22 December 2007

Alarm Clock

My alarm clock is set for 5:30 am on January 2, 2008. It did not go off this morning.

Nevertheless, I woke up promptly at 5:25. And I'm still up. And I see no hope for going back to sleep until bedtime tonight.

It is too early to make coffee, since the sound of the espresso machine will wake everybody up.

It is too early to go last-minute Christmas shopping, since none of the stores I need to go to will open until 7:00.

It is still dark out.

Not fair, I say, not fair at all.

20 December 2007

Shiny Things

Why is it that some abandoned project suddenly looks all sweet and interesting just when the going gets tough on some other project?

Why is that, huh?

13 December 2007

Knowing When To Quit

I am a rabid perfectionist. I either do something well or I don't do it at all.

Sometimes, this a good thing. For example, the medical editing part of my job requires unflagging, single-minded, obsessive attention to detail. Being a rabid perfectionist and doing things well or not at all is practically a pre-requisite for the job.

However, this quest for perfection can also get WAY out of hand and make me crazy about things that just aren't that important. For example:

Yesterday afternoon. In the midst of submitting a paper to a journal, I discovered that we would have to suggest reviewers - that is, give the names and contact information of people we think are knowledgable enough to judge the science of our paper.

After I got over being annoyed that the stupid journal didn't put anything about that in their Instructions to Authors (where it bloody well should have been), I dutifully emailed the Boss Lady to ask who she wanted to suggest. And as usual, I told her just to send me names and what organization the people are at, and I would find everything else (email, phone, etc), because that's my job. I find things and I'm good at finding things because the perfectionist in me never lets me give up. It also means, as you'll see, that I don't know when to quit.

Boss Lady picked three references from the paper and told me which authors she wanted to suggest. One I recognized and knew would be easy to find. I left her for last. The other two I had never heard of - one was at a Korean university and the other one was from a reference that was published seven years ago.

Now I don't read Korean, so there was one potential problem. If the website of the Korean university didn't have an English version, we'd be out of luck on that one. Turned out they did have an English version, but a search of the staff directory brought up nothing as did an in-depth review of the relevant department's site. So I googled. Nothing. I PubMed'd. Nothing.

Ticked by having to admit defeat, I gave up and moved on. To the seven-year-old reference.

Right away I had my doubts, because I now know from experience that most biomedical research papers in our field are written by postdoctoral fellows, and postdoctoral fellows usually only stay put for a year or two. My one ray of hope was that this one was at a US university - so at least I know I'll be able to read the website and have a reasonable chance of a decent staff directory.

However. A search of said directory yielded nothing. Perusal of the department website yielded nothing. I went through my whole arsenal (again): google, PubMed. I can find no trace of this author anywhere.

Unwilling to admit defeat twice, I get creative and find the guy's full name and google that (instead of "Lastname, AB"). Nothing. Now truly irked, I put quotes around the full name and google that.

Finally, I discover that this person (and yes, he's a person to me now, not some faceless 'author') was president of his graduate school association from 1996-1997; is quite good-looking; got married last August; lost his grandmother, who emigrated from Poland at 16 and settled in Canada, last April; has a father who is a psychiatrist and emeritus professor at the same university where this guy wrote the seven-year-old paper; and - this is the kicker - he now lives in Africa, where he apparently has no email or other contact with the outside world.

In other words, I discover - three hours later - that we can't suggest him as a reviewer.

Three. Hours.

See what I mean? I just don't know when to quit. Anyone in their right mind would have given up in 15 minutes and asked the Boss Lady for another name.

But not me. No, not me with my single-minded, obsessive blinders on. No, no, I have to be absolutely certain that I have exhausted every single possibility, that I have not overlooked something obvious, that I really, really did get it right, that I am unequivocally giving the Boss Lady the 'perfect' information about something that isn't really that important because the stupid journal will probably just ignore our suggestions anyway.

Maybe someday I'll learn to see this sort of thing coming and figure out how to head it off before it gets ridiculous. Well, I can hope, can't I?

Slacking Off

I wrote 17 words yesterday. Seventeen. Pathetic.

I got distracted playing with yWriter - free and fabulous software for organizing your novel. Yes, FREE! And, really, I think I like it better than the stuff I paid for...

