Saturday, December 21, 2013

2013 in Review: I'm Thankful for My Creative Communities

© 2013 Sylvia Liu
My friend Alayne Christan encourages writers to look back on our year and celebrate our successes. My biggest success this year was connecting with creative communities of amazing people who have inspired me all year. With each of their achievements and the example of their dedication, I work harder to make my own art and writing meet up to their standards.

These are the creative communities that have sustained me in 2013:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A to Z Cephalopods: K for Kraken

© 2013 Sylvia Liu

Kraken Facts:

  • For more than 2000 years, sailors have told stories of a giant sea monster that attacked boats. In the 1700s and 1800s, sailors from Norway and Greenland named these monsters kraken.
  • Kraken have inspired poets and writers. In 1830, Alfred Tennyson wrote The Kraken, a poem about a massive creature that slept "far far beneath in the abysmal sea." 
  • In 1870, Jules Vernes described an attack by a giant sea monster in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The characters debate whether it is a giant whale or a kraken.
  • For a good fantasy read, check out China Mieville's KRAKEN

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Monday, December 16, 2013

A to Z Cephalopods: J for Japanese Flying Squid

© 2013 Sylvia Liu

Japanese Flying Squid Facts:

  • The Japanese flying squid weighs less than a pound, lives near the surface, and flies up to 30 meters through the air in packs.
  • These squid live for a year and are a sustainable fishery, because Japanese fishers catch them after they have spawned and just before they die. They are very popular as sushi in Japan, China and the United States.
(I will get back to I at some point…)

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

A to Z Cephalopods: H for Humboldt Squid

© 2013 Sylvia Liu

Humboldt Squid Facts:

  • Humboldt squid are large, up to six feet in length and weighing up to 100 pounds.
  • They are known to be aggressive against humans, though some scientists dispute this reputation.
  • The Humboldt squid is an opportunistic predator and has been expanding its range. Once limited to South America and southern waters of North America, it has now been found s far north as Alaska.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A to Z Cephalopods: G for Giant Pacific Octopus

The Creation of Giant Pacific Octopus illustration
© 2013 Sylvia Liu

Giant Pacific Octopus Facts:

  • Giant Pacific octopus are the charismatic octopus often found in aquariums.
  • They are very smart (they can find and get food out of difficult mazes & puzzles; they recognize specific humans)
  • They are escape artists (they can fit through any hole that their beak can fit through)
  • The female giant Pacific octopus is the ultimate martyr mother. After her eggs are fertilized, she retreats to a cave and slowly & carefully braids the eggs (100,000 or so) into long chains that she attaches to the roof, which takes about a month. For about six months, she constantly waves her arms & blows water over them to keep them clean. When they emerge, she blows them out of the cave. She has not eaten the entire time and dies of starvation.
  • An aquarium that had a giant Pacific octopus and several dogfish sharks soon found the sharks mysteriously turning up dead in the morning. Cameras caught the culprit:

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Monday, December 9, 2013

A to Z Cephalopods: F for Fire Shooter Squid

© 2013 Sylvia Liu

Fire Shooter Squid Facts:

  • The Fire shooter squid (Heteroteuthis dispar) is a tiny deep-sea squid that uses a cloud of blue light instead of ink to confuse and distract its predators.
  • The squid has a special organ which houses bioluminescent bacteria.

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

A to Z Cephalopods: E for Euprymna scolopes (Hawaiian bobtail squid)

© 2013 Sylvia Liu

Hawaiian Bobtail Squid  (Euprymna scolopes) Facts:

  • This little guy fits in a human hand and is known to be quite laid-back
  • It spends most of the day buried in the sand. At night, it hunts.
  • The Hawaiian bobtail squid has a light organ in its mantle where it houses light-emitting bacteria. This helps the squid camouflage itself at night, because the light will match the level of moonlight that is out. Each morning, the squid ejects most of the bacteria, and during the day, the bacteria multiply again. 

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A to Z Cephalopods: D for Dana Octopus Squid

Dana Octopus Squid Illustration
© 2013 Sylvia Liu

Dana Octopus Squid facts:

  • The Dana octopus squid is one of the larger squids (reaching a length of 7.5 feet), living deep underwater
  • It has bioluminescent organs on the tips of its arms that it uses to shock and confuse its prey
  • When they mate, the male cuts deep gashes in the female's flesh where he deposits his sperm

Many of the facts I'm using for this series come from an excellent book, THE CURIOUS, EXCITING, AND SLIGHTLY DISTURBING SCIENCE OF SQUID, by Wendy Williams.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A to Z Cephalopods: C for Cuttlefish

© 2013 Sylvia Liu

Cuttlefish facts:

  • Being highly sought after delicious morsels, cuttlefish are masters of camouflage, despite the fact that they are color blind
  • Cuttlefish ink was the original sepia ink used by artists
  • Cuttlefish are very intelligent - they learn and have a frustration response
  • Their blood is greenish-blue because they use a copper-containing protein heocyanin, to carry oxygen, instead of the red iron-containing protein hemoglobin

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A to Z Cephalopods: B for Blue Ringed Octopus

© 2013 Sylvia Liu

Blue Ringed Octopus facts:

  • Blue ringed octopi generally use their colors for camouflage, but when they feel threatened, they flash their bright blue rings
  • Only 5-8 inches large, it's venom is deadly enough to kill humans, by paralyzing them and making it impossible to breath

Monday, December 2, 2013

A to Z Cephalopods: A for Architeuthis (Giant Squid)

© 2013 Sylvia Liu
I've continued to enjoy Alison Hertz's Doodle Day challenge, a Facebook group that posts a prompt every day, and artists and illustrators post a doodle. Some months have been themed, like Animals. This month, the theme is underwater creatures from A to Z. So Dec. 1 is any underwater animals that begins with an A.