All posts by marlenedotterer

Science Fiction and Fantasy writer

Engadget: I’m too out of shape for virtual reality

I was nodding along as I read this article. Despite my frequent long walks and 3-day-a-week gym habit, I am in pretty bad shape. My cardio routine is a joke and there’s a good reason for that. I absolutely hate exercise. There is no such thing as a runner’s high for me – it’s never happened and I don’t expect it to. I grouse my way through 90 minutes at the gym, doing the least I can get away with.

Nevertheless, I do love to move. Dance, for instance. Let me jump around to music and I’m happy. I sort of halfway like the rowing machine at the gym. It could just use a VR program to go with it so I have something to look at besides the blue wall 5 feet in front of me.

And wouldn’t that be cool, to have a VR program for the rowing machine? White water rafting, with no way to get wet or fall out of the raft. That’s my style!

So like Sean Buckley over an Engadget, I really want a solid VR experience in my life. It sounds fun – I can pretend I’m Katniss or Arwen or somebody. I would gladly get an hour workout that really works me out for a change. This goes on my birthday wish list, now, please.




You’ve Been Throwing Away The Best Part Of The Banana

Okay, who knew this and didn’t tell me?

I’ve found a few recipes for stir-fry, Indian-type dishes. Does anyone have other recipes? Except smoothies… not interested in smoothies. If I ever decide to make one, I’ll just throw in the whole banana. Minus the top and bottom stem, of course.

I may start experimenting. Baking whole bananas, perhaps? Banana peel jerky? What would happen if I blended the peel and added it with the softened banana in my waffle batter?

Talk to me!

So Many Recipes, So Little Time

I love food and I love to cook. Such is my lot in life. I’ve been on a recipe rampage lately. Everywhere I go on the web, I see lovely food porn videos and photographs, which feeds my addiction and leaves me wanting more. The irony is that since I’m trying to lose weight I can’t eat half of what I see. Maybe most of what I see.

Fruit, gourds, and wheat berries are a winner for me.

Recently, I signed up with as an online place to store recipes I want to try. It seems to work pretty well, letting me create a link to recipe on any site. I also store recipe links on Evernote, but in general, I’m trying to migrate everything over to Yummly.


And cookbooks! I’ve bought so many e-cookbooks over the last year that I can’t even remember what I have. That’s one of the drawbacks to e-readers – I have an ancient Kindle and the books all get lost in the list, and there’s no good way to search unless I remember the title or author. That’s doesn’t happen. I did find that the latest version of Kindle for PC will let me create collections so I’ve put all my cookbooks into one folder. That helps.

But here’s the thing. Between all my various programs, and all the websites I frequent, (not to mention the hard copies of cookbooks that I have, along with my file of recipes from my personal chef days), I have access to probably 10,000 recipes. That’s before I go to Google and type in something I’m looking for.

Yeast bread is always a challenge for me.
Soups and chilies are great for rainy winter nights.

This is ridiculous. There’s no way anyone needs 10,000 recipes. Plus, let me be honest. There’s often a lot of similarity in recipes. There are only so many variations for eggplant parmesan for instance, and most of those variations make very little difference in the final dish. I keep thinking that I should just settle on ten or twenty recipes that I like and cook those. I’m wasting half my life looking through recipes!

Except for the enjoyment I get from it, and the fun I have when I indulge my sense of adventure in the kitchen. Is that a waste?

I don’t know. I do know my addiction is no danger of being conquered. At best, maybe I’ll slow down a bit. I do have a few recipes I make more than once. For instance, yesterday I made this awesome Brussels sprouts salad, and today I’m making this more-than-hummus dish, which I may pair with the salad in a whole-wheat hamburger bun. Both of these are favorites.

I guess I’ll continue to be a food junkie. I’ll continue eating healthful food in small portions and keep trying to (mostly) resist the sweet stuff.

What about all of you? I know some of you have cooking blogs of your own and some of you hate to even enter the kitchen. You all have to eat. What’s your go-to style and favorite foods?

Australian scientists discover new treatment for pre-eclampsia

Here’s a bit of hopeful news. Malnutrition can be a cause of pre-eclampsia, and for years, doctors have said they just don’t know what causes it, but lately, studies have been focused on the placenta. There’s been real progress with this. I hope this treatment works.

Telling Stories

Here’s a fascinating bit of news about fairy tales. I love the possibility that our familiar tales are far older than we thought. I think that story-telling is as old as human intelligence. Our ancestors were probably telling stories even before language was fully developed, using gestures, sounds, and what words they had. The ancients used stories to teach proper behavior to their children, to explain the unknown (including creation myths), to entertain, and to unite the community.

This new discovery shows that some of those stories survived through many ages of human history and are still with us today. Red Riding Hood, Jack and Beanstalk, Rumpelstiltskin, and others started life many thousands of years ago, and incredibly, they started in more than one location. They evolved with the times of each period and place. Even after being written down, and then compiled by the Grimm Brothers, the stories continued to evolve. Our interpretations continue today. Most of us are familiar with the Mother Goose variations and certainly with Disney’s versions. But many, many fantasy authors have delved into these stories and created entire worlds around them.

