Dateline: Saturday; mid-afternoon; on my way to drop off donations to Goodwill. Driving south on a throughway street which bisects residential areas to its east and west, I pass a blue sign on the left side of the road  . This sign directs you to find:
The sign is bent in the middle, which causes moiself, at first glance, to miss the I in the top word.
All those headed to the church of the Holy ARSE, turn right.
I like big butts and I cannot lie….
* * *
Department Of, Oh, Ya Think?
Dateline: 6:45am last Saturday. A dear friend is in the hospital, recovering from life-altering  surgery. I found a respected medical clinic’s website and looked up information on radical cystectomy, the surgery he has undergone. From the site:
“The procedure to remove the entire bladder is called a radical cystectomy. In men, this typically includes removal of the prostate and seminal vesicles….
“After removing your bladder, your surgeon also needs to create a new way to store urine and have it leave your body. This is called urinary diversion.”
Under risks associated with urinary diversion there is the following bullet point. Which I had to read several times to assure moiself, yep, that’s what it says. Apparently, one of the risks following removal of your bladder is:
* Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence)
Yeah; kinda difficult to control an organ you no longer have in your body.
Department Of Gawddammit It’s Like They Know I’m Coming In…
And so they put this right where I’ll see it. Because a sculpture like this, displaying both the talent and whimsy which moiself so admires in art…and which the artist oh-so-appropriately-not-to-mention-appealingly named, “Speckled Twerp”…they know who’s going to take it home.
At first I tried to divert moiself by falling for this charming piece, called…wait for it…Yellow Chicken.
But the twerp in me would not be denied.
“Are we all clear on the new installation? Have the twerp piece where she’ll see it, and maybe distract her first with the chicken….”
* * *
Department Of Things You Talk About With Good Friends After A Good Lunch
The Miriam Webster online dictionary has a special link for those and other “funny-sounding words,” but that’s not enough, sez moiself (and friends agree). There needs to be a special day set aside, or declared, to encourage the usage of these words.
* * *
Department Of Why Has It Taken Me So Long To Realize This?
I don’t use marjoram. As of last Wednesday, there is no longer a jar of marjoram in my Wall O’ Spices ®. You know how it is, when you redo your kitchen’s spice holding system and buy those pre-printed spice jar labels which of course include one for marjoram and you think, “Ah yes, a classic spice,” and so you give it jar space but then forget that you never use it because…you never use it.
Nor is there a marjoram jar or tin on the cabinet shelves filled with refills for spices I commonly use, and less-commonly-but-still-occasionally-used ones, from amchur and asafetida to celery powder to gochugaru.
When I last encountered a recipe calling for marjoram  I used up the pitiful amount I had left. And when looking for more, I found none in the bulk sections of several markets, and I wasn’t about to pay $8.99 for a small jar which would go stale before I would use even 10% of it.
Thus, for perhaps the first time in my adult life, I am marjoram-free.
Gopnik is a professor of psychology and researcher into cognitive and language development. She spoke with C+V podcast host Alan Alda about her (and other people’s) research which shows how children are generally curious about their world; thus, children are interested in science and have innate abilities for experimentation and theory formation…then tend to lose interest in the subject itself as they age. Gopnik, along with many other scientists, argue that this is, in great part, because of the way science is taught:
“Suppose we taught baseball the way we teach science. So for the first five years you’d be reading about baseball games, and maybe you’d be reading about some of the rules. And then in high school you’d get to reproduce famous baseball plays…and you would never get to play the game until you were in graduate school…. That’s kind of the way we teach science – you don’t really play the game, you don’t really *do* science, until you’re in graduate school.”
* * *
Department Of Here We Go Again Sub-Department OF Preview Of Coming Grievances Attractions
( Sub- Department explanation: my next three blogs will deal with various aspects of The Writing Life As Moiself Sees It ® ).
Dateline: Earlier this month, researching and updating guidelines for literary journals and publishers.  What I find in my research confirms one of many reasons moiself rarely submits my work anymore. For example, I come across this, from the guidelines of a self-proclaimed “international” journal:
“Submissions are open to all, but we particularly welcome work from….
First Nations and POC writers, the LGBTQI+ community, and writers with a disability.”
Should I decide to send my work to this journal I, like any writer submitting work to any journal, would not be doing so in person. I’d submit material as per their guidelines: either online via their submissions portal (the default nowadays) or via mail (much less common, but still used). Either way, the journal’s editors can neither see nor hear nor speak with me.
My first name may or may not indicate my gender; my surname might convey an impression (which could be a false impression either way) as to whether I am or am not a First Nations and POC writer. How will the editors know if I am a LGBTQI+ community, or a writer with a disability, unless I declare this in my cover letter? And if I do so, will the journal’s editors then “particularly welcome” my story due to my personal particulars that they have particularly decided to find particularly welcoming?
Moiself can’t help but suspect that the content of my work will be read and judged differently under such circumstances. Which moiself finds both ethically odious and disturbing. Speaking  both as a writer and *especially* as a reader, I don’t give a flying buttress’s butthole…
…about writers’ “identities” or “qualities.” I’m interested in the quality of the *stories* they write, not in who or what they *are.*
May you remember to make someone a sandwich; May you support the reform of how we teach science in schools; May you not be hornswaggled into giving a tarradiddle’s colleywobbles
about doing things widdershins; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 You’ve seen those signs, with names of churches or other businesses located in an otherwise residential area.
 In itself a rare thing, and I have found that the recipe either won’t miss it or that oregano will do just fine – or even better – instead.
 (I’ve addressed complained about this issue previously, in this space.
 There should be at least five footnotes in this post.
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, http://www.ffrf.org
I had my second Covid booster vaccination yesterday, at the same clinic where I had my first booster. My first two Covid vax (over a year ago, at the height of the campaign to get everyone vaxed) were given at a local school gym, in a group setting run by that same clinic. After you’d had your shot, you sat along with others (all masked and seated at least 6 feet apart) who’d been vaccinated, with a post-it sticker on your shirt noting your time of vax. You waited until the Person Watching You ® let you know that your 15m was up and you could leave. As y’all probably know, it is standard vax practice to wait at a vaccination site for 15m after receiving a vax to make sure you do not have a severe allergic reaction to the shot (which is very rare). 
