August 23

The Dangers of Dating a Rebound Vampire by Molly Harper: A ramble

For those who don’t know my rambles are kind of like conversations with myself (and you as a non-participating listener) about a particular book.

Molly Harper is a local writer. She writes funny paranormal romance. I first picked up her book How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf when it was offered to me for review because of the paranormal and local author factors. I usually get pretty bored with typical romances, even paranormal ones, so I don’t take them for review as often as other genres.

Since then I’ve almost always checked the bookstore sections for her name and grabbed anything new that I found. Especially lately, with so very much going on in my personal life I’ve found a lot of solace in distracting fiction like fantasy rather than my normal emo stuff. I really enjoy Harper’s books and they always give me a nice break from real life angst when I need it.

Let me put this out there, I liked this book. So why do I need to ramble about it? Because something in it struck a chord.

First while most of Harper’s books feature a lot of snark and pop cultural references, this one is a little more serious. Gigi (the main character) is almost out of college and is interning with the Vampire Council on a computer programming position over the summer in the hopes of landing a permanent job with them. She has grown up surrounded by vampires who have protected her. She has been raised by an older sister who gave up her college career to take care of Gigi and make everything possible for her. She has been raised in every way to be a strong woman, surrounded by strong women and men who strengthen women and working in a field where often strong women aren’t accepted, but she totally has a good base with which to fight for her right to be there.

Furthermore she knows her electric lust for a mysterious vampire is completely unrealistic. She knows her actions are dangerous and downright stupid. But she is a true believer and is willing to take risks and deal with the consequences if she fails. Maybe she’ll bitch about it (a lot), but she really whole-heartedly goes for the “Shoot for the moon” thing. I could see how some readers might find that kind of lead annoying or hard to sympathize with. But I thought it was charming.  It’s hard to go full force into life, but we should demand better of ourselves and those around us. Gigi does this.

Demanding that fullness in romance is what leads to her breaking up with her perfectly nice but not knee-melting boyfriend. She has a little guilt over that because its not like he was bad to her or anything. The relationship wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what she wanted. Yeah, I get that. Women are often thought of as silly for passing up a perfectly decent partner for someone who they are really really attracted to. The subtext of woman who breaks up with nice guy is a bitch who needs an abusive guy is ever present. Sometimes it’s true. Sometimes a girl (or a guy) has an attraction to people who treat them badly. But that’s something one has to learn/confront/work on themselves for. No amount of “Nice guy” partner can “support” that out of a woman unless she is working on it herself.

And speaking of “Nice Guy” Gigi runs into a Nice Guy. The exact kind of Nice Guy who, as memes say, expects that if he puts enough kindness coins into her sex will pop out. And despite her being a strong woman who knows what she wants (and who she wants) and even knows that this is a Nice Guy and he is being manipulative STILL struggles with “being nice” herself. Because just like she felt bad for breaking up with sweet but boring ex-boyfriend she wants to rebuff Guy-she-has-no-interest-in without causing him emotional damage. She takes pains to not be Friendzoning-bitch even though she has not led this guy on at all, he is very inappropriate with her and eventually even gets her killed. (Censored for spoilers.)

That is not a struggle I expected to find in a “funny paranormal romance”. So, Ms. Harper, you have disarmed me. Somehow I really liked this character, and this book. I wanted to be Gigi, with her passionate, supportive family and her blisteringly hot love. But I also was totally surprised that this confident, amazing, so capable woman who could very likely bring the world to its knees with her drive, also fumbled with trying to not be a bitch and trying to assure herself that yes, Mr. Nice Guy’s action were inappropriate and it was okay to defend herself. And that she under-defended herself.

Maybe it’s just because it ties in really well with some of the private issues going on in my life right now. I, too, want to make the people around me happier, want to pull my weight and accomplish Great Things (like first drafts and clean houses and fun birthday parties). At work I want to know I have improved the day of my coworkers and my clients. Even if, as sadly happens, I cannot help fix a sick patient, I want to give their family the closure and dignity of knowing their loved pet passed peacefully and is no longer in pain. I’m a little pushy, trying to learn many things about positions I wasn’t hired for because frankly if I’m done with my work and someone else is swamped I want to be able to help, not just sit there and say “Well my job is done and I don’t know that computer stuff, so sorry I can’t help you.”

