Confirmation: Amines Are Like Drugs :P

Had to go out for dinner on Sat night to a wood-fired pizza restaurant. Dinner was delicious, as expected – and the food reactions were awful, as expected. *sigh*. It didn’t help that I made the mistake of eating a GIANT BOWL of rocket salad before realising that oops, yeah, rocket =/= lettuce and while lettuce is pretty fine for me in moderate amounts, rocket is on the DEATH DIE DO NOT EAT list >.< Urgh.

So, two extremely sleepless nights (less than 4 hours each, I think) on Sat and Sun, and then Monday evening I was just hyper as anything, feeling like I’d been drugged πŸ˜›

Interestingly, amines seem to amplify the function of my critical brain while diminishing my creative brain; I definitely can’t write while reacting to them. Sat down to try and it was all like, This sucks, This is stupid, That word is horrible, I hate this book, etc. I really just *couldn’t* get into the character’s voice, and this is a character who’s usually dead easy for me to voice. Super mega frustration.

And also interesting, part of the anxiety was amplified. Not the fear-of-the-dark, that’s separate to regular anxiety and seems to be triggered partly by a huge amount of salicylates, and partly by sustained low mood (i.e. feeling flat, tired, or otherwise negative for several days in a row – something that can be triggered by lack of sleep, which is triggered by amines, so the amines can be partly responsible for the fear-of-dark, but not directly, and certainly not after only one meal, even though it was a GIANT amine-heavy dose), but the regular, plain-old variety that’s the precursor to depression: feeling like I suck, second-guessing everything I do and especially say, and running old conversations/highly-negative moments on repeat obsessively.

It wasn’t *bad* this week, only just enough to notice it was happening, so I’m totes fine, but it IS definitely interesting. Because a lot of that kind of thinking is fear-of-judgement based, which is uber-critical brain, right?

ALSO interesting was that I powered through my marking at hitherto-unheard of speeds: I marked an entire class set in a couple of hours on Sat night + Sunday, and then another entire class set just on Monday alone – AND I didn’t even stay up late to do so, I finished it all by 8 o’clock.

You guys. That was weird.Β 

I am NOT a fast marker. It’s usually laborious and slow and tedious, and getting through two sets in essentially two days? I have NEVER done that before.

And guess what marking involves? Yep. Uber critical-brain oriented.

So it seems like amines basically affect me like a stimulant for my critical brain. For marking, that can be a great thing. For shutting up the critical brain and letting me sleep, write, or not be anxious? Not so great.

And now I want to go to a bunch of research about possible links between depression/anxiety and critical-brain activity.

Related but random other observations:

  • Writers are more neurotic as a group than other creatives. Why? What specifically is it about writing that makes our mental health vulnerable?
  • My critical brain seems to throw tantrums when it thinks I’m ignoring it. If I’ve done a lot of creative work and regular work but no hard-thinking work lately, I’m a LOT more susceptible to anxiety/self-doubt.
  • Could this type of anxiety be critical-brain overload, such as I seem to be getting when eating amines? Could writers combat critical-brain tantrums (anxiety, self-doubt) by letting the critical brain out to play, exercising it by doing, say, some soduko or something hard and thinky??

Where’s a good researcher? I need to pay someone to investigate this for me.

So anyway, to give this some semblance of a conclusion… Amines: Not For Amy! Unless I want to stay up really, really late and get some marking done πŸ˜›

Diagnosing Vitamin Deficiencies Through Your Tears!

So this is really cool! Scientists are developing ways to diagnose vitamin deficiencies through your tears! They are especially focused on children, for whom vitamin deficiencies can have a significant negative impact on their growth and development. Also of interest is a way to test quickly, simply, and easily long before physical symptoms manifest, because if you can catch the deficiency when it’s still moderate and before physical symptoms have occurred, obviously you can get better health outcomes for the patients.

Anyway, totally random, but it’s Friday, my brain is melting a little from being back in full-time work, and I thought it was super cool :o)

My Gallbladder Tried To Kill Me, OR, What Even Is This Month, Urgh.

