Department Of the Peeviest of Pet Peeves,; Aka, Most Unhelpful Phone Message Ever
“The person at extension 4-0-0 is on the phone.”
That’s it. Followed by dead silence.
Gee, that’s…uh…great to know. The person at extension 4-0-0 is on the phone; I’m so happy for them.
No person’s name; no options to remain on the line, or return to the main menu, or to leave a message…no indication if the clinic is still “on the line”….
In order to protect the privacy of this business with the significantly inferior telephone answering/routing system, I’ll call them TheRinehart Clinic. Because that’s their name. (Oops.  )
The ten-plus phone calls I made to the clinic were regarding a message left on my cell phone Monday morning, in which The Person at Extension 4-0-0- ® asked me to call the clinic to “verify some information regarding your insurance.”  . As is the case with many businesses, when you call the number they leave on their message to you, there is no actual person with whom to speak.
“And If I cannot assist you, another White Man in A Blue Suit will be with you shortly.”
First, you must navigate through the answering messages (starting with, “Press 1 on your keyboard for English and 2 for Spanish…”) and go through the various options. No problem with that; moiself does it all the time…except that this time (these ten plus times I called over the next two days) I am left hanging with a “huh?” after I go through all of their menu options, none of which is the “for all other questions/options, press zero (and or stay on the line) and a person will assist you.”
* * *
Department Of All of #45’s “Die Hard Supporters” Deserve This Surname
A woman (“a die-hard supporter of former President D_____ J. _____”  ) living in a New Jersey Town has been ordered by a local judge to take down three of the ten anti-Biden signs she has put up outside her home, after she refused requests from the town mayor and code-enforcement officer to do so. Neighbors complained that three of the signs use the f-word and/or other obscenities, in violation of the town’s anti-obscenity ordinance.
” ‘There are alternative methods for the defendant to express her pleasure or displeasure with certain political figures in the United States,’ (a local judge) said in his ruling… noting the proximity of (the house) to a school.
The use of vulgarity, he continued, ‘exposes elementary-age children to that word, every day, as they pass by the residence.’…
‘Freedom of speech is not simply an absolute right,’ he added, noting later that ‘the case is not a case about politics. It is a case, pure and simple, about language.’ “
( “She Hates Biden. Some of Her Neighbors Hate the Way She Shows It.” NY Times 7-20-21 )
The die-hard woman’s name? Andrea Dick.
* * *
Department Of The Age Of Aquarius…Not
For many years, when people asked for and/or estimated my age  they underestimated it. Most times by a decade or more.
Moiself thinks this is because I had my children relatively later in life.  Thus, I was older than most of my kids’ peers’ parents…and, if you hang in that group, everyone curves you down. That, plus basic immaturity and wearing Chuck Taylor Hightops as my formal footwear of choice got most people to shave ten years off my actual age. 
Guess what shoes moiselfwore to her wedding?
Just in case y’all think I’m bragging: that underestimation of my age? Doesn’t happen anymore.
I haven’t thought about that for a long time. Then, earlier this week, moiself was listening to the most recent Clear + Vivid podcast (“Paul Rudd: In The Moment With Antman”), and heard an exchange between host and guest which made me guffaw aloud, startling the woman who was across the street from me, walking her German Shepherd (neither the woman nor her dog noticed my earbuds; they just saw me as someone who seemingly made snorting laugh sounds, apropos of nothing).
What caught my attention was at the end of the podcast, where host Alan Alda asked his guest, actor Paul Rudd, several questions that have some connection with the topic of communication. The question of note was, “What is the strangest question anyone has ever asked you?”
Rudd: “I have one question that I never really know how to answer…in that people always want to know, they say, “You don’t age – what to do you do…”
like they want to know, uh, my skin care routine, or what is it? They don’t think I am aging as quickly as I should.…
I never know what to say…it’s nice…I go, ‘Thank you,’ but I always struggle with that one.”
Alda: “I have a funny version of that. I seemed to have looked younger to people, for a long time, than I really was. And when I was sixty, people would say, ‘How old are you?’ and I’d say, ‘I’m sixty,’ and they’d say, “Oh, no, no, c’mon…” and now they say, ‘How old are you?’ and I say, ‘I’m eighty-five,’ and they say, ‘Uh huh.’ There’s an age everybody reaches where it’s, ‘Uh huh.’ “
Rudd: “I know what you mean…I’m starting to get that – they ask, I say, ‘I’m fifty-two,’
and it’s, ‘Okay; yeah, that makes sense.’ “
* * *
Dateline: Thursday morning, returning from a walk. I see a small metallic object on the sidewalk, glistening in the morning sunlight. I stride past it, then turn around and take its picture, when I realize that it appears to be the basket from a deep fat fryer.
What is it doing there, alone, on the sidewalk, no other cullinary implements in sight? Obviously, this is proof of extra-terrestrial visitation. What other rational explanation could there be, other than an alien life form left a tracking device, cleverly disguised as an innocuous, commonly seen, fast food appliance part?
But seriously, ladies and germs… if moiself were to apply some classic deductive reasoning here, what is the context of this seemingly random item?
* I saw it on the sidewalk, between the light rail stop parking lot and the Washington County Fairgrounds complexes. * the sidewalk was about 500 yards away from where the Washington County Fair will be held, starting today.
You may have had the misfortune occasion to visit a county fair once or twice in your life, and in doing so it is likely you noticed how such events are infested with “food” booths that serve almost anything deep-fried, from corndogs to pickles to ice cream to Oreos to green tomatoes to macaroni-and-cheese…. Thus, it is possible that a food booth vendor or employee took the light rail (or drove there and parked their car in the light rail lot  ) and was on their way to the Fairground, toting some of the equipment for their food booth, and one smaller component – the fryer basket in question – fell out of their arms, or box, or bag…
Now, how could they drop such an object, without noticing? The basket was metal; it would have made a clattering sound when it hit the sidewalk. A possible explanation is that the Fryer Basket Dropper, ® ala 90% of the people I see each day, was walking with headphones or earbuds in their ears, listening to music (or a podcast!) or whatever, which effectively made that clattering sound just another a bit of background noise. And the basket wasn’t heavy enough to make the person notice its absence, as in, “Hey, my load has suddenly gotten really light – I all I must’ve dropped something…”
On the other hand, the ET object story is much more fun.
