All posts by marlenedotterer

Science Fiction and Fantasy writer

The Foundation of Gender Inequality

This article is so perfect, you must go read it right now. It’s NYT, so if you don’t subscribe you might not have access, but I encourage you to try. The title is interesting: “The Men Who Want to Live Forever.” But those men (billionaires, of course) are just an excuse for author Dara Horn to zero in on the bottom line for gender inequality: throughout human existence, women have been almost exclusively responsible for the care, feeding, and comfort of other human beings.

Men have not.

More than any of the millions of words written about patriarchy, sexual harassment, glass ceilings, or male-posturing-resulting-in-war-greed-destruction, this essay brings the point forward in an easy to understand way. Men feel free to do all these things because they (as a gender) have never developed the empathy that comes from the day-to-day caring of vulnerable humans.

I am not saying that all women have empathy, or that they all enjoy caring for other people, or even that all women are good at it. I am not saying that is what women should be doing, exclusive of all else.

I am not saying that all men have no empathy, or that no men ever physically care for someone else. My own son is a nurse – thus I have positive proof that men can be caregivers.

But let’s first acknowledge that male dominance is the Way of Life on this planet, and has been for most or all of human history. Let’s acknowledge that the rules, religions, and laws of human history have been made by men, and for the benefit of men. They exist to protect and ensure the dominance of men.

Let’s acknowledge that through all of our species’ history, very few men spent time in the physical care of other human beings. This is their handicap. This denied them to opportunity to develop deep empathy. As Ms. Horn points out, caring for someone else forces the caregiver to see the world from someone else’s point of view. What does this person need?

And then, one more step beyond figuring out what the other person needs: the caregiver must then fulfill that need.

Oh my gosh, if more men – if all men  – spent their lives sharing equally in the care of vulnerable human beings – children, the elderly, the ill, the injured – I believe we would see the end of patriarchy. Men and women would be partners in the existence of the human species, and in the societies we build.

Because this is the core of life. Not power. Not money. Not dominance.

Caring.

Those rich and powerful men who want to live forever? Let’s see them spend all their years in the care of others. To actually be responsible for the humans around them.

To quote Captain Kirk: “Above all else, a god needs empathy.”

Let’s fix this.

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Ursula K. Le Guin. Go in Peace.

Ursula K. Le Guin

 “The speaking of her name and of her words goes on, and will go on, today and tomorrow and for a very long time now. As it should. She was the mother of so many of us, and you should take time to mourn your mother.”

-John Scalzi

 Like so many others, I felt a true loss upon learning of Ursula K. Le Guin’s death. And I feel a strong pull to “speak of her name and of her words.” I’m not a famous writer. I never met Ms. Le Guin, so I have no special stories to share. I only want to speak her name and talk for a minute about her words.

I first read her words when I was too young to truly understand them. Perhaps junior high or early high school. But while I missed much of the depth of her wonderful stories, I did appreciate them. Not just the poetry of them, though that wonder was there. No, what I felt in those words was power and recognition.

Her power was that of a mother, as John Scalzi so appropriately said. Here was a woman writing about nurture and honesty and respect. She wrote stories that fed us and opened us and shamed us. She showed us how to be True People, and she did it in the firmest, gentlest way. She was not a mother you could ignore, or talk back to, or argue with. She spoke with the authority of wisdom.

She was one of the first female writers I read who did that.

And I recognized myself in her words. Her stories were worlds I knew in my soul. I never knew her, and she certainly never knew me, but we were kindred spirits. Her worlds showed me how we could live honest lives, and that it was possible for a society to respect the Earth.

More recently, her words – in countless blog posts and articles – often gave me hope as she wrote about the nightmares of our world today. She had a way of laying a perspective on things we couldn’t control. If she was angry, she said so. If she despaired, she showed us why. If she had a solution, she described it. She reminded us that women were strong and good, and that we had a job to do in this world. She insisted that men were good, too, but not better than women. Equal. She never lost sight of the fact that we are all in this together.

And she never gave up on us.

I will miss her.

 

 

 

Relaxis Report: Meh

I’m sad to say the Relaxis pad is probably not going to work for me. The few early successes I had never translated into dependable use. Most often, the RLS symptoms were not alleviated, and occasionally, they got worse. It worked SOMETIMES, but the not-working times were hard on me. I lost even more sleep trying to find a vibration setting that would do something, and often couldn’t fall back asleep at all. I don’t need ANOTHER thing keeping me awake at night. I can do that all on my own, thanks.