My first COVID booster shot was administered to me at the clinic itself, in an exam room, by a nurse practitioner. After the NP gave me my shot he said I should stay in the exam room and he’d be back in 15 minutes to release me. I got in some e-book reading time…but after I left the clinic I thought, even though I’d never had an immediate/allergic reaction to any kind of vaccination, there could always be a first time, and what if moiself passed out (or worse, began to have an anaphylactic reaction) and I were alone in the exam room? I decided that this time, if the clinic did the same logistics, I would speak up about that. They did, and so did I.
A quite genial nurse nurse gave me booster #2. She told me that although she “didn’t carry a pair of handcuffs” to enforce the protocol she highly recommended I stay put for 15 minutes, in case of a reaction. I told her that during my previous booster, the NP told me I had to stay in the exam room. And the hijinks this exchange ensued:
Moiself: How’s about if I return to the waiting area, where there are other people and the receptionists? The point of waiting 15 minutes after having the vaccination is to make sure that I don’t have an immediate or allergic reaction to it, right?
Nurse: Yes. Like I said about the handcuffs, I can’t force you to stay, but we highly recommend it. You can stay in the room if you like.
Moiself: Yes, I could…but then, how would you know if I’ve had a reaction, if I’m left alone in the exam room? Are the rooms wired – will the sound of my body hitting the floor let the staff know I’ve had a bad reaction?
Nurse: It’s a small clinic. We’d *probably* hear the thump.
Moiself opted for the waiting area.
Just don’t thump too loudly; it’s my turn to calibrate the rectal thermometers and I need to concentrate.
* * *
Department Of Yet Another Lie My Teachers Told Me
This particular lie, like most lies I was taught, was not conveyed on purpose. My teachers were lied to as well…perhaps, misinformed would be the more accurate term. Think back to your elementary, junior high, high school, and even a few college classes. Very few of our teachers were doing original or first source document research; they taught what they themselves had been taught.
Yeah, well, that’s what they told me me, so suck it up.
The specific lie to which moiself refers is the idea that a so-called agricultural revolution brought about a better society – that the transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers and ranchers brought nothing but positives, and was responsible for what we now call Civilization ® .
“The agricultural revolution is the name given to a number of cultural transformations that initially allowed humans to change from a hunting and gathering subsistence to one of agriculture and animal domestications.” ( The Agricultural Revolutions, sciencedirect.com )
In a recent People I (Mostly) Admire podcast, “Yuval Noah Harari Thinks Life Is Meaningless and Amazing,” guest Harari  and podcast host Steve Levitt discuss some of the ideas and observations Harari addresses in his latest book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.  One of the ideas that struck me the most was that the agricultural revolution was ultimately better for germs than it was for people. Moiself has read other versions of this hypothesis, but Harari presented the most entertainingly succinct one I’ve come across (my emphases). The entire interview is thoughtful and thought-provoking; moiself hopes this excerpt piques your interest.
LEVITT (quoting from Harari’s book, Sapiens): “ ‘The agricultural revolution was history’s biggest fraud.’ My hunch is that listeners, when they hear that sentence, they’d probably find it jarring because we’re taught to celebrate the agricultural revolution, not to think of it as being a fraud.”
HARARI: “But if you look at it from the viewpoint of middle-class people in the West today, then agriculture is wonderful. We have all these apples and bread and pasta and steaks and eggs and whatever. And if you look at it from the viewpoint of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh or a Chinese emperor, wonderful. I have this huge palace and all these servants and whatever. But if you look at it from the viewpoint of the ordinary peasant in ancient Egypt or ancient China, their life was actually much worse than the life of the average hunter-gatherer before the agricultural revolution.
First of all, they had to work much harder. Our body and our mind evolved for millions of years to do things like climbing trees to pick fruits and going in the forest to sniff around for mushrooms and hunting rabbits and whatever. And suddenly you find yourself working in the field all day, just digging irrigation ditch, hour after hour, day after day, or taking out weeds or whatever, it’s much more difficult to the body. We see it in the skeletons, all the problems and ailments that these ancient farmers suffered from. It’s also far more boring.
And then the farmers didn’t get a better diet in return. Pharaoh or the Chinese emperor, they got the reward. The ordinary peasant, they actually ate a far worse diet than hunter-gatherers. It was a much more limited diet. Hunter-gatherers, they ate dozens, hundreds of different species of fruits and vegetables and nuts and animals and fish and whatever. Most ancient farmers, if you live in Egypt, you eat wheat and wheat. If you live in China, you eat rice and rice.”
LEVITT: “If you’re lucky. If the crop doesn’t fail, yeah.”
HARARI: “If you’re lucky. If you have enough. And then, because this is monoculture, most fields are just rice. If suddenly there is a drought, there is a flood, there is a new plant disease, you have famine.
Farmers were actually more in danger of famine than hunter-gatherers because they relied on a much more narrow economic base. If you’re a hunter-gatherer, and there is a disease that kills all the rabbits, it’s not such a big deal. You can fish more. You can gather more nuts. But if you’re a herder, and your goat herd has been decimated by some plague, that’s the end of you and your family.
… in addition to that, you have many more diseases. In the days of Covid, it’s good to remember the fact that most infectious diseases started with the agricultural revolution because they came from domesticated animals, and they spread in large, permanent settlements. As a hunter-gatherer, you wander around the land with 50 people or so. You don’t have cows and chickens that live with you. So your chances of getting a virus from some wild chicken is much smaller. And even if you get it, you can infect only a few other people, and you move around all the time. So hygienic conditions are ideal.
Now, if you live in an ancient village or town, you’re in very close proximity to a lot of animals, so you get more diseases. And if you get a virus, you infect the whole town and the neighboring towns and villages through the trade networks, and you all live together in this permanent settlement with your sewage, with your garbage. People in the agricultural revolution, they tried to create paradise for humans. They actually created paradise for germs.”
Swine flu stew tonight! Invite the neighbors!
* * *
Department Of Celebrity Mythos
Moiself recently watched the first two episodes of The Last Movie Stars, an HBO six part documentary which, as per its website description, aims to chronicle
“…Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s iconic careers and decades-long partnership. Director Ethan Hawke brings life and color to this definitive history of their dedication to their art, philanthropy, and each other.”
