Nov 302011
 
Keyframing

It’s the last day of November. I have less than 12 hours to go on the NaNoWriMo challenge. In a last desperate bid to hit 50,000 words, I’m going to keep on writing all day, with just this little break to keep the blog alive. I’m still under 45,000, so it’s a stretch. Speaking of stretch, Thanksgiving was way too much eating and not nearly enough writing. Once again, I could take a lesson from Smokey. Look at him. He’s just lying there, I’m standing right above him with the camera, and he doesn’t even budge. In fact, after I took the picture, he calmly turned his head away and closed his eyes again. I need some of that focus!   I find the Internet, in particular, horribly distracting. There is so much interesting content out there that I often feel as if I’m barely keeping my head above water. click here to read the whole dang post [...]

Nov 212011
 
Moment of beauty II

On a walk along the lake the other day, I came across this set of footprints. Evidence that I am not alone. I am madly writing about Swiss postdocs, stem cells and Halloween parties. Let me just say this: all those authors who say that the characters in their books take on lives of their own and then proceed to take over your life? They’re not making it up. I sit down, prepared to write one thing, and two thousand words later, something completely different has happened. Most of the time it’s a big improvement over what I had planned. Sometimes, I just stare at the screen and think, how did that happen? WTF? The good news is that I may actually reach my NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month. The bad news is that this means I cannot devote much (if any) time to click here to read the whole dang post [...]

Nov 162011
 
Yawn

Monday afternoon, I couldn’t stop yawning. Sure, I was tired – I’ve been writing thousands of words a day on top of endless little bits and pieces of translating that keep dribbling in – but this was unusual. Later that afternoon, I saw this: Yawning may no longer be a wide open question Worth a click. I wasn’t aware that yawning was one of the great unsolved problems of science. A dentist from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (Gary Hack) and a Princeton postdoc (Andrew Gallup) claim that we don’t yawn because we’re tired, sleepy, or need more oxygen. No, they say, we yawn in order to cool down our brains. “The brain is exquisitely sensitive to temperature changes and therefore must be protected from overheating,” the authors write. “Brains, like computers, operate best when they are cool.” Ah, so that’s my problem. I’m overheating. I knew this click here to read the whole dang post [...]

Nov 132011
 
Spiraling down the double helix

It’s almost mid-month.  I’m at about 19,000 words, about 3,000 words behind my carefully calculated NaNoWriMo goal. (I’ve made an excel spreadsheet). I took my blood pressure yesterday and realized that stressing about keeping up with my self-imposed word count is not helping anything. In fact, my scientific approach to this endeavor – just 2,000 words a day, gives me 5 days off – is totally ludicrous. Creativity doesn’t work like that. I should know better. Take yesterday. The central theme of my plot involves people researching induced pluripotent stem cells. Informing myself on this seemed the sensible thing to do, so I started reading. Now, I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the topic of stem cells has been around forever. But did you know that human embryonic stem cells were only discovered in 1998? We’ve only known about these suckers for a dozen years? click here to read the whole dang post [...]

Nov 072011
 
Serendipity

Just as I walked up to the metro on Saturday, the doors shut in my face. I was literally one second too late. Damn. Steamed. I’d been working in the Starbuck’s on the Place St. Francois for the last couple of hours. Yes, I know, Starbuck’s is a big, evil chain store that sells sub-par coffee for over-par prices and manipulates people with all kinds of marketing gimmicks. But it’s the only coffee shop I know of around here where I can get out of my head and into my writing properly. If I stay at home on the weekend I’m constantly being asked for food by the resident teenagers or feeling like I ought to be doing laundry, and I can’t get anything done. See, in a place like Starbuck’s there are a lot of distractions. Babies crying, background music, other people working and talking, low lighting, lots of click here to read the whole dang post [...]

Nov 022011
 

Wow. I just want to go on the record here to report that writing 2,000 words a day is really tough. Last night, I was explaining the idea to Marc at dinner. So how much have you written today? he asked. Well, technically, 118 words. On the blog, I said. So your first day is going to be one of your days off? I can’t start with a day off! So after dinner last night I managed to crank out about 1,000 words. I got all the way up to where my main character leaves the office to go have lunch with the IT guy. Then I just ran out of steam. Today I spent the morning translating, then went for a run. After my own lunch, I tackled lunch with the IT guy. I cranked away for what seemed like endless hours – and now my total is just click here to read the whole dang post [...]

Nov 012011
 
A novel idea

Halloween has come and gone, hardly noticed here in chocolate land. Yesterday, the schoolkids traipsed by my house at lunch wearing normal clothing. It was so sad. Nobody got to wear a costume to school. (The Swiss don’t celebrate any holidays or birthdays at school, to be fair. School is for learning, not for partying.) Last night, despite my brimming basket of specially-purchased candy (I made an extra trip) we only had one group ring the doorbell. I even had a candle-filled pumpkin on the windowsill to beckon them in. Maybe I got a bad reputation for what I did last year, when the village kids came trick-or-treating on October 30. Come back tomorrow night, I’d said, genuinely shocked when they showed up at the door. I didn’t have any candy! (I can’t buy it more than one day in advance or I eat it all.) Today is not Halloween! click here to read the whole dang post [...]