Home

The Skills I’m Not Listing

Comments Off

A Harbinger of Spring: The Return of Blue Man Group

This year our boys are sporting primroses.

BMG

*   *   *

Happy belated birthday to comic actor, author, playwright, composer and founding Monty Python  member Eric Idle.

Idle shares a birthday with my mother-in-law (March 29); they both like to sing…and there is where the similarities begin and end.  While my MIL is a devoted Lutheran, Idle composed many of the Python songs and other naughty bits that crack wise at religion.

Idletwit

Idle, as Vivian Smith-Smythe-Smith, contestant for Upperclass Twit of the Year.

As per his own worldview, Idle has described himself, as in this piece he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, as an Alzheimer’s agnostic.

“I am an Alzheimer’s agnostic: I can’t remember whether I don’t believe in anything or not.
“However I do believe religions are the cause of most of the problems in the world today and there should be a moratorium on the use of the G-word. I think it should be replaced by something less controversial that we can all agree on. Like Chocolate.

“I can quite happily confess that I believe in Chocolate without upsetting anyone. No one ever killed anyone else over Chocolate. (All right, outside of Beverly Hills.) ‘One Nation under Chocolate’ is surely something we can all get behind. But I suppose, like all my ideas, it will be dismissed as just too silly.”

In Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life,  Idle’s Oh Lord Please Don’t Burn Us caps a skit illustrating the absurdity of religious worship.

Idle satirically illustrates the  logical consequence/conundrum for those who believe in a creator god – a deity they credit for “All Things Bright and Beautiful” but who somehow gets no responsibility for the parts of creation that are a bit dicey – with his Anglican hymn parody, All Things Dull and Ugly.

All things dull and ugly,
All creatures short and squat,
All things rude and nasty,
The Lord God made the lot…. 

All things scabbed and ulcerous
All pox both great and small
Putrid, foul and gangrenous
The Lord God made them all….[1]

ERICIDLE

*   *   *

Happy Trails to You

Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve bid a fond farewell to one of their greatest assets this week, when Sarah Pinnock retired from her position as Wetlands Education Specialist. MH and I have had the privilege of Sarah’s acquaintance for many years. We first met her when we were hiking around the preserve one day, many years ago. Sarah pointed out to us the nesting tree of the JBW Preserve’s resident pair of bald eagles, and showed us bobcat scat on one of the trails and other points of interest.

K graduates in May with a B.S. in Micro and Cellular Biology, and Belle will likely declare her major in Biochemistry or Biology. I attribute my offspring’s interest in the biological sciences in good part to Sarah’s enthusiastic mentoring. She led a series of nature/wildlife biology-themed camps at the preserve, several of which K and Belle attended. My kids adore and admire her, as do MH and I. There aren’t many people who can nurture or appreciate your children’s passion for dissecting owl pellets as well as Sarah.

She has the skill of making the phases of the natural world – from the life cycle of a vole to the water cycle of a wetland – interesting and accessible to adults and children alike. The naturalist who will succeed Sarah Pinnock at JBWP will have some big shoes – knee-high mud boots, actually – to fill.

Sarah Pinnock

*   *   *

Speaking of the natural world…

Spring Language Lexicon
Chapter 32: Doot-Doot vs. Deet-Deet

Doot-Doot: the thin cardboard cylinder around which a roll of toilet paper is wrapped and which, when stripped of all toilet paper, may be raised to the mouth of a human being so as to facilitate that human’s pretense of playing a trumpet or similar wind instrument. [2]

Doot-doot

Doot-doot

Deet-Deet: Any of the small, long-legged, narrow-billed shorebirds (e.g. sandpipers, oyster catchers, plovers) which dart to and fro, chasing outgoing waves and in turn being chased by incoming waves, their rapid gait making the deet-deet-deet-deet-deet sound (to discerning ears).

Deet-Deets getting ready to deet-deet-deet-deet.

Deet-Deets getting ready to deet-deet-deet-deet.

Now you know.

*   *   *

Wednesday was my first of what I hope will be a regular gig of volunteer shifts at the Bonnie Hayes Animal Shelter.  I’m happy to return to serving an animal adoption/rescue organization, after a break from 5+ years volunteering, along with Belle, at one of the C.A.T. humane organization’s outreach centers.

I’ve been searching for “suitable” [3] volunteer opportunities, and have noted a similarity in the animal shelter’s and other organizations’ volunteer application forms. At some point in the form after you’ve provided information relevant to the volunteer position, there is a section where you are asked to list interests, hobbies and other skills. Which strikes me as something you’d find on a dating profile.

profile

The trouble with volunteerism is that nonprofits offer plenty of “opportunities” to take on what are essentially jobs – “real” jobs – without being paid.  One example out of many: with my background working for both Planned Parenthood and a private OB/GYN practice, I thought about volunteering for a reproductive health clinic…until I researched volunteer positions available at the local Planned Parenthoods. Most of the descriptions made me think, Volunteer-schmolunteer –the scope and depth of responsibilities and duties – this is a job. Someone needs to get paid to do those things (like I used to).

I’ve had enough of that – of being expected to work without pay – as a writer.  Along those lines, I left blank the interests, hobbies and other skills section of the BHAS application. I did not list my writing skills; experience has taught me what will happen with that. I don’t want to haul out my good-natured-but-firm-smiling-through-gritted-teeth-turndown/explanation: that I do not work for free (nor do I think anyone should).

Yes, I understand that nonprofits need volunteers to thrive, or even survive.  But volunteerism comes at a high cost to women, who, as NPOs from art museums to educational tutoring programs to animal shelters will tell you, constitute the backbone of the volunteer force. The fact that women are often paid less than men for doing the same job (even in “traditionally female” occupations, for FFS!! [4] ), the fact that women are more hesitant/less adept than men when it comes to bargaining for salary raises – these inequalities are directly linked, I believe, to another frustrating fact:  both boys and girls grow up seeing women doing work – from managing a house/raising children to volunteering in key positions in their school/church/community – without being financially compensated for their work. [5]

volunteer

So.

