Wednesday, December 29, 2010

This morning, Walt took a bunch of photographs of a cardinal feeding on bird seed he sprinkled in the flower boxes on the deck. I have tried to capture this same bird, but by the time I get the camera out, it's airborne and I've been too busy to hang around waiting for its return.

Despite a host of unforeseen things this year, I'm ending the year feeling rather triumphant, especially when I look at the champagne cork ornament dangling from the Christmas tree.

I finally finished the nonfiction adult book I was reading and now I'm working on a presentation in conjunction with the AMC. Today, I made a prop for the presentation and reviewed their slides for the first time. I still have a few minor things to finish up and then I've got to figure out how I'm putting it all together.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Yesterday, I went to the local pharmacy to get my 2011 writing calendar, a free Hallmark calendar that they hid behind the counter and made me ask for. Today, I filled it by looking up conference dates as well as contest, grant, fellowship and critique deadlines. I also made another entry about three weeks before a deadline. "Mail xxx."

If something is due early in the month there' s nothing like that sinking feeling you get when you flip the page and realize you have no time to mail it. The little calendar is an inexpensive indispensable tool.

I was also at the same pharmacy on the 23rd. I was a bit dazed when I left. The clerk was on the phone with the police asking the other clerk if he saw the car. The conversation went something like this:
"Were you robbed?"
"Was I in the store at the time?" (eyes surely popping out of my head)
"No, it was a while ago."

How long would you wait to call the police after being robbed? Needless to say the calendar I picked up that day is nowhere to be found.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Today, I am posting a photograph of my backyard where I grew up. This field is considered wetlands. In the spring, the meadow is filled with the sound of songbirds.

In some soggy years there was enough frozen water to ice skate on. When the cows came up to the fence, we'd feed them clumps of grass. On hot summer days, I caught snakes with my brothers. They slithered in the grass and startled the heck out of us.

I have been exceptionally busy lately, but I'm really happy that I've finished fact-checking one piece of writing. I've also been busy chiseling away reading and highlighting a NF resource. Today, I met with my writing friends and enjoyed their company while also reviewing their stuff.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

As one of the speakers at the Connecticut Envirothon was talking, all eyes and attention shifted to the praying mantis on his pant leg. He stopped what he was saying to examine the little fellow. Even with the best laid plans, there can still be surprises. Yep, I know that well.

Earlier this week I sat through an AMC webinar about climate change. I like the fact that they don't mind if you tailor the talk, hide some slides, add some slides, add some creativity, make it fun.....

Yesterday, I received the final edits for my chemistry article on climate change and reviewed them. Some of my words were sacrificed for a half page eye-opening graphic title. I really liked the first page, the font color and type and the photographs selected. The whole issue is really relevant to the times and it would be nice if it got a broader audience.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My daughter Julia is a junior in high school and has been itching to go look at colleges. I asked her to choose between February or April vacation because many of her choices are out of state. She chose February. Yesterday I was delighted to receive some literature from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It just so happens that their annual conference is in a state we plan to visit and is during school vacation week. I also noticed they offer free Family Science Days on Saturday the 19th and Sunday the 20th. Why that works for me! If the colleges are nearby and the weather is good, I'd absolutely love to combine college hunting and portions of a science conference. I'm sure she'll be equally excited. Cough. Sputter. Choke.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Valley Falls Park, Vernon

During the waning days of fall foliage, I wandered around Valley Falls Park in Vernon, CT.. In one spot I noticed plywood high on a tree and initially thought it was put there to mark the location of picnic spot B (which had all of one picnic table).  It was odd that the marker was placed so high. Later, I realized it was a bat box. I was amazed that bats could squash in those tiny holes and they actually liked it in those cramped cracks.

The main computer is now up and running. Bookmarks have been restored (that's huge)!!!!  Before the end of the year, I'd like to finish reading a nonfiction adult resource, fact-check a chunk of writing and finalize this presentation. I'm a little annoyed I forgot to "size" the costume when my ten-year-old niece was here this past Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

We had more excitement than I'd ever want this morning when the CPU crashed. What a harrowing day. All the documents were immediately saved, but it took all day to get the emails back. I've been working from a laptop, but my bookmarks have been hosed. I hope I can recover them because it was an extensive list. Anther thing that is really annoying is trying to remember all those archived passwords for FB, discussion boards.... They used to automatically pop up, but now they don't.

