All three of my novels can be found at this site, which supports local bookstores.
Lost in Waste is available here. In the near future, Iowa succumbs to authoritarian rule. Fortunately, it’s a comedy.
It and all of my novels are available in Pella at the college spirit shop. It’s right off Broadway near Broadway and Peace. (Click for link.) They and other faculty books are kind of hard to find … in a crate and displayed near the floor…so you might need to ask at the desk. On the plus side, no tax and they’re sold at a discount.
Natural Attraction is sold at Beaverdale Books in Des Moines, Iowa (signed copies!) and The Spirit Shoppe in Pella, Iowa.
Cleaner, Greener Labs is self-published and sold here.
Mixed In, a comic dystopia set in the near future United Statesfrom City Owl Press. When passions are regulated, which laws will you break? Buy here:
I had Book Three of my Unstable States Series accepted for publication.
This book picks up shortly after Lost in Waste (City Owl 2020) and about thirty years after Mixed In (City Owl 2017). Like other books in the series, it’s a comic dystopia and political satire with lots of romance, female friendships, and science. This novel will allow the series to stand alone as complete and be sold as such, but also leaves room for it to be expanded if sales are good. I’ve been reading that people have a new interest in dystopian novels. Here’s hoping.
It’s 84,000 words, level 4 heat with a few sensual scenes along with sexy technical discussions as found in the (fictional) contraband book Virginia Guru’s How to Guide to Human Sexual Response. I’m happy to say that the same editor for Lost in Waste (Christie Stratos) will be working with me on this one.
Here’s what it’s about:
Food developer Stella would like nothing better than to have a lab partner to help her create new synthetic products and share the passions of science. But her nation of Cochtonia has gone off the deep end. Fertility rates are dropping and the leaders have decided to turn to alchemy to produce offspring. Sir Isaac Newton has been resurrected from the dead to take a lead role in the impossible task, ordered by the autocratic rulers of the nation. He’s to work as a team to create a homunculus, a tiny person, made outside of a womb. Women won’t be needed at all! Newton isn’t a fan of women, but he’s even less impressed by the absurd society ruled by Cochton Brothers who have never understood science, only profited from it. When Stella offers to help him fake results to save his neck, he’s willing. Is Newton the real thing, or an imposter? As she joins league with him, Stella has to wonder. But as they proceed with the deception, does she even care?
I submitted these two tag lines for consideration. The publisher always has the final word but do you have a favorite?
It’s as if the Enlightenment never happened.
History had him all wrong. He wasn’t a recluse who hated women. He was the sexiest man ever born.
I’m excited to have this novel done. I pushed through despite the pandemic. I like it and hope you will, too.
A while back, a reader asked about a prune whip pie. Her mother had made these long ago and she was searching for the recipe. I’d never heard of such a thing–pie from prunes. Why? Fortunately, I was able to find a copy of Farm Journal Complete Pie Cookbook (1965). I sold these, classic at the time, when I was in Future Farmers of America–my attempt to understand my new culture of Iowa. I also learned I did not want to raise animals–they are too much work and die too young–but I was darn good at selling these cook books. And, lo and behold, I found several prune pie recipes in my stained old copy.
The cookbook explained, and I should have guessed as much, how country folks had a “snow cupboard” filled with dried fruit, sugar, flour, and lard. If roads became impassable, snow cupboards held plenty of ingredients for dried fruit pies. Pies were shallow and round to literally cut corners and use less ingredients. Who knew!
Although raisins were the most popular fruit in this type of pie, the trusty cookbook had several entries using prunes. The closest to “Prune Whip” is this meringue pie.
Prune Meringue Pie
Bake 8″ pie shell
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 c. boiling water
2 eggs, separated
1 tblsp lemon juice
2 tsp grated lemon peel
2 tbsp butter or margerine
1 c cooked pitted prunes, drained
Meringue ( 2 egg whites)
Combine salr, sugar, water, and cornstarch. Stir in boiling water. Cook over direct heat until mixutre thickens and boild, stirring constantly.
Place in double boiler and cook 10 minutes. Beat egg yolks slightly and pour in half of the above mixture gradually. Then pour this into the rest of the mixture and cook for five minutes.
Remove form heat and add lemon juice, peel, and butter.Cool.
Arrange prunes in the cool pie shell.
Pour lemon mixture over the prunes.
Prepare meringue* and top pie with this.
*for 8 inch pie. Add another egg for 9 inch pie
2or 3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tarter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c. sugar
Place egg whites, cream of tarter, salt, and vanilla in a large bowl at room temperature. Beat at medium speed until frothy but not stiff.
