Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

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)























Journal Keeping and Stunt Noveling

Wow, long time no post. I guess my excuse is that I’ve just moved to a new place and that I’ve been spending my time settling in and getting to know the area. However, I suspect by some point saying that I’m “new” will become silly. Exactly how long does it take to live in one place until people consider you truly a resident? The line is probably a very fuzzy one. In a large city, most people probably don’t really care because everyone’s coming and going. In a tiny rural town entrenched with families that go back for generations, I’m sure I’d always feel out of place no matter how long I lived there.

It’s been a while since I’ve regularly kept a handwritten journal. The last time I remember being fairly diligent about it was my first year in college. And then after that, I found blogs. I’ve started regularly writing in a journal again since I’ve moved to San Diego. But when I say “regularly”, I mostly mean weekends. (I feel like my lab notebook is already an adequate chronicle for what I do during the work week.) The journal isn’t really introspective, though. Instead, I’m noting down the places I go and the things I see. I guess it’s more like a bucket list in journal form, but it’s not really a bucket list. There isn’t really anything that I consider a must-see. I just want to remember where I went before so if some place is egregiously bad, I won’t accidentally go back again.

* * *

NaNoWriMo is fast approaching again. And I don’t really have a set idea on what to write about. I’m thinking this year, unless a plot and/or character comes up between now and November that I simply cannot ignore, I’ll pants the novel. In other words, write with no planning. This could be awesome or terrible. Who knows? But I suppose that’s part of the excitement.

Meanwhile here are some random ideas that I’ve come up with in the past month:

  • A maple syrup crime story.
  • A steampunk version of Alice in Wonderland.
  • The amnesiac duke’s alien mistress (an alien abduction regency).
  • Something written entirely in second person.

I’m also considering live writing the novel. In other words, writing on a public viewable document like Google Docs where everyone can see me typing out the story in real time. I could even enable comments so people could lob virtual tomatoes at me in real time, too. I’m not breaking any new ground–several other people have done this before–but this would be something that would make NaNoWriMo extra challenging (and extra terrifying) after the many years I’ve participated in it.

Traffic and Other Circular Thoughts

I’ve spent a lot of time in the car in the place I lived before as well as the place I live now. The difference between the two is that I spent a lot of time driving in Montana because locations are so far apart. Here in San Diego, it’s not really about the distance. It’s about being stuck in traffic. But either way, most of the time I don’t really mind it. In Montana, you’re smack dab in the middle of fantastic natural settings. In the city, you’re simply smack dab in the middle of everything with tons of stuff to do.

I don’t really think of myself as rural- or urban-inclined. But I do know that I still hate suburbs. I grew up in suburbs where the scenery was middling and there was very little to do for fun. Oh, I’m sure other people had fun, but it was probably fun of the social kind. I was (and still am) a loner. I like fun stuff that I could do myself.

* * *

As another Labor Day Weekend is looming ahead, that means it’s the 3-Day Novel Contest again. I’m doing it unofficially this year. Sure, submitting gives you accountability, but with the massive move this month, I basically had zero time to plan anything except to come up with a genre and a setting.

I’ve pretty much decided to do an urban fantasy this time around. It will be set in San Diego. The great thing about doing that is that I can draw on my own experiences from living here. But since I’m still new, I will probably get things wrong. I could easily fact check by driving out to the place and changing it upon revision. But the “fantasy” part of it will give me an excuse to be lazy in the first draft. So “X” is completely different than what I describe it to be? Don’t blame me. It’s just an alternate universe.

Moving In, Sorta

I don’t know why I’m up at this atrociously early hour in the morning typing this up. All I want to do is to sleep in. I really haven’t had much sleep for the past month as I was prepping, packing, and moving to San Diego. Well, actually I do. I’m waiting for the property manager to drop by so he can secure the water heater in case of earthquakes.

