Science Affliction #16

Today’s edition of Science Affliction is brought to you by the letter N and the number 100 billion. It’s been a while since I did a science round up, so I thought I’d get off my duff and put together a list of recent interesting science news with the hope that it will motivate me to write some fiction.

  1. A disembodied rat brain can fly an airplane. No, seriously. Scientists removed neurons from rats and grew a new “brain” that they hooked up to a flight simulator. The idea is that similar constructs could be used to take over complicated, dangerous tasks. Move over Skynet, Ratnet is the new hotness in science fiction.
  2. Real honest-to-goodness telepathy has happened right here on Earth. Okay, it was more like tele-email. Computers did the decoding and transferring, but the first messages were sent brain-to-brain over long distances. It’s a first step in a very interesting direction. I for one welcome our cyborg overlords.
  3. Two new deep sea animals that resemble mushrooms were discovered off the coast of Australia. The new animals are distant relative of the jellyfish that look like fungi. Pretty cool They don’t fit well into any current phyla and will probably get a new one created for them.
  4. Zombies anyone? A look at one way Toxoplasma might practice mind control on rats by turning on a gene that produces a neurotransmitter.
  5. Possible source of increasing food allergies found. Researchers cured peanut allergies in mice by infecting them with a commonly found gut bacteria. There’s so much we don’t understand about out gut flora and the damage we do by ingesting antibiotics.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Hopefully something in the list inspires you. Now go write!


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I hate the third of September. It’s the only day I actually hate. I wish September third had never been because I lost my brother eight years ago today. The rational part of me knows that even if there hadn’t been a third of September eight years ago I still would have gotten the early morning call, it just would have happened on another day. My inner five year old, however, is sure that if all September thirds were abolished, he would still be alive.

I have dreams of him, often. In those dreams he is happy and we do silly things like ride around in a bus and catch fish. I wake from those dreams still thinking he’s alive and the moment I realize he’s not is always painful. I relive that phone call again and again, trying to convince myself it was a nightmare. I want to call him. I want to hear him laugh. I want to thank him. I do not want a chance to say goodbye–never that.

I don’t think I’ve ever expressed this here, but all of my writing is because of him. Writing was his dream first. I borrowed his dream because I wanted to feel a connection with him. I fail at NaNoWriMo every year because of him and the threadbare NaNo 2003 shirt that I liberated from his room the day he died. I write quirky characters that he would have loved to read.

He introduced me to so many of the things I love that every day I am reminded of him and what a blessing it was to have him in my life. I am so thankful and I miss him so much. Today especially.

In honor of his life and his writing I’m adding a story to my Flash Fiction collection posted here that reminds me very much of him. I hope you enjoy A Mother’s Love.




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Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

220px-Only_Lovers_Left_Alive_posterOnly Lovers Left Alive is the vampire movie you’ve always wanted. You didn’t even know you wanted it, but you did. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are ancient, gorgeous, and shockingly human.

Let’s get this out of the way: this isn’t a Hollywood vampire movie. There is no violence, very little blood, and all of the sex is off-screen. The vampires aren’t showy. They don’t run around doing vampire things like flying and jumping off buildings. It’s all about the characters and how they interact. In the way of many independent films, there’s no driving plot and the movie is very much about the aesthetics as it meanders through their unlives. Personally, I love that, and I love this movie.


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Review of Chef


Chef didn’t get a lot of hype, and I can’t figure out why. It’s the kind of movie that leaves you feeling good afterward, as if sometimes everything works out just how it should. Let me be clear: the plot is eminently predictable, and there are no explosions or twist ending. Chef is very simply a heart-warming movie about a man trying to figure out what to do with his life after a mistake threatens his chosen career. There are some spoilers ahead, but as I hinted to earlier, it isn’t anything you would haven’t figured out way before it happens.

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Fear and the Art of Motorcycle Riding

I’m afraid of lots of things—spiders, germs, and that you’ll think I’m a moron, just to start. I’ve been thinking about the nature of fear a lot recently, and I’ve come to the conclusion that self-confidence and fear are in direct opposition to each other. This may not be ground-breaking news for anyone else, but for me it’s come as quite a surprise.

A few months ago my husband suggested that we get motorcycles. Frankly, I thought he was kidding because, let’s face it, I’m way too neurotic for that shit. Some days I can barely manage to leave the house because some random thing might kill me. This was a terrible idea—maybe the worst idea in the history of ever. People DIE on motorcycles.

At the time, I think I probably laughed and said sure. I think I imagined that the whole idea was a flight of fancy that he’d forget about given time. Well, he didn’t. He started to research how one goes about getting a motorcycle endorsement in this state, which involves a riding class. I figured a class couldn’t hurt, right? We’ll go, see how terrible I am at it, and then we’ll have a bit of a laugh and forget about the whole awful idea.

The first day of class came around, and that was when fear and I became reacquainted. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the first time I sat on a motorcycle I almost dropped it because my hands were shaking. Somehow, I managed to move the thing. I still had my feet on the ground, though, and I was pretty sure I was never going to be able to pick them up.

I cannot properly express the heart-pounding terror of picking my feet up that first time. I was sure, no, I was CERTAIN, that was going to fall over, both injuring and embarrassing myself in the process. I didn’t. I actually managed not to fall the entire day. In no version of that day that I had worried about for weeks in advance had that happened.

In the end, I passed the class and didn’t drop the bike once. Holy shit! Now what had I done? I had a piece of paper saying I could get my motorcycle endorsement. I kind of had to follow through, right? I mean, I’d alreadyBrouaEPIYAEjsCG done the hard part. This isn’t really the story of how I ended up with a motorcycle through what felt like no fault of my own, but I think it’s relevant to mention that at no time in the process until the very end, when the nice gentleman dropped off my gorgeous Yamaha Bolt, did I ever imagine myself the owner and rider of a motorcycle.

Here’s what I really want to talk about: how fear is a manifestation of lacking self-confidence. Throughout this motorcycle saga, I’ve encountered and conquered a lot of fear. I piled minor victories on top of each other until I surpassed what I had imagined I could do by so much I could barely see the starting point. Each time I managed to do something, I also learned an important lesson: when I knew I could manage a situation, I wasn’t as scared of it anymore. The simple act of knowing I could do it lessened the fear the next time the situation came around.

The point of this rather rambling post, dear reader, is that the lesson the motorcycle has taught me can be applied to everything from submitting stories to saying hello to someone I admire. Facing and overcoming something I am afraid of can only make the fear less menacing and give me the confidence to do it again. What’s the worst that can happen if I submit a story and it’s rejected? They say no. That’s it. The world isn’t going to end. The editor isn’t going to think I’m a moron. (Honestly, if they think anything at all about me I’m pretty much winning!) The story isn’t going to self-destruct.

Frank Herbert was right, I think: Fear is the mind-killer. So do something that scares you (safely!), and learn from it. Tonight I’m going to get on a highway for the first time on my motorcycle. I’m terrified, but I’m not going to let that stop me. Tomorrow I’m going to apply for a job I really want, but don’t think I deserve. I’m terrified of that, too. I’ll survive both experiences, I’ll gain confidence from them, and I’ll go on to do bigger and better things. Because this is my story, damn it, and I’m not going to be too afraid to live it.

Hearts and puppies,


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