Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Koi on a Sunday

At the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum

An Educational Saturday

Various museums at Balboa Park (San Diego)














Some Thoughts on NaNoWriMo 2014

Writing this year’s NaNoWriMo novel was probably one of the most difficult novels I’ve written. Originally, I had challenged myself to write a historical fantasy novel by the seat of my pants, but after Day 1, I knew that was pretty much a disaster. Unless I had a Ph.D. in Venetian history (which I obviously don’t), that novel was not going to happen this year without me taking time out to do some research.

So on Day 2, I scrapped that idea and decided to do an urban fantasy set in San Diego. Theoretically it would be a no brainer. It would be set in present day in a place that I live. I could throw in unicorns and dragons and magic–basically everything and the kitchen sink–without worrying about reality. No research necessary. Unfortunately, I had a different set of problems. I had no idea who my characters were, what they were going to do, and where everything was headed. Basically it was the writing equivalent of flying blind.

I definitely learned something from this experience. I cannot purely pants a story. My brain simply doesn’t work that way. Next year, I’m going back to planning.

* * *

This year I also transferred regions as a municipal liaison. As the new person in town and put into a position of “authority” (I wasn’t really the authority of anything–mostly an organizer) there was definitely a feeling of uncertainty there on what the region would be expecting of me and what I would learn about the region. There was also already an established ML in San Diego so I had to be fairly careful that when I advocated new ideas, they didn’t trample on already rooted regional traditions.

Some of the ideas worked. Some didn’t. When things didn’t work, of course, I’m a bit annoyed at first. But I don’t dwell on those things too much. There’s always more new ideas to try out next year. I guess that’s the advantage of being an experienced ML with a laid back attitude–you don’t take things personally when things don’t pan out.

I already have some ideas on how to improve next year, attendance-wise at least. I also want to increase the diversity of the participation, but I’m not sure how to go about doing that. Oh, don’t get me wrong. The wrimos I’ve met are all wonderful people. But I want more people, from all walks of life, to participate. Unfortunately, I think achieving this may take more effort than I have time for.

* * *

Leading word sprints on @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter was theoretically a huge time sink, but I was able to multitask a bunch of things while doing that at the same time. This November, compared to previous years and Camp NaNo, I’ve noticed more people voicing their displeasure with certain prompts or prompt themes. During the last couple of days, I’ve also noticed some people constantly tweeting at the account in an attempt to get noticed. The rest of the month, people were tweeting questions that could have been answered readily at the Reference Desk on the NaNo forums. My guess is that either they were impatient, desperate for a retweet from the sprints account, or both. And then there were the people who kept retweeting every single thing on the sprints account and drowning out legitimate replies on the notifications feed.

But those are minor annoyances. I think what keeps people coming back to be sprint leaders is the high you get when you help someone achieve their word count goals. I managed to do at least one sprint session every day. How many of my prompts ended up in someone’s NaNo novel? Who knows. But it is kind of funny to speculate that perhaps one of my prompts ended up in a future best selling novel.

NaNoWriMo 2014 Prompts for Week 4

As I mentioned before, I’ll be doing a post on this year’s NaNoWriMo a little later. But meanwhile, here are the last of the sprints I did for week 4 on @NaNoWordSprints. You can also find the entire archive of all the prompts I put in my sprints here. (A fellow sprint leader wrote her NaNo novel based on many of the sprints posted on Twitter. You can find prompts from some of those other sprint leaders here.)

November 22, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)

  • Fallacious, gauze, harrow (10 min)
  • Flannel, greedy, hinder (10 min)
  • Festive, griddlecake, haughty (30 min)
  • Fan, gear, hitch (15 min)
  • Frantic, gong, hyacinth (30 min)

November 23, 9:00am-10:00am (UTC -8)
I Words, 3x

  • Image, implore, impel (10 min)
  • Incendiary, incomparable, incautious (20 min)
  • Ignite, ignoble, iguana (10 min)

November 24, 12:00pm-2:00pm (UTC -8)
Old Science from Nature’s 50 & 100 Years Ago Feature