I’ll gladly sanitize cat kennels and paint my children’s classroom walls, for free.[6] I will not write your organization’s press releases or grant proposals or edit your newsletter for zip.

*   *   *

My Son, the Micro Aggressor
Aka, This Is How We Lose The Support Of Good People

One of the things that makes me the most proud (or relieved) about my children is that they’ve turned out to be Good People ® . MH and I tried to instill in and model for them the value of applying compassion and reason to all areas of life, including political and social discourse. K and Belle try to think logically, to give people the benefit of the doubt, and look to the natural world for rational explanations of phenomena. Thus, it is no surprise that they support “the good fights” – LGBT rights, civil rights, women’s rights – you know, human rights.

We’ve also tried to teach them, by both example and “decree,” to never assume malice on the part of another person who makes a patently false or absurd statement (or simply a statement with which you disagree) when ignorance or simple difference of opinion would suffice for motive.

Most importantly, we advised them to question everything, even and especially the party line spouted by those whose positions you support.  Errant or exaggerated statements and inappropriate assumptions are to be found errant or exaggerated and inappropriate on their own merits, regardless of the desirable politics or good intentions behind them.

No surprise that both K and Belle have intermittently run into slobbering opposition (read:¨PC attacks and name-calling) when they have questioned some blanket/misleading statements having to do with The Oppressed vs. The Oppressors © .

shout

K had some “interesting” discussions in a Gender and Society [7] class he took at college last year, and I was both bemused and frustrated on his behalf when he recounted the incidents to me.  Stand-up guy that K is, he’s sometimes gotten involved in what he advised me you must never do, Mom, when it comes to online discussions, [8] and I’ve enjoyed being able to tease him about it (You stepped right in that pile, didn’t you?). But his missteps are understandable. For example, he is studying chemistry and biochemistry and organic chemistry, and when he runs across some blatantly whackadoodle statement about the “chemical reactions” that “prove the toxicity” of fluoridated water, he just can’t help but wade in and offer a factual correction. And the fun ensues.

Delusional thinking, by definition, cannot be reasoned with…and yet silence implies acquiescence. You simply can’t reason with some people, and yet you must try [9]  – I hold these seemingly contradictory opinions, a fact K and I have discussed, many, many times. You must learn to choose your battles; you must also learn when the best choice is to say, Cool story, bro, and walk away.

As one wise woman put it,

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and it annoys the pig.

For the hundredth time, Wilbur, there's no falsetto in the chorus.

For the hundredth time, Wilbur, there’s no falsetto in the chorus.

Department of Teaching Pigs to Sing

Yesterday K entertained me by relaying the following pig-singing-lesson discussion he waded into, when he commented to a post on FB. [10]

The post began with this excerpt:

“Many white women have said to me, ‘We wanted black women and non-white women to join the movement,’ totally unaware of their perception that they somehow ‘own’ the movement, that they are the ‘hosts’ inviting us as ‘guests.’ “
 – bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin To Center

K: OR maybe they said that because they felt like nonwhite women were not represented by the movement and there were few (nonwhite women that were) a part of it.
Why do people always assume malice behind people’s actions and words? It’s foolish to read into things that damn much.

PDQ [11]: ^^^^ Can somebody please deal with this I can’t

REALLY

Yes, PDQ, go lie down with a cold compress on your forehead until you can deal with it.  OR, FFS, why bother to respond if all you’ve got is the vapors to offer? OR, FFFFFFS, put on your adult undergarments and deal with it.

Excusez-moi. Back to the transcript. Frail, unable-to-deal-with-it PDQ called upon someone else to respond (I’ll call her SAP), which SAP did.

SAP: 1. Nobody asked you. 2. ______(SAP provided a link to a HufffPo article on the “white savior complex”).

Then there was a lengthy comment by another person, “NAH,” on a tangential topic. K stayed on track, ignoring NAH and responding to SAP.

K: SAP, 1. If you post something publicly about a political topic, you are inviting responses. 2. You seem to think I’m saying that I don’t think this savoir complex exists. That’s not what I’m saying. What I said was that people seem to, tend to, read malice or otherwise hostile intent into quotes, like the one posted.

 NAH: Yeah. Oppressed people tend to be sensitive to the reasonably invisible micro aggressions that reinforce their mistreatment and widespread marginalization. No Shit.

(end of transcript)

facepalm

Reasonably Invisible Micro Aggressions. Yikes.

As an an uppity woman from the get-go, I’d love to terrify Pat Robertson by leaving my husband to practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and go lesbo, [12] but it’s late and I’ve yet to brush my teeth.  BTW, I cut my feminist teeth on the works of Gloria Steinem, bell hooks, Robin Morgan, Audre Lorde, Kate Millett, Betty Friedan, Alice Walker et al, and I embrace the descriptive legitimacy of the concept of both white and male “privilege.” Reasonably Invisible Micro Aggressions? Never heard of ’em. I feel so…un-PC hip.

That term had my non-thong underwear knotted with laughter. My first thought was, What in the name of Susan B. Anthony are micro aggressions? And if they’re invisible, how can you tell if they’re micro or macro? And WTF is “reasonably” doing in that phrase?

My message to K:

Congratulations – I just found out I am the proud feminist mother of a microagressor.
Even better, one who may be responsible for “invisible” micro aggressions. Sounds like the equivalent of political homeopathy.

Is that your invisible micro aggression or are you just happy to see me?

Is that your invisible micro aggression or are you just happy to see me?

*   *   *

Liberty is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
(George Orwell) [13]

 

May all of your aggressions be visibly comprehensive, and may the hijinks ensue.

 

  Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1]All Things Dull and Ugly,” by Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Trevor Pka, John Du Prez.               

[2] You know you want to try it: doot-doot-doot-doot.

[3] “Suitable” – there’s the rub. Just try finding something that doesn’t involve meetings and/or committees, which I believe are the scourge of humanity, comparable to alopecia and shingles.

