Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Internet service (if you want to call it that) has been so poor that it has been impossible for me to do any research lately. Thankfully, I'm writing and revising at this time. Walt, a software engineer, insists that it is NOT a virus. He says how can FIVE computers all have virus'? He's also rerouted the downstairs computer to bypass the phone line and replaced/disconnected filters. I dug up a 3/20/11 email from the phone company (hint: begins with an "A") about changes to terms of service:

1. Added language to allows us to convert customers from DSL to U-verse, where available (the next door neighbor has this).
2. We have added language that you are responsible for paying collection agency fees (are they anticipating people will not be paying their bills? Why?)
3. We have added language that allows us to terminate customers who harass or abuse our employees (are they expecting to get harassed and abused? Why?)

I did a broadband test. When the light was flashing orange I called the phone company. THREE times the light turned green while on the phone. The minute I hung up it turned orange.
I'm paying for a MONTH of internet service and not getting it. I think this is wrong. All wrong. Is giving bad service an acceptable means of doing business? Why do they feel they need to take this approach?

As for my article, I've stripped away about 7 lines that were interesting, but off topic. I think they dragged it down. The quotes that I have from two scientists are in, but I'm still waiting on the third. I'm about halfway through the book I'm reading and entering a chapter on love scenes. Oh yeah, as a writer of nonfiction science, I have so much use for that chapter. But I'll read it. I'm one of those writers that TOTALLY avoids animal love scenes too. I'm eagerly awaiting the chapters on writing nonfiction.

I thought a nice flower photograph should accompany this whiny post. Again, this is spring in D.C.. Hopefully, I can post this before my internet service grrrrrrrrinds to a halt again.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The ending of my article is moving along, but it's still not there. I have six more days before I pass it off to my critique group. Hopefully, it'll be rocking by then. Currently, I'm reading about writing. This book feels like it has opened another doorthe door to the first day of college. It's probably because of the chapter on characterization for fiction. I suppose I could have skipped it and gone straight to the nonfiction parts, but I wouldn't want to miss any savory nuggets in between.

Since the Mars rover Spirit has been in the news I thought I'd post my photograph of a Mars Rover taken at the National Air and Space Museum. Here's a letter from the head of the Mars Exploration Project Manager to his team about the end of Spirit's mission. NASA's Spirit was sent out for a three month mission that lasted over six years.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The article is now done, but I'm still tweaking and I have to add quotes. The last line isn't packing the punch I'm looking for. Yesterday, I went into a little panic attack that maybe I ventured down the wrong path with the chemistry concept. There is nothing quite like finishing an entire article and realizing it's not what the elusive editor is looking for. Well, the concept I picked is most certainly in my daughter's high school chemistry book, so there.

I enjoyed watching the panda at the National Zoo and I guess I'm not the only one. Scientists study the panda using the panda cam. The panda was kind of buried in bamboo for a while (top photo) and not moving much. When I got to the panda cam, I noticed the panda had risen and left the viewing area. Such excitement! I ran back to get a much better view and to take better photographs (not shown).

Monday, May 23, 2011

My internet connection is still slow and spotty. They told us three days ago it would be fixed in three days. This is getting old.

I spent the weekend doing a great deal of revising and now the article is much more polished although the last two or three paragraphs still need work. My daughter picked it up and snickered at the title so I am trying to come up with a new more enticing one for this wildly exciting topic.

I'm waiting for a book about writing to arrive. In the meantime, I've been reading lots of books by Chautauqua faculty. Some of my favorites are:
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt - beautifully written.
Gator Gumbo by Candace Fleming - SO cute and flavorful language. Great illustrations.
Where Horses Run Free - by Joy Cowley - A really nice story where you really feel for those horses
Time Flies by Eric Rohmann - A fast read (no words!). Neat idea to pair the now with the then.
The Prairie Builders - by Sneed Collard - Nicely written unusual story about rebuilding a prairie.

"The Battle Against Invasive Species" by Sneed Collard came to mind as I yanked up Asian bittersweet yesterday. I've seen those orange roots before, but I always thought they were the roots of my Rose of Sharon (which I have taken to calling the Rose of Linda!). I noticed the invasive plant had snaked around a branch, choking the life out of it. A couple of branches of bittersweet had worked their way to the top of the "Rose of Linda" and reached up into our oak tree (bottom photo you can see it coming in from the right). I sawed and snipped the stalks. Now what's left of bittersweet has been severed from its roots. For now, I win this one.

Friday, May 20, 2011

This morning the songbirds kept me company while I worked outside wrapped in a snuggie blanket. That was SO pleasant. Somewhere along the line my writing friends and I got our dates crossed as far as when we're meeting next. I think what may have happened is that we inadvertently set our meeting date an extra week ahead and one of my writing friends noticed this. Anyhow, my new self-inflicted deadline is June 1st.

My article is in really good shape. There's still plenty left undone, the final section and ending to untangle, all the quote stuff to contend with and the fine-tooth scrutinizing for accuracy. Aside from that it's an exciting topic that I'm enjoying and it's much less complex than others I've chosen.

Here's a shot of a sloth bear at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. They live in India and Sri Lanka and eat ants and termites. Delicious. Apparently they like cantaloupe too.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I've been having internet problems since May 1st at about 2:30PM (not that I'm keeping track at all). Today the phone guy was here to look at the line. He found some corrosion down the street so hopefully it's fixed.