  • Translating (10 min)
  • Hazards of the road (20 min)
  • Floating (30 min)
  • Practical (10 min)
  • Abominable (20 min)

November 24, 11:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Chinese Proverbs

  • Destroy the seed of evil, or it will grow up to your ruin. (10 min)
  • The energy of the new generation inspires the old. (20 min)
  • The one who makes trouble can resolve the trouble. (30 min)
  • It is supposed that if there is a rumor, there must be some truth behind it. (6 min)

November 25, 2:45pm-4:00pm (UTC -8)
Meow Sprints

  • Staring at nothing (20 min)
  • Running around (20 min)
  • Food (15 min)

November 25, 6:16pm-8:30pm (UTC -8)

  • Elephant in the room (20 min)
  • White elephant sale (15 min)
  • Elephant never forgets (15 min)
  • Seeing pink elephants (30 min)
  • To see the elephant (30 min)

November 25, 10:00pm-2:00am (UTC -8)
Beatles/Britney Spears/PDQ Bach Mashup

  • Misery, lucky, the art of the ground round (10 min)
  • Nobody’s child, stronger, classical rap (15 min)
  • Cry for a shadow, sometimes, journeys into space (30 min)
  • Twist and shout, overprotected, fanfare for the common cold (10 min)
  • A hard day’s night, anticipating, a little nightmare music (15 min)
  • Matchbox, toxic, the dairy queen (30 min)
  • Slow down, everytime, the magic fruit (7 min)
  • No reply, outrageous, coffee cantata (7 min)
  • Yesterday, break the ice, little pickle book (7 min)
  • Rain, circus, the musical sacrifice (30 min)
  • Paperback writer, radar, hair piece (20 min)

November 26, 12:00pm-2:00pm (UTC -8)
Laws of Thermodynamics

  • Equilibrium (5 min)
  • Conservation (15 min)
  • Entropy (30 min)
  • Absolute zero (10 min)
  • Energy (10 min)
  • Irreversible (15 min)

November 26, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Wombat in an Alternate Universe: Wedding Crasher

  • Cake (10 min)
  • Searching for the ring (15 min)
  • Ceremony (30 min)
  • Down the aisle (5 min)
  • Speech (30 min)

November 27, 11:15am-3:00pm (UTC -8)
Thanksgiving Idioms

  • Going cold turkey (10 min)
  • Talking turkey (15 min)
  • A turkey shoot (30 min)
  • Like turkeys voting for an early Christmas (10 min)
  • To gobble something up (15 min)
  • Busy as a cranberry merchant at Thanksgiving (30 min)
  • Couch potato (10 min)
  • Drop something like a hot potato (15 min)
  • Small potatoes (30 min)
  • Kick the stuffing out of someone (5 min)

November 27, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

  • Mostly harmless (10 min)
  • Long dark teatime of the soul (30 min)
  • Something that makes a lot of people angry and widely regarded as a bad move (15 min)
  • Someone lears a big secret. Bonus: The secret is banging two rocks together (20 min)
  • Restoring normality (20 min)

November 28, 9:00am-11:00am (UTC -8)
Directional Idioms

  • Up north (5 min)
  • Down south (15 min)
  • Go south/head south (25 min)
  • Back east (5 min)
  • East is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet (10 min)
  • East or west, home is best (25 min)

November 28, 1:00pm-3:00pm (UTC -8)
Food Microbiology

  • Chocolate (5 min)
  • Fish (15 min)
  • Rum (30 min)
  • Cheese (15 min)
  • Coffee and tea (20 min)

November 28, 11:00pm-1:00am (UTC -8)
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

  • No copy survives (10 min)
  • Telling a story within a story (20 min)
  • Labyrinths and mirrors (30 min)
  • Poisoned page (10 min)
  • Occam’s Razor (20 min)

November 29, 4:30am-6:00am (UTC -8)
Dark Fantasy Tropes Part 1

  • Corruption (5 min)
  • Going mad with power (30 min)
  • Contempt (5 min)
  • Ways to control people (20 min)

