A belated Happy New Year to all! 2018 has brought changes in several areas.

I discussed kindred (vampire) biology with my bestie and science editor, Mad Doktor Matt, and realized I need to make the following changes:

  • The faction of kindred my characters deal with has a worldwide system of government, but is just one example of kindred culture and government. As kindred spread across the earth along with humans, they would have developed different cultures and governments.
  • I got a bit too enthusiastic about borrowing from camels’ water and heat management techniques. It didn’t occur to me, for example, that 30 gal of water weighs 250 lbs! So being able to drink 30 gal in 10 min would be impossible for a human-sized being. I’ll also have to lower the hydration requirements.
  • We came up with a 12 hour time limit between blood feedings in a late night brainstorming session, imagining a dramatic death scene. On further examination, if kindred evolved in parallel with humans from shortly after the evolution of humans, this wouldn’t work. In order to get enough blood to sustain themselves and avoid detection, kindred would have to be able to travel between settlements. Since they primarily require white blood cells, I’ll change the time limit to 13-20 days + a week. So I’ll also have to recalculate their carrying capacity accordingly.
  • Matt mentioned the feeding allergy part sounded like a game mechanic. It makes more sense to have the sensitization occur over a series of feedings. So one way to tell there’s a vampire around is if a lot of people start getting anaphylaxis.
  • We discussed what happens if a kindred turns into a flock of bats or mist and some of the bats get killed or someone sucks up the mist with a towel. We decided that the kindred would transform back, but be more emaciated, having lost an equivalent amount of mass. For example, a kindred turns into a flock of 10 bats and an enemy kills 1. When the kindred changes back they will have lost 10% of their mass.

I’m glad we had the discussion. These all serve as great examples of how every writer has blind spots.

As I mentioned previously, I’m having another release surgery. All burn survivors need such surgeries periodically as the scar does not grow with the rest of the body. Burn scars actually contract over time. I’ll be getting a combination of z-plastys and laser treatment tomorrow. Right now I’m bummed I’ll have to stop work on my cross stitch project so I don’t leak all over it, but it helps to have gone through all this before. Here’s a shot of my work in progress:

I’m a little over halfway across the top. I still haven’t filled in the background on the chart’s second page because the post office lost my floss. Hopefully they’ll find it!

I plan to use some of my downtime to fulfill a childhood dream and learn Русская (Russian)! I think I was attracted to the Cyrillic alphabet. I’ve also always loved Russian fairytales. I’ve always wanted to learn all the languages in the world! It amuses me that once I learn Russian and Italian, I’ll know all the axis languages. (Totally unplanned!)

While I’m healing, I wish all of you tranquility and joy in abundance.

Joy wreath from Christmas to Color by Mary Tanana, colored by yours truly.

Happy Holidays!

The Shortest Day
by Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome, Yule!
(Audience responds: Welcome, Yule!)

Okay, so I missed posting this on the solstice, proper. The sentiment remains true. Susan Cooper (yes, the author of The Dark is Rising series!) wrote this poem especially for the Christmas Revels, a holiday treat celebrated in cities around the US that features traditions from a different country each year. “The Shortest Day” is one of the elements that is part of every production.

As the light returns,
May you gather it to you
With joy.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

Japanese Macaques Show They’re as Weird as We Are

Image from NPR article.

Trigger Warning: This post discusses in part non-human sexual assault and possible implications for humans.

Apparently female Japanese macaques are having “sexual interactions” with sika deer. Check out the NPR article. It’s not only a fascinating account of interspecies interaction, it makes some of the weird stuff we humans do look rather normal. 😄 It also fits neatly into my theory that we can’t point to any one behavior and say, “This sets humans apart from all other animals. Only humans do it.” (Yes, I drove my Psychology 101 prof nuts on this topic, challenging every example she tried. 😁)

Some parts of the article could also be read as showing non-humans sexually assaulting others. Some macaques certainly have a poor understanding of consent! I knew dolphins sometimes gang-rape, but I didn’t know any other examples. It’s important to note that in the macaques’ case the females are the aggressors. This further demolishes the belief that only males commit sexual assault. We can also take a lesson from the macaques’ motivation: sexual frustration. Perhaps teaching potential and/or convicted aggressors other ways of dealing with frustration would be an effective approach.


Hello, dear readers. This month’s been a bit rough energy-wise and kept me from posting on schedule. I’m working on putting self-care first. I did manage to walk all the way around Lake Elizabeth on Monday! This was huge! I took the following pictures during my walk.

