Friday, December 23, 2011

Three Little Pigs Retold

Hilarious comedy routine by John Branyan on difference between Shakespeare's vocabulary and typical American's today. Worth a couple of minutes of your time. (Thanks to Lorina Stephens of Five River Books for the tip.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Interview with me

Interview with me and two other authors from the Tesseracts 15 anthology at Totally Tesseracts blog as part of Tess 15 launch.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Couple of good YouTubes

Morning Dew is unbelievably good photography of morning dew. Worth a look!

Murmuration of Starlings is astounding bit of nature photography.

What is kind of interesting about this last one is this is what happens when you give millions of people digital cameras. Murmuration of starlings is one of those things that you'd used to hear about but you couldn't really get because, okay, it's a bunch of birds flying around, but so? But you see it and you go, "what the heck is that?! Zowie!" and it knocks you over. It's like watching something from an SF movie. But catching that on camera is one of those rare things because you can't really predict it and you can't have a camera crew sitting around for a year waiting. But with 200 million digital cameras out there, sooner or later, some lucky amateur gets something like this.

The first video shows you what someone can do with talent and a really good camera.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Word on the Street (Lethbridge)

Today was the Word on the Street Festival, the first iteration for Lethbridge. On the upside, it was nice to see some version of this national event in the city; on the downside, organization left something to be desired.

My primary complaint is that the contracted organizer seemed to miss that this was supposed to be about the written word. Three quarters of the booths and activities had some other focus: ethnic food, a roller derby booth, blood donors, jazz and country musicians, ethnic dancers, face painting, and so on. I get that the organizer was trying for a festive atmosphere with lots of interesting things happening, but it did rather end up feeling more like the random collection of tables/tents one gets at the weekly farmer's market than anything remotely related to the written word.

Furthermore, the logic of setting up a bandstand and installing a country singer at one end of the block while setting up poetry readings and meet-the-author events downwind along the same block of his city-blasting sound system escapes me. At one point Tigana and I walked past a choir of 20 or more singers whose lips appeared to be moving but from whom we could detect no sound, given the banshee wail of the country performer. What was the point of this arrangement? If I were the choir, I would have been supremely pissed to have been asked to perform under such inappropriate conditions. I know that we certainly didn't bother even trying to listen to the various author readings, for it was clearly a hopeless endeavour. Giving priority to the bandstand over the authors seems to rather severely miss the whole point of the exercise! Why weren't the authors given the bandstand sound system, and the musicians off in the corners, instead of the other way around?

And where were the literary activities? Face paint for the kids is all well and good, but where is the instant poetry booth, the magnetic poetry board, the graffiti wall, the improve group, the word-oriented kids activities? Or adult activities, for that matter? There was nothing to involve, engage the passerby that had anything to do with writing or reading -- clearly, the organizer didn't believe words would be enough and opted for Festival Filler instead.

And Tigana burst into laughter at the sight of the heavily advertized 'bouncy house for the kids' -- it was smaller by half than our own family's backyard version, purchased from Costco; it wasn't even the size of the entrance to the bouncy house at the house party we had attended the night before. For a city-wide event, advertizing a bouncy house as the main attraction for the kids, I think we imagined something bigger than a toddler's wading pool. It was embarrassing.

I have to give some credit for organizing skype conferences with various authors; but I know it embarrassed Mary to live in a community with so few writers we had to skype in speakers. And when I talked to a couple of writers I knew forlornly manning the autograph table and asked how sales of their books had been, one Edmonton author confessed she'd only sold one book, and that to the out of town author sitting next to her.

The University bookstore did an excellent job of profiling itself as somewhere to buy books other than texts, and they were good to have copies of all the featured authors available for sale. But I can't help wondering if they broke even on the deal....

I hope the event goes again next year...but I hope the organization is a little better.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Quote of the Week

If I rave about a book I love and I have it with me, I am absolutely not going to give it to you. If I love it that much, I am going to keep it. And if I love it even more than that, the thought of you even borrowing it and maybe smudging up the dust jacket and cracking the spine makes me throw up a little in my mouth. So buy your own copy. Or pirate it.

-Sandra Kasturi, publisher, editor, poet.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Nut Allergies

Life is good.

