All posts by marlenedotterer

Science Fiction and Fantasy writer

Plan for “Record-Setting Bedsharing Deaths”? Same Old Thing (And It Doesn’t Work) | Evolutionary Parenting | Where History And Science Meet Parenting

Plan for “Record-Setting Bedsharing Deaths”? Same Old Thing (And It Doesn’t Work) | Evolutionary Parenting | Where History And Science Meet Parenting.

The Most Awesome Present Ever™

I believe I hinted at this in an earlier post, but I just realized I haven’t shown it to you yet. My kids gave me this for my birthday in June:

Memory Jar

I can see what you’re doing. You’re nodding to yourself and muttering, “It’s a jar.  Her kids got her a jar for her birthday and she’s all excited. There’s no accounting for taste.”

Ah, but it’s not just any jar. Not this one. No sir. This is a jar of…


Can you believe that? My genius kids took time out of their busy lives to sit down and write up a year’s worth of Memories of Mom. Then they cut them up into separate pieces, glued them to colorful paper and filled this gorgeous jar with them! Every week for the next year, I get to pick ONE card and read the memory.

I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. Here are a few I’ve already picked out:





You can see the memories will span the years. I never know what I’ll see when I pull a card out. The only thing I’m being careful about is to peek at the name and make sure I get a different child each week.

As I started removing cards, I realized I needed some place to keep them. So I created a scrapbook to hold them all:



Each child has a section with his/her picture and name. I’ll fill up the sections as the year goes by. Here’s the note they gave me with the jar:


I’ll tell you – this gift nearly has me blubbering. There isn’t a luckier mom than me in the whole world!

I love you, my children!









Food Politics » FDA’s food label proposals: comments on Vitamin D

The floor is open for debate. Personally, I think the first two points say it all:

  • “Vitamin” D is not a vitamin; it is a hormone synthesized by the action of sunlight on skin.  For this reason alone, it does not belong on the food label. (and may I add: it doesn’t belong in food, either! – Marlene_
  • Vitamin D fortification must be understood as a form of hormone replacement therapy.   As such, it raises questions about efficacy, dose, and side effects that should be asked about all such therapies.

Food Politics » FDA’s food label proposals: comments on Vitamin D.

To The Gates of Dreaming: Using Guided Meditation to Help Young Children Sleep

Here’s a post that might interest some of the parents around here, or my childbirth students. I may try some of these things on myself!

In my classes, I use a rainbow technique for relaxation, but I think I like this version better. In class, I just have the couples visualize the colors, as if on a movie screen. The technique used here seems much softer and dreamlike…

You feel yourself floating on a red cloud, a beautiful red cloud. Red surrounding you, red all around.  Touching red, feeling red, tasting red.  A beautiful red cloud.  Drift down through the red, deeper and deeper, sleepier and sleepier, until you reach an orange cloud.  A beautiful orange cloud…

Yes, I’m going to try this! 

To The Gates of Dreaming: Using Guided Meditation to Help Young Children Sleep.

Smashwords: Is Kindle Unlimited Bad for Authors?

Normally, I’m all for subscription services, but I’m unimpressed with Kindle Unlimited for a couple of reasons.

As a reader, it doesn’t impress me because a great many of the books I want to read won’t be available. That’s the fault of big publishers, who won’t  put their books in the program. As a writer, I am NOT going to sign a contract to sell my books exclusively with Amazon. I want my books in as many venues as possible.

Hmmm… I wonder if Amazon is demanding that the big publishers sell exclusively with them, and that’s why the publishers won’t enroll their books?

Smashwords: Is Kindle Unlimited Bad for Authors?.

A Cooking Post: Odds and Ends, or Cooking with Depression

Let me hasten to assure you that I’m not really depressed. At least not today. Yesterday though…

I’ve been struggling for the last few weeks with side effects to some of my medicine. We (my doctor and I) had agreed I should try a higher dose on one of them, as my symptoms were showing up more often. So I added an extra pill and never really thought about it again. It was only 10 more milligrams.

Then things started getting weird. Loud ear ringing. Dizziness. Loss of balance. Sleep worse than usual. I could function, but couldn’t enjoy anything much. After about a week of this – I waited longer than I should have – I went back to the doctor. After making sure that I wasn’t having a stroke, she said it was probably the medicine. She wanted me to cut back and she would consult with the neurologist about using a different drug.

Okay. I cut back that night and within two days most of the symptoms had receded to barely noticeable. Then ensued several days of pharmacy mix-ups as I tried to get the new drug. I finally got it on Tuesday and worked out a complicated plan of reducing the old medicine while increasing the new one. So Tuesday night, I took the first pill of the new med.

Holy cow. I woke up about two, so dizzy I could hardly walk straight. And the ear ringing was back, although not as loud. No more sleep for me. Wednesday (yesterday) was a Lost Day. I was glum and whiny, had no energy, no desire to do anything, and didn’t give a damn about any of it. I couldn’t believe it. How could one pill do all that?

