Sunday, July 31, 2011

Adieu, lawn.

Tomorrow we take another step into the green by ripping out the lawn. It was useful when our kids were small, but became a thirsty weed-patch over the years. And besides, our county (Santa Clara, California) gives rebates if you replace lawns with abstemious plants. The new landscape will fit right in with our solar panels, compost bin and (to complete the smug) Prius. Ah, that compost bin. We used to dig our compost into the vegetable patch, but we gave that up when animals started beating us to all the interesting vegetables. We still put appropriate stuff into the bin, but the level remains the same, and we notice some entry and exit routes. Oh well. Better to put the stuff into wildlife than into the landfill or down the sink. (But what do those animals make of the coffee grounds? Do they get a buzz? Stay up all night, or all day, as the case may be?)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mouse evolution

Some twenty-five years before Mousenet starts, mice “wouldn’t have recognized a computer if it bit them in the foot.” I suspect they were always smart, but until they acquired language, who could tell? The breakthrough came in Silicon Valley, California, when hundreds of computer companies were just starting up:

 “These companies were different. The people who worked there were young guys who wore jeans instead of suits, and often ate food at their desks. Some of them didn’t mind the fact that their leftover food attracted mice. Some of them even let the mice watch them work, day after day, week after week, month after month.

“And that’s all it took. After months of watching, the mouse minds sprang to life, recognizing first one word on a screen, then another, then more, until in time these first mice learned to read and write well enough to use computers themselves. They taught their friends, who taught their friends, and soon mice throughout the world had their own version of the Internet, carefully protected by passwords from prying human eyes. Now mice could e-mail each other, and write their opinions in mouse blogs, and post news about themselves on MouseBook, and check facts in Whiskerpedia, and take on-line course on nutrition and safety and human behavior and world events.”

But using human computers was a pain, and the hunt was on for a computer their size. . .

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mice and the climate

So when did mice start to worry about climate change? It was in 2007, when my husband and I were having dinner in Amsterdam with an ex-student of his, Surya Green (herself the author of a book called "The Call of the Sun: A woman's journey to the heart of wisdom.") I gave her a quick summary of the plot of my book, which at that time ended with mice making the Thumbtop computers they need. Surya asked what happens next–what would mice do with their new power? And the answer was obvious. If any species can fix climate change–and do it soon–it’s mice. Right?

Monday, July 25, 2011

More on Mousenet

Here’s a little background on Mousenet. Yes, there are talking mice, but the book is not anthropomorphic. It’s science fiction, relating what happened when mice evolved, with a little help from Silicon Valley. When the story begins the Mouse Nation is already out there, a parallel society behind the walls and below the floor, a nation with its own systems of governance and education and justice, its own website and e-mail and social media. If only they had a computer their size. . .

And moi:

Just back from our annual weekend at the Carmel Bach Festival which has a new English director, Paul Goodwin. Anglophilia ran riot with Land of Hope and Glory being played in an outside sing-along, Union Jacks flying, a thundering performance of Zadok the Priest (borrowed from all British coronations from 1727 onwards) and a big dose of Vaughan Williams. And oh yes, lots of Bach, including a half-operatic St John’s Passion with everyone in jeans and the chorus and soloists wandering about. Worked beautifully.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mousenet lives!

Hi everybody -this is my first post as Mousenet makes its stately way towards publication on November 8th. It'll be just in time (given this viciously hot summer) because in addition to their other skills, mice know how to fix climate change.

That guy on the cover is Trey, otherwise known as Talking Mouse Three, one of a handful of mice who have been trained to talk since mice evolved. (All other mice are stuck with e-mail or Mouse Sign Language). Their problem: it's hard using human computers, which is where ten-year-old Megan comes in because she helped her uncle invent the Thumbtop, the smallest computer in the world.  Read all about it!