For those not playing along on twitter, March has been the month of all illnesses, also known as the month wherein my gallbladder tried to kill me. We bid farewell to February with weekend-long gastro that struck down me and the baby. Husband was out of town (lucky beast), and Mr 4 was shipped off to the grandparentals for the weekend to avoid plague transmission. Baby not allowed back at daycare for 48 hours, so I had to have Monday/Tuesday off. Okay, thought I. This is not the end of the world. Monday I was not so great myself, but Tuesday, Tuesday bore all the makings of a Nice Quiet Rest Day.


Firstly, I was not allowed to drop Young Spawn off at school, because he’d been cranky and overtired the day before and they feared he might be plague ridden and didn’t want plague at school. Fair call for them, devastating for him and me. Literally. He bawled the entire way home, unable to understand what he’d done wrong to get sent home :\

ANYway, we survive the day, husband arrives home in the late afternoon, I head off to my chiropractor appointment… Only when I get home, part of my back is still niggling, like they didn’t quite catch something. And then we do dinner and bath and bed for the kidlets, and now it’s more than niggling, and it’s my stomach too? Or maybe just my back? Or maybe just my stomach? OR MAYBE GOOD HEAVENS IT’S BOTH AND NOW I’M GOING TO DIE.

What started out as mild discomfort quickly escalated to “I’m going to have a baby in the next hour heaven help me give me drugs” (she says of the two drug-free childbirths >.<) and when we realised at midnight that I was actually seriously in too much pain to even feed the baby, we figured it was probably hospital time. Via ambulance, because I’m cool like that.

(actually because hub driving me would have necessitating hauling the kids along and WHAT ELSE IS PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE FOR BUT AMBULANCE RIDES WHEEEEE but anyway)

The ambos were totally chill, even though I’m 99% sure at one point I stopped mid-sentence to LITERALLY ROLL ON THE FLOOR OH THE AGONY, but let’s face it: at that point even I thought it was only super-intense indigestion (body: take THAT woman! Teach YOU to eat a full meal at dinner two nights after you had gastro! Ha HA!).

TL;DR: it was not gastro, and my gallbladder was trying to kill me. At first the doctors were all LOL GALLSTONES YOU CAN GO HOME IN THE MORNING, and then they were all like LOL YOU ARE STILL IN MUCH PAIN WE SHALL ADMIT YOU and then several days later were more like o.O YOU ARE STILL IN PAIN WHY SHOULD THIS BE? I was in hospital for a full week, then spent another week at home recuperating while awaiting surgery, then at work for two long and exhausting days, and then, TA DA! Surgery last Thursday. (a week ago, whoa.)

You know that bit about my gallbladder trying to kill me? This is maybe not quite accurate. Maaaaaybe it would be more accurate to say that my body had been trying to kill my gallbladder, and it had NEARLY SUCCEEDED BECAUSE MY GALLBLADDER WAS GANGRENOUS.

*pauses to pass the vomit bag*

Yeah. I know. *urgh-shudder*. Turns out the entire back wall of the gallbladder was cold stone dead (I can attest to its murky grey dead-flesh appearance, THANKS RECOVERY NURSE WHO THOUGHT IT WAS A STONE o.O) and the organ was gangrenous, and if they’d just let me toddle along without worrying too much about surgery (the initial option), the mortality rate would have been 22%. I fully admit: this is one of those numbers I’m really glad I only learned about AFTER the offending (offended?) organ was gone. I spent most of Thursday afternoon/Friday morning feeling extremely happy to be alive.

And now I have been home for nearly a week, and although my insides would still prefer me to go on a hunger strike (FOOD? WHAT IS THIS STUFF?! You expect us to PROCESS this WITHOUT a GALLBLADDER?!?!?! *goes on strike*), I actually slept on my right side last night for the first time all month!!! This, my friends, is cause for celebration.