Went to the specialist in Calgary, after an 18 month wait, and was cleared of suspicion of nut allergies. I had been suffering from hives for several months, and correlation with consumption of almonds/marzipan was sufficiently compelling for my doctor to order me to stop eating all nuts and to carry an epipen with me at all times. The hives vanished the second I stopped eating nuts; the one episode of hives I had after that, when I went back through every thing I had eaten that day, I found a "may contain traces of almonds" label, so that freaked me out a little -- if mere traces of almonds could now trigger the reaction, strongly suggested that problem was escalating. So I went 18 months without eating any tree nuts. Which I discovered are in everything everywhere. Indeed, "almonds are the new peanuts", peanut allergies being sufficiently widespread and scary that a lot of places (schools, cruise ships, many restaurants) have simply banded them, often replacing them in recipes with almonds.

Besides having to avoid a lot of my favorite dishes, I was constantly annoyed by packaged foods with the "may contain traces of" warning labels, since the legal department insists on putting that warning on everything, whether or not there is actually any chance of contamination. A colleague passed me a research article on a study into what the variations in the wording of these warnings meant (did "processed on the same equipment that processes peanuts and tree nuts" imply more or less danger than "may contain traces of", etc.) and the researchers concluded that all the warnings were meaningless legalese. Basically, if you have allergies, you shouldn't eat processed foods.

But tests proved I'm good to go. I'm not allergic to anything I was tested for. The hives were just random outbreaks caused by underlying thyroid issue, which I already knew about and which is not serious.

So life is good!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tesseracts 15 Launched

Robert Runté reading from "Split Decision" at Edge book launch, When Words Collide Festival, August 14, 2011 (Photo John Archer)

I was at the When Words Collide Festival in Calgary last weekend, where Edge publications launched their Tesseracts 15: A Case of Quite Curious Tales collection. As one of the contributors in attendance, I was asked to read a brief excerpt (the first 1/3) from my story. The readings were a wild success -- I can hardly wait to read the stories by the other authors who read excerpts, they were all exceptional -- and I was completely overwhelmed by the reaction to my own reading. I had hoped that my story was amusing, but had no idea that it could generate the gales of laughter with which it was greeted by the live audience. The publisher was apparently surprised too, because they approached me to do a second reading at their multiple book launch again the next day. I read the second 1/3 of my story, again generating a much stronger audience reaction than I would have ever believed possible. The audience for the Edge multiple launches was much bigger than that for the first reading, so the impact of having that many people 'getting' my humor was overwhelming for me. I have never done a public reading of anything I'd written before, so always thought of writing as a solitary and introspective act. You send stuff out there, but you never really know how people are reacting, even if they comment that they liked your story. Hearing their laughter live, is an entirely different experience. Equally gratifying are the tweets and emails I received following the festival telling me how much people had enjoyed the story, a couple even going so far as to say my reading was the highlight of the convention for them. Talk about validation! I could see public readings becoming quite addictive!

The avalanche of positive feedback for that story contrasts sharply with the invisibility of my role as editor. The books I edit for Five Rivers do acknowledge my role in the colophon, but I doubt that many people notice or care -- I can't imagine getting a congratulatory email saying "nice job editing on that book!" since it is by definition an invisible role. Audiences never get to see the before and after manuscripts, or alternate versions of the novel by a different editor (as one gets with directors and plays), so there is no basis upon which readers can judge what editors do. And it is even worse in the case of my growing freelance business (, since most of the writers who come to me for coaching do not want anyone else to ever find out that they sought the help of a development editor. I feel I have had a major impact on the success of at least a couple of authors, but no one will ever know because the advice is always given in strictest confidence.

Given how much I enjoyed the positive public feedback I received this weekend, I may have to reconsider how much time I am devoting to editorial work verses my own writing. Though, editing does pay better, and I am really good at it. Hmm, maybe it's my day job I'll have to give up....

Though professoring is a pretty good gig too. Indeed, I've just received confirmation that I have been given the 2012-2013 year off teaching to write a textbook on student evaluation, so there is one book I will be writing for sure (and getting paid for). Now, to see if I can write a textbook that generates the same sort of positive feedback. (Well, I do intend to use a lot of humor -- god knows, the field could definitely use it. The other texts are all so uniformly boring!) Much as I enjoy teaching (comes with a live, captive audience) it will be wonderful to have time to write without feeling like I am stealing time from my family, students, or etc.

