Featured

Where to buy

Natural Attraction is sold at the Readers’ World Bookstore in Holland, Michigan, Beaverdale Books in Des Moines, Iowa (signed copies!) and The Spirit Shoppe in Pella, Iowa. , Prairie Lights in Iowa City..To buy on-line use links here (the Penner site: click on icon for selected site to purchase) and here

Cleaner, Greener Labs is self-published and sold here.

Mixed In, a comic dystopia set in the near future United States from City Owl Press. When passions are regulated, which laws will you break? Buy here:

 Amazon US

Kobo

Indiebound

cropped-fieldmixedflat.gif

Mixed in is also available at Beaverdale Books (DSM) and The Central College Spirit Shoppe in Pella, Iowa.

MICE: living in and writing about Milieu…and other things

Depositphotos_16317441_m-2015

When teaching science fiction, I, and many others, use the MICE quotient to help my students focus on the type of story they are creating. Once an author knows what type of story they have, it’s easier to craft it into something that their readers will enjoy and appreciate. All stories are a blend of all of these categories. The question is, what letter dominates.

The MICE quotient was popularized by Orson Scott Card. Briefly, MICE is an acronym for these common categories of science fiction:

Milieu. The milieu novel focuses on a place and community. Most often, society itself is the antagonist. A stranger comes to town and is transformed by being in this milieu. The Wizard of Oz and Gulliver’s Travels are classic examples. The tale begins when the stranger comes to the place and ends when she leaves.  Mixed In is clearly such a novel. Without the dreary world of Cochtonville, none of the events would have taken place. All good science fiction has more than aliens and robots. It has metaphorical implications. That is, it says something about society and this is clearly evident in any milieu novel. The metaphorical implication of Mixed In is that the Midwest could become Cochtonville. In fact, it’s inched closer to the dystopia since the novel was written. Sometimes I worry I am living in my own Milieu.

Idea. The idea story is based on a question and ends when it is answered, as in a mystery novel. It begins when the mystery is introduced and ends when it is solved. Wolves and Deer: A Tale Based on Fact is an idea novel, beginning when Grace Clare learns of the death of Dora Jordan and ending close to when the mystery is solved.

Character novels are often the stuff of both high literature and romance. They start with a character with a clear problem and desire and end when the character is transformed for better or worse or accepts her fate for better or worse. An example of a character novel is The Color Purple or in the case of science fiction, Frankenstein. Natural Attraction is a character driven novel moved forward by Clementine’s desire to be taken seriously as a scientist.

Event stories are based on an interruption to a normal way of life and follow what happens as characters try to bring life back in order. A classic example is The Lord of the Rings series which begin when Bilbo discovers the ring and ends when order is restored. Most science fiction and fantasy stories are event based and my next novel will be such a novel. Then I will have a quartet of books each representing one letter of the MICE quotient.

Do you have a favorite letter in the MICE quotient? Every novel I write has a huge dose of place and time in it so perhaps I lean towards the M.

I’m excited to say that Mixed In is in contention for a Rone Award for Science Fiction. If you’re looking for a Milieu novel with a touch of romance, a dash of absurdity, and a pinch of naughtiness, check out Mixed In.

 

Advertisements

Trip to London–what did I learn about Dora Jordan and William IV?

The  challenge to writing a novel set in the past is that the past disappears. In London of 1832, the setting for Wolves and Deer: A Take Based on Fact, today’s familiar landmarks were not yet in place including the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. There were no steel framed buildings. Making steel required hand stirring until 1856 and the British were slow to incorporate the material into their structures even after the Bessemer Process was developed (in England ironically). Buildings were wood frame and flammable and flames took Dora’s Drury Lane Theater in 1809. It was rebuilt shortly before her death and can be found in Covent Garden (see below)

I can’t say that I learned much more about Dora Jordan during my recent visit to London although I enjoyed visiting such a vibrant and cohesive city.

 

 

 

 

Walking around London, I imagined the places Dora Jordan and my protagonist in Wolves and Deer: A Tale Based on fact, Grace Clare, had been.

 

IMG_4456
Punch and Judy shows have been going on in Covent Garden since 1662. Personally I find them horrifying but…http://spitalfieldslife.com/2016/05/02/punch-judy-in-covent-garden/
IMG_4449
Seven Dials in Covent Garden has been vandalized and rebuilt at least once.