And sometimes that bites me in the ass. Sometimes your best isn’t someone else’s best. Sometimes people get pissy because your priorities aren’t theirs. Sometimes it’s just hard to balance.

And I don’t want to have family members and coworkers and friends pissed at me because I didn’t do X because I was doing Y instead, which isn’t a necessity, but is still something I feel needed to be done. I hate confrontation and I hate it when I disappoint people and then…and then…

Then I realize how very much some people have manipulated that about me. I realize how much I have been asked to put my needs aside, to tolerate shitty behavior, to not be me so that they can be more important, or more right, just just more in control over me. Nice Guy isn’t just a romantic thing. Other people “Nice Guy” and “More Experienced Than You” people all the time. And when you want to be a team player it is really, really hard to step out and demand something for yourself.

I really, really, REALLY relate to Gigi. On one hand that makes me happy because I admire her too.

The other night I remember having anxiety dreams. I have them a lot, they tend to be the same sort of things (house never cleaned, I’m trying to leave a place and keep finding stuff I need to pack, people are abandoning me, etc). I also remember waking up growling and snapping at them. Or trying to. Maybe this book struck a nerve with me because like Gigi, I’ve been put in a position where I’m trying not to be a mean bitch, I;m trying not to hurt feelings, but it costing me to do so.

Maybe like Gigi it’s time for me to start showing a little more fang.

So that’s my rambly, completely and totally way too personal review.

 

 

July 19

What’s next?

Currently I have been:

-Formatting Wolf Heart for a print release and doing yet another edit

-Finishing up the first draft of the sequel, Wild Heart

-Editing a side novella set in the same world titled Savage Heart (the first of a trilogy of novellas)

Plus there’s the day job, school being out for summer, the DH switching jobs, some depression battling on both of our parts, a puppy, and  an extra child (for three weeks at least). I’m sure there’s been more. But hey, there has been progress. To prove it, here is the cover of Savage Heart starring Isis Montoya, a werehyena princess who wants to be a rock star.

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July 14

The Real Toxins All Around Us

This is Polio. It mainly affects CHILDREN under the age of 5. There is no cure. As recently as 1988 there were 350,000 that’s THOUSAND cases a year. 5 to 10% of people with polio die. IT KILLS people, CHILDREN by paralyzing them. Suffocating them. Causing their organs to slowly stop working. Some countries still see hundreds of cases a year. Since the US began using an higher potency vaccine in 1987 cases in our country have dropped OVER 99%. Hundreds of thousands of people are alive and NOT malformed because of the vaccine. Thanks to the Polio vaccine The Americas were declared Polio free in 1994, in 36 (that’s THIRTY-SIX) Western Pacific countries (China, Australia, etc) in 2000, in all of Europe in 2002, and in India as of 2014.

Polio is not a disease to fuck around with. Vaccines are not some government conspiracy to sterilize or control the populace.

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This Diphtheria. It is caused by a bacteria which releases toxins into the areas infected. In 1980 there were an estimated 100,000 cases. In 2013 it resulted in an estimated 3,300 DEATHS (down from 8,000 in 1990.) It is airborne. It kills 5 to 10% of the people it infects and was first described by doctors in the 5th century BCE. It causes coughing, swelling, blockage of breathing, lesions, cardiac arrhythmia, paralysis, heart failure and death. It can travel through the blood and infect other organs as well. 40-50% of people who are not treated will die.

Earlier this year a 6 year old boy who had not been vaccinated died from Diphtheria.

The diphtheria vaccine has led to a 90% reduction in cases globally.

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This is Pertussis, aka whopping cough. It is HIGHLY infectious. It can cause people to cough so hard that they vomit, break ribs and become exhausted just from the coughing. Children under 1 very often don’t cough, they just stop breathing. The disease was first described in the 16th century. It kills an estimated 2% of the babies (children under one) it infects. In 2013 it killed an estimated 61,000 people, almost all were children and most were under the age of THREE MONTHS. The CDC reports that it saw an 18% INCREASE in pertussis infections in 2014. In 2012 Pertussis was acknowledge to be at epidemic levels in 3 US states, despite the vaccine having been available since 1940, and studies available showing it is actually more effective against more severe strains of Pertussis.

