Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: October, 2006

I’m Alive

Okay, so people who’ve been checking up on my other weblog aren’t worrying, but dang, it’s been a while since I’ve updated this one. I swear I’m going to do some more interesting posts–I’ve been planning a brief book review and some comments on an interesting Nature paper.

As for real life, there was a very interesting rant from a prof in one of my classes–“You need to spend many, many hours studying each lecture! If you say you only need to study for half an hour, you’re either lying or you’re too smart for this class!” Yeah, that was a not so subtle warning about the difficulty of the next exam two weeks from now, but I’ve already started studying yesterday before he gave that rant. (And I currently have an A in the class so I’m pretty sure he wasn’t ranting at me…)

* * *
The Thursday Threesome: “Sasquatch” and “Haunted Homeland”

Onesome: Sasquatch– Big Foot? Yeti? “Harry and the Hendersons”? Maybe? No way? Sure, we have the entire family over for dinner every Thanksgiving? Whaddaya’ think?

Er, extremely unlikely.

Twosome: and Haunted– It’s All Hallow’s Eve next week; are you haunted by little creatures in your neighborhood extorting goodies from you? …and do you do your part to provide an entertaining experience for them? …or do you lock the doors, kill the lights and hide from the horde?

Little creatures? Who cares about the small kiddies when there are crazy college students around? I’m hiding.

Threesome: Homeland– ghosts and spectres: do you have any local stories of ‘haunted’ places. …or are there roads you grandmother told you to never travel alone, especially when the moon is full? Just askin’…

Sorry, no.

The Thursday Threesome: Payin’ the bills

Onesome: Payin’– Hey, ‘they’ tell us fuel prices are down! What are you payin’ this week for a gallon of gas?

Sure. And I’m Mickey Mouse. This week, it’s $2.57.

Twosome: the– heck you say! There’s an election coming up here in the US; do you plan to vote? No, no need for your soapbox. …unless you want to.

No, because I can’t vote. There’s this requirement, you see, about being a United States citizen.

Threesome: Bills– Which bill(s) do you absolutely dislike paying? …and by that I mean the one you “have to-have to” but wish you didn’t have to. Tuition/books? Power? The newspaper?

The phone bill. Because I never use the phone.


I was so effin’ mad this afternoon when I overheard two chic young women disparage genre fiction as “unhealthy.” If I had an unabridged dictionary available on hand, I would have whacked them over the head with it.

Better Than Your Average Chalkboard Blobby Diagram

Cellular Visions: The Inner Life of a Cell. A really cool 3D eight-minute animation of the protein interactions inside of a cell created by XVIVO, a scientific animation company near Hartford, CT. Lovely stuff.

In Defense of Binge Writing

or A Short Rebuttal of a Long Rant Against NaNoWriMo (warning, pdf file)

Certain writers view writing as a sacred craft. They say it requires dedication and a commitment to art and that one must strive for the perfection of prose. In short, they’ve put writing on a pedestal–hopefully out of reach of those they consider the grubby masses. Holland argues that NaNoWriMo has knocked this lofty pursuit off the pedestal and into those common grubby hands with the simple challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. He thinks this is a bad thing because it allows your average Joe to churn out dreck and be proud of it.

I would call this the Oprah Book Club Syndrome. It is true that NaNoWriMo is the writer’s version of that book club by making the process of writing a novel accessible to everyone. I don’t necessarily agree with what passes as a critical analysis by Oprah or with Chris Baty’s assertion that getting to 50,000 words involves bad writing, but both Oprah and Baty do serve an important function: to get people who don’t ordinarily read or write to do so. In this current visual age of television, movies, video games, and glossy magazines, anything that makes people stop and think instead of passively absorbing stuff deserve to be recognized.

How much to take away from such an experience is up to the individual. Some people do NaNoWriMo just for fun. Some view the challenge as another notch on their accomplishment post. Yet others will use this as a learning experience or as a step to becoming a published writer. Despite what appears to be a group love-fest for crappy writing on the NaNoWriMo forums, the discussion on those forums does not mean that everyone believes that. No amount of socializing will change the fact that writing is an intensely personal endeavor. And because creating fiction is similar to creating any other piece of art, writing is subjective. The writer cannot be ultimately judged as serious or frivolous by any one person.

Holland uses the example of Fantasy kiddies who mask their sexual frustrations by pouring out reams of obsessive world building and clichéd plots populated with Mary Sue characters as a symptom of what is wrong about NaNoWriMo. He thinks that this self-absorbed weirdness coupled with the mantra of “quantity over quality” will somehow degrade the quality of future literature. I do agree with his point that to get anything out of NaNoWriMo, the writer should have learned something from it. But this does not mean that anyone should have the right to drill this opinion into every participant.

So what if some people doing NaNoWriMo are strange? Everyone is strange to someone; normal is relative. And so what if you find the NaNoWriMo philosophy distasteful? There is no one “correct” way to write something. Chris Baty’s motivational screeds are suggestions only. Even writing 50,000 words in a month is merely a goal. How you, the participant, address the challenge is all up to personal interpretation.

Addendum: Also see the discussion here.

(Cross-posted at Writing Sya.)

Tangled Bank #64

Go read some great science blogging around the web in this week’s edition of Tangled Bank over at The Neurophilosopher’s Weblog. And dang it, he has the chance to meet up with the founder of this long time science carnival and he’s thinking it’s not such a great idea. Don’t let that pass you by! It’s not every day that people go to England you know…

The Thursday Threesome: Up too Late!

Onesome: Up– to no good? Are you the Halloween prankster sort of person? …or do you just avoid that kind of thing?


Twosome: too– many toppings! …or not? What goes on top of your ice cream or frozen treat? I mean, chocolate may be a given for some people, but…

Er, nothing? It’s too cold for ice cream.

Threesome: Late– sunrises are here with the changing seasons (except for those Down Under ); are you finding it harder to get up and get moving in the morning?

It only depends on how much sleep I get. Today, I was up way before the sun came up. But that’s only because the only sleep I got last night was a light two and a half hour doze.

* * *
A random observation:

Dang it, why me? My neighbors are arguing all the time now. It would have been bad enough if it were just a couple bickering back and forth–as couples tend to do. Nope. It’s worse. Two guys are arguing and this can get quite loud. Sometimes I wish my other neighbor and his band cronies would practice in the evening to drown them out.


And I thought I was a die-hard Nanowrimo fan by participating every year (this will be my sixth). Someone actually got Nanowrimo tattooed.

The Thursday Threesome: Fall Harvest Festival

Onesome: Fall– (ing) into “The Decorating Season”? How about it: do you have your Halloween Tree up and decorated yet? …or maybe just a plastic pumpkin sitting on the table ? …something in between? Inquiring minds and all that…

I have no decorations.

Twosome: Harvest– time? What crops are grown in your area (call it fifty miles) that are coming out of the fields this Fall?

Lentils and cow feed.

Threesome: Festival– Do you have a County Fair or Harvest Fest happening in Autumn? …or do you wait until the sap flows?

I’m sure there’s something happening. But I haven’t taken the time to find out.


If you average the comment I got from a teenager who called me an idiot and a not-so-complimentary “you’re a walking encyclopedia!” from a thirty-something–am I badly mediocre?