Category Archives: Reference Material

‘No such thing as a routine traffic stop.’

Traffic Stop Scenarios at the Citizen’s Academy run by the Dayton PD – Ohio

Hi Guys

Just thought I’d share some videos that I took while attending the Dayton Police Citizens Academy this week while doing writing research.  In this class we went through some traffic stop scenarios that officers have run into during the course of their shifts.

An interesting fact I found out is that traffic stops are one of the most dangerous parts of their job.  Not only do they run the risk of getting hit from other drivers, the people they pull over might be armed and do not want any police scrutiny.

According to the FBI Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted reports, 62 officers were killed during traffic stops from 2003 to 2012.  In 2012, 4,450 officers were wounded or assaulted in various manners during traffic stops.

Below are some examples of what can happen when people don’t obey the law on passing safely around stopped emergency service vehicles.  Photo credit – Ohio State Highway Patrol

 

Anyhow, here are some of the videos I took – enjoy Chris and Maggie’s acting ability, and be honest with yourself about what you would do if placed in these situations.

Real life dragons!

Real life dragons! (or cool looking lizards….)

I thought I would share these here, as I love lizards and reptiles and these are beautiful little creatures.  I might have to feature something like them in a future story.
Armadillo Girdled Lizard – Cordylus cataphractus – from South Africa.

armadillo-girdled-lizard-roll-into-ball ZB980_TBA001239A_36_ozctr3

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Why Chocolate Is Good For You AND Your Writing

This article was originally published on Bookmarketingtools.com

Books and chocolate

No really, chocolate is good for you. Dark chocolate can even help you lose weight!

But as with all good things, for the above to be true, chocolate should be eaten in small quantities. That means those small quantities had better be good.

The same can be said about writing.

A lot of excess words can help bulk out word count and make you feel good about your output. But it can also make your manuscript overweight, unwieldy and a hard slog for readers to get through.

“In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it ‘got boring,’ the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.”-Stephen King, On Writing

Scenes, paragraphs, and sentences should be pared down and always be working to move the story forward in a flowing, logical manner. A good way for testing this with a piece of writing is to read it aloud. If it flows well while speaking it, then it should flow well while reading it.

I am not going to say that I am the perfect writer that does everything correctly, and never use too many words to get my point across. In fact I am the opposite (as can be seen from this post). I love words and like to use as many of them as possible wherever I can. But as with eating too much chocolate, I know that in the long run too many words will be a bad thing for the story (and this article).

“Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”-Stephen King, On Writing

Now, I am not going to tell you how to write like this, just as I am not going to tell you what chocolate to eat. That is up to each individual to decide. Everyone has their particular brand of chocolate, and everyone has their own particular writing style.

Ultimately it is up to you to decide what stays, what goes, and what chocolate to eat.

Happy chocolate munching!

-H.M. Clarke

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13 Blogging Statistics you probably don’t know but should

13-blogging-statistics-that-will-make-you-change-your-strategy-immediately

http://nicholasrossis.me/2014/05/31/how-to-get-more-blog-followers/

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Saturday Einstein!

albert_einstein_quote

I can relate very well to this quote – The illusion of reality always gets in the way of the illusion of my writing worlds  🙂

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How publishers helped create a nation of readers by giving away 122 million books

Free book giveaway helps create a nation of readersWhen is FREE the right price?
An Article by Chris Robley

 

Last week at the end of an Apple product launch event, the band U2 came on stage and played a song. They then surprised the world by announcing that every single iTunes customer (500 million people) already had a copy of the band’s new album in their purchase history, downloadable for free.

The music media went crazy covering the story, but what I found most interesting was that U2′s other albums all got a giant sales bump because of this giveaway. By flooding the market with a new product, they created new demand for their older catalog items too.

This music news reminded me of a story I read in The Atlantic about how American publishers gave away almost 123 million books to soldiers during WWII. Not just pulp fiction and comics — which is what many people assumed the troops would want — but also ‘serious’ contemporary literature, histories, classics, and more. It was both an act of patriotism (giving the GIs books to take their minds off the horrors of war, remind them of home, etc.), and a risky, self-serving maneuver that might potentially create future demand for softcover books.