Newman’s and Woodward’s 50-year marriage is generally regarded as one of the most successful and truly happy show biz unions, and Newman was known for his devotion to his wife and family. Over the years many reporters asked Newman about the temptations of show business for a handsome actor such as himself (read: Why do you remain faithful/stay with your wife when you’re surrounded by all the babes, in Hollywood and in fandom, who’d love to throw themselves at you?). On one such occasion, when Newman was queried about his reputation for fidelity to Woodward, Newman famously quipped, “Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?”
I’d heard this quote many times before the HBO documentary brought it up, but this time, watching The Last Movie Stars, I couldn’t help but think about how Newman‘s “devotion to his wife and family” – meaning Woodward and their three children – happened after he dumped his first wife Jackie Witte (and their three children), to marry Woodward, with whom Newman had been having an adulterous affair.
Apparently Newman also couldn’t help but think of that irony. He reportedly agonized for years re the guilt he felt over ‘his shortcomings as a parent’ to the children from his failed first marriage, and he blamed that guilt in part for the drug overdose death of his son, Scott. 
I’ve only watched the first two of six episodes of the HBO series, and thus don’t know how much the series deals with Newman’s first marriage. Hey, I’m glad Newman and Woodward had a happy alliance, despite their relationship’s less-than-honorable origins. But whenever I hear that legendary quote from Newman – the quote so admired and applauded by many people as an exemplar of witty romanticism – I wonder what Jackie Witte felt when she first heard it?
“Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?”
I can imagine it felt like a sledgehammer in the gut. So, Witte was the (original) hamburger Newman left in order to be with the steak?
BTW, re the hamburger-steak comparison: as a plant-based eater, I find no hierarchy in that metaphor. They’re both just dead meat to me.
* * *
* * *
Department Of Thar She Blows
Two weekends ago MH and I, along with son K, visited daughter Belle in Tacoma. Belle had arranged for the four of us to go on a whale-watching trip in the Puget Sound. It was delightful afternoon, and not just because we spent the afternoon on a boat in the Sound during a heat wave. Even the veteran crew of the boat got excited when we spotted and the transient orca pod T37, which approached our boat and (unintentionally) put on quite the show for us.  We got to observe hunting and feeding behavior of the majestic orcas, as the pod chased and caught a very unfortunate harbor seal who’d ventured too far from shore. I heard another boat passenger make some comment about how fortunate we were to get to see “killer whales making a kill,” and I wanted to smack him upside his head with the pectoral fins I don’t have.
Moiself objects to the use of the term killer whale when it is applied to orcas. First of all, orcas are not actually whales; rather, they are the largest member of the dolphin family. They, like Flipper and other dolphins, are carnivores. Other animal’s names are not tied to such a pejorative suffix – lions and tigers and bears and weasels and eagles are not referred to as “Killer” lions/tigers/bears/weasels/eagles, despite the fact that, as carnivores, they must kill and eat other animals to survive.
“Paul Spong, a researcher who runs OrcaLab from Hanson Island in B.C., says he finds the name killer whale ‘rather unfair to a creature that deserves and lives a peaceful lifestyle. Killer whales has that flavour that they’re somehow vicious animals that are a danger to humans,” he said. ‘I just happen to think that using a more neutral term is better.’. Despite what the 1977 sea-monster film Orca: The Killer Whale might show, there have been no documented cases of orcas killing humans in the wild…. and they are highly social creatures that show almost human-like emotions, such as when southern resident J35 carried its dead calf for 17 days before finally letting go.
( “Why are orcas called killer whales? They’re the apex predators of the sea, but many feel their long-used common name demonizes them.” cba.ca )
Yeah, yeah, it’s word cop time. Of course and ultimately, work for the orcas’ preservation and protection before arguing what nomenclature to use…. Still, words carry and impart meaning, and perhaps more people might be convinced to care about orcas and their vital role in their habitat – and their right to continue to exist – if the fear/revulsion-inducing *killer whale* moniker fell out of favor.
Once again, I digress.
We saw other wildlife as well on our whale– orca-watching trip, including harbor and elephant seals, herons and tufted puffins and bald eagles, on the shores of Protection Island Wildlife Refuge. As our boat passed that island, I saw for the first time something I could only vaguely recall having heard about: a leucistic bald eagle.  “Lucy,” as I thought of her, had a very light, mottled pigmentation which made her blend in with the driftwood log upon which she’d perched, next to the standard issue bald eagle I was watching through binoculars. Moiself didn’t even notice Lucy until a part of the log suddenly took wing. The boat photographer and staff and several avid birders aboard realized what they were seeing, and lost their proverbial shit. 
One of the boat staff, the official photographer, was armed with a bazooka like camera-lens set up. He took fantastic pictures of the whales, which he presented to the passengers in a slide show while our boat returned to port. His shots had included dozens of rapid-fire close-ups of the orcas hunting the doomed seal – oh, the eyes of the hapless pinniped, when it realized it was toast! That was painful to see, even as I acknowledged, hey, the seal is out in the water, hunting because it’s hungry, and so are the orcas.
The photographer offered to transfer his photos of the trip to a thumb drive, for $50 for anyone who was interested. Seeing as how the professional’s pix were so much better than our family’s cell phone snaps, MH asked me if he should go for it. I gave him the okay, although, when MH was chatting with the photographer as the thumb drive was downloading the trip’s pictures, I approached the photographer, thanked him for his skill and commentary during the trip  and said that while I was in awe of his photographs, when reviewing them later I would probably skip watching the “seal snuff film” sequence.
I cannot display the photographer’s copyrighted photos here.  Belle had several shots which good – they are like teasers as to the beauty of seeing the orcas in their natural environment. Here is one of my favorites of hers– featuring the T37 pod’s leader, the matriarch researchers have named “Volker.”
The day after our boat cruise, I went for an early morning walk. Moiself could hardly believe the timing of the Radiolab podcast I listened to as I trod the path which winds along the periphery of that salty-air scented Puget Sound estuary/harbor area in Tacoma known as Commencement Bay.