November 29, 7:40pm-9:00pm (UTC -8)
Dark Fantasy Tropes Part 2

  • Eating away at one’s humanity (10 min)
  • Forsaken (10 min)
  • Alternative character interpretation (5 min)
  • Evil only has to win once (30 min)

November 29, 10:00pm-2:00am (UTC -8)
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

  • Nine times out of ten, talking is a way of avoiding doing things (30 min)
  • Don’t you ever do anything but cook and read? (30 min)
  • No proper princess would come out looking for dragons (30 min)
  • None of this nonsense, please (5 min)
  • His job is to handle this sort of thing, isn’t it? (30 min)
  • You’re sure you don’t want to be rescued? (30 min)
  • And I hope I never have to watch anything like that again for as long as I live (30 min)
  • Be careful not to smudge the lines! (10 min)

November 30, 2:00pm-4:00pm (UTC -8)

  • Corkscrew (10 min)
  • Peppermint swirl (10 min)
  • Onionskin (20 min)
  • Cat’s eye (15 min)
  • Gooseberry (10 min)
  • End of day (20 min)

November 30, 6:16pm-7:00pm (UTC -8)
Last Minute Ghost Sprinting

  • Cemetery (7 min)
  • Seances and mysterious messages (10 min)
  • Strange activities (10 min)

December 1, 12:00am-3:00am (UTC -8)
End Idioms

  • Follow to the ends of the earth (15 min)
  • Play both ends against the middle (30 min)
  • Get the short end of the stick (20 min)
  • Not knowing which end is up (30 min)
  • Odds and ends (30 min)
  • Light at the end of the tunnel (20 min)

NaNoWriMo 2014 Prompts for Week 3

Okay, I’m going to make this short and sweet since I’m still terribly behind. Maybe I’ll do a big NaNoWriMo post in December, after I’ve gotten some sleep.

Here’s the list of sprints I did for week 3 on @NaNoWordSprints:

November 15, 5:00pm-6:00pm (UTC -8)
Whisky Cocktails

  • Rusty nail (10 min)
  • Blue blazer (10 min)
  • Four horsemen (15 min)

November 15, 8:00pm-10:00pm (UTC -8)
Sushi and the City: A Choose Your Own Prompt Sprint Session

  • Run, roll, rush (10 min)
  • Hitch a ride with a taxi, stand your ground and fight, keep rolling (30 min)
  • The one with the chicken suits, the one selling chicken hats, the chicken print PJs store (10 min)
  • a place posted on a flyer, something you overheard from a stranger, what your new friend suggests (5 min)
  • Risk, Monopoly, Yahtzee (30 min)

November 16, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
D Words 3x

  • Delitescent, dulcify, deipnosophist (10 min)
  • Deke, dyad, droke (10 min)
  • Dilatory, diffident, deleterious (10 min)
  • Disconcert, diaphanous, dubiety (30 min)
  • Deliquesce, diktat, descant (10 min)
  • Doff, dudgeon, diadem (15 min)

November 17, 8:00pm-1:00am (UTC -8)
Meanings of Popular Names/Nancy Drew Titles/Mushrooms Mashup

  • Wisdom, the secret of the old clock, death cap (10 min)
  • Whole or universal, the hidden staircase, the prince (20 min)
  • Olive, the clue in teh diary, crocodile (30 min)
  • Oath, the whispering statue, cloud ear (10 min)
  • To breathe, the haunted bridge, puffball (30 min)
  • Mine, beloved, the quest of the missing map, trumpet (10 min)
  • Rival, the secret in the old attic, sweetbread (10 min)
  • Joy, the witch tree symbol, hen of the woods (15 min)
  • Strength in battle, the invisible intruder, bracelet (30 min)
  • Abundance, the crooked banister, snowbank (10 min)
  • Rest, comfort, the sky phantom, parasol (15 min)
  • Will, desire, the strange message in the parchment, velvet foot (10 min)
  • Heel, the thirteenth pearl, golden needle (30 min)

