Monday, April 30, 2012

Compendium: 2012 A to Z Challenge

I came through the challenge OK. Don't worry about the banged up knee - that was from my bike.

Although I initially set myself the goal of writing 26 flash fiction stories for the A to Z, I included a few poems and non-fiction pieces as well. For those who are first-time visitors, or returning to check out earlier posts, I've grouped them and included a few descriptives so that you may choose what interests you.

Flash Fiction

Alpha  - fictional memoir, Vietnam
"Come At Once." - fantasy, ghost story, Titanic
Foreigners  - sci-fi, humor
Hand Of Anarchy - strange medicine
Invisible - drama, YA
Just Enough - original modern fairy tale
Lengths To Which We Will Go - strange medicine
No - drama, relationships, slice of life
Pastville, USA - utopia, future, Alzheimers
Signposts - drama, slice of life
Voices Of Friends - historical fiction, WW2


Eternally On Fire - a fire has been burning under Centralia since the 60s. (Mining disasters, abandoned towns)
It Was A Very Goodyear - the Goodyear blimp has a near disaster. (Airships, memoir)
Operation Deadlight and U-776 - the only Uboat to ever sail up the Thames. (Submarines, WW2)
Xenomancy - divining the future by the first stranger you meet. (ancient divination, fortune telling)
Justin Yeager: Name Your Poison - a student studies poison frogs, teaches conservation, and will tattoo your name on his body - for the right donation. (strawberry poison frogs, research,, amphibians, interview)



Unused, Unwanted - some strange want ads to use as prompts
Wordplay - some fun with a single word

I confess that I'm so backed up with work, I won't be doing a reflection post this year. It was challenging, fun, frustrating and rewarding. I followed new people and gained some new readers. And I might even do it again next year! Thank you Stu Nager at Talespinning for feedback and constant support. (His A to Z was a complete series which takes place in an apartment building. Give it a look!) Many thanks to the hosts for making it all possible and tirelessly reading, commenting, and supporting as well as writing their own posts.Also thank you to the Writer Warriors at Triberr for faithfully tweeting out my posts as well as to those of you who commented, tweeted, google plussed, stumbled, etc. You rock! I'll leave you with a few pics from this year's A to Z posts.

from the nonfiction entry "Justin Yeager: Name Your Poison"

from the flash fiction "Come At Once"

from the misc. entry "K is for..."

from the flash "Foreigners"

from the nonfiction entry "Eternally On Fire"

from the flash fiction piece "Alpha"

All photos are credited to outside sources, where applicable, in the original post. All others are the property of the author, as is the content of this blog.Thanks for visiting and reading!

Zaitech - Poetry - A to Z Challenge

Forsaken isles of shopping malls,
moored among the asphalt sea
with gulls that sail the hot updrafts
and eye the scattered trash below for tea

The colonists, while lacking posts
avail themselves of native fare,
to ease the fear accompanying
the machinations of raging bull and bear.

Inside their underwater homes,
eschewing dry discussions,
and antiquated civil discourse,
preferring pixelated repercussions,

unless aroused by fleeting squalls,
when bobbing on the odious tides
it dawns upon their somnolent minds
the stars are not the most reliable guides.

Their shows of greed and self display
and cries of more! and more! and more!
will ultimately bind us tight
and sink us quickly to the ocean's floor. 

zaitech - investment in financial markets by a company in order to boost profits

Thus ends my second A to Z challenge. I'm proud of many, although there are some clunkers as well. It was fun, but I will be glad to take a break for a bit. 

Many thanks to everyone who visited, whether you commented or not.  Your time and interest is greatly appreciated!

A hearty welcome to new followers - and I again urge you (all bloggers, in fact) to please take the time and link your blog to your profile so that when you leave a comment, the host can easily return the favor. 

I read a lot of great posts this month, and look forward to reading many more next month and "catching up". I suspect I won't be posting much, as I feel like I need a breather.

Hope you all had a great time!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Justin Yeager: Name Your Poison - Nonfiction - A to Z Challenge

Who's Justin Yeager? What kind of poison?

Popa - poison frog. Photo courtesy Justin Yeager. Fund his project here
Escudo. Photo courtesy Justin Yeager

Poison frogs are exquisitely beautiful creatures. For a $1000 research donation, you could have a captive one named after you. For $12,000, researcher Justin Yeager will tattoo your name, along with - "funded my research when I was in need" - on his body. (UPDATE- PROJECT NOW CLOSED)

Now that's dedication.

