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

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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?

The Toxins I’m Not Cleansing

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Department of Just Sayin’
Aka, Is It Over Yet?

I hate New Year’s Eve.  Always have. Correction: there have been breaks in the “always.”  Including the years my family celebrated with neighbor/friends, sharing a dinner-and-games night.  But mostly, it has always been a strange, awkward(t) kind of evening – an I should be having fun dammit/why am I not light-hearted and care-free kind of night. Instead, it’s a reminder of how quickly the last year flew by, what was intended and what fell through the cracks, one more reminder of dreams gone by/deferred, one more year closer to admitting dreams that were never to be realized….

Cry me a river. Pass the popcorn; it’s 12:24 am, is the last yahoo done banging the damn pot lids/setting off the mortars and can I go to sleep now and wake up and pretend it’s March already?

"Is it midnight yet? Have we had fun?"

“Is it midnight yet? Have we had fun?”

*   *   *

Happy New Year, Indeed

MH’s attention was drawn to a certain object on the dish air drying rack. I waited for the inevitable comment.

“What’s this?” he asked, with a Twinkle in His Eye ® . He picked up the object, turned it back and forth in his hand, and attempted to unscrew its top.

“It does not take batteries,” I smirked, “and no, it’s not what you’re thinking.”

a pestle without its mortar is like a fish without a bicycle.

a pestle without its mortar is like a fish without a bicycle.

*   *   *

Start the New Year clean with this “detoxifying” dietary supplement, transdermal patch, kidney-flushing herbal tea, colon cleanser….

The come-on email that somehow escaped my spam filter, caused me pause for a moment to consider the quackery that is not just particular to the holiday season.

“Detoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam.
It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.”

“Let’s be clear,” says Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University, “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t.”
The respectable one, he says, is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. “The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.”

I generally hold and/or bite my tongue when otherwise seemingly intelligent (or obviously dense but well-meaning and nice) folks uses the Important-And-Sciency-Sounding-Poison-Language ©  with me.  The young man who, after finishing giving me a blissful foot massage advised me to drink a lot of water in the next few hours to help my body “flush out of toxins” stimulated by the massage?  I just smiled dreamily.  I was under the spell of the massage’s endorphin rush; I didn’t have the energy to mouth a simple, if sincerely incredulous, Dude, really? What are you saying, and who told you that?

Toxins? What, exactly, are these toxins?


I often wonder if the purveyors of toxin-speak even know the definition of the word they use so heedlessly yet authoritatively?

A toxin (from Ancient Greek: τοξικόν toxikon) is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms.

So, you’re saying, without blood test results or other evidence to back up your claim, that there is poison in my body?  What, someone slipped rattlesnake venom in my tea?

When I ask for evidence of specific toxins that are lurking, unflushed, in my body, [1] I receive analogies.  The toxin-believing crowd can’t exactly describe what the toxins are, nor what the detox process is, so they resort to analogies.  False analogies.  “Just like we wash our hair and brush our teeth…”  My favorites are the ones having to do with a machine:  “Just like we must periodically flush our car’s coolant system…”

That is incorrect; you forfeit the bonus round.

As much as it may seem to have a mind of its own, [2] your Honda Civic is not a living organism.  Machines have no way to clean themselves. The crucial systems of the human body evolved to do so.  The kidneys, liver, bowels –  the organs most frequently cited by the Toxin Touters – all are self-cleansing.  When they fail, due to disease or injury or abuse, medical intervention is necessary.

This is your liver.

This is your liver.

This is your liver on David Crosby.

This is your liver on David Crosby 

Like all fast fixes – from miracle diets to wrinkle creams – the idea that we can wash away our lifestyle transgressions with a pill, a drink, a gargle or even an “internal cleanse” [3] is an attractive idea to some, and much easier than making changes to nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle habits. [4] And most of us seem to hold some vague ideas that we are doing something wrong, or that our modern, technologically dependent life contaminates us with…well, with bad things. [5]  And we need to get rid of these bad things.

Harriet Hall, aka “the SkepDoc,” is a retired physician and former Air Force flight surgeon who researches and writes about medicine, so-called “alternative and complementary medicine,” and quackery and critical thinking.  According to Hall, the detox industry’s rhetoric is “… reminiscent of religious fasting and purification rites (Jewish mikvah, shamans using smoke, American Indians sweat lodges). It’s mysticism, not science.”

