat.  We hiked in and out of water that at times was up to our waists.  Fun, fun, fun!  I LOVED this hike and sloshing through the water!  It was rated a difficult hike, but I didn't find it hard at all, except I had to be careful of my footing.  At one point I thought I heard the boom of thunder.  Thankfully, it wasn't a thunderstorm.  Some kids were doing cannonballs off a big boulder.  It would have been dangerous to be in this slot canyon during a thunderstorm because of flash flooding.  There would have been  no place to escape.  Phew!

Next time, I'll post about the wildlife I spotted in Zion.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Bryce National Park

Here are a few wildlife photographs from Bryce National Park.  I could have watched these ravens for a long time.  Their antics and the scenery behind them were captivating.  I was a bit fearful one of the birds would peck my hand when I moved in for this close shot of its talons.  Thankfully, they were preoccupied.   At the time, I thought they were feeding each other.  According to this blurb about ravens on the park's website, they are "especially romantic during the breeding season."  After reading that, I now think I witnessed an "eskimo kiss."'  How cute.

The bottom photograph is a pronghorn that didn't stand still long enough for Walt to focus.  No wonder, it's the fastest land animal in North America!  During the summer they molt to a thinner coat. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Wednesday, I boarded the Department of Environmental and Energy Protection's climate monitoring boat with other members of the CT Climate Change Education Group.  What a great day we had out at sea and I thank them for allowing us to view their important work monitoring the health of Long Island Sound.  I learned quite a bit and I'm contemplating how to spin a story out of it. 

This bird was so still drying its wings that initially I thought it was fake.  On the way back to the harbor we passed a capsized sailboat.    At low tide, there's a tombolo that connects the beach to Charles Island and that's probably what caused it to run aground.    

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bryce National Park - Queens Garden/Navajo Loop

Yesterday, I found another opportunity in my inbox.  You have absolutely no idea what a pleasant change of pace it is to have these things come to me.  I will dish on those when and if they come to fruition.

On 7/15/12, I posted about the not so definite link between extreme weather and climate change.  Since then, James Hansen has published a paper where he concludes that a couple of extreme heat waves (one in 2011) are linked to global warming.  I also thought recent news that at one time Antarctica was covered with palm trees, baobab and macadamia was fascinating.

The colors in Bryce National Park were stunning, terra cotta hoodoos and deep pines against a cerulean sky.  When the morning and evening light hit those formations, they glowed a brilliant orange.  We hiked the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop.  It was one of the best hikes I've ever done.  Midway through that hike we came to a section adorned with tiny cairns.  They were everywhere.  They were piled on the ground, on logs, on tree branches.  It was the cutest thing and surely something that rangers do to occupy little ones.  What an adorable idea!  Next time, I'll post about the wildlife I saw.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Arches National Park

This past week I listened to audio and video from a research trip.  The video that Walt took was an excellent record of the visit.  From the video I learned that camping the night before on site research wasn't such a good thing.  Did I brush my hair?   It cracked me up when Walt asked numerical type questions and zoomed in on some math angles on a notebook.  The whole time, I was constantly juggling a notebook, pen, DVR and camera.   

Overall, the video was the best record, but I think for a solo visit, putting my eye through a camcorder might get in the way of absorbing the material or it might appear that I'm not paying attention.  It would be nice to have a writer's toolbelt, similar to what construction workers wear.  I think I will hunt for a strap so the camera can dangle from my neck where it's easily accessible, but frees me from carrying it.      

I've been working hard, maybe too hard.  Two items are getting very close to mailbox ready.   

I've been to Arches twice in the summer and although it is quite beautiful, the scorching sun beats down and there aren't many trees for shade.  We spotted this gnarly tree on the path to Landscape Arch.  We also encountered a long-nosed leopard lizard with interesting coloring.   After a bit of research, I've come to the conclusion this is a female because of the bright orange spots that occur during breeding.  I'm still marveling that we were there at the right time to see the unusual spots.  See, summer isn't such a bad time for a visit after all!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park - 3

There's nothing quite like meandering through the Midnight Garden, picking words and making new arrangements. ~ Linda Zajac

Last night between 1 and 2 am, I got a lot of inspiration from the Midnight Garden.  Lines with grace and elegance came to me with ease.  If only I could harness that creativity and move it to normal hours.   Sigh.  I'm currently fact checking and I've got to start reading and doing research too.

Here are more photographs from Rocky Mountain National Park.  The top one was taken on the hike to Flattop Mountain.  We saw a lot of elk while we were there.  On our last day in the park, we were fortunate to get a tip from a park ranger that led us to the breeding ground of bighorn sheep!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park - 2

The big news is that I'm honored and grateful to be a jolly good fellow--a Woods Hole Fellow!   It's coming up fast, so I'm trying to write up everything from my trip out West before I'm deluged with details for more story ideas.  On the road trip, I stopped at two research facilities.  So far, I've completed an article and picture book for one place.  I still want to do two more for the second research stop.  

While in Rocky Mountain National Park, we hiked 4.4 miles to the top of Flattop Mountain (elevation 12,324').  I've never hiked a mountain so high.  I only threw up once--thankfully it was a half mile from the finish.  At the top, the howling wind was incredible.  It wore us right out.

  Tyndall Glacier is visible from the tundra at the top.  While trekking to the summit, we passed a noisy ptarmigan, a beefy yellow-bellied marmot and a whole lot of wildflowers like this blue columbine.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Now that we are down one car, I'm pretty much stuck here during the day.  Although it's cramping my style, it's boosting my productivity (Hallelujah chorus breaks into song).

This past week, I shifted gears again and turned that article that was a picture book back into an article and I'm good with that.  I also wrote a lovely picture book on the same topic.  At 237 words, this is indeed a picture book with little words to spare.  I'll be adding backmatter this coming week. 

Last post, I mentioned seeing signs of climate change while out west.  In Utah and Nevada, I noted dramatic drops in lake water levels.  The first two photographs are of Lake Mead, a huge source of water for the southwest.

While crossing through Colorado, I drove toward a plume of smoke.  It wasn't the only raging forest fire at the time.  Temperatures were exceptionally high (although scientists are careful not to say there is a direct link between extreme temperatures and climate change).  It was 111 degrees in Kansas and 105 at the Hoover Dam.  This article is about fire, drought, and water levels in the Southwest.