 

IMG_4753
Theater Royal Haymarket was standing during Dora’s day and she played here.

 

IMG_4514
A street such as this one and a child’s “photobombing” head would have been a familiar sight to Dora.

 

What did I learn about William IV  during my trip? I came to understand how little he got from being King. Most notably, as King, he had a marble statue of Dora commissioned and it’s now in Buckingham palace. Where’s is his statue? There isn’t one. He is remembered for the Fourth Plinth, a pillar in Trafalgar Square with no permanent statue because, the story goes, he left no money for one. The only trace of William I saw was this plinth with its temporary sculpture during a bus tour and the tour guide was quick to mention his lack of funds. Didn’t get a photo but this was there.

He comes up lacking at the Tower of London as well. Among the Crown Jewels and regalia only the Queen consort’s ring 1831 ( no names attached) was displayed. This was a gift to Queen Adelaide, the one woman who was unfortunate enough to marry him when he was at an advanced age, had ten other children, and was acting erratically. Together, the pair wasn’t able to produce an heir. Victoria was their niece. William ruled for seven years. He’s is known for his support of slavery  which was abolished during his reign and opposition to reform (before reform, parliament members were representing districts with no people in them) which was accepted during his reign. He became King through a series of unfortunate events, left the mother of his numerous children in a bind, and produced no heirs. Additionally, he carefully saved Dora’s letters to him, yet had his own correspondence burned. His legacy is an empty base for a statue and that’s about it.

Wolves and Deer is the story of Grace Clare seeking answers about the death of Dora Jordan.What really happened? Who is to blame? Should she seek vengeance? And most importantly, how much power should our rulers have over us?

London Holiday with Kids: taking in the attractions

London is for children. People there are friendly and accommodating to kids.

Here are the places we visited:

The British Museum houses collections of artifacts, some of which were collected and donated and others were looted from fallen empires by the British Empire. This was one of the favorite stops for the older kids.The baby rode happily in the stroller during the visit and there was a special line for parents and kids that kept the wait to get in short.

IMG_4402
A treasure trove of artifacts from many civilizations awaits.

 

 

 

 

 

If you are looking for a stop to get toys, consider Harrods and Hamleys. Harrods is a little tricky because you need to walk by breakable exhibits to get to the toys but it’s right by the food court so you can add a stop and get braffles if you need something. However, be aware that your kids will want things that they can get in the US such as Legos, Beanie Boos, Barbies, and Sylvanian families. The selection at Hamley’s is extensive. Leave room in your suitcase.

The Tower of London comes complete with characters dressed in Period Costumes.

IMG_2580-2
The kids found the cannon display interesting.

However, the kids were most impressed with the Crown Jewels exhibit. They ran about while Dad stood patiently in line until we could get a glimpse of but not photograph the Royal regalia.

IMG_4507
Ravens protect the Tower.

Stonehengestonehenge and ravensJPG

Going to Stonehenge doesn’t only allow you to see a mystical ancient ruin, it gets you out into the countryside of England. Our guide explained to us that it’s not the only stone circle in England but is an easy drive from London and near other attractions so it’s the one that the British government has elevated into a tourist attraction. The two hour car ride passed easily, thanks in part to iPads and Gameboys, The kids loved running free once we got there (it takes an additional short bus ride from the parking area.) It’s cold and windy out on that plain and our guide brought extra hats, scarves, and mittens. If you need, there are souvenir hats and sweatshirts etc available in the gift store. There is also a small museum with other artifacts. Is it worth it to ride all the way out there to see this one thing? Yes, of course!

Then be sure to go on and visit somewhere else–Bath or Salisbury are popular destinations. We chose Salisbury and it wasn’t at all crowded, perhaps because of the season or the recent poisoning incident.

Salisbury is the site of a cathedral, moved there from Sarum in 1220. The most intact copy of the Magna Carta resides there, although you can’t photograph it. (You can buy a copy at the gift store.) IMG_4621

IMG_4686
Who says being a henchman is a lowly job? This one got a fine tomb!

 

IMG_4699
Such a pretty Medieval town. What are people taking a photo of?
IMG_4700
It’s Fudgehenge!

It was a short hop from Salisbury to Old Sarum in Wiltshire. William the Conqueror built a castle there in 1070 and my kids claim his ancestry so off to see the old homestead. It had a few precarious spots but the children loved running about.