Justin is from my hometown area, and is currently researching strawberry poison frogs on islands off the coast of Panama. Among other notable things, Justin relates that the markings on the frogs - which vary from island to island, even though the frogs are in close proximity to each other - are dependent on the frogs' diet. Environmental surroundings can also affect the frogs, so that changes to the amount of tree canopy, rainfall, soil composition, etc. can all have a negative impact on the tiny creatures.  More research is necessary to link specific plants to the vibrant colors and toxins of the frogs, as well as community outreach to teach locals and schoolchildren about land use and conservation matters.

Why should we care about frogs? Amphibian populations have been stressed - and disappearing - with frightening speed in recent years. Aside from the fact that extinctions can cause disruptions in the web of life, many plants and animals have medical uses or benefits which we haven't even discovered yet. There is currently research being conducted on drugs made from poison frog toxins (alkaloids) to use as cardiac treatments, muscle relaxers, and even painkillers. (Epibatidine was one such drug which had powerful analgesic properties, more so than even morphine, but proved too damaging to the gastrointestinal tract to be of use.)

I had questions for Justin: about whether handling the frogs was dangerous, whether frogs could be made less toxic, or more so, simply by controlling their diet, and whether he'd ever encountered any leeches or other nasties in the rainforest. Justin replied (along with the gorgeous photos you saw above)...

The frogs do indeed lose their toxicity as they're fed a diet that lacks the alkaloids.  We have a large number we breed here in the lab for other studies and on a diet of just fruit flies they lose their toxicity over time.  It's not clear if we could make a super toxic frog though.  There's a few potentials for that scenario though a) The frogs may be as toxic as they can be due to lacking sources, or b) increasing the toxicity could bear too great of a cost for the frogs (the toxins come at a cost physiologically).  Toxicity certainly varies greatly between species, populations, even between genders and seasonally.  As for the gloves, it's safe enough to handle D. pumilio without gloves, but we always wash our hands before eating, rubbing your face/eyes, etc.  It's not a risk you want to take...  The leeches I've never had in any abundance, although I've had a bot fly growing in my arm for a few months, and I've had Dengue fever twice.  That's not something I'd ever like to have again. 

Justin, who has a bachelor's from University of Delaware and master's from East Carolina University, is currently working toward his doctorate at Tulane.

Find Justin at ResearchGate , Justin , and LinkedIn

Justin Yeager

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Xenomancy - A to Z Challenge

The Fortune Teller by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Who was the first stranger you met today?  Do you remember?

Aside from people in cars (don't make eye contact!), the first stranger I saw was the school crossing guard.  Unfortunately, he raised his left hand and used it to wave me on.

Bad luck.

Xenomancy is an ancient method of divination, based on the actions of the first stranger you meet. In my case, bad luck was foretold by the raised left hand. The word sinister derives from the Latin sinistra for on the left side, unlucky or meaning harm. (Left derives from the Anglo-Saxon lyft or weak.) As humans are socialized (herd?) animals, anything strange, unusual or different is often feared and/or discriminated against.  And so, anything on the left was often considered malignant.

At any rate, my day wasn't any unluckier than usual. You can always fit the circumstances to the prediction.  I dropped one of my hotdogs at lunch. Didn't win the lottery. Couldn't remember the fabulous story for X that I thought of weeks ago but forgot to write down.


I blame it all on the crossing guard, and I'm writing down his badge number tomorrow.

Wordplay - Flash Fiction - A to Z Challenge

I'm bored and slothful and pococurante;
I should have a list of things to do
but I don't and therefore am listless.
That I am listless might irritate some;
well, let them think what they list.
Inclined toward itemizing
(so listing toward listing)
I draw up a column of writing ideas,
with foremost among them
the history of sepsis,
becoming a lister of Lister.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Voices Of Friends - A to Z Challenge - Flash Fiction

I didn't hear it at first; only the cocking of Thierry's head alerted me to the fact that a warbird was in the offing.

"Beaufort", he said, quietly.

"How do you know that?" I wondered aloud.

"When your life depends on it, you learn the voices of  friends." And he told me a story.

"On a cold October night in 1941, the people of Nantes (France) heard the far-off rumble of aircraft. The town had been cordoned off by German troops, and a deathly silence and darkness prevailed.  Lt. Col. Fritz Hotz, the German commander in Nantes, had been killed by the French Resistance; 50 hostages had then been shot in reprisal. Nantes waited, on its knees.

The British Beauforts flew in formation, impossibly low over the sea. So low, in fact, that the pilots had to pull up at the coastline to avoid the sand dunes and the trees.  There was moonlight to navigate by, but the landscape below was shrouded by the blackout. And then an amazing thing happened.

