The Alien Beam I’m Not Succumbing To

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They’re Here




I fear for MH. And also for my son, K. Something happens to men on this day.  And yes, despite my lifelong battle against gender stereotypes, I must declare that it seems to be a Guy Thing © .

I have it on good authority [1] that on the day after Thanksgiving men become subject to an alien spacecraft which hovers over North America, determined to wreak holiday havoc. Any adult male biped homeowner residing in the suburbs who steps outside of his home is subject to the thought control beam emanating from that invisible, insidious spaceship.

Truly, it is a wretched sight to behold: the oblivious male homeowner’s arms slowly elevate until they are parallel to the earth and he begins to move in a Frankenstein-ian lurch toward his stash in the attic and/or garage, all the while robotically murmuring,

Must. Put. Up. Lights. On. House.



Klaatu barada nikto…I hear and I obey.

*   *   *

Department Of You Know I’m Right


If you can’t fix it with this




or this




Or this




Which is not to be confused with this


On second thought....

On second thought….


then it’s probably not worth fixing.


*   *   *

Department of But Wait – There’s More!

Remember last week’s rant well-reasoned if bemused commentary about the TMI [2] – ness of the LGBT acronym?  On Monday I discovered this Special Specification ® , posted online in a call for submissions from a literary journal:

Adipose Crustacean Quarterly [3] will celebrate QPOC (queer people of color) voices
in a special issue outside of our regular publication schedule!

Now get back to putting up those lights around the garage door.

Now get back to putting up those lights around the garage door.

*   *   *

‘Tis the Fucking Season




Americans who wail about the imaginary “persecution of Christians” – I want to shine my flashlight in their right ears to see how long it takes for the beam to come out of the left.  The holiday season really brings it out, and their ignorant mewling becomes even more strident and annoying from now through New Year’s.

Attention, crybabies Christians: not getting everything your way every day, on every issue does not constitute a war against you. People acknowledging the fact that in the Northern Hemisphere there are about bazillion cultural observances that regularly and/or periodically occur between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice and New Year, [4] and thus using Happy Holidays! as a respectful, inclusive and appropriate greeting – no war there.

All together now:  not being able to discriminate against other people does not equal a war on your beliefs.




*   *   *

May you discover your very own special acronym;
may you escape the clutches of invisible alien beams;
may you be free from imaginary wars and filled with authentic peace…
and may the hijinks ensue.



Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] That would  be my devious imagination.

[2] Too many initials

[3] Not the magazine’s real name. Dang, eh?

[4] Including Saturnalia, Boxing Day, Hanukkah, Diwali, El Dia de los Muertos, and Kwanza, Solstice, Ramadan, Yule, Watch Night, Eid al-Fitr, Saint Nicholas Day, Bodhi Day, Chinese/Lunar New Year,Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Lucia Day, Pancha Ganapati, All Saints Day, Sadeh, Guy Fawkes Day….

The Time I’m Not Traveling

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Department Of Can We Stop Using This Phrase, Please?

Re the ongoing blah blah blah political rhetoric of What We Would Or Shouldn’t Do To Help The Syrian People/Fight ISIS ® : there is a certain phrase I want to consign to the idiom trash bin.  Because

1) it glosses over the gritty reality of soldiers – flesh and blood human beings who are more than the parts of their uniforms – being deployed, and

(2) it doesn’t make me feel any more or less safe, or any more or less certain that we (the USA) are doing the right thing.

I mean, Boots on the ground – c’mon. That’s a given in my home.



*   *   *

Department Of Just Wondering
Aka, Further Idiotic Idiom Inquiries

While we [1] are on the subject of idioms, you know the one some people use when they wish to emphasize their certainty about a subject?

“I ____  beyond the shadow of a doubt.”

This expression assumes that a doubt has a corporeal heft to it – a mass that could cast a shadow. Now, what would a doubt’s shadows look like? How would you know that what you saw was the shadow of a doubt? [2] And, like most physical objects, would doubt only cast a shadow on a sunny day, and thus on a cloudy day you could have no such certainty?

For the sake of further blithering discussion, suppose you indeed found doubt’s shadow: how would you know you were beyond it? Would it have clearly demarcated borders? And would beyond a shadow of a doubt mean that you were before, after or to the side of…which of the borders?


Whichever one of you is Doubt, please raise your hand...damn....

Whichever one of you is Doubt, please raise your hand…damn….

*   *   *

Department Of Put Down Your Green Tea And Reach For An Antiemetic

Katherine Stewart, author of “The Good News Club: the Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children” wrote an op-ed piece for Monday’s New York Times, which was one of the more disturbing articles I’ve ever read over breakfast. Stewart wrote about the Republican presidential candidates [3] who attended the National Religious Liberties Conference, wherein conference organizer, pastor Kevin Swanson, “…again called for the punishment [4] of homosexuality by death. To be clear, he added that the time for eliminating America’s gay population was “not yet” at hand. We must wait for the nation to embrace the one true religion, he suggested, and gay people must be allowed to repent and convert.”

Stewart writes that we non-conservatives might picture religious conservatives via stereotypes of  Midwestern farmers and small business owners, but warns that the leaders of the conservative religious movements to whom the seemingly benign Farmer Jethros of the nation deliver their votes have a more powerful, radical, and far-reaching agenda.

[ From Ted Cruz and the Anti-Gay Pastor, by NY Times op ed 11-16-15 (my emphases)]

When they hail religious liberty, they do not mean the right to pray and worship with other believers. Instead, the phrase has become a catchall for tactical goals of seeking exemptions from the law on religious grounds.  To claim exception from the law as a right of “religious refusal” is, of course, the same as claiming the power to take the law into one’s own hands.