Despite its annoyingly sensationalist title, Radiolab’s “The humpback and the killer” was an excellent listen. It reports on the fascinating observations made by marine mammal biologists around the world – scientists who, in recent years, have documented astounding, classic-explanation-defying interactions between humpback whales and orcas. If after listening to descriptions of these interactions you (still) harbor doubts that species other than homo sapiens can feel and demonstrate emotions and motivations such as altruism, or even revenge…then I don’t know what to do with you.
* * *
Punz For The Day Cetacean Edition
What do a pod of dolphins use to wash themselves?| A multi-porpoise cleaner.
What is the favorite constellation of star-gazing whales? The Big Flipper.
What is the best way to listen to the sounds a group of orcas makes? Tune in to their podcast.
Why do male humpbacks have little-to-no hair? They suffer from whale-pattern balding.
“It’s okay, honey, she told me she’d stop after four.”
* * *
May you warily weigh the costs and benefits of history’s so-called revolutions; May you banish the term “killer whale” from your vocabulary; May you respect your longtime partner enough to never compare them to cuts of beef; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 And for 30m, if you’ve ever had a reaction to a vaccination.
Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli historian, philosopher, author, lecturer, and professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
 “ ‘I’m guilty as hell – and I’ll carry it with me for ever.’ Paul Newman’s marriage secrets”: Shawn Levy, dailymail.com ; Newman felt personally responsible for (his troubled son’s) tragic drink and drugs death… The son Paul Newman lost to drugs – and the guilt he could never escape,” Shawn Levy, part 2 )
 Unintentional, as in, the orcas were just doing what they were doing, and we happened by.
 Leucism, a condition that partially prevents pigments from being deposited in a bird’s feathers, hair or skin, is rare, and is the result of a recessive gene which reduces the color-producing pigment melanin. It is related to but different from albinism
 I can see why these “blonde” bald eagle can confuse even veteran bird watchers, as they (usually) still have the bald eagle’s defined white head and tail, but the rest of the feathers are a much lighter hue than normal and are mottled, creating a “What the heck am I seeing? reaction – is it a bald eagle or some other strange species?
 He gave a running commentary of the history of the T37 pod we saw. One look through his lens and he could identify the different members of the pod by, among other features, the distinctive markings of their dorsal fins.
 He offered them for our own personal/home viewing, not to post on any social media platforms.
Something moiself has been thinking this week: it’s been over 29 years since we (MH and I) have been a less-than-two-felines household.
We’re down to one, the all-white Nova, as we said goodbye to Crowthis week.
It had been a challenging past 18+ months for Crow, with a possible “vascular incident” (stroke?), the progression of her painful arthritis, and finally, diabetes. After veterinary appointments, blood tests, and consultations, we made an appointment with a veterinary euthanasia service who came to our home to do the deed.
As difficult a decision as it was, we were also much relieved, once having made it. Crow spent her last days at home, lazing on the carpet in the sun, eating and drinking whenever she pleased.  We were at her beck and call; I told her she was at a kitty spa.
At the time we adopted Crow (fifteen years ago), all-black cats were the most likely to not find a placement.  Instead of adopting a rescue greyhound, which was the original plan to add another pet to our family, we went to Bonnie Hayes Animal Shelter,  opened our house and our hearts, and Crow made herself at home. Crow had a good life, and she was spared a lingering death.
After the phone call with our veterinarian wherein we discussed treatment and care options, MH and I had a calm, rational discussion. We considered all the angles – plus the fact, particularly important to moiself, that Crow (like any pet) cannot consent to nor “understand” any course of treatment. After the phone call, we decided upon euthanasia. When we agreed that this is what we agreeing to, I asked MH if perhaps we might take Crow on one last trip to the beach, because she seemed to enjoy lying on the deck in the sun. And we both lost it.
A much younger Crow and Nova, circa 2008, playing with Nova’s favorite toy (a Lego helmet).
* * *
Department Of The Downside Of Loving Them
Dang, these critters tug at our hearts. And because we care for them properly, they just don‘t die like they used to: they get good medical treatment;  they live inside and thus don’t get killed by coyotes or run over by a car or contract illness and/or injuries and/or infection from other animals…. And if they refuse to die in their sleep in their old age, the combination of aging and chronic illness takes their toll, then *we* have to make the life-and-death decisions.
MH’s astute observation: for all but one of the cats we’ve had who’ve died, there came that awful time when we had to opt for euthanasia for them. Odds are that, with our remaining cat, the same will (eventually) be the case. Each time, we knew we were doing the right thing. Each time, it was still heartbreaking.
Observant readers may notice that moiself is *not* is reporting that “Crow has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.” Nor am I using similar euphemisms to describe the fact of her death. Although some pet owners seem to find such metaphors comforting, they make me…well…emotionally retch. Moiself is not a believer in – as in, I’ve seen no evidence for – any kind of “heaven,” for any kind of creatures. And since I hold no such ideas for humans I see no need to burden our recollections of our animal companions with similar mythologies.
I don’t mean to come off stony-hearted. Grief is complicated; expressing it, even more so. I promise not to slap you if you use the RB term around moiself, and I hear or read about “the RB” often enough to know that it makes some pet owners feel good. The only afterlife I give credence to is the only one we can know for sure exists: that which resides in our hearts and minds. In that way and in those places, our loved ones truly do continue to live “after” they are gone.
BTW: The Rainbow Bridge, for those of you who fortunate enough not to have encountered the treacle-ism, is a mythical overpass (apparently based on imagery from some cheesy sentimental poems from the 1980s) which serves as a kind of transit for pets. For example, upon the death of their friend’s chihuahua, RB fans will say that Sparky has “passed over the Rainbow bridge,” into a verdant meadow (or other Nature Setting ® ) where Sparky will frolic carefree until the time Sparky will be reunited with his “human parents.”
While I don’t believe in Rainbow Bridges, I do believe that pictures of baby sloths in pajamas are comforting to everyone.
* * *
Department Of There’s Always Something
After we made the decision to euthanize Crow, moiself thought, once again, about the many rational discussions which can be had as to whether people do or should treat or view their pets as their “children” – a perspective which, I believe, diminishes and misunderstands the reality of and relationships with both animals and children.
Also (as mentioned in a previous footnote), many people, including animal lovers/pet owners and those who are pet-free, hold strong opinions as to the ethics of using advances in veterinary medicine to treat conditions considered fatal just a few years ago – treatments which cost pet owners thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars…and the outcome is, eventually and ultimately, the same.
