Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Amazon announces Kindle Fire and Kindle Touch

    Amazon just announced its new tablet, the Kindle Fire, along with two Kindle Touch models (one 3G and one WiFi only), which will be available with the re-designed original kindle. Further details and pictures are available in the Amazon Kindle Store.

I just ordered my Kindle Fire, Full Color 7" Multi-touch Display, Wi-Fi! It will arrive on November 16.

Links to the new Kindle and Kindle Touch models:

Note: All come in versions with and without "Special Offers," which are basically sponsored advertisements. Apparently these advertisements sometimes contain goodies, like free Kindle books.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Amazon Kindle Tablet will be announced tomorrow!

On your marks, get set....

Amazon invited press to a media event tomorrow. They did not give any details, but I (along with everyone else) expect that they will use the event to reveal the new Kindle Tablet. I'm waiting to click the big, yellow order button. I will take a packing break, or three, to check in on the details. (Hubby promised not to cancel the internet until then, on pain of....)

That's it. Time to get back to packing. If you want more information on the device, you can read my previous post on the Amazon Kindle Tablet.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sneak peak at real life public health virus prevention projects

I'm hard at work on finalizing the next issue of my public health newsletter, so I thought I'd make the most of my creative energy and post a couple of opening paragraphs that I wrote for included articles. Both deal with viruses.

Influenza Incidence Surveillace Project: Preventing the Next Pandemic

The deadly 1918 “Spanish” flu circulated silently in the United States for four months before anyone noticed it. As frightening as that sounds, given what we know now about the strain of influenza that killed up to 50 million people worldwide, it is actually good news. Better surveillance now means that we will have enough notice to stop the spread of a novel flu strain before it becomes a pandemic. That is why the Laboratory is working on a national surveillance project with the Emerging & Acute Infectious Disease Branch. This project will monitor the age-specific incidence of medically attended influenza-like illness and influenza.

The Rabies Laboratory: Never a Dull Day

Micrograph with numerous rabies virions
(small, dark-grey rod-like particles) and
Negri bodies (cellular inclusions)
 With 8,000-10,000 specimens received per year, work in the Rabies Laboratory is never dull. However, some days are more interesting than others. Laboratorians well remember receiving a tiger head for testing. Most specimens submitted are dogs and cats. Bats come next, in order of decreasing appearance, followed by skunks and just about everything else, including cows, horses, squirrels, armadillos, and raccoons. All mammals are accepted for testing, but everyone takes notice when the specimen is a zebra, gazelle, wildebeest, or nilgai.

What is a nilgai? The rabies team here had to look that one up too.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

$100 raised for the furbabies!

Pink Snowbunnies in Hell: A Flash-Fiction Anthology has now raised $100 to benefit local animal shelters! Thank you for helping turn our humerous anthology into something seriously good for the furbabies.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The art and science of packing

What is the right size for a book box? Will that chair fit into that odd space on the moving truck? Just ask. I'll give you an answer that is 99.99 percent accurate. If I had a moving resume, it would probably exceed the requisite two pages. I have moved every couple of years, give or take, for my entire life. I have it down to an art form.

As an adult I swore to give up the nomadic existence prompted by my parents' jobs, but life happens. I haven't yet managed to stick to that goal. Now I'm moving again. We are delighted to give up our third-floor two bedroom apartment in favor of the single story, four bedroom house recently vacated by my parents in their move to Korea. The stress is showing, particularly with toddler "assistance," but we couldn't be more delighted with the goal. 

My husband and I have taken a number of small trips on our own. Even our toddler is getting into the action. He has been pushing around his bin of blocks and adding assorted items, including a shoe, cup, and spatula. (It pays to be prepared!) Now it's time to brush up on the science of packing before the movers arrive.