I love stories that rewrite the old fairy tales and can almost always be hooked into reading a story that promises to be a retelling of one of them. I still love the TV series Once Upon a Time, despite Disney’s heavy and sometimes ridiculous hand in the story. (I’ll never forgive them for the walking broom).

What about you? Do you like retellings of fairy tales or do they piss you off? What stories get your attention? Do you like the idea that these stories were probably told 6,000 years ago?




Horizontal History on Wait But Why

If you’ve never seen a post by Tim Urban, you’re in for a treat. Pour a cuppa and enjoy. Then come back and read my ramblings on the subject and add yours in the comments.

The one thing I noticed, while looking at his lifespan chart, was that the older lifespans average about the same as the modern ones. We always think that everyone died really young back in the day. We think that because we’re always told that by everyone – sort of an urban myth expounded with pride in all that we’ve accomplished. But here’s the thing: back in the day, people who survived childhood tended to live what we’d consider a normal lifespan. At least into their sixties or so.

Then, as now, it made a big difference whether you were rich or poor, although even that is kind of tricky. For instance, throughout history, the rich folks get all the yummy food, while the poor were stuck with brown bread and beans. So the rich folks tended to be overweight and hounded by goiters, hemorrhoids, heart attacks and things like that, complicated by inactivity because they had servants do everything for them. The poor were much healthier with their diet of nutrition-dense, fiber-filled food. Assuming, of course, that they had enough food. Frequently they didn’t have enough, so they tended to die of malnutrition.

And everyone suffered a lack of modern science and healthcare, especially dental care. But people weren’t dropping dead at 25 or 30, as long as they had access to enough healthful calories and didn’t race chariots for a living.

Our modern science brought us better hygiene, knowledge of what actually causes disease, and sterile surgery, and this helps us survive accidents and illness that killed back in the day. But the biggest change is due to the fact that most of our children survive past age 1, and then past age 5. Now, as back then, living to age 5 pretty much meant you could live to 60. Our advantage is that most of us live past age 5 these days.

So anyway, that’s one of my take-aways from Tim Urban’s post. What’s yours?




Rant: The Pregnant Village

You’ve heard the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.” I take that a little further in this post. To start, here’s an interesting article about a recent discovery about the microbiome of the womb.

Word of warning: The article linked above is a short piece that makes no claims about anything. I’m just going off on a tangent in this post. It’s how my mind works.

Scientists are finding out that microbiomes exist in the developing fetus, which they previously thought was sterile until birth. To me, this is a case of science discovering what common sense already knew. I teach natural childbirth, a method that stresses the importance of good diet and lifestyle before birth, or even before conception. Mom’s health makes a big difference to baby’s health. Dad’s health does too, both for healthy sperm and a healthy home environment, but mom is the biggest contributor.

This idea has gone the full pendulum swing, from mom being completely responsible for the fetus’s intrauterine experiences (don’t smoke! don’t drink! don’t have any stress or fright!), to mom being no more than a container for a separate, sterile being.

Sadly, the first idea opens the door to societal restrictions on pregnant women, up to and including criminal charges for miscarriages or stillbirth. At the very least, it’s a good excuse for controlling women and keeping them from full participation in society, such as not hiring or promoting them for a great many jobs.

So here’s what I think.

Women, like men, have control of their own bodies. Like men, they must be responsible for what they do to, and with, their bodies. They decide whether to eat well or poorly, whether to smoke, drink, or take drugs. They decide whether or not to have sex, use birth control, or use protection from STDs. They make medical decisions about their bodies. Men make all these same choices.

Women have one or two further choices to make: whether or not to get pregnant, and if pregnant, whether or not to complete the pregnancy.

I truly believe this is the woman’s choice and that she must have safe, legal, and thorough access to all the information and medical care she needs to accomplish any of these choices. Most women in stable relationships will also take her partner’s wishes into account, but in the end, the choice is hers.

Here’s where it gets complicated, because pregnancy puts a woman in a unique position. She has agreed to lend her body to another human being for 40 or more weeks. I think that a woman who makes this choice must agree to accept the responsibility that goes with it. She must do all she can to be as healthy as she can be. This requires all the choices we all know about when we (male or female) consider our own health.

Mom’s Responsibility to Baby

  • We know that smoking is harmful, all the time under any circumstances. There is no case where this is harmless.
  • We know that drugs are harmful, even prescription drugs. Any drug the woman takes requires her to understand what it is for, it’s effect on the fetus, and understand whether or not the benefit is worth the risk. Some drugs are necessary for the mother’s health, so she must take them. She still needs to understand the effect on her unborn baby.
  • Recreational drugs are never necessary.
  • Alcohol is a recreational drug.
  • Too much sugar , as in “added sugar,” is harmful. “Too much” is a very small amount.
  • Preservatives, pesticides, and herbicides are harmful. Avoid them as much as possible.
  • Regular, moderate exercise is essential to good health.
  • Eat plenty of good and healthful food, drink plenty of water, and get plenty of rest.

