Novel writing and dream crushing

I just received an update email from NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month.


You may have possibly noticed, or at least guessed, that I enjoy writing. I think you sort of have to enjoy writing to have a blog, unless it’s entirely made up of videos or photos of lolcats. I don’t claim that my blog posts are novel quality or anything – to be perfectly honest, I only give them a cursory proofreading before posting, which is why you see the occasional typo or nonsensical statement (heaven forbid). Here I write very stream of conscious-like, more like how I would talk to you then how I’d write formally.

I’ve always loved writing fiction stories. When I was in second grade I wrote a story about a kid who made a time machine out of a cardboard box and befriended a talking brontosaurus (based on a giant paper mache dinosaur we made…I should really find the picture of me standing with it!). In third grade I was writing my own variety of Goosebump books. In 5th and 6th, the story of me and my friends’ Pokemon journey (a fanfic writer at an early age, I guess). Then in 7th grade I concocted The Story.

Why does this particular story get the infamous title of The Story? Because it started a trend that still annoys me to this day – starting to write a great story and then never finishing it. These stories aren’t just a couple paragraphs scribbled on scrap paper as an idea – with my stories, I’ll get 10,000 words in and emotionally invested in my characters. And then I stop, with my chapters just sitting on my computer, waiting for me to add something to them. Occasionally I’ll feel a spark of creativity, or maybe just pity for neglecting my literary children, or maybe guilt for not being able to complete a project, and I’ll go work on them for a while. Even The Story, which started as stereotypical ideas from a 13 year old girl, is still around today (granted, with many many face lifts). Why have I created so many abandoned stories?

I blame NaNoWriMo.

Okay, blame isn’t entirely the best word. I know there are probably maybe reasons why I don’t finish them. I don’t have the time, I don’t think they’re good enough, I don’t think anyone would want to read them, etc etc. But NaNoWriMo definitely has encouraged part of it. NaNoWriMo is an event where you attempt to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. The catch is you have to start from scratch – no adding to preexisting work. If you thought I was insane for doing Blogathon, then you have to be absolutely out of your mind to do this. Which is why I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo five times.

The reason why I have so many stories is that I’ve failed five times.

I had my classic fantasy adventure (The Story)(2004), a second failed attempt at the same fantasy (2005), the dystopian future of cloning and organ harvesting (2006), the Greek Gods humorously causing havoc on a modern day pagan and atheist (my favorite story so far)(2007), the corrupt religious scientists infecting a population with the “God gene” (2008).* All of them patiently sit at 5,000 to 10,000 words, waiting to be finished.**

And even with all my failures, I know I’m probably going to do it again this year.

It’s absolutely insane for me to even consider attempting it. I’ll be a senior with hard classes, a class to teach, research to do, grad schools to apply to, a club to run, a blog to update (don’t worry, I won’t abandon you guys) – and I still want to write a novel? NaNoWriMo is like an abusive husband that I can’t will myself to leave. I don’t know why I keep going back and getting slapped around. Maybe it’s the hope that one year I’ll actually have the motivation to finish. One year I’ll plan ahead so when November rolls around, I’ll have a helpful outline and solidified ideas. But really I think it’s because I don’t know when I’ll ever have this sort of time again. College is hard, but the “real world” is harder. This is my chance to instill good novel writing habits, or I’ll never do it. It’s always been a dream to get a book published, but I kind of need to actually finish a book before I do that.

And now that I’ve typed all that, I’m really not sure why I did. Maybe for someone to tell me how crazy I am and dissuade me. Maybe for someone to wave the pom poms and tell me to do it. Or maybe I have a reader who has also been repeated raped by NaNoWriMo and can sympathize. All I know is if I do decide to do this crazy shit again, I need to start planning now, or I’m just going to be whining again come December.

*Dear lord these all sound horrendous typed out in uber-summarized form. I promise you they’re better than they look. Really.
**And it’s not that I’m unhappy with them – I like all of them, and I’m super proud of how the Greek God one started. I think I’m just too afraid to ruin it at this point.

Pat Buchanan needs to learn his internet memes

Pat Buchanan wrote an article titled “Is Obamania Over?” You could go and read it, or you could just look at this:
This is a graphic Pat Buchanan made to represent the sugar-coated, wonderful hopes for the Obama administration.


Come on Pedobear, isn’t Barack a little too old for you?

This is post 40 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Chop Suey for Charity

Not sure why none of you suggested this one, but I thought it was the most hilarious pick. Keep in mind I’m embarrassing myself for charity. Enjoy the silly singing and complimentary boob jigglage.