[4] Check out this and other uplifting articles which document how male nurses out earn female nurses.

[5] And also without attaining the respect/cachet that comes from having “a real job” (i.e., a one that pays a salary.

[6] Thank the FSM those days are over.

[7] A straight (but not narrow!) white male in a class with such a name…you can just imagine the traps set for him, by zealously sincere (the worst kind) and humorless “activists.”

[8] Read: do not feed the trolls.

[9] Because sometimes…eventually… good sense will take root.

[10] As usual, I will use acronyms instead of names, to protect the hypersensitive, not-so-innocent.

[11] As in Political Drama Queen. An appropriate acronym for someone who would respond as she did.

[12] In an infamous fundraising letter Roberts described the “feminist agenda” as “a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

[13] I know SCM is thinking, “More footnotes!”

The Toast I’m Not Serving

Comments Off

I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time’.
So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.
~ Steven Wright ~

*   *   *

If This Catches On, Our Culture Is Toast

Its’ a Thing, apparently. And, like with so many Things, I’m far from the first to catch on.  It’s Artisanal toast.

Yes, the apocalypse is at the gates and I’m in my sweatpants.

toastpng

*   *   *

Yet Another New Thing
Aka Department of
Pack it in, Pack it out

Content warning: a lotta shit-talking ahead

Last Sunday MH and I hiked the Angel’s Rest trail in the Columbia Gorge. I was thrilled to see my first trillium of the season…

trillium

…and then I was not-so-thrilled to see the first of what would be many, many, many, plastic  baggies by the side of the trail, their lumpy shape indicating they were filled with what my father genteelly [1] used to refer to as dog dirt.

This seems to be a new thing with People Who Take Their Dogs Hiking.® The optimistic part of me [2] would like to think that the owners, hiking uptrail when Rover does his business, place Rover’s doggie doody bag in a spot they think they will remember and intend to retrieve the bag on their way downtrail.

yeahright

Oh, sure, I trust ’em all to remember the exact spot on the trail where they left their dog’s bag, among the 523 bags left by the hikers before them.

Doggie-waste collection bags used to come in two shades: black, or very dark green. Perhaps on the advice of a Poop bag PR firm (which, I imagine, proposed that having a different colored bag will allow you to spot it more easily along the trail or hillside), the bags now come in a variety of colors. As MH and I ascended out of the fern-filled forest, past Coopey Falls and up to a ridge crest which offered a spectacular Gorge view, our view of the trail itself included

* pale pink poop bags
* purple poop parcels

* fuscia feces fetchers
* tangerine turd totes
* shadow  blue shit bags
* strawberry stool satchels
* burgundy buttload bundles
* cream crap carriers

turdbag

I’m glad (at least some) dog owners are bagging their furry friend’s feces instead of leaving it for other hikers to slip on/trip over (although we did see some free range dog turds). Still, why don’t they just take the bags with them?  If you’re one of those dog-hikers who doesn’t, because you think hiking while swinging a sack o’ shit would ruin your Nature Experience ® or whatever your reason is, please consider the experience of the your fellow outdoor lovers who are subject to the sight of your litter.

I spotted several hiking couples who carried their babies with them in backpacks. With the way my mind works, I began to wonder: why don’t they do the same as the dog owners? [3]  As a veteran parent of two long-ago-housebroken-children-now-young-adults, I remember the prodigious poop production of infants.  Yet I didn’t see any baby diapers, solo or bagged, on or near the trail.

I did see one Responsible Dog Owner, © whose dog wore one of those vests that have pockets and/or clip on gadgets which allowed the dog to carry its own poop bag.

Attention, puppy possessors who simply must take your faithful canine companions on the hiking trail:

First of all, make sure your dog actually enjoys hiking and is up to it.  Those of you who take along your foo-foo yipsters  and other petite breeds [4] – do you realize that:

(1)  not all dogs enjoy or have been bred for hiking;
(2)  your legs are four times as long as theirs;

(3)  as your dog struggles to keep pace with you, we who approach you on the trail can see the miserable, winded look on your dog’s face, that you apparently can’t (or choose to ignore)?

And second of all, most of all, get and use one of those Turd Tote [5] vests for your dog.

dogvest

The rest of us nature lovers will appreciate it, so much so that we will serenade you with a special version of the hiker’s anthem, The Happy Wanderer Song:

♫ I love to go a-wandering,
 Along the mountain track,
 My dog’s with me, and he’ll carry,
 His crapsack on his back.  ♫

C’mon, all you Girl Scout and Boy Scout dropouts – join in on the chorus:

♫  Val-deri,Val-dera, Val-deri,
 Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha
 Val-deri,Val-dera
His crapsack on his back  ♫

*   *   *

Department of Well, That’s a First

The song I woke up to Sunday morning that was playing in my head – I have previously blogged about my mind’s propensity for earworms – was the Ramones’ The KKK Took My Baby Away. Which is, aptly enough, from their album Pleasant Dreams.

*   *   *

Department of What Could Be Better for Your Brain Than Earworms

Reading this, that’s what:

It’s Time To Fight Religion:
Toxic Drivel, Useful Media Idiots, And The Real Story About Faith And Violence.

In this searing opinion piece for salon.com, The Atlantic contributing editor and Russia correspondent  Jeffrey Tayler rips news outlets and religious apologists and other a new one for their “misguided notions of tolerance” in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders. Tayler takes these “unwitting recidivist useful idiots” to task for evincing more political correctness than guts when it comes to defending – even understanding – the need for questioning and truth-telling in a free society.

“We need to turn the tables and refuse to let the faith-based or their smooth-talking accomplices set the terms for debate; refuse to cower before the balderdash term Islamophobia; refuse to let faith-mongering fraudsters, from the Pope in the Vatican to the pastor down the street, educate our children or lecture us on morals or anything else. If we do not believe the Bible is true or the Quran inerrant, we need to say so, loudly, clearly and repeatedly, until the “sacred” sheen of these books wears off. And it will.”