I decided not to use it at all over the Thanksgiving weekend. I hosted the Thursday meal with friends, then had a houseful of kids and adorable grandkids (happy about that!) Friday – Sunday. I needed to sleep! So I went back to the pills to get through the nights. Boo – hiss, yes. But it worked and in the end, that’s what matters.

I want to do one more experiment in the car. We have a round-trip to and from Sacramento in a couple of weeks. That will be the big test. I don’t have a lot of hope, but I’d hate to send the thing back and wonder forever if it might have helped with travel.

Throughout all this, the company rep has been in touch with me and he’s continued to offer suggestions. He has also stretched my trial period to the end of December, so I can do the car trip. It’s possible (he says) that the pad will help in the car or plane even if it doesn’t work at night in bed.

I don’t think he really has a lot of hope either, though.

Remember when I first got the pad and we did the high-vibration test to see if I was averse to vibration? The test I passed quite easily? Well… it was a fluke or something, because the more I used the pad, the more I grew to hate the vibration. Almost to the point of nausea, especially because I was afraid it would make the symptoms worse. The last time I tried to use the pad, I turned it off after just a few minutes and kicked it to the floor. Then I took a half-pill.

So it seems I’m stuck with the medication. I’ll keep doing everything I can to reduce symptoms: timing and quantity of meals and alcohol, yoga, leg stretches, etc. But if I need extra meds to get through a car or plane trip, I’m taking them.

Life is short and I have things to do.

 

Net Neutrality or Just Slow. What are the Solutions?

We’ve had major internet problems for months. We’re in the middle of the San Francisco Bay Area, suburban, but surrounded on all sides by around 500,000 people. We’ve been Comcast customers for years.

Nearly everyday, we either lose internet completely – several times a day – or it’s so slow, our routine is to click on a web page and go do something else. Often, the page never comes up all the way. Or we get messages saying the website is unsafe, or doesn’t appear to be working, or nonsense like that. You’d think it was still 1998 or something.

Comcast helpfully sends out technicians who look at wires outside and pass the problem up the chain to different technicians. We are constantly assured that the problem will be fixed soon. We’ll have a few days of good connection, then ho-hum, back to slowville.

What to do? I’m not sure AT&T would be any better, and I don’t know of any other options around here. So this article got my eye.

At the moment, we supposedly have net neutrality, but you’d never know it if you lived in our house. We have few options and no voice in the service we get. And if net neutrality does go away, we lose big time. So a local co-op sounds like an interesting idea. But I don’t know how it would work, especially around here. Wouldn’t the co-op have to use Comcast’s or AT&T’s infrastructure? How independent would it really be?

Does anyone know about this? What other options are there for us?

Where Comes the National Anthem?

Brent Staples writes a perspective in the New York Times that offers information the average American probably doesn’t know about our national anthem. Maybe you knew already about “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and its history and reason for existence. I’ve never heard of it.

Most of us know at least a little about “The Star-Spangled Banner,” how Francis Scott Key wrote it after seeing the flag still waving over the fort after a bitter battle. Stirs the soul, yes.

Most of us know Key was a slave-owner. In general, I’m willing to allow historical figures their triumphs even if they held views we now consider vile. “Men of their time” and that kind of thing, but I add the caveat that there were a LOT of other men (and women) of “that time” who understood those views were wrong. So no one gets a complete pass in my book. But I only recently found out about the despicable third verse of Key’s song:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave…

This is probably a reference to the slaves who fought with the British in return for the promise of freedom, assuming the British won the war. I can practically see Key’s as an incarnation of Emperor Palpatine, licking his lips and rubbing his hands in gleeful disdain as he cackles over the cowering humans he owns. “You lost and you are doomed forever! Ha!”

So maybe we should not have used that song as a national anthem. Can’t we be better than that?

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” is better – you can read the lyrics here – although it’s still  not perfect IMO. Personally, I don’t think we can have an anthem that does not acknowledge and honor the native people we slaughtered as we stole their land from them. But the history of this song is a clear tribute to real freedom because that freedom applies to all Americans.

Which is the whole darn point.

Matter, Mass, Reality. Hope You Like Onions

Here’s a link for you: http://nautil.us/issue/54/the-unspoken/physics-has-demoted-mass.

I can’t say that I actually understood it all, but it was fun to read. Matter matters, of course, but energy is the heart of the matter.

So to speak.

Read the comments, too. There are some good observations by people smarter than me.

 

American Women Die in Childbirth

As a natural childbirth teacher and doula, I know all this already. But this article in Quartz is a credible and accurate summation of the seriousness of America’s problem.

This post is not intended as a scare tactic for women. I simply want to point out that it’s a serious issue that has not been exposed enough.