Moving, I suspect, can make or break a person. Sure, I’ve talked to my parents on the phone to get their advice on things, but this is the first time I’ve done this big of a move by myself. (I did most of the move from Idaho to Montana myself as well, but that was a relatively simple four hour drive away. And my dad did visit to help me find an apartment…) My cousin lives here, at least, but she’s a pretty busy person and the only thing I can count on her for is to be stuck by needles as she’s a voodoo priestess…er…I mean acupuncturist.

A word of advice on apartment hunting in San Diego (or probably any large growing city)–be prepared for fierce competition from other potential renters. I guess I’ve been spoiled by living in small towns the past decade where you could see an apartment and then at your leisure, go back a day or two later and ask more questions. Here, it pays to be a bit aggressive because apartments can go off the market in hours. But don’t look desperate and take the first thing that comes along. I managed to nab a pretty nice apartment for a reasonable price (for the city). The only downside is that I will have to commute. However, even with all the gas and driving, I’ll still save money because the rents for apartments closer to work are almost twice as much.

This was also the first time I bought a car myself as well without anyone else tagging along. I think it helps to have a mindset that is not impulsive and not be dead set on a particular car even though you’ve done your homework and already have one in mind. And as for aggressive sales people, say “I need to think about that” and “No” frequently. Keep your poker face. The thing is, America has a kazillion cars. Even on a very limited budget, you can afford to be picky. Unlike apartments, there’s always supply.

As for the DMV, everyone recommends making the online appointment. But that’s only good if you can go two weeks (or later!) after you make that appointment. If you need stuff done as soon as possible, take the whole morning (or better, the whole day) off and go to the DMV two to three hours before it opens and wait. (And if you’re really prepared, take a folding chair. And maybe something to read. Personally, I passed the time by cramming for the driver’s written test.) Make sure you also look up the opening hours and possible unexpected closures online so you don’t get caught off guard. And above all, be zen. The San Diego DMV is nothing like the DMV in rural Montana. In Montana, you can just saunter in a little after opening hours and there’ll probably be only three or four people ahead of you.

The traffic here, as far as I can tell, is never good. It’s just either stuck or not stuck. Once the movers get here with my stuff (and my dedicated mp3 player), I’m going to load in podcasts and audiobooks to make the drive more amusing. If anyone’s gotten this far into this post, let me know your suggestions for podcasts and audiobooks! I’m pretty omnivorous on podcasts, but the narrator for an audiobook has to be pretty good for it to work for me.

And as for work, well, my co-workers seem like nice people. But I think they’re nuts for thinking they can have any meaningful scientific meetings with the boss on Saturdays. I have no problem meeting up with the boss to discuss science. I also have no problem going into lab on weekends to do an important experiment. But meetings? Weekdays only, please.

July 2014 Camp NaNo Prompts for Week 4

Oh man, this was probably the craziest week for doing @NaNoWordSprints because I was also packing and apartment hunting. I didn’t manage to finish Camp NaNo this month, but that’s okay. Sometimes life just gets in the way. But even so, I believe I’ve done the most sprints out of all the other sprint leaders. I guess for me, it wasn’t that big of a deal because I already had the sprint sessions planned in advance and I could multitask. Sometimes I sprinted as “the ghost” just so that it didn’t look like I was monopolizing the account, but I also have to point out that whenever the ghost sprinted, it wasn’t always me.

Anyways, here’s the last week of prompts archived here for the rest of time:

July 22, 8:30am-10:30am (UTC -7)
Ghost Sprinting: Titles of Ghost Films

  • Beyond Tomorrow (30 min)
  • Field of Dreams (30 min)
  • The Sixth Sense (30 min)
  • Tormented (10 min)

July 22, 5:00pm-7:00pm (UTC -7)
Phrases Part 1

  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush (15 min)
  • Break the ice (15 min)
  • Close your eyes and think of England (15 min)
  • Dog is a man’s best friend (30 min)
  • Ends of the earth (20 min)

July 22, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Action Girl Tropes

  • Lady of war (5 min)
  • Never mess with grandma (30 min)
  • Useless boyfriend (15 min)
  • Silk hiding steel (15 min)
  • Ninja maid (30 min)

July 23, 11:00am-12:00pm (UTC -7)

