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The Genome I’m Not Sequencing

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And, BTW, neither are you, even if you’ve forked over $199 to 23and Me, Family Tree, and/or the various other genetic testing organizations you can find online. Because…Science. Because…for reasons I’ll get to, soon. But first

 

 

No, not butt first....

No, not butt first….

 

 …a bit of background/digression.

*   *   *

Department Of We Hoped She Was “Just” French

I have a curious (to some people, myself included) lack of interest in my genetic family tree. More curious to me than knowing all about those who have occupied the various limbs of my family tree – aka, blood kin – is my lack of curiosity about the subject.

For whatever reasons, my bloodlines have never mattered much to moiself, in terms of my own self definition/image/worth, and also in terms of other bipeds whom I find interesting and acquaintance-worthy. [1]  Even so, I fully acknowledge, if not fully understand, the existence of a desire which motivates people to research their genetic history via ventures that, IMHO, run the spectrum from harmless interest to absorbing hobby to batshit bonkers obsession.

A recent casual comment made by someone who’d used one of the afore-mentioned DNA testing services testing made me realize I knew little of what the testing companies offer. I felt a brief…gasp…curiosity, re both the process of such testing, and the results. Could genome sequencing possibly shed light on a family mystery regarding a paternal ancestor? Specifically, a Chickasaw or Cherokee [2] who married into the Irish Parnells and whose new family tried to “pass” her (or him) off as white.

 

 Looks like someone else had a story to tell?

Looks like someone else had a story to tell?

 

 

 

Excuse my detour through what I feel compelled [3] to call The History of the Mystery.

From about age four onward – once I got over my blond phase – I heard, at irregular intervals, mildly teasing comments from both family and friends about my “Indian features,” which were attributed by family members to a Native American antecedent on my father’s maternal side of the family

I can’t remember how old I was when my father had told me there was a Cherokee or Chickasaw ancestor on his mother’s side. He also told me he couldn’t remember whether it was his mother’s great grandfather or mother, and that the family records on such matters were scanty and unreliable for many reasons, including the fact that “… people back then changed names and information they thought was embarrassing.”

 

 

Age three or four, as I was transitioning to my true hair color. Fortunately, no need for a separate bathroom.

Age three or four. I was transitioning to my true hair color. Fortunately, no need for a separate bathroom.

 

 

 

The she looks Indian comments became more frequent during my high school years, particularly when I wore my long hair in two braids. The observations didn’t impress me or make me think I was in some way cool or hip (I did not buy into the White People Think It’s Cool To Have Native American Ancestry mentality that seemed to flourish in the late 60s-70s), nor did they bother me. I mostly attributed the remarks to the general lack of imagination (long dark braided hair = Injun, Ke-mo sah-bee!) in what passed for humor [4] amongst my peers. And then, my maternal grandmother, “Bapa,” chimed in, one afternoon during my freshman year of high school.

According to Bapa, my Native American heritage from a great great grandparent  [5] was scant, yet evident enough that Bapa’s friend gave Bapa a warning. Friend of Bapa  advised Bapa to take down the framed picture of me Bapa had on her coffee table, because said picture emphasized my “Indian-features.”

 

REALLY

 

 

Yes, really.

Bapa laughed conspiratorially when she told me what her friend had said. I laughed in turn, then asked Bapa what she knew about the possible Indian-featured member of my family. “Oh, well,” Bapa sighed, “There isn’t much to know.” [6]

A few years after Bapa’s youngest child (my mother) was married (to my father) it was somehow revealed to Bapa [7] that there was Indian blood on my father’s side of the family (“It doesn’t show in your father, but you can tell by looking at pictures of his mother.”)[8] It was an Indian woman, Bapa thought, although one of my father’s sisters had tried to reassure the family that the ancestor was “maybe just French.”

I was able to question my father’s youngest sister (keeper of the family tree information) about our Native antecedent only once before she died  [9] . She said, in that lovely Tennessee twang of hers and totally sans tongue in cheek, that she’d “…heard from a reliable source that the story was unreliable.”  [10].  She then made a funny face, lowered her voice said that, yes, her Mama had once admitted to having some Indian blood “back there,” maybe Cherokee but “most likely” Chickasaw, but that “we were thinking” (the tone of her voice implied, we were hoping) “it wasn’t Indian,  just French.”