When trying to account for something which you find surprising, it is often more entertaining to take the religious point of view: don’t even question that which you do not understand, or for which you have no logical explanation. Instead, embrace it as one of the great Mysteries Of Life ® .
Perhaps a shrine to it will be erected soon. And is that an image of the Virgin Mary I see in the basket’s corner?
What does a Sith Lord use to immobilize his enemies in their old age,
instead of killing them? Darth Ritis.
An eight-year-old weasel walks into a bar.
The bartender says, “You’re under-aged; I can’t serve you any alcohol.
But I have bottled water, energy drinks, and pop.” “Pop!” goes the weasel.
As I get older and remember all the people I’ve lost along the way, I think to myself, “Maybe a career as a tour guide wasn’t for me.”
Husband: “You tell me several men had proposed marriage to you?” Wife: “‘Yes, several.” Husband: “Well, I wish you’d have married the first fool who proposed.” Wife: “I did.”
* * *
May you practice your freedom of political expression without being a Dick; May you enjoy the ages of “Uh-huh” and “Okay; that makes sense;” May you provide a really good explanation for a random object sighting; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Is that a violation of health care business HIPA?
 I received my COVID-19 vaccinations at a site run by the Rinehart Clinic; my only contact with them, so it must be re those visits.
 As long-time readers of This Blog ® know, that festering turd of an excuse for DNA shall not be dignified here by usage of his full, faux-human name.
 And 99% of the times people asked that question, the information was not relevant and my kneejerk, if unspoken, reaction was, “And you want to know this because….?”
 I birthed son K when I was 36 and daughter Belle when I was 39.
Author Isaacson frames Doudna’s story with a statement the author makes as a fact (which could be disputed) about what he calls the three great revolutions of modern times:
“The invention of CRISPR and the plague of COVID will hasten our transition to the third great revolution of modern times. These revolutions arose from the discovery, beginning just over a century ago, of the three fundamental kernels of our existence: the atom, the bit, and the gene.”
Normal DNA: Moiself’s favorite DNA.
Revolution one, Isaacson posits, occurred in the first half of the 20th century. This was the atom-centered revolution, driven by physics and Einstein’ papers and theories, with the resulting developments of the atomic bomb, nuclear power, transistors and spaceships and laser and radar.
The second half of the 20th century gave us the information-based technology (the bit-centered revolution), based on the idea that all information could be encoded by binary digits…which led to the microchip, the computer, and the internet, the three of which combined to make “the digital revolution.”
The third revolution began in the late 20th century, and we are in the midst of it now: the gene-centered, “life-science revolution,” wherein “…children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code.”
“My work was both physics-driven and hair-raising.”
I’m midway through the book, which is quite a good read, if I do say so moiself.  Despite the author’s layperson-friendly presentation I find I must take frequent “brain breaks” to process the information presented.  I enjoy the weaving of Doudna’s story with the history of the eccentric, brilliant, and creative – and also competitive, back-biting, and oft times greedy and uncooperative and ungenerous (surprise!) – scientists working in the fields of gene and DNA research. Sadly/frustratingly, as when one delves into the history of any scientific field, these stories include how female scientists’ discoveries and contributions were hijacked and/or mis-credited (by and to male colleagues), as in the case of biochemist Rosalind Franklin’s work in X-ray crystallography.. Franklin’s extensive x-ray work,  which was initially used by fellow DNA researchers Francis Crick and James Watson without her permission (“photo 51“), led to the understanding and deciphering of the DNA’s double helix-complementary base pair structure. Crick and Watson and another (male) colleague of theirs were to receive the Noble Prize (“…re Franklin and the Nobel Prize she never won, even Watson begrudgingly says that she should have gotten it. ‘ “) 
Yet again, I digress.
The author’s opening premise struck me as quite profound: the idea that three miniscule “units” (atom; bit; gene) led and are leading to colossal scientific and cultural changes. Moiself shared this with MH, who took issue (picked a nit?) with the idea that the “bit” is a discovery (isn’t it more of an invention?). So, what thinketh y’all? Are those three an adequate encapsulation of the “revolutions” of the past century? Would you add (or subtract) others?
* * *
Department Of Quote Of The Week
Sue Black, Scottish forensic scientist, anthropologist, and professor, is the honored source of this quote, as per her appearance on the most recent Clear + Vivid podcast. ( “Sue Black, Forensic Supersleuth ” ).
Podcast host Alan Alda asked Black about the process of interviewing people who want to donate their body to scientific research. Black tries to speak with people who sign anatomical donation forms as part of her teaching empathy – as well as respect for such “a profound gift” – to her anatomy and dissection students. What are some of reasons people have given, Alda asked? A variety of reasons, as it turns out: from gratitude for scientific and medical advances that helped them or a loved one; or wanting to be part of a scientific/medical field but never able to do so, and this is their way of taking part….etcetera. Then Black shared one of her favorite stories.
“I had the most *gorgeous* lady who came into my office one afternoon. She must have been in her seventies and she was literally dressed to the nines – she had the makeup and she had the jewelry, and I said to her, ‘Why would you want to donate your body?’ and she looked at me and she said,
‘Quite frankly, young woman, *this* is just too good to burn!’ “
“Too good to burn, you bet your ass.”
In the end of the C+V podcasts, host Alda asks his guests “Seven Quick Questions” that have some connection with communication. Black said, in response to the question, “What’s the strangest question anyone has ever asked you?” that the strange questions she gets are usually in regard to what she wants to do regarding her own death. Black said that because of what she does she has no fear of death; she attributed that attitude in part to the fact that her grandmother taught her that “death is your friend that walks along side you all of your life,” and so “…you’d better get to know her and make a friend of her because she’s not going away and eventually is going to be there at the end.” Black told her family that she wants her body to be donated to the anatomy department to be dissected, and wants her bone to be retained,
“…and if they could string my skeleton up, then I could be an articulated skeleton, in my dissection room, teaching for the rest of my death.
