Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

The Next Camp Is Coming

I’m sorry I haven’t posted very much in this blog lately. All I can say is that most of my activity has been on Twitter and aside from that, I’ve been very busy with work (as always).

Anyways, the July session for Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up in a couple of days. I’ve been invited to do @NaNoWordSprints again, so expect prompts to be posted here in the next month. I’ve also been invited to an ML cabin (basically a mini-chatroom on the Camp NaNo site where all the other members are municipal liaisons) and I’ll see how that goes. Hopefully it will give me motivation to finish the July project, unlike the April project.

As for the April project, unfortunately it’s still not at a stage where I feel that I can finish at least a rough draft of it in a month. Sometimes ideas are like that. They stall out and you either have to plan some more or wait until you get a second wind.

The idea for July’s writing project struck me out of the blue earlier this month. The basic premise: what would it be like to live in a city which was built as a giant astronomical instrument, where the streets disappeared and reappeared from a different dimension depending on the movements of the heavens above? Here’s the vague blurb of the idea I put up on my Camp NaNo profile:

When the Stars Are Right

The streets of Venzza disappear and reappear according to the celestial movements. The inhabitants of the city use the Almanack to help guide their daily movements in their home. But so do those who want to hide secrets until the time is right for their reveal…

This is a science fantasy where science underpins everything, but I’m making a conscious effort to make it sound like fantasy. The title is a not so subtle hint that there will be Lovecraftian influences. The name of the city is also a hint that this will take place in an alternate reality Venice. About four years ago, I attempted to write another story set in Venice, but it stalled out after three or four chapters. I’m hoping that this second try will go better.

Unlike many of my previous stories where the characters came to me fairly early, the characters for this story were far more difficult to suss out. I came up with the basic plot even before I knew who they were or their names. I don’t want to talk too much about my characters right now, but what I do want to say is that I came up with scientific reasons for their existence and they aren’t random creatures I’m throwing in there just for the heck of it.

I’m still working on the outline. Let’s hope I finish it before July 1 rolls around.

April 2015 Camp NaNoWriMo Prompts for Week 4

Oops. I had meant to post this a week ago, but I’ve been feeling kind of burned out and letting things slide. I probably need this month to recover and refill the creative well, so to speak.

Well, here’s the last week of the camp prompts. Have fun!

* * *

April 22, 9:00am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
Color Metaphors Part 4

  • Brown-nose (10 min)
  • Brown bag (20 min)
  • Brown as a berry (10 min)
  • Born with a silver spoon in his mouth (30 min)
  • Every cloud has a silver lining (10 min)
  • Silver bullet (5 min)
  • Chartreuse (20 min)
  • Azure (30 min)

April 22, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Cruise Ship to R’lyeh

  • Navigator (20 min)
  • Ennui (10 min)
  • The billionaire and the squid goddess (30 min)
  • The stars will be right (15 min)
  • Changing colors (20 min)
  • Storm (30 min)
  • Harpoon (10 min)

April 23, 9:00am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
Linguistic Siamese Twins

  • Home and dry (10 min)
  • Smash and grab (20 min)
  • Sound and fury (30 min)
  • Loud and clear (10 min)
  • Flesh and bone (20 min)
  • Armed and dangerous (30 min)
  • Sick and tired (5 min)
  • Hearts and minds (10 min)

April 23, 3:00pm-6:00pm (UTC -8)
World Book Day

  • Tough it out (15 min)
  • Stealer of souls (15 min)
  • An eye for an eye (30 min)
  • The creature in the case (15 min)
  • Magic kitten (15 min)
  • The midnight picnic (30 min)
  • The boy in the smoke (20 min)

April 23, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Sherlock Sprints from Series 3

  • Convoluted theory (10 min)
  • Jump out of a cake (20 min)
  • Finding a goldfish (30 min)
  • High-functioning sociopath (10 min)
  • Speechless (20 min)
  • Eggy chair (30 min)
  • Dancing (10 min)
  • Something in the punch (10 min)

April 24, 9:00am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
Linguistic Siamese Twins (with Or)

  • All or nothing (10 min)
  • Give or take (15 min)
  • Kill or cure (15 min)
  • Two or more (20 min)
  • Dead or alive (30 min)
  • Hit or miss (5 min)
  • Rain or shine (10 min)
  • Fight or flight (30 min)

