BookBub

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Today my first novel, Natural Attraction, is being featured by BookBub  in Canada, the UK, and Australia.

BookBub is a service that is free to readers and carries recommended ebooks that are on special for a day.  To be selected a book must meet their criteria such as being error-free, having a professional looking cover, and garnishing enough reviews.  It also must have having an appealing premise, pitch and tagline. Finally, it has to be discounted for the day.

I’m thankful to my publisher, Penner Publishing, for securing this sought after advertising and for paying for it. Thanks, too, for all who have written a positive review.

Natural Attraction is a humorous Victorian romp with a gender-fluid theme.

Here are links to the deal and even in the US, it’s discounted today.

US:
Amazon: http://ebooks.buzz/naamz
Kobo: http://ebooks.buzz/nakobo
iBooks: http://ebooks.buzz/naibooks
B&N: http://ebooks.buzz/nabn
GooglePlay: http://ebooks.buzz/naggle

UK:
Amazon: http://ebooks.buzz/naamz uk
Kobo: http://ebooks.buzz/nakobo
iBooks: http://ebooks.buzz/naibooks
B&N: http://ebooks.buzz/nabn
GooglePlay: http://ebooks.buzz/naggle

Australia:
Amazon: http://ebooks.buzz/naamz au
Kobo: http://ebooks.buzz/nakobo
iBooks: http://ebooks.buzz/naibooks
B&N: http://ebooks.buzz/nabn
GooglePlay: http://ebooks.buzz/naggle

Canada:
amazon: http://ebooks.buzz/naamz ca
kobo: http://ebooks.buzz/nakobo
iBooks: http://ebooks.buzz/naibooks
B&N: http://ebooks.buzz/nabn
GooglePlay: http://ebooks.buzz/naggle

 

 

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Small press publishing: Covers & Revenge

BANNER2-WolvesDeerIt’s here–the cover for my upcoming novel Wolves and Deer. This novel is being published by a small press and with small presses, the cover is often assembled from stock photos and art. Here’s how this one went down:

After the novel was accepted for publication, the editors asked me to look through art sites and find agreeable images that reflected the content and the characters.

I looked at animal photos of wolves and deer but none were to my liking.

The novel takes place in post the Regency era, just before Victoria, but I didn’t find any images I really liked for the cover among Regency era stock photos.

Some of the novel takes place at the Royal Institution in London so I considered old-time lab photos but the main plot isn’t about science–it simply has science in it. It’s really about betrayal and revenge. Wolves and Deer has a good dose of humor along with the pathos and mystery.  In the end, I liked a photo of a woman wearing a wolf skin. It had the element of humor I wanted along with a “Red Riding Hood gets her revenge” feel. It also hinted that the novel might have a little sex in it. The woman had dark hair and a pointed nose as would be possible for the daughter of Dora Jordan.  I suggested that the background be something to do with royalty.  The cover artist came up with this cover.

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I had a decision about the back cover–the grave photo the cover designer suggested didn’t match the grave as described in the novel or the grave of Dora Jordan. I decided it should remain as the illustrator wished because it is so highly discernible as a grave. I made the same decision with the Royal gate on the front cover. The King in question spent most time at Windsor and Clarence House but they aren’t immediately recognizable to people in the US.

I also did not want my name highlighted or larger. I’m by no means a famous author. Like most, I struggle for my sales and good reviews. I don’t consider myself a selling point.

By the way, the cover for Mixed In is up for an award. This cover was also a collaboration with an artist. I wanted a splash of beer on the cover since much of it takes place in a bar.cropped-mixedinfinal.png

The cover of Natural Attraction was selected by a vote of readers.

Natural Attraction - High Resolution - Version 1

That’s how I got my covers. In all cases, the publisher had the last word of approval for the covers.

What do you think? Is there a type of cover that draws you in?

Wolves and Deer may be purchased here.

Cutting the grass

Burns projectiles, amputations. It’s not a war zone–it’s your lawnmower. In the US, 80,000 people are injured by lawnmowers each year.  As you can imagine, summer is the prime season for accidents and lawnmower accidents are one of  the most common summer accidents.