So I cooked. It’s the only thing I could make myself do. I made Middle Eastern Lentils and Peppers for dinner, a vegan meal of brown rice, chickpeas, bell peppers, lovely spices, lemon and mint. Oh and of course, lentils. I can’t link to the recipe, but it’s from The Slow Cook Book. Before I could make it, I had to cook a batch of chickpeas. I thought that since I had to do that, I might as well cook a big batch and can them.

So I got out my nifty pressure canner and filled a few jars with water to heat them up while I cooked the chickpeas. Best-laid plans… my 32-year-old stovetop was every bit as cantankerous as I was, and the big burner (there’s only one) decided to stop working. If I’d been feeling better, I would have worked around it, but not yesterday. I was Not Dealing With It. At all.

So the chickpeas ended up in my freezer, which I wanted to get away from doing. That’s why I bought the pressure canner. But the ghoddess has spoken – it’s time to get this stove fixed and that’s all there is to it.

I added the chickpea fiasco to my grumpiness and finished making the lentil dish, which was very good. No complaints there.

The other thing I made was Fresh Spring Rolls with Dipping Sauce.  I made them without the shrimp. I love these things and it was fun to serve them as an appetizer with a glass of cold chardonnay. Yes, you might have noticed I was mixing cuisines with the spring rolls and the lentil dish. Shrug. We survived, and both dishes went with the chardonnay.

Wait – I cooked even more. I made these. Banana Oat Bars with no sugar or flour. At last, a nearly guilt-free snack!

So my depressed day was not really lost after all. I just felt like it was. And boy, was I scared to take another pill at bedtime! But I agreed with Himself, who didn’t feel that one data point was sufficient. Okay, if it had knocked me unconscious or I’d swollen up with hives or something, one data point might have been enough. But it didn’t seem that dire, so I took another pill.

Not a single problem. I slept all night and I feel darn fine today. I even did an hour of yoga. And more cooking. We started the day with a new batch of waffles, made with my special blend of whole-grain flours and flaxseeds. Here they are, all stacked up for the freezer.

Banana Cinnamon Waffles (Cooking
Banana Cinnamon Waffles (Cooking

I got to have the extra spring rolls for today’s lunch. I didn’t take pictures of them because, trust me, my rolls are not quite… rolled. No dexterity.

Then I made Italian Meatloaf with Fresh Basil and Provolone. I haven’t made this in ages – it was a favorite of my clients back in my personal chef days. And of Himself. He gets it for tonight’s dinner, along with fresh corn on the cob and steamed green beans.

Oh! I thought I was done, but I forgot about the honeydew melon. I’ll give you a break for now, and show you about that tomorrow.


Hikes, Detours, and the Tree of Life

I think I am at my almost-ultimate-happiest when I’m on a hike. Not even sore feet or scrambling hands-and-knees over rocks, or cold rain can dent my contentment. Heck, I’ll even hike in the desert – I’ve done it recently.

All of this is sort of funny, considering that I’m not the most athletic of people. And I should point out that my hikes are limited to a level of “moderate” or lower. I’m not going up any tall mountains soon.

So we’ve got this hike coming up on Saturday, billed as a “moonlight walk at perigee” kind of thing. Yes, the moon is approaching its closest point to Earth and Saturday it’s full. Now, Astronomy Magazine informs us the perigee is actually at the August full moon, but I’m not going to quibble with East Bay Regional Parks about it. Close is close, in my book.

This pretty spot is found just before the trail up the mountain.
This pretty spot is found just before the trail up the mountain.

I am really looking forward to this hike, not least because four of our closest friends will meet us for a pre-hike picnic, then join us for the ramble. It’s a public hike and there will be lots of other people there, but this is going to be fun.

Ah, but Himself and I were a bit nervous. We don’t get up to Tilden Park often, and as I mentioned, I don’t do lots of steep climbing. We didn’t know what to expect. Brilliant people that we are, we decided to do an Advanced Scouting Mission. We’d find the meeting place and hie ourselves up the trail to see if it was Doable. If not, we always had the option of Turning Back, and the foreknowledge that the moonlight hike might be out of our range.

So yesterday, after our relaxed Sunday Breakfast of whole grain pancakes and Black Forest bacon (and fruit rather than syrup for me), we applied lots of sunscreen and set off on our adventure.

Our limited direction skills meant that we had a hard time finding the place, even with the GPS. But we persevered, then patiently blocked up the parking lot while waiting for someone to leave and provide a spot for us. Once that was accomplished, we got a map and headed off to find the trail head.

Of course, we walked right by it. Based on the map, we knew we should be finding it soon, so when we saw a largish trail going straight up the mountain, we took it. I wish I’d taken a picture of this. It looked more like a maintenance road than a hiking trail, but we girded our loins and crawled (in places) up the dern, slippery thing.