  • A gigantic pyramid of tomato soup mugs from Lincoln, Nebraska (10 min)
  • An “exotic” Canadian knife sold in Thailand (20 min)
  • Bad smelling cologne to be used for revenge (10 min)

July 23, 10:00pm-12:15am (UTC -7)

  • Point of no return (30 min)
  • As quiet as a mouse (30 min)
  • He has the heart of a lion (30 min)
  • You reap what you sow (30 min)

July 24, 8:30am-10:30am (UTC -7)
Villain Tropes

  • Adorable evil minions (10 min)
  • Bad is good and good is bad (20 min)
  • From nobody to nightmare (30 min)
  • Maniac monkeys (15 min)

July 24, 1:00pm-3:00pm (UTC -7)
Phrases Part 2

  • Feeding frenzy (15 min)
  • Greased lightning (15 min)
  • Hoist with your own petard (15 min)
  • It came like a bolt from the blue (30 min)
  • Jump on the bandwagon (20 min)

July 24, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Quotes from Columbo

  • Just one more thing… (10 min)
  • She almost hit me with a frying pan. (20 min)
  • I can’t swim. I don’t even like a deep tub. (30 min)
  • The problem is, he’s blocking traffic. (5 min)
  • There are a couple of loose ends I’d like to tie up. (30 min)

July 25, 10:00am-12:00pm (UTC -7)
Wombat Disaster Sprints

  • Monumental damage (5 min)
  • Ripped from the headlines (30 min)
  • Harsher in hindsight (30 min)
  • Stuff blowing up (30 min)

July 25, 4:00pm-7:00pm (UTC -7)
Drama Tropes

  • Hanging by the fingers (10 min)
  • Dangerous terrain (20 min)
  • A mysterious parent (15 min)
  • We used to be friends (30 min)
  • Unable to cry (10 min)
  • Sugary malice (15 min)
  • Golden moment (10 min)
  • Things get real (30 min)

July 25, 9:00pm-10:00pm (UTC -7)
Hand Idioms

  • All hands on deck (10 min)
  • The devil makes work for idle hands (20 min)
  • To be in safe hands (15 min)

July 26, 9:30am-2:00pm (UTC -7)
Plot Twist Tropes

  • Actually a doombot (10 min)
  • The cake is a lie (10 min)
  • Didn’t see that one coming (20 min)
  • Backstab backfire (20 min)
  • Easily overheard conversation (20 min)
  • Game changer (20 min)
  • Left for dead (15 min)
  • Prophecy twist (30 min)
  • The dog bites back (20 min)
  • Unreliable narrator (20 min)
  • Untwist the plot (30 min)

July 26, 4:30-7:30pm (UTC -7)
Food Triplets

  • Dill, ginger, saffron (10 min)
  • Cranberry, gooseberry, mulberry (20 min)
  • Kale, beet, avocado (15 min)
  • Baguette, hardtack, pancake (30 min)
  • Barley, wheat, rice (20 min)
  • Wafer, biscotti, animal crackers (5 min)
  • Bird’s nest soup, tomato bisque, clam chowder (10 min)
  • Milk, mint julep, orange juice (30 min)

July 26, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)

  • Original 501 (20 min)
  • Slim 511 (20 min)
  • Taper 508 (20 min)
  • Bootcut 527 (20 min)
  • Loose 569 (20 min)

July 27, 9:30am-1:30pm (UTC -7)
Ghost Sprinting: Haunted Places

  • House (10 min)
  • Cemetery (20 min)
  • Asylum (15 min)
  • Ossuary (30 min)
  • Catacombs (20 min)
  • Museum (10 min)
  • Castle (15 min)
  • Desert (20 min)
  • Prison (20 min)
  • Hotel (30 min)

July 27, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Unsolved Mysteries

  • A mysterious manuscript (5 min)
  • Encrypted sculpture (15 min)
  • Hidden treasure (30 min)
  • An ancient disc with mysterious symbols (15 min)
  • Monument inscription (30 min)

