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* Editor’s Note: Welcome to Lunchtime Clickbait, where we test oddly specific headlines establishing implausibly sweeping claims for oddly specific life strategies. 

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Sure, it’s only been two days, but I can unequivocally say that smoked oysters have changed my life.

Photo by Thomas John on Unsplash

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How do I know for sure that smoked oysters are the best thing since sliced bread? Well, three days ago I had ideas as usual, but little energy for action. Sure, I got my work done, but then, meh.

For the past two days we have had smoked oysters for dinner, and for the past two days I have had far more energy and verve than usual. I think the connection is obvious.

Yesterday? I did all of the things. Work, yes, but also house and writing and creative fun stuff. Also peaches.

Happily tucked away in the freezer, waiting to become sorbet.

Today I’ll do that and more, and I’m sure that it’s all because of the smoked oysters. What’s not to love?

Will smoked oysters work for you? Maybe, and unless you have a shellfish allergy, they can’t hurt.

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Now, do I wish they didn’t come in cans designed to slice my fingers when taking them to the recycling bin? I do, but I also have a solution.

I mean sure, you could still cut yourself if you tried hard enough. So maybe don’t?

And many of the readily available options are from halfway around the globe, but it would be great if increasing local popularity also encouraged more local production.

It’s also encouraging to see the shells used as material for educational and shoreline reclamation projects like the Billion Oyster Project and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

Still not convinced that smoked oysters are right for you? What else does a sweeping claim for dramatic outcomes based on one small lifestyle change need for maximum reputability?

A Top Ten List, of course!

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Top Ten Reasons to Eat Smoked Oysters

10. They are great on salads, on pasta, in soups, on picnics, or straight from the can when you don’t have time for niceties like plates.

9. Canned, they are shelf stable to the Apocalypse and beyond.

8. Oysters purify water, are terrific for shoreline health, contribute to restorative aquaculture, and in a well-managed fishery are a great addition to a sustainable food system.

7. They remind me that the history of cities like New York is tied to the oyster. 

6. Smoked oysters give an average day a bit of fancy dancy je ne sais quoi.

5. Oysters are rich in protein, good fats, iron, zinc, and copper. Eating them makes me feel practically electric!

4. Smoking takes away that weird sliminess of raw oysters that some people love but, well, I don’t. (Although maybe I haven’t tried enough of the good stuff, like those from High on the Hog‘s TheRealMotherShuckers.)

3. I still have warm fuzzy feelings from childhood, sitting in the living room recliner, reading, and eating after-school oyster stew.

2. Lord, I don’t know, isn’t this list done yet?

And finally, the number one reason to eat smoked oysters…

1. They are affordable, accessible, and Costco sells these babies in eight-can packs!

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Yes, these oysters are the squishy kind, but the picture is pretty. Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

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I may have understated things a little yesterday, when I said that my bug bites were just “extremely itchy.” They were driving me crazy, especially the freakishly large spider(?) bite that made my wrist look like a poorly-maintained baseball bat. I had some anti-itch stuff and it worked, but for short periods only, and the wrist had a puffy red circle that was three inches wide and still growing.

Not cool.

Cue dramatic rescue! My sister-in-law saved the day. Her recommendation? Vicks VapoRub. The full course of action was peroxide to clean the area, then apply a mix of Vicks and salt.

Being a science-minded sort in possession of a bumper crop of bug bites, I decided to conduct a little experiment.

Super official test protocol: Some spots got Vicks only, some got the full treatment. I won’t lie, the salt scared me a little. It seemed a bit too much like scratching an itch with your nails, deeply satisfying until the blood starts to run, the area resembles a monster-movie prosthetic, and you regret your life choices.

Ahem.

Results: I wasn’t 100% wrong about the salt. Scrubbing the swollen area rode a fine line between satisfaction and pain, and I could almost see the little grains scraping an already sore spot. (It was also a bit awkward to apply to and remove from non-wrist areas.) But! Once I stopped rubbing it in, I was able to leave it at that. No obsessive need to keep scratching even as the voice in my head said, “For the love of all that’s holy, please stop scratching!” Was it nerve overload, increased Vicks penetration, or…? I don’t know, but I liked it.