November 18, 10:00pm-1:00am (UTC -8)
San Diego Zoo 2015 Calendar

  • Giant panda (10 min)
  • Burrowing owl (30 min)
  • Sumatran tiger (10 min)
  • Tasmanian devil (20 min)
  • Sloth bear (5 min)
  • African elephant (10 min)
  • Red-ruffed lemur (30 min)
  • Koala (10 min)
  • Wombat (not really in calendar) (10 min)

November 19, 9:00pm-1:00am (UTC -8)
Consecutive E Words in the Dictionary

  • Enfold, enforce, enfranchise (10 min)
  • Electric chair, electric eel, electric eye (30 min)
  • Edgy, edible, edict (15 min)
  • Echelon, echinoderm, echo (5 min)
  • Epic, epicene, epicenter (30 min)
  • Extraordinary, extrapolate, extrasensory (10 min)
  • Evergreen, everlasting, evermore (15 min)
  • Ether, ethereal, ethic (5 min)
  • Espouse, espresso, esprit (30 min)
  • Employment, emporium, empower (30 min)

November 20, 10:30am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
Ghost Hunting

  • Survey the property (10 min)
  • Hotspot (30 min)
  • Moving objects (10 min)
  • Mysterious lights (15 min)

November 20, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Dueling with the Inner Editor

  • Satisfaction (10 min)
  • Combat (30 min)
  • Code of honor (15 min)
  • Risking one’s life (20 min)
  • An unavoidable meeting (15 min)

November 21, 9:00pm-10:00pm (UTC -8)
Wombat in an Alternate Universe: A Million Monkeys and Hamlet

  • To thine own self be true (10 min)
  • Madness in great ones must not unwatched go (20 min)
  • One may smile, and smile, and be a villain (10 min)

NaNoWriMo 2014 Prompts for Week 2

Oh man. I’m totally behind and totally sleep deprived, but the sprinting must go on.

Here’s the list of sprints I did for week 2 on @NaNoWordSprints:

November 8, 12:00pm-2:30pm (UTC -8)
Double Entendres

  • Passing wind strands ferry passengers (10 min)
  • Dealers will hear car talk at noon (20 min)
  • Enraged cow injures farmer with ax (30 min)
  • Man struck by lightning faces battery charge (10 min)
  • Red tape holds up new bridges (15 min)
  • Kids make nutritious snacks (30 min)

November 8, 11:00pm-1:00am (UTC -8)

  • Sacred sins (30 min)
  • Cruel kindness (10 min)
  • Tense calm (30 min)
  • Bland spice (10 min)
  • Mean smile (10 min)

November 9, 8:30am-10:00am (UTC -8)
Room in the House/Guinea Pig Breeds/Unusual Hobbies Mashup

  • Living room, crested, pooktre art (10 min)
  • Dining room, ridgeback, growing your own furniture (30 min)
  • Cellar, coronet, carving egg shells (10 min)
  • Bedroom, Sheba Mini Yak, beetle fighting (10 min)

November 9, 7:00pm-10:00pm (UTC -8)
NaNoWriMo Sprints Generator: Bad Unicorns

  • Grace unhinged (10 min)
  • Untamable by almost no one (30 min)
  • Ferocious (15 min)
  • Innocence targeted (30 min)
  • Sharp and pointy (10 min)
  • Mistaken identity (5 min)
  • Pride and wrath (30 min)

November 10, 12:20pm-1:20pm (UTC -8)
Ghostly Attributes

  • Fetch (10 min)
  • Vengeance (10 min)
  • Harbinger (30 min)

November 10, 7:30pm-10:00pm (UTC -8)

  • Almond joy (10 min)
  • Whoppers (30 min)
  • Life savers (10 min)
  • Dragon’s beard (15 min)
  • Snickers (30 min)
  • Brittle (5 min)
  • Jolly rancher (10 min)

November 11, 1:00pm-2:00pm (UTC -8)
Things To Do During Your Lunch Break

  • Go to the dentist (10 min)
  • Illicit tryst (30 min)
  • Shopping (10 min)

November 11, 7:30pm-10:00pm (UTC -8)

