All posts by marlenedotterer

Science Fiction and Fantasy writer

Rant: Once Upon a Time

It saddens me to do this, but Disney is forcing me. Honest.

I’ve watched Once Upon a Time since its inception. It was one of my favorite shows. I like retellings of fairy tales, especially when they’re brought into modern times. I thought this one was quite clever. I liked the characters, even the villains. I liked the back-and-forth between the worlds as we learned who each character had been before the curse. I liked the various twists on the characters, such as an adult Snow White living as an independent bandit in the forest before meeting the dwarves, and Little Red Riding Hood being the wolf. These back stories provided great depth to old tales.

But now I must stop watching it. I just can’t take any more insults to my intelligence, or disdain for my viewing time.

Have you been watching it? Has your number of cringes per episode skyrocketed lately, like mine has? Please, Disney, stop. Have mercy.

Disney owns ABC. I get that. But no other show gets this treatment. Disney has a big stake in fairy tales. I get that, too. But they are using this TV show as free promotion for every fairy tale movie they’ve done.  I was okay through all the changes for a few seasons, with some trepidation about Peter Pan, although I  was all onboard by the end of that storyline.

It was after that things got downright idiotic. Seriously – the Wizard of Oz?  With a HUGE stretch to my belief synapses to accept that the Wicked Witch of the West was an illegitimate daughter of Cora’s years before she married and had Regina.

It’s gone downhill from there. Now we have Frozen.  Huh? The movie my 8 year old granddaughter knows by heart? Worse than that, Micky Mouse’s broom, which was a delight in Fantasia, has started showing up, jerking me right out of the story every time. WTF, Disney? The broom?

I’ve stuck with it. I’ve invested four years in this show and I still like many of the characters. But no. When the cute little Dalmatian puppy appeared, I felt a true pang of alarm. And sure enough, a few minutes later, we have Cruella DeVille sashaying into a scene. She’s not even a fairy tale character! Come on Disney!

Putting her in company with Maleficent and Ursula the Sea Witch is just stupid. And I’m supposed to accept these characters as nemeses of, and eventual partners with, the  Dark Lord? Seriously??

Disney is insulting all of us with this nonsense. Worse, they are insulting their own actors, who’ve put hard, honest work and talent into their characters. Disney has turned them into spoofs. I get the feeling we’re going to hit every Disney movie ever made.

Yet there are still plot lines I want to see resolved. I’m really pissed about either giving up entirely or having to wade through this junk while waiting to see how it goes.

Snakes and Leaves. It Must be Autumn!

We’ve had wonderful rain around here, at last. The soil and plants are so happy. Water is awesome.

I love rainy weather, especially when it’s cold. Sweaters, scarves, gloves… for me they trump constant sun and heat anytime. I like my hot weather in short bits.

Due to our recent time out of town earlier this month, the leaves in our yard got a huge head start on us. We came back to half-empty trees and leaves covering every inch of the front yard, side yard, sidewalk and several inches of the street along the side. We had our work cut out for us.

We are just about the only people in the neighborhood who don’t hire a gardening service.  All the other yards are clean and neat, but ours waits for homeowner elbow grease. Urgent catch-up business, plus a couple more rainy days, kept us from tackling it until yesterday, but we got to it with a good will.

It was actually nice to be outside in the cool, cloudy weather. I went out first and didn’t even bother with raking into piles. I used a largish-rectangle bucket to pick up leaves. All I had to do was lay the bucket on it’s side somewhere and push a bunch of leaves into it with the rake, dump them into the yard waste bin and repeat.

And repeat.

It went on and on. Himself joined me after about 30 minutes, tackling another part of the yard. Of course, we only have one yard waste bin, and even though it’s large, it couldn’t hold all those leaves. So we had to empty it frequently. We have a plan for that, though. I put some leaves in our compost bin, but that doesn’t hold very much. The rest of the leaves get spread around the native garden in the backyard.

It is ironic, I know. Pick up the leaves from the front yard, dump ‘em in the back. But hey, it’s mulch. Good for the soil.


I think we filled and emptied that waste bin eight or nine times. It’s one of those gazillion-gallon things, so it holds a lot. So many leaves!

Just as I was finishing, I came across what I thought was an earthworm at the bottom of a pile of leaves. That’s not unusual, but a flash of red caught my attention, and the little thing didn’t move like an earthworm. And sure enough, it lifted it’s tiny head and flicked it’s little tongue in a brave display of threat. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to take a picture, but alas… I was tired by then and not thinking fast. I looked up a California snake index and this one is pretty close to what it looked like. I coaxed it onto a long stick and took it to show Himself. We voted to put it into the backyard along with the leaves. I was hoping he’d grow up and eat a few gophers, but if he is a sharp tailed snake, Wikipedia tells me they stay pretty little and only eat insects and slugs.

