The Best Short Story Contests for 2018


Aerogramme Studio, a blog dedicated to resources for writers, recently published an extensive list of short story contests for 2018. The list is heavy on established contests and offers with prize money and fellowships for the winners.

Why should you consider submitting your work to a writing contest? To get noticed. Why should you think twice before submitting work to a contest? Because they cost money to enter, your work could be tied up for the duration of the contest and some contests are fake.

One more thing to consider – some contests guarantee one thing. You will gain at least another reader.

Make Long, Wide Rip Cuts with Your Circular Saw

Kreg rip fence for circular saw

Let’s say you want to rip-cut some planks and plywood for a chicken coop and you don’t have a table saw. The Kreg Rip-Cut is a stand-alone fence that lets you make long, straight cuts with a circular saw.

Yes, many saws come with a rip fence as an accessory, but these accessories usually don’t extend more than 10 inches from the blade and they tend to be a little wobbly. The Kreg gives you up to 24 inches of cutting width and it’s rock-solid.

You can see the Kreg Rip-Cut in action, and find a link to purchase at Cool Tools.

Can an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Help Osteoarthritis?

anti-inflammatory fruits

Inflammation is one of the key symptoms of osteoarthritis accompanying pain and joint degeneration. It would make sense, then, that an anti-inflammatory diet would help to relieve some of the pain and discomfort, and possibly slow some deterioration.

The problem is that there is no clear evidence that an anti-inflammatory diet will relieve the symptoms of any particular disease.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Reduces Cytokines

There is pretty clear evidence that a diet high in Omega 3 fatty acids and low in refined grains can reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines and helps with the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines – proteins that help transmit signals within the body. There is general agreement that an anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce low levels of inflammation in most people.

Because of this most doctors and nutritionists will suggest that a diet low in inflammatory foods, such as the Mediterranean diet, certainly can’t hurt.

Reducing Inflammation May Not Be Enough

Even with inflammation reduced, certain diseases such as osteoarthritis will continue to progress. There is no clinical evidence that diet alone will slow the eventual progress of the disease or eliminate associated pain. For that reason most health care providers suggest a moderate diet in combination with other remedies such as exercise and losing weight.

There are plenty of testimonials online that suggest near-miraculous results from maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet. While the people who give these testimonials may indeed have experienced relief over pain and discomfort, it can’t be determined how much relief is coming from their diet and how much from exercise, weight loss or other therapies.

So while we don’t know whether or not an anti-inflammatory diet will help with osteoarthritis symptoms, it certainly can’t hurt.

Discover the Most Monumental Trees in the World

tallest tress in the world

If you like trees and love exploring, check out the site Monumental Trees. Here is an archive of some of the biggest, the tallest, the gnarliest and the oldest trees in the world.

Monumental Trees catalogs extraordinary trees and provides lots of tree-facts in the process.

I’ve written previously about the mysterious Grove of the Titans, a remote place in Northern California where some of the oldest old-growth redwoods can be seen. Monumental Trees maps these giant trees, including the Screaming Titan, a giant bifurcated tree with enormous mass.

[Via Boing Boing]

How to Mark Up Your Bible

how to mark your Bible

I’ve really tried to love Bible study apps like Youversion but I end up feeling like I’m trying to view the scope of history through a keyhole. Bible study seems to be richer and more effective when I use an old-fashioned paper Bible and mark the pages as I go.

Some people take the process of marking a Bible quite seriously, using particular colors and notations for particular things. I tried that for a while but it got confusing. That said, there are a few tips that might be helpful for your study.

Jeff Cavins gives some tips on type of Bible for study, what kind of pens to use and how to start marking.

Randy Brown gives a bunch of tips on using colors, marking definitions, and starting chain references.

If you want to go full Technicolor, Wes McAdams shares keys on how to color-code your Bible for study.

When Good Design Meets Design for Good – How to Build with the Users in Mind

good design

When it comes to architecture and urban design we often hear about the designer’s intentions but we hear less often about the impact the design has upon users. But according to John Cary good design must be considered within the web of impacts on users, stakeholders, and community.