And if you enjoy that thought-provoking religion smack down, check out another article by Tayler. This one is about how the assumption that the so-called “Good Book” is actually good– i.e., that the Jewish and Christian scriptures offer nice, morally uplifting and instructional stories and firmly proclaim temperance and chastity – rests on grossly false premises. Also, the article’s title should be worth some kind of journalism award:

The Bible should be X-rated:
The Good Book is loaded with sexy sin – someone tell Mike Huckabee.

Indeed, someone tell Mike Huckabee. Tell him something. Anything.

*   *   *

Department of One More Shot

While I’m on the subject of Hucka-dissing, let’s say you somehow survived years of intellectual deprivation and traumatic brain injuries and thus have decided that Huckabee is your dude for the Republican presidential nomination.  Setting aside his platform of theocracy pandering, LGBT fear-mongering, sexually active women-bashing, science-denying, anti-choice, mandatory pregnancy-supporting and other unmedicated, Fox News-parroting, mythomaniac political positions, consider this:

Would you want This Great Land of Ours © to be led by someone who’s name brings to mind a chain of eateries whose greatest contribution to American food culture (read: the obesity/Type II diabetes epidemic) is their $13.99 “riblet” special?

"Casual, arterial and colon clogging dining since 1980."  (Not their official slogan)

“Casual, arterial and colon clogging dining since 1980.” (Not their official slogan)

 

*   *   *

Department of Let’s Think of Helpful Things For a Change

Panhandlers, and the frustration faced by most good-hearted people: to give or not to give? Actually, for me it’s easy. After doing volunteer work with the people who were professionals in the helping profession – experienced, non-starry eyed workers with the homeless and people living “on the edge” – I follow their advice.

Do not give cash. By doing so you may give yourself one minute of warm fuzzies, but true compassion does not abet or enable. Your money will most likely be going toward addiction of some kind (from nicotine to alcohol to meth to heroin and back again [6]), or you are funding one scam or another and some you’d never thought of.

Let’s say the guy asking for change says he’s doing so because he’s hungry. On the off chance he really is hungry, if you’ve the time, head for the nearest food cart or deli or corner mart and bring him back a burrito or a sandwich or a salad or ___. [7]  But most of us don’t have the time – we’re on our way to work or an appointment or whatever.

So. If you care about such things, tonight or some night soon, when you’re binge watching your latest BBC series, start to put together a Panhandler Kit.  Make a list of what you need for such a kit – some of the items you may already have around the house (we always keep a supply of Max tickets on hand), and some may take a little searching out. You may think of more additions, but here is the very basic kit I keep in my purse.

phandlekit

Panhandler kit:
* All day public transit tickets
* Meal vouchers for local soup kitchens (Sisters of the Road (Portland Area)
* lists of social services in your area (organizations that provide meals, shelter, showers, food, clothing, health and employment assistance – google them, make a document that can be printed out and scaled down to a wallet-sized card)

All items can fit in a business card holder-style wallet, or an envelope you reserve for that purpose. When solicited by a street person, kindly reply that no, you do not have/are unable to offer spare change, but…** and you remove your kit from your purse, pocket, backpack.

** In this day and age I do feel compelled to add “if you feel safe to do so.” Of course, you must use your judgment as to the wisdom of stopping and speaking with someone who gives off dangerous and/or unstable vibes. I, for example, would hesitate to engage a Klingon panhandler.

 

Klingon panhandler

*   *   *

 

 May all of your encounters, on the streets or the trails, be turd-bag free and worthy of the artisanal fad food of your choice, and  may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] He had not-so-genteel words, which he reserved for yelling through the kitchen window when he spotted people who walked their dogs and let them poop indiscriminately on other people’s lawns and sidewalks and – on one infamous (in my family, at least) occasion – on our garden hose.

[2] Yeah, the same part that would like to think Pol Pot had been bullied on the playground and was not merely or intrinsically evil.

[3] I actually began to plan my next guerilla art project: get disposable diapers, fill them with a lumpy substance, tie them neatly, take them along on our next hike and leave them next to dog poop bags.

[4] I’m talking to you, Pomeranian people, and also to owners of the other short-nosed, flat-faced, Brachycephalic breeds which are prone to respiratory distress and/or low endurance (e.g. pug, bulldog, boxer, chihuahua, shih tzu).

[5] Not the official name. But it would be, if I were the Marketing Queen.

[6] Or just to staying on the street and not seeking alternatives if you’re making enough by panhandling to get by.

[7] I’ve done this many times, and have shared stories with others who’ve done the same. The reactions from the food recipients clue you in as to whether the request was sincere. My favorite honest response: “Yeah, I was hungry, but for A BEER.”

The Green Armband I’m Not Wearing

Comments Off

I am no longer wearing it. I wore it for three days, starting last Friday, when Leonard Nimoy died. Green is the color of Vulcan blood. You knew that.

symbol

Leonard Nimoy was, of course, best known for his portrayal of the iconic Star Trek character, Mr. Spock. [1] Nimoy was also a talented writer and screenwriter, director and photographer and singer. [2]

Oh yeah, and he also appeared in the “The Challenge,” which is arguably the Best. Automobile Commercial. Ever.

In late 1979 or early 1980, my parents drove up from So Cal to visit me and check out my first post-college apartment in the Bay Area. A week before the trip they asked me if I wanted them to bring along their old black and white TV set, which, they said, was mine if I wanted it (they’d recently purchased a new color TV, and they knew I had no TV set of any color.). I said thanks, but no. I didn’t watch much television at the time, except for the occasional special event (e.g. The Olympic Games). [3]  I called them back in a couple of days and asked them to bring the set along – I ‘d just found out that Star Trek reruns were going to be broadcast on some local channel.

Upon hearing the news of Nimoy’s death, my siblings and I exchanged a series of emails, in which we reminisced and recommended our respective favorite Star Trek “Spock-centric” episodes, which got me to thinking about the impact a piece of art and an artist [4] can have on one’s life.