April 24, 3:15pm-6:15pm (UTC -8)
Headlines from Nature, April 23, 2015 Issue

  • Highway to health (10 min)
  • Decoupled ideals (15 min)
  • There’s more to come (30 min)
  • Far from the west (15 min)
  • Near its demise (10 min)
  • Dazzling colors distract predators (30 min)
  • Degrees of separation (10 min)
  • Illuminating the past (15 min)

April 24, 10:00pm-1:00am (UTC -8)
Quotes from James Bond Movies

  • It hits like a brick through a stain glass window. (15 min)
  • I hope he cooks better than he fights. (20 min)
  • I had heard that you were dead. (30 min)
  • Curious…how everyone who touches those diamonds seems to die. (10 min)
  • He just dropped in for a quick bite. (15 min)
  • We can do a deal! I’ll buy you a delicatessen – in stainless steel! Pleeeeeeease… (30 min)
  • You get your clothes back on, and I’ll buy you an ice cream. (10 min)
  • You know, you’re cleverer than you look! (10 min)

April 25, 10:45am-1:00pm (UTC -8)

  • Mad, bad, and dangerous (10 min)
  • The good, the bad, and the ugly (15 min)
  • Lie, cheat, or steal (30 min)
  • Eat, drink, and be merry (15 min)
  • Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered (15 min)
  • Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow (20 min)

April 25, 3:15pm-6:15pm (UTC -8)
Books on the Shelf at the Subterranean Boutique Coffee Shop

  • And they all sang (20 min)
  • France (10 min)
  • Wild animals (30 min)
  • The return of the king (15 min)
  • War cycles, peace cycles (15 min)
  • Upholding the law (30 min)
  • The tender bar (5 min)
  • Death in the grizzly maze (15 min)

April 25, 8:30pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Titles of Random Books Published on January 2008 Part 1

  • To love and to cherish (20 min)
  • Double blind (15 min)
  • Final theory (20 min)
  • Fake boyfriend (15 min)
  • Vintage (30 min)
  • Betrayed (10 min)
  • Hidden in the wall (10 min)
  • Monkey business (15 min)
  • A quiet adjustment (30 min)

April 26, 8:15am-10:20am (UTC -8)
Titles of Random Books Published on January 2008 Part 2

  • Too scared to sleep (10 min)
  • Message in the flames (20 min)
  • How not to be popular (15 min)
  • Bedlam, bath and beyond (20 min)
  • Mermaids in the basement (30 min)
  • Leftovers (10 min)

April 26, 10:20am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
Linguistic Siamese Twins (Opposites)

  • Beginning to end (15 min)
  • Floor to ceiling (30 min)
  • Front to back (10 min)
  • North to south (10 min)
  • Start to finish (20 min)

April 26, 2:15pm-6:00pm (UTC -8)

  • Interview (10 min)
  • Sparkling (20 min)
  • Terrifying (30 min)
  • Color-blind (10 min)
  • Symbiotic (20 min)
  • Nanobots (30 min)
  • Bunny (10 min)
  • Belonging to neither (20 min)
  • Mold (30 min)
  • Counting (10 min)

April 26, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Titles of Random Books Published on August 2011

  • Changing the game (10 min)
  • Ripe for scandal (20 min)
  • Bitter harvest (30 min)
  • Reputation in tatters (15 min)
  • Garden of secrets past (15 min)
  • The brink of fame (30 min)
  • Busy monsters (5 min)
  • Dark parties (20 min)
  • Victory and honor (30 min)
  • The girl behind the glass (10 min)
  • Devil’s business (20 min)

April 27, 9:00am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
After Part 1

  • Aftermath (15 min)
  • Aftertaste (15 min)
  • Afterglow (30 min)
  • Aftershave (30 min)
  • Afternoon (10 min)
  • Afterthought (15 min)
  • Aftershock (30 min)

April 27, 5:00pm-8:00pm (UTC -8)
After Part 2

  • Afterlife (10 min)
  • Afterimage (15 min)
  • Afterhours (30 min)
  • Afterburn (10 min)
  • Afterworld (20 min)
  • Aftereffect (30 min)
  • Afterbirth (15 min)
  • After dark (10 min)

April 27, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Titles of Random Books Published on August 2012 Part 1

  • Blades of winter (10 min)
  • Glitch (20 min)
  • Temptation’s edge (30 min)
  • The scent of rain (10 min)
  • Silent witness (20 min)
  • Wooden bones (30 min)
  • Dying echo (10 min)
  • Close enough to touch (10 min)