Again, there is nothing here that is not good for all of us to follow in our own daily lives. It may be bothersome to give up wine for nine months, but it’s not really a big deal. Really.

I think of this as a contract between mother and fetus.

Is Miscarriage or Stillbirth a Felony?

Should any of this be criminalized if a woman makes poor choices? What about a meth addict? An alcoholic? What if a woman likes to skydive or drive race cars? What if she works with radioactive materials or travels constantly for her job? Gets a ticket for speeding?

Where should society draw the line between “not good, but okay,” and “this is a felony?” What should the consequences be? If a baby is born addicted to cocaine, should the mother be prosecuted? Should she be prosecuted during her pregnancy?

We have to be very careful. Already, some states have laws that penalize women for miscarriages. There are women serving time in prison right now, because they had a miscarriage.

Is there ever a case where that is right? Because I don’t think so.

We already have laws against the use of certain drugs. I do think a pregnant women who breaks these laws can and should be prosecuted to the same extent that a man is. But should she face additional charges because of the fetus? Child endangerment, perhaps? Feticide?

Because I believe women should act responsibly during pregnancy, I want to say yes. But I can’t. It’s too steep a slippery slope. It opens the door to complete patriarchal control over women’s bodies. We have too much of that still in place in our legal system and societal judgements, and as I mentioned above, it’s getting worse. We need to draw a thick, dark line in the sand and declare that women have personal control of their own bodies. Even if there is a fetus in it.

Chase is born
Grandson Chase. Our babies are precious. They deserve the best start in life we can give them.

We need a society that makes it easy for women to control their bodies. A society where all women of childbearing age have access to effective birth control. Where they have convenient access to health care, including safe, legal abortion. Indeed, abortion should be a standard option of care, provided by every OB/GYN in every hospital or doctor’s office. It shouldn’t be a “separate” treatment delegated to “special” clinics, which encourage shaming and secrecy, not to mention setting up patients and staff to be targets of terrorists.

We need a society where both women and men participate fully in all aspects, and at all levels of business, politics, the home, education, healthcare, sports, technology, and science. We need a society that honors reproduction and breastfeeding, and considers these to be natural and essential aspects of women’s lives, without reducing women’s participation in any part of society. We need a society that honors families and childrearing, that allows and expects the full participation of fathers as much as mothers in these endeavors.

In such a society, abortion would be nearly non-existent. Women in difficult situations such as poverty or addiction would have all the help they need, whether it’s to prevent pregnancy, end a pregnancy, or continue one with the medical and psychological assistance required to bring forth a healthy child.

Yes, as it turns out, the womb is not a separate, sterile ecosystem. The mother’s health, diet, environment, and activities affect the life growing in her womb. It’s a serious undertaking. Let’s build a society that supports it, instead of one that hinders it.

Blogging 101, aka, Back to School

Every New Year, WordPress sends out a report about how your blog did during the previous year. It’s always a lot of fun, with statistics like if everyone who read your blog got on a cable car, it would take 60 cable cars to hold them all. Really, it’s a hoot.

It’s always nice to know that I’m not just talking to myself over here. I know I tend to wander around like I’m lost in Topic Land, but I really am interested in a lot of things and I like the idea of throwing out an idea or a current issue, or something and see what happens with it.

More often than not, nothing happens. One or two people might “like” the post, and sometimes you dear regulars will say something, but in general I get back a big resounding NADA. Now, that’s not your fault. I know you’re busy. I read a LOT of blogs and I don’t leave comments very often myself.

But I do hope to have interesting conversations with my readers. Better yet, I’d like to see them having interesting conversations with each other in my comment section. It’s not happening and I’d like to learn how to fix it.

Hence: Blogging 101, an online course offered by WordPress to help lonely bloggers improve their presence. Everyday, we’ll get an assignment to do something with our blogs and somehow this will all coalesce into real wisdom. Or something like that.

Today’s assignment is to post what my blog is for, what I want to accomplish with it, and what its purpose is.

To wit:
My blog’s main purpose is to let the world know about my books and where they can purchased. I gotta make a living you know.

Visitors to my blog can learn pretty quickly about my books. They’re all right there on the first page. But I want you to stay and chat. So I talk about a lot of other things. They are things I’m interested in, because it is MY blog after all.

So on my blog, we’ll talk about, in no particular order of importance and certainly not limited to only these topics:

Pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding
Raising kids
Travel (especially my travels)
Holistic Living
And oh yeah, writing, publishing, and when am I gonna finally finish another book????

What I want to see happening this year on my blog: conversations with my readers.

So go ahead. Drop me a line.