Pets, like their human owners, are mortal. They’re gonna die. Are you keeping your pet alive – in some cases, using tortuous treatments that humans with the same diagnoses can (and often do) eventually opt out of – because it’s in the animal’s best interest? Or are you prolonging its life (read: extending its dying) or because (you tell yourself) you love it and want to keep it around for as long as possible/can’t deal with its absence…or want to assuage the guilt laid upon you, whether purposely or inadvertently, by yourself or by well-meaning friends and family (or even your veterinarian)?
“Leigh K—…found herself facing a five-figure bill when her dog, Rutherford, was diagnosed with a brain tumor…. Leigh knew Rutherford needed help when the large-breed coonhound mix struggled to walk a straight line and keep his head up. But you can’t treat without a diagnosis, which meant brain scans, which meant $2,500 down before the technicians would warm up the machine.
Then the real bills started. Radiation therapy was projected to cost between $12,000 and $15,000, which, for perspective’s sake, is a quarter of the average American household’s annual earnings. It’s a sum weighty enough to give even relatively affluent Americans a lightbulb moment on how drastically their lives might be rerouted.”
If my father had lived to see the age of $3k MRIs for pets,  he would have scoffed at the very notion. It’s not that he didn’t like animals, or was one of Those Pet Haters ® . Growing up in the Parnell family, moiself cannot remember a time when we didn’t have pets. My siblings and I were allowed to acquire a variety of critters, from dogs and cats to hamsters and reptiles. While my parents appreciated their children’s emotional bond with their pets, my father never seemed to have much of an attachment to them. When I look back via an adult’s perspective, I consider this pet-bonding detachment of his to be due, in part, to his impoverished childhood.
Chet Parnell grew up poor, on a farm, in a place and time when animals were utilitarian. His family’s infinitely patient and tolerant farm horse, who would let Chet and his siblings climb all over him, was a plough horse. A succession of family dogs had “jobs” to do – they kept the crows out of the corn and chased the neighboring farms’ dogs and roaming strays away from the chickens, and the barn cats earned a roof over their heads by keeping the mice and rats at bay. With the exception of the horse, the other “pets” had to hunt for and feed themselves (although my dad’s mother occasionally snuck table scraps to the barn cats, much to her husband’s dismay).
My father’s heart rose to the occasion when our family cat, Mia, died. Mia, a stray kitten adopted by my family when I was in grade school, had been “my” cat,  but stayed with my family when I went off to school. After graduating college and joining the working world, my parents and I agreed that, considering both my inability to pay my apartment rent if I also had to buy pet food and litter, and Mia being an old lady kitty and attached to her home, it was best if Mia stayed with them. I saw Mia two to three times a year, when visiting my parents, and noted Mia’s increasing frailty with the passage of time. Pay attention, I pleaded with them. If there is something wrong with her, take her to a vet, don’t just let it slide.  I was determined to be dispassionate about it – if Mia was dying, I did not want her to suffer.
One day when I was in my mid-twenties I received an early afternoon phone call from my mother. She called the private line in the medical practice where I worked, which was a red flag.  She apologized for calling me at work, said she thought I’d like to know about Mia, and told me the following story.
In the past few weeks Mia, age 20, had grown weaker, lost weight, and developed a tumor on her head. My parents found a veterinarian who would do house calls; after speaking with my parents over the phone, the vet came to their house with the assumption that he would likely euthanize the cat. After briefly examining Mia he told them that that would be the most humane option. My younger sister, by then in college, happened to be at my parents’ house for a visit, and she and my mother became so distraught re Mia’s situation that Chet banished them from the scene. He shooed his wife and daughter into the house, while he stayed on the back porch with the veterinarian.
After Mia had been euthanized and the vet had left, Chet got a legal pad and a pencil, and a shoebox for the body (Mia would be buried in my parents’ backyard, by the rose bushes she where she would nap in the summer shade). He wrapped Mia’s body in a towel, placed her in the box, then composed a poem, on the spot, about Mia.
Mom read the poem to me. I found it overwhelmingly touching then, and still do, after all these years – to think about what my father wrote to comfort his grieving wife and daughter, and also the mere fact that he did so. The poem’s theme was how gentle and sweet Mia was; how she’d had a good life…. I can remember only parts of it,  but its closing stanza is etched on my heart:
Mia was loved by the Parnells all;
As there is a time to rise, there is a time to fall.
To be loved by a family is why she was made,
And now our dear Mia will rest in the shade.
As I hung up the phone, my employer noticed the distraught look on my face. Dr. B asked me what was up. With all the detachment and professionalism I could muster – which turned out to be none at all – I blubbered, “My family kitty died!” and, tried to tell him how my father had written a poem…
I was a hot mess. Dr. B placed his hand on my shoulder. Compassionately, yet firmly, he said to me, GO HOME.
And now for dear Crow, I say, with gratitude for years of love and “tummy time,” Go home.
Crow was a gentle spirit and a good sport. Here is one of moiself’s favorite pictures of her, one I called, for obvious reasons, *rumpcat.
* * *
Department Of The Supporting Cast And Crew
I cannot say enough good things about the doctors and staff of our family’s long-time veterinary clinic, the (surprise!) feline-exclusive All About Cats Clinic. Also deserving of high praise is Compassionate Care, the in-home euthanasia service we used, as per ABCC’s recommendation. CC’s vet was kind, empathetic, sweet, and competent – she gave MH and I (and Crow, I imagine), a sense of tranquility in an emotionally taxing situation.
“She had a good life,” was son K’s post on our family chat site, when MH informed our offspring about row’s death. My reply:
“Yes, she did…and though it may sound strange, I dare to say that her death was good, as well.
She was comfy on the carpet, enjoying lots of pets from us, and she just ‘went to sleep,’ as they say. It was one of the more peaceful things I have ever seen.”
* * *
Punz For The Day Dead Catz Edition
Hmmmmm. On second thought….
When face palm cat just won’t cover it.
* * *
May you experience the distinctive love of, and for, a pet companion; May the inevitable loss of that love help you to appreciate it all the more; May you be strong enough to lather, rinse, and repeat; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 But not, oddly, wanting “tummy time” with MH, which, until the diabetes, was her favorite activity. She seemingly became uncomfortable sitting in laps or being held during her last two weeks – one more piece of the puzzle which help us make the decision.
