Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: November, 2008

It’s Done, Sort Of

Well, I got a bit past 50k. Yay!

The story itself, however, isn’t done. Obvious since I left a cliffhanger. At the moment, I’m feeling a little burned out. If I’m going to finish the story, I need a little time away from it. The thing is, I had no problem writing the story out once I seriously got down to actually writing. I just had a hard time forcing myself to get started in the first place. And when I wrote, it felt more like a chore rather than a joy. And I had all these other ideas clambering in my head trying to get out. And I couldn’t get them out because they didn’t fit the story I was currently writing.

One major thing I did this year was to try to write an outline, kind of did it, and immediately threw it out once the first of the month rolled around. So mainly, I was writing by the seat of my pants. I really had no idea what was going to happen next. And I was writing sci-fi. But I doubt the genre had anything to do with my sluggishness this year.

I’m not particularly disappointed. Although I also reached 50k in 2002, I didn’t finish the story then either. In fact, I’m glad that this year was particularly difficult–an indication that Nanowrimo won’t get stale no matter how many times I attempt it. The important thing is, I challenged myself with a different genre and a different point of view. Writing solely focused on a male main character is a difficult thing if you don’t have any idea what you’re doing. But whether the execution was right or not is besides the point–at least I got to stretch those writing muscles a bit.

As for next year: of course I already have possible ideas floating about. But whatever it ultimately ends up, it’ll be another challenge.

(For those of you morbidly curious, this year’s effort is posted in its entirety here. It’s about an ex-criminal/mechanical engineer who inherits a vacation house on Triton and discovers that the house is more than what it seems. Mostly dialogue, some action, explosions, and not much introspection.)

(originally posted at Writing Sya)

A Meme

Am I a provincial person for not doing even half of this stuff? Must a person do all this stuff before they die in order to have a “good life”? Can you have a good life if you do only one thing really well? Can you have a good life if you’ve done nothing that’s been expected of you or deemed by anyone else to be “adventurous”?

I believe people can have satisfying lives without a damn list. But here’s one anyway…

Via Dustbury.
Stuff done in bold, comments in italics.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (marching, not rock)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (been to Disney World, though)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea (from land)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (plenty of times when I went to school/work sick)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (oh, you see a lot of those when you’re doing all-nighters)
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (China, Vietnam)
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (does html count?)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen (it was more like a homeless shelter)
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book (if I’m lucky)
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one (it seems somewhat callous not to bold this one, but how can you if they’re relatives or acquaintances that you didn’t know very well?)
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee (blundering into an entire nest is not fun)
100. Read an entire book in one day


My advisor sometimes calls me “The Machine” because whenever he randomly drops into lab, about ninety percent of the time, I’m in the middle of an experiment involving hundreds of samples. I don’t particularly like being called “The Machine”–to me, it partially implies that I have no emotion. But what can you do? You can’t pick your own nickname.

However, it could be worse. The other grad student is nicknamed “The Cow Killer”.

Overheard Conversations and Memes

Driving in the Dark

Grad Student #1: It’s getting sort of stuffy in here. We need some air.

Grad Student #2: I think the vent is over here…


Grad Student #1: AAARRRG!!

PI: What’s going on back there?

Grad Student #1: My eyes!

Grad Student #2: Oops. I accidentally turned on the lights.

* * *
Watch Where You’re Going

Grad Student #3: I can’t believe he said that! My boss is great! Maybe he’s implying that I’m a bad TA.

Undergrad: Maybe you should tell him that you’re awesome.

Grad Student #3: (flaunting off) That’s right! I’ll tell him I’m totally cool! (trips over garbage can)

* * *
Booking Through Thursday: Why Buy?

I’ve asked, in the past, about whether you more often buy your books, or get them from libraries. What I want to know today, is, WHY BUY?

Even if you are a die-hard fan of the public library system, I’m betting you have at least ONE permanent resident of your bookshelves in your house. I’m betting that no real book-lover can go through life without owning at least one book. So … why that one? What made you buy the books that you actually own, even though your usual preference is to borrow and return them?

If you usually buy your books, tell me why. Why buy instead of borrow? Why shell out your hard-earned dollars for something you could get for free?

The reasons differ, depending on the book. If it’s non-fiction, especially textbooks, I buy instead of checking it out of the library because I want easy access to it at any time. It’s not a matter of getting things for free–but of convenience.