The leaders of this movement are breathtakingly radical. Like Mr. Swanson, they feel persecuted and encircled in a hostile world. Like him, they believe that America will find peace only when all submit to the one true religion. … they do share the ultimate goal of capturing the power of the state and remaking society in ways most Americans would find extreme: a world in which men rule in families, women’s reproductive freedom is curtailed and “Bible believers” run the government.

I know that such people exist; I’ve heard their frightening rhetoric. Still, sometimes I wonder how much I really know about what they would like to do, if given the chance. Change the name Swanson to Imam Shafi’I and Bible-believers to Quran or Sharia disciples….in case you haven’t already noted the identical mindset.



*   *   *

Department Of Time To Pick On The Other Side
Subdivision Of Stop This While You Still Can

It’s not LGBT anymore- it’s LGBTQ!
(overheard from a probably well-intentioned but nonetheless shrill acronym cop)




Not long ago, I overheard a portion of a conversation between two people, in which Person 1 corrected Person 2 for using LGBT, an erstwhile standard acronym which, according to some burr up their butts concerned citizens, is no longer acceptable due to its inadequacy of inclusion.

I’ve been reminded of that unintentional eavesdropping incident several times in the past few months, when I’ve encountered variations on the term LGBT. I’ve also encountered  More People insisting that Other People must employ a longer variant of the term (of the More People’s choosing). Most of these variations involve LGBT ‘s acquisition of Q, which, I’ve both told, stands for queer or questioning…or queer and/or questioning.

And then, earlier this week, I came across a new literary journal’s submission guidelines, which included this specification:

We are especially excited to hear from LGBTQIA + writers.

This was just a few days after I’d read some political observations online, wherein a commenter was questioned/corrected when he used LGBT instead of whatever acronym the Corrector deemed proper, which was something like LGBTQIA+ …only there was another symbol after the A, which wasn’t a + .

The Corrector didn’t say what his replacement acronym stood for, which of course led me to a so-what-does-it-mean? Web search. I found several sites which define LGBTQIA as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex, Asexuala “more inclusive term than LGBT for people with non-mainstream sexual orientation or gender identity.”

But wait,  that’s what the Q is for – inclusivity, right? One Corrector explained it to me many moons ago: Queer was for other identifications that were not specifically or mainly LGBT.

Okay; fine. LGBTQIA.  Now, what’s with the addition of the addition sign? What does + signify? There is more inclusivity to be included?

Look, I’m sorry…. Strike that.




I’m not sorry at all for holding the opinion that the acronym is becoming unwieldy. This opinion o’mine is based on matters of convenience and accuracy of usage, and is not indicative of any political or social stance. [5]

Calling all Acronym Correctors: Don’t potentially alienate supporters – don’t shut down dialog or push people away by being a usage cop. Strive to gain and maintain allies by listening to what people say over how they are saying it; i.e., go for substance over style. And BTW, since when are all LGBTQ/minority sexual identifying people part of one, monolithic community, with the same political, economic, social and cultural concerns that can be encapsulated in one acronym?



TMI in this case  =  Too. Many. Initials.


We now return you to our regular ranting…er, programming.

*   *   *

Department of Public Service


The Tooth? You Can’t Handle The Tooth
(A Few Good Men, the Dental Hygiene prequel)

Glide dental floss is sold by the crapfull caseload at Costco; thus, a crapload whole lotta people use it. According to my dentist [6] it is one step up from useless, as are all flosses coated with PTFE (a synthetic polymer, the most familiar brand name of which is Teflon).

Teflon-coated floss slides between your teeth nicely, but that’s about all it does. Plaque doesn’t stick to it, and the point of flossing is to have the floss latch on to and remove plaque. Remember what kind of surfaces Teflon is used for? All together now: non-stick.



*   *   *

One Ticket For The Time Travel Shuttle,
And May I Have The First Class, Low Sodium Seating Option?

Somebody talking something [7] about the possibility of time travel got me to thinking about the temporal reality I inhabit. I’ve long considered that I live in the (near) future, in that my today is what was the tomorrow of my yesterday.

That may sound like cheating, but think about it: we are living in the future of our past. Those months and years ago, when we thought about the times to come? Every day is just that. Oh, and that proverbial rainy day that we are supposed to save for? It’s here (well, at least in the Pacific Northwest). So do it/spend it now, if/while you can.

Something else I heard from the Somebody Talking: apparently, when people are asked to imagine the option of time travel (Pretend you could travel in time; where would you go and what would you do?), they commonly elect to go backward in time to try to right some historical wrongs or atrocities (hint: fanatical German dude with unbecoming mustache).

For moiself, I’m not so sure I’d take up the offer. I’ve seen too many Star Trek episodes to think that I’d be wise enough so that my tinkering with history would produce only positive changes. Were I to travel back in time, I wouldn’t choose to do anything grandiose or ostensibly noble (I would not assassinate Hitler, nor his mother). I’d revisit more personal scenarios. There are some people I’d like to kiss that I didn’t…and there are some I’d like to punch that I didn’t. But, wouldn’t changing anything be mucking up history, even if on a smaller scale?

My brain hurts.


*   *   *

You Know It’s Almost Here



*   *   *

May the seasons you celebrate be upon you and yours,
and may the hijinks ensue.


Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

[1] Yes, technically it’s me who’s on the subject, but y’all are along for the ride.