Each village they passed over came alight, as though the approaching aircraft were calling forth the spirit of the people.  Doors were opened, and the light streamed out as villagers waved to the bombers overhead.  They knew the sound of friendly engines, and though the Beauforts could not save them from their fate this time, those pilots were glad to know that the town derived some comfort from their passing."

Seventy-one years have passed since that night. There are currently no airworthy Beauforts in the world, but if there were then I would wish them to fly over Nantes once again.

In the darkness

along a carpet of twinkling lights

which say please do not forget us.

Psssst!  Denise Covey (L'Aussie) included me in her A to Z Challenge theme - Bloggers Were Children Too.  I was happy to provide her with one of the more difficult letters - V is for Vooght. If you have the time, stop by and say hello!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Unused, Unwanted - A to Z Challenge

List your unused, unwanted items in our classified section!

Free. Very fine mulch horse manure. U pick up. White Horse.

Hospital bed w/remote. In pretty good shape.

Available now! 2-4 bedroom homes. Take over payments. No money down/no credit check. 1-888-xxx-xxxx

Low Cost Mortgage Protection LIFE INSURANCE. PREMIUM RETURNED IN 20 YEARS IF YOU DON'T DIE.  1-800-xxx-xxxx

Prom Dress. Never worn. Size 12. Also one size 3, worn once.

For Sale. Stun guns, pepper sprays, alarms, security cameras. T's Shoppe at the XXX Farmer's Market.

Wanted wild caught rat snake. Will pay $5 - $20 depending on size. 

No story today, my friends. Instead, I offer you the delicious prompts above. They were all found in the classifieds of a weekly paper. Honest!  Feel free to try and generate a micro story or drabble (100 words) and leave it in the comments section. No judging, no prizes - just for fun.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Taking Out the Trash - A to Z Challenge - Flash Fiction

"There's that odd theatre fellow again. Bloody strange if you ask me."

"No one asked you, Richard. And when was the last time you actually approved of anyone?" Eleanor sniffed delicately.  "You've got that old man smell about you today. Did you even shower?"

"I suppose you prefer Mr. Pouf there.  Disgusting.  Bathes in scent and walks about with puppets. Ought to be locked up if you ask me, him and that HaveYouBeenSavedYet sidekick of his. Damned building's gone to pot, letting anybody in."

Eleanor nodded and smiled at the cheerful man coming toward them, dragging a large black trash bag.  "Hello Mr. Stewart. You seem in fine fettle this morning. I find it's always good for the spirit to take out the trash."

The ebullient Mr. Sylvester Stewart, lately of the Faire Men Traveling Troupe, doffed his Wednesday Hat, a slightly bent tricorn.  "Good morning to you too. I've been busy cleaning out the apartment. Mother was a bit of a hoarder, you know. How are you, Mr. Bryson?"

Richard grunted. "A bit nippy out today. Cold. Yes, cold. Looks like it's to continue cold too." He stared fixedly at the hat, his mouth working silently. "Yes, cold," he finished, defeated by the jauntiness of millinery and bearer.

The three looked at each other in mounting panic as they realized that they were all waiting for the elevator.

I cannot bear one more vapid conversation about the weather thought Sylvester.

I will die of embarrassment if that idiot Richard opens his mouth  thought Eleanor.

I'll put Eleanor between us so that fruit won't feel me up thought Richard.

They rode down to the first floor in silence. As the door opened, Sylvester swept his hat off with a flourish.  "After you, milady," he said with a wink.

Eleanor flushed in spite of herself.  "Well, thank you.  But really, you go first, you have such a load to deal with."

"Nonsense. And I'm in no hurry; I've another trip to make anyway. There's another batch of body parts upstairs awaiting disposal."

Eleanor giggled, all the while feeling the disapproving eyes of her husband burning into her. 

"Bloody freak show," he muttered. "Damned cold weather."

The weather had warmed considerably three weeks later, although Richard was not along this time to comment on it.  Eleanor was on her way to join the widows at bridge, when who should be coming along the hall again but Sylvester, wearing his Sunday Hat, a dove grey Panama, and dragging the ubiquitous trash bag.

"We always seem to meet on a trash day, don't we Mr. Stewart.  You must tell me about your new show. Oh, and perhaps you could bring your friend to tea.  I don't at all mind listening to his interpretations of the Book. Quite fascinating, especially when taken in a historical context."

The two chatted avidly, and although Eleanor was quite expecting it, she was still pleased as ever when Sylvester doffed his hat and called her milady.  They parted ways after agreeing on a suitable evening to get together, Eleanor tapping across the marble foyer to her bridge club, Sylvester trotting to the back alley with his trash bag, leaving the very faintest of sticky red trails on the floor behind him.