Gameface

ISSS 2015 Graduation Speech

This is my amazing husband.

He is my best friend, biggest supporter and I love him more than I could ever tell you (or, than you’d want to hear about, really).

He also teaches in the Biochemistry department here at the University of Alberta. Occasionally that means he’s asked to make speeches. This year he was invited to speak at the ISSS graduation ceremony and I liked his speech so much I asked him if I could post it here. He said yes 🙂

Jopa

ISSS 2015 Graduation Speech

by Dr. Jonathan C. Parrish

Good evening, graduates, family, and supporters. I’d like to start by thanking ISSS for inviting me to speak here again. Graduation speeches are daunting things, there are some fantastic and inspirational speeches out there to hold up as standards, from the “Always Wear Sunscreen” speech – never delivered, usually attributed to Kurt Vonnegut, actually written by Mary Schmich – to the “Make Good Art” speech by Neil Gaiman. If you have not heard either of them I encourage you to find them. If you want, you can imagine me saying them, that would be swell.

Last year I thought I’d provide some of the lessons I feel have been important, punctuated by stories that illustrated them, this year I wanted to try something a little more coherent. I debated how to approach it, and what to discuss, without feeling that my own advice was overinflated or invaluable as opposed to amusing with brief insights. As a sign of how serious I am taking it, I even wrote it down!

As I only have a few minutes, what I’d like to offer is some small portion of my own philosophy. I’d like to talk today about the big picture. The mountain. The goal. The end of the rainbow. What is the big picture? I can’t tell you, because we each have our own. Some of us love the avant garde, some of us are realists, some of us are firmly couched in classical themes. The picture changes from day to day. From week to week, from year to year. We change, we adapt, we get bored, we move on. Changing is not a de facto failure nor a success, it’s just change, and that’s ok.

Choose your own path, follow your own counsel. Is it ironic for me to suggest this to you? You bet! Be unreasonable. George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying, “the reasonable man adapts to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress is made by unreasonable men.”

Within reason, of course, and feel free to change pronouns as you wish. But ask yourself this – do you want to be the next someone else or the first you? Keeping the big picture in mind will help you choose when to adapt and when to be unreasonable. You only have a finite amount of time and energy, especially the former, and you may find that things you change are changed back by someone else.

Christine Miserando, who suffers from lupus, uses spoons as an analogy to how much energy she can spend in a day. She starts with a limited number of spoons; everything she does uses one up and that determines how much she can do in a day. It helps her explain why some days it’s enough for her to get out of bed and brush her teeth, but the idea can be expanded to everyone.

In my field, structural biology, we have an analogy related to lysozyme – the basic idea being that each scientist only has so many structures in them. Lysozyme is easy to grow and solve (which is why it was one of the first proteins to be crystallized) and this is why we use it as training for novice crystallographers. But there are those who say if you can only solve so many structures, don’t waste one of them on lysozyme. Put your energy, when you do have it, into things that get you closer to where you want to be. Or away from where you don’t want to be. Or somewhere else, if you’re not sure. And that means keeping your mind on the big picture, so you know which way is which. And be unreasonable when it’s called for.

The next thing I’d like to discuss is purity of motive. Purity of motive is something I can’t think of as anything but a good thing. It means not just doing the right thing but doing it for the right reasons. Sometimes, I tell my classes that there are two ways of beating the curve: study and work hard and bring up your own grades or confuse everyone else in order to bring theirs down. Purity of motive then informs this choice – focus on what the point of education is. What the big picture is. It’s not the curve, it’s not the grade, it’s (hopefully) understanding, learning, growing that is the goal.

As much as I’d like to reassure you about this, it doesn’t end, either – in my work I am expected to justify everything I do each year, to compete for limited resources, to beat the curve. There are things I could do just to add content, to check off boxes, tick off to-do items on my annual report. But that is not purity of motive. What did you do at work today? I ticked off a box. That’s not focusing on the big picture, that’s being reasonable. If you are doing things solely to meet someone else’s criteria, you’re not having as much fun. And if you’re not enjoying yourself, then you need to re-focus on the big picture and find the path that takes you closer to that fantastic work of art, that big picture, in your head.