[2] What if you confused it with, say, the shadow of a debit? Or a donut?

[3] Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

[4] Ha ha, made you look.

[5] And I FHTF (fucking hate the fact) that I feel obligated to make that disclaimer.

[6] Who is now asking his patients what kind of floss they use, instead of just the yes/no do you floss question, as he’s seeing more and more avowed regularly flossing patients whose teeth have the plaque buildups of non-flossers…and guess what kind of floss they use?

[7] It might have been on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s recent StarTalk podcast.

The Back I’m Not Talking Behind

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Department Of If Vegetables Could Talk

This one might say, “I’m Not A Crook!… but I am the Third [1] Memorial Richard Milhouse Nixon Eggplant.”



*   *   *

Department of Succinct Advice On How To
Handle Today’s Cutthroat, Back-stabbing Social and/or Business Culture


If someone talks about you behind your back, just fart.



Now you know what that iconic scene was really about.

Now you know what that iconic scene was really about.


*   *   *

Department of H.E.L.L. [2]

Remember to involve your children in age-appropriate party prep and hosting tasks.



*   *   *

Department of Ugly Pretty Things

Two days ago my morning walk listen-to was the Fresh Air podcast of a recent interview with American singer/songwriter Iris DeMent. Dement was raised by a Pentecostal parents and had a very conservative religious background – beliefs that for the most part, she has since left behind. Still, her music, which critics have variously labeled in the folk/country/gospel/bluegrass genres, reflects her roots.

Early on in the interview FA host Terry Gross asked Dement to play a song that has “stayed with” her and influenced her. Dement chose a gospel tune, Pass Me Not:

DEMENT: (Playing piano, singing)

Pass me not, O gentle Savior. Hear my humble cry.
While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.
Savior, oh, Savior, hear my humble cry.
While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.

 GROSS: That was beautiful. You know, I…

 DEMENT: That’s a pretty song….

(from the Fresh Air Transcript)

And I’m thinking, seriously? You call that beautiful?




I had to turn off the rest of the interview to keep my stomach from turning over. I’m just not as good as I used to be when it comes to pretending I don’t hear things.

Yes, the song’s piano melody had a lyrical, almost haunting simplicity, as did Dement’s high lonesome vocal styling…but, in classifying the song as “beautiful,” did either the host or guest actually pay attention to the lyrics?

I enjoy many bluegrass-influenced songs and musical groups, but that Pass Me By song crystallized my objections to much of religious/gospel-influenced bluegrass and country music. Such “beautiful” melodies and instrumentation are ruined – for moiself, anyway – by lyrics depicting a world of obsequiousness and fear-mongering – a world extolling the “beauty” of people kept on their knees with their eyes blinkered; a world where humans must continually assuage the ego of an insecure, capricious and petulant deity; a world where people question their own worth and “salvation” and plaintively beseech a so-called loving savior not to pass them by….


Let not thy noodly appendage pass by your most unworthy servant.

Let not thy noodly appendage pass by your most unworthy servant.


*   *   *

Department of H.E.L.L., The Continuing Saga

Don’t waste valuable menu planning time fretting over your home’s appearance.





*   *   * 

Department of Bad Halloween jokes

Consider yourself warned.




What is a ghost’s favorite Halloween party drink?

What is a Mummy’s favorite music genre?

Why do female ghosts diet?
So they can keep their ghoulish figures.

What kind of makeup do ghosts wear?

Why couldn’t the skeleton cross the road?
He had no guts.

Why Count Dracula use a mouthwash?
Because he had bat breath.

Why do ghosts patronize bars and pubs?
They go for the boos.

What happens when ghosts have too many drinks at those pubs?
They get sheet-faced.

Told ya.


derunk ghosts

*   *   *

Who’s in Charge of Feasibility Studies for Aphorisms?

I hear on the radio that old cliché about someone preparing to run for political office, and so when I got home I tried to toss my hat into the ring. It doesn’t work.


*   *   *

Department of Almost Random Thoughts Almost Apropos of Nothing

Or perhaps simply another scary thought that I can blame on Halloween time.

A while back I was cleaning up my home library and found a book a friend had lent me over 10 years ago (ahem). [3] I had fond memories of reading it way back when, and flipped through the book’s forward, which noted that the author had died at a relatively young age. This led to me googling said author and finding out he’d died of AIDS.

Whenever I read something about the historical aspects of the AIDS outbreak, I come across recitations of one of the few positive aspects of the epidemic – stories about how the gay community came together and took care of “their own.” During the early years of the outbreak the medical and scientific establishments were confused about the disease’s etiology and transmission, and medical personnel often acted indifferent, even hostile, toward the afflicted.

I’ve read touching stories of dying gay men, many if not most of whom had been abandoned or shunned by their biological families, being tenderly and courageously cared for by gay friends, neighbors, and even strangers – lesbians in particular. Although the AIDS epidemic in this country was initially almost exclusively confined to gay men, a high percentage of the caretakers were women (sure enough, the afore-mentioned author was, at the end of his life, nursed by his ex wife).

Any cynical – or would that be realistic? – moiself  couldn’t help but wonder then (and still wonders now): if the AIDS epidemic in America had, for whatever epidemiological reasons, struck lesbians instead of gay men before spreading into the general population, would there have been the same stories of care-giving?  Would gay men have organized to care for their dying gay women friends?

Methinks not.

There is no way for me to “prove” this. Except for extrapolating from that pesky thing called history.