 Fortunately, thanks to deliberate and innovative strategizing on the part of regional animal shelters, almost *all* healthy cats and dogs at shelters who do not have “behavioral issues” (read: biters) now find homes.
 Too much, some critics say, in that using “human” treatments for cancers and other mortal illnesses – treatments previously unavailable to animals and to which they cannot consent – are essentially torturing pets in order to assuage our guilt….and speaking of the latter, many people on fixed incomes cannot afford the substantial vet bills but feel pressured, if the procedure/treatment is available, to do so, lest they be considered a heartless person who doesn’t really love their pet.
 Which was one of the quotes we got for what a brain scan would cost, when we were trying to figure out the “neurological incident” our cat Crow seemed to have suffered.
 And was so named to indicate that – mia is Spanish for mine.
“I couldn’t believe it, because they actually did it. The court actually took a constitutional right that has been recognized for half a century and took it from the women of America — that’s shocking when you think about it.”
* * *
Department Of It’sBaaaaaaaaack….
Attentive and longtime readers may have noticed that for the past eight weeks this disclaimer opened my blog posts:
Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write). I am taking moiself on holiday. From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014). New posts will return in early-mid July.
That was due to the “exotic” travel schedule of MH and moiself, which began in mid-late May with a trip Florida. 
Here is what our schedule was supposed to be:
* visiting MH’s mother in Florida for several days;
* on to Stockholm, a couple of days to acclimate ourselves to the time change (and all those Swedish meatball variations) before joining….
* a 14 day Rick Steves Tour of Scandinavia, starting in Stockholm and ending in Bergen;
* six days of touring Norway on our own, from Bergen back to Oslo;
* catching a train to join our Swenadian  friends and spending a short week in their Swedish country stuga(cabin), then traveling with them to Gothenburg and vicinity;
* six days in Iceland “on the way back” to Oregon.
Here is what actually happened.
All went as planned until Day 13 of the tour, when MH awoke under the proverbial weather and tested positive for COVID. The next 5 days were spent cancelling and rescheduling train-car rental-ferry-hotel bookings, trying to find a place to lay low for several days while we  recovered. Our dear Swenadian friends, rightfully cautious due to their respective health concerns, came to visit us after we’d recovered. While the afternoon walk we made around the parks of a Swedish town was a far cry from the longer time we’d hoped to have with them, it was good to have at least those two hours together.
What the what – if nothing else, travel teaches you to be flexible. MH and I enjoyed some final days in Oslo and then Stockholm before flying on to Reykjavik, where our Iceland adventures were not impacted by the previous schedule rearranging. Also, there was the blissful ignorance of being removed from everyday news reporting – moiself had remembered that there’d been a pesky leak of a supposed/certain SCOTUS memo….
“I suppose I’ll have to be the one to say something to her.”
* * *
Department Of That Which Should Not Have To Be Mentioned
Our return flight last Thursday left Reykjavik a little before 5 pm and arrived in PDX ~ 6 pm. What with traveling east to west, we went back in time 7 hours…. Little did I know the news that would greet moiself upon our return: my country’s legal system had gone back (what seemed like) more than a hundred years.
Really and truly, I knew nothing of this until I checked FB last Friday morning, and saw this post from my beloved nephew, who has been celebrating Pride Month with a series of personal reflections on what “being gay” means:
Being gay is…
…thinking that maybe you should get married on a sooner timescale than you’re ready for, because given how the Supreme Court’s minoritarian rule is going, your current right to do so might have an expiration date.
Sorry to steal the stage from today’s news. Fuck the Supreme Court majority that is not representative of majority public opinion.
Thus, my first FB post after stepping onto Oregon soil:
“Keep our nation on the track one step forward, three steps back….” 
I just returned last night from 6+ weeks in Europe, to find that certain intellectual, social and moral cretins who unfortunately hold positions of power in this country have effectively decided to turn back the clock, and I’m not talking the end of Daylight Savings time.
SCOTUS justices Thomas; Alioto; Gorsuch; Kavanaugh; Barret – I’d like to do a wire coat hanger D & C on their respective cranial contents.
* * *
As moiself writes this it’s day five for me, back in Oregon, and I’m still in a fog. It’s not the time zone difference that has me discombobulated; rather, it’s the time travel thing, where I returned to find that my country’s legal/human rights system has warped back to the Dark Ages. In case y’all haven’t guessed by now, I refer to the recent SCOTUS decisions involving guns, school employee-led prayer, and of course, Roe v. Wade.
SCOTUS Justices Who Voted to Overturn Roe v. Wade (the justice’s religion)
Samuel A. Alito, Jr. (Catholic) Amy Coney Barrett (Catholic) Brett Kavanaugh (Catholic) Neil M. Gorsuch (Catholic) 
and…wait for it…
Clarence Thomas (Catholic)
The fact that a practicing Catholic SCOTUS justice – or judge, of any court – is allowed to vote on this issue; i.e., is not legally and ethically *required* to recuse him or herself on any abortion case, as per their the Catholic sheep daddy Pope’s decrees on the matter…
“…. Roberts was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral. Roberts is a devout Catholic and is married to an ardent pro-life activist. The Catholic Church considers abortion to be a sin, and various church leaders have stated that government officials supporting abortion should be denied religious rites such as communion…. Renowned for his unflappable style in oral argument, Roberts appeared nonplused and, according to sources in the meeting, answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself.” (“The faith of John Roberts,” The Los Angeles Times)
Another butt-frosting fact: there are SCOTUS justices who adhere to the judicial philosophy of/refer to themselves as originalists  but who are also Catholic and/or female (hmm, what’s that musty odor, Amy Coney Barrett?), something the original founding fathers would never have imagined nor permitted.
And then, there is the festering turd atop the crumbling cake:
“In nearly 28 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas has been its most unwavering ‘originalist.’ That means that he reads the Constitution as meaning today what he believes those who wrote it meant back then, no matter how conditions may have changed in America in the meantime.” (“Justice Thomas, originalism and the First Amendment,” National Constitution Center)
Clarence Thomas is an originalist. All righty then: “Justice” Thomas – you should be a slave. And counted as 3/5 of a person, as the Originals intended.
