Blogger’s block

I know I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’m not sure if I have an explanation – I’ve just been feeling particularly uninspired and unmotivated. I’ve been reading lots of interesting and even rage inducing stories that would typically have me typing away, yet it’s not translating into words on a screen. I’ve mentally written long, potentially insightful posts in my head, only to have no will to actually write them out once I’m finally home with some free time.

I have conflicting hypotheses. One is the gloom of Seattle winter. I always get mopey during the winter, but the lack of sunlight and constant drizzle is getting to me. I’m having a hard time waking up in the morning, and it’s pitch black an hour before I’m even leaving work. Bleh. Thankfully I’m visiting my family in Florida for Christmas, so I’ll absorb a little sunlight there.

My alternative hypothesis is that I’ve actually acquired a life. It’s hard to write a rage filled post about misogyny when a kitten is purring on your lap. It’s hard to stay peeved when you’re cuddling with your boyfriend instead. Heck, you just have less time to write when you actually have fun things to do instead.

Unfortunately I don’t have a good way to test my hypotheses, since going to Florida will ALSO remove the kitten and boyfriend variables.

So…a little help with my writer’s block? Ask me questions in the comments about whatever your heart desires, and I will answer them in another post. I know this tends to get my creative juices flowing. They can be as silly or serious as you’d like. Honestly right now I’d probably write more about which Hogwarts house I’d belong to than my thoughts on some philosophical issue about atheism.


  1. Alice says

    Who isyour favorite villain of all time? When I had finals to study for and friends to see and papers to do, the only thing that interested me was writing an essay about who was better: Iago from Othello or Loki from Norse mythology (No, that wasn’t the paper I needed to do).

  2. says

    Well since you’re reading A Game of Thrones right now, why not a comparative analysis of the female characters in the novel, and which you feel are good role models for women, and which you feel should go die in a fire (read: Cersei Lannister)?

  3. says

    Once upon a time, I used to work on microarray scanners, and my company gave me a crayola version of genetics for engineers. The thing that always fascinated/confused me was the DNA folding. So you have these long strings of DNA all bundled up in cells, and parts of it unzip for RNA replication to produce proteins. Are the active genes in places where it is easy to get to? Is that why they are active? Can you change the way the DNA strand is folded so you can change the active and inactive genes?

  4. Praedico says

    Have you considered taking a placebo kitten and boyfriend with you to Florida? Say, a cuddly toy and a realdoll*? Obviously, it’s not as good as the real thing, but you could have them around one day and pack them away the next; it might provide more data to refine your hypotheses.

    Also, if you’re flying, you might give a TSA agent a heart attack when they x-ray your bags.

    *Yes, I know realdolls are really expensive and creepy as hell, but SCIENCE!

  5. Michael Sadowsky says

    I have an idea for a really geeky post. How about discussing what different characters, real or fictional, would be like as Pokemon. What would their types and base stats be? What attacks would they have? Maybe you could also include a hypothetical drawing of what each would look like.

  6. ajb47 says

    Where’s Waldo?

    If you could be a tree, what kind of tree would you be? Why?

    What were you thinking when you did that thing that time at that place?

    “A chickpea is neither a chick, nor a pea. Discuss.”


  7. Hoskuld says

    more book-recommendations! thanks to you I read “red queen” and “dr. tatiana’s sexadvice to all creation” and they were awesome.

  8. LTFT says

    Did you see any fallout from discussing your grant application feedback? Do you have the sense that some or a majority of the faculty know about or read your blog? What did your final document look like?

  9. Lauren Ipsum says

    What criteria would you suggest for determining when an author or a series of books has jumped the shark?

    How many books past the shark jump do you stick with a favorite author or series?

  10. Alt+3 says

    I think we all know that the elves in Harry Potter were their slaves. Now, setting aside the moral aspect of wizards keeping sentient beings as property well into the 20th century, how was it done? The elves are depicted as being just this side of omnipotent. They can apparate into and out of Hogwarts at will, they don’t seem to follow any normal wizarding rules, and yet they are slaves. How?