The program worked well on both counts. Many soldiers would speak of the free books as a kind of lifeline amidst the stress of battle and an aid to healing afterwards. And to the publishing industry’s benefit, those millions of GIs returned home hungry for more books, and books they were happy to pay for this time around. According to The Atlantic, the huge book giveaway created “a nation of readers.” Whereas reading was previously an activity reserved for the affluent, suddenly the general public had an interest in serious books, and the publishing industry went through its biggest boom.

The book giveaway during WWII and the U2 free album announcement are just two examples of how, when smartly employed, FREE can be a powerful price. Have you tried a book giveaway – or any type of giveaway? How did it work? Let me know in the comments below.

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Dark Matter Looks WIMPy

188434main_DkMatter_lg
Graphic Credit: The Astronomist.

Data from the ISS-based Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment supports the idea that dark matter consists of the invisible particles called weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs.

The universe seems to be full of dark matter, yet no one knows what it’s made of. The best guess is that invisible particles called weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs, contribute all this missing mass. And that idea matches the latest data generated by the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, or AMS experiment. This instrument lives on the International Space Station, and it may be seeing direct signs of dark matter. The study is in the journal Physical Review Letters. [M. Aguilaret al. (AMS Collaboration), Electron and Positron Fluxes in Primary Cosmic Rays Measured with the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on the International Space Station]

The AMS catches charged particles flying through space. Its new results show more positrons than expected. Positrons are the antimatter counterparts to electrons.
Normal astrophysical processes create some positrons, but not as many as AMS registered. One possible explanation is that these excess positrons are a by-product of dark matter interactions. That is, they’re being created by the elusive WIMPs.

When two WIMPs collide, they can annihilate each other, giving rise to other particles—such as positrons. The data from AMS so far match these predictions.

The positrons might also have a more mundane source, such as the spinning stars called pulsars. Time will tell if the space-based AMS has indeed seen the first sign of what makes up dark matter—or if we’re still stuck in the dark.

—Clara Moskowitz for Scientific American

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Book Review – Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens

MayaChronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya

by Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube

This book is chock full of site plans and photos, artifacts and loads of maps.

This is a highly informative work considering that most of Maya history comes from the Glyphs/writing left on buildings and monuments.

This book is a very good quick reference guide for those who do not want to wade through huge blocks of history text to get to the information you need. The volume is divided into sections separating the Maya into their city states and showing their impact on the world around them (as well as the impact on them from outsiders).

The Maya are a precise and warlike people who, it seems, overstretched their natural resources which then lead to their city states to eventual ruin and abandonment.

And now the Maya people today (who have a strong oral tradition) are being taught to read the writing of their ancestors by the Archaeologists who study the ancient Maya.

Writing and language are so much a part of a person’s cultural identity, that when you lose your connection with it, you lose a part of yourself.

-Hayley

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Yawning Spreads Like a Plague in Wolves

wolf

Evidence of contagious yawning in chimps, dogs and now wolves suggests that the behavior is linked to a mammalian sense of empathy

By Helen Thompson

SMITHSONIAN.COM
AUGUST 27, 2014

Chimps do it, birds do it, even you and I do it. Once you see someone yawn, you are compelled to do the same. Now it seems that wolves can be added to the list of animals known to spread yawns like a contagion.

Among humans, even thinking about yawning can trigger the reflex, leading some to suspect that catching a yawn is linked to our ability to empathize with other humans. For instance, contagious yawning activates the same parts of the brain that govern empathy and social know-how. And some studies have shown that humans with more fine-tuned social skills are more likely to catch a yawn.

Similarly, chimpanzees, baboons and bonobos often yawn when they see other members of their species yawning. Chimps (Pan troglodytes) can catch yawns from humans, even virtual ones.   At least in primates, contagious yawning seems to require an emotional connection and may function as a demonstration of empathy. Beyond primates, though, the trends are less clear-cut. One study found evidence of contagious yawning in birds but didn’t connect it to empathy. A 2008 study showed that dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) could catch yawns from humans, and another showed that dogs were more likely to catch the yawn of a familiar human rather than a stranger. But efforts to see if dogs catch yawns from each other and to replicate the results with humans have so far had no luck.