Gaymen, schmay men – they are still men. And no matter their interest or lack of interest in women for sexual or other reasons, men grow up with the culturally induced expectation that women will serve and care for them.

I remember reading [4] a history of the “lavender menace” as recalled by a lesbian activist, who wrote of her disappointment in the early 1970’s with both the feminist movement and the gay rights movement. Straight feminists didn’t want to take up what they saw as the “distraction” of lesbian rights. Gay rights organizations were dominated by gay men, who discounted or ignored the lesbians’ opinions when the women tried to organize and speak out, showed little interest in getting to know the women personally but still “…expected us (women) to bring them coffee.” To paraphrase the author, “The (straight) women broke our spirits, but the gay men broke our hearts.”


“If the world were a logical place, men would ride side-saddle.”
Rita Mae Brown

*   *   *

Department of H.E.L.L., Die Hard with a Vengeance

Welcome your guests with a hot beverage and a smile that says, I’m so glad you’re here.



*   *   *

Happy Halloween!

Bright pumpkin

*   *   *

May your Halloween Night be truly fit for a Bright, [5]
and may the hijinks ensue.




Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] Yes, more than once in my years of vegetable procurement I’ve returned home from the market/farm to discover that my produce basket contains an eggplant with a profile resembling that of our nation’s 37th President. I have led a charmed life.

[2] Holiday & Entertaining Labor-saving Lists.

[3] Yes, I returned it.

[4] In Ms. Magazine? Rolling Stone? ‘Twas way back in the 80s, I think. I remember the article, but not the source.

[5] SCM will be upset if there aren’t at least five footnotes.

The Vacation I’m Not Blogging

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Vacation.  I am having one. Right Now.

A well-deserved retreat for both MH and I, if I do say so moiself. And I just did.

‘Tis also a well-anticipated vacation (we’ve been trying to get where we’re at ever since we moved to the Pacific North West [1] ) that never quite came about due to the usual suspects ($$, time, schedules), and that almost got cancelled the last minute, what with Sandwich Generation concerns. [2]

So, yes, I’m on vacation. Not blogging about what’s right and wrong with the world. Not blogging about this week. Because…vacation.

I thought I’d fill this space with selections from my Greatest Hits. © Then I remembered: Oh, that’s right, I don’t have any.



*   *   *

Okay, one vacation story.

The story comes from our first day on The Island (oooooh, big hint!). [3]





We  stopped on our way to our rental house to have lunch at a café which shares space with an art studio. It was a nice day; we opted to sit outside on the café’s cozy (yep, small) deck.  The other table on the deck was already occupied, by four Fashionably Dressed Young Men ® . All of the FDYM were talking loudly and animatedly, their stories tumbling over one another, until one FDYM took the lead with a meandering tale that included him mentioning in rapturous tones “Regis” and “Cathy Lee and Hoda” more times than I could shake a rainbow-colored stick at. [4]

I couldn’t help but think to myself (and then say to MH, with a grin that threatened to split my face):

This is too cute – this is the gayest conversation…do they have any idea?

The FDYM finished their lunch and trooped down the deck’s stairway, which was right by our table. As they were leaving I said, “Excuse me, but you’re far too young to be familiar with the name, ‘Regis.’ “

They all burst out laughing, and one of them (the oldest of the young, was my guess) assured me that, au contraire, “…knowledge of Regis is the key to eternal youth.”

*   *   *

Department of More Hints

The following sight was [5]  one of our island trip highlights. Can you guess where the picture was taken (hint: no):



*   *   *

May all of your vacation highlights be blog-worthy,
may your overheard conversations contain the key to eternal youth,

and may the hijinks ensue.




Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] Which was…over twenty-four years ago? Yikes.

[2] Read: elderly parents’ health crises.

[3] What island – maybe The Big Island, as in Hawaii? Gilligan’s Island? The Island of Misfit Toys. Dr. Moreau, Lost Souls…?

[4] No, I’m not going to post pictures of Regis and/or the Cathy Lee-Hoda beast. You’re welcome.

[5] There is no need for a footnote after the word “was.”

The I’m Proverbs Not Quoting

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 Happy Half Birthday to MH!

Yes, we celebrate such things.


*   *   *

Last week I saw the proverbial Woman Who Went Out In Public Wearing A Housecoat And Slippers, And With Her Hair In Curlers ® . She didn’t even bother to wear a hat or a scarf to cover the curlers – I didn’t know that there were women who still wore hair curlers, or that such curlers are still being made.  They seem like such a childhood remnant, of Something Old People Did.


This public place was a grocery story. Now, I’m not exactly known for my vanity (read: for having much about which I could be vain), but I can’t imagine what would prompt me to leave the house, looking/dressed like that. [1]  As I walked behind her I realized that there was something worse than walking around in public dressed in a tatty house-thingy and curlers, and that thing is this: I felt an urge to whip out my phone and snap a picture of her.

All together now:  Bad, non-compassionate person.

I was able to restrain my photo-urge, in part because I began to wonder about how the word proverbial; specifically, how it came to mean something so well known as to be stereotypical…along with its original meaning, which is something related to a reference in a proverb.

Have you read any of the biblical proverbs lately – as in, from the book of Proverbs? Some seriously wacky shit fun stuff.

19:24 A slothful man hideth his hand in his bosom, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again.
(not sure what this particular piece of whackadoodery means, but it’s fun because, bosom.)

20:8 A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.
(Those are, like, some serious laser eyes).

(22:15) “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
(Beating kids will make ’em less foolish. What time is it – have you beaten your child today?)

