All posts by Nina Niskanen

About Nina Niskanen

I squee about things I love, share the things I find interesting and generally talk like my opinion is the only right one. Unless it's wrong. In which case it was the work of my evil twin, Tina.

Something Awesome: Writing Excuses

I don’t talk much about writing here on the blog partly because I think there are so many people much better qualified than I am to do that and partly because though I really love the act of making up stories, I would much rather talk about mythological things or scientific phenomena.

The thing is though that I spend a lot of my time thinking about the mechanics of writing because I’m constantly trying to make myself a better writer. Which is also why I use a lot of the resources provided by the aforementioned more qualified people. And one of them is Writing Excuses. It is a weekly podcast, 15 minutes long, starring regularly three very succesfull genre authors and one very succesfull web cartoonist. They usually cover one topic per week ranging from nitty gritty stuff like making description do more than one thing to broader topics like writing gaming fiction. Pretty much all episodes are aimed at writers and aspiring writers but once in a while they’ll do an episode that has more broadly interesting stuff like the Hollywood Formula. And the best thing about it all is that it’s wildly entertaining all while teaching cool things.

And really, what could be more awesome?

Anti-Caturday: Aye-aye in the Dark

Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), Madagascar by Frank.Vassen, on Flickr

The aye-aye is a fascinating beast. In fact there’s so much that’s interesting about it that I’m finding it hard to contain myself to just one post. It’s a nocturnal primate that fills the same ecological niche as a woodpecker. That is, it can break the tree bark to get at the juicy insects inside. It has one stick thin finger that it uses to get at the insects. In its home in Madagascar it is considered alternately a sign of good fortune and a demon. To point the stick thin finger at a person is considered a death curse. It is most often killed on sight. This has led to its current state of near extinction.

But even more interesting than the mythology and the human interaction with aye aye – for me at least – is its phylogenetic classification. It’s a remarkable example of convergent evolution in that it has protruding, ever growing front teeth like rodents. Its head shape, eyes, ears and nostrils are liie those on cats. Its classification within primates has changed a couple of times in and around the family of lemurs. Current molecular evidence suggests that it might be an extant basil form to all lemurs. That means it might be one of the species all lemurs have evolved from, a living fossil. Which is pretty freaking cool!

aye-aye by amareta kelly, on Flickr


Just as a reminder, if you’re still following me here, I’ve moved over to a new server and after a short overlap period I’ll continue blogging only at I’m doing this mostly because it’s just time and because as I’ve mentioned, I’m going to be serializing a longer work of fiction and when I pay for the server space I retain ownership of the words.

So head on over to the new site and register there if you like. 🙂

Something Awesome: Dr. Who

If you’re even remotely involved in geek culture you’re probably at least somewhat aware of Dr. Who. A lot of people have never seen even one episode of Doctor Who while they’re still aware of it. A colleague of mine said that he hadn’t started watching because it had always seemed to him like such work to get up to date. And that’s part of what’s so awesome about Doctor Who; you can basically start anywhere. There’s all this history, going all the way to the sixties but you can basically start anywhere and the new series starts a whole new continuum if you really feel like starting from the beginning.

So here’s what you need to know. Doctor Who tells the story of the many and varied adventures of the Doctor. Always just the Doctor. The Doctor is the last of the Time Lords, an alien race who look much like humans but live for hundreds and hundreds of years. The way the Doctor spends his time is traveling around the Universe and fixing injustice and stopping horrible events all over time and space. For some reason he keeps getting drawn back to humans to save us time and time again. As a Time Lord he is also capable of regenerating, which means that when he’s about to die he gets born again which is why we are on the 11th Doctor right now. To keep from getting lonely he keeps finding human companions, mostly women. His ship, the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space), is shaped like a police box and it’s bigger on the inside. While some of it is just silly adventures there are some very painful and beautiful episodes. Some have even won awards of many different types.

My Doctor has always been and forever will be David Tennant but the others have their own charms. And each of them has their own personality. But the Doctor goes on.

And that’s more than awesome.