And then the swelling went down, the redness receded, and the itch went away. There’s still a little redness, a tiny bump where the demon venom spider fangs went in, and no real urge to scratch. The Vicks-only bumps are similar, so my guess is that the menthol etc. in the mix does most of the work. I’ll probably use that straight next time.

My verdict? Best sister-in-law ever:)

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Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

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* Note from the future: After more experimentation (thanks, backyard bugs!) I’m shifting my position a little. Salt helps, and the peroxide (or other cleanser) seems sensible if you’re going to use sharp crystals against your skin. 

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The sun is out and while it’s not exactly warm, the world is bright and beautiful. I’m working on a number of project ideas and am about to help Mr Man dissect the fridge. 

(brief break for said dissection)

Yep, we need a new fridge. Or rather, the fridge needs a new compressor and it doesn’t make sense to replace that one thing. I shall now spend a not-insignificant amount of time imagining a world in which incentives for engineers are structured in ways that make designing modular, easy-to-repair systems the goal. 

So I’m a little sad today, because having to get rid of a mostly fine appliance is a damn shame.

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That said, I am also reading. I just finished Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor. It’s a good book but not, like so many others, an easy one to ingest. I stuck with it and am glad I did. The language is challenging, any name or title under four syllables is rare, and the author does an astonishing job (I realized about 10% of the way in) of putting the reader in the place of the awkward, out-of-his-depth, confused main character. It adds an extra, internal dimension to the act of reading an external book. 

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And here’s to my parents, who raised me with the belief that no day with a book is ever truly wasted.

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Photo by Rob Mulally on Unsplash

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Today is International Women’s Day, and I’m feeling fine. If you’re interested in learning more about the sorts of women who are often shunned by history, check out this sampling of women who dared greatly:

Historical awesome:

And in a bit of modern-day awesome, NASA has named the Perseverance landing site after Octavia Butler. How cool is that?

Speaking of NASA:

Inspiration much? Yes, thanks!

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In related news, we finally watched Terminator: Dark Fate and enjoyed the heck out of it. I’ll admit to avoiding it, a bit. Lackluster reviews, messed-up timeline issues (which earlier movies were we supposed to ignore and which not? oy), plus the “Yeah, you’re not the threat. It’s your womb” series concept kept me from watching it sooner. 

Now that I have, what did I think?

Let’s just say that the ladies kick ass.

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Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

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I ran through a number of possibilities for today’s installment of #ThingsILike. Allow me to take you on a tour:
(tl;dr? Limitless is awesome:)

Option #1: Delightfully Precocious Investigative Journalist Hilde Kate Lysiak (Age 9)
Consider, if you will, the nine-year old reporter from Pennsylvania doing her best (and it’s good) to report serious news in her hometown. Hilde Kate Lysiak publishes the Orange Street News from Selinsgrove, PA, and she’s not writing puff pieces about puppies or flowers. Her story went viral when she reported on a murder that took place early April just a few blocks from her house. I can’t wait to see what she can do by the time she gets her driver’s license.

Option #2: Call A Random Swede
I also discovered that Sweden (yes, the country) has its own phone number. Dial the number (it is international, so watch those fees!) and you will be connected to a random Swede.

That’s right, thousands of people have signed up to participate in this program, and incoming calls are randomly shunted to one of them when a call comes through. Call one minute and you might find yourself speaking with a professor in Uppsala, call the next minute and you could be put in touch with a (let’s say) restauranteur from Stockholm or Volvo employee in Arvika.

No guarantees that caller and callee will speak a common language, but that’s part of the fun. There’s just no telling! Suggested topics of conversation include meatballs (yum), darkness (it’s like fine wine in France, they have a lot of the stuff but not everywhere), and feminism (yeah, my family’s ancestral homeland is awesome). All in the name of tourism, of course, but what a great way to humanize another culture.

What’s the number, you ask? Why, it’s + 46 771 793 336 🙂

Option #3: Limitless
Both of the above topics are fun, but in the end I decided to go with something a bit closer to my writerly wheelhouse: Limitless.

