As for me, I’m a spectroscopist by training. I love all sorts of colors– I’m in that camp. The color adds a playful magic, in my opinion.
Upscale fake trees now come with both white and colored lights that can be changed with a flip of a switch. That feature isn’t found on string lights yet so people will have to pick their poison, er, light color, at least for now.
Best of all, it’s not long until the days get longer and here in Pella, Iowa, we’ve already passed our earliest sunset. Before long, the sun will be back and we won’t need the lights to brighten our mood.
I have a fake tree. This is quite a confessional from someone who dislikes plastic bags and eats organic foods. I’m plastic averse so why do I have a fake true? Here’s why: Let’s be honest. Christmas trees are not a sign of life–they are dead–chopped from their roots. I figured this out at a young age as I walked home from first grade in a snowy Michigan January and there were the trees, out for the trash. The beautiful evergreens were green no more. I tried to save one, keeping it in the backyard and packing snow around the trunk. No good. It browned. I know that are all sorts of reasons why a real tree is better. It doesn’t matter. I don’t have one. If you do, I don’t judge you. I have a relic from my childhood tat I drag like a discarded tree.
My artificial tree is old. It needs each branch inserted into the trunk. Putting it together is such an ordeal that DH balks and complains bitterly before starting the assembly. And since he’s a perfectionist and I’m an analytical chemist–a profession that requires you to be only as perfect as you need to be to get the job done properly and no more–we can’t work together. The task falls to him. It is not a joyous occasion.
This year, as I was not helping put the ancient tree together, I asked myself what species of tree this was. The box says its Houston Pine Blue. Apparently, this is a species only found in fake Christmas trees although the blue pine exists in the wild. My tree doesn’t resemble a blue pine. It doesn’t even have a pine look about it and it is not at all blue. In trying to ID this fake tree, I looked up how to identify evergreen trees. Here’s what I found out:
Spruces can live for hundreds of years. They have single needles on a little peg and when plucked the needles are firm and can be rolled between your fingers.
Fir trees are almost synonymous with Christmas and the balsam fir is a best seller for trees and wreaths. Fir trees are fast growers and add a “whorl” of upright branches each year. They have single needles that are stiff and not on a peg. The needles can’t roll. They’re slippery. (The Douglas fir is a unique type of tree and not a real fir.) And fir trees have smooth bark.
Pine trees have needles in clusters of 2, 3, or 5 and also have woody cones. The Scotch pine is the most widely sold Christmas tree.
My tree has short, un-clumped needles. It’s not a pine. It’s a fir or maybe a spruce. It has branches that turn upward like a fir. However, if you look closely at the needles, you can see what might be a brown peg. The stem isn’t smooth. It’s wire wrapped in rough plastic, although some of it is smooth near the base. The “tree” is like a spruce in that it will live for a hundred years or more –some of that will probably be in a landfill. I’m calling it a firce or maybe a spir because it looks like both.
For me, the hugging of fakes is half-hearted. I’m not proud of my fake or that I even use fake pine scent to try to make it seem more real.
And on top of that, nothing coordinates on my tree. I have ornaments from my grandmothers, my parents, and most decades since. Christmas, like other holidays, is not something I care to stress about. I enjoy the history and memories hung on my tree. I also hang candy canes on it even though I call sugar poison. Ah, it’s a time to abandon principles in favor of comfort. At least, for me.
You’ve heard my confession. Tell me about your tree!
You’ve heard the news. Here’s the Royal announcement:
A prince is engaged to an actress! Why would an American like me have any interest in such news at all? Actually, I do have interest and an announcement of my own.
I have interest because there was another time –200 years ago– when an actress took up with a prince who was third in line for the throne. Her name was Dora Jordan. She was Great Britain’s most famous comic, and I’ve written a novel about her. I just signed a contract for it with Rouge Phoenix Press. The e-book will be published in September, 2018 with paper backs available a little later.
