You Don’t Know Jack! Take This Quiz and Prove Me Wrong!

Read the following poem, and then answer the questions at the end.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.Continue reading "You Don’t Know Jack! Take This Quiz and Prove Me Wrong!"

I Spy – My Cluttered Desk

I spy on my cluttered desk…

Do you see what I see?
Do you see what I see? Click to enlarge.

…a pony, a vertebra, two prescriptions that should go home.
…bats and a dragonfly, and a coiled cord for a phone.
…toys for children: a toothed and gilled whale (eek?), and an etch-a-sketch.
…and a slinky for those times that you just need a stretch.

Add in the comments other fun things you see!


I’m part of a Facebook group associated with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The group is all the WriMos from the Rochester, New York region. NaNoWriMo is a November thing, but writers write year-round. For fun, we’ll occasionally challenge each other with writing prompts.

This prompt was to write something involving TPS reports. You know, those hideous things from the movie Office Space. We later discussed the wonderful word “Mephitic.” In the end, I decided that I needed to write a scene involving the words “mephitic” and “malarkey,” TPS reports, and an unexpected visit from Mephitis mephitis. Let’s see if it can be done.Continue reading “Mephitic”

Random Science Poems Written on the Spot

Tonight, I was at a loss for what to blog about. The prompts I have available are not as inspiring as usual. So I asked the hive mind for suggestions:

Continue reading “Random Science Poems Written on the Spot”

What Was Your First Tweet?

So today is Twitter’s seventh anniversary. Woo-hoo, Twitter!

You might not use Twitter, or ever want to, but surely you understand that Twitter has had a tremendous impact on the world, especially for journalism.

To celebrate, I downloaded my Twitter archive (and you can too!) and found my very first Tweet. I’m a constant Twitterer now, but I wasn’t always…Continue reading “What Was Your First Tweet?”

SVP – Scenes written screenplay style

Because I’m weird like that, I decided to write up some bits of the 2012 annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in a screenplay format.

This would never make a good movie or TV show and here’s why: NO CONFLICT! There’s over 1000 of us there, and we’re all so happy to be there that there is no conflict. Nothing happens! Everyone is happy.

So, it’s a lousy script, but it highlights some of the things that go on at these meetings, in its own special bizarre way…

Some names have been changed to protect the innocent, and things are written mostly how I remember them, which might not be reality. If you think I might be talking about you, well, I might be!

Also, please forgive the formatting errors. They’re there. I couldn’t make it work right. Poo.

By the way, these things really did happen. …mostly.


#2012SVP: The movie


PENNY HIGGINS, middle-aged paleontologist exits an airport shuttle bus. She gathers her belongings, pays the driver and enters the hotel.


Penny passes through sliding glass doors and is met by the din of loud discussion. She looks toward the bar and sees a crowd within, the source of the noise. She smiles and nods. She knows the sounds of paleontologists.

(to herself)
Paleontology. How I love thee!


Penny is checking Twitter on her phone. A tweet from the host society shows up “Beware the flatulent chairs. Sit carefully.”

Penny raises slightly from her seat and sits back down hard. The chair toots. Penny eyes the person sitting beside her. He’s looking back, eyes wide.

Oops! Excuse me!

The man smiles and returns his attention to the speaker.

Another person enters the room and sits in front of Penny, causing his chair to emit a loud farting noise. Penny struggles to contain her laughter and quickly re-tweets the earlier tweeted warning.


The room is arranged with several rows of posters, presenting scientific results. Between the rows are packed hundreds of paleontologists, discussing the posters among themselves and with the authors. The room is a cacophony of voices. Nearly everyone has a drink.

So tell me your story here.

(points to poster)
Well, our data seem to show that this takes about one year. But I’m told you’ve already done this.

(grins sheepishly)
We got our data ten years ago. We just haven’t published it yet.

Well, you need to publish it! Your data sound better than mine. And your results make better sense.

We’ll get to it.

I’m gonna e-mail you every week until it’s published

Maybe you should.

Dan moves on. One of Penny’s friends approaches.

How goes it?

Yeah. This work’s been done already.

What happened?

This is what happens when people don’t publish.

That stinks.

At least it wasn’t an oral presentation – or worse: a rejection from a journal. We move on.

Judy pats Penny on the shoulder.

It happens.


A video is playing of a Hyena eating a big chunk of meat and bone. Penny furiously tweets what she is seeing. Numerous other tweets scroll past, highlighting the same thing, each containing the phrases “bone cracking” “hyena” and “pig neck”. Penny grins, relishing the morbidity of her paleontological colleagues.

Someone sits down near Penny, causing the chair to fart. Restraining laughter, Penny heads out to find coffee.


A silent auction is being set out. Items are spread out over several tables throughout the room. People are running around sorting items and arranging them in an appealing way.

Penny enters lugging a hefty wooden rocking-dinosaur.