April 28, 9:00am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
Titles of Random Books Published on August 2012 Part 2

  • Ready for pumpkins (30 min)
  • Windfall (15 min)
  • Edge of the world (30 min)
  • Trouble brewing (15 min)
  • The uninvited (15 min)
  • Termination orders (10 min)
  • Within reach (30 min)

April 28, 4:00pm-7:00pm (UTC -8)
Titles of Random Books Published on August 2013 Part 1

  • Rumors (10 min)
  • Helping hands (20 min)
  • Beyond hope (30 min)
  • Burning sky (10 min)
  • Guardian demon (20 min)
  • Jump the gun (30 min)
  • Cover story (10 min)
  • A spider in the cup (10 min)

April 28, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Titles of Random Books Published on August 2013 Part 2

  • Good as gone (10 min)
  • Early decision (5 min)
  • Consume (30 min)
  • Hide and seek (15 min)
  • The dark between (20 min)
  • Bought for revenge (30 min)
  • Chews your destiny (10 min)
  • A question of honor (20 min)

April 29, 1:00am-2:00am (UTC -8)
The Sprints Account Sprints

  • Borrowing something (5 min)
  • Wandering (10 min)
  • Mirrors (30 min)

April 29, 9:00am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
Xyzzy Awards

  • Counterfeit monkey (10 min)
  • One eye open (15 min)
  • The shadow in the cathedral (30 min)
  • Nightfall (10 min)
  • The traveling swordsman (10 min)
  • Vespers (30 min)
  • City of secrets (15 min)
  • Lock and key (5 min)
  • A bear’s night out (20 min)

April 29, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Titles of Random Books Published on May 2015

  • Tangled web (10 min)
  • The lake in the clouds (15 min)
  • Sea of stone (30 min)
  • Falling stars (15 min)
  • Alligator in an anorak (10 min)
  • A shameful consequence (5 min)
  • Difficult decisions (30 min)
  • Once burned (20 min)

April 30, 1:00am-2:00am (UTC -8)
Supernatural: Castiel Sprints

  • Doubt (10 min)
  • Smells (10 min)
  • Wisdom you’ve heard from the pizza man (20 min)

April 30, 7:40am-9:00am (UTC -8)
Physics Terms

  • Friction (10 min)
  • Disorder (30 min)
  • Toughness (20 min)

April 30, 9:00am-11:00am (UTC -8)
Festival of Books Panel Names Part 2

  • Through a different lens (20 min)
  • Science and identity (5 min)
  • The secrets we keep (20 min)
  • Deception and denial (30 min)
  • Connections and consequences (20 min)

April 30, 12:00pm-1:00pm (UTC -8)
Festival of Books Panel Names Part 3

  • Coming into her (their) own (30 min)
  • Lurking in the shadows (15 min)

April 30, 1:00pm-3:00pm (UTC -8)
Random Festivals Part 2

  • Burning man (20 min)
  • King mango (5 min)
  • Slug queen (20 min)
  • Rainbow gathering (30 min)
  • Half moon (20 min)

April 30, 4:00pm-9:00pm (UTC -8)
Random Festivals Part 3

  • Red river (10 min)
  • Aloha (10 min)
  • Tulip time (20 min)
  • Curtain up (30 min)
  • Banana split (20 min)
  • One spark (30 min)
  • Southern decadence (10 min)
  • All points west (5 min)
  • Bamboozle (30 min)
  • Cornerstone (20 min)
  • Signal (20 min)
  • Friendship (10 min)
  • The world’s largest disco (15 min)

April 30, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Out of Context Science

  • This suggests that when people can afford to, they will reduce their consumption of sweet potato. (20 min)
  • a) gratitude makes people more humble, and (b) humility makes people more likely to experience gratitude (30 min)
  • After calling the number, diners could decide to either press “one” for a sweeter dessert or “two” for a more bitter one (15 min)
  • The control group simply sat calmly in a room without video. (10 min)
  • Being eaten was the leading cause of death for rural squirrels. (20 min)
  • Since they happened to have some skulls lying around, they filled it with 1400 grams of ground beef. (20 min)
  • There are many explanations for such a finding other than the hypothesis that kids make us miserable. (30 min)

May 1, 12:00am-3:00am (UTC -8)
Ending Tropes

  • Bluffing the murderer (20 min)
  • Chased off into the sunset (30 min)
  • Surprise party (30 min)
  • Wrap it up (20 min)
  • It was all a dream (30 min)
  • Champions on the inside (20 min)

April 2015 Camp NaNoWriMo Prompts for Week 3

Okay, I admit it, I’ve been doing word sprints a lot this week. Mostly because the majority of the other sprint leaders haven’t signed up for sprint sessions and I was feeling guilty about leaving other wrimos in the lurch. On the surface, it looks like an impossible amount of work, but all I can say is–things will work out if you plan ahead of time and are able to multitask.