 

 

 

 

A note on kids and gift shops: What is a tourist attraction without a tourist trap? I’d budget about 5 pounds per kid per tourist stop.

IMG_4711
Not one dragon but two–that’s what happens when your granny comes along.

When in London, be sure to take in:

  1. A theater production. There are shows for kids and shows for adults. My daughter and I went to a show together and left the kids behind with Dad, giving her a break from motherhood for just one night.

 

 

 

 

There is nothing like live theater and coming out onto Piccadilly with so many happy people was amazing. The tube was packed so we walked back to our hotel on the crowded main streets. A night to remember!

2. Tea service. You can’t beat tea in London and this is a tradition. We did the children’s tea service at the Chesterfield.

IMG_4536

Would you like a malt or a chocolate milk?

IMG_4537
A Chocolate Factory themed tea service for kids. And good tea and sandwiches for the parents.
IMG_4538
The baby ate the candy off her cupcake before I could take a photo of it.

I admit:

  1. My son in law carried the stroller and the child up and down stairs without complaining. This helped us get places faster because there aren’t enough lifts anywhere.

2. My daughter’s study abroad experience in London with Central College gave her an ease in London that made the trip go off without a hitch.

3. They’ve taken the children to Dublin and Barcelona so they have this whole traveling with kids down. London was a record for tearless travel days.

4. I did not miss the United States news or culture at all.There are stricter media rules in the UK so less propaganda and the biggest murder incident was an old man killing a burglar with a screwdriver. He got in trouble for it, too.

London was teeming with fun and culture. We didn’t get to see it all so we’ll have to go back, don’t you think?

 

 

 

London Holiday

Recently I went to London with my daughter and her family including three children under eight. My daughter studied in London as a college student and was eager to take the kids to one of her  favorite cities. They also took me, nearly a stay at home, along. I was worried I’d be bumbling and in the way. No need to have fretted. It was a perfect trip, Here’s my advice on what to bring if you are a novice traveler to London.

For sure take: a longer raincoat with a hood. Most people there wear ones that are not rubbery looking.

I wore water resistant comfortable shoes. There are lots of escalators and narrowish stairs so don’t get anything too clunky.

Buy an Oyster card for your UK travel needs. Kids ride the Tube free. Enter with them using the stroller doors.

IMG_2639
The tube is well-marked, color-coded, and easy to navigate.

 

IMG_4399 (1)
Riding the Tube like an experienced traveler.

Although hotels have universal plugs it might be just one per room so consider carrying a travel adaptor.

A credit card with no foreign  transaction fee. Your Costco associated card will do this. Be sure to call the company and give them your travel dates. And if the merchant asks for dollars or pounds, say pounds.

Skip: an umbrella. Annoying tourists with umbrellas almost poking your eyes out will convince you that you might as well just walk in the rain like the Londoners do. If you find yourself wanting one, almost any tourist and sidewalk shop sells them.

Worry less about: your hair. It rains a lot there. Your hair isn’t going to look great unless you spend too much time with it. People walking  around looking glamorous appeared to be tourists in London to shop. In fact, one native Londoner told us that  intelligence and personality are more important than attractiveness to the British. However, London is a diverse city so look how you like. Speaking of glamour, they do have some fabulous department stores but we were on a holiday with kids so if we even glanced at a nice purse the baby would break free–so no shopping this trip even though we stayed just off Oxford Street. On the plus side, returning through customs is easy when all you have is that catapult pencil sharpener the kids insisted that you buy for grandpa.

I probably wouldn’t: drive.

Avoid jet lag: To accomplish this I followed advice of several of my London loving friends–cut back on caffeine the week before, eat more carbs than protein, wear compression socks. (Sockwell was my favorite brand.)  I spent the long flight there watching movies, eating, resting my eyes, taking kids to the toilet. In essence, I pulled an all-nighter, something I hadn’t done since I took organic chemistry in graduate school. I wasn’t looking forward to it but when someone on the plane opened the window and I was treated to a brilliant sunrise over the UK, my heart jumped for joy. I was wide awake and eager to start the day.

The flight on the way back was an hour longer due to strong headwinds. Then I had a four hour layover! I walked around the airport and had a vitamin drink, popcorn, and nuts for dinner. My second flight was delayed due to an issue with a tire. I slept briefly on the 2 hour flight back, dreaming of the devils from The Book of Mormon.

What I loved about London:

Neighborhoods are so cute and there is something about the light in London that makes flowers vibrant. It’s fully worth a wandering about.