Packing Tips
  • Gather supplies. Invest in a good tape gun and high quality packing tape. Purchase clean, sturdy boxes. Make sure that you have enough padding such as bubble wrap and newspaper or packing paper. Consider investing in specially-designed boxes for moving fragile items like dishes. Collect labeling supplies, such as Sharpies and “Fragile” stickers or tape.
  • Pack with a plan. Start with out-of-season items. Next, pack things used infrequently. (Consider tossing or donating items that are worn out or no longer used.) Leave until last the things you'll need until moving day. If possible, pack one room at a time, labeling each box with a description of its contents and its destination (e.g., kitchen, bathroom). Be as specific as you can; it will make unpacking that much easier. Number boxes sequentially, so it will be easy to tell if one is missing. For longer moves, create an inventory to keep with your moving paperwork.
  • Pack smart. Keep the weight of your boxes reasonable. If possible, put heavy items in small boxes to make them easier to carry. Place heavier items at the bottom of boxes and stack lighter items on top. Fill boxes completely but do not fill so much that they bulge. Consider using towels as packing material. Pack similar items together. For example, do not pack a delicate knick-knack with your Dutch oven. 
  • Prepare for the first night in your new home. Pack essential items in separate bags to carry with you. For each person in the household, include a change of clothes, a towel, prescription drugs, a toothbrush, and other personal items. Include plastic utensils, paper plates, paper towels, plastic cups, toilet paper, snacks, beverages, and re-closable plastic bags. Pack a small tool kit for re-assembling items that can’t be moved whole. Make sure that you have a clean set of bedding/pillows for each bed. Consider whether you need a shower curtain. (Don’t forget the hooks or you may end up resorting to clothing hangers, like a certain family member who shall remain nameless.). Make sure the family pet doesn’t end up in a box! Do keep their food and other necessities nearby and get a pet carrier.
  • Make sure that nothing is left behind. When the movers finish loading the truck, check each room. Likewise, when they say the truck is empty, do a visual inspection of the truck bed.
I'll pack that camera for you.

I may write a bit more infrequently until we complete our move, but please don't give up on my blog or my novel. I'll still work on both as time permits, and I will be back with renewed energy after we get settled into our new home. We're planning to have that done by early to mid-October, which will be well in time for family to descend for Thanksgiving.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I need to get my toddler out of the box so that I have room for the bedding.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Get your flu vaccination now

It's time to schedule your flu vaccination.

Most of us think of flu clinics as we head into October and the weather cools, if we think of them at all. It's still in the triple digits here, but I already have my flu vaccination scheduled (September 27). Unlike the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, this year flu vaccine stocks are plentiful and health departments are urging early vaccination.

The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older should get the flu vaccine each year. I most definately agree. At the forefront of my memories are the last time that I was sick with the flu (in college I was so weak after that I couldn't walk to my class across campus) and my personal experience of what happens when vaccine is not available. My son will be getting his vaccination at the end of the month, during his Well Child visit.

Please help contain this preventable disease by making vaccination a priority. A simple shot or nasal spray can protect your family, friends, and acquaintances, particularly the little ones who can't make this important health decision for themselves.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Winner Announced: Pink Snowbunnies contest and giveaway

Chocolate Nutella Cookies
The winner is.... No one! That's right, I didn't have any official entries for my Pink Snowbunnies Contest, even though I know that a few people intended to submit a recipe.

That's okay, I forgive you. This isn't really a recipe blog, though I do love to cook. I may have to console myself by making one of the recipes posted by my fellow Pink Snowbunnies authors. A Chocolate Nutella Cookies recipe popped up a few times during the anthology creation process. I could make those again, or I may just poll my family on what they would like to help me eat.

Update 9/13/11
I did have an official recipe submission! Becky contacted me via email to let me know that, apparently, her comment did not go through. She will try to re-post. If anyone else experienced the same difficulty, please try again by commenting below or sending me an email. If I don't hear from anyone else by tomorrow, I get to make Mini French Silk Tarts.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Amazon will soon release a Kindle Tablet

Rumors about a new Amazon Kindle device have been flying for several months. Now "Amazon's Kindle Tablet is very real. I've seen it, Played with it," according to MG at TechCrunch. My first reaction? Ooh, shiny! I love gadgets.

Here are the highlights:
  • Color tablet
  • Android
  • 7 inch screen
  • Two-finger multi-touch
  • WiFi
  • Kindle app book reader
  • Kindle Cloud music player
  • Instant Video movie player
  • Amazon's Android Appstore
  • Possible free subscription to Amazon Prime
The new Kindle Tablet is expected to sell for $250, and Amazon is purportedly working with carriers toward a 3G version. The latter would be a huge selling point for me; I love the integrated 3G on my Kindle.