I have no intention of ever stopping working, and death is not going to get in the way of that.”
Three days later I am still marveling at that. Especially as we age, we are so often asked what we intend to do “with the rest of your life.” What a beautiful and unique viewpoint, to think of what you’ll be doing for the rest of your death.
* * *
Punz For The Day Geneticists’ Edition
A mad scientist drugged, kidnapped, and experimented on me,
replacing my arms with a Grizzly’s paws. If I see him again I’ll tear him apart with my bear hands.
Geneticist: “We have your test results; I’m afraid your DNA is backwards.” Me: “And?”
Advertisers should use pictures of the 23rd chromosome pair in their commercials. Because, you know, sex cells.
* * *
May you forever be “too good to burn;” May you marvel at the atom-bit-gene revolutions; May you ponder what to do with the rest of your life…and death; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Department Of Marital Bliss, Lowered Expectations Division
Earlier in the week I read a New York Times article about a crime that has scandalized Iran: an elderly couple was arrested for drugging, suffocating, stabbing, then dismembering three people. The couple expressed no remorse, even though the murder victims were their son and their daughter and her husband.
“I have no guilty conscience for any of the murders,” (the husband) said in a TV interview from detention. “I killed people who were very morally corrupt.”
“We decided together, the two of us,” (the wife said)….My husband suggested it and I agreed. I have a great relationship with my husband. He doesn’t beat me or curse at me.”
( “They Were the Nice, Older Couple Next Door. Then the First Body Turned Up,” NY Times 7-5-21 )
As bizarre/disturbing as the murders are,  that is not what lingered in my mind after reading this story. Rather, I was drawn to the WTF?!?!? criteria of the wife’s “great relationship” with her husband.
Moiself may be slogging into the “cultural differences” swamp, so grap your hip waders. The thing is, this is not the first time I’ve come across such an anemic description of the qualities of a good husband. Many is the time I have read a quote, from a woman living in a highly conservative/patriarchal and (often, but not exclusively) Islamic society, as to what a good husband is. And most of the time, it is a list of “non-negatives.” 
My husband and I have a good relationship because he DOESN’T * beat me
* curse at me
* force me to have sex
* pull out chunks of my hair if he sees it peeking from behind my head scarf
*forbid me from leaving the house without a male escort
* burn my books and prevent me from obtaining an education
* steal my food
* lock me outside in the cold because he said I made lumpy hummus
* siphon from our children’s sons’ college fund to pay his sports gambling debts
“Before my husband murders our adult children, he tells me about it. We have a good relationship.”
* * *
Department of Back To School Daze
“Ultimately life is disease, death and oblivion.
It’s still better than high school.” ( Dan Savage )
Dateline: last Sunday. MH was out of town; son K came to dinner. Moiselfcannot remember the exact prompt or context for the story K shared with me (and neither can he; I checked), but it was about a play on words he’d recently heard, which he thought was clever and funny, but which someone else said was insulting. K and I talked about the “that’s funny – no, that’s insulting” controversy which sometimes arises when a person takes words or sounds from different languages (or even your “own” language) and uses the sounds to form puns and/or humorous words. “Remember the Car Talk credits list – their Russian chauffer?” K asked. How could I forget? That show was one of our family faves. K and I began sharing “the best” titles and names that we could remember, from the show’s infamous credits list.
Engineersscientist/car repair enthusiasts Tommy and Ray Magliozzi (aka “Click and Clack – the Tappett brothers”) hosted the NPR show Car Talk from 1977 – 2012. They ended each broadcast by reading select entries from their ever-expanding list of recently acquired staff, a mere sample of which follows:
– Accounts Payable Administrator Imelda Czechs – Accounts Receivable Supervisor, Mumbai Office Vishnu Payup – Bad Joke Interpreter Nadia Geddit – Book Critic Odessa Paige Turner – Child Transportation Specialist Minnie Van Driver – Coordinator, 12-Step Recovery Program Cody Pendant – Director of Gender Studies Amanda B. Reckondwyth – Director of Japanese Cooling Systems Emperor Overhito – Director of Pavlovian Research Isabelle Ringing – Elvis Impersonator Amal Shookup – French Dogwalker Poupon Degrasse – Gastroenterologist Cameron Diaz – Gum Surgeon Perry O’ Dontal – Head of Working Mother Support Group Erasmus B. Dragon – Latin American Bullfighting Specialist Gordon Diaz – Liaison to the British Isles Isaiah Oldchap – Marine Biologist Frieda Wales – Plumber’s Crack Apologist Lucy Lastik – President, Disgruntled Hatchback Owners Club Ivana Trunk – Restroom Attendants Trudy Door & Donna Hall – Russian chauffer Pikov Andropoff – Staff Meteorologist from the Seattle Office Wayne Goaway – Swedish Attorney Bjorn Liar – Teenage Valet Lao Tse Parker – Tom’s Personal Matchmaker Robin D’Craydell – Undergarment Inspector I.C. London – Visually Impaired Parking Lot Attendant Dale Neverknow – Wine Taster from the Abu Dhabi Office Hassen Ben Sober – Women’s Hockey Team Manager Miss Inga Tooth
K brought up his favorite incident involving phonetic names mashup/entendres: the notorious “pilot name scandal” which arose after the crash of a Korean Jetliner. In July 2013 Asiana flight 214 crashed on its final approach to San Francisco International Airport. Later that day, while reporting on the incident, a San Francisco TV news anchor was pranked by her staff, which led to her reading, with a straight face, straight from the teleprompter…  I’ll let the Wikipedia entry of the incident take it from here:
San Francisco television station KTVU fell victim to a prank which led news anchor Tori Campbell to report the names of the (flight 214) pilots as “Captain Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk,” and “Bang Ding Ow” in the immediate aftermath of the crash. Viewers quickly realized that these “names” were in fact phonetic double entendres for “something’s wrong,” “we’re too low,” “holy fuck,” and the sounds of a crash. The prank was described as racist and unprofessional, and led to the firing of three veteran KTVU producers. While the source of these joke names remains unclear, the NTSB admitted in a statement that one of its summer interns had confirmed the erroneous names when they were stated by the news station.