Our bodies come equipped with livers, kidneys, stomachs, intestines, enzymes and metabolic processes that deal with toxins efficiently with no outside help. When kidneys fail, we use dialysis.  In certain cases of poisoning with large amounts of heavy metals, we may use chelation therapy.  In addiction treatment, “detox” is achieved by simply abstaining from drugs or alcohol for a few days.  …..  there is no medical evidence to support any other methods or benefits of “detoxification.” [6]



*   *   *

Department of Ch-ch-ch changes

As of January 1, 2015, Scarletta Press, publisher of my middle grade novel, The Mighty Quinn, is no longer Scarletta Press. The Publisher Formerly Known as Scarletta is now Mighty Media Press. And they have this to say about that:

Mighty Media Press delivers captivating books and
media that ignite a child’s curiosity, imagination,
social awareness, and sense of adventure.
Mighty Kids. Mighty Minds. Mighty Future.
Be Mighty!

Although I like the name change, I be mighty skeptical (if just a bit less mighty hopeful) as to how this will impact their promotion efforts for one of their Scarletta titles…even though, one might reasonably think, The Mighty Quinn, ahem, hello, can you say, “tie-in?”  I knew you could.

"The what formerly known as what?"

“The what formerly known as what?”

*   *   *

Department of Because It Works

Dateline: New Year’s Day.  MH and I, out for a walk.  MH asks if I’m taking him to Sports Look, a local restaurant/sport bar, for dinner.  “For dinner?” I am confused.  I know he’s referring to being able to watch The Rose Bowl game (it’s only being broadcast on ESPN, and we are the holdouts who don’t have cable), which is mildly important to us this year, lukewarm college sports fans that we are, because an Oregon team is playing a Florida team. But the game starts at 2pm, I reminded him, not dinner time.  Also, it’s New Year’s Day, and, remember, I always make Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day.

I picked up that tradition – serving black-eyed peas and rice, green and some cornbread concoction “for luck and prosperity in the New Year” –  from my Tennessee-raised father.  I maintain the tradition partially because I like my version of Hoppin’ John, and partially in memory of my dad.

Besides, I explained to MH, I want us to benefit from the folk wisdom of poor people who ate beans and rice every year, believing it would bring them good luck and prosperity, who then again the following year were too poor to serve anything fancier than beans and rice on New Year’s Day.

Remember how well it worked last year?

Remember how well it worked last year?

*   *   *

Department of Making My Daughter Groan

Driving home from lunch, Belle pointed out a rainbow grazing the horizon.  “Now, if there were two of them,” I wondered aloud, “would the first one be the rainbow and the other a rainbro?”


*   *   *

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.
(Bill Vaughn)

Happiness is too many things these days for anyone to wish it on anyone lightly. So let’s just wish each other a bile-less New Year and leave it at that.
(Judith Crist)

*   *   *

May the happiness you seek be bile-free, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] And I have done this, with those who have used the toxin jargon.

[2] Especially when piloted by teen drivers.

[3] It’s only two days into the new year and I just don’t want to type enema.

[4] Why give up my bi-weekly craft beer six pack & cheesecake fest when I can do a bi-yearly liver cleanse?

[5] I actually think this is likely true, but want evidence before I put any purported “cleanser” up my hoo-haw, an organ which evolved to expel, not intake.

[6] Detox Quackery (Harriet Hall, the SkepDoc, Skeptic, v. 14 #1 2008)

The Possum I’m Not Herding

Comments Off on The Possum I’m Not Herding

The Department of Feasting

My family – the one MH and I created – has several holiday season traditions, some of our own making and some adopted/adapted from our respective families of origin.  The elves that hide in every downstairs room to watch you from atop the curtain rod, hanging from the bathroom lights or peeking out from a potted plant watching you – that’s from my family.  The every-piece-of-art-with-a-face-wears-a-Santa-hat mandate, that’s from the weirdo festive mind of moiself.

a clock may not be art, but it has a face.

a clock may not be art, but it has a face.


