Tuesday, November 08, 2011

NaNoWriMo Quick Takes and Observations

A glimpse into the NaNo lifestyle, with a sample size of one:

1. NaNoWriMo foods: canned tuna (eaten straight out of the can or microwaved with cheddar and hot sauce); garbanzos (mixed with oil and vinegar, garlic, and paprika); ready-made garlic Caesar salads from the supermarket (on sale!); an occasional Clif Bar (chocolate brownie or chocolate chip); spinach (frozen or canned, microwaved with cheddar and hot sauce); broccoli (frozen, eaten alone or microwaved with -- wait for it -- cheddar and hot sauce); WASA multi-grain crispbread; plain yogurt with honey and muesli.

2. NaNoWriMo beverages: coffee! More coffee! New, just bought and tried Kahlua Mocha coffee! Which smells awesome and tastes -- not quite as good as it smells. But a little honey really perks it up. And a little shot of Drambuie last night made it into a really nice kind of Mexican-Irish-Scots coffee. And, when not drinking coffee -- homemade lemonade.

3. The Drambuie had been sitting in my little drink cup for a good 48 hours first, left over from a nip. Alcohol and writing don't mix for me (my hat's off to you, Papa Hemingway). But to fall asleep when my brain wants to stay up and play but I really can't because my eyes are melting down my face? It doesn't take much booze to send me to bed.

4. At times, translation site Babel Fish can be almost as funny as Damn You Auto Correct.

5. NaNoWriMo music: none while I'm writing (sometimes music is muse fuel for me, especially when I write fiction. In this case it's distracting). But in-between I've glommed onto Parov Stelar's "Catgroove" (and TakeSomeCrime's moves!) and Caravan Palace's "Clash" (still great moves from TSC, though I think his "Catgroove" interpretation tells a more solid story).

6. NaNoWriMo dress code: sexy black thermal underwear. Hey, even in Florida it's November. And pretty orange print fleece slipper socks.

Today's #SciFund featured project is "C-Cilia in Motion!!" by Aditya Rao, a great example of science storytelling that features a single-celled organism doing the breast stroke. There's more to it than that; go see!

One reason this project catches my eye is because it's one in the #SciFund "Chlamy" Trifecta: three different ways in which a little alga called Chlamydomonas gets studied in the lab. This tiny plant has amazing versatility. It's like a living, microscopic Swiss Army Knife.

You've got Steve Herbert's "Domesticating algae for the 21st century" in which, with the help of a cousin named Volvox (no relation to Zardoz), "Chlamy" cells might become better able to stick together for easier harvesting. It would be like picking up a slice of bread instead of one crumb at a time.

Why harvest? "Chlamy" is good biofuel material, among other things, like a source of electricity and biomass heat. It produces even more when it's pestered. Luis Valledor gives the little dears a tough time and studies their stress responses, which include making more material that can be refined into energy. More than just watching what they do, he wants to know how they do it. And since green slime hasn't yet become a Special of the Day at dining establishments, farming this alga sidesteps the debate over whether to use more popular crops (and valuable agricultural land) for food or for fuel.

Then there's Rao, who turned to "Chlamy" after working with a menagerie ranging from elephants down to fruit flies. The alga's single cell still isn't small enough for him. He's studying its cilia (those swimming hairs), which are a lot like the cilia occurring throughout the human body. Those little whips are so important than when something goes awry in one, some awful diseases happen. He wants to know how things go wrong, so that maybe some day they can be made to go right. Check out his project page, which also offers a T-shirt printed with a beautiful, full-color picture of "Chlamy" porn.

And the outreach doesn't stop there! Tune in to developments at the Social Media for Scientists workshop (today and tomorrow) run by #SciFund founders Byrnes and Ranganathan.

Elissa Malcohn's Deviations and Other Journeys
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