This little pine has the holiday spirit!This winter tree felt so serene. A gorgeous Japanese garden area. Tranquility. A fellow walker hangs an ornament on this impromptu community Christmas tree.

Then I tripped over my own shoes and sprained both my left wrist and ankle. Ouch! They’re healing well, but I’ll be unable to post as much. I’ll also be unable to cross stitch for a while. Happily, I finished most of page 2 and started on page 3. My favorite needlework store, Needle in a Haystack, is sending me two background colors I didn’t have enough of and I’m waiting for the package to make it through the holiday mail rush. I took a picture before I started page 3:

Chart page 2 (mostly) complete!

I think the sinuous red bit looks like a dragon. 🙂 When I’m finished I want to make a time- lapse “making of” video.

I also have a big milestone coming up. Last March I had a release done on my burn scars. I will have a second release surgery this coming year to give me more movement and less pain in my shoulder and elbow. I’ll post again when I know more. Naturally, this blog will be on hiatus while I heal.



I’m so excited! My wizard cross stitch is finally back from Aaron Brothers and looks beautiful framed. The mat really makes it pop! I couldn’t resist sharing the result. The framers were unable to use stretcher bars on this piece because there wasn’t enough fabric around the edge. Instead, they wound up stretching it by hand and stapling it to the foamcore backing. You may wish to keep this in mind when considering Dimensions brand kits.








もう一つのこと:最後に私の魔法使いクロスステッチプロジェクトを終了したことを言い忘れました! それは今フレーム化されています。 友人のジュリーの結婚式のためのクロスステッチプロジェクトで良い進歩を遂げています。

Tuesday was my dog Panda Bear’s 12th birthday! According to, that’s 69 in human years! She does not often act like an old lady, though. Yesterday I lay on the bed to stretch and she pounced me!

In honor of Panda’s birthday, I will tell her story. I was looking for a service dog, but was having problems finding one through traditional organizations. My family decided we would train our own. I found Panda Bear on An organization called Dogs for the Deaf (they recently changed their name to Dogs for Better Lives) was offering Panda as a career change dog. She kept getting terribly carsick and they could not figure out why. We had a lot of experience with keeshonden with similar health problems, so we were sure we could handle it. Mom drove to Oregon in a snowstorm to meet Panda.

Dogs for the Deaf rescues dogs who show the potential to be service dogs from animal shelters. They train them to be a deaf person’s ears. For example, a dog can alert their human to the oven timer, someone knocking on the door, or someone calling their name. Now they also train dogs to help autistic children and professionals who work with them. They have training apartments that are just like a real apartment. A cat lives in each apartment. Panda loved playing with her cat. Now when she sees a similar-looking cat, she wants to play and is sad the cat doesn’t want to.

Once she arrived, Panda realized I was the one who needed her help. She is very sweet. She has an amazing ability to sense illness, pain, and injury. She especially loves babies and small children.

Panda Bear no longer becomes car sick. Her stomach was upset from licking lotion off people’s hands. She also hated being in a crate. She would make herself sick with worry. We do not wear lotion and do not keep her in a crate in the car.

I am convinced that Panda Bear is an angel. I love her so much and hope she will live another 12 years!

One more thing: I forgot to mention that I finally finished my wizard cross stitch project! It’s getting framed now. I am making good progress on my cross stitch project for my friend Julie’s wedding.

WIP Wednesday

It’s been a joy to work with all these colors! It’s amazing to watch them seem to change depending on where they’re placed. For example, in that bit in the upper right corner that looks like a caparisoned elephant, there are two shades of brown, but they look purple!

The colors are a lot brighter in person. 🙂

The more I use the Floss-A-Way organization system, the more I love it. I don’t think I’ll use anything else now. I’d certainly have a big, tangled mess if I was using my previous system! The only problem I’ve found is that sometimes I think I’ve closed the ziplock baggies when I haven’t. With a little care, problem solved.

Food Labels are Crackers

Today my dog Panda Bear is twelve! She might not have made it, though. Yesterday my father left an open package of chocolate chip cookies on the floor by his recliner. Naturally, Panda got into them. Luckily, my mom came running when she heard the noise and stopped her.

If you have a dog in your life, you’re probably aware that chocolate is poisonous to dogs. You may not know (I didn’t) that the toxicity depends on the type of chocolate as well as the amount ingested. As far as we could tell, Panda had eaten a maximum of 1 oz, but what kind? We used PetMD’s Chocolate Toxicity Meter to determine the possible danger. 1 oz of milk chocolate would be subtoxic for her, while the same amount of baker’s chocolate would be deadly.