And of course, discovered that it was a maintenance road with no other outlet once you got to the power grid at the top. We had to go back down the slippery trail, which involved some butt-sliding for safety. Himself was concerned that we would now be too tired to do the actual hike, but my philosophy is nothing-attempted-nothing gained, so we renewed our search for the real trail.

In our defense, it’s a very small trail and a very small sign. But once we found it, it was ridiculous how easy it was. It took us about an hour to get to the top, but for most of the way, the ascent is gradual and the steep parts were not Too Bad At All.

Wildcat Peak Trail - spectacular view of the bay, bridges, San Francisco, and Marin.
Wildcat Peak Trail – spectacular view of the bay, bridges, San Francisco, and Marin.

It’s really too bad I don’t have a better camera, because wow – that view is amazing.

We reached the top and did our obeisance to the view, which truly deserved it. Three sides feature views of San Francisco Bay with the Bay Bridge to the left, gleaming San Francisco itself,  the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge soaring over the low fog, and the mountains and forest of Marin County sprawling to the right. The bay continued on to the north, surrounded on both sides by the low East Bay hills. I couldn’t see the Carquinez Bridge, but Benecia was just visible. If we turned East, we had a lovely view of Mt. Diablo and surrounding hills.

Golden Gate
Golden Gate


The view to the northwest
The view to the northwest
Mt. Diablo to the east
Mt. Diablo to the east

On our way down we found another little side trail that brought us close to this:


Tree of life

If there’s such a real thing as a Tree of Life, don’t you think it probably looks something like that?

We’ll see how the pictures turn out for the moonlight hike. I bet that’s going to be awesome!


Book Review and General Discussion About the End of the World

It’s rare for me to review a book beyond a basic star rating on Goodreads, but I wanted to review this book here for y’all. NOT because it’s such a great book (trust me, it’s not), but because it does present an idea worth discussing.  The book is One Second After by William R. Forstchen.

I don’t know where or how I found this book. Usually I make a private note to myself on Goodreads if a book is by an author I haven’t read before. But I have no notes for this one, so it will remain a mystery.

This an apocalyptic book, centered on the destruction of America due to a high-atmosphere nuclear bomb that emits an electromagnetic pulse. The EMP wipes out all our electronics in an instant, bringing our civilization to a catastrophic halt. The story is a disturbing description of how one town deals with the aftermath.

The author has an impressive bio of military history and history of technology.  He says his description of how EMPs can be generated, and the damage they can cause, is accurate and true. I have to take him at his word for that – it certainly sounds plausible, and I have no technical knowledge in that area.

Oddly, for someone with so much to offer, he writes a book riddled with ridiculous errors. I am amazed that Purdue actually hands out PhD’s to people who don’t know the correct phrase is “could have” not “could of.” Or that “their” is not the same as “they’re” which is not the same as “there.”

Um, no these errors didn’t happen just once. They occur throughout the book. Sure, the editor is at fault, but the poor editor probably couldn’t believe a grown man with a PhD actually turned in something like this.

Putting all that aside, the book does have something to offer. It’s a dispassionate examination of life after catastrophe. Who dies first, second, third…, including famines, flu, and the secondary diseases that result from too many people dying all at once and how to deal with the bodies. Mr. Forstchen provides a good discussion, through his characters, of why there’s not much to be done to prevent these deaths. The story provides an even better example of how a community can work together to help each other, while policing the bullies and outlaws.

I believe in being reasonably prepared for emergencies – I’ve written before about our earthquake kit. Anyone who is even modestly prepared can probably survive long enough to join up with neighbors, and thus contribute to the larger group’s survival. I don’t think that means you should go out and dig a bomb shelter, stock it, and live there in perpetual hiding. But at least stock enough somewhere to take care of your own needs for a week or three, then maybe stock a bit more to help out someone else.

At its worst, One Second After is a gun-lover’s wet dream, with the far-right hawkish tendency to believe that all wrong-doers are evil devil-worshipers who never met a heinous act they didn’t embrace, and the good guys having guns and being willing to use them is the only answer. This is silly enough, but there’s also the fact that no one in the book seems to understand how wrong it is for the main character (a good guy!) to steal and horde all the insulin in the area, for his own daughter’s use. I know – parents will do crazy things for their kids – but someone should have called him on it. Since no one does, I’m left with the uncomfortable idea that Mr. Forstchen thinks this is heroic, or at least laudable, behavior.

But he does provide a top-notch description of how our modern global society has traded any possibility of self-sufficiency for convenience and cheap products. In fact, he uses the insulin to do this, starting with the oil coming from the Middle East, and following a byzantine trail around the world to produce the medicine and the equipment needed to administer it.

In the end, it’s this trade-off that kills so many people: without immediate and constant replacement of all consumables, most Americans are helpless.

Maybe it would be best to die in the first wave or two, eh?