Add sugar a little at a time while beating. Beat until little peaks form and meringue is not grainy.
Put meringue around the edge of the filled pie, making sure to touch the crust to seal. Pile the remainder in the center of the pie and spread.Make sure filling is covered completely.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes util top is browned. Cool.
I have not made this. Perhaps adding cool whip (not baked) could substitute for the meringue step .
Although generally regarded as humble, prunes and plums contain plenty of fiber, potassium, and magnesium. Prunes are made from a special variety of plum which dry into the characteristic dark shriveled mass. They can keep you regular and even promote bone health. I once tried the recommended bone health diet but since it requires eating five prunes or even ten prunes a day, I quickly abandoned it. Plum trees are hardy, early bloomers and represent strength and endurance, but my endurance with the prune diet had its limits and an early end.
I like to say that my dystopian satire series Unstable States is a cross between Idiocracy and The Handmaid’s Tale. Both titles are older and well-established views of a society gone off the rails. Idiocracy is itself a satire and although a friend argued with me about it, Handmaid’s Tale and the lack of female bodily autonomy seemed as if it could come true. It was true after all, in my mother’s lifetime and for those before her. And now here, or so it seems.
We’ve all read about repressive societies, fictional and otherwise. But what traits should we be looking for? For my satire, I incorporated my own Puritanically influenced upbringing and the early 1900s and post 9-11. And yes, Iowa’s growing pollution problem and governor were factors.
What if these influences had become autocracy? How would we even know? I turned to Political Science professor Jim Zaffiro for advice. He came up with some ideas.
Authoritarian Societies have these traits:
1.Marked by brain drain, hostility to truth tellers & intellectuals.
2. Leaders are elevated into masterminds to save the nation.
3. Information is censored and tightly controlled, so that the masses hear only or mostly the official interpretations of things.
4. Exploitation of invented outside or internal threats to justify suspension of civil liberties; often involves scapegoating undesirable groups, by race, religion, ethnicity, or foreign origin.
5. Tight control of other organs of government, including political parties, judiciary, and legislative.
6. Use of illegal methods or flaunting existing laws and norms in the name of security.
7. Elevation of regime and leader survival over all else, leading to constitutional changes and rigged elections.
8.Use of neopatrimonialism to create sub-bosses totally loyal to the supreme leader who rewards them with patronage. (As seen in privatization schemes).
I did something I rarely do this past July–I bought shucked sweet corn. The reason I did this is because I got a dozen ears of un-shucked corn and one ear had some mold on the end. I decided I didn’t want to take a chance of getting moldy ears again. I had to see what I was getting. The question is, how dangerous is corn mold? Well, it depends on the mold.
Mycotoxins infect 25% of world’s crops including coffee and beer and make them unfit for consumption. Thank goodness they are regulated as part of our food safety regulations. Detecting them is tricky. A black light can be used to see if they are present but it isn’t definitive proof of them. Lots of things glow under a black light and are not mycotoxins. It takes a time consuming test to prove they are present. You can read much more here.
Particularly dangerous and damaging is Aflatoxin produced by the pervasive Aspergillus mold. It can infect nearly any grain product and was first noted in 1961 when it killed over 100,000 turkeys in England after it infected their peanut-based food. Aflatoxin in dog food recently sickened many pets.
Aflatoxin grows on stressed corn, particularly corn exposed to drought and heat. It is likely to be worst in years with a hot (over 91 degrees F or 30 C), dry June because corn produces its silks in June and the mold travels down the silks and gets in the corn. It can also infect grain bins if they are not kept clean and dry. Once in the feed corn, the aflatoxin can’t easily be removed. It can get in the milk of dairy cows fed the moldy grain. Elevated carbon dioxide levels as found with climate change spur its growth and this is another reason scientists worry about our hotter weather.
Looking back, I don’t think my corn had aflatoxin. On the other hand, I’m glad I didn’t eat it. This is one of the many reasons I support robust food safety regulations and don’t eat moldy ears.
This area deep inside our brain is more sensitive than the princess and the pea. Head injury, stress, inflammation, hypertension, and viruses can damage it. We need this part of our brain for learning and memory. Loss of hippocampus mass is associated with Alzheimer’s and with depression. It rests near the olfactory bulb which means lack of taste or smell, as with covid-19, can be a sign of harm.
Although there are some things I’d like to forget, I rely on my hippocampus for my livelihood and keeping it big is important for my future. Imagine my alarm when two studies came out recently pointing to factors that contribute to shrinking it.
