Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: December, 2014

Lions and Tigers and No Bears

At the San Diego Safari Park
















Koi on a Sunday

At the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum

An Educational Saturday

Various museums at Balboa Park (San Diego)














Some Thoughts on NaNoWriMo 2014

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

NaNoWriMo 2014 Prompts for Week 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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