Things happen, day by day, week by week, we get into a state where we feel like we are constantly putting out small fires that keep starting, and it’s all we can do to check off the items on our to-do list. It’s hard to focus on the big picture, let alone think about being unreasonable. But even on those tough days there may be a moment to think about where you are headed and how you could work toward that goal even as you are putting out all those tiny fires.

Because there are much bigger fires waiting – and when those ones are out you can tell stories about the great fires you helped to extinguish and the ones you helped to start. You are university graduates, you’ve been given lighter fluid and a fire extinguisher. It’s up to you, now, to choose how unreasonable you are going to be.

And so to you, class of 2015, I congratulate you and I wish you the best, biggest picture to work towards. Go out there and be the best, first you. Give ‘em hell.

 


Personally, I am paying especially close attention these days to make sure I’m doing something each day beyond putting out fires and checking off boxes. That’s the part of this speech which spoke to me the most. Some days I do better than others, but by keeping the images of the fires and the checkboxes in the back of my mind, I’m finding it easier to stay on the path toward the ‘big picture’ that represents my larger life goals.

🙂

Giftmas Eve - Photo by Rhonda Parrish

Giftmas Advent

Giftmas Eve - Photo by Rhonda Parrish

Some people purchase advent calendars to count down the days toward Christmas but for us Advent is an event, not an object.

December 1st we set out 25 candles (usually on our fireplace mantel as you can see from the picture above of last year’s display). Some time after dinner the three of us (Jo, Danica and myself) will turn out the lights and turn on the music. In all the time we’ve been celebrating Giftmas together I don’t think the musical selection has changed. The CDs sitting beside the Advent display invariably are:

  • Salva Nos – Mediaeval Baebes
  • A Medieval Christmas – The Boston Camerata
  • Christmas Through the Ages – Various
  • Meowy Christmas – Jingle Cats
  • A Sesame Street Christmas – Sesame Street
  • Menotti: Amahl and the Night Visitors – Original Cast
  • The Bells of Dublin – The Chieftains

With the music playing, one of us will light the appropriate number of candles (one on the 1st of December, two on the 2nd, three on the 3rd…) while another hands round a box of chocolates or other such goodies.

Some years we just stand and watch the candle flicker and talk a while before blowing the candles out but my favourites have been the years when Jo would read to us. Usually it’s Dickens. One year it was The Cricket on the Hearth and I’m pretty sure we’ve done A Christmas Carol a couple times. My favourite year was one of the Christmas Carol ones. Dani and I sat on the loveseat while Jo read and I crocheted an afghan in the candlelight (which grows brighter and warmer every day of the month and more and more candles are lit).

It felt very homey, very snuggly.

Do you countdown the days to your holiday celebration in any special way?

I saw a wine advent calendar the other day that really got me thinkin’… Perhaps that’s a new thing we could incorporate into our existing traditions. It sure would make the season merry!

~*~

This month on my blog I’m sharing holiday traditions, mine and other people’s as well. This is the second of those posts, you can find the first, entitled Giftmas Cards (and subsequent ones) by visiting the main page, here. Happy Ho Ho!

Us Going for pizza....

Last Night

Jo in black and whiteLast night I couldn’t sleep. This isn’t a rare occurrence, but it was one of the few times that I couldn’t sleep even after taking my prescription sleeping pill (and the melatonin I take each night). Laying in bed wide awake drives me up the wall, so I slipped out and went downstairs to work for a while. I didn’t turn on any lights because I didn’t want to risk waking Jo or Dani, and I know the house well enough to creep around in the dark just fine.

I poked around on Facebook and Twitter and answered emails until I felt like I could sleep. Also, I heard what I thought might be Jo moving around upstairs and thought, “Aww, he woke up because he missed me in bed with him.” but then as I was heading up the stairs our cats were acting so crazy I figured that actually, it must have been them I heard trollumping around up there like a herd of elephants. None of the lights were on either, so seemed like I must be the only one up.

Walking carefully (I didn’t want to step on a cat’s tail) and quietly so as not to wake anyone, I crept through the darkened living room and turned the corner into the pitch black inside hallway that leads to our bedrooms and bathroom. That’s when a deep voice grumbled at me from the shadows.

