Math, Science, Linguistics, and Writing

Since I left off tending House of Happy, I found that I couldn’t keep away from blogging for long. I went ahead and started a couple others, under the name of Mikel Maine. In case you’re curious as to what I’ve been writing, here are the links to those sites. I’m going to keep both of these blogs active, because I’m one of those annoying people who’s into math, science, and grammar, and it needs to go somewhere. I especially love talking and thinking about linguistics. These two other blogs are going to be my outlets for those bursts of scientific “Hey, did you know…” moments. This way, I’ll be able to get those thoughts out of my system, and House of Happy can remain an engaging, imaginative haven, without the burden of lengthy scientific rants.

Of course, nobody’s stopping you from reading all three. 🙂

House of Happy. Writing. This blog you’re reading now.

Seventy-Three Thousand. Math, Science, Psychology. A place to cultivate my scientific curiosity. Interested in ferrofluids, the squares of prime numbers? This is the blog for you.

Mr. Schliemann. Linguistics, Language Learning. Here, I document my efforts in learning Mandarin Chinese, as well as letting out other linguistic musings.

I’m An Outliner

I’m An Outliner

Where to, gumshoe? Photo courtesy EH101 from “it.” Via Wikimedia commons.

There are 10 kinds of writers. Those who can read binary code, and those who can’t.

Heh heh…okay, for serious…There are two kinds of writers. There are Planners and Seat-Of-The-Pantsers.


The writers who must have an outline. If there’s no outline, the story doesn’t happen. Doesn’t happen logically, at least. Without an outline, the writer will either get stuck, or give up completely on the story, deeming it “Stupid,” “Confusing,” or “Going nowhere.”

The downside to planners is that they can’t just sit down and write. The upside to planners is that they know exactly what is going to happen before they write it, increasing their productivity and preventing writers’ block.


An interesting breed. These are the creatives who like to watch the story unfold before them, learning about their characters as they go, gasping with amazement at every plot turn as it happens. Sure, they may have a pretty good idea of how things are going to play out in their head, but a written outline might just slow them down, so they have to get on top of it and start writing NOW!

The downside to SOP’ers is that if they get stuck in their story, there’s no telling how long it will take them before creativity strikes. They can’t go back and look at a roadmap to see where to go next, they have to just go for it and see which road works best. The upside to SOP’ers is that they can write anywhere, any time, and can start a project immediately without worrying about formal planning.


I’m a planner. I just spent the past two days plotting an outline for a project (Which will be heretofore known as “The Tower WIP”). I feel pretty confident in the directions its taken, and I know exactly where it’s going to go from beginning to end. If I get stuck, I can just write the next part, come back to the point I left off at later. And I really won’t get stuck, as long as I stick to the outline to tell me where to go next.

Typically what happens is, I get three quarters through my written outline when I decide to take the story in a different direction. I guess I do have a little bit of SOP in me, but planning is definitely dominant.

But how about you? Have you tried different methods, Planning and SOPing? Do you enjoy the element of surprise, or like to be in control?

Guy Billout

In hopes of expanding your artistic palate…

The artist here is Guy Billout, definitely one of my favorites. His art is great, and his straight lines remind me of Tintin, by Hergé—quirky but very sensible at the same time.

His artwork is so creative…so unlike what one usually sees. It’s like a breath of fresh air. Clean cut lines, sarcastic ideas, brilliant fading skies.

This is the way I feel about most things.

Music, for one. I’m a big fan of Owl City, and I like Fireflies (who doesn’t?), Umbrella Beach, and Alligator Sky. Meteor Shower wins points in my book, too. But I noticed that a lot of Adam’s songs sound very similar—almost like the same song with different lyrics. What happened, Owl City? Was it your label, or was it just a lack of creativity? Perhaps I’m just a snob.

Fashion tires me as well. I see the same stuff over and over, and a lot of the time, it’s not even good. There are some nice styles, though. Converse, yes. Ray-ban, yes. Hoodies, timeless. Striped pants, hard to find but yes. But there are the other fashions that are like those “-that wouldn’t die” horror movies. Movie-star sunglasses that make girls look like aliens. Skinny jeans that can’t be good for your circulation. V-neck tee shirts. Halter-tops. And those flopsy, mopsy hairdos that make girls look like boys and boys look like girls.