July 28, 2:00pm-5:00pm (UTC -7)
Same Letter Triplets Part 2

  • Palindrome, plethora, pugnacious (20 min)
  • Subterfuge, schadenfreude, sonorous (20 min)
  • Bucolic, bibelot, bailiwick (20 min)
  • Enervate, eschew, esurient (20 min)
  • Lexicon, lascivious, lugubrious (20 min)
  • Commensurate, conflagration, crabwise (20 min)
  • Frisson, faction, finical (20 min)

July 28, 10:00pm-12:15am (UTC -7)
High Brow Tastes From 1949

  • Town and country (30 min)
  • A decanter from a chemical glass company (30 min)
  • A glass of red wine (30 min)
  • Greens and olive oil (30 min)

July 29, 8:15am-11:00am (UTC -7)
The Airport

  • Bags (10 min)
  • Cranky babies (20 min)
  • Incomprehensible announcements (30 min)
  • Uncomfortable seats (10 min)
  • Gates (20 min)
  • Tickets (5 min)
  • Expensive food (30 min)

July 29, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Conflicts in Literature

  • Man versus nature (10 min)
  • Man versus society (20 min)
  • Man versus technology (15 min)
  • Man versus man (10 min)
  • Man versus self (20 min)
  • Man versus reality (15 min)

July 30, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Titles from “The Shadow” Book Series by Maxwell Grant

  • The Living Shadow (10 min)
  • Hands in the Dark (20 min)
  • The Silent Seven (15 min)
  • Kings of Crime (5 min)
  • The Wealth Seeker (30 min)

July 31, 7:45am-11:00am (UTC -7)
S Words

  • Scandal (10 min)
  • Sprinkling (20 min)
  • Sneaky (30 min)
  • Sinking (15 min)
  • Shovel (15 min)
  • Speculate (30 min)
  • Sallow (10 min)
  • Silver (25 min)

July 31, 2:30pm-5:00pm (UTC -7)
T Words

  • Tremendous (25 min)
  • Terrible (10 min)
  • Trebuchet (10 min)
  • Tangle (25 min)
  • Trouble (15 min)
  • Taste (20 min)
  • Tussle (10 min)

July 31, 8:30pm-10:00pm (UTC -7)
U Words

  • Uncomfortable (20 min)
  • Utility (10 min)
  • Unfathomable (10 min)
  • Urn (10 min)
  • Unholy (10 min)

July 31, 10:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Ending Tropes

  • All just a dream (25 min)
  • Bonus material (25 min)
  • Cataclysm (30 min)
  • Destroy the evidence (20 min)
  • Ray of hope (20 min)
  • Exit, pursued by a bear (30 min)

July 2014 Camp NaNo Prompts for Week 3

Summer has got to be the most miserable time to be writing. In this heat, I don’t want to do anything. Anyways, here’s the archived post for the Week 3 @NaNoWordSprints prompts for anyone who missed any of my previous sprint sessions.

July 15, 1:30pm-3:00pm (UTC -7)
Ghost Sprinting: Bedsheets

  • Thread count (30 min)
  • Flat (15 min)
  • Cotton (30 min)
  • White (30 min)

July 15, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Unusual Pencil Brands

  • Lion (10 min)
  • Four star (20 min)
  • Yacht (30 min)
  • Acorn (20 min)
  • Exchange (15 min)

July 16, 9:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Mystery Tropes

  • Absence of evidence (5 min)
  • Eureka moment (15 min)
  • I never said it was poison (30 min)
  • Red herring (10 min)
  • The suspect is hatless (30 min)
  • Stakeout (15 min)
  • Public secret message (20 min)
  • Curtain camouflage (15 min)
  • The butler did it (30 min)
  • Hidden in plain sight (10 min)

July 17, 11:00am-3:00pm (UTC -7)
Ghost Sprinting: The Crazy Sauce

  • Crazy survivalist (10 min)
  • Monster clown (20 min)
  • Genius ditz (30 min)
  • Mood swings (15 min)
  • Crazy cat lady (15 min)
  • Nervous wreck (30 min)
  • Mask of sanity (5 min)
  • Pyromaniac (15 min)