The chemistry article is now about 2/3 done. I reread it this morning and when I got to the chemistry part it felt like the words fell off the paper and into a tar pit. That part was lousy. So, I looked at it and tried to figure out why it dragged. I finally concluded that the writing was generalized. It helped immensely when I related it to the specific topic I was writing about.

My next crit group email date is June 8th so that now becomes my deadline to finish this article. Getting questions together is my new priority. Hopefully, (this article - bibliography) + the fiction piece is < or = the 10 page maximum we set.

These photographs are from the National Museum of Natural History. This room is where scientists examine fossils. I once did an archaeological dig with my youngest daughter. No one in the group found anything terribly noteworthy. It must be so exciting to scrape away the dirt and find a 15 million year old bone. Note: Click on the top photo and you can read the note easier.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I lingered in the orchid room at the Botanical Gardens admiring the flowers and pondering the lure of their petals. I am not certain if all of these are orchids though.

Today, I will spend the day pouring through the _ _ _ ing (rhymes with pouring) pages of my daughter's high school chemistry book. Zzzzz. About 1/3 of my article is pretty polished.

I don't know what it is about that little 500 word piece of fiction that keeps me coming back for more. There is a lot in there--a humorous (or so I hope) main story, a connection to curriculum and a third little thing that leaves a reader wondering. I am pleased with it and I do think it's done (until I pick it up again).

Another thing I need to do soon is to review the Chautauqua workshops and start making some preliminary decisions about what classes I might want to take. Fun fun fun!!!

Friday, May 13, 2011


When I read The Orchid Thief, it was a turning point in my writing. I doubt this creative nonfiction book would have any significance for anyone else, but it did for me. It made me realize a key thing I was consistently getting wrong. I was reminded of that great book when we toured the U.S. Botanical Gardens in Washington D.C. After climbing flights of stairs, I walked along the inside perimeter of a 93-foot dome in the Conservatory. Essentially, I was in the mezzanine, the steamy tree canopy of a tropical rain forest. I loved the Botanical Gardens.

It's only fitting that I post some photographs and a link to a video tour that is more representative of what the place really looks like inside.

Currently, I'm working on three things, the chemistry article, a revised first chapter from several years ago (wow, WHAT an improvement), and that piece of fiction that I am enjoying tinkering with. Now that I really have a handle on the article (or so I think), I need to come up with questions for the three scientists. I'm happy to say it's pretty much down on paper, the beginning is really polished, but it loses steam quickly.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I spent four and a half hours today at the University library picking through the abstracts from a myriad of research papers. For others, I knew exactly what paper I wanted. The time slipped by unnoticed. I got quite a stack, I think I might have killed a tree. Wince.

Here is a photograph of a Tyrannosaurus Rex at the Smithsonian Museum National Museum of Natural History.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lots of progress today. All day I read research papers, wrote and jotted down the papers I couldn't find online. I needed a huge hunk of time to get myself back into this project. By working outside, phone calls didn't interrupt me, butterflies did. I ran for the camera at the sight of a swallowtail.

Word count is now hovering about 700 words short of the target. Sometimes working an hour here or there simply does not cut it.

I received a nice email from a NJ teacher whose class enjoyed my beavers article (2007) during state assessment testing. How cool is that!

Probably the most stunning thing I've accomplished during the weekend was that I've written a PB, my first ever. If that's not enough of a shocker, the thing is a work of fiction. No, I don't expect this to start a trend. I'm interested to hear what my writing friends have to say about this--after they recover from their heart attacks.

The photograph of the day is the marine research center at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Today, I'm posting photographs of Common Ground, Connecticut's only charter high school focused on the environment. I was there with a small contingency from the CT Climate Change Education Committee. One woman described the group as an eclectic mix and they definitely were, but they were all involved with education in one way or another.

At the school, we listened to some presentations about the place then four students stood up to talk about the projects they were working on which all centered around conservation/reduction of the school's resources, specifically water, energy, waste, and food. We applauded them on the content of their speeches and their excellent presentation skills. Then we toured the facilities. I loved the outdoor amphitheater where the drama class practices and entertains. It reminded me of something you might see at a National Park. The school runs a farm and eats, sells, and donates what they produce. It was a school vastly different than any other I've ever been to, a place where the outdoors was integrated into the classroom. In addition to passing out a few business cards, I did talk to one person who gave me a different perspective on the speaking scene from the viewpoint of a school and their needs of time and curriculum. Before I left, I gave the school one of my five contributor copies of ChemMatters (2/11 water issue) . One student and one faculty member had mentioned how passionate they were about the topic.

I thought I had pretty stylish science writing until I started reading The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. It is fiction, but the lovely lyrical writing is making me feel like the Plain Jane of writers.
In my defense, when you write for magazines, there is no room for excess words that add to the drama. They will inevitably be trimmed out and more science will be stuffed in their spot.

Next week, I anticipate making a trip to the university library for research papers. Many are online, but not all.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I'm writing about a fascinating subject and I'm really happy with the way this article is coming along. My enthusiasm for a topic grows as I get deeper into the research. I have high hopes for this one. Tomorrow I'm converging with my writing friends, but we won't be discussing this article because I still have another 1,000 words to write and the whole thing needs plenty more polish.

While on the whirlwind campus visit tour, we stopped at a college in Baltimore Maryland. While we were there we walked to Edgar Allan Poe's grave. In 1865, there was a movement, called Pennies for Poe, to raise funds for a new monument(bottom photograph) to replace his neglected grave. Today, people still leave pennies on his old grave (top photograph). If you look closely, you can see the glint of copper by the raven.