I asked friends for their lawnmower horror stories and they were pretty gruesome.

“There was an old man in my hometown who was mowing the ditch that had standing water at the bottom. The rider mower tipped over and he tumbled to the bottom and the mower got on top of him. He drowned there.”

“My husband had a guy who worked for him who tripped while mowing with a push mower. Instead of letting go of the mower handle so the mower would stop, he pulled the mower backward in an effort to keep his balance. He pulled the mower over his foot and lost part of his foot. He was off work for quite a long time but, eventually came back. He still limps.”

“My uncle was push mower cutting our family plot at the cemetery. He was backing up & fell over a tombstone. The mower came back over his foot & cut off his big toe. He found a bag to put his foot into to contain the blood. The toe did not survive.”

Most lawnmower accidents involve cutting things off. Amputations. Even when the mower is turned off, the blades on many mowers, older models in particular, can still turn. An Emergency Room nurse summed it by saying,”People cut their fingers and toes off with them fairly frequently.”

Lawnmower accidents go beyond amputations. Burns can occur and even house fires.  A friend said

“Mine got too hot on Friday, blew the cap & oil all over. I didn’t get hurt or anything but I haven’t tried to run it again.”

Running over things is common. People remembered running over everything from snakes to bunnies to sentimental toys. Possibly the worst running over story that didn’t involve a projectile was this one:

“A few years ago I was mowing, wearing shorts, and ran over a in-ground bees’ nest. Got stung about a dozen times on each leg before I realized what the sudden pain was and could run far enough away. So, my tip is wear long pants.”

Lawnmowers can toss objects at a speed of 200 miles per hour. Projectile accidents are more common and more  dangerous than you might think. For example:

“When I was younger, my mother told me about some friends whose child was in the yard while the dad was mowing. He ran over a piece of metal he didn’t know was there. It was thrown out of the mower, hit the child in the head and killed him.”

“When I was a kid, I was wearing tennis shoes while mowing the lawn & hit a wire. It lodged in my fourth toe. My dad pulled the wire out with a pliers & then we headed to the doctor for a tetanus shot. Never wore tennis shoes to mow again”

Thirteen children per day are injured by lawnmowers in the US. Accidents involving kids are some of the most heartbreaking::

“A young kid who was mowing had the riding mower tip over on him, slicing his guts open.(The doctor)  had to work fast and try to pull some muscles over the area and stitch it up. Not pretty. “

“When I was at Mayo as a student, I took care of a kid who had an above the knee amputation after his dad accidentally ran him over with a lawn mower. The child was only 5 years old. While it was super sad that the kid lost his leg, it was also so hard to watch the dad interact with his child. You could tell how horrible he felt and was in tears more than the child. I’m sure the child now has a prosthetic and is living as normal of a life as possible (I have friends who design prosthetics and the functionality of them is pretty amazing). But, that dad will always have a reminder of that horrible day when he accidentally ran his kid over.”

“When I was young, my mom was teaching me how to use the riding mower. We were mowing around a shed in the backyard. I heard a big rock shoot out, and I leaned to the right to look over my shoulder behind me, and the edge of the shed sliced right down my neck on the left side. As the mower kept moving forward, I though my head might be ripped off. I had “rug burn” down my neck for weeks. Also my grandfather lost his leg mowing a ditch. Mowing is not my favorite chore.”

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New lawn mowers have some safety features including a foot shield and a blade break (clutch chute) that stops the blade when the handle is released. There is still a potential for injury as you can read above. Many ride-on mowers have Rollover Protection. This along with a seatbelt is recommended by OSHA. All mowers should have deflection shields on the discharge chute. These push projectiles down instead of out.

Here are some safety tips to make sure that you have a safe summer:

Be sure to clean the blades before you mow and some sites suggest spraying them with cooking spay before mowing to prevent clogs. When cleaning a mower without a blade break remove the spark plug to prevent accidental starts. 

Don’t go back! Push the mower forward, never pull it back. For ride-on mowers, many accidents occur when backing up so keep them moving forward.

Never let kids (or any passengers) ride along.

Don’t mow when the grass is wet. The mower will clog more and slips are more likely.