One linked shrinkage to bad diet. Consumption of roast meat, sausages, hamburgers, steak, chips, crackers, and soft drinks shrank the left hippocampus, even if the indulgences were short term. Mind you, I read this at the end of birthday month in our household–July–when we have five events spread over fifteen days, accompanied by plenty of cake, grilling, & celebrating Better Made’s anniversary.
The second hypothesized that too much coffee (6 cups or more) shrinks your brain and can cause dementia. I don’t drink six cups of coffee, I drink two at the most. But they aren’t small cups nor is the coffee weak. Seventy and beyond could be bleak for me. Is there any hope?
What helps your brain ward off the ravages of time and place? One answer is flavonoids.There are six different categories of these plant molecules and eating from every category is recommended. You’ll need to load up on tea, red wine/grape juice, chocolate, citrus fruits, parsley, berries, soy, and other good stuff as outlined in the link.
Exercise can stave off shrinkage or possibly even build new brain bulk. Likewise, sexual activity has been associated with brain growth in this area, at least in rats.
Hygiene is a relatively new idea in the Western world. An early recognition of the benefits of washing came in the 1840s when doctors noted that hand washing could reduce childbirth fever. The idea of “germs” had been kicked around for several centuries, but it wasn’t until the 1800s that Pasteur proved, through a series of experiments, that germs were transmitted from one source to another. The previous idea was that they and things such as flies arose spontaneously. In 1865, Lister developed the idea of antiseptics, and in 1890, the country doctor Robert Koch came up with his postulates to prove the cause of disease. There was initial push back to germ theory –people didn’t want to be held responsible for making others sick. Even when germs were accepted, hygiene was regarded by some as “for sissies.” By the mid 1950s, films such as this one with Soapy, a somewhat haunted bar of soap, spread the gospel about hygiene. At last, people knew enough to keep clean. Now, the idea of frequent cleaning is being debated.
When I heard about the movement to not wash your hair, the no-poo movement, I knew it wasn’t for me. My hair is too fine and being a teacher and around a lot of people, most of whom tower over me since I’m 5′ 1″, their invisible pathogens fall on my head throughout the day. To be safe, I wash my hair every night, at least during the week. But is this over-kill? Do germs stick on your hair? The answer to this question is: Yes. But.
A study done by several researchers in Singapore, including some from Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Singapore, with the title “Bacteria Display Differential Growth and Adhesion Characteristics on Human Hair Shafts” says that some bacteria cling to your hair while others simply sit on it.
They “showed the colonization and adherence of E. coli and P. aeruginosaon hair shafts, where P. aeruginosa, which tends to not be too dangerous to people with normal immune systems, was one bacteria that stuck to hair, formed a biofilm…
E. coli inhabited only the edges of the cuticle scales..this study demonstrate(d) significant antibacterial effects of human hair shafts.”
Bottom line, yes germs stick to your hair but your hair can fight them off to an extent. Hair-derived antimicrobial proteins or peptides have been identified in hair shafts (Adav et al., 2018; Subbaiah et al., 2018).
Shampoo washes away germs on hair. However, grease from your hair can also kill germs. A threat may come from hairbrushes, which have been shown to contain fungal spores ( March 31, 2021, Infection and Drug Resistance)
What happens when a person doesn’t bathe or shower regularly? A skin condition including a painful rash, can develop from bacteria, dead skin cells, and wax. Do you need to wash every day? No. A short shower every other day can work.
Anyone with acne has probably been told that it is caused by bacteria and this is true. However, beneficial bacteria can help fight acne. Over-washing your face removes helpful bacteria and oils. Studies have found that products containing aforementioned lactobacillus (a type of bacteria usually found in yogurt) are effective in treating acne. Probiotic acne medication is being developed. Some companies are looking into probiotic make up. The problem with the later is that make-up itself can harbor germs and adding anything to help stop dangerous germs will also kill the probiotics. And, it’s not been proven that makeup with probiotics helps skin. Probably your best bet for giving your skin a boost of good bacteria is a yogurt face mask, which could increase moisture and elasticity.
Above: before and after a yogurt treatment on an over-washed hand
We each carry around our own little cloud of bacteria, controlled by our own natural antimicrobials. In fact, our bacterial cells outnumber our human cells by 10:1! Hygiene is needed to prevent invasion from outside germs, but we need to be aware that over-washing can stress our clouds and our skin and hair. However, other people might not always want to smell your cloud and they might not want to share your bacteria, so do wash when needed.
Mixed In takes place in Cochtonia, a city-state with futuristic technology and mid 20th Century mannerisms. This recipe is adapted from one in my Granny’s church cook-book (1987) which includes an abundance of Jello recipes. Although Jello seems lowly today, it’s a modern version of collagen rich aspic, used in aristocratic dishes of the past. Intricate layering was a part of aspic and Jello culture. You’ll find this recipe mentioned in Mixed In.
Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Combine 2.5 cups of crushed pretzels
1.5 sticks of melted margarine
3 tablespoons sugar
Pour into a 9 x 13-inch pan
Bake for 10 minutes at 350o F
1 envelope Dream Whip, whipped with ½ cup cold milk and ½ tsp vanilla.
8-oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
Mix together the above ingredients and pour on cooled crust.
1 6-oz box of strawberry Jello
3 cups boiling water
14 oz sliced frozen strawberries
Dissolve Jello in boiling water. Add frozen strawberries. Stir. Cool until slightly thickened. Pour this layer on cream cheese layer.
If desired, mix a half cup crushed pretzels with ½ stick of margarine and 1 tsp sugar, bake for ten minutes at 350o. Cool and use as a topping. Refrigerate for several hours or over night before serving.
One question a person might ask about such a dish, which is delightfully sweet and salty, smooth and crunchy is: how dangerous is the red 40 dye that gives it the festive color? The answer is: it depends on who you are.
An article inEnvironmental Health Perspectives; Vol. 120, Iss. 1, (Jan 2012): 1-5 noted that in a 1994 study in which children were fed placebos or capsules containing large amounts of dye some but not all “children displayed a clear dose-response function, with the higher doses eliciting higher scores on their 30-item behavior inventory, including five clusters of related behaviors: a) irritability/control, b) sleep disturbances, c) restlessness, d) aggression, and e) attention span.” In other words, some kids reacted poorly to the dyes, others did not. Yellow dye (tartrazine) appeared to have the most consistent negative effect. It didn’t seem to matter if the children were diagnosed with ADHD or not. Some kids had adverse reactions to high concentrations of dyes but many were unaffected.
A more recent article ( J.Agric. Food Chem. 2017, 65, 12, 2588–2593:March 7, 2017) states that people who have elevated Red 40 in their urine often have high blood pressure.
Additionally, the dye has been associated with colon DNA damage in mice. (Journal of Toxicological Sciences (2010), 35 (4), 547-554CODEN: JTSCDR; ISSN:0388-1350. (Japanese Society of Toxicology))
Another study found that bacteria in your intestines can degrade Red 40 and turn it into a substance that can damage DNA and other chemicals that are be both toxic and carcinogenic. ( Journal of Pure and Applied Microbiology(Vol. 10, Issue 4) 2016) It’s thought this occurs to a greater extent in infants and children.
There aren’t an overwhelming number of studies showing the harmful effects of Red 40. Despite this, Nigeria, Switzerland, Canada and countries of the European Union as Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Norway have either banned Red 40 or added warning labels for the reasons mentioned above.
When you think about it, does Jello have to be brightly colored? Wouldn’t it taste as sweet without the red dye? I’m not going to ban Red 40 from my diet. On the other hand, I’m not going to have a second helping.
Thanks to my daughter and her cousin, who took it upon themselves to set up appointments for their loved ones, I have been fully immunized against COVID-19. I can’t say I had the kick ass response to Pfizer-dose-two that some have had. I haven’t had a fever or chills or fatigue. It’s been more of a slow burn. I feel as if I’ve been day drinking and the euphoria has worn off. My reaction has been lackadaisical.
Since I’m sitting here with an unusually lazy psychology, I got to wondering: can a virus cause depression? The answer is yes.
Some research says that too much sugar and/or stress or a zinc deficiency will cause an over abundance of harmful cytokines. Exercise can help regulate their over production. The COVID pandemic has highlighted the need to explore this further.
One thing professionals predict is that, infected or not, we will all suffer a mass trauma. Those who had to work risky jobs through the pandemic, those who lost loved ones, the lonely, the incarcerated, and those who lost livelihood will all be affected. One by-product to avoid is seeking authoritarian rulers! Yes, trauma of any kind can cause people to seek out authoritarians or become authoritarian themselves. Let’s not go there. it will only make things worse. One solution is to remember the past year, perhaps with a national day of no-work, and to allow ourselves time to recover.
A mean boss or authoritarian ruler will just make your cytokines over produce!
Long ago, when my chemical world was new, I had a wise teacher by the name of David Crichton. He was a stickler for proper terminology and one thing he passed along was the proper chemical suffixes. I can’t find this list elsewhere so I’m posting it here for the Good of The Order.
Common Suffixes Used with Nouns in Chemical Terminology
-ance, -ence: denotes a state, a condition, a quality of being