The show is based on the movie of the same name. (Time to fess up: I watched the beginning of the movie but somehow never quite made it to the end. It may have had something to do with the initial portrayal of the writer as unmotivated loser. Maybe;)

Here’s a short description from CBS: Limitless is “is a fast-paced drama about Brian Finch, who discovers the brain-boosting power of the mysterious drug NZT and is coerced by the FBI into using his extraordinary cognitive abilities to solve complex cases for them…”

Sounds like a fine (if potentially generic) crime/investigative show. Except that it is nothing like your average CSI.

When I heard the initial chatter about the series my dominant reaction was “meh.” What could they bring to the table as a series? A lot, it turns out. If you’re a fan of deep, serious drama look elsewhere (admittedly, I’m often not), but what the show does, it does very well.

I like speculative fiction and I like humor, and like peanut butter and chocolate, the two are often better together. Limitless is one such case. The writers (and everyone else involved) are blending both humor and serious stakes together into one great whole. Breaking the fourth wall doesn’t begin to capture it. We are always happy to see an episode on the PVR, but we make sure to watch it after dinner. That way we won’t be distracted by an errant tomato and miss a quip, creative visual set piece, or hilarious aside.

Sure, it’s a (mostly) lighthearted TV show, but that doesn’t mean it can’t do fun and interesting things with characters, plot, and presentation. Creative, innovative and downright fun, I’m enjoying the heck out of this show. And as I mentioned, it’s not a show I initially expected to like.

The cast features established faces (including Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Ron Rifkin) and (for me at least) newer ones, including the charismatic and entertaining Jake McDorman. While Bradley Cooper serves as executive producer and sometime guest star, the dynamics between McDorman and Jennifer Carpenter are what anchor the show. I recommend you start at the beginning of Season 1 rather than try to pop in mid-way for best effect.

Why bring this up today? Because I realized that there are only two episodes left in the season and CBS has yet to renew. Prospects look good but after all the television-related heartbreak (of course I’m looking at you Firefly, but there are many more), I wanted to speak up.

If you’re in the market for good, geeky fun dished out with sides of humor and crime-fighting, Limitless is for you.

/recommended

This has been today’s edition of #ThingsILike, sent from my writerly Headquarters (with an exclamation point!).

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I finally got to see The Martian this past weekend, and if you’ve been following the reviews at all my reaction will come as no surprise: it was great. What’s that, you’ve been busy/off the grid/media fasting? Here’s a trailer.

I read Andy Weir’s book last year so the specifics weren’t a surprise, but in this case knowing the story did nothing to detract from the experience. The execution, whether in terms of writing, acting, directing, or visuals, was a delight. The movie compressed the story in exactly the right ways, maintaining dynamism and tension in what could have been a dull one-man alone setting.

Also, no stupid characters were required to move the plot. Yay! You may not agree with every decision, but at no point did the script make some hapless individual look down at a big red button under glass and say, “Gosh, I know they told me not to touch anything but I wonder what this does,” literally or otherwise. Also times two, smart, strong characters, women included. How refreshing is that?

 

A lot has been written about the movie, and about Weir’s journey from self-published indie author to Hollywood hit, and it’s both interesting and well-deserved (see here and here and here and here, for examples).

As an entertainment consumer both versions scored high for me. As a writer, I was impressed by Weir’s concrete attention to detail, his willingness to dig himself into seemingly impossible holes, and his facility at getting out of them in realistic ways. Drew Goddard did an excellent job translating the book into a screenplay (I’d expect nothing less from this Buffy/Angel/Alias+ alum) for Ridley Scott.

I came out of the theatre kicking myself for not studying more math in school. Astronauts are awesome, and while most of us will never make that exalted level, there’s nothing to say we can’t try. (Ok, fine, my eyesight is bad and I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that astronauts need to be able to do more than 10 pushups, but you get my point.)

Helping kids (and everyone else) see that science is about exploration, discovery, innovation, capability and (in this case) freaking outer space?