Unfortunately, 'playing' does not produce words.

Hence, the ungodly early hour of this post.

Must make words, if I want to move my little ladybug along. Go, ladybug, go!

OK, this isn't producing novel words either. I'm off.

08 December 2007

Shopping Cart Cupholders

New category: Things I Wish Someone Would Invent

Not me, 'cuz I haven't got time to invent, patent, etc anything, but I've created this lovely label under which I shall post my ideas for anyone who DOES have the time. Feel free to steal the idea and run with it.

Idea No. 1 - Shopping Cart Cupholders

It would be great if shopping carts just CAME with cupholders, but I'll bet that's expensive and would totally screw up how the carts nest into each other in the cart corrals. So the next best thing would be some sort of attachment that I could purchase (or rent) that would hook on to an existing shopping cart.

Why? Because I haven't got enough arms to juggle the cell phone, the baby's snacks, the baby's drink, my coffee, my purse, the baby's toys, and/or Ms. Five's various items all at the same time without losing my mind and my patience - not to mention somehow getting fruit roll-ups, lunchables and string cheese into the damn cart before everybody has a meltdown.

I'm thinking you could buy them singly - just one for your Starbucks (should you be lucky enough to leave the kids at home). Or in pairs - maybe even some kind of saddle bag arrangement - one for your kid's sippy cup and one for your Starbucks

Maybe they would be available for purchase. Or maybe you could rent them for a quarter when you grab your cart. I don't know. But I want one. Or several!

07 December 2007

FiMo Ticker

Look! Up there! At the top of the posts! It's a ticker!

Cute, eh?

I'm finding is that it's not just the having a goal and a deadline that's keeps me hitting the keyboard, but it's also a lot about the moving of little widget thingys.

Hey, whatever keeps you motivated, right?

04 December 2007

NaNo Lessons - 2007 Edition

Well, this was an interesting NaNo.

I finished later in November than ever. I finished with fewer words than ever. If this trend continues, I won't finish next year at all... But, this year, I finished. And, as usual, I learned a whole lot.

1) Deciding to sit down and write is like deciding to have a baby. No really. As in: there's always a reason not to. With babies, it's: "I have to finish my degree first" or "We have to buy a house first" or "Let's get a dog first". With writing it's: "I'm too tired" or "I should really clean the kitchen first" or "Hey! Let's go scrub bathroom grout!". There's always, always an excuse not to do it.

2) "When" doesn't matter, but "where" does. My vastly prefered writing time is in the early-early before anybody else wakes up. It's quiet. I can focus. There are no distractions, but there is lots of coffee. It's a good time for me.

I didn't get to do it even once this November.

Everyone was too sick or too awake and screamy for too many hours during the night, so the early-early was time for sleepy-sleepy. The only time I had to write was the hour and a half or so between kids going to bed and me collapsing. So that's when I wrote. And to my surprise, found that I could. Who knew?

On the other hand, writing while sitting in bed - which is normal operating procedure for me during normal times - proved to be a spectacularly bad idea. I would literally fall asleep, fingers on keys, and amass all of two or three hundred words. No so good for word count.

So, instead, I made myself sit at my desk until I got done for the night. It was miserably uncomfortable (bad chair), downright chilly (underpowered heat pump), and quite impossible to fall asleep. Much better for word count.

3) I really can stick to an outline as long as I don't actually have one. I mean, not a formal outline, like what they teach you in school. No, those kinds of outlines are doomed from the outset. As soon as my characters see one of those, they grab it by its scrawny neck, wring the tar out of it and hang a sharp left for parts unknown.

This time, I was sneaky and tricked them and used Storylines, which is sort of like outlining and sort of like messing around with color-coded index cards (mmmm, color coding....). This seemed to keep my characters somewhat more in line...

Well, OK, there were still sharp left turns and a couple of loop-de-loops, HOWEVER, every little color-coded index card is checked off because it got written. With a normal outline, I would have gotten half way down page 1 checking things off and then the other eight pages would be sitting there forlornly wondering what the hell happened.

4) Never underestimate the power of a good widget. Seriously. Updating my word count every 25 words so that I can see my widget change may be neurotic. But if it helps me to move the story along, so be it.

Anyway. As usual, there is still much more to write, so it's on to NaNoFiMo for me.