Anyway, can't wait to read the reviews of Tesseracts 15 when they come out...I just got my author's copy at the convention, so I haven't read it yet myself, but if the author readings this weekend were any indication, its one of the best YA collections in years, so should do extremely well. The publisher's table sold out of all the copies they had brought to the convention, so that is probably a good sign. The editor told me they had over 300 submissions, and that they just took the best of the best, so I am really looking forward to reading it. I am definitely in good company with this one!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

On Publishing

Blog entry on publishingby Edmonton author Krista D. Ball reads as if it were written by me, so might as well include it here.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Tigana Spring Recital

Tigana sings "Who Has Seen the Wind" (by Christina Rossetti and Douglas E. Wagner) and

"Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again"(by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart) at Spring Recital June 22, 2011.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Beware the Wrath of Kasia

Yesterday being the first day after the end of school, I took Kasia to the park. She chose to go to her school playground, having outgrown the baby swings at our local park and presumably missing the school playground already. Unfortunately, when we arrived, this is what we found:

Kasia was not amused. She couldn't believe the vandalism she was seeing, even though she known for sometime that the old playground had been slated for demolition and replacement with a more modern one. To her, the existing wooden playground was a magical place, not only for her and her grade 1 peers, but for her older sister, Tigana, who had spent 5 years at this school ahead of her.

So Kasia started complaining bitterly, while I tried to calm and reassure her that there would soon be a brand new playground in its place. But Kasia was having none of that and started screaming, "I hate them, I hate them!"

I tried to suggest that what she meant was she hated the necessity of tearing down her old and familiar playground, but that 'hate' was a very strong word that should only be directed against people one something bad to happen to.
Kasia's face turned red, and she exploded at me: "No, Dad! I literally hate them!" and I could feel Kasia's anger projecting out and forming this metaphoric black cloud above our heads.

It was kind of freaky seeing the intensity of Kasia's emotion, the blast of pure malevolence aimed at the hapless demolition workers. And a Harlan Ellison short story -- wherein the protagonist gets so obsessively pissed that the negative karma focused on the target effectively curses the object of his hatred -- flashed across my mind.

And as I am thinking Kasia's hate looks very much like that kind of elemental force, I hear a crash from behind me, and turn to see that the rear window of the Caterpillar tractor working on the demolition has been smashed in. The driver stops, gets out to survey the damage, and then grabs a two by four from the park wreckage to smash out the remaining shards -- dangerous, scary pieces of glass waiting to stab the operator in the back, where he not to finish the job of destroying the window.

You can just make out the top half of 'Caterpillar" brand name on the rear of the tractor, the bottom half having been written on the now missing glass.

When I turned around again, Kasia had calmed down considerably; she was now merely muttering about the waste of lumber and her annoyance that they weren't even recycling the wood to make another park somewhere else...her usual green rant. But um....bolt of psychic energy, definitely dissipated.

The next day, they had posted the plans for the new playground (above), but I have to agree with Kasia that I don't immediately see how the new one is an improvement. The old one was wood, which is kind of nifto in and of itself, and had lots of places to hide and to contest the high ground, and so on, whereas the new one seems to be entirely see-through. But perhaps that's the point from a playground supervision/safety pov. Anyway, we'll see what Kasia thinks when the new one is completed in late August (just in time for start of the new school year).

But forget about the playground. When I got home, I took Tigana aside and said, "Word to the wise: don't ever really, I mean really, piss off your little sister, okay?"

Friday, June 17, 2011

Father's Day 2011

Kasia's portrait of me for Father's day. Not sure if the lack of beard reflects her forgetting I had one or just that beards are hard to draw. Line across my forehead represents glasses, and two extra eyes are ears. Careful examination reveals my bald spot.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


is the number of times I'm mentioned in Wikipedia. But no page devoted to me yet. Rosanne Runte, Alfred Runte and Fritz von Runte have their own pages; Dan Runte doesn't get his own page, but his truck (Big Foot) does; and Kurt Max Runte (the actor) gets eight mentions, just like me.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mary appointed Director Social Responsibility

Monday saw the official announcement of Mary's appointment as Director of Social Responsibility and Not-for-Profit programs, for the Management Faculty at the UofL. She's been doing a lot of the ground work off the corner of her desk for the last couple of years to develop these two areas within the Faculty, so it is nice to see her not only being acknowledged for these efforts, but that the Faculty agrees that these are important foci for any Management Faculty these days, and is developing the structures necessary to support them.