That’s exactly the kind of story I can get behind. Recommended.

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Like many I was disappointed (if not terribly surprised) to see Duotrope go to a paid subscription model. This market database and submissions tracker is a great service, no mistake, but the subscription barrier felt a little high. There are some potential substitutes and while I was able to put together a system for story research, tracking, and submission, the process took time. Time I’d rather spend working or sleeping.*

What’s that? You know I’ve found a replacement and you just want me to spill the good news? Well then:)

Welcome to The Grinder, from the good folks at Diabolical Plots. It is a market database and submission tracker with Duotrope-style summary data and response time statistics. Those statistics will improve as more users add submission info, but I was surprised that after just a few months their data look similar to what I remember from Duotrope. And if you have an unaltered .csv export file of your Duotrope submission records, The Grinder has the option to import that information. See this summary page for more details on what it can do. And did I mention this service is free?

Drawbacks? It’s in beta so they are still building the market list and some of the features you might expect aren’t yet in place. (For example, I can’t find the Favorites list but as I just started using it that might be me.) It’s currently for fiction only but plans are in place to expand to non-fiction and poetry soon. These issues aside, The Grinder has a lot going for it, and the team seems genuinely interested in user suggestions and making improvements.

If you are in the market for a market list and submission tracker, this looks like a very good option.

* Or enjoying a frosty glass of some adult beverage with friends. Because there’s more to life than working and sleeping, people!

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Space Milkshake: A Movie Review, or, An Appreciation of Sci-Fi Comedy

Current trends in genre movies lean toward zombies, war, and the Apocalypse, but I’d like to take a moment to appreciate the benefits of humor in science fiction. Sure, our future planet may be filled with trash, our scientists mad, and our educational standards in decline, but at least we should be able to laugh about it. What is humor, if not a way to cope with (and thereby begin to address) our problems? I spend Saturday nights watching B movies of the science fiction and fantasy persuasion for just that reason. With that in mind, I settled in to watch Space Milkshake.

Starring Robin Dunne (Sanctuary), Billy Boyd (The Lord of the Rings), Kristin Kreuk (Smallville, Beauty and the Beast), Amanda Tapping (Stargate, Sanctuary), and George Takei (Star Trek) as the voice of Gary the duck, the film allows each of these actors to emphasize their comedic strengths.

The story is a classic crucible, sci-fi style. The setting is a future Earth where space debris is a serious problem, addressed by permanently-crewed orbital stations tasked with space lane maintenance. Geosynchronous trash trucks, if you will. While living on one such station our cast of hapless sanitation workers find their lives disrupted by a rubber duck from space. Needless to say, there’s more to the little yellow duck than meets the eye.

George Takei does a wonderful turn as Gary; he is now my gold standard for voicing mutant rubber duckies. The rest of the acting team delivers as well. Kreuk is perhaps the weakest link here but her job is also one of the hardest, given that her character doesn’t speak for a significant portion of the film. And while it’s hard to imagine bathtubs would be feasible on such a future space station, it does allow for a tension-filled scene with Amanda Tapping in a bubble bath with the aforementioned duck. What could be better?

This was my best B-movie Saturday night in a long time. Space Milkshake is a low-budget film with sets and special effects to match, but the movie is well put-together and the actors all appear to be having a terrific time. This is quality B-movie material, and I mean that in the best of ways. Think My Name is Bruce. The movie is also sprinkled with shout-outs to classic science fiction and fantasy like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, and is prime material for homegrown drinking games, should your proclivities lean in that direction.

Space Milkshake is pure comic entertainment. And no, I don’t understand the title, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment. If you have a soft spot for science fiction that embraces goofy fun, and enjoy well-scripted, conscientiously-acted movies, you should see this film.

Bottom line: if you like science fiction, have a goofy sense of humor, and are ready to be entertained, break out the popcorn and enjoy a deliciously funny Space Milkshake.

Director: Armen Evrensel
Writer: Armen Evrensel
Stars: Kristin Kreuk, Amanda Tapping, Billy Boyd, George Takei, Robin Dunne
Sci-Fi / Comedy
2012

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