Many of our traditions involve (surprise!) dining.  Depending on when the Solstice falls, there are several days in a row of special meals.  Solstice Soup & Salad Supper; Little Christmas Eve,[1]  and of course Christmas Eve. [2]  On Christmas Day we go out for lunch to a fancy-schmancy restaurant, then for dinner it’s homemade pizza. Come Boxing Day, I swear I’m never going to cook/eat again…a vow that I am most happy to break in the New Year.




*   *   *

Department of Holiday Guerrilla Art Projects

Much to the chagrin pride of my family, I’ve been working on a…new project.  Friend and legitimate artist LAH refers to my project as a kind of performance art.  I’ve composed a variation on the typical lost pet posting that you see on kiosks, neighborhood post office boxes and lampposts, and for the past few days I have been posting these flyers around the “greater” [3] Hillsboro area.

He is a purebred Welsh possum herder, answers to the name of:



Physical description: 15 years old,weighs approx. 10 lbs, brown, mange-ridden fur
blind in left eye, arthritic, toothless, asthmatic, incontinent….

On second thought, never mind.


* Yes, Virginia, Llanfairpwllgwyngyll is the actual name of a Welsh village;
* Yes, Virginia, there is no such thing as a Welsh possum herder dog;
* Yes, Virginia, the picture is not of a dog, but that of a pretty sorry looking cat


*   *   *


“Thus saith the Lord, learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with teh axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

(Jer. 102-4)

 After last week’s post, specifically the blurb about the essay No, Virginia, There is NO Santa Claus, I feel compelled to explain that I like the Santa Claus thing.

I loved the folklore of Santa Claus when I was a child, even as I can’t remember a time that I actually believed Santa was a real entity.  It was a marvelous make-believe that got both kids and grownups to play an elaborate kind of dress up.

Being raised in a religious family, I took the various birth-of-JC stories for granted, although they didn’t interest me nearly as much as the other trappings of the Solstice season.  All the things I loved most about Christmas – Santa and the reindeer, candles and lights, festive greenery and Christmas fir trees, the idea of giving and receiving gifts – were, I later realized, secular traditions and symbols predating Christianity. These traditions and symbols were later stolen adopted and adapted by Christians, in a practice called Interpretatio Christiana, as a strategy for relating to and ultimately converting their pagan neighbors.

I know all that.  Still, I love the Santa thing for several reasons, including the fact that Santa Claus is a Freethinker/Bright?Atheist/Rationalist/Humanist’s best friend.  Or, as author and educator Dale McGowan put it, Santa Claus is “the greatest gift a rational worldview ever had.”


Santa Claus is an entertaining and culturally acceptable way to introduce children to the fact that sensible-appearing people who claim to have good or altruistic reasons for doing so often “believe in” something that is exceptionally improbable…and these same, otherwise sensible people tap dance their way around answering the sticky questions children ask when they notice things like, “How come Santa brings more gifts to rich kids than to poor kids?”

By allowing our children to participate in the Santa myth and find their own way out of it through skeptical inquiry, we give them a priceless opportunity to see a mass cultural illusion first from the inside, then from the outside. A very casual line of post-Santa questioning can lead kids to recognize how completely we all can snow ourselves if the enticements are attractive enough.
Dale McGowan, from his essay “Santa Claus, the Dry Run

*   *   *

uglyXmas sweater

Only 364 days until the next UCS [4] Fest.

*   *   *

Happy Boxing Day!  And may the hijinks ensue.

*   *   *

 Make it so...festive

Make it so…festive

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!



[1] Little Christmas Eve is the Eve before Christmas Eve, an obscure – to everyone but my family – holiday supposedly celebrated by my paternal grandfather’s tiny Norwegian village.  The LCE dinner menu varies year to year; this year, at K’s & Belle’s request, roast rack of lamb.

[2] CE menu never varies: Norwegian lefse and meatcakes.

[3] The farther away from Hillsboro, the greater you get.

[4] Ugly Christmas Sweater.