I made some sort of strangled squeaking noise and jumped back into the living room. One hand fluttered up to my chest, ready to push my heart back into the cavity if it managed to break free (it was pounding so hard that it felt possible), the other fumbling for the nearest light switch. Turning it on I was relieved to see a very sleepy-looking Jo blinking at me from the darkness. “I was trying to avoid that reaction,” he said, his voice thick from sleep.

I sort of tripped into the bedroom and sat my butt down on the edge of the bed. I was certain of a few things, one of them was that after that jolt of adrenaline sleep wasn’t going to come easy, another that my knees were threatening to turn to jelly so it was best I not rely on them to hold me up. When, eventually, my body calmed down and I felt capable of putting a sentence together, I said. “What did you say?”

Jo answered, “I said, don’t be alarmed.”

#truestory

Cover art for Waste Not (And Other Funny Zombie Stories) by Danica Parrish

About My Cover

This is me and my beautiful daughter, Danica:

Rhonda and Danica ParrishPhotograph by Cindy Gannon

And this is the cover for my latest title, Waste Not (And Other Funny Zombie Stories):

Waste Not (And Other Funny Zombie Stories)

It’s not exactly a typical zombie cover, is it? You can’t even tell if there are any zombies on it. Well, since the stories inside aren’t of the scary/gorey type of zombie tales I didn’t want the cover to be like that either. Also, it just so happens that Danica is an artist. A pretty talented artist (even if I am biased to think so :-p):

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One day, on Facebook I logged in and saw this:

Mom, Please Buy Me -- art by Danica Parrish

In case you can’t read that it says, “Plz buy me this program Mom”. She’d found a drawing program that was compatible with her tablet and she wanted me to buy it for her. Now, Danica doesn’t lack for anything she needs but we do try not to just hand her everything she wants, so I told her that if she drew art work for the cover for Waste Not (And Other Funny Zombie Stories) I would pay her the exact amount of money she needed to buy that program.

I asked her for a cover with a cat, a scarecrow and a yellow brick road.

After several different mock-ups, including this one when I asked her to make something “a bit more cartoony” (my daughter is nothing if not a smart ass):

by Danica Parrish

We ended up with this as the final product:

Cover art for Waste Not (And Other Funny Zombie Stories) by Danica Parrish

I passed that on to Jo (my husband) and he played around with it, eventually turning it into the final cover for Waste Not that you see up top there.

Even though we didn’t go with the full colour version in the end, I did want to be sure and show it off because I think it’s wonderful, especially the glow from the Emerald City you can see on the horizon 🙂

The cover then was an undertaking for the whole family, which makes it pretty damn special to me, and probably pretty unique in the zombie fiction world in more ways than one LOL Not many families can say they’ve created a zombie book together, I wouldn’t think 😉

Sky and soulmate

J is for Jo

JThis year I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge again. I thought it might be fun to share some of my photography instead of always my words. They say a picture is worth–well, you know what they say 😉

I will try to keep these blog posts short and sweet, while still offering a little bit of insight into each photograph, just for fun.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Blogging from A to Z Challenge you can check out these links:

~ What Is The Blogging from A to Z Challenge? ~ ParticipantsMy Blogging from A to Z Challenge (2013): All About Niteblade ~ My Blogging from A to Z Challenge (2012): Unthemed ~

J is for Jo. Jo is my husband and he may or may not appreciate me posting a whack of photos of him on my blog, so I’m going to keep it to just a couple. But c’mon, how could J be for anything else?

Jo is a biochemist who teaches at the University here. A while back I brought my camera to the student lab there to take some pictures of test tubes, centrifuges and other fun things. I also took this picture of him doing science-y things. I call it ‘Game Face’. Because.

All rights reserved by Rhonda Parrish

I feel like this one is kinda self-explanatory 😉All rights reserved by Rhonda Parrish

This is one of my favourites. I took it at Thanksgiving a couple years ago. We’d gone back to southern Alberta (where I grew up) to visit my family.

All rights reserved by Rhonda Parrish

Our Super Villain

A friend of mine, Michelle (who is the brains and the body behind Busy Weekends) asked people on her twitter feed if they wanted to do a fun project where they would create super heroes. I said I’d participate if I was allowed to recruit my family into the process. She was okay with that, and so we began.