Thanks Mark for the backup vocals.

(Sorry it’s not the full song…camera battery died right when it cut off =( )

This is post 25 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Hooray lab work

*Minor Harry Potter 6th movie spoilers bellow*

Thanks Mark and Vanessa for standing in for me with a couple nice posts. I don’t thank you, however, for playing Rock Band in the other room while I must continue typing away. Sadness. I had to run to work for a bit to see if my DNA extractions were finished (they weren’t, sigh). No PCR dance was done, but the night is young and I haven’t yet reached my maximum caffeination level.

And if you want to know what working in the lab is like… For those of you who have seen the sixth movie, you know the first potion classroom scene? Where Hermione’s hair comically gets frizzier and frizzier from the fumes and stress (until it’s the level of frizziness it’s supposed to be according to the books)? Yeah, that pretty much happens to me all the time.

…Real post next update, sorry.

This is post 18 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Oh noes, atheists are taking over teh internets!!11!one!!

I should probably just ignore Christian blogs that whine about Sotomayor’s racism and the homosexual agenda, but this struck me as both silly and intriguing. It’s a post titled “Bring Down the Atheists“:

“…why does it seem like the internet is being overrun by God-haters? Am I the only person who sees this? I like to get on various article sharing sites like Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon, etc., and it seems like the stories that poorly reflect upon God are generally the highest rated on those networks. My article titled, “Hollywood’s Creation” was placed on Reddit by an atheist, and the person who posted it basically called me crazy. I got several hundred visitors in a few hours from Reddit, most of them atheists looking to see if I was as insane as advertised.

I could literally spend hours typing out the names of all the atheist forums and blogs that exist. And all of this had made begin to wonder; where are the Christians? This is especially puzzling when one considers that Christians make up nearly eighty percent of all Americans according to Have Christians given up on the internet?”

Maybe between all the goatse and lolcats, they realized the internet is truly an abomination. Ahem, continuing on:

“If you can write, start a blog. If you can make Christian music, share it on a website. The nearly eighty percent of all Americans who are Christians need to let our voices be heard louder and clearer, and that’s the HardTruth.”

Ok, first things first. Does this guy seriously think Christians are somehow not having their voices heard? Really? He says it himself that Christians make up nearly 80% of the US population. Christianity has permeated our culture in every imaginable way: in our national motto, on our money, in our pledge, in public school graduation ceremonies, in laws and public policy, on our city hall and court room steps… attempting to infiltrate science classrooms, cluttering radio stations with gospel and christian rock channels, permeating our language and slang, filling up billboards down the highway, putting a church on every street corner, tacking little silver fish onto the back of a car, etc, etc, etc. If that’s not loud and clear enough, I think I’m going to be fucking deafened by the coming Christian Internet Revolution.

But I have to admit, he does raise an interesting point. Are atheists overrepresented on the internet? Being one of those technological atheists who follows Digg and reddit, reads numerous atheist blogs, and blogs about atheism, I’m not sure if I’m unbiased enough to comment. I’m obviously seeing a very atheist heavy side of the internet because I seek out those atheist-friendly communities. I’m sure there are a plethora of Christian sites out there, but I have no interest in going to them or interacting with their communities. But just as an extremely rough estimate, lets look at Google, shall we?

Christianity + Christian = 5,620,000,000
Atheism + Atheist = 18,620,000

They have us beaten by two orders of magnitude when it comes to search terms. And while atheists can be quite vociferous, I’m pretty sure all the hits for “Christianity” aren’t from whining heathens.

So have we infidels taken over the internet yet? Not quite. But I have to admit that Digg and reddit do intrigue me. If you’re not familiar with these news sharing sites (shaaaaaaaame), they are pretty atheist biased. Atheism and religion bashing articles are constantly making the front pages, getting many votes, and acquiring tons of comments. I’ve seen even the most liberal and kind of Christians get torn to shreds in comments, while atheistic comments get automatically upvoted. What gives? Why would news sharing sites foster atheist activity?

