Ramping up for NaNoWriMo 2011

30 10 2011

Astute readers of my last post will have read, close to the bottom, a word that they probably have never seen or heard before: NaNoWriMo.

Don’t worry about it, 10 days ago I had never heard of this word either. But that was before I went to a writers’ conference, where each of the 800 participants was talking about it like it was some kind of holy grail.

Nano what? Nanotechnology? No, that’s something different. Nanoseconds? Uh-uh.

NaNoWriMo is “National Novel Writing Month,” also known as “November”. The movement was founded in the San Francisco Bay Area (where most of the world’s great, innovative and ground-breaking things tend to be founded) 12 years ago as a challenge to get people to sit down and write. Just write. Not edit, or research, or read, or rewrite, but WRITE.

Yup, I'm in!

The goal is to put 50,000 words down on paper (or a computer screen) during the 30 days of the month. For those who are wondering, that is a tall order, even for folks who do this kind of thing all the time. Sure I can bang out a blog post of 400-600 words in maybe an hour or so.  But NaNoWriMo will demand a much higher level of proliferation (folks also sometimes call this “verbal diarrhea” or “literary vomit”) and most of all, discipline.

50,000 words means a daily tally of 1,667 words, for 30 days straight. That is more than three blog posts. Every day.

That is like running a marathon each day for a month. I would be pretty sick and tired of running after that, I think. Of course, my hips and knees will have called a strike halfway through.

I’m sure by the end of November, I will be sick and tired of words, and my computer screen, and my keyboard, and that damn voice in my head, and that devil sitting on my shoulder. Am hoping my fingers, wrists and nerves survive to see the end of it too.

But the good thing about NaNoWriMo is exactly that – the deadlines, the pressure, and not wanting to give up because nobody wants to be a quitter.

The organizers have a great website with motivational strategies to fight the beast that will beset each and every one of us sooner or later…. the beast called: “There-Are-A-Million-Other-Things-I-Must-Do-Right-This-Very-Second-That-Just-Can’t-Wait”. Organized write-ins will up the peer pressure and make sure participants are not just staring at a blinking cursor on a blank computer screen for three hours a day.

The Zurich write-ins are at a local Starbucks. I see my caffeine intake peaking.

By virtue of the fact that I am telling you about this means I am making a silent and solemn pledge that I will finish the project to the best of my ability. And I’m basically unemployed now, so hey, I have the time. Maybe I could cheat and include blog posts in the 50,000 word total. In the end, I think any sort of writing is accepted by the kind folks in Berkeley. They are a tolerant people.

So for the next 48 hours I will go away and mentally prepare myself for my month of marathons. I have no idea yet what I will write, or about whom. In any case, at the end of it, I will be 50,000 words and one fascinating life experience richer. What I do with all that remains to be seen.

ES and IT: a match made in hell.

11 06 2011

Gosh, you’re all still there? What loyal readers I have! Thank you! In this day and age of instant gratification there are still a few folks who will remain faithful, even through a two-week writers’ block. You are too kind.

While suffering through my recent mini-drought, I turned 41. (Who would have thought?) And my husband had a really great birthday gift idea – he bought me a new computer.

My new toy.

Of course I had been coveting a new computer for a while, surreptitiously browsing the aisles in our local electronics megastore and oogling all the new technology on display. Today’s laptops all look really cool there sitting in the shelves.

But for months, that is where they remained – on the shelves.

Though somewhere deep inside I knew that my good old Compaq laptop’s days were probably numbered and a catastrophic failure was increasingly likely, I couldn’t see myself investing in something shiny, flashy and new. I mean – a laptop that was state of the art in the summer of 2004 when I parted with $1359 (purchased in Delaware – no sales tax!) and took it home with me isn’t that old and outdated. (Is it?)

My old toy.

It is?

Ancient, you say?

No, it doesn’t have a built-in webcam. Should it?

And a 30 GB hard drive is… measly?