I have never attended a Star Trek (nor any fan) convention nor have I ever had the slightest interest in doing so (other than having a fleeting curiosity about attending a ST convention with a cultural anthropologist’s mindset to observe the behavior of obsessive social misfits devoted fans). Still, the Star Trek series and its television and movie sequels and prequels and spinoffs have been an important part of my “entertainment life” for over forty years. That’s worth at least three days of official if casual, armband-wearing mourning. And a lifetime of memories.

My friend MM, when he heard the news, posted the most succinctly appropriate sendoff or tribute I’ve seen:

One to beam up.

Nimoy

*   *   *

Department of My Brain Hurts

Sometimes once something gets in print or gets in a textbook or gets on people’s public radar, it just sticks around, even if there’s reason to suspect that the idea’s just wrong.
(Laurie Santos, professor of psychology at Yale University,

Director of the Comparative Cognition Laboratory)

brain

The latest episode of Freakonomics, the radio show that explores “the hidden side of everything,” is inspired by the book This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress. Freakonomics’ 3-5-2015 podcast, “This Idea Must Die” is both a treat and torture for idea junkies, and features interviews with a variety of Notable People ® from a variety of professions, all of whom were asked to propose answers to the same question:  “What (scientific) idea is ready for retirement?”

My head felt ready to explode as I began to consider the various propositions, which included

* A professor of cognitive science at University College London would like to kill off the idea that people are either right-brained or left-brained (“an idea that makes no physiological sense”);

* A professor at Harvard Business School wants to retire the idea that that markets are good…and the idea that markets are bad;

* A professor of quantum mechanical engineering at M.I.T. professor of quantum mechanical engineering at M.I.T. would like to retire the idea of “the universe;”

* An oncologist, professor of medicine and director of the MDS Center at Columbia University wants to retire “mouse models” from use in drug development for cancer therapy…

And how about the following for an apoplectic, [5] contemplation-o-rama:

“I think an idea that is bad, that’s really detrimental to society, is the idea that life is sacred.”
(Steve Levitt, Freakonomics co-author, economist at the University of Chicago.)

You owe your brain a listen.

*   *   *

It’s Flicker Time

hammer

No no no no no no no. That’s Flicker Time, not Hammer Time.

But while I’m on the subject, I’m standing here, in my office, staring at this parcel that was delivered  to our house by mistake. I just don’t know what to do. I know I should return it, but it’s addressed to MC Hammer, soooooo, I can’t touch this.

Thank you, Ladies and Germs, you’re too kind.

Back to Flicker Time.

flicker

One of the harbingers of the spring-that-shall-soon-be-here is the sound produced by a Northern Flicker, when s/he [6] is declaring territory with the help of technology.

Northern Flickers (along with most woodpecker species) “drum” on objects to declare territory, warn off rivals and attract and communicate with their mates. Before humans came along to muck up alter the environment, Flickers had to be satisfied with mere tree trunks to drum. They want to make the loudest noise possible from the highest spot possible, which is why, for suburban-dwelling Flickers, paradise is a neighborhood filled with houses that have metallic vents, chimney guards and flashings on their roofs.

I love to hear the sounds of Flicker housetop-drumming when I’m out for my morning walk. The part of me that enjoys petty irritations inflicted upon other people loves to imagine the reactions of the occupants whose houses are selected for Flicker drumming. I speak from experience: the first time you hear that noise, reverberating down your chimney and bouncing off the walls, it can be quite disconcerting until you figure out what the heck it is, where the heck it is coming from and who the heck is doing it.

"Everybody look at meeee! I've got my own drumming spaceship!"

“Everybody look at meeee! I’ve got my own drumming spaceship!”

*   *   *

Happy (early) 22nd Birthday to my son, K.

Hard to believe that my adorable “leaf boy” is twenty-two.

October 1995, near the Mackenzie River.

October 1995, near the Mackenzie River.

*   *   *

My Daughter the DJ

Keep it locked on the sound, 90.1 KUPS.

Excuse me for yet another a parental pride freak-out, but that’s my daughter on the air, announcing her college radio station’s motto.  All together now:

AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

Cat’s Got Your Tongue is what Belle is calling her show on KUPS, at the prime slot of Wednesday mornings, 6 am.. Her focus is “Indie folk,” which means that lucky listeners such as moiself get to hear songs about how “the robots are going to help us find our crystal” (after the pirates have stolen it). [7]

KUPS is a college radio station and sounds like one – interesting if sporadic programming, there are gaps in their schedule, and their website needs updating (Belle’s shift is not listed, ahem). Oh, and apparently no one at the radio station can agree about why their mascot is…what it is.

KUPS

*   *   *

When I’ve completed a new project and am researching publishers, one of the first things I do is check out the manuscript submission guidelines that are found on the publishing houses’ websites.  I am not a writer of genre fiction; thus, I rule out publishers that specialize in genres (unless they also publish literary fiction).  Sometimes, even when it is obvious from first glance that a publisher is genre-specific, I linger at the site, just to get an idea of how many ridiculous sub-categories there are and imagine the minds of people who read that shit genres are out there.

Such lingering occurred early this week, when I ran across a relatively new publishing house that specialized in the Romance genre. I was struck by the extensive sub-categories of Romance, some (okay; most) of which I had no idea existed:  Adventure Romance; Dark Fantasy; Futuristic; Gothic; Interracial; LGBT; Medical; Military; Paranormal; Regency; Rock ‘n Roll; Science Fiction; Time-Travel;Urban Fantasy…

Oh, and the publishers noted they were particularly interested in Amish Romance.

REALLY

Amish Romance?