So, here are the prompts I used for week 3. Feel free to take them for your own use.

* * *

April 15, 9:15am-12:00pm (UTC -8)

  • Philosophy (10 min)
  • All men are created equal (20 min)
  • Logical consequence (30 min)
  • Intellectual responsibility (10 min)
  • Injustice (20 min)
  • History and class consciousness (30 min)
  • Free will (10 min)

April 15, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Battling Riverdance

  • Frying pan (10 min)
  • Kettle (20 min)
  • Crate of tomatoes (30 min)
  • Spork (10 min)
  • Trebuchet and flying fireballs (20 min)
  • Snakes (30 min)
  • Killer plot bunnies (10 min)
  • Canon (10 min)

April 16, 10:00am-11:00am (UTC -8)

  • Holding things together (10 min)
  • Jerry-rig (15 min)
  • To pick a lock (15 min)

April 16, 3:00pm-6:00pm (UTC -8)

  • Labradoodle, tigon, wallaroo (10 min)
  • Newscast, biopic, dramedy (20 min)
  • Soundscape, machinima, frolf (10 min)
  • Banana cue, cronut, peacherine (30 min)
  • spork, tangelo, turducken (20 min)
  • Affluenza, avionics, bleen (15 min)
  • Jorts, manscaping, napalm (10 min)
  • Bromance, pleather, frenemy (20 min)

April 17, 9:45am-1:00pm (UTC -8)

  • Loyalty (10 min)
  • Puppy eyes (20 min)
  • Drive to their grave (30 min)
  • Best friend (10 min)
  • Positive feedback loop (20 min)
  • Domestication (30 min)
  • Listening (10 min)
  • Follow the leader (20 min)

April 17, 10:30pm-12:30am (UTC -8)
World Building

  • Twisty and confusing roads (10 min)
  • Strange residents (20 min)
  • Small details (30 min)
  • Cultural interactions (10 min)
  • On the edge of conflict (20 min)

April 18, 10:45am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
L.A. Times Festival of Books: Panel Titles

  • Beyond this realm (10 min)
  • Perfectly flawed (20 min)
  • Secrets and suspense (30 min)
  • Pushing boundaries (20 min)

April 18, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Scary Sprints

  • Creepy (10 min)
  • Empty (20 min)
  • Glowing (30 min)
  • Scratching (10 min)
  • Darkness (20 min)

April 19, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Greek Sayings

  • An eagle’s old age is worth a sparrow’s youth (10 min)
  • Food of the gods (20 min)
  • Know thyself (30 min)
  • Give me somewhere to stand and I will move the earth (15 min)
  • Death is no different than life (15 min)
  • Summer, harvest, war (30 min)
  • Live hidden (10 min)
  • Wine dark sea (15 min)
  • There is learning in suffering and experience (15 min)
  • To commit the same sin twice is not a sign of a wise man (30 min)

April 20, 10:00am-12:45pm (UTC -8)
Color Metaphors Part 1

  • As black as a stack of black cats (15 min)
  • Little black book (15 min)
  • Black sheep (15 min)
  • Red carpet treatment (15 min)
  • Caught red-handed (15 min)
  • As red as blood (15 min)
  • White knuckle (15 min)
  • White lie (15 min)
  • White flag (15 min)

April 20, 3:00pm-6:00pm (UTC -8)
Color Metaphors Part 2

  • Blue blood (10 min)
  • Blue in the face (20 min)
  • Blue ribbon (30 min)
  • Get gray hair (10 min)
  • Gray matter (20 min)
  • Gray area (30 min)
  • Get green light (5 min)
  • Grass is greener on the other side (10 min)

April 20, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)

  • Saving family (15 min)
  • Hunting (15 min)
  • Exception (30 min)
  • Loyalty (10 min)
  • Getting tricked (15 min)
  • Vengeance (30 min)
  • Giggling (10 min)
  • Jewels (15 min)