I’m going give you one quote from the article, that says all the important points beautifully:

Jennie Joseph, a British-trained nurse midwife who has been practicing in the US for the past 26 years and runs Commonsense Childbirth, a birth center which offers midwifery prenatal care in Orlando, Florida, sums it all up effectively: “It’s racism, it’s classism, it’s sexism: All of these things are at play and […] the intersection with capitalism and power,” she told Quartz. “[Women] are dying of a system that’s broken.”  (I added the bold).

Americans – especially American politicians, along with the religious right – want a country where women have no access to birth control, no access to abortion, no access to adequate pre-natal care and even less access to post-partum care, no societal support in the form of visiting nurses, doulas, lactation consultants, no help in raising the children they give birth to, and NO RIGHT TO COMPLAIN ABOUT ANY OF IT.

Women are not heard in American medicine. This is a real and known problem. Reproduction is just one part of it, but it’s a huge part. Please read the article.

 

 

Update on Relaxis

I have a few more days (or nights) of data, some good, some bad. In general, I think the pad is working, but I’m still a long way from having it perfected.

One of the exceptional things the Relaxis company does is that a representative stays in touch for the trial period. Carl has called me twice since I got the pad (six days ago) and will call again today or tomorrow. These calls are useful. I can explain what’s been happening and he can offer suggestions for improvement or assurances that things are going as they should.

A drawback to this is that he may give advice based on not enough data. For instance, on our second call, after I’d tried the pad for two nights, I mentioned that the pad had reduced my symptoms but that I could still feel them a little. He suggested I try higher settings to see if that worked better, reminding me that I need to experiment with the settings to see what my response is.

That night’s slightly higher setting helped a little more and the next night (Saturday) I tried a little higher to see if it would help more. Umm… no.  Using the higher setting gave me my worst night in a long time. It made everything worse. It was so bad, I was moaning. The nerve sensations reminded me of labor contractions, which I know how to handle. I had five kids without drugs and taught natural childbirth to others. I thought if I handled the RL waves like contractions, maybe I could get through them. But these waves were wildly intense. They only lasted about 4 seconds, but the next one started about 3 seconds after the previous one ended. With labor, at least you know the contractions are doing an important job, and it will all end once the baby is born. But this… there was no point and no end in sight, so in desperation, I took another full dose of Sinemet, then stood up for 30 minutes before going back to bed. I did not use the pad at that point, and happily, the medicine did the trick. I fell asleep around 4:00 and slept until 7:30.

So last night, I put the setting back to a lower level. No pills, just one episode of RL, and the pad made it go away almost immediately. But I never fell back asleep. I’ve been awake since 2:00.

That’s not unusual, although I’m never happy when it happens. That’s typical insomnia – adrenaline and hyper thoughts making me wide awake and ready to fight. But here I have a suspicion: that last night’s episode was caused by – or made worse by – the vibrations. I think this because in addition to the usual adrenaline, my whole body felt vaguely… tingly. Like the nerves were reacting to an electrical field or something. Or maybe that they were still vibrating slightly as an after-effect of the session with the pad.

I will discuss this with Carl when he calls, either today or tomorrow. I hope it’s tomorrow because I’d like to see if it happens again tonight. I’m kind of afraid that this reaction is a game-ender – the kind of side effect that means I can’t use the pad. I hope not, because as I said, I think the pad is working.

We still haven’t tried it for travel and I really want to see if it helps with that. We’re going to my daughter’s in San Jose on Saturday, and that will be our big experiment. Even if the pad helps only with car trips, it’s worth the price. Even better if it helps with plane trips. We won’t be flying for the rest of year, so I won’t have a chance to try that yet.

The experiment continues….

RL Hope… Maybe

So sorry to keep you all in suspense for two days! I’ve used the new pad for two nights now. That’s not enough time yet to know if it’s going to work or not, but here’s how it’s gone so far.

Night 1: I used the pad once at about 12:30, on almost the lowest setting. The pad will vibrate for 35 minutes, then turn itself off. I turned it off after about 20 minutes, as my legs seemed to have calmed down and the vibration was… well, not a problem really. I just wasn’t used to it and it was keeping me from falling deeply asleep. I was sleeping lightly, and really, that’s better than what I’d be doing without the pad. But once I turned it off, my legs stayed calm and I went back to sleep until about 4:00. At that point, I felt wide awake. No restless legs, but I wasn’t able to go back to sleep. I got up at 5:00.

This is pretty typical for me.