 

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And here’s a first hand account of Pertussis.

This is Measles. It is a highly infectious airborne disease. Nine out of ten unprotected people who are exposed to measles will contract it. While it’s mostly annoying its complications can include pneumonia, bronchitis, corneal ulceration, and brain inflammation. In the 1920s the death rate for those infected was 30%. Today in countries or areas with malnutrition or poor health care (issues which do affect 1% of US citizens) the death rate is 28%. As recently as 2013 Measles was the most easily prevented cause of death on the planet. Measles deaths were reduced by 78% in UN countries with vaccine plans. In 2006 there were 66 reported cases of measles in the Americas. In 2014 there were 3,100 cases of measles reported in the Americas. In 2015 the US saw its first death from Measles since 2003.

Here is the personal account from author Roald Dahl, whose oldest daughter died of measles in 1962.

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This is Mumps, a viral disease that causes painful swelling of the parotid glands. Complications include pancreatitis, infection of the brain covering, permanent deafness, and painful swelling of the testicles which can cause sterility. Mumps is highly infectious and is spread by contact or respiratory droplets (snots, spit, etc). There is no blanket treatment for mumps. The vaccination has led to a 90% decrease in mumps cases. Before vaccinations were widely available there would be outbreaks every 5 or so years. Mumps has been described by doctors as far back as the 5th century BCE. Two doses of the vaccine are enough to give a person a life long immunity. In 2012 the CDC reported 229 cases of mumps in the US. In 2013 there were 1,151 cases of mumps in the US.

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This is Rubella, or the German measles. It is usually mild, with complications including bleeding problems, testicular swelling and inflammation of the nerves. However if a woman contracts rubella early in her pregnancy she risks miscarriage, stillborn, or the baby being born with congenital rubella syndrome. The prognosis for infants with CRS is poor and issues include eye problems (including cataracts), ear problems (including deafness), heart and brain problems. While rubella is considered eradicated in the US there are still 100,000 cases of CRS each year elsewhere.

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This is Varicella, aka chicken pox. An airborne virus known mostly for causing an annoying itchy rash, it can also cause pneumonia, inflammation of the brain and bacterial skin infections. Before immunizations the number of varicella cases per year was close to the number of people born per year. The varicella vaccine, like many others, protects better against the more severe strains. One in 60,000 cases results in death, with 7,000 deaths reported in 2013. Infections in pregnant women can spread to the placenta and fetus resulting in skin disorders, brain damage, eye damage, neurological damage, severely underdeveloped toes and feet as well as bladder, anal and sphincter deformities. Varicella can also be lethal to adults with immunosupressive diseases, such as cancer and HIV.

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This is Hepatitis B, a disease spread though infected bodily fluids that affects the liver. Many people have mild or no symptoms at first. HepB can lead to a chronic infection which can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer. 15-25% of people who develop chronic HepB die of these complications. And estimated 240 to 320 MILLION people suffer from chronic HepB infections. Of these 750,000 die each year. Of those 300,000 are from liver cancer.

This is how my mother died in 1989. I was 9.

HepB has been preventable by vaccine since 1982. It became part of routine childhood vaccination recommendations in 1991. The HepB vaccination is most effective in children, offering 95% of children immunized protection.

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Vaccines are chemical warfare AGAINST the microscopic things trying to kill us. They are our shield against diseases which do not fuck around. They are not government conspiracies to sterilize or control or sicken us. They are the hard work of a hundred years of scientists trying to protect, mostly children, from an early painful death.

It’s really easy these days to fall for the anti-vax theories because when is the last time you saw someone with a disease like this? Chances are you haven’t, ever, in your life. It’s easy to think of chicken pox as that itchy thing you had when your were a kid, or polio as something that happened back when pictures were still black and white. But they aren’t.

If you are looking for something small and mysterious that is harming and even killing people, something “toxic” some might say, then look to the viruses and bacteria that are and have been trying to eat us and kill us throughout the entire history of our race.

