Worldbuilding Lessons from Norwescon 2015

Place directly influences both ecology and culture – even people, much as we resist admitting it, are shaped by where we live. Land masses affect climate, leading to rain shadows where the oceanward side of mountain ranges are much wetter than the landward side; oceans moderate temperature. Resources like minerals and plants depend on appropriate geology and climate. Americans traditionally fence our properties because we came to a vast country where wood is easily accessible (whereas Europe logged their forests far earlier). Tribes from Western Washington have cultures far different from Native Americans in the midwest, southwest, and east coast, based on varied climates and resources.

Drawing conclusions from the real world – past and present – helps writers and artists create more realistic science fiction and fantasy universes. I attended Norwescon for the first time this year, and spent the weekend immersed in panels that shared lots of insights about creating realistic worlds.

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Designing the Life of My Ideals: Preparing for 2015

design-the-life-of-your-idealsThis fall, I took the biggest, scariest leap towards the life I want to lead.

After six and a half years, I left my first professional job and accepted a part-time position. For now, I have Fridays off, and I’ll likely also have Thursdays off midway through 2015.

A woman of many passions, I’ve always lamented my lack of time. Working full time, I made more than enough money to live on, but never had the time (or more importantly, the energy) to pursue my creative endeavors to the extent I wanted. My consulting job, structured around billable hours, stressed me to the point of insomnia and anxiety. Harried, I dropped lifestyle choices that matched my ideals in favor of creative work – I had no energy to wake up early enough to bike to work (honestly, only twenty minutes earlier), I no longer experimented with new recipes and we started eating out more frequently, I quit baking, I couldn’t be bothered to go to the bulk grocer. I felt myself drifting from the life of voluntary simplicity I want, falling into a cycle of indifference.

I may be quiet, but I have never been indifferent.

What was I doing to my health in service to a life I didn’t even want?

As Chris Guillebeau says, in order to live the life we want and avoid getting lost in daily life, “we must work on our lives the way we would work on any other project.” I didn’t want to lose sight of my vision for my ideal life. I didn’t want to run out of fucks to give.

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Teaching Behavior Change: Lessons from SPARKS 2014

Candy Castellanos of Waste Management speaking about foodcycling

Candy Castellanos of Waste Management speaking about foodcycling

This week I went to the 2014 SPARKS conference focused on social marketing in the Pacific Northwest. Speakers shared lessons from projects ranging from health care design to promoting safer pesticides and cleaning products to engaging residents in food scrap composting. Targeting “low-hanging fruit” was the conference’s unofficial theme — a good reminder that even the most daunting task can be broken into achievable goals.

  • For successful long-term, effective behavior change, draw on how humans evolved by stressing the personal benefits of change and making use of our need to feel valued by the group. Hogan Sherrow of You Evolving
  • Prevention, or no action, can be the behavior change you target. Heather Trim’s team analyzed shoreline armoring and decided the easiest target wasn’t removing bulkheads, but preventing them from being built on the homes that don’t have them now. With a “Beach Friendly” campaign, they’re establishing ‘no action’ as the behavior norm for shoreline homeowners. Heather Trim from Futurewise
  • Question all your assumptions when you’re deciding how to design an education campaign. They assumed shoreline homeowners were primarily families, when in reality they were almost all over 60. Heather Trim from Futurewise
  • Local stores make good partners for education campaigns because they have better staff retention than big box stores, making knowledge shared with sales staff ‘last longer’ when reaching the public. Jenn Leach of Seattle Tilth
  • Facilitators should design diagrams that invite discussion and ask users to tell a story. Kate Hasting from The Cadmus Group
  • Transcreation supplants translation: context is decisive in meaning. Transcreation combines language with context to convey the same meaning and spirit in different languages. Ha Na Park of C+C
  • Model desired behaviors with photos of how we want people to act. Haley Cureton of WA Dept. of Health and Mary Rabourn of King County

Textures from the Subalpine Pacific Northwest

Art-Roundup-PNW-AlpineHigh in the mountains, it’s different. Wildflowers flourish in the cool wet air. Wood weathers to a moody gray-white, its stories writ in the scars on its skin. I’ve collected textures from the Teanaway area near Cle Elum, Denny Creek, and Snoqualmie Pass. These textural photos are free for use under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Enjoy designing and creating with these textures of subalpine Washington!

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Textures of Mount Rainier

Art-Roundup-Mount-RainierMount Rainier National Park plunges 10000 feet from the volcano’s peak, down past alpine meadows flush with flowers, to old growth forests heavy with moss and age. Here are ten bark and wildflower textures I photographed at Mount Rainier National Park for you to use in your creative projects. I’m releasing these textures under a Creative Commons Attribution License – have fun creating with the textures of one of the Pacific Northwest’s landmark parks!

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