The Fibonacci Sequence

Check out this seeming random set of numerals–1,1,2,3,5,8, etc. This sequence was discovered by 13th century mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci as the number outcomes when two rabbit babies grow up and mate, and then there’s another pair, and then two, and then three, etc.

Such numbers have been found throughout nature in the petals of clover or the arms of starfish. Now a hallmark of computer science, the Fibonacci Sequence can also be found in art and architecture, further revealing how intertwined the whole universe truly is. In writing, which would seem an act of pure organic creativity, such numbers come up too: the power of three in a list, the focus on one voice, the conflict between two characters, a story that works best in three to five- chapters, the infinite power of the sideways 8. Such numbers show up in the meter and rhythm of poetry, the loading of two out of three syntactic slots in fiction, the single powerful anecdote in nonfiction.

When all seems lost, we’ll likely discover that there is order in chaos. And pattern in randomness.

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Why Visualization Rocks

I told my daughter something recently that sums up what I try to teach the collegiate crowd: When you read something, try to picture it: You’ll remember more because you’ve seen it and not just ‘heard’ it.

And, as a post script, we can think about writing the same way. If your reader can visualize your story, they will no longer just see words on a page. They’ll witness a movie in their minds.

My TOR:CON index is 9.8 and Rising

Hi. My name is J and I’m an addict.

It’s been seven whole days since I’ve watched The Weather Channel.

Some of you may have seen signs of my erratic behavior. When our house shook, TWC was the first thing I turned to. After the earthquake, I had it on nearly 24/7 to witness Hurricane Irene plow north-northwest—that is, until we lost power and I went into forced withdrawals.

I picked it up again soon after, only to get depressed when I saw Jim Cantore deskbound, all mopey and subdued. He’s much sexier in his baseball cap, sans glasses, leaning into the wind in the Outer Banks surf; getting all jittery at the lower tip of Manhattan; enthusiastically describing the rush of muddy waters off the Susquehanna River; or popping into New Orleans . . . again . . .

For me, it got so bad at one point I was sobbing. Too many fires in Texas! More flooding in the Northeast! Two tropical depressions, tropical storm/hurricane Katia or Maria, and something named Nate and another tropical wave off the coast of Africa. Not to mention Tornado! Tornado! Tornado! (Oh, that last TWC video was an Oklahoma twister circa 1999. We apparently don’t have enough current natural disasters (just two days ago another tornado spun into Ocean City, Md!.); we need to troll the last few decades searching for others. But thanks for revisiting).

And then there’s the draw of the T.V. crawl, which keeps telling me to keep my children from playing near floodwaters, or to never drive across flooded roadways since one foot of water is enough to carry my car away. This scroll is usually accompanied by that alarming emergency tone: beep …. beep …. beeeep—a Flash Flood Advisory Has Been Issued for Your Area. Ooooh, ooooh that sound. Can’t you hear that sound . . .

I was hitting rock bottom. Still, I couldn’t turn it off.

I first became hooked on weather in college. I got a kick out of my meteorology class, one of two undergrad science requirements. It is the only textbook I ever kept. Sometimes, even years later, I would crack it open just to flip through pictures of cumulonimbus cloud formations.

My husband, who is way more handsome than Jim Cantore, is getting worried. Maybe I’m suffering from P.T.S.D. Only, in my case it seems to be Present-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even after everything started calming down I’d feel my heart palpitate whenever I saw the icons flashing ‘isolated thunderstorms.’ I resisted. I hid the remote.

And I’m not the only adrenaline junkie who loves the highs and lows of weather. Why, in the midst of a storm, do Weather Channel meteorologists seem like they are suppressing giggles? Just watch them. Their eyes actually jiggle in their heads and their voices tremble when they say things like ‘Katia has been upgraded to a Cat 2 Hurricane.” Or “The tornado threat, or TOR:CON, is a 7.0 out of 10!” I don’t want to assume too much or be judgmental, but perhaps the severe weather specialists, stormcasters, and tornado chasers should go into rehab. Or they could rename the whole endeavor The Disaster Channel and be done with it.

Before it all ends in 2012.

Thank you for letting me share.

Cultural Wake-up Call

Coffee.

Specifically, Starbucks or other gourmet-styled java.

That was the new cultural reality illuminated in the dawn after we were invaded from the South by G’night Irene and the remnants of Lee.

After the onslaught of Hurricane Irene, especially, people all around Baltimore drove across city or county lines—with winds still gusting to 40 m.p.h. and residual rains blurring their windshields—searching for the safe haven of a cuppa joe or a venti Red Eye.

Two Baltimore Sun reporters noted the aura of desperation, with Liz Bowie chronicling the hunt for caffeine in a short vignette about iced coffee drinker Lowery Adams: “The morning for her and her father had been a series of coffee dead-ends, relieved shortly before 11 a.m. when they found satisfaction in Mt. Washington. ‘He got his coffee,’ she said. ‘He was much more manageable after that.’”

As a society newly accustomed to the Starbucks-every-few-blocks phenomenon, the haunting nature of addiction hit nearly as hard as the storm for those bleary-eyed aficionados willing to risk their lives for a fix . Whole bean coffee could not be made in the tens of thousands of homes without electricity. (Who would slum it with Nescafe?). So, at the few open coffee shops with power, people lined up out the door and down the block.

A neighbor told me about one woman who drove across roads with downed trees and wires, from outside-the-beltway Hunt Valley to a café in Towson.

Standing in line, she said. “There’s something in that caramel macchiato I need.”