Yup. This is it. You’re going to a new home.

Penny looks around and finds who she’s looking for.

(indicates the dinosaur)
Silent or live?


Penny hoists the dinosaur onto a table in front of the stage, where the live auction will take place later in the day.


Six people stand around, four of whom are dressed as characters from the movie and comics “The Avengers.”

Penny walks out of a back room in a white and black pleather body suit.

I’m gonna cook in this thing!

Now, who are you?

Mockingbird. From the comics.

Penny dons her long, platinum blonde wig and adjusts it on her head.

Do you have an extra hair tie?

I only have long hair when I’m wearing a wig!

Oh! Oops!

There’s a knock at the door. Thor and Loki have arrived. Tony Stark leaves to set the stage for the entrance of the Avengers.

Becca’s phone bings.

It’s time.

Let’s go.


The Avengers (paleontologists in costume) enter the bar to hoots and congratulations from the other paleontologists there.

Thor, Loki, and Penny approach the bar to get a drink.

Whatever you want. My treat.

A woman and her husband are seated nearby and are delighted to see the three costumed paleontologists standing there.

Oh, please! Let us buy! We’re so happy to meet you!

The husband nods and turns away, disinterested. The woman continues to gush.

I’m so glad to have met real paleontologists! Y’know, on our beach I’ve found some really interesting fossils!

Loki and Penny look knowingly at each other. Thor moves off into another conversation.

I’ve seen fossils of a baby bird being born.

Penny and Loki feign interest. There is little doubt in either one of their heads that what the woman has seen is not a bird being born.

We’re glad you got to meet us. We’re pretty tired, though. We just did a big auction and we’re winding down.

Oh sure! Oh sure! I understand! I just think it’s great that you’re here. It’s like a sign or something!

Well thank you for the drinks!

Sure! I hope we can talk more!

Loki and Penny roll their eyes at each other, then join Thor in his conversation.


Penny looks at her phone, checking the conference twitterfeed. A tweet pops up promising a blooper reel at the end of a talk. Penny is intrigued, and leaves quietly.


Penny takes a seat in another conference room (though it looks identical to the one she just left). She settles in, phone in hand, ready to be wowed.

The presentation begins.

It’s hard to motivate an alligator to run.

The audience laughs. Soon videos are being shown of alligators and crocodiles running in a Plexiglas chute.

Penny looks at the twitterfeed. Multiple people are tweeting about this presentation. Penny smiles.

And, as promised, the blooper reel.

On the screen are shown video clips of the alligators and crocodiles escaping from the chute and lunging at the camera. The audience laughs. Tweets fly.


Several hundred paleontolgists are gathered for a catered meal and a short awards ceremony. The meal has been eaten and the few remaining plates have been removed. Attention turns to the President of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. She announces several award winners. As the evening continues, the awards become more significant.

The Colbert Student poster prize goes to Stephanie Crofts.

People rise to give a standing ovation. As all sit down, a series of toots and tweets are heard.

And the Romer Prize for student research goes to Jack Tseng!

The crowd rises again, clapping and shouting. With sitting, the chorus of toots and farting noises is louder. There is audible chuckling. Penny looks at her twitterfeed. A new hashtag has arisen: #squeakyseat

And the Romer-Simpson Medal goes to Philip Gingerich!

The crowd rises once more, delighted for their long-time colleague. The tooting and farting sounds as people sit are very loud this time. Clearly people are intentionally sitting hard to make the noise louder. Penny is laughing so hard, tears are coming from her eyes.


Penny walks away from the front desk. She pauses, looking back.

(to no one)
Next year. L.A. See you soon.

I Am From

This is a fun little writing prompt that someone posted over in the Litopia Writer’s Colony.

It’s a fun little exercise suggested by someone else (NOT MY IDEA), to help establish place in a story.

All you do is write a paragraph where every sentense starts with “I am from…” It could be you or a fictional character you describe. Give it a go:


I am from the Earth. I am from what once was. I am from what could be. I am from my own imagination and from my own experience. I am from textbooks and novels.

I am from Utah, but left the place as I did not belong there. I am from the West, the East, the South, but have since departed. I am from the Northeast, where I now call home.

I am from the laboratory, where seemingly impossible phenomena occur each day. I am from the place where new knowledge is born.

I am from Herongarde, where I visit when I wish to be alone, but you may join me if you wish.

I am from wherever I happen to be.


Larry and Bob – The Lemmings

This is what happens when you are a little slap-happy one ‘night’ in the High Arctic. Written by me and my tent buddy, Julie.

Larry Lemming
Larry Lemming

Larry and Bob were two lemmings living on the Kanguk Peninsula of Axel Heiberg Island. They were pals who lived in adjacent holes on a river terrace. there was lots to eat, plenty of water, and luxuriant moss to rest on to enjoy the twenty-four hours of summertime daylight.