Meet Perish:

CherNobyl1CherNobyl2We decided to create a super villain instead of a hero. Partly just to be contrary, but also partly because we wanted to do a play on our last name, and Perish works far better as a villain’s name, don’t you think?

Both of these images are linked to larger versions of themselves so, as Kyle Cassidy would say, Clickenzee to Embiggen!

As a family we settled on a concept for her, discussed the details of her back story and abilities and talked about her costume. Then Danica drew the picture of Perish and I coloured it (because colouring is cool!)

~*~

Name: Perish

Alter Ego: Cher Nobyl

Super Powers/Abilities:

  • Can generate focused beams of electromagnetic radiation.
  • Can see outside normal visible ranges (x-ray, ultraviolet, etc.)

Special Weapons: There is a gem in the center of her hood which she can use to super concentrate her radiation beams, effectively making it a ‘death ray’.

Costume: In addition to what you can see, Perish is always armed with irradiated throwing knives which she keeps in her boots.

Enemies:

  • Tundra, the Canadian Super hero
  • Pirot Guy, the Ukrainian hero of comfort

Background: Perish was born at Chernobyl during the core meltdown. Her mother was far enough from ground zero that Perish, though irradiated, was not killed. Her mother, however, was.

~*~

We had a lot of fun creating our super villain and I’ve already got a story in mind that she figures in. Even if I never get around to writing that one though, this was still time well spent doing something creative as a family. Thank you Michelle!

 

Happy Anniversary!

Me And Jo

Happy Halloween to you, and Happy Anniversary to Jo and me 🙂

The picture there is the most recent one I have of Jo and I together. It was taken at the book signing for Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories in February. Jo and I co-wrote a story that was included in that book, Sea and Sky. Anyway… this isn’t about that book, it’s about our anniversary 🙂

Today is our 9th anniversary. Ask me how I know it’s the 9th… c’mon, ask me. I know it’s the 9th because Danica is in grade ten and she was in grade one when we got married. That is also how Jo knows it’s our 9th anniversary. We are so screwed once Danica graduates from school LOL It’s kind of appropriate that we keep track of our anniversaries that way, though. I don’t know that we would have gotten married it if weren’t for Dani. We both loved each other very much but we didn’t really feel like we needed a ceremony to prove that however Danica really wanted us to be married, it meant a lot to her and so we did. Now I’m happy that we did. We didn’t need a ceremony to prove anything, but there’s something that really appeals to me about being Jo’s wife and partner.

Now, you don’t need to run away, I’m not going to spend a whole blog post gushing about how much I love him but I do want to share one short story with you that will illustrate just how awesome he is.

A few years ago I was all like ‘Gawd, I need a new job!’ and Jo said, “Well, if you could do anything in the world what would it be?” I replied, “Writing, but that will never happen.” Jo looked at me, I mean really looked at me and said, “Why not?” Why not indeed. If not for that question I might still be stuck in a job I hated and so many stories I’m incredibly proud of would never have been written.

Thank you for being awesome Jo. You rock and I love you.

And now… back to business.

Anniversary or not, today is also the last day for two work-related things. It’s the last day you can enter my draw for a goodie bag full of awesome:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Metastasis Cover - artwork by Jonathan Parrish, Cover design by Carol HightshoeIt’s also the last day to get your copy of Metastasis at a discount:

Amazon.com
Paperback – $14.95
Kindle – $6.95

Kobo
ePub – $6.95

Smashwords — Use coupon code LM63L in order to receive 25% off your order
ePub – $6.95
Kindle – $6.95
PDF – $6.95

Createspace — Use coupon code TGERED9J in order to receive 25% off your order
Paperback – $14.95

So this happened…

Jo - Photograph by Rhonda ParrishMe, to Jo: Hey, I have this idea for a short story that I think would be a great project for us to collaborate on.

Jo: What’s that?

Me: *Tells him idea*

Jo: *adds to idea*

Me: *adds more to idea*

Jo: *adds even more to idea*

Me: Um. I’m worried that this has gone from being a short story to being a novel.

Jo: Nah. It definitely hasn’t done that.

Me: No?

Jo: No. It’s got to be a series of novels.

S: Staff

NitebladeWhen I first started Niteblade I did everything but the .pdf layout which Jo did. It was a lot of work. A lot. Like far more than I’d expected going in. Still, I had have control issues so I sucked it up and did what needed to be done.