It has been fascinating to watch how the management field has changed over the last decade. When Mary and I started attending the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada Conference ten years ago, there was no division within the ASAC for Social Responsibility; Mary had to found it. It became the fastest growing division, and is now (I believe) the largest division with the ASAC. (Mary was honoured with an ASAC Service Award for her efforts in founding and Chairing the division.) Similarly, ten years ago I could count on my fingers the number of Universities that had courses, let alone majors or minors, in CSR. Now, I'd estimate that the majority do -- including UofL.

Similarly, I remember the reaction way back when Mary started her MBA and went to York because she wanted to specialize in Ethics, and it was one of the few management programs with any ethics component -- her peers would ask her, "why would you want to study ethics? What has that got to do with business?" It was astounding to me how often she was asked that throughout her MBA and PhD programs -- and so a lot less astounding for me when various business scandals broke, e.g., Enron, or the more recent collapse of the American financial system and subsequent world recession. Well, gee, maybe corporate social responsibility deserves a little more prominence in faculties of management!

But we are seeing that change... CSR has become a more significant part of management training.

Now, if they would just get the message that the NonProfit sector is huge, growing, and in need of better, more broadly trained managers...I think we're beginning to see the realization that management training is about developing leadership rather than strictly staffing the for-profit sector. It will be interesting to see where that goes in the next ten years.

Of course, the one drawback with Mary's promotion is that she now outranks me! Fortunately, I'm in another faculty so I can pretend that I too am a leading faculty member in my own sphere-- though recently I've begun to suspect that when my colleagues refer to me as 'a senior faculty member' they are referring to my age rather than my influence....

Monday, April 11, 2011

New Ambassador Appointed to Babylon 5

Centauri ambassadors recalled, new younger ambassador appointed:

Okay, that probably doesn't really work since hair is pointing in the wrong direction, but Kasia was having a really bad hair day, so when I said the words, "Centauri ambassador" to Mary, she bent over laughing -- which left poor innocent Kasia hopelessly confused....

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Short Story Published

Was pleased to learn that my short story, "Split Decision" has been accepted for publication in Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case of Quite Curious Tales, edited by Julie Czerneda and Susan MacGregor, (from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, ISBN 978-1-894063-58-6; $15.95 -- available for pre-order from for $11.48.) Official release is set for September.

I am trying to find time for more fiction writing, but most of that energy has gone into my novel, and it is pretty slow going, so when the call for submissions for Tesseracts 15 opened, I decided to write something for it. The last short story I wrote was "The Luck of Charles Harcourt", which was printed in the first issue of On Spec magazine, summer of 1989, so it had been a while!

The theme for this issue was Young Adult SF. I had an idea for a short story kicking around for some time that might suit, but before I could put pen to paper, my daughter rushed in and started telling me about some incident at school. Making sense of an excited 13 year-old's stream-of-consciousness narrative is often quite challenging, because without knowing the context of her many self-referential allusions, it is often difficult to follow how the various bits of the story connect to each other. Like a detective, one has to use interview probes to slow and direct the initial rush of verbiage, and then deconstruct what is being said to tease out the unstated assumptions and the missing pieces that provide the logical connections between the various bits bulletting past. Standing there listening to this fascinating web of seemingly irrelevant detail, I asked myself, what would it sound like if my daughter were trying to tell me something completely outside my experience, where I had no chance to figure out the missing context? So I took Tigana and her friends and dumped them into an SF scenario, and the first draft was finished in about six hours. After some helpful input from my wife ("kids don't call it that any more -- my god, you're old") and Lorina Stevens (Shadow Song and From Mountains of Ice), I was done. Couple months later, I'm in. That's a little faster turn around than one gets with a novel!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Gender Gap in Book Reviewing

Interesting post today at Society Pages (a sociological site) on gender gap in book reviewing -- major review outlets feature more book reviews by males, and more reviews of books written by males.