Here’s the synopsis:
In 1832,Grace Clare works at the Royal Institution under the direction of the well-known chemist Michael Faraday. But science isn’t all she has on her mind. She learns that her birth mother was famous comic actress Dora Jordan. Grace is dangerously drawn into the tale of Dora’s mysterious, unjust death after her twenty-year relationship with the prince who now occupies the throne–a man who betrayed his life partner and mother of his children. As the only child free to do so, Grace travels to Paris for work and to view her mother’s lonely grave. Awash with the injustice of the cruel betrayal, will Grace be doomed to a tragic life of seeking revenge for her mother or like her mother will she be laughing in the end?
This novel is different from my others in that it’s written in third person –an appropriate point of view for the British Empire. The protagonist is more emotional and more vulnerable than my others. And, in keeping with the times–1832–the book is less absurd. The science is 100% realistic–based in 1832.
It’s filled with historical name dropping. Have you heard of any of these people?
They’re all in Wolves and Deer: A Tale Based On Fact.
My previous novels had two-word titles. How did I get this long title for my third one? Here’s the story: Dora Jordan and Prince William lived on an estate in Bushy Park, famous for its fine deer. There was no retiring or resting for this actress. She worked to support the prince’s lavish tastes. She spent lots of her hard-earned cash fixing up the dilapidated estate, only to be tossed to the wolves and the house given to the Queen who replaced her. Dora’s not the only one thrown to the wolves in this novel. My heart bled all over the pages as I read about the betrayals suffered by the lower classes during this era. There were lots of “deer” and fewer but more powerful “wolves”.
How much of this book is based on fact? I did plenty of research on Dora’s life and times. I read letters she wrote (the best I could, her handwriting was difficult to decipher). I read plays she was in. Some such as Twelfth Night and As You Like It are old favorites. Others such as She Would and She Would Not are still published with the long S, (This was used at the beginning and middle of words but rarely at the end and can be found in typography before 1803.) Try reading that.
I became an amateur expert on Dora Jordan. I even found a sketch of her that her biographer had never seen. I have a Pinterest Board dedicated to her. I’ve written about her before. I purchased old newspaper clippings about Dora and even have one of her theater handbooks. I discovered that she was prone to telling tall tales. She was skilled at her own PR. Her lover, the Prince, acted as her agent and manager. It was difficult to tell truth from the fiction surrounding her. I put all of my data together and came up with the best story I could. Due to gaps and inconsistencies in history, I was compelled to fill in the blanks. I made up my own theories about her, logical and in keeping with how theater folk were expected to act at the time. As they said in the 1800s, it’s “a tale based on fact”, but it is, indeed, a tall tale of my own–a logical one created from the information gathered, but still, a tale. And it goes against the historical record, which I considered highly fabricated.
I also did research on Michael Faraday that included reading his biography and some of his letters. He took a trip to Paris and that helped me create the Paris of 1832. So did a British guide to Paris dated 1831.
For William IV, I read his biography and that of Queen Adelaide. The Diaries of Charles Greville provided some upper crust gossip–describing William as “something of a blackguard and something more of a buffoon.” And forgive me, mathematicians Babbage and Galios, I researched you too, and I’ve painted you as eccentric.
Wolves and Deer: A Tale Based on Fact is an 85,000-word historical novel that re-examines history and provides a happy ending along with tongue-in-cheek fun, early 19th century-science, and mild social commentary. I hope you’ll love it.
In 2018 you’ll see a new nutrient listed on your food label, the element potassium. Potassium is known to chemists by its symbol : K (not to be confused with Vitamin K which is something different.) Potassium is one of those weird elements with a symbol that doesn’t reflect its name in English. The name comes from the word potash because it is found in plant ashes. The Latin name for plant ashes is Kalium.
Before high-salt processed foods came about, getting more dietary potassium than sodium was easy. Potassium is an important mineral for plants. It is the K in the NPK ratio shown on fertilizer boxes. (The other letters are for nitrogen and phosphorus.) Plants need potassium and contain a lot of it. Therefore, a high plant diet provides enough potassium. Plants rich in potassium are found across the globe. You can find all sorts of lists of high potassium foods but here are some I’ll eat:
potatoes (K is much lower in potato chips by the way. Fries are a little better but oh, the grease and salt!)
seaweed (I admit–I don’t much like this.)