Okay, so I guess I needed a new computer. And my husband (a recent new-hardware-client himself) just cut to the chase and went out and bought me one. Not a moment too soon, turns out – on the day we took it out of its box for the first time, my old Compaq sucked up some kind of nasty Internet virus and has been unhealthy ever since.

R. warned me that setting up the new machine would require a few weeks of intense work, sorting stuff out, while all the updates and service packs and God-knows-what-else would be downloaded (automatically!) in order to prepare itself adequately for the next couple of years of service.

Huh? I don’t remember my old computer doing any of that seven years ago.

But then again, I haven’t really been paying attention to developments in the IT industry. The extent of my understanding of technology is that I need it to function when I turn it on. End of story. And when/if it doesn’t, and faced with the philosophical question “Fight or Flight”, as a wise liberal arts major, I usually end up on the “Flight” side: If something doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to the first time around, abandon it. Don’t waste another single minute on a process where the cards are obviously seriously stacked against you. Do without. Move on.

My husband, however, is the opposite. He (a recipient of a degree in physics) will sit there till 5 a.m. if he has to, in order to figure out what is wrong with a certain application/program/software/harddrive/browser/index/screensaver/mediaplayer/ format/language/taskbar/shortcut and fix the problem. His endurance in all things technical is astounding. The next evening at dinner he will then describe to me in detail his epic battle with technology and all he did to overcome it. I listen with interest, thankful that another electronic crisis has been averted and I still have access to all of my files.

Clearly one reason why there are so many unemployed liberal arts majors out there.

Kindle vs. I-stuff

24 01 2011

A few months ago I became the proud owner of a KINDLE DX graphite, latest generation. I had been a fan for a while, and the first time I held it I was truly in love. A fantastic toy, an ingenious product – exactly the piece of electronic equipment that my collection (laptop, blackberry, cell phone, digital camera) has been missing. I’m still trying to figure out all the functions, but that hasn’t stopped me from taking it pretty much everywhere with me, safe and snug in its sky-blue leather carrying case.

Save a tree, buy a Kindle.

Perhaps part of the reason I’m so obsessed with my new toy is that the first books I downloaded were real page-turners (or rather page-clickers). I did my bestseller-duty and soaked up last summer’s oh-so-popular Stieg Larson Millennium Trilogy  that was all the rage on beaches across the country and around the world. Light, yet gruesome Swedish murder-mysteries – the perfect way to while away long lazy afternoons.

A friend asked me why I (or rather my brother – it was a birthday gift to me) bothered to spend several hundred bucks for a product that displays in black and white, and whose functions are severely limited compared to what else is out on the market these days. And this friend promptly tried to lure me over to the dark side: the I-cosmos.

No thanks.

To understand my decision, you must understand that I am a decidedly un-“I”-person (a.k.a. a Luddite). It was only with reluctance and great reserve that I accepted a first generation I-Pod Nano as a gift five years ago. (Some younger colleagues thought it was time I moved forward into the 21st century.)

Since then, I have not paid the slightest attention as one after the other, I-products of all shapes, sizes and capabilities were released to great fanfare. It seems that every time a new I-thing is launched, the media stands open-mouthed and awestruck as the I-community  kneels and praises the I-God in an effort of ridiculous I-dolatry.

The only I-product in my posession.

Camping out in front of the Apple store for days just to be the first to hand over your credit card and shell out wads of hard-earned cash for an overpriced piece of plastic and LED screen? Are you serious? Get a life!! I-phones leave me cold (and I hear they’re not that great to make calls with), and the I-pad does nothing for me. I don’t watch a lot of movies and I don’t care for apps. And besides, the day only has 24 hours! Where do you people get the time to occupy yourselves with this stuff?

For those who will assume I never held an I-pad – you are wrong. I have, and I maintain my aversion to the I-craze. Sorry. I’m totally the girl in the legendary Kindle ad. (The sunglasses are next on my shopping list…)

In the meantime, my Kindle has flown quite the number of miles already and my collection of electronic books is growing almost daily.  And it’s amazing to see how much space I have in my luggage for all sorts of other goodies from foreign places – space that used to be occupied by a bunch of dead trees.