Of course, the larger question must be how big a role these print format reviews still play as arbiter's of taste, in a world shifting to eformat books and online reviews. Anyone up for doing a gender analysis of Amazon's or Indigo's or Goodread's reviews?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

A cautionary tale for all...

As I was working on my computer this evening -- editing a book on organic gardening for Five Rivers Press, as it happens -- I became aware of a burning pain in my right thigh. I wondered vaguely what kind of muscular problem would cause a burning sensation in that particular spot, and why it was so much worse this evening, when I couldn't actually remember it being among the catalog of minor aches and pains that seem to be slowly multiplying as I age. This train of thought was still in the process of forming, however, not really even out of the station, when a more urgent message arrived from my leg to my brain: Your pants are on fire!

I jumped up out of my seat, confused, and grabbed my leg through my pants, hand instantly confirming that this was no false report from a misfiring leg nerve -- my hand too detected intense heat.

I plunged my hand into my pocket, and yanked out as best I could -- my fingers complaining that they did not want to touch the stove-hot item, but my leg urging them on with equally great need to get away from the pain, and less flexibility to act -- first my car keys, then a handful of inexplicably sizzling coins, and at last a too- hot-to-touch metal cylinder. I had to work that last item out toward the pocket opening by pushing through the fabric of my pants, it being far too hot to handle. What eventually plopped onto the table was a c-battery.

Close examination of the offending battery revealed that it had started to melt around the top edges. It took about 10 minutes of cooling before I could pick it up to examine, during which time both kids came over to tentatively touch keys, coins and battery with squeals of delighted horror. My 12 yr old looks at me and says, "Dad, really? You put a battery in a pocket filled with metal coins and keys? What were you thinking? Even I know better than that!"

Thinking back, I vaguely remembered temporarily stuffing it my pocket as I was trying to fit one too many D cells into my battery rack in the garage. I had stuffed the new Ds in the nearly empty C row while I tested some of the old Ds with the built-in battery tester. The one C had no where to go but my pocket while I borrowed the C row. And then forgot about it. It must have been in my pocket for five or six hours without issue. Then, sitting to edit, it must have just have scrunched up against keys and coins in just the right combination to short circuit.

Okay, not a mistake I am likely to make again any time soon! But in the past I have routinely carried pairs of AAs in my pants pockets as standbys for my camera, and nothing like this ever happened. I often have half a dozen AAs and AAAs in my computer case for various peripherals, mixed in the usual tangle of cables, coins, and pens and spare keys. I'm surprised, in retrospect, that I haven't been caught out by a short circuit before. Know better now.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Runte Christmas 2010

Yes, I know the tie doesn't go, but it is a Xmas tie from my 7 year old, so what could I do?

We had a quiet xmas at home this year: no travel.

Tigana mostly got cool clothes and is old enough, and enough of a clothes horse, to think that was fabulous. I gave mary a necklace from the museum of modern art catalog and a dress and shawl from Fairmount boutique; and I got a meteorite from Kasia (WAY cool), various fossils, a joystick driven etchasketch, a book on useless Japanese inventions (which Tigana also fell in love with), and a good winter coat.

Mostly Mary and I wrap up whatever we buy ourselves in Nov/Dec (e.g., dvds) and put those under the tree so it looks like a lot of stuff, but we do try to keep the materialistic orgy down to our usual quarterly purchases. The big present, though, was a Disney cruise for Reading Week in February. We usually need a break in Feb, both from campus and from winter in Lethbridge, and Mary got an unbelievable deal on the cruise -- much less than we'd pay for any other holiday -- about what it costs my brother-in-law for his annual stay in Jasper. Jasper's nice and all, but, you know -- Disney cruise!

Ghost Dancer's Shadow

The other memorable gift this year was that Tigana "adopted" a pony in a wild horse preserve and gave that to her sister, pony-mad Kasia. So Kasia got a photo and adoption package for 'her' pony, Ghost Dancer's Shadow, for Christmas. (Kasia is, of course, only one of many sponsors for the horses, but in her mind, she now has her own pony!)