The Dead Beatle I’m Not Impressing

1 Comment

Yes, Virginia , There is no Santa Claus

“Adults know that there is no Santa Claus. If they tell you otherwise, they are lying to you. That’s okay: some parents tell their children that Santa Claus is real as a sort of game, and there’s no evidence that this does any real harm. But if anyone keeps lying to you — about Santa Claus, or anything else — when you ask them a direct question and explicitly ask them to tell you the truth? That’s a problem. And if anyone tries to make you feel ashamed, or inferior, or like your life will be dreary and intolerable, simply because you don’t believe in this lie they’re telling you… you should be extremely suspicious. They are trying to manipulate you. It is not okay.”
(from “Yes, Virginia, There is No Santa Claus,” Greta Christina’s blog)

I think this essay should be required reason for the holiday season – anyone’s holiday season. You can read the entire essay, which is a satirical commentary on the original “Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus,” on the mahvelous Greta Christina’s blog.


*   *   *

Thank You For Not Axing

Dateline: Wednesday, out for my a.m. walk, listening to a podcast of author Steven Pinker being interviewed about his latest book, The Sense of Style: A Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.  The interview touched on several interesting issues (well, interesting, if you’re a linguistics/usage groupie), including how dictionaries reflect (the always-evolving) common usage, the differences between elucidative prose and speech, and all that grammatical gobbledygook.

Which reminded me about my own usage peeve.

Calling persons of all genders, nationalities, ethnicities, political and artistic preferences – can we agree on this fact:

There is no “x” in the English language word, “ask.”

Therefore, don’t be surprised if and when you say, “I want to axe you something,” I run away screaming.


*   *   *

Department of Somebody Please Tell Them (preferably, in their native language)

MH took me for a foot reflexology massage on my birthday….

Happy Feet

…followed by a sushi lunch. The sushi restaurant had a sign up on their electronic menu board reminding patrons to check out their 37 new menu items. One of the new items has a name which, I presume, was chosen in honor of someone, by someone else who is unfamiliar with American slang.  Golly gee, no, thank you, but I’d rather not try your Johnson Roll.


*   *   *

Department of Random Reflections

If I’m standing by a door that has one of those status sign indicators underneath the lock, it’s because I’m waiting to use the facilities.  Thus, it’s a good thing when the status changes from “Occupied.”  Still, a part of me feels I’m in danger of dropping 10 IQ points by entering a room that says “vacant.”


Department of If I Had the Power To Do So…

I’d like to change, or make an addition to, those door lock status indicators. Occupied; Vacant – there needs to be a third option.


There needs to be an option to alert people that it might be some time before the room is available, as the occupant is not merely taking a leak but is trying to collect her thoughts, and this room is the only place she may find some peace and quiet away from co-workers/family-friends:  PreOccupied.

Also, I’d like the following occupancy indicator sign implanted in my forehead.  For those special moments, where my cognitive activity may not be apparent to others:


*   *   *

Random Scenes from the Past [1]

Dateline:  A long, long time ago [2] in a galaxy far, far, away. [3]  I was standing in a checkout line at a Safeway, holding my basket of ten-items-or-less[4] The line moved slowly, and after performing my customary assessment of the basket items of the people in line ahead of me, [5] I looked around for something else to scrutinize, and beheld a rack of cut flowers by the counter.  What held my attention was that I could actually smell the flowers from several feet away; they were not the usual, cheap/five-minutes-before-wilt-mode bouquets to tempt harried dinner guests/dates into a last minute guilt-grab.

An arrangement of humble but incredibly fragrant carnations attracted my attention, and after checking the price [6] I added it to my basket.

“What a pretty bouquet!” the cashier cooed, as she rang up my items.  “For someone special?

“Ah…” I chuckled.  “Well, yes.  They’re for me.”

“For you?  You’re treating yourself to flowers?”

“Why not?”

“Oh, what a nice idea!”  The Cashier leaned toward me and, with a gal-to-gal conspiratorial sigh, added, “But it’s just not the same, is it, when you have to buy them for yourself?”

By the time I got back to my apartment, the flowers were not as fragrant as they’d seemed in the store.  I gave the bouquet to my next door neighbor, who’d picked up my mail for me when I was on a business trip.


*   *   *

Pre-Christmas/post-birthday blues:  It’s that time of the year: here come the the lists.  You can’t spit without hitting someone’s inventory of the Best/Top 100/15/20 People/Neologisms/Inventions of the year.