April 21, 9:15am-1:00pm (UTC -8)
Color Metaphors Part 3

  • Pink slip (10 min)
  • Tickled pink (30 min)
  • Pink elephants (10 min)
  • A yellow streak (15 min)
  • Yellow-bellied (15 min)
  • Yellow journalism (30 min)
  • Apples and oranges (10 min)
  • Orange is the new black (5 min)
  • Squeeze the orange (20 min)
  • Born to the purple (30 min)
  • Purple squirrel (10 min)

April 21, 3:30pm-4:30pm (UTC -8)
Meow Sprints Redux

  • Push things off high shelves (10 min)
  • Nap in the sun (10 min)
  • Ignore (20 min)

April 21, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Mr. Ian Woon and the Temple of Sprints

  • The heavy will bear down on you (15 min)
  • You will burn (30 min)
  • The small will consume you (15 min)
  • Give your heart away (30 min)
  • Sharps overhead (10 min)
  • I will catch you (15 min)
  • Crocodiles (30 min)

Writing and Reading, Intention and Perception

I recently went to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at USC last weekend. It’s a haven for book nerds and book geeks, a veritable cornucopia of books and programming dedicated to the written word. The last time I went to the festival was over a decade ago when I was still a student. Back then, it was at UCLA and any sort of spontaneity was tempered by the fact that I was specifically going to the festival to get credit for a contemporary poetry class I was taking at the time.

But this time, I went myself and got to attend events I wanted to attend and not see writers who were required on a syllabus. This sort of freedom is the kind of thing that makes books fun for me. The freedom of choice. Maybe that boils down to my personality as well. I don’t particularly like being told what to do unless there’s a very good reason for it. I read what I want to read—I don’t follow book clubs. I might use book awards and word-of-mouth recommendations to help me choose what to read, but I wouldn’t dream of slavishly following them. On the other side, I also write what I want to write. To me, I only want to write about what I find interesting. Otherwise, it’s only going to bore the audience—which could just be me or anyone stumbling upon this blog post.

It’s this freedom of choice, however, that is the sticking point for some people who read and write. This very problem was brought up at one of the talks that I attended. What subject matter is appropriate for a writer to write about? Is the sky (and beyond) the limit or are we constrained by our own experiences? As readers, do we have a responsibility to read certain things and interpret the writing in certain ways?

The specific situation that generated these questions is that of writers recounting the African-American experience through fiction and poetry. Some argue that only African-Americans are allowed or qualified to write African-American characters. The main concern with this argument (as far as I understand it) is a mixture of the “write what you know” philosophy and the desire to take back the narrative from other writers (particularly white writers) who have appropriated their culture and identity and repackaged it in such a way that there is a high chance (and according to some, a 100% chance) of the African-American narrative getting skewed by a non-African-American lens—no matter how seemingly transparent. This, of course, can be generalized to any minority group that has been traditionally trampled by the majority, be it race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class, religion, politics or any other social division.

On the other side, writers want the freedom to write whatever they want. As Joyce Carol Oates said in her talk, if we write only what we know, it’s actually “not very much.” One example that illustrates the importance of the freedom to write what you don’t know (or rather, what is beyond your personal experience) is genre writing. Of course authors haven’t traveled on spaceships or talked to elves. It’s probably very likely that a writer hasn’t murdered someone or summoned the bogeyman. Real life doesn’t have a happily ever after that ends with a marriage and the hero riding off into the sunset—instead, it’s complicated. But writing about science fiction and fantasy, mystery and horror, romance and adventure are not any less valid ways of telling a story. This isn’t just about the fantastic either. Writing whatever you want also means having the freedom to take your imagination anywhere—not only to another planet but also to another person’s experience.

Human beings, particularly ones who have grown out of toddlerhood, are probably the only animals on this planet with a truly sophisticated sense of the theory of mind. We can put ourselves in another’s shoes and imagine what it’s like to be them. The theory of mind is absolutely essential for us social animals. If we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t have a civilization. This is where I think the argument of writing whatever you can imagine rests. You can imagine the Other and empathize with the Other. You realize that the Other has similar fears and joys that you do. The Other is no longer Other but just as human as you and me.