Here is a residence in Camden, an adorable area of London.

 

 

Here’s a look at Soho:

IMG_4436
Neal’s Yard in Soho

We stayed in Mayfair. Here’s a shot of a side street.

IMG_4394

We stayed near Marble Arch at the edge of Hyde Park.

IMG_4463 (2)
Like several landmarks in London, Marble Arch was moved from its original spot.

Hyde park is a fully used green space. I enjoyed looking out my hotel window at people walking and jogging through the park while the double decker busses and cabs went by. The city was pulsing with people and unlike here, you rarely heard a siren.

My next post will be about what we did with the kids.

IMG_4484 (1)
An attractive building in London.

 

Why are college costs rising?

Last week I got an e-mail from my state representative discussing solutions to the rising cost of college. Here are my representative’s ideas on SF 2361 –making college affordable. They read like a collection of unsubstantiated fixes that do nothing to make college more affordable or to keep college costs down. If anything, they require both more administration and a fast track to college education that might not benefit students. His absurd thoughts about college costs sent me to do some research. Why are college costs rising?

I found some things that surprised me. For example, this is a highly partisan issue. Republicans blame colleges and Democrats wish to make more money available to keep costs down. This is what my research taught me:

  1. College costs have been rising rapidly since the 1980s. Here’s a chart showing this rise. What happened in the 1980s? Reaganomics. Reaganomics is an unproven economic theory which is pretty much the boat that Republicans cling to even  today–cutting taxes, especially at the top, and shifting spending to the military will stimulate growth in all areas. Thus, government support for education came crashing down, and falls down whenever Republicans are in charge of the budget. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this policy works for the nation or not. All I can say is that this is when it all began.
  2. The costs per student have risen over time, even as student-faulty ratios have increased, meaning that faculty salaries can’t be the cause of rising college costs. Here are some references, although you will have to wade through them. However, let’s look at personnel as a cost factor for a moment. As Central College President Mark Putnam points out, colleges are “professional services.” They require on face to face contact with educated and sought after professionals. Doctors, dentists,and lawyers are other examples of such professionals. These sectors of our economy can’t increase productivity without decreasing quality. They can’t replace workers with robots or outsource to another area of the globe. Yes, there are on-line colleges and Trump University but they aren’t as valuable as being on campus in classrooms, doing hands-on things such as research with professors. As we all know, part of getting along in the workplace is learning to work with others, to have team work. However, although it is difficult to decrease worker costs, faculty salaries are NOT the main reason for tuition increases.  Not only have faculty salaries risen slowly, slower than inflation, they account for around thirty cents of every tuition dollar. Also, college and university faculty get paid less than their private sector counterparts. In fact, professors are considered underpaid. Why do they still teach? Besides finding it enjoyable and a public good, they are willing to take less salary in order to have job security. Like other areas of the private sector, colleges are faced with rising medical and dental benefits for their full-time staff. However, instruction quality increases when faculty have adequate benefits.
  3. Extra administration has often been cited for the increase in college costs. Non-teaching staff and administration make up the bulk of a college’s cost nowadays. Some of these positions, in IT for example, did not exist in the days of low tuition. Others are in areas such as counseling and fund raising that either meet a need or secure funds for the future. More administration is most certainly is a reason for higher costs. However, colleges have a lot of extra accountability these days and parents do want their students to have access to many of these services. In fact, studies have shown that college students today are more needy, perhaps due to helicopter parenting or life’s harsh realities or even parental demands that colleges assist the students with every challenge. Students and parents do not want any surprises. In my own experience, not only have administrative costs risen, what needs to be put on a syllabus has skyrocketed as well. I suspect that much of this comes from the diverse group of students who attend college. No longer is it just for the privileged few who have parents who went to college and can give advice. It’s been, thankfully, opened to many and administrators and advisers are needed to keep pace with the demands.
  4. Colleges face huge costs when it comes to technology. I personally oversee a fleet of measuring instruments. Many were not commonly used when I began teaching and now are so routine that every lab must have one in order to teach students the skills they need for the future. I got outside grants to pay for them but they still add expense as they must be maitained. Personal computers have been cited as a huge expense for colleges and universities. Having a high technology program on campus such as an engineering or medical college also raises costs.
  5. Colleges get about half of the money it takes to run them from tuition. Even as tuition is rising, it doesn’t pay the full cost of educating students. Other sources of money to pay for college include private donations, government money, and grants from private and government sources. Personal giving has helped keep colleges and universities affordable.
  6. A few reasons floated for the tuition increases include cushy dorms and other attempts at branding. This occurred in the past ten-fifteen years as colleges struggled to differentiate themselves from each other. Another idea is that costs have gone up because there is too much demand for college. Those who can’t afford it simply shouldn’t go. These are theories only. I’m not saying these haven’t raised costs but I am not seeing the numbers to prove it, particularly for the second one. However, college costs rose after the GI bill so there might be some credibility to it.
  7. Perhaps the most cited reason for tuition increase is this one: less support from the government has helped raise tuition costs. Tuition is lower in states that support higher education. Here in Iowa, the change in state appropriation for higher education has decreased nearly 20% over the past fifteen years while college tuition has gone up just 7%. Colleges are trying to hold the line on tuition increases and making do with less. This LESS is due to cutbacks. Reaganomics.