It should be easy to get potassium so what’s the problem?
First of all, we need a lot so if you skimp on the vegetables and fruit, you might be lacking.
Second, it’s water soluble and can be flushed out with too much liquid–particularly alcohol. There is a phrase among health care professionals–“with booze, you loose.”
I still remember the sensations–pounding heart, crushing headaches, confusion, and the deep dread when I put my hand on the door to the sick building I had to work in for nearly ten years. I’ve experienced high carbon dioxide levels. My body thought I was suffocating in my own exhale. This week, I find myself reliving those unpleasant times.
You see, I’m working on a sequel to Mixed In–Book Two in the Unstable States series. It’s set in the near future. When I saw this headline about record high levels of carbon dioxide, I thought, “Damn, I’m going to have to add increased carbon dioxide levels into this series.”
It’s true. There’s more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere than ever before due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels for heating and cooling and travel and electricity, cutting down trees, pouring cement, and eating plenty of meat. This trend doesn’t look as if it’s changing anytime soon. And if, as a fiction writer, you create a future on earth, there are consequences for your characters.
It’s time to consider: what will humans on earth experience in a high carbon dioxide world?
Climate Impacts. This is the effect most people consider when they think of higher carbon dioxide levels. Carbon dioxide acts as a blanket and holds heat in. What will happen? Here is a detailed prediction based on each part of the globe. Coastal areas will be flooded. My series takes place in the Midwest. Displaced people might have to move here. I’m not sure Midwesterners will enjoy the crowds. Warmer temperatures could mean fewer blood clots in the elderly.
More rust. Yes, carbon dioxide plus water forms carbonic acid and this hastens corrosion.
More ocean acidity.All life depends on the proper pH balance to maintain itself. Carbon dioxide dissolves in water and when it does, it forms carbonic acid. This acid does bad things to ocean life such as dissolving shells and bleaching coral. Fish could have seizures or even lose their minds.
Mental challenges. Fish won’t be the only animals out of their minds. In humans, increased anxiety and depression are associated with increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Drowsiness and reduced reasoning ability also occur. This is why people should not take tests or make decisions in poorly ventilated rooms. Think about what life will be like if everywhere we go is poorly ventilated.
Other health implications. I worked in a building with high carbon dioxide levels due to poor ventilation and I can tell you, it’s no fun. Skin flushing, chest pains, confusion, muscle twitches, and crushing headaches can occur if carbon dioxide levels go above 1000 ppm*. If carbon dioxide levels increase at the current rate, this will be the outside atmospheric concentration in about 300 years. Human blood pH will go down–become more acidic–just as the ocean pH decreases with too much carbon dioxide. An affected person will breathe fast and deep which sounds kind of sexy but at high levels, the person might start flapping their hands and resemble someone out of a Vonnegut novel. To get rid of the extra acid, our kidneys will need to work harder in a high carbon dioxide world. Urine will be flowing! (As a side note, slurping carbonated drinks causes the same effect and irritates your bladder and promotes urination.)
Fewer mosquito bites If there is an upside, here it is. Mosquitos are attracted to the carbon dioxide in your exhaled breath. As background carbon dioxide levels rise, they have a harder time zeroing in on their prey.
Drowsy characters flapping their hands and going to the bathroom all the time–what am I going to do with that premise? And yet, this could be the future. Can technology save us? Yes, probably, but only if we invest in it and that’s not going to happen if we live in denial of the consequences. And will everyone have the technology or only a few? I’m sure you can answer that question in your next novel. I know I’m going to have to.
*Carbon dioxide levels are usually expressed as ppm or parts-per-million. When I was a kid, the level was around 300 ppm. When I was in college it was 320 ppm or so. Today, we have already shot past the 400 ppm level. It’s thought that once we get to 450 ppm, we will begin to see climate effects that will be difficult to reverse
I was working out the other day and I mentioned offhandedly that I was short so I needed to take care of my joints because short people have less cartilage in their joints and are more prone to arthritis. My tall companion was shocked by this. But it’s true. Short people are more likely to get arthritis than taller or average sized folks. The health woes of short folks doesn’t stop there.