  11. CollegeKid says

    If you were to find a way into an alternate universe where you made a different decision (your choice) what would that Jen be like and what would the differences be? The decision could be something like choosing a different undergraduate major or a different grad school or just choosing to buy a car vs take the bus or anything else.

  12. says

    Why not just embrace having a life which should even help with the Seattle weather problems… My oldest daughter who I almost consider to be your doppelganger, Is also entering the “having a life” stage and it is interfering with her writing, gaming, being cranky, etc. but otherwise seems a very positive turn of events. ;-)

  13. John Small Berries says

    When you first moved to Seattle, you made some mention about how different it was in a place where atheists seem far more accepted than in the Midwest. Do you think perhaps that might have anything to do with your decreased motivation?

  14. Ashley says

    Not a suggestion, necessarily – just a thank you. Last year you started LoseIt as a bet and (after a really shitty New Years’ Eve where I might have accidentally made out with a hobo) it inspired me to clean up my act, too. I lost 20 lbs that way – and kept it off since then.

    I’m still not the 135 lbs waif I could be, I suppose (although holy crap that number is closer than it used to be), but it profoundly, dramatically changed the way I treat myself. I have three friends all using it now, seeing how happy and not-body-image-freaked-out as you’d think with a calorie counter.

  15. Nevare says

    im a bi9g gamer, used to spend alot of time inf ront of the pc.
    yet bout 6 months ago move home and just got the internet just over a month ago, i thought i would be spending more time in front of it now, but latly ive been spending more time out with the girl friend, that when im home i just want to chill.
    (not complaining) its just funny the unexpected consiquences of having a life brings

  16. nathanlee says

    Harry potter house sounds interesting. I always like to hear people’s justifications for what house they would belong to. Myself, I’d totally be a Ravenclaw. I related far more to Luna than to Harry, and when all the younger less-experienced ravenclaws left before the final battle, I thought “of course, because that’s the better strategy”. Meanwhile Gryffindors happily say “sure I can do that”, even though they don’t yet know the difference between a newt and a NEWT. silly Gryffindors – I expect high rates of accidental death in that house.

    Oh, You should know that we don’t always need rage-filled posts. Happy, non-atheistic, non-feministic, and barely-nerdy posts are great to read :).

  17. julian says

    Are you high?!

    Cersi Lannister is probably one of the series’ best characters (full disclaimer: going off the hbo series here.) Not only is she a brilliant politician who understands the best way to increase the nation’s overall strength and power, she’s also one of the most empowered women in the series (although, admittedly, it comes from ‘playing the game’ better than everyone else.)

  18. carpenterman says

    Very well, young scientist, here’s a question:
    Given the average size and muscle mass of the animal, and the density of several common North American trees, just how much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

  19. Ren says

    I Have to agree with Julian with respect to Cercei, but you only “get her” after reading at least 2 books of the series (I just started to see things “her way” in the 3rd book). But hearing Jen’s opinion about the Game of Thrones Universe and the role of women there would be definitely interesting!

  20. says

    Anything my heart desires? OK.

    Your mention of Seattle made me wonder what’s at the very top of Roosevelt Way N.E. these days. When I was there, it was KRAB.

    Although I don’t remember posing for that photo, I might be one of the folks in it…either the guy looking to stage-right partially in the orange circle, or maybe the guy to the far stage-right. That’s what I looked like those days; and I was one of the volunteers–a wires-and-pliers guy–during the Greg Palmer era.


  21. Natalie says

    You can always just write about the fun things you’re doing instead of writing?

    Or instead of fun things, you could just start exposing yourself to as much hate inducing bile as possible. Like… I don’t know… commit yourself to watching every episode of ABC’s new show “Work It”.