  • Ribbon (10 min)
  • Wrapping (10 min)
  • Cards (5 min)
  • Surprise (30 min)
  • Chocolate (20 min)
  • Cravat (15 min)
  • Mad, tea, party (20 min)

November 12, 11:00am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
Wombat in an Alternate Universe: The Great Wombat

  • Sudden appearance (10 min)
  • Alertness (20 min)
  • Kumquat (10 min)

November 12, 10:00pm-2:00am (UTC -8)
Books from the 1980s by Nora Roberts

  • The Right Path (10 min)
  • The Art of Deception (30 min)
  • Sweet Revenge (15 min)
  • Risky Business (30 min)
  • Playing the Odds (10 min)
  • Rules of the Game (15 min)
  • Rebellion (30 min)
  • Mind Over Matter (15 min)
  • Lessons Learned (30 min)

November 13, 12:40pm-2:00pm (UTC -8)
C Words 3x

  • Countervail, claque, cavalcade (10 min)
  • Celerity, comport, collude (20 min)
  • Clemency, condign, cosset (30 min)

November 13, 7:00pm-9:00pm (UTC -8)
Signage At the Living Room Coffeehouse

  • Studious (10 min)
  • Remember, as far as anyone knows, we are a nice normal family (30 min)
  • Keep calm and carry on (30 min)
  • He stole her heart so she stole his last name (30 min)

November 13, 11:00pm-2:00am (UTC -8)
Minority Cat Breeds, Famous Pirate Ships of the Elizabethan Age, and Famous Romance Novels Mashup

  • Bramble, The Rising Sun, Pride and Prejudice (10 min)
  • Highlander, Delivery, Mr. Impossible (10 min)
  • Jungle Curl, The Ranger, Lord of Scoundrels (30 min)
  • Skookum, Golden Hind, Welcome to Temptation (30 min)
  • Desert Lynx, The Revenge, Paradise (10 min)
  • Lambkin, Pearl, Slightly Dangerous (10 min)
  • Napoleon Cat, Victory, Devil in Winter (30 min)

November 14, 10:00am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
Ghostly Idioms

  • Ghost of a chance (10 min)
  • Pale as a ghost (30 min)
  • Give up the ghost (30 min)
  • Ghost at the feast (10 min)
  • Ghostwriting (10 min)

November 14, 8:30pm-10:30pm (UTC -8)
Rum Cocktails

  • Dark and stormy (10 min)
  • Brass monkey (30 min)
  • Painkiller (10 min)
  • Fluffy critter (10 min)
  • Flaming volcano (30 min)

NaNoWriMo 2014 Prompts for Week 1

Yep, I’m doing @NaNoWordSprints again this year! As usual, I’m archiving all my prompts on this blog. Anything new this year? Well, some things were also hit or miss since I sometimes go totally out there for sprint themes. Apparently using the prompt “psycho” was very offensive to some people even though it was a prompt and I wasn’t accusing anyone of being a psycho (I also got the prompt from a list on TV Tropes so I didn’t make it up myself). The wombat sprints, however were very popular. I don’t identify myself at all when doing the wombat sprints, but I suspect I would gain a lot of Twitter followers if I did. Several people have declared me their favorite sprint leader during those sprints which is both flattering and a little humbling. I think there are some sprint leaders who do this far better than I do yet don’t get enough kudos…

Anyways, on to the week 1 prompts!

October 31, 5:00pm-8:00pm (UTC -8)
Things One Might Find In London

  • Chase scene with umbrellas (15 min)
  • Spooky building; bonus: tea drinking ghost (30 min)
  • Clock tower (15 min)
  • Metaphorical palace (30 min)
  • Fish and chips (10 min)
  • Bridge (20 min)
  • Cab (15 min)

October 31, 11:00pm-3:00am (UTC -8)

  • Haunted house (20 min)
  • Graveyard (30 min)
  • Funny headgear (15 min)
  • Decorative food (15 min)
  • Unsettling noises (15 min)
  • Getting the chills (20 min)
  • Unusual activity (15 min)
  • Sudden noise (5 min)
  • Disturbance (30 min)
  • Costumes and disguises (10 min)
  • Unexpected guest (10 min)