26:11 As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.
(Well yeah, there’s that.)

(28:5) “They that seek the LORD understand all things.”
(which explains the glut of Fundamentalist preacher Rhodes Scholars and Nobel Prize-winning scientists.)

The Department of Graceful Segues has failed me. There’s just no way out of this one, except for an inspirational visit from the Farting Preacher.

*   *   *

Department of Someone It Would Be Easy To Hate Because He’s so Fucking Talented in So Many Areas But Damned If He Isn’tThey  Also Wise and Compassionate and Funny and Self-Effacing and….

…and doesn’t take himself too seriously, as per this photo of him rapping in a college [2]talent show.

Kim raps


That would be Jim Yong Kim, M.D., Ph.D., Korean-born American physician-anthropologist-Dartmouth College President, World Health Organization AIDS Dept. Director, MacArthur Fellows Genuis Award Winner, head of the World Bank, who  just likes to show up at my house every so often for tea and conversation about the world’s problems was featured guest on a recent Freakonomics radio show.

And he probably makes his own bread from scratch.


Actually, it's not bread – I make pasta from scratch. But, I'm working on perfecting a sourdough starter which will also provide the world with a renewable, carbon footprint-free energy source.

Actually, it’s not bread – I make pasta from scratch. But, I’m working on perfecting a sourdough starter which will also provide the world with a renewable, carbon emissions-free energy source.

*   *   *

Department of Spontaneous Trips to Tacoma

Because when you are doing one of the Portland Hill Walks with your husband on a late Sunday morning and your nineteen year old daughter texts you from college, saying she misses seeing her parents and would you consider making a “day trip” up to see her..

You gotta go, if you can.

I’d forgotten that the following day was a holiday, for MH at least (our offspring, K and Belle, did not have a day off from classes, nor did the rest of the students at the University of Puget Sound). MH remembered this, and said that if we really wanted to be spontaneous….  One point five hours later we’d returned home, thrown overnight necessities into dufflebags and were headed north on I-5, MH driving while I tried to make last minute cat-house-sitting arrangements, [3] procure overnight lodging, and coordinate Belle and K joining us for dinner that evening.

It turned out to be a whirlwind, great trip, [4] fantastic, spring-teaser weather, and a bonus parental reassurance of seeing our daughter with her wrist cast [5] and noting that everything is going to be fine.

 I heartily approve of Tacoma's Commencement Bay policy banning bicycling at low tide.

I heartily approve of Tacoma’s Commencement Bay policy banning bicycling at low tide.

*   *   *

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year –– to  my sister-in-law, JP, and to all Chinese-Americans, and Happy Lunar New Year to all Asian Americans.

The Lunar calendar designates 2015 as the Year of the Goat…or sheep or ram. There seems to be some disagreement as to the interpretation of the Chinese character yang, which can be translated to mean goat, sheep or ram in English.

Because of K & Belle’s years of ZooTeens work at the Oregon Zoo, our family has learned about and become fond of goats.  Thus, I will take the liberty of wishing everyone a Happy Year of the (cute screaming baby) Goat.


*   *   *

Belated Valentine’s greetings to everyone, in the form of this delightful, Darwin-inspired love song, It’s Only Natural, written by the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s co-president Dan Barker [6] and performed by singer Susan Hofer.


*   *   *

May you enjoy what comes naturally, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] An emergency of some kind – you wouldn’t find me in a Safeway.

[2] He has multiple degrees, from both Brown and Harvard, of course.

[3] The amazing LAH to the rescue, once again!

[4] Although note to young people: there’s no such thing, for your decrepit parents at least, as a “day trip” that involves a 3.5 hour drive one way, which means a 3.5 hour return drive.

[5] Injury noted in last week’s blog post, Student vs. Brick Wall.

[6] Barker is a pianist and composer with over 200 published songs, and still receives royalties for Vacation Bible School musicals he wrote back in the ’70s when he was an evangelical Christian pastor (“Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “His Fleece Was White As Snow” )…royalties he now donates to Freethought causes.

 The Bush I’m Not Beating Around


Happy Day-After Darwin Day


It’s not too late to celebrate it, if you missed it or forgot.

There are several organizations that wish to make International Darwin Day an internationally recognized holiday, in order to inspire people:

“…throughout the globe to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin.”

So, there’s that.

Closer to home, you could be inspired to keep up the fight for truth, justice, and the rational way, or follow my example – when in doubt on how to commemorate something, make a special meal. [1]

Oh, joy, another celebratory dinner.

Oh, joy, another celebratory dinner.

Last night I made a Darwin Day primordial fish soup. I made a rich fish stock as a base, for which I must thank the always-helpful New Seasons Market fishmongers, who ventured into the big freezers to fetch me some halibut bones. On to the second stock [2], which I pureed, then added cubed cooked celeriac (aka celery root) and steamed green beans and chunks of cooked fish.

Most any mild, white-fleshed fish would work well with this recipe. Considering that many of Darwin’s contemporaries variously feared for or threatened the fate of his “immortal soul,” I thought a filet of Dover sole would be appropriate.

Hint for a really amazing fish soup: cook the fish separately and add it to the soup just before serving. I cut the filet into smaller pieces and poached them in olive oil. I forget where I got that tip – Julia Child?  Jacques Pepin? Lady GaGa? – but it was easy, decadent, and delicious.

♫ Can't read my, Can't read my, no he can't read my poach-fish face...♫

♫ Can’t read my, Can’t read my, no he can’t read my poach-fish face…♫

*   *   *

Another commemoration, of sorts.