Despite the interruption, I finished reviewing the ChemMatters article yesterday and today I finished reviewing the second article I was working on. The ChemMatters article will be published in February of 2011. I also purchased two adult costumes for my presentation, thinking that I would trim off some from the length and make a head piece. After taking one out of the package, I'm now rethinking this. The costume is sheerer than I expected. Should I make one, sew 2 together to double the thickness, or come up some other plan? Hm.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

After touring behind the scenes at the Peabody Museum in New Haven, a group of us science writers started walking to the Leitner Observatory at Yale. The bus eventually showed up and drove us there, where wine and cheese were waiting. Although the rain had stopped, there were too many clouds to enjoy a starry sight. Drat. Despite that disappointment, I was so glad I trucked down there for the tours. The planetarium and observatory are open on Tuesday nights for public viewing.

I've suddenly become quite busy editing two articles, creating a presentation, and trying to find time to verify this latest piece of writing. Yesterday, I met with my writing friends and they both agreed this new version is much better.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Here are some more photographs I took behind the scenes at the Peabody Museum in New Haven CT. In the back rooms, there was an entire library of jars with pickled creatures. Gosh, if they let me loose, I could have spent a long time exploring in there. All those jars reminded me of my grandparents cellar that contained a small pantry-sized room filled with canned garden goodies. In the top photograph, I was particularly impressed with how pretty those candy apple green beetles were. They looked glittery. I couldn't help but think (probably to the horror of the bug guy that was taking us around) how festive they would look threaded with cranberries and put on a Christmas tree. Lol.

I mailed off three queries today, but, oops, I think I forgot an SASE. Stellar. Queries are new toys I've been playing with so that's my excuse. I'm also getting charged up about a presentation I'd like to do for elementary aged kids. I need to make a couple of costumes and figure out one detail.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

As promised here are some photographs from behind the scenes at the Peabody Museum. I asked permission to take the photographs. The woman said yes, but only if they are not for commercial purposes. They okayed them for a blog so I am posting them, but I added an unsightly total pain-in-the-butt watermark to prevent their commercial use by anyone else.

In the back room they have these special filing cabinets filled to the brim with stuffed birds, feathers, and even extinct birds like the Ivory-billed woodpecker in the top photograph. It made the news not long ago when someone thought they spotted it--alive. That sent a bunch of researchers hunting for the bird and recording its call. Sadly, it turned out to be a sneaky pileated woodpecker. The Senior Collections Manager opened a jar and uncoiled an octopus' arm. I really wanted to touch it to feel how gushy it was, but I was so busy trying to take the picture that by the time I was all set the arm was getting coiled back in the jar of liquid and it was too late. Artists sometimes come in and use these birds as models for accurate scientific drawings.

Today, I volunteered at the CT Children's Book Fair. I had a fun social task of asking everyone how they heard about the book fair. The majority said "we come every year." One Italian lady totally cracked me up. When she saw Clifford, the big red dog, she squealed with delight. I couldn't help but say, "now who is more excited here?" It reminded me of something I might of done when my kids were little. I also ran into a couple of people from town and I spoke with a woman from the New England Independent Book Association who happened to have positioned herself by the door where I was standing. I was heartened to see an entire table of nonfiction books.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I have some more photographs from the Connecticut Envirothon that I'm posting. The bottom photograph is of a seaweed called "Dead Man's Fingers." The top photograph is Irish Moss. Carrageenan from this seaweed is used to make toothpaste, yogurt, and other products.

This past weekend and Monday I shuttled back and forth to New Haven for the National Association of Science Writers Conference. It was my first time attending and I got a lot out of it. It was nice to run into an editor I haven't seen in a long time. It made me miss working with him.

At the social I was surrounded by science writers and dinosaur skeletons. How cool is that? The presentations were really helpful and I'm still trying to catch up on what I missed via lengthy online videos. There were lots of interesting intelligent people there. Most that I met worked for Universities. If I go again, this commuting stuff is out. A two hour snow delay on Monday loused up my schedule and left me quite stressed and short of time, but I'll be darned if I'm missing anything. I high-tailed it down there and got there right as the behind the scenes tour was starting. More on that next time.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Today's photographs came from the Connecticut Envirothon on October 2nd at the UConn Avery Point Campus in Groton Connecticut. It was a beautiful day for the fresh and saltwater estuaries workshop. A few kids got to take part in seine fishing. Then the students carefully scooped up the little fishes that were bouncing around and put them in trays of water. One of the interesting little ocean finds was a soft green crab that had shed its skin. At this vulnerable stage, other green crabs could cannibalize the poor dear. I think it was safer in the tray than back in the sea!