Use a push mower on slopes and a string mower on extreme slopes. Use OSHA’ s slope guide.The Consumer Protection Safety Commission recommends mowing across a slope with a push mower and with the slope with a ride on. Don’t make sharp turns or sudden starts with a riding mower, especially on hills.

Don’t walk away from a running lawnmower.

Wear long pants and sturdy shoes and safety glasses when mowing.

Fill the mower with gas before mowing. If you run out of gas, let the mower cool completely before refilling.

Make sure the mower blades have stopped and the mower is off before cleaning the blades.

Let the mower cool down before putting it away. House fires have been stared due to hot lawnmowers!

Don’t use your mower as a hedge trimmer.

Don’t mow when you are drunk.

Clear the yard of debris before mowing.

Make sure people and pets are inside before you mow. The average age for a lawn mower bystander injury is 6 years.

Do not let children under the age of twelve mow. The average age for a child injured  while lawn mowing is 10.7 years.

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For a healthy lawn, keep your grass at the proper height. This depends on the type of grass but don’t let it get shorter than an inch or longer than three inches. Grass needs some height to develop roots. In the summer, setting the blade to the highest setting and cutting only the top third is recommended. Letting your grass get too long makes it difficult to mow. Most people mow once a week.

People have favored surrounding their homes with short grass for centuries.This was maintained by servants or more frequently animals until the widespread use of lawnmowers in the 1890s. With the advent of the mower, came injuries.

To review, be safe. Lawnmower accidents happen across the globe. Perhaps you have heard the Genesis song with the lyric “Me, I’m just a lawn mower. You can tell me by the way I walk.” You don’t want to be that guy. Take care.

That’s Escherichia coli to you

Flat vector set of different types of microorganisms. Disease-causing viruses. Objects related to science and microbiology theme
Can you spot the E. coli in this contaminated water?

Here is a recent news headline: E coli closes a local beach. As you probably know, E. coli, or Escherichia coli as it is named by genus and species, is a bacteria. Bacteria are simple single-celled creatures, a step down from amoebas. Unlike viruses, they can reproduce on their own (by splitting) and have a metabolism. This means they take in food and produce wastes. The waste can be beneficial or harmful. E. coli grows easily in air or without it. It isn’t picky about its temperature for growth although it prefers near body temperature. It’s found in the intestines of animals and different animals contain different strains.

Microbiologist Lee Macomber points out that a high E. coli count in water means that the water is contaminated with fecal matter. E. coli is easy to grow in the lab and it is an indicator of water cleanliness. E. coli serves as the bellwether species. There very well could be more dangerous bacteria including gastroenteritis and viruses such as Hepatitis A in contaminated water.

According to the Iowa DNR, fecal contamination of beach water occurs due to improperly constructed and operated septic systems and sewage treatment plants, manure spills, storm water runoff from lands with wildlife and pet droppings, or direct contamination from waterfowl, livestock, or small children in the water. In Iowa, rain appears to be one of the most important factors in generating high levels of bacteria. Surface runoff after a heavy rainfall may transport high levels of fecal bacteria to the water at the beach. The rain also increases the sediment in the water causing it to be murky. Since bacteria are destroyed by sunlight, murky water aids in their survival.

About half of Iowa’s water is impaired and less than a quarter is considered clean. Our current governor is planning to clean up the water–by making it more difficult to call a water impaired!

E. coli is a contaminant in water but is it all bad? It’s needed in our intestines. The bacteria produces Vitamin K and helps break down food for digestion. But it can turn up in the wrong places and some strains take a deadly turn. The most notorious strain is E. coli O157:H7–which is found in the digestive tract of healthy cattle. This bacteria produces Shiga toxin and other by-products that make people violently ill with diarrhea that is at its worst “all blood, no stool.” E. coli can infect meat when slaughtering is done carelessly.  It can get into milk from animals and via dirt, animal bedding, and possibly by wind-borne dust. It is more puzzling how it gets into lettuce but animal and bird droppings, dust from nearby slaughterhouses and feed lots, and contamination from wild animals have all been cited as causes. E.coli clings to greens effectively and is hard to wash off. It can spread from person to person via poor hygiene. My students found E coli in ice from a soda dispenser once. It had to have gotten there from a worker’s dirty hands,

People with Type A blood are the most susceptible to E. coli related infections. The most common food source is ground beef. The most likely place to get an infection is in a developing nation and children under two are most vulnerable. Believe it or not, a large mussel population in  a lake can filter E. coli from the water so the Great Lakes, especially Michigan, are rarely contaminated.