It’s one thing to write about someone who isn’t you in a realistic and sympathetic way. Some, however, are leery about the times when portrayals of their own group go horribly wrong. The stereotypes and the prejudices. Bowdlerization and simplification. Outright falsification, sanitization, and erasure. One solution that some have proposed is that only people from a particular group should write about their own group. People in other groups shouldn’t even attempt to write about them. This particular proposal is unsatisfying and more importantly, extremely troubling to me. The natural outgrowth of this is to not only put writers but also readers in a ghetto. We already see this with some bookstores that shelve all the African-American writers in the African-American section or LGBT authors in the LGBT section regardless of whether these writers are penning stories about their own culture or something completely different. And by separating them out that way, isn’t this telling readers that they must belong to those groups in order to read them? This isn’t being inclusive at all.

So what can writers write about? Do writers have certain obligations they have in what they can write about? And what about readers? Do they have any obligations to the authors and to themselves for what they read? I still feel that writers should have the freedom to write whatever they wish to write. They aren’t constrained by imagination. But whatever they write, they should take responsibility for it because someone’s going to read their work and react to it. A writer is not free from the consequences of putting their words out for public consumption because they cannot control what other people do. A writer from a majority group is not entitled to automatic praise and good reviews when writing about a minority group. If what you wrote was wrong, then apologize and do better next time. If someone “misinterpreted” your words and got offended, then learn from it. I put “misinterpreted” in quotes because there are no wrong interpretations with literature. It all depends on the viewpoint of the reader and there are as many viewpoints as there are readers in the world.

As for readers, well, that can get complicated too. Readers read for all sorts of reasons, none of them any less valid than another. Readers also have the choice of what to read (with the exception of literature classes). Books are art, are commodities, are choices. What they aren’t is the equivalent of bran cereal that we have to eat every day to keep regular. It seems, on the surface, that readers have carte blanche in what they read and how they interpret what they read. There are many authors who have the view that once the book is published and out in the world, there’s really nothing they can do to respond to other people’s interpretation of their work. But that’s not entirely true. The book is the focal point of a discussion between the author and the reader. And while the writer should be cognizant that the reader can react in any sort of manner to their words, the reader should also realize that it’s an act of bad faith if they willfully misinterpret a writer’s words and ignore the context in which those words were written.

In the end, I would argue for freedom of writing and reading whatever you want. This doesn’t mean you also have freedom from the consequences of what you read or write because there is always another human being on the other side of those words. What’s important is that as a writers and readers, we should try to learn and understand the other point of view no matter how difficult or painful it may be. And by trying to expand where we go with words rather than insulating ourselves with our own experiences, we can take the first step in erasing those boundaries between Us and Them.

April 2015 Camp NaNoWriMo Prompts for Week 2

I had intended on posting this earlier, but things got a bit crazy with work and then this weekend I got distracted with the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. So this got pushed further back. But better late than never, right? So here it is, the prompts for week 2!

* * *

April 8, 9:00am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
Headlines from Nature – April 2, 2015 Issue

  • Total recall (10 min)
  • Communication breakdown (30 min)
  • Welcome oblivion (30 min)
  • Turning point (10 min)
  • Like falling in love (20 min)
  • Here be dragons (30 min)
  • Global effects (10 min)

April 8, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Mad Men Quotes

  • “One minute you’re on top of the world, the next minute some secretary’s running you over with a lawn mower.” (10 min)
  • “I told him to be himself. That was pretty mean I guess.” (15 min)
  • “I’m not a solution to your problem. I’m another problem.” (30 min)
  • “One never knows how loyalty is born.” (20 min)
  • “Fear stimulates my imagination.” (15 min)

April 9, 9:15am-11:00am (UTC -8)
Fairy Tale Elements Part 1

  • Talking animals and objects (10 min)
  • Cleverness, trickster, word games (20 min)
  • Traveler’s tales (30 min)
  • Origins (5 min)
  • Human weakness explored (10 min)

April 9, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Fairy Tale Elements Part 2

  • Human strengths glorified (10 min)
  • Tall story, slight exaggeration, hyperbole (20 min)
  • Magic words or phrases; repetition of phrases/words (30 min)
  • Guardians (5 min)
  • Monsters (15 min)
  • Struggle between good and evil, light and dark (25 min)
  • Youngest vs. oldest (10 min)
  • Sleep (30 min)

April 10, 7:45am-10:00am (UTC -8)
Fairy Tale Elements Part 3

  • Impossible tasks (10 min)
  • Quests (30 min)
  • Gluttony/starvation (20 min)
  • Keys, passes, opening new doors (10 min)
  • Donors, benefactors, helpers (30 min)
  • Enchantment (15 min)

April 10, 6:30pm-8:30pm (UTC -8)
List of Musical Styles

  • Acoustic (15 min)
  • Ambient (30 min)
  • Ancient (30 min)
  • Avant-garde (5 min)
  • Baggy (15 min)