July 17, 6:00pm-7:00pm (UTC -7)
Types of Gears

  • Cage (10 min)
  • Magnetic (15 min)
  • Worm (10 min)
  • Skew (15 min)

July 17, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Quotes from “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

  • He hadn’t meant to Fall. He’d just hung around with the wrong people. (5 min)
  • I think the maggots were a bit over the top, myself. (15 min)
  • Most books on witchcraft will tell you that witches work naked. This is because most books on witchcraft are written by men. (30 min)
  • You see, it’s not enough to know what the future is. You have to know what it means. (15 min)
  • There would be other summers, but there would never be one like this. Ever again. (30 min)

July 18, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Fake Band Names/Strange Cat Behavior Mashup

  • Blushing Agency/Sniffing your face (10 min)
  • Butterball Vampire/Kneading paws (20 min)
  • Pod Tentacles Keynote/Laying on your things (30 min)
  • Fabled National Bootleg/Twitching ears (15 min)
  • Roadblock card/Rolling in the street (20 min)

July 19, 10:00am-2:00pm (UTC -7)
Ghost Towns

  • Curry, Alaska (10 min)
  • Anchor, Louisiana (20 min)
  • Miner’s Delight, Wyoming (15 min)
  • Gold Hill, British Columbia (30 min)
  • Lost Channel, Ontario (5 min)
  • Snag, Yukon (10 min)
  • Broad Arrow, Western Australia (10 min)
  • Red Water/Czerwona Woda, Poland (5 min)
  • The Pyramid/Pyramiden, Norway (30 min)
  • Tide Mills, United Kingdom (5 min)
  • Deception Island (30 min)
  • Port Famine, Chile (10 min)

July 19, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Food Idioms

  • Acquire a taste for something (10 min)
  • Fine kettle of fish (15 min)
  • Make someone eat crow (30 min)
  • Turn beet-red (20 min)
  • Pie in the sky (20 min)

July 20, 2:00pm-4:00pm (UTC -7)
Anti-Hero Tropes

  • Gentleman thief (10 min)
  • Good is not nice (30 min)
  • Unfazed everyman (30 min)
  • Rebellious spirit (30 min)

July 20, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Seashells Used in Culture

  • Currency (5 min)
  • Musical instruments (30 min)
  • Tools (15 min)
  • Art (30 min)
  • Personal adornment (15 min)

July 21, 3:00pm-6:00pm (UTC -7)
Same Letter Triplets

  • Vanguard, viewfinder, vanity case (10 min)
  • Resident, robot, racket (20 min)
  • European, electronics, espionage (15 min)
  • February, farrago, floodgate (30 min)
  • Tango, tender, typical (20 min)
  • South, sharp, sardonic (10 min)
  • Inhibitor, irascible, ivory (5 min)
  • Blood, bowling, burgle (30 min)

July 21, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Rhymes with a Body Part

  • Foot, soot, caput (10 min)
  • Arm, charm, farm (30 min)
  • Head, shred, dead (5 min)
  • Eye, spry, pie (30 min)
  • Hair, pear, scare (20 min)

Pruning the Personal Library

Is anyone really ever excited about moving? The process itself, I mean. The prospect of living in a new place can be exciting, but all the mundane and stressful details that need to be overseen in order to make that happen? I could live without those.

For an inveterate bookworm like myself, pruning my personal physical library is one of those details. I would not be exaggerating if I said that my library is one of my treasured possessions. I couldn’t care less about furniture or clothes–those things don’t hold any sentimental value for me (it might be different if I had any antiques). Books are a lifestyle, a philosophy, a way of being. If I had any choice or had an impractical personality streak, I wouldn’t get rid of any of my books. I like the thought of having a sprawling collection of books, of books that I have read, have yet to read, and maybe will never read. I have slight book hoarder tendencies because I like the possibility a gigantic pile of books presents. Once in a while, I organize the book collection by author or by subject or by genre but they soon shuffle around, getting mixed up and piled up into a mini-labyrinth of words. Maybe that’s why I often dream of mazes. I’ve inadvertently created one of my own at home.