    Or you could do the old writerly thing of deliberating sabotaging and fucking up your own life for the sake of having something to write about. :)

  22. Brian says

    You never write about what you’re actually studying. Half the reason I read blogs is to vicariously experience a graduate-level science education.

  23. Blaz says

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but as will be shown in future seasons (if the HBO series gets that far) Cersei is not a brilliant politician who understands the best way to increase the nation’s overall strength and power. In fact she is an outright terrible queen. The one thing she’s good at is grabbing power. Using power is a totally different matter.

    I think the best feminist award would probably go to Arya.

    “One day you’ll marry a lord and give him children.”
    “No, that’s not me.”

  24. julian says

    Really? Hmm. I was kinda hoping she’d be deeper than that. The talk she gave to the repulsive shit that’s king about the realities of how much authority he as king could actually expect to exercise over the other lords made me think the writer was setting her up as an evil but very competent administrator.

    Ah well. I guess I’ll see where she goes.

  25. Jannie says

    Of course you can determine if it’s a sunlight issue.

    Take careful notes about how you feel in Florida. For 2-3 weeks after your return, take more notes about how you feel. Then see if you can borrow or buy a light therapy sun box.(Failing that, see if the Conservatory in Volunteer Park uses artificial sun lighting and make daily visits.) After a week or so of light therapy, compare notes and see if there’s any difference.

    It would not surprise me at all if it turned out to be seasonally affected. I lived in Seattle for 9 years, after having spent most of my life in the various parts of the South. The predominant overcast grey weather was miserable and depressing. Especially at the height of winter, when it was all I could do to summon enough energy to go to work. It took me about 3 years to figure it out the cause. (Seasonal Affected Depression studies had just started being published.) Took me another 6 years to finally move to a more suitable environment.

  26. Shac says

    The gender neutral christmas Legos I bought my daughter always have twice as many boy figures than girl figures. She’ s the one to notice and ask why? Now Legos is comming out with girl Legos. Which I guess will have no boy figures or they will all be princes. This is where it starts, Legos ugh.

  27. says

    If you’re short of vitamin D, take a supplement. But if some part of you is wondering if, out there in blogland, there are people who enjoy reading your posts and often feel improved by the experience, I can testify.

    Outrage isn’t the only writing fuel. Sometimes you can revisit things that really pissed you off a while ago, and in revisiting them say the things you wish you’d thought of while hammering the keyboard before. Even distill a common element from several specific incidents you’d written about during the year. “What did incidents f, m and q have in common? Here’s what:…”

    Give your kitten a skritch between the ears for us.

  28. mitchelllee says

    I only wander if you ever came clean to your boyfriend about how you caused all of those earthquakes?

    Did it scare him?

  29. says

    Oh I know that Cersei know how to play “the game,” but that doesn’t make you like her as a person. I happen to think she’s a horrible person, but most of the Lannister’s are. I’m up to book 4 (still haven’t started it), and I just loathe her more and more as I go. As far as an empowered woman goes, I’d definitely have to agree with Arya, even though I admire Kat for her strength.

  30. says

    When I lived in Seattle my best friend from November to March was a full-spectrum light. I studied by it and it worked wonders. I love Seattle but definitely not the sun-going-down-at-4-PM part.

  31. Alt+3 says

    Ugh. I always hated those little assholes. I kept them in a jar on my desk.

    I feel jealous of my nephew now because his mom (my cousin) asked everybody on both sides of her family if he could have our old legos. Between all of us we managed to give him three rubbermade containers of lego.

  32. Lymie says

    How pissed are we that the government is letting folks shoot wolves in the West around Yosemite, again? How pissed are we that this is another instance of government not standing up for science against politics? (NB Sebelius and Plan B). Editorial, collective, or Royal “We” as you choose.

  33. says

    I’ll echo the call for a post on the genetics of Harry Potter.

    If you have any reflections on the death of Christopher Hitchens, those might be good.