Now a study published today in PLOS ONE reports the first evidence of contagious yawning in wolves (Canis lupus lupus). “We showed that the wolves were able to yawn contagiously, and this is affected by the emotional bond between individuals, which suggests that familiarity and social bonds matter in these animals the same way as it does in humans,” says study co-author Teresa Romero, who studies animal behavior at the University of Tokyo.

The prevalence of contagious yawning in primates and other mammals could give us some clues to the evolution of empathy—that’s in part what makes the phenomenon so interesting and so controversial. If dogs can catch yawns from humans, did they pick up the behavior because of domestication, or does the trait run deeper into evolutionary history?

The Tokyo team took a stab at those questions by looking at contagious yawning in dog’s closest relatives, wolves. For 254 hours over five months, they observed twelve wolves (six males and six females) at the Tama Zoological Park in Tokyo. They kept tabs on the who, what, when, where, how many and how long of every yawn, then separated out data for yawns in relaxed settings, to minimize the influence of external stimuli.

Next, they statistically analyzed the data and looked for trends. They found that wolves were much more likely to yawn in response to another’s yawn rather than not, which suggests that contagious yawning is at play.

Wolves yawnng

In image A, an individual (right) yawned during a resting period, and a few seconds later, image B shows the subject (on the left) yawned contagiously. (Teresa Romero)

Wolves were more likely to catch the yawn if they were friends with the yawner. Females were also quicker on the yawn uptake when watching the yawns of those around them—possibly because they’re more attuned to social cues, but with such a small group it’s hard to say for sure.

The results seem to add to the case for empathy as the primary function of contagious yawning. “We have the strongest responses to our family, then our friends, then acquaintances, and so on and so forth,” says Matt Campbell, a psychologist at California State University, Channel Islands. “That contagious yawning works along the same social dimension supports the idea that the mechanism that allows us to copy the smiles, frowns and fear of others also allows us to copy their yawns.”

Empathy likely originated as an ancestral trait in mammals, and that’s why it emerges in such disparate species as wolves and humans. “More and more research is supporting this idea that basic forms of empathy are very ancient, and they are present in a wide number of species, at least in mammals,” says Romero. Elephants, for example, comfort their upset friends. Even rats exhibit a basic helping behavior toward other friendly rodents.

Why does contagious yawning between members of the same species show up in wolves and not dogs? The difference probably comes down to study design, not biology. “Most likely, dogs also catch yawns from [other dogs], as now shown for wolves,” says Elaine Madsen, a cognitive zoologist at Lund University in Sweden. Further studies might reveal the extent to which human interaction has affected present-day dogs’ susceptibility to catching another species’ yawns, she says.

It’s impossible to say what true function contagious yawning serves in wolves, but the researchers argue that such behavior could cultivate social bonds. “If an individual is not in sync with its group, it risks being left behind. That is not good,” says Campbell. Just watching wolves yawn can’t definitively prove that empathy drove the behavior, but it’s certainly compelling evidence that wolves might feel for their fellow lupines.

– If you yawned while reading this, please tell me in the comments (hopefully you didn’t yawn out of bordom 🙂 )

-HMC

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And now…for something completely different!

tag

We, ladies and gentleman are now going to try something new.  It’s good to experiment once and a while and to try new and exciting things.

I have been invited to be a part of something that we are now calling ‘Blogroll Tag’.  And I have been chosen to start the ball rolling so to speak.

“What is Blogroll Tag?” you ask.  Well it’s really rather simple.  One person (me in this case) asks a question and I ‘tag’ someone else to answer it.  And then the person tagged does the same thing to someone else.    Each Tag holds links to the next blog so people can follow along to see where the ‘ball’ ends up.

So let’s get this ball rolling shall we?

My first question is to Melissa Barker-Simpson, Author of ‘Sins of the Father’ and ‘The Missing Link’ and the upcoming new release ‘Hands of Evil’

Why did you choose to write mystery, and which authors influenced that choice?

Here is the link to Melissa’s blog so you can see her answer – http://mbarkersimpson.wordpress.com/   NB: This link will work once she has her answer up 🙂

I hope you all have fun ‘playing tag’ and remember to keep following to see what new stuff is thrown your way!

The link for seeing all of the collected Tags!

-HMC

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