Is college worth it? There are many statistics to say that it is.

Unemployment rate for college graduates is 2% vs 8% for non degree holders.

Only 4% of college graduates live in poverty vs 12% for non-college graduates.

College graduates earn over 60% more.

College graduates are happier, healthier, and live on average seven years longer. 

I’m not an expert on college tuition and the rise in costs are complicated. Feel free to disagree with me! For simplicity’s sake, if  you are angry about the cost of college and want something to put on a dart board, I offer this official photo of the man who started it all.

220px-Official_Portrait_of_President_Reagan_1981

Ronald Reagan is an example of someone born poor and helped by the government who later made sure that the poor got less help than he did.

 

 

A Hundred Years of Sunny Evenings

“The sun gets up! And so do you! Up ear number one.  Ear number two.” A Great Day for Up is one of those kids books I clearly relate to. Even a smidgen of sunshine in the morning has me jumping up from bed, happy to start the day. Yes, I’m a lark and as we approach summer solstice, I get more and more lark-like, up earlier and earlier. I even shed a pound or two–and I’m not alone. There’s a holiday coming up for people like me–Daylight Savings Time, DST, or as some call it Daylight Summer Time.

DST was started in the US in 1918 with the goal of shifting the sunrise to match the work hour. If you don’t spring ahead, the sun gets up too early to match the workweek. Also, by setting the clock earlier, employees can enjoy light when they get home, allowing them to take a walk or grill outside after the work day is done. In fact, exposure to sunlight is healthy and DST is a chance for indoor workers to get out and enjoy it. People even watch less television during daylight savings time. And yes, in the North, it saves energy by allowing people to use the sun instead of lights in the evening. Overall, about 0.5% less energy is consumed in the United States due to DST. Crime rates drop. There are fewer car and pedestrian accidents than seen in Standard Time. It gives tourism a boost. Over 70 countries, including Canada have adopted the practice.

The practice of setting clocks ahead began in Germany during WWI as an energy-saving measure but quickly spread across the globe. It’s fallen in and out of use in Europe and in the United States but has been a staple in the United States since 1966 and in Europe, beginning with France in 1976. Here in the U.S. it starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November (it was extended in 2005). Only Arizona and Hawaii don’t participate in the clock moving ritual.

In 1973-1975 it lasted the whole year in an effort to save energy but was abandoned because some felt that the dark mornings were too dangerous for school kids who mostly walked to school back then. It was also implemented year-round for most of WWII.

The transition can be rough for the first day or two and a study has shown heart attacks, accidents, and cluster headaches rise on the Monday after (March 12 this year). Some of this could be caused by an alarm clock itself, although I couldn’t find the original reference for this. Other studies say that car accidents decrease during this time and that the health effects only bother a few people who got too little sleep. In the U.S., the DST corresponds to fewer deaths per month than Standard Time.

In 2018, Daylight Savings Time begins March 11 and ends November 4. Time to begin your preparation.

I try to prep for the DST holiday by getting up a little earlier each day until it arrives. The birds help me, singing at the ever earlier sunrises each day. Male songbirds such as cardinals and robins begin singing before dawn in the spring as they stake out territory and look for a mate. They’ll start as early as 4 am which would be 3 am without daylight savings time. Do we really want that?