But the interesting thing was that I didn’t take any extra medication during the night. I usually take one full Sinemet before bed and have one more pill, cut in half, ready to take as needed during the night. I didn’t take either half pill. THAT was an amazing thing.

Last night was not as good. I had one episode at 12:30 (that seems to be normal – I guess the bedtime medicine wears off about then). I took one of the half pills, then used the pad for the full 35 minutes. I’m getting used to the vibration and managed to go to sleep before it turned off. I woke again around 3:30 with restless legs and tried the pad again without taking the other pill. I think the pad helped, but I could feel light sensations in my leg the whole 35 minutes. But when the pad went it off, my leg was calmer and I could lay still. I couldn’t get back to sleep though, and got up about 4:45.

Maybe if I’d taken the second half pill, the pad would have worked better and I could have gone back to sleep. Or maybe not. There are lots of times when I’ll take a Sinemet around that time and while it might calm my legs down, I still don’t get back to sleep.

So the jury is still hearing evidence. I was told that it will take time for the pad to reach its full potential with my body. Two nights is not enough time for real results, so I’ll be patient.

I think I should continue to take medicine as needed. That’s what Carl, the company representative, said I should do for a few weeks. Perhaps the pad will make the medicine work faster, and maybe help the effects last longer. That’s something to work toward. My tendency is to always want to stop taking medication as soon as possible, so I have to keep the goal in mind. Keep taking the meds if I have a problem at night, use the pad, give my body time to adjust. Maybe eventually, I can reduce the meds. But don’t rush it…

I guess this means I have to be patient. Darn!

 

 

Cautious Hope

Wow, am I excited. It’s here! See?

20171031_122936.jpgAnd what, you ask, is that? And are you excited or cautiously hopeful? Make up your mind.

You sound a bit put out. Hush now, I’ll explain.

This… thing… is a Relaxis Pad. FedEx delivered it today, after a day or two of delivery snafus or delays. I was beside myself wondering when it would get here.

Hold on, I’m telling you.

Relaxis is supposed to alleviate restless legs. Now, I absolutely know that there are no guarantees. It might not do a thing for me. But we had a trial run and I’m… cautiously hopeful.

 

 

20171031_123207.jpg

 

 

 

 

Please work. Please, please, please, please….

 

 

Here’s the long story: I’ve had RL for twenty years. The lost sleep cannot even be calculated. The agony, as it has worsened over the last few years, has driven me nearly insane. I hate taking medication, but  I’m never without my Sinemet, no matter where I go. I take that stuff like it’s my True Promise of Everlasting Life.

So recently I was taking a Sleep Improvement Class. I have other sleep issues besides RL, but the RL dictates everything about my behavior and success, or lack of it. And last week, at the last class, the instructor mentioned she’d found out about this thing that might help.

It’s the only non-drug treatment for RL that’s approved by the FDA. It’s only available by prescription. And it costs a fortune, but there’s a 30-day return guarantee if it doesn’t work for you.

Call me skeptical, yes. But I’m not going to pass up a chance. So I asked my doctor about it and she asked the neurologist, who said he’d heard of it but didn’t have much knowledge, but he didn’t think it would hurt to try. So I picked up a paper prescription, took a picture of it, and emailed it, along with an order form, to the company making the things.

http://myrelaxis.com/

Then waited at the extreme edge of impatience for the thing to get here.

Which it DID, today.

The deal is, once it arrives, the patient unpacks it and gets on the phone with a company representative. “Carl” was professional and helpful. He had me sit on the pad and turn it on, then talked me through the controls. It’s not difficult or confusing, but he had some tips, then had me increase the vibrations until it was pretty high. While I sat with the thing grandly shaking, he talked about hard-of-hearing patients liking the high setting because then they could hear it. Then he had me turn it down.

This was a test.

He explained that some people can’t handle vibrations and this time at the high speed nearly always brings that into the open. These people almost never succeed with the Relaxis and they have to return it.

But I passed.

Which means I get to try it out for the next few weeks, experimenting with settings and circumstances to see if will stop the symptoms. I’m not sure what it’s actually doing that a normal vibrating pad doesn’t do – I’ll ask that on Friday when I talk to Carl again. But the idea (I think) is that the frequencies used actually trick the brain into thinking the legs are moving. It therefore stops sending insane signals to the nerves.

The best, best, best part? We got the portable version with a battery. It travels. I was seriously this close to never going to visit my kids again because car rides and plane trips have become pure torture. There is only so much Sinemet one person can take, after all. So my cautious hope is underlain with a solid thread of please work excitement. Please, let me have my life back.

I will report, probably more than you want to hear. Tonight is the First Night.

Let’s do it!