Moiself, after I recovered from a severe case of ROTFLMAO when I watched the video of the prank newscast, was offended by those who were offended. Now, *of course* a plane crash is no laughing matter, but that wasn’t the point of the prank. See the above Car Talk credits list. The pilots’ names stunt was unprofessional…and, c’mon, admit it, fucking hilarious…but racist? As in, per the adjective form of the overused pejorative,
“based on racial intolerance” or
“discriminatory especially on the basis of race or religion”
The pilot-name-joke used the phenomenon of phonetic double entendres to imagine the conversation among the pilots as they realized their landing was going wrong; the joke was not disparaging of nor discriminatory against Korean airplanes, Korean pilots, or Korean people. I’ve little doubt that, had it been an American or French plane which had crashed at a Korean airport, some Korean smartass could’ve fashion a similar joke, using phonetic double entendres, from the English or French languages – names or phrases which would mean nothing to French or English speakers (and which we wouldn’t even recognize) but which would be hilarious to people fluent in Korean.
The pilot joke names were no more “racist” against Koreans than the Car Talk guy’s faux staff credit names were racist against Russians (“Russian chauffer, Pikov Andropoff”) or the French (“French Dogwalker, Poupon Degrasse”) or Indians (“Accounts Receivable Supervisor Mumbai Office, Vishnu Payup”) or Japanese (“Director of Japanese Cooling Systems, Emperor Overhito”) or Latinos (“Latin American Bullfighting Specialist, Gordon Diaz “) or Scandinavians (“Swedish Attorney, Bjorn Liar”) or Arabs (“Wine Taster from the Abu Dhabi Office, Hassen Ben Sober”), or members of the UK (“Liaison to the British Isles, Isaiah Oldchap”)….
If you don’t get understand why, or if you think you need to convince people who aren’t offended by this prank that they *should* be, please stop reading this blog, right now.
It was a classic, brazen, guerilla humor stunt; I hoped that the fired KTVU staff took their dismissal with equanimity – surely, they understood the risk they were taking. (I also hoped that they later found jobs as comedy writers for late night TV.)
K and I had fun re-living (and re-laughing at) our favorite Car Talk credits names…
…and I was struck by a memory of an incident which, although primal, was one I hadn’t thought of in years. I prefaced the sharing of this incident by telling K about a time, when I was in high school, when the phonetic double entendre thing was all the rage amongst a certain group of friends. We’d trade off fictious book titles and their authors’ names, ala,
“Under the Grandstand” By Seymour Butz
“One Hundred Yards To The Finish Line” By Willie Makeit Illustrated by Betty Wont
Yuk yuk. Yes, that passed for rapier-like wit in the tenth grade (and apparently also to K, who periodically shook his head and snickered, “Seymour Butz,” for the remainder of the evening). Then I asked him, “Did I ever tell you about what happened to me in high school, when the use of phonetic double entendres proved…troublesome?” K said no. Thus, what follows, my longest blog post to date, is kinda/sorta his fault. 
It was election time for next year’s SAHS student government officers. Moiself, my sophomore buddy, SG, and fellow senior DB, while eating our lunch in the Student Activities Office, lamented the election posters we’d seen posted – we were aghast at how BOOORRRRIIIINNG the signs were. No creativity or originality; most didn’t even give a reason why you should vote for this person for this particular office.
We decide to remedy the situation. Within minutes we’d designed election signs of our own, with fictitious candidate names for actual student body offices. SG and I were the main text composers; SG and DB, due to their superior artistic skills, did most of the graphics. The signs can be found at the end of this blog, before the footnotes.
We printed out several copies of each sign. And by printed out I mean mimeographed, boys and girls, because there were no photocopiers in public schools at that time.
All three of us were involved in a variety of student activities, including being teacher’s assistants. That, plus SG’s being a photographer for the school yearbook, DB’s being a cheerleader and former student body officer, and moiself holding various student government offices for three years straight, had given us familiarity with and access to the mimeograph machine located in the teacher’s lounge. Not one teacher batted an eye when SG and I entered the lounge, removed a stencil from the mimeograph machine (teachers were always leaving/forgetting to remove their stencils – a detail crucial to this story, later on), and ran our sign copies.
We taped the signs on our and our friends’ lockers and on a few of the halls around campus, next to or underneath the other (“real”) election signs. Constrained by the 8 ½ ” x 11″ paper capacity of the mimeograph machine, our signs were smaller and in black and white, unlike the larger, colorful (if boring) signs and banners put up by legit candidates. Thus, we weren’t expecting many people to even notice them (other than our friends and fellow student body officers, whom we planned on alerting to the prank). The lunch period ended, and we returned to our respective classrooms.
Our school had six classroom periods per day. Fifth period for me was Journalism (I wrote for the school newspaper). I left the class early on to run an errand for Mr. Clucas, the class teacher and school newspaper advisor.  The errand took a mere 5 minutes; when I returned to class Mr. Clucas told me that I’d just missed a school security guard (!!!), who had come to class, looking for me. The guard told Clucas that one of the school’s Vice Principals, “LM,” wanted to see me in the Student Activities’ office. It seems a teacher had alerted LM to “…something about ‘illegal election signs,’ ” Clucas said, his eyebrows raised in an And what are you up to now? manner. I grabbed a textbook I’d brought to class and, with Mr. Clucas’ blessing, left to go find and warn my fellow “illegal sign” cohorts.