Ahem. So. All that new-pretty-websiting-let-me-actually-post-blog-updates that I had planned for March? Yeeeeeeeeeah. I’ll just… sweep these broken pieces of website under the rug here and no one will notice, AMIRITE???

But anyway. The website has a menu again at least, and if you click on any of the pretty links advertising FREE STUFF TO READ you’ll see I’m in the process of putting some of the more popular of my Darkness & Good stories over here too. Woo free stories.

Mostly, however, woo not dying. Not dying is fun. I recommend it.


#ScienceTrivia Black Hole Travel

So it turns out science fiction might have it right: Stephen Hawking things that if a black hole is large enough and is rotating, it might just be possible for a human being to fall through it, rather than being crushed to death. Where to? Not our universe, he suggests, but Somewhere Else.

I’m not personally lining up to volunteer, but it sounds like a useful premise for a story πŸ™‚


Full article here.

FGU Outtakes: 9 Awesome World Things You Should Know About

This time, a happier post.

Most of you should be aware by now that I have been busily beavering away on FGU, or From The Ground Up as it’s more properly know. If not, you’re either new, or have been tuning me out with remarkable efficacy πŸ˜› In the first instance, HI WELCOME NICE TO MEET YOU!! And in the second, it’s safe to come out again now: THE BOOK IS DONE.

Oh my gosh, the book is DONE. SO. MUCH. RELIEF. Mostly from my editor, who, when I blew my second deadline, was I’m pretty sure determined I was never going to finish. Sorry. *cookies for editor*. I got it in before the hard deadline. That’s a good thing, right? O:)

But anyway, long-story-short, I’ve spent the last year doing all sorts of research for FGU, and a lot of it didn’t end up fitting into the book. So for your daily dose of random today, Awesome Things I Learned While Writing FGU That You Should Learn Too! *o/*

1) There are social spiders. These spiders live in colonies that have two distinct roles: the warriors/food trappers, and the nurturers/offspring rearers. Shockingly enough, these spiders have the whole anti-discrim thing a lot more down-pat than humans do: every spider chooses its occupation, warrior or nurturer, based on its personality. You guys. That’s just seriously COOL.

2) Swarming has long been a source of bafflement, for scientists and anyone else who bothered to stop and think about it: How do all these individual creatures know where they’re going? How do they change directions so suddenly and all together? How do they determine when to swarm? Why do they swarm? WHAT IS THIS MYSTICAL SENSE? Turns out that the answer, at least in locusts, is to avoid cannibalism. Don’t believe me? This article explains it perfectly.

3) On a similar note, collectives of individuals often display this thing called ‘collective intelligence’ – the group as a whole is more intelligent than the individuals it contains (yes, this is a Thing, despite humanity often proving the opposite, that a group of people can be a whole lot stupider than its individuals :P). Schooling fish demonstrate this by a school’s ability to seek out shade, even though individual fish are really, really BAD at being able to get from areas of light to areas of dark.

4) If you’ve been following along on Twitter, you’ll have heard me freak out a couple of times that fungi are really just brainless insects with an external digestive system. (True facts. Fungi have waaay more in common with insects than plants. Oh the terror.) Well, it turns out that when you combine certain species of fungi with certain species of leaf-cutter ants, you get… a cow? Well, not actually a cow, but together the two totally separate species work together to mimic the digestive processes of a cow and its saliva/host of enzymes and bacteria. The ants literally use the fungus as their external digestive system, and the fungus uses the ants as saliva. BIZARRE.

5) Hexaflexagons. I have no words. Just… go watch the short video clip already.

6)Β Allow me to introduce you to the Anternet. Yep, scientists have discovered that behaviours ant colonies demonstrate (particularly when it comes to showing restraint in their gathering behaviours) are remarkably similar to internet protocols. Can humans think of nothing for themselves? πŸ˜€

7) One of the most exciting things for me was learning about all the things we still don’t have an answer to. It’s so easy, in our contemporary society, to assume that we have all the answers; that everything there is to be discovered has been; that there’s nothing new left in the world – or the universe. Happily, this is very untrue, and so: 13 things we still have basically no clue about.