November 1, 9:00pm-10:30pm (UTC -8)

  • Miss Scarlett in the Hall with the dagger (15 min)
  • Mrs. Peacock in the Kitchen with the lead pipe (10 min)
  • Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory with the candlestick (30 min)
  • Professor Plum in the Library with the rope (10 min)

November 2, 9:00am-11:00am (UTC -8)
Art At Lestat’s

  • Portraits (15 min)
  • Guitar (30 min)
  • Blue hair (10 min)
  • Abstraction (10 min)
  • Stripes (20 min)

November 2, 3:00pm-5:00pm (UTC -8)
What You Would Find At The San Diego Library

  • Shelves (15 min)
  • A quiet hush (30 min)
  • Catalogs and organization (10 min)
  • Lamps (5 min)
  • Obscure knowledge (30 min)

November 2, 9:30pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Homonyms 3x

  • Vale, vail, veil (10 min)
  • Rain, reign, rein (30 min)
  • Praise, prays, preys (15 min)
  • Heirs, airs, errs (10 min)
  • Pair, pare, pear (30 min)
  • Read, reed, rede (10 min)
  • Meat, meet, mete (10 min)

November 3, 11:30am-12:30pm (UTC -8)
Ghostly Verbs

  • Shaking or rattling (10 min)
  • Fluttering (20 min)
  • Crackling or skittering (15 min)

November 3, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Things That Are Called Wombat But Aren’t Really Wombats

  • A small town (10 min)
  • A rock band (20 min)
  • Asteroid (30 min)
  • Broadcaster (10 min)
  • Waste of money, brains and time (20 min)
  • Mountain bikes and tea (30 min)
  • Motorcycle (5 min)
  • List (15 min)

November 4, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Ways To Cook Eggs

  • Fried (10 min)
  • Scrambled (10 min)
  • Coddled (30 min)
  • Poached (15 min)
  • Deviled (30 min)

November 5, 2:00pm-4:00pm (UTC -8)
Headlines of the Books and Arts Section of the Scientific Journal Nature

  • Behaving badly (10 min)
  • When the body betrays (10 min)
  • The first spark (30 min)
  • Under the skin (5 min)
  • Violin detective (10 min)

November 5, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
The Evil Overlord Sprints

  • Evil minions (15 min)
  • Diabolical mastermind (30 min)
  • Lean and mean (10 min)
  • Psycho supporter (10 min)
  • Tragic (30 min)

November 6, 7:10am-9:30am (UTC -8)
Words Without Consonants

  • Ai (a type of sloth) (10 min)
  • Aa (a type of lava) (30 min)
  • Iouea (the taxonomic genus for sponges) (15 min)
  • Euouae (a musical cadence from medieval music) (30 min)
  • Aye-aye (a type of lemur) (10 min)
  • Oioi (Hawaiian for “to squirm”) (5 min)
  • Eua (Swahili for “to purify”) (30 min)

November 6, 11:00am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
Ghost Sprints

  • Apparition (15 min)
  • Shadow (20 min)
  • Cold spot (10 min)

November 6, 3:00pm-4:00pm (UTC -8)
Wombat in an Alternate Universe: Idioms

  • Bite the dust (10 min)
  • Bent out of shape (10 min)
  • Take the biscuit (20 min)

November 6, 7:00pm-9:30pm (UTC -8)

  • Quash (10 min)
  • Quibble (10 min)
  • Quickly (20 min)
  • Quoting (30 min)
  • Quiche (20 min)
  • Quintet (5 min)
  • Quarter (15 min)

November 7, 3:00pm-4:00pm (UTC -8)
Wombat in an Alternate Universe: Writer’s CPR

  • Lifesaving (5 min)
  • First aid (15 min)
  • Good Samaritan (20 min)

November 7, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Script Frenzy Plot Machine

  • After getting lost underground, a hairstylist with a missing finger discovers the meaning of life. (10 min)
  • While picking cherries, an angry squirrel must open for Bjork. (30 min)
  • On a space station filled with mimes, Zorro hijacks a bus with a stowaway on board. (5 min)
  • With only a week left to live, a life-long bachelor swims across the Pacific Ocean. (10 min)
  • Aided by a Swedish go-go dancer, a duck with a death-wish plots one final heist. (30 min)

The rest of my prompt archive can be found here.