The initial inclination is to compare the Kindle Tablet to the iPad, but it isn't. Rather than taking on Apple on their own turf, Amazon is actually designing their device to fit into the e-reader market that they already dominate. They are keeping the tablet small and comfortable to read. The smaller form factor also means that it will be cheap, about half the price of the cheapest iPad. Amazon is also moving away from the direction taken by most other Android tablets. Instead of trying to do everything, the Kindle Tablet is keeping it simple by putting the focus on books, movies, and other media.

I would never give up my Kindle ereader. The E-Ink screen simply can not be beat if you do a lot of reading, and I'm an avid reader, at least as much as I can fit in between my numerous other roles. However, I am eagerly anticipating the release of an Kindle Tablet. I envision my Kindle coexisting beside the new device, with each having its own purpose.

Based on the substantial rumors circulating the Internet, I expect to see an Amazon announcement about their new Kindle Tablet in the next two to three months. I have never regretted coming in on the ground floor with the launch of the original Kindle in 2008. Despite the marked improvements and drastically lowered price point of four successive Kindle generations, I have enjoyed many happy hours reading on each of my Kindles. The Kindle is the ultimate device for someone, like me, who is passionate about reading and writing. I envision the Kindle Tablet as an expansion into other types of media.

Contrary to many who are looking for an all-in-one device, I look forward to the day when I can replace the functions of my smart phone with my third or fourth generation Kindle Tablet. Devices like my Kindle, Roku, and iPod have taught me that a device dedicate to a certain function is often superior to one trying to be a jack-of-all-trades.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pink Snowbunnies chocolate recipe contest extended

Sunday, September 11, is the new deadline to submit chocolate recipes to the Pink Snowbunnies Contest and Giveaway! Please help me support animals in need. As an added bonus, you can help me over the bumps in my manuscript re-writes; the ratio of chocolate to writing is often inversely proportionate to how well the story is progressing.

The winner receives a free copy of Pink Snowbunnies in Hell: A Flash-Fiction Anthology, in the format of their choice (MOBI, EPUB, or PDF). I will also attempt to make the recipe and blog the results here, including photos.

Submissions can be posted as comments or emailed to jimiripleywrites @

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Black Death revealed and how research leads to preparedness

Yersinia pestis
The 1348 Black Death plague was one of the worst pandemics in human history; it killed about a third of Europe's population (30-50 million) in only five years. Recent scientific advances have allowed anthropologists to identify and study the bacteria responsible, a now extinct strain of Yersinia pestis.

DNA testing on the skeletons of 109 plague victims, unearthed in a medieval London mass grave, reveals part of the same gene sequence as the modern bubonic plague, despite its different attributes. The modern strain still causes about 2,000 new cases of bubonic and pneumonic plague each year.

Rather than using polymerase chain reaction (PCR), the common genetic technique used for forensics and DNA testing, scientists used very new techniques: targeted enrichment and high-throughput sequencing. These techniques allow researchers to reconstruct long sequences of ancient, damaged DNA that have degraded over time. It's like creating a window back in time, though on a miniscule scale.

Science has taught us much about transmission and containment methods, but this does not answer all of the questions about why the 14th century Black Death plague was so virulent. Fleas commonly carry Y. pestis from host to host, and the jump from rats to humans is often a short one. However, that transmission method doesn't account for such rapid spread, despite lack of public health knowledge. Could the strain have combined with another pathogen to achieve such remarkable virulence? Researchers are hoping to tackle the answer to that question next. To do so, they will attempt to sequence the entire Black Death Y. pestis genome.

I am constantly amazed at how rapidly expanding scientific technologies allow us to gather information that would not have been accessible a mere handful of years ago. For example, when I started researching the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, scientists had not yet reconstructed the virus. In an effort to advance preparedness, CDC scientists completed the reconstruction in 2005.

Why is it important to reconstruct a virus from the past? The work provides information about the properties that contributed to the exceptional virulence of that particular virus strain. This information is critical to evaluating the effectiveness of current and future public health interventions, which can be used when a 1918-like strain reemerges, either naturally or through deliberate release. To gain a sense of what could happen in such a flu pandemic scenario, you might want to read Dormant, which is still scheduled for release in early 2012.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pink Snowbunnies Contributors

Happy Labor Day! For me, it was the final day of a weekend spend with my husband's mom and sister. We were sorry to see them leave, but we used the afternoon to take a few boxes out to our new house. Yes we're moving, with all the fun that entails. Fortunately, the temperatures here finally dropped. It's a bit frightening when 88 degrees feels cool enough to throw open the windows, but it's a big break from triple digits. Unfortunately, the beautiful day was marred by smoke from wildfires in the area. We are praying for rain and help for those who lost their homes.