8) You’ve probably heard theories that the Earth is close to carrying capacity, and that we’re going to run out of room. Well, I’ve got some good news for you: the population of the Earth is expected to stabilise as early as the middle of this century. Take a look at what the break down is expected to be.

9) And a reminder that was timely at some points during the writing process: Sleep is a Competitive Advantage. Get more of it.

Alivity, and GMO Foods

Why yes, yes I am still alive. Maybe. Probably. *checks for rotting limbs that may indicate zombieism* Nope, all clear. I am definitely, absolutely, 100% alive. Later in the week, I might even post pictures of my trip to Laos with school. See be have Plans to be Organised.


Randomly, I found this article today, and thought it provided a perspective on GMO foods that is often overlooked. So. Go read it, and discover why GM oranges may be a Thing Near You in the future.

So Much Shiny!

A less self-indulgent post, in which I essentially just run around squeeing about all the Mad Science I’ve found this week.

Bug protects itself by turning its environment to gold.

Mass meditation prevents violent crime.

The Four Georges: Born To Rule (okay, so that one’s history)

Brain Frequencies

The Art of Eating Insects (an emminently sustainable source of animal protein!)

Shark embryos can freeze (in their eggs!) to avoid predators.

And last but not least:

First detailed sex video of deep-sea squid. As if you’re not going to click the link just for the title of that one. Heh.

Flame Retardants (But Don’t Freak Out)

Look, in the interest of a) actually getting this post, which has been sitting in drafts for a week, posted and b) preserving the spirit of this blog, which is very much a place for me to just hang out, and not feel pressure to be official and all, I’m just going to fudge this a bit. If you’re interested, a quick google will bring heaps of hits, and read the links at the end of the post.
Basically, because of a whole bunch of legislation, a LOT of stuff in AU/US is required by law to have flame retardants in it. Now, I’m not against this idea, because I appreciate my laptop not blowing up on my lap or a plane exploding in midair as much as the next person – but things can go too far, which I think is where babies’/children’s clothing fits in. If you look at the stats, only a very small number of children die from burns each year (and each death is tragic, I fully acknowledge that). Also, the majority of ‘injuries’ from fire, esp house fires, are smoke-related, not flame-related.

Despite this, governments like ot be seen to be doing things, and it’s now a legal requirement that children’s and babies’ sleepwear be doused in flame retardant chemicals – which is all well and good until you do the research and see that these chemicals are increasingly being found to be detrimental to human health generally, implicated in delayed development and developmental disorders, and potentially carcinogenic – especially brominated FRs. Wanna know why we’re seeing so many more cancers in our modern age? I’m betting our longer life spans are not actually the only reason, and that the increasing useage of chemicals and plastics in our everyday lives are related. Do the research (hi, google scholar) – I’m not the only one who thinks so. Obvs, because I had to read about all this SOMEWHERE πŸ˜›

Flame retardants aren’t just in kids’ clothing – they’re in aeroplanes, electronics, drapery, carpets, and upholstered furniture. So, growing people, who have a higher surface to mass ratio and a higher food-ingested to mass ratio than adults, and are comparative fragile and susceptible, spend the majority of their lives surrounded by these lovely flame retardants (FRs). Mm, sounds like a sensible plan to me.

So, I was kind of freaking out about this, after having spent about a month ignoring it since I first stumbled acorss it, because really, what can I do? Stop buying upholstered furniture, toss our new lounge (oh yeah, THAT would go down well), buy only organic clothing, rip up all the carpet… Shelve that in the ‘too hard’ basket!!!

But, instead of freaking out I told myself to put on my mature, responsible adult hat and FIGURE OUT WHAT I ACTUALLY COULD DO. So, here’s what you can do if you’re interested in minimising exposure to all sorts of fun-time chemicals.

