The Most Epic Blanket Fort and the Nerdy Love Story That Made It So

Ali Nhu An

Ali & Nhu-An’s engagement photo

This fall, Nhu-An and I are getting married.

We’ve been together since November 18, 2000, back when we were seniors in high school. Despite a lot of obstacles like living on opposite sides of the country for much of our relationship and the glacial pace at which I completed grad school, we’ve stayed together and continue to be in love. To celebrate our engagement, we made this epic blanket fort.

Here’s the nerdy story that made all of this possible.

A nerdy love story

Nhu-An and I were very different people when we met. She worked hard, wanted to make a big difference in the world, and kept thinking about the next big thing. I only cared about enjoying the present moment with my friends and family. That’s why our senior class voted me “most likely to be out of class” while Nhu-An was “most likely to succeed”.

We seemed to be complete opposites. She was prudent. I was careless. She was anxious. I was laid-back. She knew exactly what she wanted out of life while I had no idea where I was headed but was confident things would work themselves out. People wondered why we were together, especially our parents.

Read the rest of the post at Ali’s blog, “Brain Knows Better.”

Ali Mattu received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. he was born and raised in Silicon Valley and studied psychology at UCLA. Ali is currently a post-doctoral fellow in clinical psychology at the NYU Langone Medical Center Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Child Study Center. Outside of psychology, he is an active photographer. Whenever possible, Ali consumes science fiction.

Love Is Universal

Sometimes, you run into a good thing and you want to share it with everyone.

Deonna Kelli Sayed recently attended the Southern Entrepreneurship in the Arts Conference, and kept noticing one attendee who drew during all the sessions. “Hey,” she said, “Your stuff is good. Would you like to create some original work for Love, Inshallah?”

Alex Irish, an aspiring and talented media artist, agreed to gift LoveInshallah with original art. In homage to resident Geek girl Zainab Chaudary and wonderful posts by Ali Mattu, Alex took took on LoveInshallah’s core theme — love!

Love is grand. Love is transformative. The experience belongs to everyone, regardless of body shape, gender, sexuality, ethnicity or wealth. No special or magical skills are required.  Alex nailed it:

Love is Universal

What a perfect sentiment for Friday Love.

Thank you, Alex, for sharing your talent with us. May the Force be with you!



Alex Irish is an aspiring media artist. When he’s not illustrating and sketching cartoons, he writes for The PlayStation Game Blog and IGN.  Visit here to look at his animation and art, here to read his blog on Hollywood animation and design,  and here for his Playstation musings.

Coming Out As A Geek Is Hard To Do

I spent most of my life hiding who I really was until a conversation with Nhu-An (now my fiancée) changed everything.

We’ve crossed the one-year anniversary of my blog, Brain Knows Better, and it’s pretty incredible to think how much my life has changed over this last year. It’s been a ton of fun to explore the psychology of sci-fi, but more than anything, this blog has helped me be honest about who I am – a big geek.

I didn’t like who I was in middle school and tried everything I could to blend in.I wasn’t always this open about being a geek. For most of my life, I tried to hide it. In middle school, I knew some kids who wore Starfleet uniforms to class. When they were bullied for it, I stood by silently. Back then, I probably watched as much Star Trek: The Next Generation after school as they did, but I wanted nothing to do with them. They weren’t cool and more than anything else, I wanted to fit in.

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The Parallel Universe Where My Brother Lives

01 brothers

It starts at home. I’m doing the dishes and listening to a podcast. I’m about to rinse off when my brother walks through the front door. “About time,” I think. Salman’s been gone for a while and I was beginning to wonder when he was coming back. We put on some tea, sit down and watch an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, making fun of Worf during the commercials.

That’s when I wake up.

I have this dream every other week. I hate it – not the dream, but being ripped away from it. Waking up is like finding out my brother died all over again.

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Science Fiction and The Search for Gratitude on Thanksgiving

Eds. note: “Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Happy Thanksgiving to our family, friends, & readers in the US! And, thank you to guest blogger Ali Mattu from Brain Knows Better for allowing us to cross-post his wonderful Thanksgiving post!

I only have one rule for my blog – reference one finding from psychology and one work of science fiction in every post.

When I sat down to write a Thanksgiving article, it was easy to quote research on gratitude. Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky calls gratitude a “metastrategy for achieving happiness”. Experimental research has revealed that participants who were asked to count their blessing once a week for ten weeks felt more optimistic, more satisfied with their lives, had better health, exercised more, and reported fewer headaches, acne, coughing, and nausea than control groups. Collectively, research indicates that gratitude helps you:

  1. appreciate life’s joys
  2. increase self-esteem
  3. cope under extreme stress
  4. nurture resilience in the face of loss and trauma
  5. foster altruism
  6. build social relationships
  7. undo negative emotions
  8. combat hedonic adaptation

It doesn’t take much either – practicing gratitude just once a week leads to improved physical and mental health. You can write in a journal, share your thoughts with a loved one, write letters (even if they aren’t sent), make gratitude calls, or a bunch of other things. Giving thanks is really, really, really good for you!

So that’s the psychology part of the post – easy as pie.

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Growing up Trekkie – How Star Trek Made Me Fall in Love with Psychology

I have a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and spend most of my days working in a hospital treating anxiety and depression. As a child, I never thought I’d be in this position. Back then, I spent most of my time riding bikes and playing video games. While other kids dreamed about who they would become when they grew up, I was content just thinking about the next great Nintendo game. My dad feared I might not graduate high school, let alone college. I was okay with that.

March 13, 1988: That’s me on the left playing Atari with my brother.

All of that changed when my brother took me to see Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
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