I found SG in his advanced Spanish class – where español only was spoken. In my very unadvanced español I managed to convey to La Señora (the class teacher) that I needed to speak with Señor SG in private. As SG and I stood in the hallway outside SG’s class, exchanging what is going on?!?!speculations, a security guard approached us, and asked for our names. I can’t remember the exact name I gave – Al Capone, or some other gangster. SG immediately, brilliantly, gave another fugitive-from-justice moniker: Patty Hearst. After waiting an appropriate comic beat, I flashed the guard my best, oh-aren’t-we-silly smile. I told him my real name, said that I understood he’d been looking for me, and that SG and I were going to get our other friend who was involved “in this” and then we’d all go to the activities office.
SG and I turned toward the doorway which led outside, to where DB’s cheerleading class met. The guard said he was going to take us to the Activities Office, “right now.” He grabbed my arm and pulled me toward him; “You’re not going anywhere,”he said.
I yanked my arm from his grasp, flung my textbook to the ground, turned to face the wall, and assumed the classic perp spread: palms on the wall, legs apart, prepared for a pat-down. SG tried his best not to giggle at the guard’s obvious embarrassment/confusion at my reaction, as I called out, “You gonna search me for weapons?”
“Book ‘er, Danno.”
The guard made no further attempt to touch either moiselfor SG as he escorted us to the Activities Office, where we were joined by DB. The kangaroo court “meeting” consisted of five people: The Gang Of Three (“TGOT”: SG, moiself, DB), Vice Principal LM, and the Student Activities Director, “MTT.”
What followed was…confusing…infuriating… and saddening. We, TGOT, were in big trouble, the adults told us (LM did most of the talking). LM held up a handful of our election signs. How dare we put up fake, obscene, off-color, and racist election signs/? How dare we mock students running for office….
Wait a minute, TGOT protested, in indignation and legitimate confusion. Our signs (we were not told how TM figured out they were “ours”) mocked no actual person. And, “obscene,” “off-color,” “racist”? We made no obscene or racist signs – what signs are you talking about?
LM flipped through the signs he held, and pulled out the allegedly “racist” sign: “Vote for a true worker: Manuel Labor, Commissioner of Publicity.” TGOT’s reaction:
The pun on the name Manuel makes it racist? SG, who was Jewish, pointed to the Ben Dover for ASB President sign, noting that Ben, short for Benjamin, is a Jewish name. Using the name Manuel as a phonetic pun was no more racist than using Ben was anti-Semitic, SG declared.
Seeing as he was going to get no admission of malintent from us, LM moved on to the “obscene/off-color” sign. “Told ya,”I cracked at SG, when LM held up the sign for the Student Relations (“Want to relate? Well then vote for E.Z.! E.Z. Lay for Comissioner of Student Relations!“) (That was the one sign that I’d thought, if any adult paid any attention, might be considered a little iffy…but it was sosilly; who would take it seriously? It was SG’s idea and he had drawn it).
I looked straight into LM’s beady, petty eyes and haughtily informed him, in (what I hoped was) my best journalistic, I-have-a-larger-vocabulary-than-you, you-power-mad-ignorant-bureaucrat tone of voice, that the text of the sign employed juvenile sexual innuendo, not obscenity, and I proceeded to wonder aloud how any supposed adult did not understand the difference.
The meeting went even further downhill from there (surprise!). It became obvious that LM was determined to find malice where there was none, and that TGOT were getting no support from MTT…and why was MTT even there? What hurt us most was the lack of support from MTT, the Activities Director. MTT said he was being blamed “for this”…. As it turned out, there were other things going on, things between MTT and the administration, which we were not privy to.
MTT was in some kind of trouble with someone higher up; there were also other “issues” involving both the Vice Principal and the Activities Office. SAHS was facing external, staff, and parental pressures, including changing demographics  and the growing presence of gangs in Santa Ana schools. The administration faced accusations from Chicano-identified  students and their adult supporters, accusations of, as LM put it, “Mexicans get picked on and Whites get away with everything.” LM began to give examples, such as students getting in trouble for writing or painting gang symbols and signals on their lockers, “…but here are the three of you, putting up “illegal’ election signs and thinking you can get away with it….”
LM was comparing violent gang symbols with bad puns?
TGOT exchanged knowing looks. We were being sacrificed on the altar of a term we couldn’t have used at the time because it didn’t yet exist. LM (who happened to be SAHS’s first Latino Vice Principal) had essentially clued us in as to what was going on: he felt it politically expedient to make examples of us, as in, we gotta get some white kids, for something.
TTM, alluding to the trouble he was in, told us that “when word got out” the “heat” would fall on him for our antics. I noticed his usage of the future tense – “when” and “would”…and I wondered what was going on. Did anyone else in the administration, other than LM and MTT (and the teacher who reported the signs  ) know about this? My response to MTT was tersely unsympathetic: “Well, you know what they say – if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.”
I immediately regretted my response, and to this day, I cringe to think of it. I’d lashed out in anger, but also, mostly, in pain. Of all the adults in the school, I’d thought MTT would have stuck up for us. The Activities Director was the advisor of the Student Government; SG, DB and I had all known and worked with MTT for years and were quite fond of him, and he of us. Earlier in the year, another student government officer and I used the Activities Office PA system – which we had permission to use for announcing pep rallies, school dances and fundaisers, etc. – for a prank. Over the PA, which was broadcast in every classroom, we announced, “Attention, all students and teachers: There is a change in today’s school schedule. Please note that the fifth period bell will ring at ten minutes to two, instead of at 1:50.” We did this at noon, and when MTT heard the announcement, he thought it was so funny that *he* got on the PA an hour later, and reread the announcement. He received one objection, from a flustered teacher who harumphed about why he hadn’t been informed earlier as to the change in his class’s schedule. 
Back to the meeting, which was going to the proverbial nowhere: LM informed TGOT that the security guard would escort us as we removed every sign we’d posted, then we were to return to our respective homes immediately. Our parents were being contacted by telephone, and we would find out later this evening the consequences of our actions, which could likely result in multi-day suspensions for each of us, and possible marks on/withholding of our school transcripts (a vague threat to DB and I, who had already been accepted to our respective colleges).