E. coli infection has been in the headlines lately. It’s been a contaminant of romaine lettuce since the start of the year and has shut down daycare centers and sickened kids in Tennessee.  The most commonly affected foods are ground beef and other meats, green leafy vegetables, unpasteurized juices, raw milk, and soft cheeses made from raw milk. Symptoms include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Hemolytic-uremic syndrome can cause kidney damage as well as death. E. coli can be blamed for most UTI infections, traveler’s diarrhea, and neonatal bacterial meningitis.   If you have E.coli poisoning, staying hydrated is a way to dilute the toxins. Antibiotics, sometimes a cocktail of them, could be needed to rid yourself of the bacteria.

Four out of every 100,000 children in the US will be hospitalized for an E. coli related illness this year. E coli infections spike between June and September.

Here are  ways to minimize the risk of an E. coli infection at home.

  • Cook meat completely. E. coli is killed by proper heating.
  • Thaw meat separately from other foods
  • Use a different plate for raw vs cooked meat when cooking and grilling
  • Wash food preparation surfaces and utensils
  • Clean your refrigerator weekly
  • Wash faucets and soap pumps daily. (Pump soap is more germy than bar soap.)
  • Wash dish towels daily
  • Promptly refrigerate perishable foods
  • Make sure your refrigerator keeps a temperature of 35-38 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Wash your hands before and after preparing food.

Scientists are developing an E. coli vaccine but until that time, I’m keeping my kitchen clean and staying out of the local water.

However, frightening it can be, E. coli is beneficial to medicine and makes many drugs more affordable. E. coli is easy to grow and is genetically simple. It has one large chromosome in the shape of a ring. It is the microorganism of choice for cloning. The chromosome can be modified to change the bacterial waste products. It can be altered to produce insulin for example. In this case, the gene that made human insulin was cut from a human cell and inserted into the bacteria. Click here to see the process in pictures. It can be used to produce human growth hormone by inserting a different gene.  Erythromycin and other drugs are made this way. It can even produce by-products that can be made into plastic, should we need more plastic.

Did to recognize the E. coli? It’s the hairy yellow critter left of center in the photo up top.

So angry…what makes angry characters?

Depositphotos_23652875_original.jpgIn my next novel, I’ve got characters who are angry. I did some research about anger to help me understand them better. I’ve learned a lot about it, especially from this reference,  and I thought I’d share some of it.

  1. Anger is learned behavior. Hostile and angry people are that way because they saw it play out somewhere. They learned that people bully, belittle, and argue with each other and that this gains respect. The hostile environment can be at home but school and the workplace are also places where people learn that anger works.
  2. The true emotions behind anger are frustration, hurt, disappointment, and threat/fear.
  3. Angry people want others to feel the way that they do. If they are hurt, they want others to hurt, if they are ashamed, they want others to be ashamed.
  4. The average adult will be angry once a day.
  5. People who use emotion rather than logic to guide their reasoning tend to be more angry. Emotional reasoning can lead people to misunderstand social cues.
  6. Stress causes low frustration levels and can make the stressed out person see threats that don’t exist or have unreasonable expectations.
  7. Labeling and derogatory perceptions of other groups of people —people rating–causes anger. If we look at the recent mass killers in the US most are misogynists and supremacists.
  8. Physical pain, drugs, and alcohol can exacerbate anger and frustration. Even a spate of minor irritations can build up and cause anger.
  9. Anger is not always bad. It can be motivating if used as a positive catalyst for change.
  10. Physically, anger causes a release of both glucose and stress hormones. It creates strain on the heart and pancreas. Eventually it will affect the brain, creating a hyperactive amygdala (the seat of fear in the brain) and dampening reaction in the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that controls reasoning and social behavior.)
  11. Anger can be dealt with easily by most individuals. The amygdala quickly returns to normal. Crying can help bring the brain back to normal.
  12. Ironically, people who are taught to suppress emotions such as sorrow are more likely to became angry or depressed (the passive form of anger.) Boys who have been shamed for showing pain or sorrow often find that anger is the only socially acceptable emotion they have.
  13. Type A people are often rewarded for their drive and determination. They can give others the impression that they are best able to respond to threats. They are more likely to be angry and focus on the weaknesses of others and in turn, make themselves sick.Angry people are more likely to have colds, skin problems, and arthritis. Being Type A is hard on the immune system. The stress of anger causes other problems such as weight gain, ulcers and acid reflux.
  14. Since anger produces cortisol, angry people suffer from hormone imbalances and the result can be thyroid problems and decreased bone density.
  15. Angry people are poor communicators and even worse listeners. They are often impatient and in a hurry.
  16. Angry folks will clench their teeth, sweat, pace, get sarcastic, rub their heads, reach for a drink, and might shake or tremble.