People with short legs compared to their bodies also face an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The average leg to height ratio or inseam to height ratio is 45%. If your ratio is less than this, you will want to take extra care to avoid sweets and the subsequent heart inflammation they can cause. It’s believed that the substance that causes growth, IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor), acts as an anti-inflammatory. Less of that, more inflammation.
Short people are more prone to live longer due to genetics. They are more likely to have more children and maintain their fertility longer. And of course, a shortie can tuck into an airline seat with no problem. I even find it easy to sneak up on people. One time I was sitting and waiting for an appointment and the boss (former boss) ran out of his office ranting that he was going to kick various asses. Then he said in astonishment,”I didn’t see you there.” Hehe.
There are over 40 genes that regulate height. The ideal height and the health effects of height haven’t been studied much yet. Certainly we need to look into this more before we start editing our offspring to be tall. In fact, we need to consider that a preference for tallness in our society is prejudice, as Europeans are taller than people from other parts of the world. In any case, people of various heights can be aware of their health risks and take steps to keep healthy and to live long and prosper. And short people, We now know why you stay on the porch…wink, wink.
I don’t usually write about “authoring” because there are many more well-known authors who do this. However, the other day I went to an author book fair and I was complimented on my table. I thought I’d share what I did to get the flattery.
Here’s a photo of the table complete with a reader:
You can see that I kept it simple. No banners or anything hard to carry.–just the books, business cards, and some giveaways. The purpose of the giveaways is to get my name out there, inspire people to buy the ebook, and maybe bring people to this blog.
Here are the giveaways–one modern and one historical. Both were carried off with equal success. The idea to put a Qr code on the modern giveaway–a science notepad, came from author Em Shotwell. You can get a Qr code generator and reader many different places.
So, I didn’t have food or candy at my table, as I have in done in the past. I’ll never forget last year in Pella and those kids running all over a library with my GoldRush Gum giveaway while their mom ignored them. That being said, the fair last month was not well attended and I sold less than ten books. Since it cost $50 to register, there wasn’t much profit in the day. However, the best way to sell books is still word of mouth.
Along the lines of authoring, getting started isn’t cheap. You really have to have a patron or be rich yourself to be able to do it full-time. I am neither but still plug along. I have set up some marketing surveys designed as giveaways, If you are interested in what genres attract the most attention, take a look here and here.
Humans are co-operative breeders. This is one thing that sets us apart from apes. Helpless human babies can’t be raised alone. This leaves a woman without a stable, reliable partner or complete set of available allomothers vulnerable.
Having a baby can cause depression and so can abortion. However, if a woman chooses abortion, she may be a victim of bullying that will cause that depression. There will be a rush to make her feel shame even though it is natural for a human to not want a baby if a suitable partner is not there. Making a woman feel guilty about her choice, blocking her access to choice, is misogyny. I experienced that misogyny even though I was having the baby. (see previous post). The protesters didn’t like my choice of clinics which I made for 100% economic reasons. I was, after all, a poor graduate student and tax reform had taken a bite from my research stipend. And I was having issues with my health insurance even though I had bought an extra plan in case I got pregnant. Some things never change.
Polyandry, abortion, infanticide, and abandoning of offspring commonly occur across the animal kingdom when mothers are denied the resources and safety they need. An unprepared mother will not nurture her young. Hamsters on a high corn diet, for example, will suffer from vitamin B deficiency and eat their babies.When females don’t have the proper support systems, they naturally put their own health and the health of the children they already have first. That’s well known.
Legal abortions save lives. A woman dies from an illegal abortion once every 11 minutes. Countries with legal abortions do not see an increase in abortions. Where abortion is legal, about 34 out of 1000 women seek an abortion. In countries where it is illegal, 37 out of 1,000 women seek an abortion. (That information is from the Lancet by the way–a medical journal.) There have been several studies that have come to the same conclusion. Unsafe illegal abortions are deadly and pointless. Consequently, 60% of all countries in the world have legalized abortion.