 

 

 

 

No, please, anyone but the French....

No, please, anyone but the French….

*   *   *

We Now Return You To Our Regular Scheduled Babbling Programming

 

I checked out a couple of genetic testing sites, and almost immediately lost interest when I read their come-on tags – teasers meant to exploit our culture’s wide-ranging celebrity obsession (Could you be related to someone famous?).

 

 

avengerstreejpg

 

Further interest was lost via having some of my concerns about the prematurity of the science of genetic testing confirmed when I listened to a recent StarTalk podcast.

The Promise and Peril of the Genomic Revolution is a fascinating interview with both a researcher in the field of genetic testing – bioethicist Robert Kitzman – and also someone trying to profit by popularize the testing among the non-scientifically inclined public – Anne Wojcicki, CEO and co-founder of the genetic testing company 23andMe .

You are made of cells. And the cells in your body have 23 pairs of chromosomes.
Your chromosomes are made of DNA, which can tell you a lot about you. Explore your 23 pairs today. 
Find out what your 23 pairs of chromosomes can tell you.
(from www.23andMe.com )

 

Wojcicki, of course, wants you to use her services, and thus touts how such testing is “empowering individuals to take more control of their own healthcare and to benefit from increased understanding of their own genome.”

Except that no genetic testing company allows you to sequence your entire genome, nor even come close to “understanding” it.  Dr. Kitzman brought up the seemingly little-known (amongst the scientific laity) yet major point that people who contract the services of genetic testing companies mistakenly think they are getting their entire genome sequenced.  

Another concern…there are 3 billion letters (in a human genome). 23andMe is not looking at all 3 billion letters. What they’re doing is looking at one out of every several hundred thousand letters. Imagine a wall of books…what they’re doing is saying we’re going to take one book, we’re going to give you the first letter on every three pages. So the first letter is A, three pages letter the first book is a C, three pages later the first letter is T…you don’t know what kind of book you’re reading… What 23andme is now doing is just giving you one one-thousandth of the information that’s there, so there are going to be false positives, false negatives, there are going to be problems understanding it….”
( Robert Kitzman, StarTalk, 4-29-16 )

The literary analogy: well, then. What do you have, and how can you tell? Are you previewing Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking? A surah from the Koran? A Quentin Tarentino script (no, lawdy, take me now)?

As to such testing’s application to healthcare  [11] : the science, while amazing, is still in its relative infancy, and, as the podcast warns, there are real and serious “…limitations of what we do and don’t know at this very early stage in what is proving to be a much more complicated process than we used to believe.” Given the dangers of false positives and false negatives, tread lightly, y’all.

So. Having my genome sequenced, for whatever reason? I’m not ruling it out; perhaps, Someday For Some Reason ®. But for now, I’ll be content with letting that Cagey Chickasaw Chick – I mean of course, Furtive French Femme – lurk in the not-too-far-distant background. Or, my braids, if I ever have them again.  [12]

 

 

cclown

*   *   *

Department Of Moments That Scream, Inspiration

I recently finished reading a book about the history of Los Angeles punk rock. The book is composed of twenty-four chapter length stories and essays about the infamous west coast scene (circa 1977-1982) by ~ fifteen narrators/participants of that era. I came away from the read with three impressions:

(1) I found it appropriate that the book’s chapters were as varied (read: uneven) in competency and coherency of their prose as the punk bands described therein were as per their musical talent and artistic vision.

(2) Vying for Best Musical Trivia Ever ®  is the following passage from the book, on how the band The Germs got their name:

They were proudly wearing their new mustard-yellow band T-shirts, emblazoned in velvet iron-on letters GERMS. The shirts had been made at a store where they charged by the letter, and their first choice of band name, Sophistifuck and the Revlon Spam Queens, simply wasn’t affordable.
(Chapter 5, Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History of LA Punk )

(3) There is no impression #3.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Combinations That Call For Consuming Anti-Vertigo Medications

After finishing When Breath Becomes Air, the profoundly moving memoir of a young physician’s journey into what-makes-life-worth-living-and-what-the-heck-is-life-anyway territory after he receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, I couldn’t start another book for several weeks. Then when I did, I ping-ponged between the afore-mentioned expository of the LA Punk Scene and Secular Meditation: 32 Practices For Cultivating Inner Peace, Compassion, And Joy.

 

 

punkmeditation

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you be able to include Spam when naming some venture in your life; [13]  
May that blip on your genome turn out to be just French,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] I’m not going to be predisposed to like a person, or find them more or less interesting or valuable, just because we are supposedly “related.”

[2] Chickasaw or Cherokee – I’ve heard/read different attributions.

[3] By the spirit of the love child of Jesse Jackson and Johnnie Cochrane.

[4] I never took the comments to be insulting, regardless of the commenter’s true intentions. One time there was an implied derogation:  a friend (who had a German last name) called me squaw, as if flinging an epithet. I informed him of the origins of his surname and called him a Nazi. Ah, the compassionate maturity of youth.

[5] Or more…not sure how many great-greatss, as the available family tree info is less than helpful.

[6] Despite her protestations, she’d obviously known enough of something to tell a friend about it.

[7] Bapa was sketchy on details, and like the rest of my family’s older generation, was reluctant to talk about it.

[8] Make that picture, singular. Like the rest of our family, Bapa had seen only one picture of my father’s mother: a tiny, grainy shot of my father’s mother and father and their brood, lined up against their ramshackle tenant farmer’s shack. I don’t know how you could “tell” anything from that picture, except that my father’s mother was a poor farm woman who had too many children.

[9] So difficult to get those pesky dead people to cough up any details.

[10] Mere words cannot describe how much I loved her phrasing, nor how difficult it was to keep a straight face when she said that.

[11] The more nobler excuse/rationale for such testing, versus the self-aggrandizing, gossipy Find Out If You’re Related To Royalty! ego-appeals.

[12] The pix is of from my high school’s senior award for Campus Clown. I am biting down on a doll’s arm, which I found at the beach the summer before my senior year and then wore on a chain around my neck for the rest of the year…because I could.

[13] As long as that venture isn’t a child.

The Troops I’m Not Supporting

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Would you like to support our troops?

It’s that same woman outside the same grocery store, sitting at the same folding table covered with the same pile of camouflage pens and toys and ribbons and bracelets, and flag pins and bumper stickers and decals.  “Would you like to support our troops?” she says – a statement more than a question – and she waves her hand over the pile of schocky military-themed shit allegedly patriotic crap.

 

*  Is this a private charity, and if so, what is its name?

* Will I find your organization listed on Charity Navigator and/or give well and/or GiveWell and/or CharityWatch and/or other independent organizations that vet charities for cost effectiveness and transparency and efficiency and efficacy of donation usage?

* Do you have a statement on your administrative overhead/costs? If not, can you tell me where does the money go? How much do you make on each plastic brimmed camouflage hat, and what percentage of the sale of this…merchandise…goes to “the troops,” and by “the troops” what do you mean….?

Those are the questions I thought to ask, but didn’t. Instead, mindful that I had things to do/places to be, I responded tersely, but truthfully. I paused at the table, looked at the WTF? collection of items, then favored her with what I hoped was an expression of genuine regret at the ignorant naiveté of her request, and not the disgust I felt welling up.

“No, sorry, but buying plastic crap made in China does nothing to ‘help the troops.’ ” [1]

Her eyes glazed over; she did not engage me further but didn’t miss a beat calling out to the next person exiting the store. So when I saw her last Wednesday night, doing her same shtick, it was good thing she didn’t catch me because I’d vowed if she ever solicited me again I would waste a precious ten seconds telling her that what our troops really need is our help in electing leaders who will not send our soldiers to fight senseless, strategy-less, endless, oil-dependency fueled wars.

 

 

Feeling guilty about sending young Americans to fight overseas while you stay at home enjoying the comforts of your LazyBoy ® ? Not to worry, saying "Thank you for your service," to a soldier in uniform, plus sticking any of these decals on your vehicles is the equivalent of serving one tour of duty in Dumbfuckistan and crafting a rational foreign policy.

Feeling guilty about sending young Americans to fight overseas while you stay home enjoying the comforts of a LazyBoy ® ? Not to worry, saying “Thank you for your service,” to a soldier in uniform, plus sticking any of these decals on your vehicles, is the equivalent of serving one tour of duty in Dumbfuckistan and crafting a rational foreign policy.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of That Which Defies Description  [1]

When Mariya Karimjee was little, members of her family made a decision that would affect her entire life. Years later, she wants to know why.

Such a down-to-earth introduction to a mind-blowing, heart-rending and yet ultimately, I’d argue, triumphant story – a story that (surprise!) is not about the Holocaust.  [2]

If you are up for a dose of humanity, please listen  [3]  to  Whose Great Idea Was This?”, from the most recent edition of This American Life: Who Do We Think We Are.

 

*   *   *

A Somewhat Happier Dose of Humanity; aka,
Department Of Making The Best Of Things Via Fun With Eggcorns

 

One of the few upsides of having an elderly, cognitively sketchy, memory-impaired parent, who is also hard of hearing, is having an exchange like that which I recently had with my mother  [4].

Context: phone call with my mom, updating her re various family members.  [5]   She asked about my son, K, who is, I assured her, in a happy place. He’s working at a job he likes, renting a house with friends, and – bonus for us! – he took one of the cats with him.  [6]

Moiself: “You may recall that MH and I have three indoor cats. The one named Tootsie – she’s with K, now.”

Mom: “I remember her. She’s the one with many toes. K took her? How nice.”

Moiself: “Yes, she’s living with him.”

Mom: “Oh, that’s a shame.”

Moiself: “Uh…what’s a shame?”

Mom: “That she’s an invalid.”

It took me a beat to realize, “She’s living with him” got translated as, “She’s an invalid.”

 

*   *   *

Department of And One More Thing

It can – and indeed has – been argued that living with any cat is like living with an invalid. A fussy, demanding, hard-to-please invalid.

 

"No, I said I wanted the mice purée served at room temp and my footbath steaming hot. It's so hard to find good help these days...."

“No, I said I want my mice purée served at room temp and my footbath steaming hot. It’s so hard to find good help these days….”

*   *   *

May you be inspired to help – troops, or anybody – in ways that truly do;
May you appreciate the whimsy of eggcorns, no matter the source;
May you enjoy kind of pleasure that comes from foisting off a yet another household responsibility onto sharing a beloved pet with your adult child;
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] And yet, someone finds the strength to do so.

[2] Although it could be argued it is about another kind of Holocaust, wherein a group of people are abused solely because they belong to a certain category as defined by those in power.

[3] You could get the transcript, but I think there is more power in hearing the voices of those in the story.

[4] Assurances for the easily concerned: my mother has no computer access, doesn’t read my blog, doesn’t know that I write a blog, doesn’t know what a blog is….

[5] That is, repeating the same information during every phone call (and often more than once during the same call).

[6] Now, if only he would take one or both of the snakes….

The TV Show Song I’m Not Singing

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Department Of Rachel Bloom Needs To Thank Me

Content warning: awesomeness, and dick humor.

Yes, the afore-mentioned Ms. Bloom, she of multiple slash abilities (singer/songwriter/actor/comedian), might want to toss some gratitude my way for being way older than her. Because if I were Rachel Bloom’s age (and – minor point – if I also had her talent ) I would have composed, sang and posted those so-funny-you-laugh-so-hard-milk-squirts-out-of-your-nose-and-you-weren’t-even-drinking-any-milk videos (usually NSFW) before she did.

Like…maybe…this one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWMpnxMLZ_E

 

*   *   *

Department Of Speculation: What Is “Stupid Shit” The Title Of?

Alas, it’s not the working title of my autobiography. [1]   It the name of a song by Andy Harrison I was listening to on Tuesday, while walking to lunch.

♫  There’s a world in your hands full of power and love
And the choice’s right here like a new pair of gloves
Whatcha gonna do, you can handle it.  ♫

I was reflecting on the inspiring words of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, spoken at a press conference announcing the Department of Justice lawsuit filed re North Carolina’s anti-LGBT legislation; I was reflecting on how frustrating it is, to me, that such eloquence had to be mustered for such nonsense. It’s a big world with big problems, yet some folks be getting’ their tighty whities in a knot about which public bathroom someone else can use…

 

REALLY

 

  …and then, the song’s chorus is ringing in my ears: 

♫  But they want you to focus on stupid shit
So you don’t have a clue about what’s legit
They want you to focus on
 stupid shit.

Yeah they want you to focus on stupid shit
So you don’t find your power, your love, your wit
Take a look around
and don’t do it.  ♫

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Name Blame Game

Content warning: Tragedy For All Humanity ©

 

Ahoy, Boaty...in our dreams....

Ahoy, Boaty…in our dreams….

 

I am in mourning, for the lost of inarguably The. Best. Boat. Name. Ever.

You’ve been following the saga of how Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council invited the British public to name their new research vessel…haven’t you? [2]

Long story short, people submitted names and voted; Boaty Mcboat Face was the runaway winner.; the British Science Minister proved himself to be yet another Upper Class Twit by saying there were “more suitable” names and declaring that the NERC’s research vessel would be named for renowned naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough .

I’ve nothing against Sir David McDave Face; in fact, I’m a fan. But, he’s got all those wildlife harassment nature documentaries to be remembered for. Those sneaky Limeys asked for the people’s choice, they got it, and then, nooooooooooooooooooooooo.

 

 

 

You were saying something about suitable names?

You were saying something about suitable names?

*   *   *

Department Of Adventures In American Racism

Content warning: the n-word; stupid/offensive jokes.

♫ Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes a big man.
He was brave he was fearless
And as tough as a mighty oak tree. ♫

It had been years since I’d heard that song, and there it was, on the radio. [3] Anyone else out there old enough to remember the Daniel Boone TV show? It aired on NBC in the mid-to-late 1960s. Its theme song had three or four verses, each one beginning with the same two lines, stressing what a big man Dan’l was.

♫ Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes a big man…. ♫

The theme song was popular, easy-to-remember…

 

 

…and easy to lampoon.

I must have been in the third or fourth grade when two of my cousins pulled me aside at a family gathering. DB and his brother JB told me that if I’d ditch the appetizers table [4] and follow them out to the backyard I could hear some really funny stuff.

These cousins were the first (but not the last) people to tell me racist jokes – jokes I didn’t always “get.” Although I was only nine years old I considered myself pretty humor-hep; still, I didn’t understand why “Did you hear about the NFL’s plan to reduce the number of fumbles by running backs? They’re going to paint the footballs to look like watermelons!” was supposed to be funny.

I prepared myself for another round of my cousins’ alleged comedy. I was hoping for at least one fart story; no such luck. JB announced that he and DB were going to honor me by sharing the “secret last verse” to the Daniel Boone song.

Daniel Boone was a man,
Yes a big man
But the bear was bigger
So he ran like a nigger up a tree.

Get it? Do you get it?

 

Stone-faced, flummoxed silence on my part.

My cousins stopped their chortling and exchanged nervous glances. My delayed reaction had them worrying that I was shocked and offended by their use of the N-word (I was) and was going to tattle on them to their parents (I didn’t).

I did laugh. Sort of…eventually. But, not early enough for my cousins. And not for the reasons they’d hoped.

My chuckle, tardy as it was, was genuine. It was one of the first times I was conscious of…I’m not sure what to call it…what, in my mind, was the joke I saw behind the joke they wanted to tell.  And I knew there was no way I could explain my thinking to them.

The rhyming offensive word was almost superfluous to the meta/existentialism of the line:

“…but the bear was bigger…”

No need to go further. It still gets me.

Later on, at home, I asked my father about the altered verse. It wasn’t the first time I’d questioned my parents after hearing a racist comment, and it wasn’t the first time their response would include some variation of the Crabs in a Bucket story – a story I later realized didn’t really apply, although my parents obviously thought it did. [5]

It’s not that your cousins are prejudiced [6] or even mean-spirited, my father said, it’s that they’re ignorant. People who aren’t very smart, or who are insecure about their status…well, the only way some people know how to shore themselves up is to find someone below them on the totem pole, [7] and pull someone else back down in the bucket so that they can climb out, or at least not be left behind. Sometimes they do this by mocking people of a different race.

When I was a child, I never heard my parents express (overt) racist sentiments.   [8] I also never heard them openly contradict the bigotry freely expressed in front of me by a few of our neighbors and certain relatives. When a squirm-worthy comment would slither past my Aunt Erva’s cigarette, my parents would change the subject. Later, in private, they would tell me that Erva was not truly prejudiced,  [9] just ill-informed and insensitive.

But you said nothing, I thought. And people were listening.

My parents’ silence on such matters was one of many experiences which helped make me the judgmental bigmouth concerned citizen I am today. A guiding life principle I’ve tried to instill in son K and daughter Belle: if you are with a group of people and someone makes an ignorant/racist/hurtful/sexist/bullying/scientifically-stupid-disguised-as-religious-opinion remark, and you say nothing, others listening may rightfully assume you agree with, or are at least accepting of, the speaker’s sentiments.

Yes, you must choose your battles. But…silence implies acquiescence.

But….

But the bear was bigger….

It still cracks me up. 

 

 

But the bear was bigger....So Fess Parker left the frontier and got into wine making.

But the bear was bigger….So Fess Parker left the frontier and got into wine making.

*   *   *

Is There Any Day As Happy….

As that day when you get new underwear? Let us all rejoice, as one big pile of 100% cotton loving humanity.

 

undies

*   *   *

By The Way And For Your Information

If we’re going to be acquainted on this level you should know that it’s underwear or underpants, and never…never….”panties” (shudder).

 

wordcops

 

 

*   *   *

May you focus on the shit that matters (or at least isn’t stupid);
May your silence never imply acquiescence (unless it does);
May new underwear raise your spirits (and never give you wedgies);
…and may the hijinks ensue. 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] But nice guess, thanks.

[2] If not, stop reading this right now, go to your contemplative corner, and think about why you distance yourself from the vital issues that unite humanity.

[3] And I have no idea why. Channel-flipping, you hear all sorts of snippets.

[4] I could – and one time, I think, did – finish an entire jar of green olives by moiself.

[5] No parent wants their wiseass ten year old telling them, “Actually, you’re misusing the metaphor….”

[6] They were.

[7] I was never sure about how a totem pole could fit into a crab bucket.

[8] Although as I came to realize later, their political and social justice opinions were far more conservative than mine, and indicative of their respective, less than gracious and enlightened upbringings.

[9] Wrong again, folks.

The List I’m Not Making

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Haiku for Walking
While Listening to Nothing
Yet Hearing So Much

Early evening,
heading downtown, I greet the
others who walk past.

They nod, adjust their
earbuds, and return their gaze
downward, at their phones.
They have their iTunes,
podcasts, or conversations,
but miss the street songs:

Backyard wind chimes;
breeze rustling the birch leaves;
a child’s distant laugh.

Cars unseen but heard;
cheers from the nearby sports field;
crows rebuking jays.

Walking to downtown
to meet MH for dinner
cellphone in stasis.

downtownb

*   *   *

Department Of Pissing In The Wind
Aka, Will It Do Any Good?

Briefly: I experienced buyer’s remorse after purchasing something online and, when the product arrived, was horrified by the excessive, totally unnecessary, wasteful, non-recyclable packaging. I sent an email to the company [1], with this picture, and advised/implored them to do better. [2]

 

olay

*   *   *

Department of Even More Essential Than a Bucket List

 

Last Friday MH surprised us [3] by procuring dinner reservations at an mahhhvelous vegetarian restaurant, Natural Selection. The dining atmosphere was at once intimate and welcoming, and not at all twee or intimidating, despite the restaurant having the all-too-Portland description rustic chic applied to it by critic.

We spent over two hours enjoying a prix fixe, four course (with wine pairings for each course) dinner. We enjoyed the kind of meal that makes you feel ebullient and comrade-ic with your fellow diners, and you turn to those seated to your left and right and find an excuse to make conversation – the kind of meal that turns strangers into friends (“What did you choose for the second course?”).

It was the kind of meal that should have had me posting a picture of each course to a certain friend, but I was so into the repast I neglected to do so. By the way, if you have the good fortune to know Scott Duke Harris, intrepid Santa Ana, CA – Hanoi journalist, do send him pictures of your favorite meals. He’ll love it.

 

NS

 

 

Once again, I digress.

As per the afore-mentioned, strangers-begin-talking-when-inspired-by-good-food impulse, I struck up a conversation with the gentleman seated at the table to my right. He and his Lovely and Talented Wife © were, like MH and I, first-timers at the restaurant. They were celebrating her retirement from 25 years with one job and moving on to the third act. He preceded her in retirement, and we began chatting about how he was filling his time, including trying new things – like a gourmet vegetarian restaurant – and yet not falling into the I-only-have-so-much-time-left-and-must-do-all-the-things-I-missed-doing-when-I-was-younger trap. We commiserated about the ever-increasing swiftness of the passage of time, and about avoiding the well-meaning advice of those people who have compiled their own bucket list and pressure you to do the same.