At every level, design is a matrix of relationships—from clients who make decisions about projects to designers who bring life to those clients’ visions. In between, in a health-care setting, for example, are users who range from doctors and nurses to patients and family visitors, among many others. Then there are those who give physical form to the structures: construction workers, artisans, craftspeople, and scores of others.

Consider the picture above – a corridor built of natural materials that incorporates sunlight as a design element to create a pleasing, calming and wholesome environment. This is part of the St. Jerome’s Centre, a home for disadvantaged children in Kenya. One of the requirements of the center was security, meaning that the building had to be constructed like a fortress with no outside windows. To compensate for this the designers built courtyards with screens to filter sunlight. The materials were produced with sustainable methods, using discarded materials from local manufacturing.

The effect of St. Jerome’s Centre is to give street children not just a place to be, but a place to be whole and thrive.

Read more of John Cary’s thoughts on design as a public good at City Lab.

How to Tie a Knot for Most Situations – 12 Knots You Should Know


If you’re like me you know a few knots that get you through most situations. But then you have to haul home an antique Chippendale from the swap meet and you can’t figure out the best knot for tying your tie-down strap to another strap to keep the load secure in two directions.

Fortunately Gear Patrol has you covered with 12 Knots Every Man Should Master. Here are a dozen easy-to-follow videos that show you how to tie a particular knot plus what makes the knot so useful.

Knots covered are:

  • Boating Basics: Bowline Knot
  • Climbing Classic: Water Knot
  • Simple, But Effective: Girth Hitch
  • Great for Camping: Clove Hitch
  • Not Really a Knot: Basket Hitch
  • For Laces Not Lifelines: Square Knot
  • Simple and Strong: Half Hitch
  • Most Reliable: Double Fishermans
  • Another Climbing Stalwart: Flemish Bend
  • A Last Resort: Granny Knot
  • Great In A Pinch: Alpine Butterfly
  • Perfect for Rooftop Tie-Downs: Trucker’s Hitch

Previously on Wild Rye: Know Your Knot – a collection of important knots and how to tie them.

5 Ways to Get a Fresh Start in 2018

brooke-lark fruits via unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Yes here is yet another post in the “X ways to do X that are so simple that you must be a moron if you’re not doing them already” genre. Only these aren’t insights from your typical productivity gurus.

Five of my favorite ideas for starting fresh:

Opportunities multiply as they are seized. — Sun Tzu

[From Dr. Gabriel Robbins’ Good Quotations by Famous People – an awesome curated group of quotes]

I keep turning over new leaves, and spoiling them, as I used to spoil my copybooks; and I make so many beginnings there never will be an end. (Jo March)
— Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

[From Good Reads]

I know people who grow old and bitter. I want to keep making a fresh start. I don’t want them to defeat me. That would be suicidal. — Robert Wyatt

[From Brainy Quotes]

You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call Failure is not the falling down, but the staying down. — Mary Pickford

[From Quoteland]

…to emphasize the afterlife is to deny life. To concentrate on Heaven is to create hell. In their desperate longing to transcend the disorderliness, friction, and unpredictability that pesters life; in their desire for a fresh start in a tidy habitat, germ-free and secured by angels, religious multitudes are gambling the only life they may ever have on a dark horse in a race that has no finish line. — Tom Robbins

[From The Quotations Page]

Thomas Fire Trail Closures for 2018

thomas fire trail closures

Along with the loss of life and property caused by 2017’s Thomas Fire, there is also considerable damage to the region’s front country trails. Thomas Fire Trail Closures are still unknown because the fire is still active and all trail access within the perimeter is suspended (with heavy fines for violating).

According to the Los Padres Forest Trails Association over 127 miles of trails and 100 miles of forest roads have been damaged. Some of these trails could be closed for years. The full extent of the damage won’t be known until crews can get into the area and survey trail conditions.

When the surveys are complete then sites like Hike Los Padres will be updated. But until the fire is out and the surveys start pouring in, don’t assume that any of these trails are open.

To get the latest info on trail conditions in the Santa Barbara area visit Ray Ford’s Noozhawk column.

To see the area considered closed to access you can view the Forest Service Thomas fire closure map (shown above).

The text of emergency Los Padres forest closures is available here.