  • In the US, items manufactured post-2005 are not as likely to have the FRs in them, so if you’re up for new furniture, #win.
  • Wash clothes with soap rather than detergent and soak overnight in either 50/50 vinegar/water or 4 litres (1 gallon) water with 1 cup lemon juice.
  • For clothing, buy secondhand (FR lose their effectiveness after a year or so) or buy organic.
  • Wash hands regularly to prevent ingestion of chemicals picked up in handling everyday items.
  • Vacuum regularly, esp with a HEPA filter. (Yeah, need to work on that one. Vacuuming is the household chore most likely to induce perfectionism-paralysis in me, so I tend to avoid it until absolutely necessary :S)
  • Try to avoid buying furniture with foam – opt for wood, or furniture stuffed with polyester, down, wool or cotton.
  • For upholstered furniture, try to buy furniture that is tightly upholstered and where the foam is wrapped inside the seat cushions – extra layers mean extra barriers to FR seepage/gassing off. For other foam products (car seats etc), try to ensure the foam is completely wrapped, and for all foam products, replace as soon as the foam starts wearing out/breaking down. Don’t reupholster foam furniture. (Urgh, the feeding chair in small person’s room – totes need to make an internal cover for the seat cushion.)
  • Avoid letting children/babies mouth electronics. (Presumably avoid letting anyone mouth electronics :P) (Also urgh, because he was totes doing this at the parental’s house today)
  • Minimise use of carpetting and drapery (not always practical, but I guess at least try to avoid letting the kids eating these? Soak drapes in 50/50 vinegar/water where possible? And vacuum regularly…)
  • Be careful when removing old carpet underlay – try to contain the area and vacuum with a HEPA filter regularly to prevent particles spreading.
  • When purchasing new, opt for naturally fire-retardant fibres (eg leather – #win; the lounge we bought last December is leather), or, if you can’t avoid FRs altogether, try to at least opt for fabrics that are ‘inherently’ FR, which means the FR has been bonded to the fabric fibers and is less likely to transfer.
  • When buying electronics, try to buy from brands that are aware of the issue and are taking steps to address it. Acer, Apple, Eizo Nanao, LG Electronics, Lenovo, Matsushita, Microsoft, Nokia, Phillips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony-Ericsson, and Toshiba Panasonic have all agreed to completely phase out brominated FRs from their phones and computers by 2011, so any new devices by these companies should be at least comparatively safe.
  • The following companies are phasing out Deca, the most common brominated culprit, but may or may not be using other brominated FRs as replacements: Canon, Daikin, Intel, IBM, HP (Hewlett Packard), Minolta, Mitsubishi, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Xerox.

So. There are some things to do that are practical and not at all freak-out ish. See me be adult. #win. Linkies below to get you started if you’re interested in the issue. (this is a PDF! download warning!)

What. The Hell.

So, here’s some terrifying information for you. Randomly, I was doing a click-read-click spree again tonight and stumbled across a Nov-2001 article where Johnson&Johnson were promising to remove a known carcinogen from their baby products. UM, I THINK THAT WOULD BE A REALLY GOOD IDEA, JOHNSON&JOHNSON. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

It prompted me to go grab Small Person’s shampoo and examine the ingredients. The carginogenic compound is not listed, but of course, I had no clue what most of the listed ingredients were. Usually, the solution is to ignore these ingredients – but tonight I was struck by curiosity.

Here are the terrifying results. Some ingredients fell under more than one category, so despite what the numbers add up to, this is out of 15 ingredients.

8 safe (sigh of relief)

1 known skin irritant
1 known immune system irritant
5 known skin toxicants
1 not safe for use on damaged or irritated skin
1 toxic or harmful for organs; not for products used on the mouth (lipstick etc) – dude, this is BABY WASH/SHAMPOO. OF COURSE IT’S GOING IN THE MOUTH.
1 potential neuro-toxicant

What. The hell.

Seriously. From now on, we are all bathing in olive oil with sugar. (Actually, I totally bought some grape seed oil from Costco on the weekend for the Small Person – it’s supposed to be one of the best oils for the skin ;)).

If you’re interested in checking out any of the complicated products on your ingredient lists, google, or use this awesome site here.