I’d heard of the Christian – aka Inspirational – Romance genre, the guidelines of which are fairly strict: protagonists must behave according to “Christian tenets” and shun alcohol, tobacco, profanity and drugs; sexual desire and content is only hinted at or avoided entirely and must be heterosexual in nature; no nookie before marriage, and romantic encounters must lead to marriage or the promise of it somewhere in a golden horizon that is planned by their god; relationships with non-believers are either forbidden or presented in a negative light unless the plot involves the heathen love interest being “led to Christ.” A typical blurb for a mainstream Christian romance novel:

Bethany La Chasteté and  Rick Granarbor are not ready for the feelings that may blow apart their plans for their lives. Can they learn to trust that God has his own?

Once again, I digress.

An Amish romance novel? Who would read it – certainly not an actual Amish person. So then, who is the target audience? The comparatively frisky Mennonites?

Are those bees in the girls' bonnets or are they just happy to see us?

Are those bees in the girls’ bonnets or are they just happy to see us?

I’m trying to picture what, exactly, might constitute conflict and tension in an Amish Romance novel. An exchange of longing gazes over buttonhooks; the gentle stroking of a beard while sneaking surreptitious glances at an apron string fluttering in the sultry summer breeze; the coveting of the neighbor farm boy’s well-endowed buggy….

Joseph, Samuel and Jacob – is it hot in here or is it just me? Excuse me while I lie down and loosen my bonnet.

Although Rebecca's fiery temper has driven away every suitor, Reuben was ready to p lough the fallow fields of her heart.

Although Rebecca’s temper had driven away every suitor, Reuben was ready to plow the fallow fields of her heart.

 

*   *   *

May you live long and prosper, may you be the target audience of the genre of your choice, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Nimoy was also instrumental in developing the character’s history, distinctive body language and personality, according to Star Trek writers, producers and fellow actors.

[2] No…he was not a talented singer, as evidenced here.

[3] During my college and Young Adult Working Years © I missed many television shows now considered iconic (Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, ad nauseum) and had to learn about them in other ways, to fill the gaps in my popular culture knowledge, which is important for doing crossword puzzles.

[4] Yes, I’m counting a television show as art.

[5] Well, perhaps, if you’re religious, just that idea might send you into fits. I fully agree with retiring the idea that life – that anything – is “sacred,” but not for the (economic) reasons Levitt cites.

[6] Both sexes will drum and call to declare and protect their territory.

[7] Dillon’s Hey Beau.

The Bucket I’m Not Listing

Comments Off

I don’t have a Bucket List ® .  I do have, in the dusty corners of my mind, a file of some things I want to do before I die…but not right before I die. That is, I don’t want to do them, and then die.

One of them is to form a retro, San Francisco-style psychedelic band – doing covers of Jefferson Airplane, Strawberry Alarm Clock, and Iron Butterfly songs.  We’ll call ourselves Acid Reflux. [1]

acidrock

*   *   *

Speaking of hallucinogens…

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, an evangelical Christian and son of a Baptist preacher, regularly references his reliance on and so-called relationship with his god and has used his political platform to promote his beliefs. This has led to “The cutest press release we’ve ever issued”, according to FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaynor, which refers to the “genius action by one of our members” as per following story.

 In January Gov. Walker told a group of Wisconsin bankers that he will only run for president if he felt “called” to run. His many statements about how he feels instructed by his deity to make political decisions include his statement to the Madison Christian Business Association that by the age of 13 Walker had “…realized “I’m going to trust in you, Christ, to tell me where to go.” [2] Since Walker has taken the steps prospective candidates take in launching a presidential bid, one can assume that Walker feels instructed by his god to run for president.

godGOP

Thus, a cheeky Wisconsin state member of the Freedom From From Religion Foundation felt called by the forces of reason and rationality to file an open records request as per the state’s Public Records Law:

“Since your terms as Governor, please provide a copy/transcript of all communications with God, the Lord, Christ, Jesus or any other form of deity.”

Despite the fact that the various incarnations of the Christian deity [3] have rarely if ever seemed to be press-shy – at least if you count the actions of their followers – the governor’s staff admitted there is no evidence for governor-deity consultation. The official response to the records request came from the Office of the Governor’s legal counsel, which confirmed that no such records exist.

I'm shocked – shocked, I tell you – by this revelation!

I’m shocked – shocked, I tell you – by this revelation!

*   *   *

But wait – there’s more!

The Christian deity may be press-shy for a mere governor, but for renowned astrophysicist and Hayden Planetarium Director and Cosmos host, Neil deGrasse Tyson ? Oy vey and fire away:

Interviewer NGT: “God, it’s great having you on StarTalk, I’ve been after you for a couple of years to do this, you finally made some time in your busy schedule, so thanks.”

God: “It’s my pleasure, I’m a big fan, Neil. May I call you Neil?”

NGT: “Neil is fine.”

God: “Would you be willing to actually kneel?”

NGT: “Uh, there’s no ‘k’ in my name. And the answer’s no.”

You can listen to more of Neil’s Conversation with God here, on the podcast StarTalk Radio.

god cartoon

*   *   *

Department of Is it Equanimity, or is it Valium?

Wednesday night, circa dinner time, making a last minute run to the nearest market to pick up some I-forgot-these items, I spotted a man walking up and down the aisles of the store, accompanied by his (presumed) daughters, guestimated ages 6 and 3. The three year old was totally losing her shit; daddy remained calm, with an almost disturbingly serene smile on his face, despite being the recipient of many lasered, why won’t he do something about that? stares from unsympathetic adults.

I’d like to take this moment to thank Belle and K for being such relatively easy kids to raise. No matter what they did at home, they mostly held it together in public places.

Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Laissez les bons temps rouler.

*   *   *

Department of Simple Pleasures

I love being able to use my MS Word Add Words To Your Spell Check Dictionary feature for terms like “wedgie.”

*   *   *

Department of How You Know When It’s Time to Quit

but it looks so glamorous when the rock stars do it....

but it looks so glamorous when the rock stars do it….

Dateline: Monday morning, ~ 6:58 am, out for my morning Nordic walk. I detected an unfortunately familiar scent on the cool morning breeze, my head instinctively if disgustingly turning toward the direction of the smell, to confirm that it was yet another  of another husband/wife banished to the porch/garage for their morning nicotine fix.  This time it was a man, slouched on a lawnchair on his front porch, wearing tennis shoes and a too-small (his wife’s?) pink terrycloth robe.