If I had to put forth a hypothesis, I’d guess that atheists thrive in the anonymity of the internet. So many people are afraid of coming out of the closet because of possible backlash, and even out atheists aren’t always vocal about their beliefs. We don’t get our fill of atheism in every day American culture (like Christians do in the above examples), many of us don’t have any local organizations, and I’m sure even some of us have no atheist friends. The internet is the perfect platform for finally getting stuff off of our chests and for meeting other people who share our beliefs. We can see atheist news that isn’t making it to mainstream newspapers, heathen comics that would never make the local funny page, religious criticism that you may be too afraid to speak of in real life for fear of physical harm… So I guess if this hypothesis is right, it really makes sense why atheists flock to Digg and reddit and blogs and forums. We’re part of a nation so dead set on labeling itself Christian, that instead we’ve become citizens of the internet.

And you know what? I’ll pick ASCII pedobear, mudkipz, and Leeeeeerrooooy Jeeeenkins over superstitious dogma any day.

Omg Harry Potter

I’m off to go stand in line with my friends for the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Gleeeeee! Crossing my fingers that it’s an Alan Rickman filled movie, since Snape is kind of important in this one. Just a bit.

No costume this year, just wearing my Republicans for Voldemort shirt. Really should have gotten the Wizard Pride shirt, but I guess it’ll have to wait for Movie 7. That’s where all the Dumbledore/Grindelwald gayness happens anyway.What, what costume did I wear before? Because I have no shame, here you go (click for larger):

Yep, me as Hermione. Woo. That was at the release for the 6th book back when I was 17, the summer before my senior year of high school. I still have my SPEW and Prefect badge somewhere. That was four years ago…yikes. I’m going to go run to the movie theater before I start feeling old.

Almost done

I should probably have a lot more to post about now that the conference in almost over, but I’m so brain dead that I can’t come up with much. Hearing technical biology talks (80% of which are over my head) from 8 to 5 is just mentally exhausting after a while. That being said, I really enjoyed the conference. There’s so much cool science going on out there, and now I have all these neat ideas floating around in my head. And while the whole grad school application process still freaks me out, I feel like I have a lot better idea of what I need to do since we had some talks about that.

Though honestly, the best part was just being around so many nerdy biologists. It was amazing sitting in a bar, and instead of hearing people talk about sports, hearing people talking about transcriptome characterization or population genetics or who knows what. Everyone just went into absurdly geeky mode. Take this dinner conversation, just one example out of many:

My Prof: Those are all the Oregon State people over there, and those are all the Michigan people sitting there.
Me: And all of us Purdue people clumped together here.
My Prof: Yeah.
Me: So overall we have a diverse population, but when you look at subpopulations there’s very low variation.
My Prof: Yep!

One more, just if you don’t believe me:

Me: Excuse me! *trying to scoot past someone to get in a seat* Sorry!
Guy: Oh, don’t worry, it’s an open niche that needs to be filled!

My flight leaves 6:45 am tomorrow and I’ll be back in my apartment around 7 pm (hopefully). I plan on wearing my atheist club shirt for that trip, so we’ll see if I get any fun stories out of that. You know you’re officially a blogger when you start doing random crap just for the potential blog posts.

Pirate Jen!

Ok, those photos of me modeling our club shirt I posted yesterday were absolutely horrible. So horrible I feel like I need to redeem myself. Here, have some photos of me from our Pastafarian preaching from Talk Like a Pirate Day 2008. Like always, click for larger images.

Drawing the posters was fun <3Notice my developing sunburn. Wasn’t fun.I love my club members so much.

One more Sims update

Thanks to everyone who thought my atheist Sims were more hilarious than they were creepy. Someone requested that I upload them, so I did. If you have Sims 3, you can now download Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, and Hemant Mehta for your own use.

There have been requests to make other famous atheists (Phil Plait, Dennett, Hitchens, etc), which I may do if I have enough time or get bored enough. I still like PZ’s idea of having Ken Ham and Kent Hovind being a cranky gay couple next door. Incredibly tempting… Though I would just let them run wild through the town instead of controlling them. Three sims were hard enough for me to control, now I have four (Hemant’s wife) and a kid* and my micromanaging skills are starting to fall apart.

*As a side note, I got geekily excited when I saw the Sims boasting its “Genetic Algorithm” or whatever for deciding how babies would look. I thought maybe it would just blend the traits of the parents or something. Nope. The baby gets mom’s mouth, skin color and hair color, and dad’s nose, eye color, and hair type. I chose a pale blonde surgeon for Hemant’s wife…so his kid is this pasty white kid with bright blond hair that’s short and curly (I know he doesn’t have curly hair, but it was the short haircut that looked the best). So yeah, the kid looks absolutely nothing like him. Sorry SimHemant. I promise I didn’t see her sleeping around with other Sims.