And then, there’s that pissin’ John Lennon Christmas Song, [7] with its nagging opening line that really, really, really bothers me, for some reason:

♫  And so this is Christmas/and what have you done?  ♫

And what have I done?  Not enough, apparently – I’m not doing enough, okay, John?  Could you please chill out with the guilting, and shut up Yoko, while you’re at it?

Then, of course, I find myself thinking, I am sniping at my radio; I’m yelling at a dead man, through my car radio.  How pathetic is that?

She's suck a fookin' disappointment.

She’s such a fookin’ disappointment.

*   *   *

About those lists.  If you can’t beat ’em…[8]

I’ve got one, that has nothing to do with 2014 or the year’s end, but that was prompted by hearing a song on the radio – in this case. R.E.M’s Losing My Religion. After which I said to moiself, That’s one of the best songs ever written about alienation...which led me to ponder  other best-songs-written-about categories.

Song title (Performer)

-Best song about paranoia: Get In Line (Bare Naked Ladies)

-Best song about heading-for-a-breakup defiance: You’re Breaking My Heart (Harry Nilsson)

-Best song about why you shouldn’t get drunk and look through your high school and/or college yearbooks: Need You Now (Lady Antebellum)

-Best song you’re embarrassed to admit you like, but dang if it don’t have a catchiest, earwormiest tune: M-m-m-Bop (Hansen)

-Best song with incredible Emmy Lou Harris harmonizing about a woman’s love for her incarcerated son: The Sweetest Gift (Linda Ronstadt)

-Best song that lives up to its title: Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner (Warren Zevon)

-Best song about Patti Smith falling in love: Frederick (Patti Smith)

-Best song about knowing the right thing to do but putting it off until later: “Come Tomorrow” (Patti Scialfa)

-Best Beach Boys tribute/parody song: Back in the USSR (The Beatles)

-Best song about Portland hipsters: Bohemian Like You (The Dandy Warhols)

-Best song by Portland hipsters who’ve unfortunately heard the term “literary” applied to their music by a few slavering critics and thus take themselves way too seriously: Down By the Water (The Decemberists)

-Best song to snap your fingers and sing along and pretend you’re a hipster: Danny’s All-Star Joint (Rickie Lee Jones)



-Best Bob Dylan song neither written nor sung by Bob Dylan: You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (The Beatles) [9]

-Best song to explain the visceral appeal of punk: I Wanna Be Sedated (The Ramones)

-Best song about what you wish you’d said to the drunken jerks who hit on you at the concert/club even after you’d made it clear you were not seeking male companionship but just wanted to have a good time with your girlfriends: U + Ur Hand (Pink)

-Best song that illustrates why radio censorship was a good thing, because composers had to write clever, read-between-the-lines lyrics and it was so much fun to “get it” when your parent’s didn’t: Lola (The Kinks)

-Best song to get the boys (drunk or sober) to sing the chorus: 8 Miles Wide (Storm Large)

-Best song about sexual infatuation from one woman’s POV:  Why Can’t I (Liz Phair)

-Best song about cows with guns: Cows With Guns (Dana Lyons)

-Best song about not regretting taking a stand: Not Ready to Make Nice (Dixie Chicks)

-Best song about honky hip hop ineptitude: Help, I’m White and I Can’t Get Down (The Geezinslaws)

-Best song that would be my anthem if I were a pre-operative trannie: Stand By Your Man (Lyle Lovett)

-Best not-your-parents’ Christmas song: Christmas in Hollis (Run DMC)

*   *   *

May all your favorite songs make someone’s best-of list, and may the ho-ho-ho hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] Not as random as some, this recollection was prompted by my receiving a lovely birthday bouquet from friend LAH.

[2] In the 1980’s.

[3] The Bay Area.  Specifically/probably, Palo Alto or Menlo Park.

[4] Which should be “or fewer” not less, I know.

[5] Dude, with that beer gut, do you really need three bags of pork rinds?

[6] I was living hand to mouth or hand to foot or foot and mouth disease – or whatever in those days – and flowers or any kind of “luxury” item was not in the budget.

[7] Not the official name, which is Happy Xmas/War is Over.

[8] “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em? Nah. Take a page from Dick Cheney’s book, torture ’em, and call it, “Enhanced Interrogation.”

[9] Okay, maybe a tie, with the mahvelous Roy Zimmerman’s  Christmas is Pain.

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