The robe looked nothing like this.

The robe (and the man) looked nothing like this.

The very next (Tuesday) morning, the very same smell, the very same turn of my head, only it’s a double turn, as in double take.  This time, it’s a woman at the same house, sitting in the same chair on same porch, and she’s wearing the same ratty pink robe. She takes a deep drag on her fag and I’m thinking, ah, how cute, it’s the shared smoking robe.

Wednesday morning – nah. I took a different route.  I was a smidge curious (would there be a third wearer of the smoking robe?), but, there are so few mysteries left in life….

smoking jacket

*   *   *

Department of I Still Can’t Get Over This

The past few years…decades…have shown us that far too many [4] Republican legislators have an obsession with women’s reproductive systems. Surprisingly—NOT – these same lady-business-is-my-business conservative whackadoodles  seem to have little understanding of how the human body is constructed and actually functions.  Time and time again, their rhetoric indicates they wouldn’t know an actual female reproductive system from the proverbial hole in the ground.

The GOP's Va-jay-jay patrol.

The GOP’s Va-jay-jay patrol.

Latest pathetic example: State Rep. Vito Barbieri (R – Idaho) apparently thinks a woman’s stomach is connected to her vagina.

REALLY

Really. I may be a fiction writer but I can’t make up shit like this.

Whhile questioning a physician who was testifying against an Idaho State house anti-abortion bill, Representative aren’t-you-glad-my-salary-is-paid-by-my-constituent’s-tax-dollars Barbieri, whose intellect is evidently only rivaled by Idaho’s famous potatoes, asked the doctor  “if women could simply swallow a camera in order for doctors to perform remote gynecological exams.”

facepalm

I’m going to suggest Rep. Barbieri simply use a suppository camera so neurologists can perform a remote scan of his brain.

*   *   *

He no play-da-game. He no make-a-da rules!
(variously attributed to several politicians and/or public officials, referring to the Pope’s stricture against contraception)

 

May you only play the games where every player agrees to the rules,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feel tall.

[2] As quoted in Freethought radio broadcast

[3] Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus, Jesus Christ, The Holy Ghost,

[4] The correct number of legislators would be zero.

 The Bush I’m Not Beating Around

4 Comments

Happy Day-After Darwin Day

Darwinday

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.

 

ChetandRobbieDoll1975

*   *   *

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.

biomat

*   *   *

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.

REALLY

Really.

A fucking BRICK wall.

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]

 

Ingersoll

*   *   *

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

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.

Untitled-1

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.

papparazzi

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.

ATM

*   *   *

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]

SOLDIER FART

*   *   *

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.

thanks

*   *   *

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 Hakuna I’m Not Matata-ing

1 Comment

That Didn’t Take Long, Did It?

Okay, I’ll get this out of the way.

SOAPBOX

The seat cushions of the 114th Congress – which is 80% white, 80% male and 92% declared Christian and yet gets called “one of the most diverse (Congresses) in American history” – are barely warm, and guess what the religious right is up do?

Rep. Walter Jones (R, N. Car.) introduced a bill, H.R. 153, which aims to “restore the Free Speech and First Amendment rights of churches and exempt organizations by repealing the 1954 Johnson Amendment.”

The Johnson Amendment, a change in the tax code, prohibits churches (or other nonprofits with 501C tax exemptions) from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Hiding behind the free speech flag waving is the bill’s real agenda – religious electioneering and the effort to erode the wall of separation between church and state.

carlin

As per this alert from The American Humanist Association:

If pastors are given the right to endorse candidates from the pulpit, their parishioners may be coerced into supporting specific candidates because of a perceived religious obligation. This is fundamentally un-American, and weakens the state of our democracy by giving religious leaders untold influence. Stand up for church-state separation by opposing this harmful bill.

Church and state are separate for a reason, and attempts to de-secularize our government are opposed by levelheaded people of all worldviews, from humanist to religious believers.  Please, take a minute and make your voice heard by contacting your Representative.

*   *   *

andnow

DVD pick of the week : Murderball

This award-winning 2005 documentary about the U.S. quad rugby team, a team composed of paraplegic men, is highly entertaining. However, the film is not exactly in the mode of Reader’s Digest Inspiring Stories when it comes to portraying the psychologically transformative power of living with a disability.  In other words, if the macho asshole sensibility was your guiding force in life before you were disabled, chances are you will continue to be a macho asshole in your souped-up wheelchair.

murdrerball

*   *   *

Department of Oh Please, Please, Make It Be True

In the latest issue of The Week‘s It Must Be True I Read it in the Tabloids section, there is a blurb about a new home-renting service: Airpnp.

Nah, I thought, it can’t be real, although it’s a great prank on airbnb…then I searched, and found the service’s website:

Find a clean, comfortable bathroom no matter where you are. Airpnp gives you access to a ton of restrooms all over the planet. Whether you’re just out and about, at a big event, or need to find a place to go in a new city we’ve got you covered. 

Apparently, someone made it so.

*   *   *

Department of Too Good To Be True, But It Is
Aka, The Updated Version of Our Bestseller will Be Titled
The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: And Lied His Ass Off for Jesus

There’s a whole industry based on books where people “die” and then come back to life with firsthand accounts about what it’s like in heaven and what a really nice guy Jesus is. To American Christians, this is like deep-fried foods – they just eat it up, no questions asked. Because it verifies what they already believe, but can’t prove.
(Bill Maher, “Heavenly Fodder”)

You may have heard that Christian Evangelicals and religious booksellers all over the nation were peeing their pants with capitalist delight over the book that the gullible believers faithful  flocked to purchase.  The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: A True Story, the 2010 “memoir” of a boy’s recollection of his tour of heaven during his comatose state that followed a car accident, is being pulled from shelves after the (now) 16 year old boy admitted he made up the tale. [1]

The boy’s name?  Alex Malarkey.