Wednesday marked the 6th anniversary of my father’s death. Chet Parnell would have liked the fish soup.  This picture of us was taken at Christmas, 1975.



*   *   *

Attention, Old Persons and Sports People

I recently purchased a foot acupressure mat, which came with several roller tubes and other foot massage devices. I have treated myself to professional foot massages on several occasions, and would like to be able to do something similar at home.

Not for a moment do I believe the woo about how pressing on certain “energy points” on the sole of my foot will “free a blockage,” stimulate a vital organ, restore “total health,” or effect any of the other silly claims made by the mat’s makers. It’s just that an acupressure or reflexology-based foot massage Feels. So. Good.

Extra feel-good bonus: the mat, manufactured in India or SW Asia, comes with two delightfully stilted, isn’t-it-amazing!-lost-in-translation, English language instruction sheets which, for entertainment reasons, I can’t bear to recycle right now:

Ideal for * House Wives * Office Executives * Old Persons * Sports People
Computerised foot shape…helps you to place your feet in correct direction (not in haphazard manner)
Mat is made up from very tough, long lasting, virgin material [3] to avoid back supporting board which is disturbing factor for energy flow.

I’m sure a good giggle stimulated my energy meridians far more than the mat’s Micro Point charger! and New Computerised design! could ever do.


*   *   *

Department of This Explains A Lot

I was listening to a Fresh Air interview with author Jennifer Senior, whose book — All Joy and No Fun explores some paradoxes of modern parenting. In response to a question about the neurological underpinnings of teens’ and young adults’ foolish risk-taking and other exasperating behaviors, the author shared some intriguing information about the latest science behind what we call the adolescent or teenage brain – which actually goes past the teen years, until around age twenty-five :

“…the adolescent brain is this really interesting thing. First of all, the prefrontal cortex is not quite done developing. And the prefrontal cortex is what is responsible for kind of rational decision-making and planning and impulse control. So there’s a reason that teenage kids take dumb risks. You know, the mechanism that actually should be functioning as their brake pedal is not fully developed. It’s a rather weak brake.

They also tend to sort of overestimate the reward that they will get from taking risks, which is interesting to me. Their brains are just awash in dopamine, which is the feel-good hormone, so they feel everything very, very, very intensely – and that’s everything from crushes to, you know, rejection. It’s the good and the bad. So it’s a real adventure having them in the house. What’s so interesting is that it now looks like the prefrontal cortex keeps developing, right into your mid-20s. So the only kind of group of people who seemed to figure this out before neuroscientists was car insurance companies. They actually knew; you do not give a car to anyone under the age 25.

So.  Ahem.

Last week Belle did the ET thing and phoned home.  Fortunately (for her), MH answered, and thus had the unenviable task of passing along the news to me that Belle had fractured a metacarpal bone in her right hand. [4]  After an hours-long study session at the library, she’d finished her chemistry and calculus assignments and moved on to homework for another class. Frustrated by what she perceived to be the idiocy of a four-page instruction handout for a one page assignment, our lovely and talented daughter, valedictorian of her high school graduation class, now a college biochemistry major mathematics minor student, walked outside and punched a wall.



A fucking BRICK wall.


*   *   *

Department of Creepy Coincidence

Last week I came across a New York Times article on Jeb Bush, Evangelicals and the Pandering Question, about the challenges the aspiring Republican presidential nominee will face in courting the religious right wing of his party. The previous day I had highlighted [5] this passage from The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought.

For Ingersoll, the primary danger of entanglement between religion and politics was that invoking divine authority would simply shut down discussion on controversial issues. The requirement that politicians be religious, or at least appear to be religious, ruled out a significant group of independent thinkers from office. Ingersoll decried the public religiosity required of politicians in a statement that is just as applicable today as it was then:

…it is almost impossible for an independent man to success in a political career. Candidates are forced to pretend that they are Catholics with Protestant proclivities, or Christians with liberal tendencies …or that although not members of any church, their wives are…. The result of all this is that we reward hypocrisy and elect men entirely destitute of real principle, and this will never change until the people become grand enough to do their own thinking.”

Do yourself a brain favor and get to know Robert G. Ingersoll, the 19th century attorney, Civil War veteran, abolitionist, Freethinker, orator, civil and women’s rights pioneer — one of the greatest Americans most Americans have never heard of. [6]



*   *   *

While We’re Sort of on the Subject

Please, To Whomever May Be Listening on the Republican Side of Things [7] :

No Jeb Bush!  No more of the Bush family; no Bush of any kind or age or gender or…anything.  No no no no no.

Oh, this is disappointing.

Oh, this is disappointing.

*   *   *

Department of Please Don’t Let Al Sharpton Know About This

Yet another fascinating thing about moiself:

– I am a white supremacist when it comes to popcorn.

Don't even ask, of course, I choose the one on the left.

Of course I choose the one on the left!

*   *   *

“In the fight between you and the world, back the world.”
( Frank Zappa quoting Franz Kafka )

“In the fight between you and the wall, bet on the wall.”
( Robyn Parnell quoting Robyn Parnell )

*   *   *

May you always fight the good fight – or, failing that, at least may you bet on the winning side – and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] Why isn’t there a footnote yet?

[2] Diced onion, green & red bell pepper, celery & carrot sautéed in EVOO; then add fish stock and spices (a pinch of saffron & ground white pepper, tomato paste, dried dill week, bay leaf,  parsley sprigs) & simmer for 25 m.