I'm back at work on my big project, humming along on chapter 3 making revisions that were identified in a critique group a couple of weeks ago. The ending needs more polish, but it's in really good shape. This chapter is a little lighter with elements of humor.

Friday, October 29, 2010

South Windsor Wildlife Sanctuary, South Windsor

Last weekend, we walked in the South Windsor Wildlife Sanctuary. Although we didn't see much in the way of wildlife, we did come to a field of black-eyed Susans.  At the highest point in the town, we had a nice view.

Today, I emailed a query. I haven't done much querying, so I did some research on the correct format beforehand. It came together pretty fast and I think it made a strong case. Geesh, it was SO much easier than doing a lot of research, writing an article, then finding out if there was interest in the subject. I like this query idea.  When I zero in on a topic, I want to do one more for a theme I picked out.

In early November, I'm going to the National Association of Science Writers conference. Driving around New Haven, with its multitude of one-way streets, is not my specialty.  So, I am gathering directions and maps. This will be my first science conference.  I hope I get a lot out of it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On the beach in Chatham, Cape Cod we watched some seals feeding in the water. Admittedly, they were tricky to photograph because they didn't stay still very long.

Today, I emailed my revised article!!!!!!! This article gave me a lot of grief because my approach never seemed to be the approach the editor was looking for. However, I really like the way it has evolved. It took a while for me to rethink the ending, but I'm quite pleased with it. I've been pondering exactly why this article was troublesome. Maybe there is something to be learned here. I'd say there were a number of factors. My world was pretty rattled when I first started writing it. The article also contains an enormous amount of information. Also, I think I'm the kind of person that takes a statement to the extreme. For instance, the editor's words, "they're not babies," echoed in my head as I wrote.

It reminds me of the time I played on a softball team after work. Having no skill in the sport, my husband showed me how to hit the ball. I did everything exactly as he told me. Yes, the steps were correct, but I swung like a robot, no fluidity. However, after finally getting down the process, I ended up with the nickname "Wheels." Since I could consistently get on base, I was also the lead batter. After mastering batting, I moved on. I don't think I'll ever master writing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I posted a few more photographs from Woods Hole Science Aquarium. The top is a preserved octopus in a glass jar that did not fair as well as the other living exhibits. I loved the color of that copper fish, it reminded me of the copper Opal Manta I used to drive many moons ago. The bottom photograph has become a mystery. I could have sworn that fish had an amusing name. I thought it was called a Buttfish, but I can't seem to find any information about Buttfishes online, so now I'm not so sure.

Today, I was in the right mindset and really ripped into the first page of this article, making it mine again. I came up with three new titles and revised the ending too. I like to let the thing marinate for a while before emailing it. Generally, I end up refining it even more.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The weekend before last, Walt and I were up at Cape Cod celebrating my birthday and our anniversary. We biked the very scenic Shining Sea Bike Trail from Falmouth to Woods Hole, passing cranberry bogs and ocean views. While we were at Woods Hole we stopped in the Woods Hole Science Aquarium where I took a few photographs which I've posted. I was disappointed some of the other science facilities in the area were not open. Next time.

I've been working steady revising throughout this week despite numerous social activities. The article is in pretty good shape, but still needs more work.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

McLean Game Refuge - Simsbury/Granby

Saturday, I hiked at the McLean Game Refuge in Granby, Connecticut. It was my first time exploring the place. I was hoping to see a black bear, but a flock of geese was all that I spotted. There were some interesting little cabins, a vista and lots of fall foliage.

Currently, I'm back working on this chemistry article, trying to get revisions into a version that I no longer recognize.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The bottom photograph is a very interesting looking creature called a leafy sea dragon (excellent photo). It looks like it has seaweed hanging off of it that must certainly help camouflage it in the ocean. The top photograph is also a sea dragon.