I told him how, while continuing to seek meaningful ways to contribute to society, I also seek to minimize time spent in activities I loathe. [4] For example, I know I will never be able to reclaim those hours, attending a “morale raising/teamwork-building” business workshop, or sitting in a committee, listening to someone ask a question that needn’t have be asked (or that had already been answered) but was put out there so that the asker could be seen as insightful or perceptive by his colleagues….

The gentleman concurred, and offered this sentiment: the older he gets, the more he realizes the importance of not doing certain things. That is, he recognizes what, for him, is the primacy of not the bucket list, but the fuck-it list.

Exactly! I resisted the urge to pound my fist on the (artisanal, hand- crafted) table in enthusiastic recognition of a kindred spirit.  And I told him I was going to steal his description.

No matter our age, we are all bound by the limits of lifespan. You may be compiling an inspiring bucket list, and if so, good for you!  I hope you are also keeping track of what you do not need to do anymore – including things you’ve never done, things that may be #1 on someone else’s bucket list but which you just don’t see as effort- or time- or money- or risk-worthy  [5]  .  As in, fuck it, I’m not going to squander my time on that.

 

 

buycket

*   *   *

Skepticism is hard.  How do you convince someone they’re not thinking clearly when they’re not thinking clearly?
Our brains are not “wired” for skeptical thinking; studies have shown that people who lose their “faith” tend to replace it with something else, with a different type of belief – with some other non-evidence-based reasoning.

(Phil Platt, astronomer, writer and science blogger, from his “Don’t be a Dick” talk at the TAM Conference , 2010)

Acartoon

 

 

Last week I came across a link to an article titled, Transgenderism: A Pathogenic Meme. The article was written by Paul McHugh, MD, a Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School, and published via the conservative thinktank, The Witherspoon Institute. The link to the article was posted by a FB friend who is a conservative Christian and who recently obtained an (on-line) degree in counseling from Liberty University.

Yep. That Liberty University – the one founded by Jerry Falwell. [6] Liberty is the kind of conservative religious institution that purports to offer an “education” and “the pursuit of knowledge in every discipline” – as long as said knowledge can be cherry-picked to conform to their frighteningly, medieval superstition relic doctrinal statement…in which Iron Age mythological beings are treated as serious 21st century driving forces.

So. FBF posted this intro to the link: “Very good article. If a person wants help, evidence-based intervention is always the best way to go.”

One of the article’s assertions about transgenderism –  that facts are more determinative than feelings –  is one I happen to agree with…about any subject. And so I couldn’t help but chuckle Oy vey, if only after reading FBF’s intro.

“For those who want to be helped, evidence based-reasoning….” Indeed. That would be a nice change and a pleasant surprise.

If only y’all religious believers would apply evidence-based reasoning across the entire spectrum of your lives, and not only when you (think you) can find or fashion evidence to suit a particular doctrinal tenet.

Facts are (or should be) more determinative than feelings, including the fact that religious/supernatural claims about the world are ultimately based on feelings – believers [7] live and walk by faith, as their own holy books tell them . The only fact-based thing about religion is the fact that all religions tells different stories as to how the world works and/or how and why their god(s) operate, and competing faiths use similar arguments to stake why theirs is the only true faith.

 

faith

 

 

Meanwhile, Humanists, Brights, Freethinkers, atheists, agnostics, and others who hold a reason-based worldview shake our heads and smile our holy shit?! smiles and say, Cool story, bro.

And for those religious believers who want to be helped, evidence-based reasoning can be found at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Recovering From Religion organization and hotline, and many, many other organizations which provide support for those who recognize they need to overcome religious indoctrination.

 

*   *   *

May you carefully and joyously compile your bucket and fuck-it lists;
May you remember to pull the plugs and listen to the nothing;
May you enjoy many a meal that Scott Harris would envy;
.. .and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] whose product line name rhymes with Soil of NoWay.

[2] The same advice I gave to myself, re checking out a product’s packaging before looking for a good price.

[3] Yes, both us; as in, I think he surprised himself by the awesomeness of his choice.

[4] Read: committees and meetings.

[5] Sky diving, anyone?

[6] Yep, that Jerry Falwell, the one who said, among numerous batshit crazy claims for Jesus, “Good Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions.”

[7] Notice they are called, and call themselves, believers.