NaNoWriMo Is Drawing Nigh

Well, this is just a brief post to let everyone know that I’m still here. I’ve been busy “preparing” for NaNoWriMo, as in organizing writing events around the city. I haven’t really had much time to think about what I’m going to write, although at the time of this writing, I only have four more hours until November hits. I guess I’m going to write by the seat of my pants this year. I’m probably going to crash and burn, but hey, that’ll make a nice (virtual) bonfire. I’m also writing live on Google Docs here and doing @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter. So basically this upcoming month will just be work, NaNoWriMo, and sleep (maybe). Yeah, it seems totally crazy to do all this in one go, but as this is now my fourteenth year doing this, I can’t really imagine myself not doing this annual creative insanity.

At the San Diego Zoo

The last time I went to a zoo was probably when I was between eleven and thirteen. It was the Nashville Zoo and I vaguely remember seeing the red pandas and some birds. This was also before the Nashville Zoo moved to its current location, so I have no idea how it looks now. And after that, going to a zoo had never been on the forefront of my mind for some reason.

I suppose one could argue that with my training as a microbiologist and molecular biologist, my view on biology had always been too small. With zoos, I would have to think bigger, way bigger. (Although my inner microbiologist was sometimes exasperated. On the bus tour, the guide mentioned that the koalas required bacteria to help them digest the poisonous eucalyptus leaves. And I thought, “You can’t leave it at that! What kind of bacteria is it?” The answer, after a brief search on Google Scholar, is that one of the bacterial species aiding in koala digestion is a special strain of Streptococcus bovis which the animal probably got after eating its mother’s feces*.)

Anyways, I would highly recommend coming to the San Diego Zoo if you have at least an entire day to spend there. Heck, I was there the entirety of its opening hours today and I still didn’t see everything. I guess it’s a good thing I got a membership so I could see the place whenever I want to for an entire year.

Besides the animals, which everyone already knows are awesome, the zoo is a great place to people watch and observe family and relationship dynamics. The month of October is also Free Kids Month which means kids get to go to the zoo for free in October. Of course, when I went there, the zoo was overrun with children, many of them seemingly even more wild than the wild animals and more devilish than the Tasmanian devils. (The animals seemed to have eaten their meals in the morning and then passed out or hid in their holes for the rest of the day.)

I’ve noticed, in general, that the younger kids tended to fall into two camps. One group still had energy in the afternoon to be excited about stuff. The other group got tired in the afternoon and either went to sleep (which was fortunate for their parents) or threw huge tantrums. Most zoos are large. The San Diego Zoo is especially large. There will be lots of walking unless you pay the $600 or so for the VIP treatment and get chauffeured around. I kind of wish that parents were more cognizant of whether their kids are the types who get tired fast and have the personality to scream in public without any qualms.

Anyways, my own annoyances are short-lived because I can always walk away from it. Parents, not so much. On the upside, the kids seem more enthusiastic. It’s the parents who keep tugging their fascinated offspring away from the exhibits claiming that there’s more to see up ahead. I guess they (the parents) feel that they should get their money’s worth by “seeing” as many things as possible.

Osawa, R. “Formation of a clear zone on tannin-treated brain heart infusion agar by a Streptococcus sp. isolated from feces of koalas.” Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 1990, 56: 829-831.

Osawa, R., Blanshard, W.H., Ocallaghan, P.G. “Microbiological Studies of the Intestinal Microflora of the Koala, Phascolarctos-Cinereus .2. Pap, a Special Maternal Feces Consumed by Juvenile Koalas.” Australian Journal of Zoology. 1993, 41: 611-620.

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San Diego in September (Mostly)
























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