We examined the nutrition panel for clues. It was hard to read, especially in a panic. It was difficult to tell the difference between brackets and parentheses, and where they began and ended. Nor does the ingredients list simply state the type of chocolate. We had to figure it out from what was in the chips. Close inspection determined they were semisweet, cause for concern.

We called the Pet Poison Helpline (855-213-6680) (there is a fee for this service. We paid almost $60). They asked us her breed, weight, symptoms, and about any other health issues. They researched the cookies and determined she would probably be okay, though we should watch her.

Luckily, Panda Bear is fine and enjoying a very happy twelfth birthday. But this incident is just one example of a big problem with food labeling.

Take a look at the nutrition information on the two boxes to the right. Pay attention to the formatting and design rather than content. What do you notice?

The most important information, the ingredients, is the hardest to read! The ingredients list is typed in one of the smallest fonts on the package. It’s also in narrow ALL CAPS, making it more difficult to read than the even tinier QR label branding on the left-hand box.

Why is the ingredient list the most important information on the box? Many people have medical issues that are caused or exacerbated by certain ingredients. To use an extreme example, trace amounts can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition. Pets can also be at risk, as shown above. Knowing what’s in your food is thus much more immediately important than calorie counts or vitamin percentages.

Food companies have responded to the prevalence of food allergies by alerting consumers to the presence of a few commonly problematic ingredients. They call wheat, milk, soy, and nuts out separately in bold type. But this is not good enough. They use the same tiny ALL CAPS typeface as in the full ingredient list. Furthermore, there are many other foods that can cause medical emergencies. I used to get anaphylaxis if I ate or drank anything containing gums or resins commonly used as thickeners and preservatives.

When I saw an allergist earlier this Fall, he shared that another patient had anaphylaxis after eating a candy bar. The vital information was concealed underneath a fold in the wrapper, written in type so tiny he needed a magnifying glass to read it.

Ingredients need to be listed in large, clear type in an easily visible location on the package. Not in ALL CAPS. This information, or a QR code leading to it, needs to appear on individually wrapped items. Food purveyors must make it easy to find a complete and accurate ingredient list online. Currently many restaurants make it really hard to find their nutrition information and only include a list of common allergens, not a complete ingredient list. This is a dangerous and unacceptable practice which must change.

In addition, consumers need to be able to easily and quickly identify the date a recipe was last revised. This will alert consumers when they need to carefully review the ingredients again. This is important because when the recipe changes without notice, consumers are at higher risk of injury or death from new, unexpected ingredients.

The Traveling Cross-Stitch Problem

You may know that knitting requires higher mathematics. Did you know that counted cross stitch also uses high-level math?

img_5644-e1511575594923.jpgI contemplated this when I noticed a familiar formula appear in my current project. Check out the white space in the photo to the right. To me it looks like 2Πr, the formula for deriving a circle’s circumference from its radius.

In counted cross stitch, needleworkers are constantly solving the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP). The TSP is important to many industries that depend on logistics and performing complex routing, such as shipping, computer chip manufacturing, and even DNA sequencing. This problem asks, “Given a list of cities and the distances between each pair of cities, what is the shortest possible route that visits each city exactly once and returns to the origin city?” In cross stitch terms, “Given a chart with the location of stitches in color x and the distances between each pair of stitches, what is the most efficient route that uses the least amount of thread?”

This is an NP-hard problem, which means it’s rather difficult. And yet stitchers constantly solve it as they stitch, deciding how to use their thread most efficiently. Doesn’t that make you feel awesome, fellow crafters? 😎

I’ve completed 1/30th of my current project and am moving on to page 2 of the chart! It’s a bit dismaying to see how small it is on 25-count fabric, but I’ll keep trucking. Here’s a pic: IMG_5673

It looks more like a rectangle in real life. 🙂


母は、ポケモンが感謝の日のために特別なピカチュをリリースするかどうか尋ねました。私は巡礼者ピカチュウを想像した。 可愛いじゃない?

Sorry everyone! The week before last I was tired and forgot to make corrections. Then last week my father had several heart attacks and went to the hospital. The doctors cleared a blocked artery and inserted stent #11. He is healing well, but is very irritable.
Today in the U.S. it’s Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a harvest festival. Traditionally people say what they’re thankful for. Thank you Lang-8 friends for your help. You are one of the things I’m grateful for today. I am also thankful for my dog Panda Bear and that my health is slowly improving.
My mom asked if Pokemon Go would release a special Pikachu for Thanksgiving. I imagined a pilgrim Pikachu. Wouldn’t that be cute?