Writing Goals 2018 – Write with Intention

just four men rolling a barrel in a park

In 2017 I finished two NaNoWriMo projects that I started (one in 2016) and now have two potential novels. What’s the next step?

Chuck Wendig gives a clue – write with intentionality.

But in writing this thing, I tried to take it slow, even as I wrote it fast. I tried to pause with scenes and chapters and ask myself along the way: why is this here? Not only that, but what do I want this scene, this chapter, to do? Specifically, what do I want it to do_to the reader_? I want them to feel a certain way, so how do I engineer that feeling with story and character?

Wendig talks abut being in touch with the purpose of your writing from the earliest moments. The writer’s intentions will dictate word choice, character development, scene and setting.

In a very tl;dr piece C. H. Knoblauch takes a deep dive into intentionality and writing, arguing that intentionality is the third leg of an Aristotlian stool, supported by subject and requirements of the situation. This suggests that you can start with great characters and a compelling setting but without intention you’ll be flat on your ass.

[Via terribleminds]

Pop Goes the Knee – My Journey with Osteoarthritis

types of meniscus tears

In September 2016 while on an easy 3 mile jog I stepped wrong and felt my knee “pop.” I felt a sharp pain and had to limp home where I put ice on my knee. I tried ice and rest for a few days with no improvement so went off to see my doctor where I was referred to an orthopedist. An MRI and several X-rays revealed that not only did I have a probable torn meniscus, but I also had osteoarthritis, to the point where there is not enough cartilage remaining in my right knee to make a repair possible.

The orthopedist said there was not much I could do short of total knee replacement. I asked about physical therapy and he said that it often simply makes the condition worse.

I tried the recommended treatments, rest, ice and a started wearing a neoprene sleeve. Eventually my knee felt better – good enough that my wife and I took up ballroom dance lessons.

I also went to another orthopedist for a second opinion and he referred me to physical therapy, mostly stretching exercises to relieve pressure on the patella. I’ve had injections of hyaluronic acid – a lubricant to help supplement the synovial fluid in the knee joint. More recently I’ve had new pain in my left knee which the doctor thinks might also be a torn meniscus. However in this case he thinks there might be enough cartilage to be worth a repair.

After this I had cortisone injections, which helped a little but weren’t as big a relief as I was expecting.

So far the pain isn’t constant. I’ll have a “flare up” that can last two weeks or so. After a little rest my knees will be comfortable enough to walk normally. Recently I had a touch of fever, probably a seasonal bug, and remarkably all pain and discomfort vanished from my knees. Now that I’m done with the fever I can feel discomfort in my knee joints again. I don’t know if the fever interrupted the inflammatory response in my knees or exactly what that was about.

If the disease progresses normally and I end up with knee replacement surgery then I can expect to get worse and become more immobile over the next 4-5 years until a major surgery might offer relief. I realize that I need to learn more about the disease, treatments and what I can do to make things better in the mean time. So as I learn more, I’ll post more.

Time Lapse Gingerbread House You Could Live In

best gingerbread house

If you happen to be four inches tall and be named “Hansel” or “Gretel” then this might be the time to start applying for a mortgage. This clever video by Susan Aitken shows every step of making a move-in-ready gingerbread house from initial sketch to final sugar sprinkles.

This gingerbread house is based on Marie Antoinette’s mill at Versailles.

For more of Susan Aitken’s fanciful gingerbread creations see her slideshow here.

[Via Digg]

Was Christ Really Born on Christmas?

Photo by Martin Jernberg on Unsplash

Christ was born on Christmas Day, or so goes the 14th century hymn translated by John Mason Neale. But December 25th hasn’t always been the date when Christ’s birth was celebrated by the church. The questions surrounding the date of Christmas Day are fascinating and involve a great deal more history, tradition and detective work than you might imagine.

Here are a few of the arguments pro and con a December 25 date for Jesus’ birthday:

Philocalian Calendar

The first recorded date for the celebration of Christ’s birth on December 25 comes from a small book sometimes known as the Chronography of 354. This book lists births and deaths of various bishops and martyrs and as the traditional date for Christmas marked as December 25.