*   *   *

Speaking of malarkey, Pope Not-As-Big-A-Cretin-As-The-Others-But-Still-a-Pope Francis went on his Hell Freezes Over [2] tour of the Philippines. He led an outdoor Mass last Sunday in Manila, during which he praised the faith of “simple people” (translation: those willing to swallow whatever codswallop the church dishes out).

The F-pope also spoke out against “poverty, ignorance and corruption,” giving those of us who are religion-free yet another thigh-slapper.

laughing

After all, the church’s Holy Trinity of poverty, ignorance and corruption is what sustains their hold over the ignorant, fearful, deceived masses faithful.

" Y'all pray for the poverty-stricken masses while I wave this solid gold cross."

” Y’all pray for the poverty-stricken masses while I wave this solid gold cross.”

*   *   *

Department of Really Stupid Stuff I Nearly Said
Sub-Department: This is Going To Come Back To Haunt Me Someday

As my groceries were being rung up I was about to comment on the clerk’s unique hand tattoo but, fortunately, took a second look before I opened my mouth…and realized that what had caught my attention was not ink art on the back of the clerk’s hand, but rather a tangle of varicose veins.

Not quite like this.

Not quite like this.

*   *   *

Department of Yum

The aroma is wafting[3] in from the kitchen, where a pan of toasted whole spices is cooling on the counter.  I’ll grind them [4] after they cool, then mix them with ground turmeric and coriander, for my special recipe curry powder.

spicesJPG

I love the smell of toasted spices, which lingers for hours, sometimes even overnight.  Belle, not so much.  One of the few plusses to having your children away at college is being able to mix up whatever spice or sauce combinations suit your palate, and not hear the dreaded Eeeeew, what’s that?

On one such Eeeew occasion, a long long time ago in a kitchen far far away, MH helped Belle weather the storm.  I think it was something Thai I was cooking; whatever it was, she didn’t like the smell of it, and he rigged a protective “device” for her — a tissue placed under her nose and held in place by her (relatively new, at that time) eyeglasses.   I was so pissed off My joy at his inventiveness knew no bounds, and I’m still thanking him for his ingenuity. [5]

Sadie nose protector

*   *   *

A few weeks ago someone said I didn’t often post personal info on my blog. I don’t know how much more personal you can get than to show a picture of your pestle-that-could-be-mistaken-for-a-marital-aid; still, I suppose it was a valid observation.

So.  Here are
15 Little Known If Not Exactly Personal Facts About Moiself
Content alert: name dropping

  1. I am interested, to the point of occasional fascination, by reports of inclement weather. (It’s a good thing MH & I are the Last Remaining Neanderthals Who Do Not Now Nor Ever Have Had Cable TV, ® or I would be glued to the various weather channels).
  2. I abhor the taste of black licorice and licorice-like flavors and aromas (if a recipe calls for anise or fennel seeds, I’ll leave it out). It isn’t a true allergic reaction, but even the whiff of a fresh fennel bulb makes me woozy.
  3. There is no third little known fact about me.
  4. One day in the early 70’s Danny Bonaduce (“Danny Partridge”) tried to strike up a conversation with me at Seattle’s Space Needle, where he and Dave Madden (“Reuben Kincaid”) were attending a Partridge Family promotional event. [6]
  5. I have shorter than average toes. [7]
  6. I think it would be great fun to have a glass shattering range (ala a firearms shooting range), where a person could lob full bottles of liquid against a concrete wall.
  7. I have had cats, dogs, snakes, lizards, birds, hamsters, rats, guinea pigs, snails, fish, mice and tarantulas for pets, but never a rabbit.
  8. When I was accepted to UC Davis I received a recruitment letter from their field hockey team.
  9. I worked for the obstetrician who delivered Neil and Pegi Young’s second child. [8]
  10. Oops, looks like only ten little known facts.
"There, there, it's nothing personal, Danny, she just thought your bass playing sucked."

“There, there, it’s nothing personal, Danny, she just thought your bass playing sucked.”

*   *   *

Department of Why I’ll Never Be Ambassador to Kenya

At least once a week, whatever part of my brain is in charge of such things rings me up in the proverbial middle of the night with a must-write-this-down call.  Over the years I have learned that whatever prompts these nocturnal nudges cannot be ignored if I am to go back to sleep; thus, I keep a notepad and pen on my nightstand.

Nine out of ten times I wake up in the morning aware of (mostly) what I’d written down.  Last Saturday was one of the 10% mornings: I knew I’d written something, but wasn’t sure about the content.  In the morning, my scribbles on the note pad read:

Hakuna Matata?
No, Hakuna Frittata.

Oh. Okay. I get it.

Not this:

hakuna

But, this:

fritatta

Don’t you wish your subconscious was as profound as mine?

*   *   *

 May your Wall of Separation keep you safe from encroaching licorice, and allow for an occasional fennel-free frittata to sneak past the border patrol…
and may the hijinks ensue.

  Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Actually, it’s quite sad to read the story behind the story. The accident left the boy quadriplegic; he wanted attention, was raised religious…and the boy and his mother were exploited by both fellow evangelicals and publishers and pressured to remain silent when they wanted to go public with the book’s “inaccuracies.”

[2] Or, was that The Eagles?

[3] Wafting is an aroma’s favorite means of transport.

[4] In a $9 coffee bean grinder I purchased solely for grinding spices.

[5] Or, not.

[6] I thought he was trying to impress me with his celebrity, and I snubbed him. He was surrounded by adults and I was the only person his age nearby…I think he was just a lonely/bored kid trying to connect, and I’ve always regretted not being kinder to him.

[7] As confirmed by many a shoe salesman, one of whom said, after espying my naked feet, “Wow, if you had, like, normal length toes your shoes would be one or two sizes larger.”  Guess who didn’t make that sale?

[8] And I’m pissed at Mr. Young for dumping Pegi after 36+ years for…Daryl Hannah?

Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 294 other followers