But I must prune that library as it would just be a pain to lug all those boxes across the country (from north to south, that is, not west to east). There are several types of books which I find fairly easy to get rid of–books that I’m pretty sure I will have no interest in, books I’m sure I’ll never read, books that I have read (or partially read) and did not like, novels that I sort of like but also already have an ebook copy. The books I have no problem putting in the “keep” pile include favorite authors, favorite books, book series I have been meticulously collecting, and any non-fiction and reference books I currently or will be using.

Where it gets angsty is my to-be-read pile. What should I prune? Should I keep all of them since I’ve planned to read them all at one point or another? Or should I donate/sell them all off with the philosophy that if I didn’t read them right away, they might not be interesting in the first place? My to-be-read pile isn’t just a handful of books. It’s huge. At the moment, part of my to-be-read pile is literally a pile, but before I started pruning, all these books were on the shelves adding mystery to my library–adventures waiting to be discovered. But now I’m stuck deciding which of these unknown adventures to take with me to my new real life adventure.

Due to genre or author or plot synopsis, some of the books in my to-be-read pile I suspect I will enjoy greatly once I get around to reading them. For those, I’ll probably pack away with the rest of my core keepers. There’s a subset of books I feel guilty about because someone had recommended the book to me or it was an advance reader copy from eons ago which I have yet to get to. Those I’ll also keep because eventually the guilt will become so great that I will read them after all (and possibly write a review for the trouble). And then there are those to-be-read books that I know I would have no trouble getting rid of once I’ve read them once. For this third group of books, I’ve set myself a goal of trying to get through as many as them as I can before I have to leave. And for the ones I don’t get through, I’d have no trouble giving them away. The remaining books make me feel ambivalent. They could be great books, but I simply don’t have enough information to know for sure.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been converting to ebooks for the past year. I have no doubt that if I had not started to do so, my book pruning situation would be even worse. In some ways, ebooks have enabled my book hoarding tendencies. Thousands of books could be stored in almost no physical room at all. Now, I don’t have to throw away any of those books. Instead, I can make backups of those books and have access to them whenever I wish.

If all of my books were in electronic form, I wouldn’t be having this angsty pruning process ahead of me. Then again, I doubt I would be having all these stronger feelings about these books either. There’s something intangible and unreplicable that comes with the physicality of books which ebooks lack. Of course, I feel that a novel can be fantastic in either physical or electronic form–when I read, it’s for the story, not the container that holds those words. And if I were a pure reader, I wouldn’t care about the paper and the pulp, I’d just ditch them all in favor of the electrons. But I’m not just a reader. I’m also a writer, a thinker, someone who has a significant internal life. The intangible thing that physical books possess is a state of mind, an atmosphere where I can just reach out and find something fascinating at random. It’s discovery. There’s not so much of that when you’re just pushing buttons on a device.

I’m not a die hard advocate of either side of the physical books and ebooks debate. I think there are merits to both sides and I suppose I will continue to keep both physical and electronic libraries. But unlike my electronic library which is bloated with everything and anything, the items in the physical library are deliberately curated. If the library is like an external brain, I would say that the electronic version archives the facts while the physical stores the emotions and the heart. That choice–of what I keep and what I give away–would become a conscious act of deciding what to remember and what to forget. And while the forgetting might not precisely hurt, there is the uneasy feeling that I’ve let go of something–an intangible creative spirit, perhaps–that could have been important.

July 2014 Camp NaNo Prompts for Week 2

Here’s the archived post for the Week 2 @NaNoWordSprints prompts. If there are any particularly prompt themes you’d like to see in the future, just let me know! (Or if there are any prompt themes you absolutely hate, also let me know so I don’t do them again.)