When I got home my mother was awaiting me, all aflutter in concern and confusion. She’d been telephoned by a secretary from the school office, who told her I’d gotten in trouble for…I can’t remember her exact description. My mother told me that when the secretary told her that “Robyn and two other students had been involved in an incident with school staff members,” and that the Vice Principal would be calling later that evening to explain things, her first thought was, “Oh, no – did Robyn punch a teacher?”
That revelation led to her hearing a well-deserved, Moooootttthhhhhher – how could you even think that?!?! from me. But then, the kicker, which made my mother realize that something funny was going on: Mom said that when she asked the secretary for details re the “incident,” the secretary lowered her voice to a whisper, barely suppressed a giggle, and said, “Well, actually, some people might think is’s kind of funny….”
DB’s and SG’s mothers had also received phone calls. DB’s mother, after speaking with DB about what had happened, went on the proverbial warpath. She made calls of her own to the school, speaking first with LM and finally reaching the Principal. After the initial, late afternoon phone calls, each of TGOT’s households received calls later that evening, but not from the Vice Principal, as had been promised. Our parents were contacted by an assistant to the Principal, who told them that SG, DB and I should return to school as usual the next day, and that after school we would all meet in the Principal’s office, with the Principal, LM, TMM, and any of our parents who wanted to attend.
You might want to take a bathroom break; there’s still more to come.
The Day After: Meet “The Butt Out” Gang
What SG, DB and I suspected turned out to be true. LM had overreacted, had gotten MTT involved, and attempted to turn a molehill prank into a mountain. He’d threatened draconian disciplinary action against three students who had spotless disciplinary records (and each of us members of/involved in the school’s gifted program/Honor Roll, sports/arts/activities/student government) *without* running any of it by the Principal.
The Gory Details ®
At 4 pm SG, DB, moiself, and my friend RR – whom I’d brought along and introduced as “my attorney” – sat down across a rectangular table from LM and MTT. Principal “JW” sat at the head of the table. None of the TGOT parental units were there. After DB’s mother had contacted the principal, gotten the situation “straightened out,” and then phoned SG’s and my parents, our folks didn’t think their presence was necessary.
” Hairstyles change, and skirt lengths, and slang, but high school administrations? Never.” ( Stephen King )
Principal JW informed TGOT – to the obvious discomfort of LM and MTT – that there would be no suspensions or other disciplinary actions taken against us. However, we students did need to understand the seriousness of “the concerns” re our actions:
(1) “Some people” felt our signs had mocked student government and student activities, and thus by extension, students involved in such;
(2) the sensitive nature (“obscene/off-color”; “racist”) of some of our signs;
(3) the administration’s main concern: our unauthorized use of school property (the mimeograph) for personal purposes when that machine was strictly for “school business only.”
RR, like any good advocate, brought a yellow legal notepad with her, and wrote down the concerns as they were listed by the Principal. TGOT referred to her list as we proceeded to dismiss and/or refute address each of the stated excuses for adult hysteria concerns.
(1) You’ve got to be fucking kidding (we did not phrase it thusly). Hello; look at us?! We, each of us, have been involved in student government and activities for the entirety of our high school years. Whom would we be mocking – ourselves? Not only have we not disparaged student government, we’ve encouraged others to run for office. Holy post-Watergate lack of cynicism – Robyn (as my “attorney” noted), as voted in by her peers, is the Senior Class Vice President!
And, by the way, who exactly, allegedly, expressed “concerns” about the signs? Why couldn’t we face our accusers? (We never received names of anyone who was offended by the signs. Since we’d had to take down all the signs the previous day, after our meeting with LM and MTT, they’d only been posted for a couple of hours, and few people had actually seen them).
(2) The two signs in question (“Manual” and “E.Z.”) were neither “obscene,” “off-color” nor “racist.” Other than admitting to mild/harmless vulgarity on the E Z. sign, we did not concede to those pejoratives. We were certain that, had students had the opportunity to actually see the signs, they would have found them at least mildly amusing (if they paid any attention to them at all). And if our respective parents – all politically and socially conservative, and all of whom had been informed of the content of the signs –  had not been shocked or even bothered by them, what was the administration’s problem?
C’mon– “obscene” signs? The “E.Z.” sign is mild compared to the sexual innuendo contained in the cheers which the school-sanctioned pep squad *leads* the audience – students, and parents alike – in reciting during football and basketball games:
Get it up/put it in/do it, do it !
Grab a piece – Grab a piece…(of yardage; of yardage!)
It’s all sniggering, adolescent, nudge-nudge-wink-wink. Why make a big deal out of it?
Nothing we chant is off-color if we shake our pompoms and smile.
(3) Interesting, that this “main concern” had not been mentioned, by either LM or MTT, when they read us the riot act the previous day. I thought – but did not say aloud – that it had been added last minute, by either the Principal or LM, so that they’d have at least one accusation that stood a chance of sticking. The other two charges were subjective, and slowly evaporating, fading away due to their inherent flaccidity (there I go again, with the juvenile innuendo).
TGOT admitted we’d used school equipment to make copies of the signs, and we were prepared to reimburse the school for the cost of paper and mimeo printer fluid. I removed a five-dollar bill from my jeans pocket, at which point Principal JW told me to “Butt out,” even though we (TGOT) were the ones speaking, and hadn’t interrupted any adults in the room. SG came to my rescue, and posed a question to the principal: if the main issue of concern was the use of the school mimeograph for personal, as in, non-school/academic matters, did that also apply to the teaching staff? And if not, why?
The three adults/administrators exchanged wary looks, and SG and I began to share our stories,  of having both first and second-hand knowledge of teachers using the mimeograph not only to run off copies of their math and grammar tests, but to print party invitations, baby announcements, and other personal papers. One student we knew had been sent by his teacher to use the mimeograph to make a class vocabulary list. Before the student could do so he had to remove the stencil left by a previous user of the machine – a paper which appeared to be a teacher’s annual family Christmas letter.
