Friday, November 11, 2011

NaNo Process Notes: Beneath the Surface

My draft word count at the end of yesterday was 17,789 -- right on track for a NaNoWriMo pace of a 1,667-word average per day.

My days have gone thusly:

1. Data collection. #SciFund unfolds in vivo, with new developments daily and at a breakneck pace. It is breathtaking to watch.

2. Data rasslin' -- organizing that data into a narrative. These past couple of days I've been doing that for the period leading up to the #SciFund launch, while collecting and annotating the news that comes to me in realtime.

Have a look at the #SciFund blog for project profiles and updates. And at #SciFund participant blogs, like that of Roman DNA expert Kristina Killgrove, who today is being covered in Forbes and CNN. Plus, you can read her review of the TV series Bones.

And there are stories behind the stories. Go to Andi Wolfe's Flickr photostream, where each morning she posts her gorgeous picture of the day -- like this intricate macro, taken in July and uploaded yesterday; or the flower vendor uploaded today.

Wolfe's #SciFund project is the study of Cats Nails (Hyobanche) in South Africa. Why the name Cats Nails? "That's because of the way the style curves out of the flower tube to resemble a cat's claw," she says in her video.

Cats Nails can't make its own food, so it taps into the roots of other plants. Within its pretty pink flowers is genetic information that will tell Wolfe how well its host plants are doing. She is, in effect, studying the equivalent of a canary in a coal mine for an entire ecosystem.

So it was awesome when the Cats Nails project and more #SciFund research made national news in the Netherlands. And it was a little bizarre when it got carried by I Want Information Now About Cats -- a website whose videos include a dog that gets along with cats, a trip to Amsterdam (accompanying music: a song by the group Cats & Dogs), and a Bobcat hydraulic motor component service repair shop. That site's filter is about as good as mine. :-)

While Wolfe thanks her funders, she also thanks "all our veterans for all their hard work and sacrifice." And when Cats Nails doesn't command her immediate attention, the history-making orbital maneuvers by astronaut Bruce McCandless with his nitrogen jet propelled backpack does. (Want to see a jaw-dropping image? Here's what she linked to.)

That's just a taste of what I've been seeing this week. I feel thrilled and privileged to get a glimpse of the people behind the projects.
Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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