One time, I didn’t notice the time change at all because I’d had too much Australian wine at a party the night before and felt horrible the whole next day. I don’t recommend. David Preau, author of Seize the Daylight, notes that the health drawbacks of springing ahead only last a few days. Your body doesn’t like to live by a clock and resets itself according to daylight hours. And let’s be honest, people fly and drive through time zones regularly..

Many people consider DST to be the beginning of spring. It’s also a time to check your smoke alarm batteries. I’m ready to celebrate the arrival of late sunsets. One week to go! Are you with me?

 

 

little boy with little girl jumping to sky and having happy time

 

 

Spanking–the gateway?

Not long ago I read a comment on a Facebook post: “mass murderers must not have been spanked enough as children”. It seemed counter intuitive. It’s well known that abused and neglected children suffer physical and mental health consequences. They are more likely to commit crimes, suffer from addictions, enter into poor relationships, and even die young. But what about good old fashioned corporal punishment? How bad is it? Could a few well-placed spankings have prevented a mass murderer from forming? I decided to look into it.

I found that corporal punishment is common across the globe. Three-fourths of parents use some form of it in child raising. 

Here in the U.S., 70% of parents find some sort of physical punishment necessary. We aren’t talking abut beating or hitting with objects. We’re talking spankings. The United States is among the high-spanking -rate countries. High spanking is also common in African countries. The UK, Canada, Japan, Australia, Germany, and Mexico are low spanking countries. Australia  and Germany transitioned from a high spanking countries to a low spanking countries

Hunter-gatherers do not spank their children, (They let their children do things such as hold knives at a young age and encourage them to be helpful by cutting up vegetables and learn from their experience should they cut themselves.) Rates of spanking and physical discipline vary among cultures.

But what are the effects of spanking?

  1. First of all, frequently spanked children are more aggressive. It isn’t known if they are aggressive if they are spanked more or spanked more because of their aggressive nature.
  2. An occasional light open handed spanking (once a month or less) from Mom doesn’t seem to hurt kids much if at all, especially if she engages in positive actives such as reading books to them and using non-physical methods to control their behavior. However, some studies say that no matter what, spanked kids are more likely to become criminals. 
  3. Even studies that condone spanking say it should be used only as a secondary form of punishment if taking away privileges fails.
  4. Spanked kids do much worse on tests of cognitive development and mathematical ability. Spanking decreases intelligence. This is pronounced if the spanking is “high frequency” and comes from the father.
  5. Spanking effectively alters the child’s short term behavior. However, long term spanking can create social problems in adults. 
  6.  Whatever you do, don’t do a search for “spanking and wife beating”. You’ll find all sorts of erotic videos and also links to Christian masculinity. There’s a connection. Being spanked means that a child is more likely to grow up to engage in domestic violence. Spanked children are more likely to become adults with many sexual and relationship problems including coercing another to have sex, risky sex such as sex without a condom, and being aroused by sexual pain.
  7. Bottom line–spanking can have negative effects that last into adulthood. Spanking can prevent children from developing healthy relationships later.
  8. One German criminologist points to evidence that American parenting produces more criminals and more violence. The nation with the highest rate of spanking (91%) I could find, Nigeria, has a sky-high crime rate. 
  9. Outlawing spanking in a culture results in less crime later.
  10. American criminologists point out that violence begins in the home and is so deeply ingrained that no amount of punishment or incarceration will stop it once the children become adults. So much for the death penalty.
  11. I repeat, less spanking leads to less crime in adults.

I was spanked as a kid. Not only did I resent it, I weighed every naughty thing I did against if it was worth a spanking. It usually was because spankings didn’t last as long as the fun of the mischief. I don’t think I turned out perverted but on the other hand, I’ve never minded being called naughty.

Most parents in the Unites States think that is okay for kids to get a good hard spank, even though data says this is the least effective form of discipline. It’s time for us to re-consider this, don’t you think?

 

Santa Claus spanking woman with christmassy hat
Naughty or nice? If you were spanked as a child, you’ll probably say naughty. Am I right?

Cough, cough. Birds, pigs, people, and Influenza A

IIB-InfluVennZa-2018-1276x2-1
I’d like to thank https://informationisbeautiful.net/licensing for letting me use this for free because fewer than 100,000 people visit my blog.

If I had a vivid imagination, I could conjure up some sinister reason for cutting funds to the CDC and the NIH as our recent Congress has done and create a fiction from it. Perhaps a corrupt leader wanted to kill off the type of people he didn’t like and had secret vaccination programs for his followers. His enemies would become infected and die. One way to do that would be with Influenza A.