But I have to stop going there. Moiself has to stop applying rational arguments to irrational situations. Therein lies madness.
From the early 1980s – 90’s I worked for (several Planned Parenthood clinics)… and a private OB-GYN practice in the Bay Area….
We (The Practice’s Doc, Nurse Practitioner, and I) developed a personal relationship  and had many interesting conversations on issues re women’s health care. Doc and NP were both staunchly pro-choice, Doc in particular due to his knowledge of what things were like before Roe v. Wade. He told me stories about The Bad Old Days, about how (surprise!) the rich could always get safe care, no matter what. Back in the late 50s – 60s when abortion was illegal, a Japanese airline had a clandestine (but procurable, if you knew the right people) package deal: the fare included flights to and from Tokyo from West Coast airports, overnight lodging in a Tokyo hotel, and the fee for an abortion performed by a Japanese doctor. Sympathetic American doctors whose desperate patients had no safe local alternatives would refer their patients to someone, who would refer them to someone else, who would refer them to…. 
One of The Practice’s OB patients, after a routine exam, asked Doc if he ever performed abortions. Although it was none of her %&!$ business (and moiself wanted him to tell her so) he answered honestly, while tactfully letting her know that he would not be steered down the anti-abortion harangue road she was heading for. After she’d left, Doc signaled to me to follow him to the office’s back room, where old/inactive patient files were kept.
As Doc searched through the files he told me about a former patient of his who’d sought an abortion, back when the procedure was illegal except for “medical reasons.” This woman had had to go before a (male, of course) judge to get approval to have an abortion. Her physicians had to testify as to her mental and physical well-being, and they had lots of material: she had chronic health problems; was depressed to the point of suicide; her husband had left her and their three children…. She’d wanted to get her tubes tied after birthing her second child but could not find a doctor to do so – as per the standards of the time, hospitals would not book a sterilization surgery for a woman unless she met this weird algorithm (criteria included her age, the number of children she had, and other factors I can’t recall). She also needed her husband’s permission for the surgery, which he’d refused. 
The woman won her petition. At this point in the story Doc had found the patient’s chart, and showed me the transcript from her day in court.  I will never forget the sad yet determined look in his eyes as he said, “Don’t ever let it go back to that.”
And I will always remember how foolishly optimistic it was of moiself to think, “It could never go back to that.”
* * *
Department Of Business As Usual
Of course, no matter the legal restrictions and whatever else happens in the upcoming months, those with money and connections will always be able to wrangle safe medical care. The trail of naïve, drugged and/or abused girls and women knocked up, intentionally or otherwise, by the Brett “I Love Beer” Kavanaughs of the world and their eternal frat bro contingents will always have an out, as powerful men do not want their mistakes publicly aired. The poor and not-so-well connected will have to resort to measures of desperation – unless whatever choice they happen to make involves using a gun.
* * *
Department Of And Yet One Never Fully Goes Back To The Past
There is too much water – and blood – under this particular bridge of human history. Just as in the past, women and men will rise up to help those who need help (“Call Jane”).
Here is the message I recently received from a friend:
“Hope you are holding up with the end of democracy at hand. Yeah. Would you mind being a reference for me – I am applying to be a volunteer with the Colorado Abortion Doula Network. I’m sure you’ve heard that CO clinics are overwhelmed with patients from OK and Tx….”
How proud I was of my friend; how sick to my stomach I was, for the reason for her (and other women and men) having to take that action.
When MH and I have attended NARAL fundraiser events in Portland, the organization’s staff has mentioned how their peers working in other states are “jealous” of Oregon’s long record of supporting reproductive rights.  Looks like my friends and I may soon be providing the same services, should Oregon experience a migration of patients.
* * *
Department Of, And One More Thing….
Don’t y’all be kidding y’alls’ selves that there is, ultimately or sincerely (ha!), *any* reason for the SCOTUS decision, other than that of controlling women and fearing women’s sexuality and autonomy. I’ve seen firsthand the Scandinavian system and standard of living, and what societies looks like which actually care about children, put people ahead of politics, and relegate theocracy to the governmental dumpster fires of the past.
* * *
Department Of, Unfortunately, There Is Always One More “One More Thing” : The Quiet Part Out Loud
I am so, so, so sorry, my LGBTQ family and friends and fellow Americans…. You do know you’re next, right?
“Vice President Harris said Monday that she ‘never believed’ the Senate testimony of Supreme Court Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Neil M. Gorsuch, in which they stressed the importance of legal precedent in cases like Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion.
‘I never believed them. I didn’t believe them. That’s why I voted against them….’
Listen, it was clear to me when I was sitting in that chair as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that they were … very likely to do what they just did….”
Harris also addressed Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion, in which he called on the Supreme Court to reexamine cases on LGBTQ rights and contraception. ‘I definitely believe this is not over. I do. I think he just said the quiet part out loud,’ Harris said of Thomas.”
(Vice President Kamala Harris, “Harris says she ‘never believed’ Kavanaugh, Gorsuch would uphold Roe,” Washington Post )
* * *
Punz For The Day The Death Of Liberty Edition
I was looking forward to returning to this segment of my blog. However, moiself – who looks for the levity in any situation and who sincerely hopes that friends and family entertain me with tasteless jokes should I come down with, say, butt cheek cancer or other dreadful diseases – is at a loss when it comes to being facetious about how religious conservative ideology is raping this country. So, these may have to do:
A priest, a pedophile, and a rapist walk into a bar. He orders a drink.
Q. How many conservative evangelical Christians does it take to change a light bulb? A. None. They just sit in the dark and demand you accept that the light is still on.
Q. How do you teach a bunch of kids about god—who he is, and what he does? A. Gather them all in a classroom. Then never show up.
* * *
May you find power in the visualization of male SCOTUS justices who voted to overturn Roe V. Wade having yearly colonoscopies performed by unsterilized wire coat hangers; May you take constructive action where and how you can to your maintain sanity; May we all soon return to living in the 21st century; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 (Vice President Kamala Harris, “Harris says she ‘never believed’ Kavanaugh, Gorsuch would uphold Roe,” Washington Post )
 The most exotic place of all, and as foreign as the state sometimes felt, we were never asked to show our passports.