    Last one: I’m in Seattle and have a free day. What would you (atheist activist) and I (semi-conservative but nice Christian) do together?mm

  34. Svlad Cjelli says

    Well, american politics is almost like Death Eaters, right?

    Thoughts on SOPA gut-punching the internet?

  35. seismic says

    Back in grad school (engineering) I had a horrible case of writer’s block that lasted for nearly two months. Then I read an article about brain research, something about TBI and how stimulating one part of the brain can sometimes jumpstart the damaged part.
    I then realized that I had not picked up my guitar in 6 months. Hmmm, engineering left brain, music right brain. So I played the guitar. A lot. Then I called my former bandmates up for multiple jam sessions over the next three weeks.
    By that third week I had written 50 pages of useful thesis and three new songs.
    So try something different.

  36. Joe t says

    Exercise can do wonders for you during the dark winter months. Make it a point to work up a good sweat at least three times next week. It can also make sex even more fun than usual ;-)

  37. Emily says

    Have you heard of Carl Zimmer’s newest book: “Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed”?

    Favorite reads (besides HP) and why. Or, similarly, what would you like to recommend for others to read?

    International news from your scientific viewpoint.

    I’m currently reading “White Like Me,” so all things racism related especially have my attention at the moment.

    I remember reading that there are more black animals in shelters. Part of our superstitious brains apparently register them as a threat. Care to explain more?

    Experiments on your cat. Super cute, so pictures a must.

    Otherwise, I’m glad that your life is going well.

  38. Allie Clark says

    What would you say to someone who (like me) wants to get involved in activism and has a lot to say, but is too scared to?

  39. Beth says

    Yeah, Cersei possibly looks her best in the first book/TV series. In later books we see what happens when she actually gets her hands on power and is able to rule unchecked. Without spoiling too much… she pretty much ruins everything. She undermines her own power, destroys all the carefully crafted alliances that were supporting her rule, and implodes both the kingdom’s power and her own spectacularly.

    She’s a very interesting character, certainly. But unfortunately the only one who thinks Cersei does a good job as a ruler is Cersei.

  40. Dev says

    I know you said you’d rather talk about Hogwarts, but I’d appreciate a skeptical viewpoint on a particular issue. In the comments section of this article…

    “‘Don’t Get Raped’ vs. ‘Don’t rape’: An Inquiry”

    …commenter Ron had this to say:

    “Here, the largest study of its kind found gender symmetry in perpetration of rape in relationships, one in four men and one in four women had been raped by their heterosexual partners.

    Break down of the results and a link to the original study here ht tp://

    The reason we think that sex crime is gendered is the fact that we define it that way.”

    I had been pretty secure in my views on gendered violence, but now I’m beginning to question my premises. Any way you could assist me in wading through these conflicting claims?

  41. says

    Reality check: Men are on average 40 to 50 percent stronger than women of the same age (according to Wikipedia), and are 15% heavier and 15cm taller (which translates into more reach). In addition I don’t think anyone would argue that men and women are socialized to the same level of aggressiveness.

    So no, I’m not buying that the ratio of men and women being raped by their heterosexual partners is the same. Not if rape is defined as a crime of power and control.

  42. Thin-ice says

    Can’t blame the Seattle drizzle this winter: it’s now the 25th, and less than two-tenths of an inch has fallen all month, on only two days, probably less than most other parts of the country. Seattle’s

  43. Anna says

    Just a thought I’ve had percolating, maybe it resonates with you: Are the most extreme misogynists actually helping the cause of feminism with their rage-inducing claims (MRAs, etc.)? Sometimes it’s the sensational and ridiculous aspects of a problem that attract attention, rather than the subtleties. Maybe exposing the craziness of hardcore misogyny is leading to more people understanding why we’re angry about less obvious discrimination. I don’t know if the net effect is actually positive, but sometimes I am genuinely glad that the haters have forums like reddit where their hateful thoughts are laid bare for the whole world to see.

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