There are two main categories of Influenza viruses, A,B., and C. Type A viruses cause the most trouble and can be found in humans and animals, including whales, cats, horses, and other animals,notably birds and pigs. (Bats have their own special viruses.) Influenza B is uncomfortable to humans but not deadly. There is also a human C virus which is milder yet. Influenza A can be deadly.

Besides A and B viruses are then categorized by their H and N types of proteins that they have in their outer coatings. If you want to read more about that here is a great description.  Let’s just say that it takes a match up of the right H and N to allow a virus to invade your cells, hijack them, create “baby” viruses, and pop the cells to release moe viruses. That is how we get the designations such as H1H1 (the deadly Swine flu) and H2N3 (this year’s virulent strain.) Both of these, and all Influenzas, are zoonoses–infections that can move between people and animals.

Many Type A viruses can creep between birds, human, and pigs. If you look at charts from the CDC (why are we underfunding them by the way?) you can see that birds are a significant reservoir of these viruses. Shore birds including geese are potent carriers but other types of domestic and wild birds also carry viruses. For example N3 viruses are associated with ducks.

Most Influenza A viruses originate  in birds. However, not many of these are easily transmitted to people. They can be transmitted to pigs. Pigs are a common go-between for viruses. Pigs and humans can infect each other with influenza more easily than birds and humans can infect each other. Pig flu symptoms are much like human flu symptoms.

Domestic pigs get wild bird viruses when birds interact with water used for cleaning their housing facilities that sits on site in ponds. In my opinion, deregulation of such facilities is asking for a new flu to be created.  However, the global flu pattern is that influenzas originate in Asia.

Therefore, pigs act as mixing vessels for bird flu which is hard for people to catch and pig flu which people can catch.  They create new types of flu inside them–possibly in their snouts/respiratory tracts. 

H1, H2, and H3 viruses are common during flu season and all can infect people, birds, and pigs. These viruses begin in birds, then infect pigs, where they mix, and then move on to people. There are several other diseases that can be transmitted between pigs and people. Sick pigs are a serious thing.There are even plans in the works for the government to begin an educational program for kids who handle pigs at state fairs.

And there are/were government funded scientists working on a universal flu vaccine, which we all want but is not profitable enough for big pharma to develop. That’s why we have to rely on public funds. Or if you have a sinister mind, the people who currently are in charge here in the United States do not want the common people to have this vaccine.

There is even a professor at Iowa State who is working on a universal vaccine that can be delivered via eating corn!

Another bit of good news is that UV light can kill airborne flu viruses. and these may soo be installed in hospitals and airports.

And a Japanese company has a drug that can keep the influenza virus from entering our cells, stopping it from multiplying within a day. 

So before you vote, ask your politicians what they want to do with the meager bit of taxes they’ll be collecting. Do they want a Universal flu vaccine or something like a wall or a military parade? When you are laid low with the next flu epidemic or even pandemic, you probably aren’t going to care about all that stuff you accumulated. Consider your priorities.

 

 

At the bottom of the laundry

IMG_4273
Does this dishtowel make me look like I suffer from affluenza? Probably not, but wanting to remodel my kitchen does.

Finally I got organized enough to get my laundry done.

My mom and I used to give each other dish towels as welcome home gifts when we traveled. I continued this tradition with my kids when they grew up. I love dishtowels. But I have so many that when they are all washed, I can’t close the dishtowel drawer.

I have so many socks that when they are washed, I can’t shut the sock drawer. I began to suspect that I have too many things.

I took stock of more than my laundry. I had three humidifiers but I decided I needed a different kind and ordered one. When it came, I hated it but since I used it before deciding I hated it, I couldn’t return it. Now I have four humidifiers.

As I was fretting about having too many things, my daughter dropped off sacks of  old clothes for me to look through to see if I wanted any of it. It took me over a week to decide I wanted one shirt and one pair of pajamas. I took the rest to the Thrift Store but in truth nobody wants your old clothes.  Clothes nowadays are so cheap that they can’t be recycled easily–not even for rags– and thrift stores have trouble selling them Often only 20-30% of donated clothing gets sold. Meanwhile, the textile industry produces more pollution than planes or automobiles.