July 8, 10:30am-12:30pm (UTC -7)

  • Cold shoulder (10 min)
  • Fit as a fiddle (20 min)
  • Spill the beans (30 min)
  • Sleep with the fishes (10 min)
  • Take the cake (30 min)

July 8, 5:30pm-7:30pm (UTC -7)
Quotes from “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

  • She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me. (10 min)
  • To yield without conviction is no compliment to the understanding of either. (30 min)
  • And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody. (15 min)
  • Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion. (30 min)
  • We do not suffer by accident. (10 min)

July 8, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Victorian Headlines

  • Trying to steal a crocodile, extraordinary affair in Paris (10 min)
  • A stranded elephant (15 min)
  • A funeral without a corpse (30 min)
  • Shocking incident at a masked ball (15 min)
  • Cured by lightning (10 min)
  • Escape of a polar bear at Dundee (10 min)

July 9, 10:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Gothic Novel Tropes

  • A murderous tyrant with scary eyes (10 min)
  • A character prone to fainting (20 min)
  • A spooky castle or stately home (30 min)
  • In the olden days (20 min)
  • Bad weather (15 min)
  • Something grotesque (10 min)
  • Creepy housekeeper (5 min)
  • Ominous chanting (30 min)

July 10, 11:30am-1:30pm (UTC -7)
Romance Cliches

  • Revenge (5 min)
  • A sham betrothal or marriage (30 min)
  • A reformed rake (15 min)
  • Boss and secretary (15 min)
  • Stranded in a cabin together (30 min)

July 10, 5:30pm-7:30pm (UTC -7)
Pet Peeves

  • Noisy eaters (5 min)
  • Driving slow in the fast lane (15 min)
  • Stubbing your toe (30 min)
  • Paper cuts (15 min)
  • The hot water running out when you’re running a bath (30 min)

July 10, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Methods of Divination

  • Overheard words/cledonomancy (5 min)
  • Pearls/margaritomancy (30 min)
  • Chewing gum/styramancy (15 min)
  • Frogs/batrachomancy (30 min)
  • Wood/xylomancy (15 min)

July 11, 9:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Cake Folklore

  • Longevity/mooncakes (5 min)
  • A wake to honor the dead/dead-cakes (15 min)
  • Gingerbread/Johnny-Cake (30 min)
  • Tortoise/red tortoise cake (10 min)
  • Wheat/wheat cake (30 min)
  • Twins/Biddenden cakes (10 min)
  • Walk/Cakewalk (20 min)
  • Almond/Tarta de Santiago (20 min)
  • Evil spirits/apple cakes (15 min)
  • Coffee/coffee cake (30 min)

July 12, 12:30am-3:00pm (UTC -7)
Ghost Sprinting: Stephen King Novel Titles

  • The Dark Half (10 min)
  • Misery (20 min)
  • Needful Things (30 min)
  • Insomnia (20 min)
  • The Talisman (30 min)
  • Firestarter (10 min)

July 12, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Speculative Fiction Tropes

  • Absurdly sharp claws (10 min)
  • Grey goo (30 min)
  • Portent of doom (10 min)
  • Blind jump (30 min)
  • Talking in your dreams (15 min)

July 13, 1:00pm-2:30pm (UTC -7)
Quotes from “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare

  • That was laid on with a trowel (5 min)
  • My pride fell with my fortunes (15 min)
  • Live a little; comfort a little; cheery thyself a little (30 min)
  • Let us make an honourable retreat (5 min)
  • He that wants money, means, and content, is without three good friends (15 min)

July 13, 6:00pm-7:00pm (UTC -7)
All About Watermelons

  • Moon and stars (5 min)
  • Sucking blood (10 min)
  • Snack (15 min)
  • Helmet (5 min)
  • Splitting (10 min)

July 13, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Quotes from “Neuromancer” by William Gibson

  • The damage was minute, subtle, and utterly effective. (5 min)
  • Not if I remember to take my pills. (30 min)
  • Iffy… It’s all looking very iffy tonight. (10 min)
  • He had began to play a game with himself, a very ancient one with no name, a kind of final solitare. (30 min)
  • An angel passed. (5 min)
  • Measure twice, cut once. (15 min)

July 14, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Quotes from “Darkness” by Lord Byron

  • The bright sun was extinguished (10 min)
  • Men forgot their passions in the dread (30 min)
  • Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea (10 min)
  • Shivering scraped with their cold skeleton hands (30 min)
  • A chaos of hard clay (10 min)
  • And they were enemies (30 min)
  • An enormous city did survive (10 min)
  • The wild birds shrieked (30 min)
  • Immediate and inglorious (10 min)
  • Extinguished with a crash (30 min)

July 2014 Camp NaNo Prompts for Week 1

Yep, here’s the archived post for the Week 1 @NaNoWordSprints prompts. (The archive for all the previous prompts is located here.) If there are any particularly prompt themes you’d like to see in the future, just let me know!