Oh well. We can always use help getting rid of slugs.


Sharing some love for the NHS


There are a few common-sense thoughts here. Sometimes I really despair for our country. I’m afraid we will never do the right things because too many profit from the status quo.

Originally posted on Dr. Jen Gunter:

The most notable way the U.S. differs from other industrialized countries is the absence of universal health insurance coverage – Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, 2014 Update: How the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally, the Commonwealth Fund, executive summary

This summer I took my 11-year-old twins to England to visit family and we ended up in the emergency room on the first day. I was worried about the ER visit, not because of the cost but because in the United States we are constantly bombarded by politicians striking fear into our hearts about the National Health Service (NHS), so I imagined hours and hours of waiting and terrible care. (Keep in mind in the U.S. we needed the Supreme Court to rule that the government requiring health care coverage was constitutional, so it’s a little wonky here)

Our experience with the NHS was great. I spoke to family who…

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A Cooking Post: Meal Planning

We returned Wednesday night from a week in Oceanside taking care of business. We always combine these trips with some fun, for there are relatives to be seen. Thus, I spent a day with my daughter Mary, and her two kids, visiting the beautiful USD campus where Mary is working on an MBA, then ice skating by the beach. Um… no, I did not ice skate. Only been on them once or twice in my whole life and it’s always good for a laugh. I’d prefer no broken bones at my age, thank you. We also paid a visit for happy hour at the Patio, where my son-in-law tends bar. Yum!

Fun was also had with the in-laws, with lots of pizza and the awesome Taco Tuesday at a local Mexican grocery store. You can’t find good Mexican food up here in the East Bay. It’s one of the two things I miss about Tucson.

Well, so. As usual, I gained weight while there. Three pounds, just like last time. And I have to confess, I’m having a heck of a time sticking to the intermittent fasting routine. I really need a partner, which I guess points to a weakness of character. So be it.

This does not mean that I’m giving up. I’m just going to try a new routine. My new vegan lifestyle is based on the film and book over at Forks Over Knives. It would be best if I could combine this with the fasting, but FOK insists that I can lose weight on this diet. Of course, they make it sound practically magical – “just eat a plant-based, whole-grain diet and watch your weight drop. You don’t have to worry about calories.”

Pfft. I do so have to worry about calories. But it is true that this food is generally low-calorie. For instance, yesterday I ate this:

3/4 cup high-fiber hot cereal with 1 banana: 255 calories
1/2 cup sweet potato with  1 cup sauteed veggies: 127 calories
1 1/2 cups Soba Noddles with cabbage and shitake mushrooms: 175 calories
1/2 cup Amaranth Pudding (recipe below): 202 calories

This for a total of 759 calories and 8 grams of fat.

Did I weigh less this morning? Of course not. Himself is convinced that I need to fast, that the secret is avoiding food for 18 – 24 hours, even if the number of calories doesn’t change. I’m not sure about that, but I guess if I continue to NOT lose weight, it goes back on the table for consideration.

Now, I want to point out that all of this food is very filling. In fact, I probably could have skipped dinner, and certainly the dessert. I really wasn’t  much hungry. But I don’t want starve, nutrition-wise. Sheesh.

I want to try this for a while. I’ll keep calories below 800 a day (I know, I know), and see what happens. So I’ve planned a couple of vegan dinners, both with lots of leftovers. This should carry me through the week. One is the above-mentioned soba noodle/cabbage/shitakes, the other is a barley/spinach/green olives dish. My lunch vegetable (served over either sweet potato or white potato) is a mix of kale, carrots, scallions, with a sprinkle of sage because it’s autumn. The veggies are sauteed in a bit pineapple juice, or I could have used vegetable broth. One of the tenets of FOK is no added oil. In general, I plan to do that, but I’m not going to break my neck trying. Sometimes you just need a bit of olive oil, right?

Now, I will continue to run into the odd day off – dinner out with friends (next Tuesday), upcoming holidays, and such. Also, I’m sticking loosely with the no-alcohol rule. In the past four or five weeks I’ve had one glass of wine (Thanksgiving) one margarita (Taco Tuesday), and one cocktail (vodka/basil, I think – Happy Hour at Patio). That’s more than I plan to do in the long-run. I’m having trouble dealing with holidays and family visits. But you have no idea how many times I turned down a drink. Well, pretty much every other day of those four or five weeks. And I don’t really miss it like I thought I would.

