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:
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
Free write but then have the guts to cut. Vonnegut said, “Kill your darlings.” Although this has been misinterpreted to mean including murder and sacrificing main characters in order to generate emotion, what he really meant was to avoid being so in love with your own words that you can’t trim your prose. Kill your conceit.
Say what you mean to say.
A writer is foremost a teacher. Make sure the reader can learn a little useless tidbit here and there.
Pity the Reader: Don’t be boring. Stick with one point of view. Don’t hold back information for the sake of surprise. Take out deadwood such as boring exposition. Keep readers turning pages.
Sound like yourself, even if it’s Midwestern speech aka “a band saw cutting galvanized tin.”
Remember, you’re in the entertainment business.
Writing is difficult .”You have to sit there. It’s physically uncomfortable, it’s physically bad for someone to sit that long, it’s socially bad for a person to be alone so much. The working conditions are really bad. “
These are some of Kurt’s many observations and words of wisdom from a new compilation Pity The Reader, On Writing With Style. I’d characterize this book as being more an emotional support book and collection of inspirational reminders than a beginner’s guide on how to write a novel. However, a movated beginner would glean much wisdom from it.
For teaching beginners, I use Wired For Story. which covers the basics of storytelling. For more serious beginners I use, Writing Fiction, which could be a self-study course and is focused on craft. Pity The Reader is the book I’d use for an advanced course–if I ever get to teach one. It’s been described as “illuminating”, “a love song for the writing life,” and “a breeze to read.” For the moment, I’ll use it as therapy, and so should we all.
Sometimes in the course of writing a novel, an author will find a minor character becoming much more interesting than expected and a once major character fading. This has happened as I pen Book Three of the Unstable States Series. A minor character, a Neanderthal escort, became more important and a henchman was moved to a minor character. Cavemen Crispers (genetically modified erotic partners) were briefly mentioned in Book 2. Here, I quote a scene from Lost in Waste in which the protagonist asks a genetically modified male stripper, Ohho, if he has seen her genetically modified philosphically-minded stripper boyfriend, Remmer:
I was going to wet my pants before I learned anything of value from Ohho. Still, I had to try.
“Do you know any stripping philosophers?” I asked. “Have you met a red-haired guy with a roundish nose who’s new in town?”
“Someone who wonders about what if we lived in a cave? That kind of thing.”
“A caveman. Good idea. We’ll add one. You get a free pass to the next show.”
I’ve had cavemen on my mind these past few months. Of course, this Neanderthal interest didn’t come out of the blue. Several family members turned over their DNA to 23andme as part of their Parkinson’s study. No evidence of a genetic link to Parkinson’s was found in our family. We did, however, have plenty of Neanderthal DNA. Being from mostly North Western European ancestry, this is not surprising. Most Eurasians & Native Americans have a small but significant amount of Neanderthal DNA– upwards of 4%. In chemistry, we’d call this a major component. In fact, even Africans contain some (although usually less than 1%) Neanderthal. Neanderthal DNA is everywhere.
There’s plenty of agreement on how Neanderthals looked when they lived 250,000 years ago–they were strong and sturdy, compact with a prominent brow, sloping, skull, large nose, and small eyes. They had good dexterity and loved tools. Around 40,000 years ago, they met up with ancient humans who spread into their territory. It’s suggested that humans, with the help of dogs, out-hunted the Neanderthals. Neanderthals hunted with spears in intimate combat with their prey. Humans hunted in tandem with dogs, which chased down prey and surrounded it before the humans moved in for the kill. It’s possible that this allowed modern humans to kill bigger prey. Human had dogs and killed mammoths. Neanderthals didn’t. (They possibly ate wolf/dogs.) But don’ think of Neanderthals as strictly meat eaters. They liked carbs just as much as most of us do.
Neanderthal women probably had an easier time giving birth than we moderns, nursed their babies, and had grandmothers helping. But interestingly enough, all of the human-Neanderthal DNA discovered so far comes from female humans mating with male Neanderthals.
Evolutionary genetics points to things which are troublesome today such as ADHD and blood that clots easily,-as being of benefit to ancient hunter-gatherers, and humans prior to the past 10,000 years. These traits probably came from Neanderthals.
Modern people of Eurasian ancestry have thousands of Neanderthal DNA fragments. Neanderthal DNA is associated with depression (especially Seasonal Affective Disorder & depression from disruption in circadian rhythms) & skin lesions resulting from sun exposure (keratosis). “Neanderthal alleles” are associated with an urge for tobacco use. Bladder dysfunction and respiratory illnesses is blamed, in part, on Neanderthal DNA. Neanderthals introduced light skin and eyes to modern humans–although they had a variety of skin and eye color. They even might have been the first humans to have had blood type O. They are thought to have been night owls.
It’s not certain if the aforementioned traits are solely due to Neanderthal DNA. There’s still much to be learned. One of the happiest people I’ve known had relatively lots of Neanderthal DNA and never drank, smoked, or got sun-damaged skin. Did not much care for dogs.
Meanwhile, I’m going to keep writing, keep my circadian rhythms on an even keel, and eat a lot of thiamine.
keratosis skin lesions are usually harmless and associated with Neanderthal DNA
As we return to the classroom, keep in mind that teachers have a higher rate of COVID than most of the population. One reason we don’t know more is that not enough data has been taken. Most states and the federal government have turned their backs on teachers.
According to the Mayo clinic, things such as outdoor classrooms, sanitizing, wearing masks, one way patterns in classrooms and halls, providing plexiglass barriers, and allowing for flexibility (some classes held remotely if needed), and keeping class sizes small are all ways to cut down on covid spread in classrooms and schools.