Lastly—and because all roads lead to Rome—also got my issues with books. I get tired of the same stuff over and over again, to the point where I was at the library recently and it sincerely frustrated me as I read the overview of a fantasy novel. Fairies (or Faeries, or Farees, or Phå’á®êäz, or whichever “creative” way you want to spell it), portals to other worlds, twelve-year-old twins, and the end of the book where the guy gets the girl, gets a little wearying.

But books that offer a fresh view on things, fresh characters, fresh worlds…now, now we’re talking.

A breath of fresh air is more of a relief if you’ve been breathing the stale variety for a while.

All pictures copyright Guy Billout. No stealing. 🙂


Why So Long, Mr. Tolstoy?

Some of my followers on Twitter may have noticed lately that I’ve finally taken it upon myself to read War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I have a feeling that this is going to take me a month and a half, maybe two, but I’ve buckled down and resigned myself. Contrary to popular belief, (and according to the all-knowing Wikipedia) this book only ranks #17 among the longest novels…but it’s still pretty long.

I have to say, so far, it’s a nice read. I’m halfway through Part 1 of Volume 1, and so far there is almost no plot to speak of, the characters have done almost nothing but have parties (Seriously, maybe three out of four scenes are a party), and every now and then people spin off into conversations about politics, which I get a little lost at (I’m not exactly the political type, I’m still a little in the dark about what’s happening on Wall Street these days!). But, besides all that, the characters are great.

Why the huge book, Mr. Tolstoy? There are actually a few reasons to write an enormous gorilla of a work, if you have the stamina and attention span.

  • There is more room to develop story. This is one of the more obvious of reasons. Readers of YA and MG will know what I’m talking about: Those stories that are so good, but so short, and so underdeveloped you’d really rather the book was a huge epic, so you could spend more time in their world. It really is a shame, for instance, that Jeanne DuPrau didn’t spend more words on the City of Ember. It would’ve been great if she’d written, say, six books instead of four, or at least spent more time in each of the books. What really happened in the Wars and Epidemics…Did Lina have more memories of her parents…How was the City of Ember built, and who built it…Were there more cities like it? Instead of vague references to events, a larger book can give you more time to reflect on past happenings and current goings-on.
  • Favorite Character from War & Peace, Pierre Bezuhov (My Rendition)

    There is more time to develop character. In a longer work, you can dedicate whole pages to the description of a character, or his/her thought processes. In a shorter story, the characters may play out a week, a month, maybe a year of their lives. In a longer series or book, you could watch a character live his/her whole life out. You can see how their values change, you can see the events that shape who they become, you can see who they meet, who they fall in love with, who they marry, who their children are, where they die. Which leads me to my next point:

  • People don’t like to say good-bye. Well, maybe you do if you don’t like the person, and if that’s the case, they can put down the book after the first ten pages/first volume. But those who do fall in love with your characters can spend whole books with them…hours, days, weeks, months. Maybe even years, if you keep writing sequels.
  • It’s fun. If someone gave you a choice, would you go on vacation for a day or a week? Well, same idea with novels. Reading a novel is like going on vacation…It’s a form of escape from reality. With a short book, you can explore the world for only a limited time…With a long book, you can stay in that world for longer. Obviously.

After that all, it’s really up to your stamina and creativity.

What was the longest book you’ve ever read? Was it enjoyable, or was it a time-suck? 🙂

Stepping into Writing Greatness

Hello Bloggers! Today you will not hear me ramble…Instead, I have solicited another blogger, E. J. Apostrophe, the H3roic Writ3r to write a post for me.

Most of the time, we read about people’s struggle through the difficult life of a writer. It can be difficult, and it can be rewarding, and it can be an all-in-all good time. But we must not lose sight of those simple beginnings, those days when we decided that we wanted to be writers.

E. J. brings us back to that time, sending us back to reevaluate our choices, reflect upon it, and look to the future of us and our notebooks…

© "Gphoto," Wikimedia Commons.

Do you like the idea of a county fair?

Who doesn’t?