Then I decided to add some book reviewers. It started with Amber Stults but eventually grew. At one point we had five book reviewers on staff. That was okay with my control-freak self though, because they were essentially independent contractors doing work-for-hire. Which is not to say I didn’t appreciate what they did, I did, still do, but they didn’t have any power, so things were okay. (We no longer do book reviews, but Amber has stuck around and conducts interviews with contributors and others for our blog).

But still, running Niteblade was a lot of work. Slowly it was beginning to wear me down and I began to think about closing the doors. I didn’t want to, you understand, I was just getting worn down. That’s when BD Wilson came on board. BD was (and remains) one of my best friends and so when she offered to take over the web-based part of the magazine, it was only a small struggle with myself to hand over the keys. I couldn’t have made a better decision. Today BD takes care of everything to do with the website, from making it look awesome to ensuring things work smoothly on the back end. I don’t know anything about how the website works anymore, that’s all her. It’s always fantastic. Niteblade would not exist if not for BD. She saved it when I was thinking of closing it and she keeps it going like, if you’ll pardon the cliche, a well-oiled machine.

Even so, Niteblade takes up a lot of my time, and it used to take up more. That’s where Submittable and slush readers come in. Oh my gawd. Slush readers. How I love them. When I switched from email submissions to using Submittable it angered some submitters, but I stuck to my decision because of two big reasons. First, it would mean I’d stop getting spammed. Seriously. You wouldn’t believe the amount of spam my submission email accounts were getting. Secondly, it meant I could bring on some slush readers and make things a bit easier on myself. And did it ever. Man I love slush readers.

We’ve had many different readers over the years so I don’t want to try listing you all in case I miss someone. Still. Slush readers rock. Truly. They have a mostly glamourless job but they are so important. The first line of defense, as it were. They help filter out the submissions that are patently inappropriate for Niteblade and since we started having slush readers the amount of time I have to spend in the slush has decreased immensely. Because I’m sharing the work. It’s fantastic. Our current slush readers are Alexis Hunter, Samantha Kymmell-Harvey and Megan Engelhardt and in my mind they are all rockstars.

And then there is Alexandra Seidel. Alexandra started at Niteblade as a slush reader, but when she expressed a desire to read poetry slush I thought, why not? After a very short while with her reading poetry slush I offered her the position of poetry editor at Niteblade. She and I co-edited a special poetry only print issue of Niteblade together to mark the transition of editoryness (which yes, is totally a word) and then I handed over control of the poetry section to her. This was tough for my little control-freak self, but it was the right decision. Alexa has proven to be a strong, capable poetry editor and has done a lot to increase the visibility of our poetic offerings.

Of course, Niteblade wouldn’t be the same without Marge Simon, but I’ve already dedicated a whole entry to her, so let’s just say she rocks and leave it at that LOL

I wish I could dedicate a whole entry to everyone who works behind the scenes at Niteblade to make it awesome, but I can’t. Not without getting all gush-y and driving readers away. But to all of you, thank you. Thank you so very much. You are the reason Niteblade is as amazing as it is. I couldn’t do it without you.

~*~

A2Z-2013-BADGE-001Small_zps669396f9This post has been written as a part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. My theme this year is ‘Niteblade‘, which is the magazine I publish. I chose this theme to help draw attention to the magazine during this, it’s 2nd annual fundraiser.

My first post in this series was about choosing stories and poems to nominate for awards and I’ve gone through a similar process in deciding what to write about for these posts. Not only did I have to choose stories and poems I loved, but they also had to fit with the A-Z theme. Tricky!

 

 

Books. We Signed ’em.

Book-SigningWednesday’s Edmonton book launch of Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories and Krista D. Ball’s book, What Kings Ate and Wizard’s Drank, was equal parts exciting, nerve-wracking and intimidating. It was the first time I’d ever signed books for strangers and the first time I’d ever attended the launch of an anthology with one of my stories in it. Thank gawd it was for the one Jo and I wrote together because that meant he got to be there with me, signing, chatting and keeping me sane.

In the end it was fun. Emotional, but fun. I learned a lot that will come in handy for the next book signing/launch I attend, and I met some awesome people.

Books. We signed ’em :-p

Photograph courtesy of Danica Parrish