I am craving a glass of Himself’s eggnog, though, which is neither vegan or alcohol free. I suspect I’ll have it at least once. But no coquito this year, Melani. Sorry!

Anyway, I promised you a recipe, One of my most difficult struggles (way worse than giving up alcohol) is giving up sugar. I seriously love sweet stuff. Even if I don’t serve dessert, I snack on dark chocolate or dig into the ice cream. I’ve been known to sneak these throughout the day. Yes, I hide it from Himself. That’s how bad I am.

This is why I made the amaranth pudding. I knew I’d be bad if I didn’t have something to fall back on. It’s probably a cosmic joke that I tried to make something healthy, but oh well. I was going to make brown rice pudding, but then ran across Consumer Reports’ article about arsenic in rice.  Dangerous levels there, especially in brown rice, since the outer kernal is not discarded. (That’s the healthy part, for you wimps that eat white rice).

I’m not a big eater of rice, but if I was going to have rice pudding every day, I knew that would be too much. So I went with amaranth instead. Amaranth is an ancient grain just gaining popularity in America. It’s loaded with protein and tastes awesome. Give it a try.

A note about soy: This recipe uses soy milk. Soy is something I usually try to keep to a minimum. It’s too full of estrogen and too much can be bad. This week I’ve used edamame AND soy milk, but most weeks I won’t have any soy. It’s just how I do it.

Here’s my recipe:


1 cup amaranth grain
3 cups soy milk, or other non-dairy milk
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt

Heat milk to just scalding. Mix in the molasses and stir to melt. Pour into a greased casserole dish and add the other ingredients. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Very easy and so good! I love molasses, but feel free to swap out honey or something else if you want. Also, play around with your own favorite spices. If I do this more often, I may see about making my own hemp milk for it. Hemp is about the only thing that makes sense to me as a milk substitute, but that’s whole different blog post.



Bidding battles for bug-finders – Contra Costa Times

Bidding battles for bug-finders – Contra Costa Times.

I read a lot of science fiction. Okay, you knew that already, but let me confess here that I don’t enjoy all that I read. For instance, I’m not big on a lot of violence and gore (hello, Peter Hamilton), and I don’t like books filled with despicable characters, but no characters with at least one or two redeeming features. I also don’t fancy stories that show a future with humanity living in poverty, at the mercy of organized crime and corrupt officials. Now, I’m not looking for pie-in-the-sky Disney-esque perfection – honest, I’m not. I do understand about human nature being selfish, lustful, crude, etc., but I also think that it’s funny, compassionate, and cooperative. I think we can build a good future.

Then I read something like this article and I despair. Right now, in our very own present time, the black market gets to set the price for our electronic security. Some (most?) hackers can be bought, and it’s the criminal elements who have the most money.

Being a science fiction geek, I like the idea of a future with computer assistants and galaxy-wide connection. But we may never get there, because the evil, selfish elements in our society will tear down everything we try to build. If we can’t figure out a way to be secure in the “cloud,” we’ll lose it. We’ll be forever separated from each other by distance and time.

I like this amazing new ability to be in contact with hundreds or thousands of people at once. I like knowing what’s happening to people halfway around the world and I like handling the “working part” of life (such as banking, education, shopping, etc.) online.

I’ll be sorry when it’s no longer possible.


Maybe it’s time to talk about ‘black on black’ crime? – Contra Costa Times

Here’s a breath of common sense:

Ninety percent of black murder victims are killed by black assailants.

But guess what? White people kill one another, too. Eighty-three percent of white victims are killed by white assailants.”

Maybe it’s time to talk about ‘black on black’ crime? – Contra Costa Times.

40% of women get unindicated antibiotics in GYN surgery


This is very important information. I’m thinking of my daughters and their friends, in particular.

Originally posted on Dr. Jen Gunter:

Preventing infection after surgery is very important as not only are these infections often uncomfortable and make you feel very sick, but they also increase the risk of more serious complications for example, if you are less mobile because of an infection after surgery you are at higher risk for a blood clot or if you need a prolonged hospitalization because of an infection in your surgical wound you are at risk of catching another infection while you are in the hospital. On average an infection related to surgery add four days of hospitalization. Some people will die either directly from the infection or indirectly (for example, from the second infection resistant to most antibiotics that they caught while re-admitted to the hospital with a wound infection). These infections are also costly, a single post operative infection ads on average $10,000 to the surgical price tag.

Antibiotics can help prevent…

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Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer’s Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing

I’ve always been a reader and I’ve always lost myself in the stories I read. Even as a child, it was easy for me to understand different sides of an argument or experience empathy for others. I’m certain my reading contributed to this.

Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer’s Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing.