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. 
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 , 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.
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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.
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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  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.
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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.
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.  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.
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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  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. 
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While We’re Sort of on the Subject
Please, To Whomever May Be Listening on the Republican Side of Things  :
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.
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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.
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“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 )
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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!
 Why isn’t there a footnote yet?
 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.
 It’s plastic. Virgin plastic.
 Yep, the one she writes with. You take a swing at something, you lead with your dominant hand.
 There should be more interesting footnotes here, or somewhere in this post. Sorry.
 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.
 Yeah, I know, I might as well be talking to – or punching – a brick wall.
Queen of Hats (@thequeenofhats)
Feb 13, 2015 @ 08:07:42
Ah, RGP. I’m sorry I missed Chet’s anniversary and am sending a virtual hug and the “good thoughts and/or prayers” I know you so appreciate receiving through the ether. 😉 I love the picture of the two of you.
Feb 13, 2015 @ 08:50:34
Thank you! That was one of his favorite pictures of the two of us. Mine, too.
Queen of Hats (@thequeenofhats)
Feb 13, 2015 @ 12:54:29
I think what makes it particularly awesome is that I can see both of your children in his face (usually I really see your son). BTW: regarding prefrontal cortex stuff, I asked my psychiatrist today if all the “executive function” training that’s being pushed on parents now is legit: do they actually develop prefrontal cortex function? And he said no, it just makes them more like little adults. AND I wanted to tell you about the book I’m reading–in it it’s incredibly funny to read the grousing various founding fathers did over Common Sense’s use of the OT as an argument against monarchy. So we must sushi soon! (Yes, I’m turning it into a verb.)
Feb 13, 2015 @ 13:04:47
TEDTalks Society and Culture speaker, lexicographer Erin McKean, wants you to use sushi as a verb: https://www.ted.com/playlists/228/how_language_changes_over_time