[3] It’s plastic. Virgin plastic.

[4] Yep, the one she writes with. You take a swing at something, you lead with your dominant hand.

[5] There should be more interesting footnotes here, or somewhere in this post. Sorry.

[6] And for the same reason Ingersoll had to champion the memory of Thomas Paine – both men were open and articulate promoters and defenders of Freethought and critics of religion, and thus not favorites of the history textbook writers.

[7] Yeah, I know, I might as well be talking to – or punching – a brick wall.

The Album I’m Not Reviewing

Comments Off on The Album I’m Not Reviewing

Because, although I’m always a critic, I’m not a reviewer.

However, as the name of my blog suggests, I can be a declarative liar.


In light of her recent dumping by her husband of over 36 years divorce from husband Neil, it’s easy to read themes of melancholy, duplicity and loss into the songs on Pegi Young’s latest album, Lonely In a Crowded Room. Young’s low key, casual, bluesy, r & b country –tinged vocal delivery subtly intensifies the bitterness, heartbreak and yearning behind many of the songs, especially in the zinger of a final track, “Blame It On Me.”  There is also a wicked low-key wit in evidence behind several of her songs, in particular, “In My Dreams” and “Better Livin’ Through Chemicals.”

This is one of those collections that creeps up on you – it gets better with each listen, IMHO. Go ahead, click that purchase button.

*   *   *

In last week’s post I included 15 Little Known If Not Exactly Personal Facts About Moiself, which contained a content alert for name dropping.  The alert was related to two facts, one of which pertains to this post:

(9) I worked for the obstetrician who delivered Neil and Pegi Young’s second child.

This was a long, long time ago in a galaxy far far away, when I was a health educator for a private OB-GYN practice near Stanford Hospital.  My employers were DWB and POM, a husband-wife doctor/nurse practitioner. The practice’s staff prided ourselves on developing close relationships with our patients, and over the months of pregnancy and post partum visits and childbirth education classes and new parent’s support group that met weekly in the office, we got to know and care for the OB patients in a deeper way than was possible with those we saw but once a year for annual exams.

Pegi Young, pregnant with her and her husband Neil’s second child, had been referred to our practice. She was of the nicest, kindest, most  good humored, gracious and warmhearted of our patients. Thus, Pegi became a favorite of the staff because of how she was, not who she was in some people’s eyes – the wife of a famous husband (I loved that my employer, the doctor who delivered the Young’s baby, had no idea who Neil Young was, other than the tall skinny shy guy with the holey jeans who sometimes came to appointments with Pegi).  I remember thinking that, although I knew little about Pegi’s personal life, it must be nice for Pegi to be the “star” in our eyes – as the pregnant patient she had our primary attention – when it was likely her husband who drew all the attention elsewhere.


A few times a month I would treat myself to a break from sack lunches and skip across the street from the practice to The Stanford Barn. The Barn was (surprise!) a big, barn-like structure that housed several businesses, including a restaurant. More than a half a dozen times I’d arrived at the restaurant to see one of our practice’s patients waiting alone to be seated for lunch, either before or after their OB appointment. If the patient saw me, I’d suggest she join me for lunch (sometimes, they beat me to it and extended the invitation). I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the patients outside of the office, and they seemed to relish the chance to talk to someone who was genuinely interested in their home and work lives, and who asked them non-pregnancy related questions.

One day in the restaurant, as I waited for the staff to seat me, in walked Pegi Young. We greeted each other, and for the first time I hesitated in extending the invitation I had so freely extended to our Stanford scientist patient, our Silicon Valley entrepreneur  patient, our self-identified “pilot’s wife” patient, our teacher patient…. You get the picture?

Considering the speed of neuron transmission, the thoughts going through my mind took less than a nanosecond to process, and I’m sure she didn’t notice my hesitation. I didn’t want her to think I was treating her differently than any other person or that I wanted to be around her because she was married to a famous man…but, if I didn’t ask her to join me for lunch I would be treating her differently for just that reason.

Damn the torpedoes; I figured she could just say no. I extended the invitation and she joined me for lunch.

Can you guess which famous-person-by-association touched these French fries?

Can you guess which famous-person-by-association touched these French fries?

We had a pleasant meal (which included really good fries, as I recall) and a nice chat, with me still feeling twinges of awkwardness when I realized certain questions I was about to ask, questions I had asked the other patients, questions that were related to what they told me about their lives and aspects I therefore found unique and interesting, could be taken as me trying to pry into a celebrity’s life.  I didn’t know at the time that Pegi, although not a “celebrity,” was a musician/singer/songwriter in her own right, and had been, years before she’d met her better known musician husband.

Like all the other “patient lunches” I’d had and would go on to have, it was an enjoyable way to spend 45 minutes or so with an acquaintance…and that was that. We didn’t go on to be best buds or anything. She had her baby, [1] we (the office staff) saw her less frequently, I left the practice not long after.  I did continue to think of Ms. Young, occasionally and fondly, and still do, after all these years.

Oh, and Pegi Young’s album? I bought it because it’s really good.

*   *   *

Just In Case You Were Wondering

Neuroscientist David Linden, in a fascinating Fresh Air interview on the science behind the sense of touch, reported this earth-shaking find:  he and colleagues have determined that no matter how sensitive you think your own…uh…parts…are, you cannot read Braille with your genitals.

You know how these things work – when you share a little-known fact like, “It is impossible for a person to lick their own elbow,” people immediately try to lick their elbows.  Seeing as how the majority of us do not have access to Braille materials in our home, Linden advises we not rush out to the nearest ATM to test that particular finding.