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

  • “Ooh, you are awful…but I like you!” (10 min)
  • “I don’t believe it!” (20 min)
  • “Listen very carefully, I shall only say this once.” (30 min)
  • “I have a cunning plan.” (10 min)
  • “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” (5 min)
  • “Say hello to my little friend.” (15 min)

April 11, 9:00am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
Magic: the Gathering Key Words Part 1

  • Flash (10 min)
  • Flying (20 min)
  • Fight (30 min)
  • Fading (10 min)
  • Fate (20 min)
  • Fear (30 min)
  • Flanking (5 min)

April 11, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Magic: the Gathering Key Words Part 2

  • Protection (10 min)
  • Persist (20 min)
  • Phasing (5 min)
  • Poisonous (30 min)
  • Provoke (15 min)
  • Prowl (10 min)

April 12, 9:15am-12:15pm (UTC -8)
Proverbial Phrases

  • A word to the wise is enough (15 min)
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder (10 min)
  • Absolute power corrupts absolutely (30 min)
  • Everything comes to those who wait (15 min)
  • Finders keepers, losers weepers (10 min)
  • Flattery will get you nowhere (30 min)
  • Honesty is the best policy (10 min)
  • If anything can go wrong, it will (20 min)

April 12, 2:45pm-5:00pm (UTC -8)
Magic: the Gathering Key Words Part 3

  • Scavenge (10 min)
  • Scry (15 min)
  • Shadow (30 min)
  • Soul bond (20 min)
  • Splice (10 min)
  • Split second (15 min)

April 12, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Animal Metaphors

  • Black swan event (10 min)
  • Butterfly effect (20 min)
  • Red herring (30 min)
  • Jumping the shark (10 min)
  • Lone wolf (30 min)

April 13, 9:00am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
Drosophila Gene Names

  • Capricious (10 min)
  • Deadpan (20 min)
  • Hindsight (30 min)
  • Mastermind (10 min)
  • Slouch (20 min)
  • Wishful thinking (30 min)
  • Breathless (5 min)
  • Glass bottom boat (10 min)

April 13, 3:10pm-6:00pm (UTC -8)

  • Surface change (15 min)
  • Rose, pea, duplex (30 min)
  • Day/night cycle (15 min)
  • Desert (30 min)
  • Compass (10 min)
  • Transposable (20 min)
  • Expression (10 min)

April 13, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Cucumber Varieties

  • Lucky dance (10 min)
  • Thunder (15 min)
  • Tasty jade (5 min)
  • Diva (30 min)
  • Genuine (15 min)
  • Stonewall (30 min)
  • Impact (15 min)
  • Early triumph (20 min)

April 14, 9:15am-12:00pm (UTC -8)
Food Metaphors

  • Pear-shaped (10 min)
  • No such thing as a free lunch (20 min)
  • When life gives you lemons, make lemonade (30 min)
  • Spaghettification (10 min)
  • Carrot and stick (20 min)
  • You can’t have your cake and eat it (30 min)
  • Breadcrumbs (5 min)

April 14, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)

  • Ketchup (10 min)
  • Forever young (monkey gland sauce) (20 min)
  • Salsa (30 min)
  • Bird’s eye (colo-colo) (15 min)
  • Gravy (20 min)

April 2015 Camp NaNoWriMo Prompts for Week 1

Whoa, it feels like forever since I last posted to the blog. All I can say is that things have been very busy of late and sleep and fun times have been shoved aside in favor of work. I will try to post a little more often this month since it’s Camp NaNo and once again, I’m doing @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter.

The following are the prompts I used for the first week. (The entire archive of prompts from the past couple of years is located here.) Feel free to take any or all of them to help inspire you in your writing.