One day, a gust of wind blew furiously over their terraces. They hid for a few hours. When they finally had the courage to emerge, they were shocked to see a row of brightly colored soft stones by their holes and five huge yellow flowers. From the yellow flowers came the strangest creatures they’d ever seen.

“Dude, that an ugly caribou,” said Larry to Bob.

“Naw, them’s musk oxen. but how they walk like that?” asked Bob.

These oxen would go into their flowers when the sun was low in one part of the sky, but emerge and go away when the sun was on the opposite side of the sky. The oxen would put on huge hooves on their hind legs and go away until the sun was low again.

After a few repeats of this apparent oxen ritual, Larry and Bob started to get bold.

“The oxen are asleep,” said Larry.

“Let’s find their food,” said Bob.

Larry and Bob found where the food was hidden, in strange hollow square rocks. But they couldn’t get into the rocks to get to the food.

“This stinks. Let’s do something else,” said Bob.

“They can’t get to the food without their hooves on,” remarked Larry.

“Uh, yeah?” said Bob.

“So… Let’s get hooves on!”

So Larry and Bob scurried around the flowers looking for hooves. they finally found a matching set when they crawled under a flower petal. Quickly they realized these hooves would not fit on their feet.

But they could tip them over and drag them into the open. They dragged the hooves to the square hollow rocks and waited.

Nothing happened.

“Wait! they need to be standing up!” exclaimed Larry.

So Larry and Bob stood them up.

Still nothing happened.

“Well, we’re still not wearing them!” said Bob, quite insightfully.

“Yes!” cried Larry.

They each took a hoof and climbed in. They peeked out at the square hollow rocks. Still nothing.

“They stomp!” exclaimed Larry. “So let’s stomp!”

“Um, how?” asked Bob.

“Jump! Jump!”

So they jumped and the hooves moved. They stomped and stomped. The rocks still didn’t open, so they stomped more.

Suddenly a flower popped open and a particularly wooly musk ox came out, howling and growling.

Larry and Bob lept from their respective hooves and raced back to their holes.


25 Days of Writing – Day 23

Day 23: Write a scene between your character and another character of your choice (whether brought up previously in the other scenes or not) using only dialog. The setting and situation is up to you, but you cannot not use descriptive exposition, only dialog.


“You’ve been talking in your sleep, woman,” said Trey.

“Oh dear,” mumbled Hanna.

“You were weeping.”

“Oh. I was having a bad dream, my Lord.”

“You have had a most difficult day, woman.”

“Yeah.” She sniffed.

“I am really quite pleased with your performance this day, woman. You fought well.” He paused briefly. “You should be proud. Not many would have fared so well.”

“I got my face smashed in.”

“Ah, but you were there. And there’s little doubt that Jason would be lost but for your quick action.”

“I killed a man.”

“Aye, a man of Falgarth. Hardly human,” Trey snorted.


“You really think that way, my Lord?” Hanna asked. “His life is less that yours because he his from an enemy nation? He probably thought the same of you. Is that fair?”

“It is war, woman.”

“But is it fair?”

“In war, all is fair.”

“So life has no meaning?”


“That guy could have been someone’s father, or brother, or son, or husband, or whatever. He could have been the world to someone, and I killed him.”

“We accept such risks when we raise weapons in war,” retorted Trey.

“Yeah, you do. What about the people who love you? You’re not an evil man, but you kill. He probably wasn’t an evil man either. He might have been your friend, under different circumstances.”

“If he was truly a good man, God will sort him out.”

“Not much comfort for those left behind.”

“They would be together again in the afterlife. We worry not for such things.”

“Yeah? Well what if there isn’t an afterlife? What if this is all we have? What then? The man is dead and gone forever. And because of me. I don’t know if I can live with that.”

“Surely you jest. There must be afterlife. Where would we have come from?”

“I don’t believe that.”

“Don’t believe?”

“I don’t believe in the afterlife. I never have. I’ve hoped for it, but I don’t believe it.”

“So God would just snuff us out? That makes no sense, woman.”

“I don’t believe in God, either,” said Hanna softly.

“How could you… not?” asked Trey.

“I could never explain. I have tried, but I can’t.”

“So you think me mad?”

“No. I’m glad that God offers you comfort. I envy you for it. But that doesn’t make me believe.”

“No God. No afterlife.”

“And I took a man’s life today. And I never want to do that again.”

Silence again.

“If you had not slain him, Jason surely would have died,” Trey said softly.

“I’m glad Jason is alive. I’m glad I could help him.”

“None of us who bear the Mark enter into a battle planning to kill the greatest number. We fight to protect our nation and our King. Men must die to do that. We accept that in fact we ourselves may be the men who die.”

He paused. “I hope you can forgive for the lives taken, and those that will be taken, in the defense of Herongarde.”

Hanna sighed, but said nothing.

“I pray you will forgive yourself for this life you have taken, and others you may have to take later, aye?”

“I hope so too, my Lord.”