*   *   *

Speaking of Lady and Man Parts (and you know I do)….

Dateline: Thursday morning, at the kitchen table. As I sat down with my avocado tofu scramble, MH read me the photo caption from a New York Times article:

“…. Park Slope, Brooklyn, experienced its second manhole explosion in less than 24 hours.”

“Yikes.” I shivered.  “That’s gotta hurt.

“How’s that?” MH said…or something (whatever he mumbled, it was the perfect set up).

I briefly explained that while I feel sympathy toward anyone with a manhole, I think the guys in Park Slope ought to lay off the chili dogs. [2]


*   *   *

The Dangers of Playing the Game

When you are not feeling particularly good about yourself in terms of future professional prospects among other issues, it’s rather irritating when the day’s Cryptogram word puzzle solution is the I-know-that’s-how-the-world-works-but-it-still-sucks, Aristotle quotation

“(Personal) beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of introduction.”

♫ I feel pretty... ♫

♫ I feel pretty… ♫

*   *   *

Department of Civic Responsibilities

On Tuesday I responded to a Freedom From Religion Foundation Action alert by sending an email to Mayor Lupe Ramos Watson of Indio, CA, thanking her for deciding to end the Indio City Council’s practice of opening meetings with prayer.

“We need to respect all beliefs and absence of beliefs,” Mayor Ramos Watson said, explaining her decision (as reported in The Desert Sun).

My email:

Thank you, Mayor Ramos Watson, for your decision to keep the government neutral on matters of religion by stopping the practice of opening city council meetings with prayer.

It’s a bit odd that I feel compelled to thank a public servant for doing what should be par for the course – upholding Constitutional principles and standing up for the rights of all of her constituents. However, these days it seems your sensible understanding of the issue is, unfortunately, not held by all of your peers.

One wee/small nit to pick – or rather, something to consider – re your thoughtful statement as quoted in The Desert Sun, “We need to respect all beliefs and absence of beliefs.”  We who are religion-free – we agnostics, atheists, freethinkers, Humanists, Brights – are not absent of beliefs or principles.  We have many, many beliefs. The difference is, our beliefs are based on reason and the natural world, not supernaturalism.

Again, I thank you for doing the right thing, wish you all the best, and am, Sincerely yours,

When was the last time you praised a politician for doing the right thing? [3] I know for moiself, when it comes to civic affairs it’s so much easier – and, let’s face it, sometimes fun – to carp than to encourage, and I’m trying to change that.


*   *   *

Hold Your Applause

On Tuesday I woke up at 3 am with the following question on my mind: [4]

If the Director of the NSA has to leave a presidential briefing to take a pee,
does that constitute a security leak?

*   *   *

Department of this Explains A Few Things

Because my mother generally does better recalling the past than living in the present, during my weekly phone calls with her I try to follow the wise counsel found in Compassionate Communication With the Memory Impaired, and ask her to repeat stories of her childhood.

I cannot recall the prompt – something stormy weather-related – that made me ask my mother to tell me about the one time she and her family experienced a tornado in Cass Lake, Minnesota. I’d heard her tell the story several times before; during our last phone call, she provided more details.

Cass Lake was well north of Tornado Alley, and, according to my mother, rarely did the small town experience severe thunder or windstorms, and never tornadoes.  Still, a tornado warning came one day in the summer when my she and her parents were staying at their family’s small cabin at nearby Wolf Lake.

The tornado mostly spared the town, but the storm that hatched it packed some mighty winds. While her father went outside to batten down the hatches, [5] my mother’s mother (whom my siblings and I referred to as our “Bapa”), clutched her youngest daughter, my mother, and repeated, over and over, that her greatest fear was about to come true: the cabin would be picked up by the tornado “…we’ll all be dumped into the lake!”

“She said what?” I was aghast.  “Mom, that’s terrible! Bapa was a bad mother.”

My mother laughed at the epithet.

“I’m serious – that was a bad mother thing to do.”

My mother did not dispute my assessment. She noted that she hadn’t been all that concerned about the storm (in fact, she’d found it rather exciting) until her mother panicked.  “She was terrified; she was so scared.”

“Which means that you were, too, right?  She made you scared, too?”

“Mmm hmm.”

“Parents are supposed to make light of the situation, or joke or do something, anything, to keep their children calm and make them feel safe. It doesn’t matter how scared the adults are; it’s their job to hold it together, for their kids.  I am so sorry your mother didn’t do that, for you.”

“No,” my mother said.  “She didn’t.”

*   *   *

Because it’s four days after Groundhog’s Day and four months until the summer solstice, let’s pretend it’s time to Shake Your Groove Thing ® and Get Down With Your Bad Self. © If you are of A Certain Age and can remember the television dance show that featured this song, you are a better Boomer than I.

*   *   *

May you do the right thing come political meetings or tornadoes, and find time for a little groove-thang-shaking, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!




[1] Which had one of the cutest, most powerful smiles I had ever seen in a baby. I mean, that kid would laser you a grin.

[2] Yeah, I know, fart jokes. Like the Dylan song says, may you stay Forever Young.

[3] No cracks about how it might take a few years to think of such a praise-worthy instance.

[4] This existential moment brought to you by my Nocturnal Brain calls, also mentioned in last week’s post. Hakuna Fritatta, anyone?

[5] Or whatever you do in Minnesota when you get a tornado warning. Stock up on Jell-o-casseroles?

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