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March 31, 10:30pm-1:00am (UTC -8)
Sneaking around camp

  • Raid (15 min)
  • Crawl and hide (15 min)
  • Physical exertion (30 min)
  • Stealth (10 min)
  • Taken (20 min)
  • Late night (15 min)

April 1, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Eurovision 2015 song titles/Editing

  • Warrior/spelling and grammar (10 min)
  • Chain of lights/fix plot hole (20 min)
  • Black smoke/consistent characterization (30 min)
  • Goodbye to yesterday/unnecessary description (10 min)
  • Unbroken/polish some dialogue (20 min)
  • One last breath/rewrite a scene (30 min)
  • Face the shadow/revise transition scene (5 min)
  • Hope never dies/work on awkward phrasing (10 min)

April 3, 9:00pm-1:00am (UTC -8)
American game shows

  • The price is right (10 min)
  • Jeopardy (20 min)
  • Deal or no deal (30 min)
  • Family feud (10 min)
  • Wheel of fortune (20 min)
  • The dating game (30 min)
  • Pyramid (10 min)
  • Win, lose or draw (10 min)
  • Survivor (20 min)
  • Everything goes (10 min)

April 4, 3:00pm-5:00pm (UTC -8)
What if

  • What if your main character discovered a dead body? (10 min)
  • What if the antagonist’s grandmother called in the middle of an Important Event? (20 min)
  • What if a character arrives with some distressing news? (10 min)
  • What if the weather ruins some important plans? (30 min)
  • What if a mysterious package gets delivered to the wrong person? (20 min)

April 4, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Medieval folklore

  • Giants, strength, conflict (10 min)
  • Rites of passage (15 min)
  • Fool, commentary, vice (30 min)
  • Dance, costume, community (15 min)
  • Traditions (10 min)

April 5, 2:15pm-4:15pm (UTC -8)

  • Sight (20 min)
  • Hearing (10 min)
  • Smell (30 min)
  • Touch (10 min)

April 5, 7:00pm-8:30pm (UTC -8)
RADAR sprinting: Festivals

  • Porcupine freedom (15 min)
  • Pepper jelly (10 min)
  • Renaissance (20 min)
  • Sasquatch (15 min)

April 6, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)
Quotes from Gilgamesh

  • Who would venture there? (10 min)
  • The door through which the cold gets in (20 min)
  • The weeping does not end day or night (30 min)
  • Pay heed to a little one that holds on to your hand (10 min)
  • Study how it is made (10 min)
  • A slippery path is not feared by two people who help each other (10 min)

April 7, 12:30pm-2:00pm (UTC -8)
Headlines from Science (April 3, 2015 issue)

  • Realizing the promise (10 min)
  • A community for disaster (20 min)
  • New products (20 min)
  • ‘The Blob’ invades Pacific, flummoxing climate experts (15 min)

April 7, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -8)

  • Bagpipe, bazooka, breathless (10 min)
  • Mummification, goddess, cult (20 min)
  • Nickle, mercury, gold, helium (10 min)
  • Some say cheese like casu marzu is better with these little critters (20 min)
  • This comes in many different sizes. It can both frighten and delight. And it never lets go. (30 min)

Old Town Skulls

Old Town, San Diego, CA




















Crouching Kitties Hidden Sheep

The Lunar New Year Tết Festival last weekend was interesting and had some terrific food, but I’d have to say I had a lot more fun at the Chinese New Year Festival today. A lot of it had to do with the really great performances (the Naruwan Taiko group drew a huge crowd and they were awesome. I highly recommend seeing them if you have a chance), the energetic and personable MCs, and the somewhat intimate layout of the festival downtown which is really a feat considering the size of the city.

This year is the year of the sheep/ram/goat. (This isn’t clear because the Chinese character is inclusive of all these creatures. But “Year of the Horned Ruminant” doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it.) However, I saw few of these at the festival–only at a children’s puppet show and depicted on the t-shirts the local Chinese cultural association were selling. The big draw was mainly the dragon and lion dancers.














* * *

A new cat cafe opened in San Diego last December. It’s not the first cat cafe to open in the US though. That honor goes to the one in San Francisco which opened last October. The cafe was on the same block as the festival so I figured I might as well pop in and see how it was like. I think this is a great idea to help cats from the local humane society to get adopted. So if you’re seriously thinking about adopting a cat, this is the place to go. If you’re a crazy cat enthusiast with grabby hands, however, this might not be for you. The employees really do look out for the cats’ well being and there are pretty strict rules for visitors.







On the 101 with a Quarter in My Shoe

Yes, there was a quarter in my shoe. Apparently the change I got from my morning coffee fell through a hole in my pocket. Anyways, here’s what I did on Presidents Day. Note of advice: get to the beach early or you’ll never find parking. (I got to Carlsbad at 8 AM and I thought I was lucky getting a space. The beaches open at 6 AM.)

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Carlsbad, CA









* * *

Oceanside, CA







* * *

Sunset Cliffs, San Diego, CA








Super Beach Sunday

Cabrillo National Monument, Tidal Pools













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