SG gave two more examples; I related one of the many examples I was prepared to cite. Earlier in the year I’d been given flyers to mimeo (from TMM) and post around campus, for a student activity. When I went to the teacher’s lounge to use the mimeograph I had to remove a stencil the previous user had left in the machine – a stencil of an invitation to a housewarming party given by a teacher (I’d recognized the teacher’s name). “We could give you more examples,” I said, “but we’ve made our point, that…”
LM interrupted me, which gave my “attorney” the moment she’d been waiting for: she actually said, “Objection! My client is testifying.” 
I rephrased SG’s query/statement: since item (3) is supposedly the administration’s “main concern,” what are the consequences for teachers – these adults and authority figures, who supposedly set the examples for students – who violate the school’s policy against using school equipment for personal use?
Hard to believe, but my question was not well-received. Principal JW once again told me to “Butt out.” (And for the brief remainder of the school year, SG, DB and I referred to ourselves as, The Butt Out Gang.)
Principle JW addressed TGOT, restating the “concerns” she’d hoped we’d taken to heart. She then looked pointedly at me and said, “You’re not going to write about this, are you?”
Although it was a question, JW’s tone and facial expression said, “You’d better *not* write about this in that #!$? smartass column of yours.” Which of course, made me want to…if only for a moment.
It was the butt (out?) end of the school year. The school newspaper was published every two weeks, with one issue slated in the coming days, which left only two or three issues to go, and I’d already given the outlines for my columns to the editorial page editor. I knew Mr. Clucas would have granted me the editorial freedom he’d insisted upon all year – not only for my op-ed column (which was titled, “Parnal Knowledge” ) but for other articles I’d written. It’s likely he would have given me space in the news section or in another part of the editorial page, had I requested it, to write about the election signs incident. But I was sick of it all: sick of Those People ® in particular and the petty machinations of high school in general. I’d been accepted to my first-choice university; mentally and emotionally, I had nothing left for SAHS – I was outta there. The last thing I wanted to do was to waste my time and creative energy dignifying the Obscene Election Sign Non-Scandal by writing about it.
The meeting was concluded in less than 45 minutes, with no admissions of guilt from TGOT, little input from LM and MTT, and no apologies from anyone. JW’s closing remarks were that the election sign incident had been “overdramatized by everyone,” and things would return to normal if we’d all let it, forget it, and move on.
We three accused did not gloat, but could barely suppress our righteous indignation. Overdramatized, by everyone?
It was clear to us that JW had called the meeting to do damage control. She was shrewd enough to realize that her VEEP and Activities Director had overreacted (read: lost their shit) over a minor prank, but she would not undermine their authority by declaring so in front of students. She tried to help her administrative staff save face; JW was in damage control mode – in large part (I’d bet) due to her having been contacted by two parents (DB’s and SG’s mothers  ) who raised holy hell and threatened to go public (i.e., to the school board and The Register, the local, editorially libertarian rag newspaper which was anti-public schools) if LM’s threats against TGOT were enacted.
Of course, that’s not *all.* But hasn’t this been enough?
* * *
Pun For The Day Marital Bliss (“We have a great relationship”) Edition
Two antennas got married. The wedding was a bit disappointing, but the reception was great.
My husband tells me I’m a skeptic, But I don’t believe a word he says.
Two melons tried to get married in Las Vegas, but they didn’t have the right documents.
It’s a shame they cantaloupe.
My husband is my favorite aquatic mammal. That’s right – he’s my significant otter.
“I otter punch your lights out for that one.”
* * *
May you look back with equanimity upon the petty pains (and pleasures) of high school; May you have a truly “great relationship” with your spouse; May you listen to rebroadcasts of Car Talk, if only to hear the credits; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
Sit down, fix yourself a stiff drink, and be prepared to clutch your pearls in horror at the foul content to be found within.
(time and mimeograph fluid has taken its toll on the original stencils)
* * *
(“Can she do the job?…. Shirley U. Jest” )
* * *
Finally, the footnotes
 The couple are undergoing psychiatric evaluations, officials told Iranian media.
 From which you can derive her likely point of reference, as in, “Oh, crap, this is the norm she sees, all around her, so comparatively, she things ‘great’ equals not getting beaten.”
 Their tag line for the credits list: “It takes this many people to produce such a lousy show? Who knew!”
 KTVU’s Managing Editor said she thought the names sounded suspicious but approved the list, as she was told that an official at the NTSB confirmed their authenticity. The NTSB “official” turned out to be a summer intern at the news station. The station fired several staffers but spared the newscaster.
 I have written previously in this space about the late great Theodore “Teddy” Clucas, a much-adored (and tolerant!) teacher, journalism mentor and 1st amendment advocate – for many students, including moiself.
 by the time I graduated the majority of the SAHS student body was Hispanic-surnamed.
 That was a term used by some – not all — Latino cultural activists at the time, as a political signifier.
 We never did find out who alerted the vice Principal, other that it was “an adult staff member.”
 Sadly, this was not an isolated incident, in terms of the great academic minds of SAHS demonstrating that they were…sometimes not paying attention, shall we say (and we just did).
 We’d each taken copies home, to show our parents. I held on to the original stencils, and have them to this day.
 DB did little talking during this meeting. Apparently, her mother reading the riot act to the Principal the previous evening was enough for her.
 I think that got under LM’s skin more than anything.
 Speaking of innuendo…yeah, I know. But, guess who gave me that nickname, and suggested it be the title of my column? Twas the highly respected, squeaky clean, universally liked and respected, daughter of a school board member and winner of our school’s highest honor (“The Coterian Award”), the Editor-in-chief of the newspaper.
 Other than the phone calls they received from the school, I asked my parents to stay out of it. I did not, however, tell them to “butt out.”
Department Of Why Are Some People Still Doing This?
“Summer is synonymous with barbecues, parades and fireworks. The National Safety Council advises everyone to enjoy fireworks at public displays conducted by professionals, and not to use any fireworks at home. They may be legal but they are not safe.” (National Safety Council, “Leave Fireworks to the Experts” )
Please don’t purchase or use fireworks. Moiself doesn’t give a roman candle’s flaming buttcrack about how fondly you look back on those childhood July 4th fireworks parties  – such an activity should be considered anachronistic at best.
“*I* can celebrate with a safe and sane fireworks display, I know it!”
I was surprised by my own visceral reaction (barely suppressed rage; an urge to approach the owners and employees and shame them into leaving) when I saw a fireworks stand this year. *WTF are they doing here?* This was before the heat wave that pummeled the Pacific NW (and western Canada). But folks, we’ve known for years about why, even if Some People ® just can’t get it up for Uh-Mur-ica without viewing explosive pyrotechnic devices, fireworks displays should be left to a few professional or civic shows.
Fireworks suck. For fleeting moments of pyrotechnic entertainment, we also get
* extensive air pollution produced in a short amount of time, leaving metal particles, dangerous toxins, harmful chemicals and smoke in the air for hours (sometimes days) and which find their way into our soil and water systems; 
* fear, acute anxiety and distress, risk of hearing loss (especially for dogs) for our pets; 
* habitat destruction and degradation for wild animals, which is particularly “…energetically costly and physiologically stressful for wild birds, which leave their roost in explosive panic and can smash their skulls or break their necks as the result of flying into trees, fences, billboards, houses and other solid objects that they cannot see in the gloom and smoky chaos (and survivors of the original explosive panic flight remain in danger because these birds are forced to find a safe place to roost in the middle of the night).” 
* over 19,000 fires set – from home roof blazes to wildfire – and over 9,000 people (most often children and teens) sent to emergency rooms due to severe burns and other injuries caused while using consumer fireworks. 
The 2017 Eagle Creek wildfire consumed 50,000 acres of the picturesque Columbia Gorge. Embers of the fire were still smoldering eight months after major containment. Hiking trails and other areas of that scenic wilderness were heavily damaged; U.S. Forest Service and other officials estimate that some trails may remain closed for years. The devastating conflagration was, like so many other wildfires and brushfires, started by fireworks.
Life is all about change, about altering our behavior to accomodate altering circumstances. We didn’t always have firework stands and home fireworks shows; we can survive, thrive, and celebrate without them.
Does this boy represent an ignorant, self-centered, head-in-the-sand danger to the humanity and environment…or is he just another cute dork in a silly costume?
* * *
Department Of The Cinematic Story Strategy Which Annoys MH
That would be time travel. Moiself appreciates (and mostly shares) MH’s aggravation with the over-used, cheap-way-not-to-have-to-deal-with-reality plot device.
Moiself cannot recall the name of the podcast I heard recently, in which the podcast hosts and guests discussed a (non-scientific) survey conducted about time travel. Random bench sitters were asked questions along the lines of,
“If you could travel in time, (1) would you choose to do so? (2) if you said yes to (1), would you choose to travel to the past,
or to the future?”
The surveyors seems to have the idea that time travelers going to the past would do so with the motivation of having the opportunity to change something that they did, or neglected to do – an action which, the time travelers hoped, would right a wrong and/or increase happiness or success in their present lives. (Indeed, some people questioned gave answers supporting that idea.)
There was a bit o’ surprise among the surveyors re the number of people over age 50 who wanted to travel to the future, not the past. Some of the younger folk – even a few children – said there were things in the past they’d like to change (words spoken; actions they wish they could do over). But most of the 50+ folk surveyed expressed little desire to go back in time to change some pivotal event (whether it be in their own/personal lives, or re world history  ). The podcast guests and hosts bantered about why that was so, and the answers of a few of those who were surveyed gave them a clue: older people know, from decades of experience, that there are innumerable incidents large and small which make up a lifetime; thus, going back to change what might seem like a pivotal moment would probably not make much of a difference in one’s long-term outlook and prospects.
I don’t know how the episode ended; I stopped listening midway through, as I was consumed with the thought of what *my* time travel choice would be. Seeing as how traveling to one’s past is Not One Of Those Things That Will Happen At All, Or At Least In My Lifetime ®, I dismissed that option, for a clear-eyed – and ultimately more fulfilling, moiself thinks – embrace of reality: I hold that each of us are, already, “one way” time travelers.
“Please elucidate, in a non-sesquipedalian manner.”
We are time travelers to the future. True, it’s on a smaller scale as compared with sci fi cinematic conceits, but that doesn’t change the fact that today is the future we were envisioning twenty years, ten months, two weeks, one day ago. Right now is yesterday’s future. With every breath and step I take, I travel into the future.
Although…how cool would it be to join Ms. Frizzle and the gang and ride The Magic School Bus back to the time of the dinosaurs?
* * *
Department Of The Best Way To Begin A Podcast
…is with an opening line comparable to this, from a recent episode of Curiosity Daily :
“The butt – way more versatile than you may expect…” ( Curiosity Daily, “Mammals can breathe through their butts,” 6-25-21 )
And why, you may ask, is such a possibility worthy of notation, or research? Researchers are hopeful that this discovery may lead to treatments for humans suffering from severely diminished lung capacity.
Well, of course they are.
As for moiself, although I generally avoid reality TV, I could be persuaded to tune in to see a butt-breathing act on one of those “America’s Got Talent”-type shows.
* * *
Punz For The Day Time Travel Edition
I used to be addicted to time travel, but that’s all in the past now.
If you time travel to the future and get decapitated, you really are a head of your time
If I travel back from the future and carry a bratwurst with me, do I have a link to the past?
I’ve invented a device to harvest herbs from the future: it’s a thyme machine.
“Please, Doc, take us back to before there was this blog.”
* * *
May you enjoy fantasizing about your own Magic School Bus destination; May you help your pulmonary-compromised friends and relatives practice butt-breathing (discretely, please); May you liberate yourself from the desire to buy and/or use fireworks; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 I have such memories. For many years now I’ve have realized that that’s just what they should be: memories, as in, in the past.
Active, reliable, sarcastic, affectionate, bipedal, cynical optimist, writer, freethinker, parent, spouse and friend, I am generous with my handy supply of ADA-approved spearmint gum and sometimes refrain from humming in public.