 

 

 

June 12

#DistractinglySexy

Context. Nobel Prize winner Tim Hunt said in a speech that when women are in labs:

“Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.”

So female scientists took to Twitter to post pictures of themselves being too sexy to science.

Personally I find taking a break from cleaning up dog pee, poo, vomit and blood and sweating like a horse because the ac is out to don a lead apron entirely too sexy for science work. It’s a wonder why my coworkers didn’t jump me right there on the table. The dog with the broken leg must have been in the way.

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ETA: This is a most excellent take.

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May 26

Personal Narrative

I’m going to hide this post behind a cut because I plan to talk frankly about my past abuse and the fall out thereof. I haven’t talked about this in a while, and I believe that talking is vital to the support of other people out there who might be struggling with the same. However I also don’t want this to just be a recovery blog, nor do I want to thrust any “Surprise Bad Feelings” on anyone.

Continue reading

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May 19

Evacuation Packs for Pets

Preparing for emergency situations is becoming a bit of a passion of mine, especially when it comes to pets, who are very often not prepared for. I’m lucky enough to be part of a community of veternary professionals and one of them was nice enough to allow me to publish this. -M

Guest Blog by Jodi Berls

It  was  2008,  and  Hurricane  Ike  had  just  taken  a  chunk  out  of  our  roof.    We  had  water   damage  to  our  home,  no  power,  and  no  way  to  get  in  supplies.    My  husband  and  I   had  to  make  a  quick  decision  –  stay  in  the  house  and  make  the  best  of  the  situation,   or  hit  the  road  with  our  dog,  cat  and  parrot.

Traveling  with  animals  often  is  an  adventure,  and  it  can  be  even  more  of  a  challenge   if  one  or  more  of  your  pets  is  a  bird  or  exotic  animal.    After  my  experience  with   Hurricane  Ike,  I  became  a  real  advocate  of  getting  ready  in  advance.    I’ve  made   “evacuation  packs”  for  my  animals  every  year  as  hurricane  season  approaches,  and   as  our  home  menagerie  has  grown  to  include  two  more  parrots  and  two  pet  rats,  my   collection  of  packs  has  grown  in  number,  too.

This  process  doesn’t  have  to  be  expensive.    I  use  kids’  school  backpacks  that  I  picked   up  at  Walgreen’s  for  less  than  $10.  Most  of  the  contents  of  the  packs  are  items  I   already  had  in  the  cupboards  –  food,  cat  litter,  extra  bird  toys,  treats,  etc.    Each  pet   has  his/her  own  pack,  labeled  with  his/her  name  and  contact  information  for  my   husband  and  I,  plus  a  utility  pack  that  contains  general  supplies  like  paper  towels,   plastic  bags,  pet  medical  records  and  the  first  aid  kit.  Now  that  I’ve  done  the  hard   part  –  thinking  it  through  –  all  I  have  to  do  is  replace  anything  that  may  have  gone   out  of  date  and  store  the  bags  in  case  of  emergency.

So  let  me  explain  that  process  of  thinking  it  through,  because  that’s  the  real  heart  of   the  matter.    It  basically  involves  asking  yourself  three  questions:

First,  where  are  you  going?    Regulations  on  exotic  pets  can  vary  greatly  from  one   place  to  another.    Some  birds  and  reptiles  can’t  be  transported  across  state  lines;   your  ferret  may  not  be  required  to  have  a  rabies  vaccination  where  you  live,  but  that   may  not  be  the  case  at  your  destination.  Make  sure  your  pet  will  be  welcome,  or  at   least  tolerated,  when  you  get  where  you’re  going.

Second,  how  will  you  transport  your  pet?    For  purposes  of  this  discussion,  I’m   assuming  you’re  driving,  which  means  you  need  a  safe,  appropriate  carrier  for  your   pet.    Please  don’t  let  this  wait  until  the  last  minute  –  makeshift  carriers  like   pillowcases  or  laundry  baskets  won’t  provide  your  pet  with  the  security  and   comfort  you  want  for  him.  Ideally  you  want  to  obtain  your  carrier  far  enough  in   advance  that  you  have  an  opportunity  for  your  pet  to  get  accustomed  to  being  in  it   before  the  situation  goes  sideways.