For better or for worse, many women find they must use sex to get what they want. This can be anything from love to physical pleasure to social status, to a job, to emotional ties, to financial gain, or even help with the housework. Sometimes women are suffering from the old fashioned and false stereotype that you can make any man into a great partner. It’s unrealistic to think that chastity is an option. One of the stupidest phrases along these lines is that the only pill a woman needs is an aspirin between her knees.
Motherhood comes with a price beyond the $250 K price tag to raise a child For me, the price was taking a lower paying job with flexible hours. Fortunately, it was a job that I enjoyed although I will probably have to work until I drop to make up for the pay cut, especially now that my healthcare premiums are going up along with that deductible. It’s hard to imagine that health insurance has gotten even worse here in the US!
Despite the price tag, most people willingly pay the price. Ninety percent of parents are happy they had children. However, the US has a long way to go before I’ll believe its citizens care for life.
I’d like to thank my students for broaching this topic with me. It’s unfortunate that in this day of information, so few scientific voices are heard above the noise.
When I was a girl I loved reading the Des Moines Register and discussing current events with my parents. There was one thing I never asked them about. It was a steady drip of trouble that I didn’t understand. Women would be found dead, and they’d be pregnant, and although it appeared that a mass killer was on the loose, nobody ever went looking for him. Only later did I figure it out–these women had died from illegal or self-induced abortions or suicide.
During my first pregnancy, abortion was legal. I went to a woman’s clinic for prenatal care for the first few months. I had to walk through a sea of pro-life protestors to get there. Imagine walking through a crowd of bossy men and women making you feel guilty and telling you lies such as abortion causing breast cancer or that it is more dangerous than childbirth. It isn’t. Abortion is safer. I, however, wanted to have the baby.
Why isn’t every woman all about being a mom no matter what the circumstances? Why have women for centuries risked or ended their lives to end a pregnancy? The answer, of course, is that across the animal kingdom, pregnancy and childbirth are risky endeavors. The placenta and growing embryo compete with the mother for resources. The placenta has been called a parasitic organ that attacks the mother like cancer. Gestation is a tug of war between the mother and the fetus. When the mother is malnourished, young, has recently given birth, or is emotionally at risk, pregnancy can be a threat to both the mother and the embryo.
There seems to be a loose connection between pregnancy problems and bad relationships. If the woman is a victim of rape, she is more likely to have a pregnancy related problem such as pre-eclampsia.Pre-eclampsia is more common if the woman does not know the father of the baby well. The reason for this is not well-understood. If the mother experiences abuse before and during pregnancy, the baby is at increased risk of health problems such as autism.
Most women understand the seriousness of having a baby, the importance of pregnancy spacing, and understand the costs of raising a child. Women spend thirty years trying to NOT get pregnant. Yet, over such a wide span of time, accidents can happen even despite the problems with modern sperm. In the United States, “mis-timed” pregnancies are fairly common–more common than in many other places, although the rate has been going down thanks to increased access to contraception. Unintended pregnancies are most prevalent for women in poverty and those who live in the Southern United States. Of unintended pregnancies, approximately 40% end in abortion and the rest in birth. Women who have been abused are more likely to seek an abortion. Minors–adolescents–are also likely. Given that these women are in most danger, it is realistic.
Chemist and Shero Lisa P. Jackson followed her passion.
Lisa Perez Jackson was adopted as an infant and grew up in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward in the 1960s. The area was a vibrant center of African American culture with a high rate of home-ownership. Her father was a postman and Navy veteran who took great pride in serving his community and his dedication to the public good was passed on to his daughter. As a child in Louisiana, Lisa noticed that pollution deregulation helped the wealthy make more money but it was harsh for the poor who lived near waterways and canals fouled by the oil industry. She came to realize that environmentalism and equality were entwined and that people of color were most likely to bear the burden of environmental degradation. In her own words, “environmental challenges have the power to deny equality of opportunity and hold back the progress of communities.”