The mesmerizing rides, the smells of funnel cakes, the screams of excitement from people.

This is just what we as a family needed after a particularly stressful day, plus my wife and I have a never ending quest to make our 4 year old daughter tired.

Although the sights of the fair are alluring, there is a process that a customer must go through in order to proceed: the entrance, the admission fee, and the reward.

You must not get these steps out of order.  They are there for a purpose.  Who made these rules?  I have no idea.  There is no changing of the order though.

How do these three rules apply to the writer’s life?  Let’s take a journey to the fair and find out, shall we?

The Entrance

This is the first step.  The launching point.  The starting gate.  You have to approach the gate in order to be let in.  You can choose to look at the others going in and enjoying the fair.  You can look on the outside of the fair to see others having fun.  You can imagine the fun the others are having as well.  Eventually you will need to decide that, you deserve and need to partake in this fun.

You will need to make the step to stand in line and participate.

Application:   You hope to be a writer.  You can wish to be a writer.  You can even try to mind meld your favorite author’s books to your noggin.  You will not officially be a writer until you make the decision that you are one and get in line with the millions of others who dare to take on this wonderful adventure.

You are the only one who can make the decision and only you can step in line to wait your turn to be a success.

The Admission

The admission.  This will either turn you away or have you excited.  A group of individuals have collaborated to find out and decide how much the admission will be.  They did a cost analysis to figure out what they needed in order to break even.  The admission was set and advertised for those to see.

You check the admission fee to see if you can afford the admission.  You rustle into your pockets.  Pull out your money sock.  Break open the piggie bank.  You count all of your resources to see if you have enough.  You cannot enter in without paying the fee.

Application: Now that you have gotten to the entrance and declare to the world that you are a writer, there is a price to pay.  This is where most writers will turn away.  They want instant success.  They are not willing to put in the sweat equity.

How do athletes achieve greatness?  They put in the sacrifice of time to become the very best.  If the sport is basketball, they may practice relentless on their jump shot.  If the sport is football, they may work on their quickness with parachute training.  If the sport is golf, they may work on their swing.

Most writers think that they can auto-magically become an overnight success.  They think they can copy the styles of Bill Myers,  Jerry B. Jenkins, Stephen King, J.R. Rowling, and others.

You must put in your hours.  You must work harder than any writer you know.  You must be willing to soak your writing with your tears.  You must be determined to be the very best you can be and then raise the bar even higher with goals that stretch you to be more and do more.

Only when you really decide to join the ranks of the great ones and pay the admission to get into their ranks can you truly call yourself a writer.

The Reward

Finally!  You have gotten your ticket and you have crossed into the fair!  The energy of the crowd, the amazing sounds of the rides, and the delicious healthy food (ahem)!  You now can enjoy the opportunity to be a kid again and you paid money to act like a fool!  Enjoy!

Application: You went ahead and got through the entrance.  You have paid the admission (even if this hurt you to do so).  Now, you will reap the rewards.  You will start to have doors open up to you.  Where you thought other writers were “lucky”, you will see God open doors for you because you were willing to put in the time and the work.

The reward may be having an article published by a major magazine, featured on a blog as a guest poster, called by an agent who wants to publish your work, etc.  The possibilities are endless.  All starts with you first going through the entrance, what are you waiting for?

The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.

—Proverbs 13:4

For every promise, there is a price to pay.

—Jim Rohn

How To Summerize Your Life

Over my past one year of blogging, there are several posts which have attracted a fair amount of Google-query attention. Those are Ow! Charlie!, Why Do Movie Stars Wear Sunglasses?, and Six Words to Summarize My Life.

This last one got a Google-hit today, but “Summarize” was spelled wrong, and I got a random moment of inspiration.


For much of America, summer is finally here; The sun is shining, promising days on the lake, barbecues (or is that barbeques?), beaches, and tree-climbing. For other parts of America (Say…oh…Alaska?) summer may not be that iminent. However, if you’re living in Continental America, chances are you’re done with winter and on your way into life again. School is over (or getting near over), your social life picks up, and it is time, finally, to enjoy yourself. Here are six ways you can enjoy this year’s dance ’round the sunny side.