According to the Mayo Clinic, ways to control your anger are to

  1. Express yourself and be calmly assertive
  2. Be cautious.
  3. Develop positive social relationships.
  4. Change your environment
  5. Understand your anger’s cause
  6. Laugh! Laughter and joy can drive anger away. Try to find humor in your situation.
  7. Exercise.
  8. Don’t place blame. Focus on yourself and what you can do, not on someone else.
  9. Write in a journal.
  10. Listen to music.
  11. Get therapy.

Ways to deal with an angry person include:

  1. Giving them space or getting away from them if they are dangerous. Recognize the danger signs of eminent physical assault.
  2. Don’t get angry back.
  3. Work with others to resolve the situation.
  4. Calmly address the situation and identify the problem. Have empathy. Apologize.
  5. Distract with laugher but be careful, this could make them more angry. Angry people lose their sense of humor.
  6. Be respectful but assertive.
  7. Be rational.

Although life is in many ways better than it has ever been for humans, people are more angry. Anger has been a way of life in the United States and people vote for angry politicians. Spanking can cause anger as can lack of social progress  and being poor.(frustration!). Western countries tend to be more angry while Asians are less angry. However, at the bottom of the anger ladder are the Danes and Scandinavians. Danish people claim to get angry less than once a week. Since these countries value emotional suppression, the reason for their lack of anger is presumed to be their society. It might be worth reading up on it for the sake of us all. Meanwhile, I understand my angry characters–and their society–much better now. And I’m going to do my best not to be angry myself.

 

Rone Award Nomination and Small Press Publishing

I’m excited that Mixed In has been nominated for a Rone Award in the category of Science Fiction and Time Travel. The first stage of this award is reader voting followed by judging. I’d love to be judged but to get there, I need some votes. If you are so motivated, please vote for me by following this link.

If you haven’t yet registered, you’ll need to do so. Then you’ll get information and reviews about small and independently published books from Ind’ Tale Magazine. I’ve found publishing with a small press to be satisfying–although not lucrative. If you want the big bucks, get an agent and hold out for a big publishing house. If you want to be happy, small press might be for you.  I enjoy my interactions with small press editors. They are nice, helpful, and keep current with publishing rends. Why don’t I self publish? I can’t go it alone. I need editors and proof readers to help me. Before I even submit a novel for consideration, I hire a beta reader and then a proof-reader/copy editor. In my case, the more comments I get the better.

Mixed In is a milieu novel with an agricultural theme.  It’s a little naughty. If that’s for you, please lend me your vote and sign up for the Ind’Tale newsletter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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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/
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Seven Dials in Covent Garden has been vandalized and rebuilt at least once.

 

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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Ravens protect the Tower.

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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

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

 

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Such a pretty Medieval town. What are people taking a photo of?
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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.

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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.

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Would you like a malt or a chocolate milk?

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A Chocolate Factory themed tea service for kids. And good tea and sandwiches for the parents.
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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.

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

 

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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:

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Neal’s Yard in Soho

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.