June 30, 10:00pm-1:30am (UTC -7)
Opening Tropes (Handwritten)

  • Dramatic chase opening (10 min)
  • Boy meets girl (15 min)
  • Flashback (20 min)
  • A hero is born (15 min)
  • The magic comes back (20 min)
  • Morning routine (10 min)
  • It began with a twist of fate (10 min)
  • Naive newcomer (20 min)
  • Recruit some teenagers with attitude (15 min)
  • Main character is out of a job (30 min)

July 1, 5:30pm-7:30pm (UTC -7)
Stolen Paintings

  • Poppy Flowers by van Gogh (10 min)
  • The Just Judges by van Eyck (10 min)
  • Girl in Front of Open Window by Gauguin (30 min)
  • The Boy in the Red Vest by Cezanne (15 min)
  • The Scream by Munch (30 min)

July 1, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Camping Disasters

  • Disaster (10 min)
  • An attack turns out to be fake (15 min)
  • A cheap device that breaks (30 min)
  • Someone disappears (10 min)
  • Supplies are lost (10 min)
  • It starts raining (15 min)

July 2, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
All About Fairs

  • Archaic (10 min)
  • Outrageous food (20 min)
  • Contests and competitions (20 min)
  • Public spaces (10 min)
  • Riots (30 min)

July 3, 5:30pm-7:30pm (UTC -7)
Character Traits as Metro Stations

  • Fearless (10 min)
  • Drama queen (30 min)
  • Reluctant warrior (10 min)
  • Mad dreamer (15 min)
  • Bookworm (30 min)

July 3, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Unusual Words That Start With “T”

  • Tantalus (10 min)
  • Toran (15 min)
  • Tumescent (20 min)
  • Tetchy (30 min)
  • Thermoplagia (10 min)
  • Toft (10 min)

July 4, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Independence Day Film Quotes

  • “You can’t just drive up and ring the bell.” (10 min)
  • “Now that’s what I call a close encounter.” (15 min)
  • “You knew then! And you did nothing!” (30 min)
  • “All I’m saying is that they have people to handle these things.” (10 min)
  • “I have a confession to make.” (10 min)
  • “Didn’t I promise you fireworks?” (15 min)

July 5, 2:00pm-5:00pm (UTC -7)
Heroic Bloodshed Tropes

  • Blood brothers (10 min)
  • Disturbed doves (10 min)
  • Betrayal (30 min)
  • Spin, roll, and dive (5 min)
  • Blown across the room (15 min)
  • Hitman with a heart (30 min)
  • Honor before reason (15 min)
  • Sympathy for the devil (20 min)

July 5, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Chick Lit Tropes

  • The plucky office girl (10 min)
  • Makeover montage (20 min)
  • An accidental public confession (30 min)
  • Backhanded apology (15 min)
  • Little black dress, man in a kilt, and really bad puns (20 min)

July 6, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Fairy Tale Tropes

  • Wicked stepmother (15 min)
  • The big bad wolf (30 min)
  • Damsel or dude in distress (20 min)
  • An impossible task (30 min)
  • Be careful what you wish for (15 min)
  • Fairest of them all (10 min)
  • Secret identity (30 min)
  • When the clock strikes twelve (10 min)
  • Shapeshifter showdown (30 min)

July 7, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)

  • Learning your letters (5 min)
  • Posting a letter (15 min)
  • A red letter day (30 min)
  • The letter of the law (10 min)
  • Following instructions to the letter (10 min)
  • Love letter (20 min)

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