Want more information on the contributors to the Pink Snowbunnies in Hell: A Flash-Fiction Anthology? (Rhetorical question—I'm posting it anyway.) Below is a list of the included stories. When available, the author's names are links to their pink snowbunnies announcement. Some of them are also doing giveaways, so you might want to check it out, after you post to my recipe contest, of course. The book also includes author information at the end of every story, so that's worth checking. The book is only .99 cents, and all proceeds go to benefit animal shelters.

Domestic Disturbance, by T.L. Haddix
Wedding Heaven, Ltd, by A.J. Braithwaite
When, by Robin Reed
Where's JoJo? A Bunny's Guide to Family Dysfunction, by Julie Christensen
Wingman, by Nathan Lowell
It Finally Happens..., by Heather Marie Adkins
Careful What You Wish For, by Barbra Annino
Of Demons and Bunnies, by Nichole Chase
Pink Snowbunnies are the New Pink Ribbon, by Jimi Ripley
One Wrong Turn Deserves Another, by Asher MacDonald
Marissa's Tattoo, by Steve Silkin
Eulogy, by Suzanne Tyrpak
The Taste of Pink Snow, by Susan Helene Gottfried
Revenge of the Peeps, by Camille LaGuire
Love in a Time of Bunnies, by Coral Moore
The Bunni and the Bird, by Penny Cunningham
The Recession is Hell, by Randi Rogue
Pink Snowbunnies Acrostic, by Molly Black
Don't Mess with the Meadow, by Rex Jameson
A Gift for a Very Special Girl, by Debora Geary

Incidentally, the graphic designer who created our hilarious cover is Glendon Haddix of Streetlight Graphics. He also did my cover for Dormant. Thank you for the great work, Glendon!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Pink Snowbunnies and the experience of writing versus having written

I'm still curled up like a cat in my virtual windowsill, basking in the brief glow of having my flash fiction story published in the Pink Snowbunnies anthology, as I watch the responses roll in. We even have our first review! I have relished this sense of accomplishment through my non-fiction publications, but this time the fun is multiplied through sharing with 19 other authors. As contributors to a humor anthology, we continue to be anything but serious about the project. The jokes are still flying. This doesn't hurt either:

In the midst of this glow, the essence of a quote by Dorothy Parker came up in a writers' discussion on Kindle Boards: "I hate writing; I love having written." Responses were varied. Some agreed with Dorothy, preferring the post-writing stage that involves anything from editing to book promotion. Others straddled the divide by saying, "A bit of both." Most of the authors participating in the discussion echoed my own thoughts.

I love writing, but I hate starting to write. There are so many other worthwhile things to capture my attention—caring for my family, playing with my toddler, reading, and the list goes on—that I often dread pulling myself away to write. When I make myself sit down and write, the first few words, sentences, or paragraphs are a struggle, and then something magical happens. Like the endorphins from my wistfully-remembered exercise high, a soaring state of mind kicks in. The words flow. The process of writing becomes pure joy and I resent the intrusion of reality forcing me to stop.
Having written is also a great feeling. The little voice telling me that I need to write is momentarily silenced. I experience a sense of mental lightness and accomplishment. Being able to share my thoughts and stories with others takes the fun to the next level.

What I am finding that I do not like is the act of re-writing and self editing. Even though I enjoy editing others' writing, plodding through the mechanics of my own writing is a struggle. I think of new ideas and twists that I would like to incorporate, and then I second-guess myself. Is it too much? Cutting is hard, even though I know that it will enhance the story. I finish an article or story, and then I learn something new that leads to the realization of how much better it could have been.

Writing is both a chore and a passion. The point is to keep moving forward and to enjoy the growing and learning experience along the way. With that in mind, it is high time that I stop procrastinating and get back to the work of rewriting. More color will spread across my Work in Progress bar in the coming weeks.

I might re-write Dorothy Parker's quote thus: I hate beginning to write; I love writing and having written.