Feeling guilty,  I vowed to only wear old clothes. I stuck to this for one day. I got a compliment on a shirt that belonged to my daughter in the 90s! But before long I was thinking about how slow my phone is and cool it would be to get a phone and a watch that could charge together on a wireless charger. Yes, I was  back in the clutches–and I don’t mean clutch purse although I have one of those, too.

Since WWII, the world has been gripped by a shopping frenzy. Some of this is because of planned obsolesce–things are designed to break and be hard to repair. Parts from one brand don’t fit into another brand. People have to buy to replace.

The other cause is Affluenza. Affluenza is a psychological condition caused by having too much, resulting in sadness and isolation. In the wealthy it manifests itself in a lack of motivation along with entitlement, isolation, and guilt. You can take a quiz to see how deep into it you are. Here are a few of the questions.

“Do you sometimes feel as though your personal expenses are so demanding that you can’t afford public expenses like schools, parks,and transit?”

“Have you ever experienced road rage?”

“Do you ever use shopping as “therapy”?”

“Do you get bored unless you have something to consume (goods, food, media)?”

I only scored a 22 on that test, no affluenza, although I can relate to getting bored easily. On this one, I got “mild “case of affluenza.

To put it into perspective, all living things collect and store. It’s natural to want to stock up for the future and to be safe and comfortable. However, things like advertising and the media can put false emphasis on things that you must buy to stay happy. The goal is to make you insecure so you’ll buy more than you need or even want.

Affluenza has a dark side of always wanting and needing more, being insecure, being vain, being obsessed with appearances. Placing a high value on appearance, fame, money and possessions leads to emotional distress, over-consumption, “luxury fever,”entitlement, and swollen expectations. People raised with too much wealth can have problems loving others and forming intimate relationships. Money can equal love and leave people hollow. People can buy ridiculous things such as perfectly square ice cubes, and John Lennon’s tooth but will that make you happy? Well, I must admit to buying Dora Jordan’s theater handbook, however, materialism makes people sad.

One solution,of course is to not buy anything new unless you have room for it. Also, don’t fool yourself into thinking that a whole lot of people out there want your old stuff. You buy it and you’ll more than likely have to keep it forever or have it go into the landfill.

Also, recognize that being status conscious is a sign of narcissism. Don’t let that type of person make you feel bad about yourself.

Things don’t always make you happy–unless maybe it’s a dishtowel from your mom. Then it might make you remember that small tokens can be as meaningful as big ones.

 

A decaying interest in radon

Depositphotos_108845346_l-2015
Testing for radon seems scary but it’s no different than any home repair.

Being exposed to radon doesn’t mean you’ll get lung cancer.It’s not as dangerous as smoking. However, radon is radioactive.It shoots off alpha particles (helium without the electrons) and this can harm you if you breathe it in. Enough assault and your lungs could develop cancer. That’s why I’m getting it out of my basement and out of my life.

Radon comes from beneath the soil. When the earth formed, heavier elements–those that are unstable and decay along with others such as gold, silver, and lead–settled lower in the earth than the lighter ones–carbon, nitrogen, etc.  In fact, the earth’s core is hot because it is a nuclear reactor. The sun isn’t enough to keep the earth as warm as we need it to be. We need this reactor to keep the earth from being cold and barren.  However, we don’t need this “hot” stuff at the surface. When soil is disrupted, a variety of radioactive materials can be released. Being a gas, radon can easily travel into our homes.

You can have a new house and have radon.

You can have an old house and have radon.

You can have a home built on a slope and have radon. You can have a home not on a slope and have radon, too.

You can have a walk-out basement and have radon.

You can have no basement and have radon. (If you have a house on stilts, you probably will have less radon.)

You can fill in a basement and have radon.

You can knock a house down, fill in the basement, put a slab over it, build a new structure, and have radon. This process disturbs the soil a lot.

Earthquakes can change the level of radon in your home.

Radon levels are often higher in the winter, during droughts, and on windy days.

Wells can bring radon into your home.

Homes in the same neighborhood can have different levels of radon.

Opening windows can help radon escape, but more will enter without remediation.

Radon is a problem in Iowa. (Pennsylvania and the Appalachian region also have high levels.) Many people have not tested because the danger wasn’t understood until around 1985 and this makes it seem like just one more thing to be scared about. There are no laws that require testing for it. But please do test. order a test kit

January is radon awareness month. It’s time to close this month and close out the radon in my basement.

IMG_4275
The last step in radon mitigation is sending in a final sample.