Doesn't he look nice and toasty? An example of how I recommend you don't dress.

1. Dress Summery. Clothing is a very important part of being human. In many ways, it is a part of us—Why else would Gucci, Dolce & Gabbanna, and Ralph Lauren be making so much money? Wear something light, enjoy the sun, don’t overheat.

Or maybe you want to overheat. If you’re living somewhere that winter = 4 months of freezing misery, then maybe you want to enjoy the tremendous heat of Summer. Wear long sleeves.* I dunno. Whatever “Suits” you I guess. 😀

2. Turn Off The Air Conditioner, & Open Your Windows. Now I know this sounds a little crazy, but it’s just a suggestion. I haven’t used my AC all year yet, and it’s been hot as anything here in my area. Why don’t I flip on the AC? Well, I wanted to enjoy the heat. Why pretend to enjoy summer, when I’m really isolating myself from the environment? I like tactile things, like old keyboards rather than touchscreen, and oldish button phones rather than sleek Androids or iPhones. For me, I guess, the sweltering heat is another way of keeping in touch with the “Real” world. I just don’t know how Planty and Gershwin are taking this un-air-conditioned weather. 😉

Technically, it's "Gelato." 😉 © Anna Fox, via Wikimedia.

3. Eat ice cream. Not much explanation needed here, except to explain that not much explanation is needed.

4. Touch Leaves. I know this sounds odd. But really. Try it next time you go for a walk.

5. Overload your Senses. Try to smell the world—the flowers, the grass, the trees (elm, pine, maple, oak, whatever!)…Look around you—Walk barefoot through dirt—We have five senses, after all! (Or is that seven?…) I’m not asking you to be a crazy person, I’m only suggesting that you don’t isolate yourself from the environment with air conditioners, luxury couches, and televisions. *smirk*

6. Enjoy Yourself!!! Now I know people are different, but like I’ve stated before, God made the 7th day dedicated for rest for a reason. Yes, you should work, but I would also suggest stepping out every now and then to enjoy this world. Sit down in the middle of the day for a cup of iced tea. Take a break in your housework, step outside onto the verandah (If any of you live in the Deep South where they still have those!!!) with your laptop and do some writing.

Have fun summerizing!!!

*Of course, be reasonable. There is no need for you to go out into the scorching heat in a leather jacket. Not only is it offensive to vegetarians, it is rather tempting for heatstroke, which is pretty ruthless, so don’t take your chances. I relinquish all responsibility for these words; House of Happy shall not be held liable—act at your own risk. 🙂

Quiet & Restful.

Today, I just wanted to share a story that happened to me today.

We writers know the feeling. Come on. It’s been a while since you sat down and typed out a few words on your WIP, or edited your Baby manuscript, or spent some time with characters, or a few minutes in the politics of your imaginary kingdom. It’s been too long. So, you grab your laptop, or desktop computer, or Eniac, or maybe pen and paper [gasp, old fashioned!], and you plod over to your couch, intending to be a little bit diligent.

You don’t want to radiate yourself, so you turn off your wireless internet, and instead of streaming jazz, you listen to acoustic guitar from a CD you got from a friend years ago. [And if I’m being too personal in trying to be general for all writers, then please, as a replacement, replace this with the replacement of your choice! I dunno, maybe you DO like a little bit of radiation…maybe you don’t have an acoustic guitar CD anywhere to be seen…maybe you use, gasp, a cassette player!!!

But now…

I ramble.]

Wow, this music is really nice. And, since you woke up at 4 this morning, it starts to lull you into a happy, content state where you prefer the thought of closing your eyes to opening your eyes in your imagination. (Far-fetched analogy? Maybe…)

And so, you make that deadly decision.

You put the laptop aside, while still playing the soothing music, and you lean over, put your head against the pillow, and drink in some sudden happiness. Ah yes. This is what you’ve been waiting for all day.

This is not time for constructive imagination. This is the time for wild, free-roaming dream imagination, where Japan is through your closet door, where your neighbor mows his lawn with a mechanical, steam-powered giraffe, where you know that somewhere along the line you were related to Ronald Reagan, and where tigers are your pet.

The organized part of your imagination screams in protest.

You drift away.