Teachers feel thrown to the wolves, in the lion’s den, and at the mercy of decisions made by those who are not and never have been teachers. They are tired of being “the giving tree.” On a personal level, I’ve had a hard time sleeping, which can manifest into a hard time thinking. I even did a little sleepwalking during which I changed a lightbulb. Hopefully, a vaccine will make this a thing of the past, but schools need to be better prepared for the next time.
When it comes to lurking dangers in your home, have you considered your rubber duckies lately? A 2018 study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, ETH Zurich and the University of Illinois published in the Journal Biofilms and Microbiomes says you should. Scientists cut open toys used at bathtime, cultured them, and found almost all of them contained fungi and bacteria, included Legionella (which can cause a fatal pneumonia-like illness) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (which can cause a host of problems, including skin rash and sores with sweet-smelling pus). The toys were so contaminated with a living film of germs, they could not be cleaned, except by boiling them. The scientists concluded that although children might benefit from a little challenge to the immune system, squirting bath toys into their faces should be discouraged because it’s too germy. Only toys that completely dry should be used in the tub! The filthy film can be found in places beyond the rubber duckies.
Plastic is not an easy to clean material. Biofilms can explain bacterial antibiotic resistance. They are gangs of bacteria. They are why you need to take your full dose of antibiotics. They are on slippery rocks. They are in your mouth as dental plaque. Yup, pretty much everywhere. Bacteria are pretty darn social.
Medical devices such as catheters pacemakers, IUDs, breast implants, and plastic heart valves can harbor biofilms. (Fortunately, antimicrobial plastics are now being used in these devices.) They can lurk under shampoo bottles left in the shower, and at the bottom of shower curtains, in your toilet bowl, in your humidifier, appearing as a pink ring or stain. What other household item regularly sits with water inside? Your garden hose! If soap dispensers are not cleaned regularly, yes, they will grow biofilms inside. The best way to avoid a biofilm in the house is to keep things dry and clean your sinks, showers, and toilets weekly. Keep bottles out of the shower when not in use. Regularly clean soap dispensers.
One of my favorite classic sci-fi novels is HG Wells’s First Men in the Moon. Written in 1900 and published as a novel in 1901, it tells the story of a businessman and a scientist who take a trip to the moon, thanks to the invention of a new substance that acts as an anti-gravity shield. Not only do I find the premise of an anti-gravity shield delightful, the reactions of the two characters, stereotyped although they may be, rings true, especially now as we see the pandemic play out. The pair encounters a new civilization on the moon and while the scientist promotes cautious study, the businessman can think of nothing but exploitation. As I contemplate coerced returning to work, as a teacher, even though scientists warn against it, I am struck by the lack of moral leadership in education these days. The reason for this is simple: schools are expected to be run as businesses. And some of that push, from the outgoing secretary of education, who never went to a public school in her life, is that they must remain open, pandemic be damned.
The trouble with education as a business is that education is not a business. It’s meant to be a form of philanthropy for the good of society. As we move away from that ideal, into perversions such as public-private partnerships, we burden our education system with private agendas. Some of these agendas are simple things such as workforce development and career academies teaching things like welding, culinary arts, and nursing assistant skills. My college even got a grant for some of this, called Talent Pipeline, meant to aid coronavirus relief. Ironically, you can click the link and see our “only business matters” governor smiling at young people. There is nothing wrong with any of the aforementioned careers. The problem comes when college and universities are hamstrung by them to the point where they cannot afford to provide any moral leadership. The money could have been used to improve ventilation in classrooms or help those with no access to the technology needed for remote learning. Instead, we teach welding because local companies want welders. Your tax dollars will do this for them.
Science is a new endeavor, being around 400 years old. It’s assumptions are simple, but limited.
1. Nature can be understood. 2. Science can be verified. Under the same circumstances, nature can be perceived in the same way by all observers. Repeatability is important to science. Measurement allows for duplication of results. 3. Human reason is adequate to understand nature. 4. Every effect has a natural cause.
The word “science” is based on the Latin word for “knowledge”. Science searches for order in nature.Science is a body of knowledge based on OBSERVATION. It’s dynamic, meaning that it is ever changing in content. It is a quest for understanding requiring Curiosity—asking questions, Creativity—ability to solve new problems, reasoning ability, and more recently Team work.
It’s certainly changed the world and killed superstition. However, Stripped of its glamor, day to day science can be routine and even boring. Or perhaps, at the best of days, familiar. Why does a person undertake being a scientist? Scientists are often driven by having outsider status.
In the book The Scientist as Rebel (2006) Freeman Dyson makes this statement. “There is no such thing as a unique scientific vision. Science is a mosaic of partial and conflicting visions. But there is one common element in these visions. The common element is rebellion against the restrictions imposed by the locally prevailing culture.”
I was a curious little girl, always asking why and what if. And science suits me. The routine is a comfort and the new is a thrill.But I might not have become a scientist at all if I hadn’t been told I couldn’t do it.
Scientists are curious rebels. They don’t accept the limitations of society and those with something to prove are among the most successful. It can be argued that to teach conformity and acceptance is to snuff out the scientific spirit.
Freeman Dyson warns, “If science ceases to be a rebellion against authority, then it does not deserve the talents of our brightest children…We should try to introduce our children to science today as rebellion against poverty and ugliness and militarism and injustice.”
Scientists are inherently skeptical and require a lot of proof for a new idea. They are also curious and like new ideas. This creates a tension. Most scientists enjoy and celebrate this tension.
And with this new Nobel, I have something to celebrate, since the CRISPR technique is used in my latest novel Lost in Waste. Catch the Crispr fever! For a copy click here, or comment.