If it’s fiction, it depends. Sometimes I collect certain books. Other times, I’m anxious about a new book coming out and I don’t want to wait at the library. At book sales or at used bookstores, I can be a little impulsive because something catches my eye and it’s cheap. It’s also the on hand thing again. If I’m in the mood to read something right now, I can be lazy and pick something off the shelf and not have to take time to go to the library.

Twice the Age of 14-Year-Olds, Half as Mature

Like other people with birthdays on holidays, I’m somewhat torn about putting more emphasis on the personal versus the importance of something larger. Then again, at least I wasn’t born on Christmas. But no, that hasn’t really been worrying at me lately. Instead, I’ve been pondering the concept of “growing up”. I don’t really care if I am grown up or not, but I do care about being taken seriously. Compare me (single, childless, petless, no “real” job) with someone at the same age who has the proverbial spouse, 2.5 kids, dog, and the house with the white picket fence. Who would you immediately gravitate to as someone who would understand the issues that are important to you better?

* * *
Anyways, I’d like to reference this post again. It’s more fun than leaving people happy birthday comments.


I can’t believe this completely slipped my mind today. Today, this blog has been in existence for seven years. And no, I still have not gotten my blogging act together yet. Well, relative* longevity on the internet has to count for something, right? No? What about all those random hits I get from Google for topics that have nothing to do with this blog? Can’t random hits be cool? Oh right. I was never cool in the first place.

*There are plenty of people who’ve been on the internet far longer than I have. I’m a mere speck compared to them.

Addendum: Come to think of it, I’m a mere speck compared to people who’ve only been on the internet for two weeks, so I might as well just give up.

This Research Is [Beep!]

The title to the seminar, referring to nutrition and microbes, was innocuous enough. But fifteen minutes into the talk, it sunk into my brain that the speaker was talking about dog poop. And that wasn’t all. There was also cat poop, horse poop, chicken poop–well you get the idea. It was like something straight out of the Annals of Improbable Research. And no one was even smirking. The professors were sitting there, attentive, while the undergrads–as usual–were zonked out. Had the lecture format completely cut the cheese?

“I thought the talk was very interesting,” another grad student told me seriously, after the seminar.

Oh geez. Is that all you have to say?


Booking Through Thursday: Presents!

What, if any, memorable or special book have you ever gotten as a present? Birthday or otherwise. What made it so notable? The person who gave it? The book itself? The “gift aura?”

You know, this is what irks me about present giving. People never take the time to know what I really want. Nobody cares (well, except my family–but they tend to be practical–and books to them, aren’t practical). No one has ever gotten me books. I’ve gotten stuff like clothes and board games I’ve never even heard of, let alone want to play.

Of course, I’m not sure I would want to have someone give me books. I have really eclectic tastes and it’s not a matter of just picking something off the bestseller list or off the classics shelf. I could start some sort of Amazon wishlist so people would know what I prefer, but I detest wishlists of any sort on principle.

“Wow, Looks Like Everyone Got the Memo.”

Well, that’s what a lady behind me in line said. I was somewhat amused that I ended up in the precinct with the longest line. People were walking past the line, thinking it was for another precinct (which in reality only had two or three people showing up at the early hour) and then exclaiming, “Oh my God!” when they realized it was their line.

Also, I have one complaint: Finding the polling place was not intuitive! Or maybe they were just trying to weed out all the dumb people. It’s no use if only one side of the building (the building in question: the Kibbie Dome) had signs. I bumped into another person who was lost, so I know it wasn’t just me.

And a d’oh moment: The person who was initially lost had asked someone else about the location of the polling place and that person had replied with no sarcasm whatsoever, “Elections? There’s an election today?” Man, sometimes I think I’m out of touch with the world because I spend too much time in lab, but apparently I’m not the one living under a rock.

Thoughts on Tomorrow

So, tomorrow will be the first time I’ll actually be able to vote in a general election. (For those of you not in the know, I got my American citizenship earlier this year. Finally.) And honestly? I’m feeling pessimistic and morose.

I’m not the kind of person who listens to television ads or chatty news commentators. Heck, I don’t even own a television. I throw away political propaganda that’s been plastered to my apartment door without a second look. I don’t listen to other people–even if they’re nice people who I personally know. Instead, I’ve attempted to find news and information sources on the internet. (But the safe bet, perhaps, is to assume bias in everything.) Mostly, I’ve concluded it’s basically choices between greater and lesser evils–although some candidates’ positions make me cringe so hard, the decision becomes almost a no-brainer.

But what can I expect? This is Idaho. Sure, I’ll vote. It’s the principle of the thing. But in practicality? The mammoth of the expected will swamp whatever the choice. One could call this state two years ago and not be wrong.