One popular revisionist take on Christmas is that the holiday was based on the Roman holiday of Saturnalia. This was a harvest festival traditionally celebrated for seven days starting on December 17. The celebration involved festive attire, giving small gifts like dolls and candles, and acts of goodwill such as a landowner paying the rent of poor tenants. While all of this does indeed sound pretty Christmas-y, some historians think Saturnalia was a kind of fringe celebration by the time the Church adopted the December date.

Birth of the Sun God

Saturnalia was bumped from the Roman calendar of festival days by the Mithraic celebration of Sol Invictus. By the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, The Sun God had supplanted the position of Jupiter as the head of the Roman Pantheon. The birth of the Sun God was celebrated on December 25, the date of the winter solstice.

The Roman emperor Constantine was brought up in the Sol traditions and was a worshipper of Sol Invictus . The fact that Constantine eventually became a Christian and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire provides some circumstantial evidence behind Sol Invictus as the origin of Christmas.

Shepherd and Their Flocks

The Bible itself seems to give us evidence that December 25 was unlikely to be Christ’s true birthday. Some scholars settle on mid-September for the most likely birthday for Jesus. The argument goes like this:

1) Shepherds would not have been tending their flocks in the fields at night any later than October. Cold winter weather would have required them to move the sheep to pens closer to town.

2) Jesus was born six months after his cousin John the Baptist. It can be determined from the biblical text when John’s father Zechariah served as a priest, roughly from May to June. A little middle-school level math gives you a September-ish date for Christ’s birth.

3) Herod wouldn’t have likely put the census during Chanuka. A known hater of the Hasmoneans, Herod was not a big fan of the Feast of Lights. Some scholars think it more likely that he would have chosen September’s celebration of Sukot for the census that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.

Backdating from Jesus Death

There’s an interesting argument that establishes Christ’s birth on December 25 well before the time of Constantine, suggesting that the traditional date was in place before pagan influences put the date on the calendar.

1) Creation of the world. Traditions put the date as March 25, the date of the vernal equinox.

2) Date of Christ’s conception. The traditional date for the Feast of the Annunciation (and thereby the date Christ was conceived) is March 25.

3) Date of Christ’s death. While there is also some controversy over the exact date of Christ’s death, the traditional date is March 25.

4) Some traditions believe that prophets tend to die on the exact date that they were conceived. Thus they exit the world at the same time they entered it.

So there we have it, early traditions had a number of ways to establish March 25 as the date Jesus was conceived. Nine months later you get…Christmas Day on December 25.

Conspiracy of Meaning

Until we invent a time machine there is no way to know for certain what calendar date marks the true birth date of Jesus of Nazareth. But all of these theories and speculations provide a lot of food for thought. Follow any of these rabbit trails and you start learning a lot of amazing things about early Church history and the depth of thought of early Church founders.

Starting Over with a Clean Sheet: A Meditation on Wholeness

clean sheet of paper

A clean sheet of paper contains the set of all possibilities. The blank page can become a picture, a story, a poem. Anything that can be imagined can be represented on this blank sheet of paper.

Because there are no limits to the possibilities that can be contained on a single sheet of paper, this page is a good metaphor for the Whole. You can think of the Whole as that which contains all other things in the Universe.

Without getting too philosophical about it I find it interesting and helpful from time to time to imagine an empty sheet of paper and empty the contents of my thoughts onto this imaginary paper. Let’s say that I want to make a sandwich but I’ve run out of bread and I don’t want to go to the store.

I consider this situation – imagining it written or drawn or otherwise represented on my blank sheet of paper. For instance I might imagine the empty space in the fridge where the bread should be or I might picture the store where more bread can be found. Then I ask myself *what else is there?* I might picture a can of soup. If I’m thinking about the store I might picture a park near the store. If I ask again *what else is there?* I might think of last night’s leftover lasagna or fountain near the park that I’ve been wanting to sketch.

Suddenly, by expanding my understanding of what was previously on my mind – the lack of bread with which to make a sandwich – I suddenly have a new range of possibilities. While I really didn’t want to make a trip to the store I do kind of want to go the park and sketch that fountain, so why not pick up some bread on the way home?

In this way a clean sheet of paper can help me take a broader view of life by helping me to think about Wholeness.