Yesterday, I finally received the edits for my article. Hoo boy. It was not a pretty sight.

I skipped off to the Vernon Arts Commission meeting this evening and I'm very glad I went.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I posted a few more photographs of poor Myrtle the green (in the gills) turtle. They measured her carapace (a fancy word for shell). They took an ultrasound of her heart. I'm not sure where the heart is in the turtle, but I can imagine it might be difficult to view it through a thick shell.

Currently, I'm working on three different projects, all different. Two are nearly complete as far as the writing goes. The presentation is still in its infancy, but I have a solid list of creative ideas.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Today, I posted photographs of Myrtle, a green turtle at the New England Aquarium. Like Ari, she also had a health check-up, but she was small enough for them to pull out of the water and examine up close and personal. They drew blood and tested it for disease. The Aquarium website says this turtle is at least seventy years old!

I'm still working on this same piece of writing that is maybe 90% complete. It may be done by our email swap date this week, but it certainly won't be verified for accuracy so, unfortunately, I will not make my own too tight deadline.

I have a new plan for a hands-on science presentation that I think will be exciting. Hopefully, I can get moving on this real fast.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I wish I could keep the photographs I really love up here forever, ahh, but that would be boring. Today, I'm posting more photographs from a visit to the New England Aquarium. I was fortunate enough to be there the day they did health check ups on two large turtles. These photographs were taken of Ari, a Kemp's Ridley turtle. They weighed the turtle, took blood from it and did an ultrasound of its heart (bottom photo). To accurately weigh it they subtracted the weight of the box it was lifted in. Ari weighed 583 pounds! The video on the Aquarium's website (bottom left) reminded me so much of snorkeling off St. John.

Saturday morning I will be heading down to the CT short to Uconn's Avery Point Campus. I will be driving some students from the high school to a CT Envirothon workshop. They plan to visit Bluff Point State Park (8/28, I wrote about Bluff Point) to sample water, study marine creatures in tanks and do other assorted environmental things.

I write like the tide coming in. The first page is excellent, the second page is pretty good, the third page is not that great and the ending isn't there. I keep washing over it from the start.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Flower garden and rose

Many years ago, I visited the FDR house, but I don't remember this rose garden where Franklin and Eleanor were buried. "Roosevelt," by the way, means field of roses.

I'm hunkering down in the library today in hopes of getting a lot of revising done. I have a really tight critique deadline next week and I'd love to have this ready by then, even if it hardly seems possible at this time. Translation: I can not be reached.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Yesterday, was National Public Lands Day. Admission to the nation's National Parks was free! We toured Franklin Roosevelt's house in Hyde Park, New York. The first thing I took a picture of was not history, but wildlife, of course. The little pamphlet mentioned that FDR planted over half a million trees on his property between 1912 and 1945. Wow!

I've been slowly chiseling away at this piece of writing, one chip at a time. I'm about 2/3 of the way through the revisions.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The skate in the bottom photograph looked so much like a ghost clinging to the aquarium glass. Its mouth was moving as if it were communicating, attracting quite the crowd of curiosity seekers (and also impairing my ability to take a better shot!). I got quite a kick out of the little critter. In fact, I was so close to the glass when I took the first picture, the photograph was completely white, a ghost indeed! The top photograph was taken of a really striking flower hat jellyfish. Believe me, it was not a hat I'd ever want to wear.

Since I haven't heard from my editor at ChemMatters, I've been moving forward on the proposal I've been working on and I also started making revisions to last year's attempt at a grant. Hope springs eternal.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

At the New England Aquarium, I took the top photograph of a sparkly piranha. It does look kind of mad, doesn't it? Every other time I've seen an octopus at an aquarium, it's a view of the tentacles on the underside of one arm. While listening to one of the employees tell tales of marine life, the octopus moved. I grabbed the camera real fast. Unfortunately, I wish I was a little steadier. I wish I had taken another photograph. Anyhow, I was delighted to get the body of the octopus even if it's a little blurry. I had no idea it was orange until I saw the picture.

Two days ago, I submitted a proposal to teach an adult class because I felt I had something to offer. Yesterday, I dropped an 800 word article in the mail. I'm expecting to get edits for the chemistry magazine any day now, but in the meantime, I will keep working on the proposal I've spent the summer refining.