I  don’t  recommend  soft-­‐sider  or  sherpa  carriers  for  long-­‐distance  travel.    They  won’t   provide  any  protection  in  a  car  crash,  and  it’s  too  easy  for  the  animal  to  chew   through  the  fabric  or  leather  if  he  gets  bored.    Species-­‐specific  carriers  such  as  travel   cages  for  birds  are  ideal,  but  they  can  run  as  much  as  $200.    You  should  think  of  the   carrier  as  an  investment  in  your  pet’s  health  and  safety,  but  you  may  be  able  to  do   just  as  much  for  a  lot  less  money:  For  my  pet  rats,  I  bought  a  pair  of  inexpensive   hamster  habitats  for  about  $30  each.    Most  small  mammals  and  many  birds  will  do   just  fine  in  an  appropriately  sized  hard-­‐plastic  dog  or  cat  carrier,  available  at  most
pet  stores  and  not  outrageously  priced.    If  you  think  your  pet  needs  more  padding,   place  a  towel  or  other  soft  material  in  the  carrier.    Make  sure  the  carrier  doesn’t   have  holes  in  it  large  enough  for  your  pet  to  squeeze  out  or  small  enough  to  trap  a   foot  or  toes.

Now,  about  what  to  put  in  your  backpacks.    For  this,  ask  yourself  this  question:   What  will  you  do  for  your  animal  for  the  next  few  days,  and  what  will  you  need  to   accomplish  those  tasks?    I  can’t  really  tell  you  what  specifically  you  need  to  pack,   because  I  don’t  know  your  animal.    Do  you  normally  feed  live  foods  to  your  bearded   dragon,  such  as  crickets  or  mealworms?    What  will  you  need  to  keep  them  alive   while  you  travel?    Will  your  guinea  pig  drink  from  a  water  bottle,  or  is  he   accustomed  to  having  his  water  in  a  bowl?    Does  your  pet  need  special  bedding?     Special  lighting?    These  are  the  kinds  of  things  you’ll  need  to  consider  when  deciding   what  to  pack.

As  for  how  much  to  pack,  many  experts  recommend  planning  to  be  out  of  your  home   about  three  days  after  a  hurricane,  but  based  on  my  experience  with  Ike,  I  think  you   need  to  be  prepared  to  be  on  your  own  for  a  at  least  a  week.

That  said,  no  matter  how  large  a  vehicle  you’re  traveling  in,  you  will  have  limited   space.    Stick  to  the  essentials:  At  a  minimum,  you’ll  need  food,  water,  any  necessary   medications,  bedding  and  anything  you  may  need  to  restrain  your  pet  if  it  becomes   stressed  out  or,  God  forbid,  injured  or  ill.    For  our  menagerie,  we  always  plan  on   taking  a  24-­‐pack  of  half-­‐liter  water  bottles  reserved  just  for  the  pets.    Toys  and   treats  may  be  good  to  relieve  the  animal’s  stress,  but  don’t  load  up  on  them.

As  an  example,  this  is  what  I  put  in  the  pack  for  my  Senegal  parrot:

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• A  quart-­‐sized  plastic  bag  of  Harrison’s  Bird  Food  pellets.

• A  smaller  plastic  bag  of  Nutriberry  treats  and  nuts.

• A  spare  perch  for  his  travel  cage,  and  vet  wrap  to  pad  it  for  his  arthritic  little   feet.

• Two  medications  that  he  gets  a  couple  of  times  a  week.

• A  toy  to  replace  the  one  that  normally  stays  in  his  travel  cage,  and  some  parts   to  refill  the  toy.

• A  towel  for  handling  him  if  he  decides  to  be  uncooperative.

• Two  extra  food/water  bowls.

In  the  end,  we  decided  to  stick  it  out  at  home,  and  we  got  lucky.    The  power  was   restored  after  a  few  days,  and  our  house  was  livable,  if  not  comfortable.    But  if  the   damage  had  been  just  a  little  bit  worse,  or  the  recovery  had  taken  a  little  longer,  we   would  have  been  forced  to  travel.    Now  I  know  the  next  time  a  hurricane  threatens,   we’ll  be  as  ready  as  we  can  be.

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