 Yes, we – of course moiself eventually got it as well. We were both glad to have been fully vaccinated, as our symptoms were relatively mild and followed the same course (fever disappearing in less than 48 hours…frankly, if we hadn’t have tested ourselves for COVID we’d have thought we’d contracted a mild influenza virus).
 One of the rallying cries of the SF-based political activists group LAW [“Ladies Against Women”], who used satire – well, it seemed like satire at the time, and now it seems like prescient journalism – to critique the religious/conservative right wing’s anti-women’s autonomy political agenda.
 “Although Neil Gorsuch, appointed in 2017, attends an Episcopal church, he was raised Catholic, and it is unclear if he considers himself a Catholic who is also a member of a Protestant church or simply a Protestant.” (Daniel Burke (March 22, 2017). “What is Neil Gorsuch’s religion? It’s complicated.”)
 “In the context of United States law, originalism is a concept regarding the interpretation of the Constitution that asserts that all statements in the constitution must be interpreted based on the original understanding ‘at the time it was adopted.’ ” (Originalism, Wikipedia).
 Which continued after I left the practice and which exists to this day.
 I later heard about this same service from another doctor who was Doc’s age.
 Yep, that’s right – he knocked her up a fourth time, and then abandoned her and their children.
Moiself would like nothing better than to wake up tomorrow morning to the news that Vladimir Putin has
* kicked the KGB bucket * cashed in his commie chips * bit the Chernoyl dust, * bought the fascist farm, * given up the glasnost ghost * won his last rabid dog lookalike ® contest…
you know – died. Whether through “natural” means or otherwise; hey, I’m not picky.
Still, it doesn’t seem…wise…or right…or fair…or historically accurate, to blame Russia’s assault against Ukraine solely on that festering turd of a genocidal despot one leader.
Russia is a big ass country. Even with an oligarchy-stained kleptocracy of a dictatorship masquerading as a federal republic, moiself doesn’t think the P-boy can do what he’s doing unless he’s got a whole lotta other Russians – if not the majority – on his side.
This is the 21st century, and Russia is not North Korea. In “First World” countries whose people have access to First World technologies (internet; cellphones) is impossible to completely control the narrative; it is impossible to make the majority of the Russian populace believe that Ukrainians are “neo-Nazis”, or the other delusional justifications the P-pants-boy offers for invading a sovereign country, unless there are those who, for whatever reasons, want to believe such bizarre, totally unsubstantiated falsehoods.
Are Russians who support their country’s actions also victims (of P-face’s propaganda), as I have heard more than one person surmise,? Or are they collaborators? I’m not sure it matters, at this point. Not to the dead Ukrainians, that’s for sure.
* * *
Department Of Thanks For The Imagery
Dateline: Saturday, March 26; circa 7:45 am; morning walk; listening to the People I Mostly Admire podcast’s latest episode: No One Can Resist A Jolly, Happy Pig. Host Steven Levitt is interviewing naturalist and author Sy Montgomery, who gets the following introduction on the PIMA website:
My guest today is bestselling author and naturalist Sy Montgomery. The Boston Globe describes her as “part Indiana Jones and part Emily Dickinson.” Her best-known book is The Soul of an Octopus, which was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2015. But she’s written about everything from tarantulas to hyenas to hummingbirds to pink dolphins. And as far as I can tell, she’s fallen in love with every one of them.
Levitt asks Montgomery how she got to where she is, in her profession – combining her two loves, of journalism and animals. Montgomery talks about visiting various people she knows who devote their lives to studying some obscure species, including a friend who is currently studying “the southern hairy-nosed wombat”…
…which caused moiself to actually speak the following picture’s caption aloud. To moiself, but ALOUD.
“Hey, Buford, y’all going to the barn dance tonight?”
* * *
Department Of Dietary Motivations
Back to the above-referenced podcast: Montgomery’s years of study of numerous animal species has caused her to refer to these animals as “people” (in aggregate) or “somebody”in particular. She explains her vocabulary choice: not only do many of the scientists who study these animals attribute consciousness and emotion to them, but scientists who study animal brains consistently find the same or remarkably similar neurotransmitters and hormones that, in primates such as our homo sapiens selves, are responsible for the production and transmission of emotions.
Montgomery and Levitt had an interesting back-and-forth about such discoveries and attributions. (Excerpts from their discussion; my emphases.)
LEVITT: Now, I’m no expert on ethology, which is the study of animal behavior, but I suspect that the scholars in that area might be upset by your books…. I’m sure they would consider it a no-no to anthropomorphize animals, but that’s not even exactly what you do. You speculate about the unique ways each creature might experience the world. Am I right that some scientists complain that you go too far in that direction?
MONTGOMERY: It’s not so much the scientists, but sometimes it’s the philosophers because they want humans to be the top of everything. Now, it is true that in science they use different words than I would use. Of course, in their scientific journals, they have different readers than I’m going to have, but things have changed a bit since, for instance, Jane Goodall first published her findings about tool use in chimps. No one wanted to publish that groundbreaking paper because she named her chimps instead of numbering them.
LEVITT: Woah. Uh-huh.
MONTGOMERY: Now things have changed…. There actually is a field of study that’s looking into animal personalities. I went on a personality survey with some of the top octopus researchers in the world…The person who headed that study…was the one who pointed out to me that if we fail to talk about emotions in animals, we are overlooking a central fact of neurobiology. And that is that every animal that has ever been studied, when you try to look for the hormones or neurotransmitters responsible for all of our feelings, like joy and fear, like stress and love, we find the exact same neurotransmitters. Even in taxa as different from ourselves, as octopuses, from whom we have been separated for half a billion years of evolution.
LEVITT: The scientific, conventional wisdom for decades, hundreds of years, insisted that humans were unique on so many dimensions, like consciousness, the use of tools, ability to problem solve. Do you have a take on how these past scientists just got things completely wrong?
MONTGOMERY: Yeah. I think it’s human supremacy, just like white supremacy. We wanted to be at the top, which would justify our exploitation of everybody else….
LEVITT: Here’s something I strongly suspect will happen. When people look back in a hundred or 200 years, they will be shocked and dismayed at the cruelty that our society subjects animals to with factory farming. Do you agree?
MONTGOMERY: A hundred percent. We will be appalled. And that’s why I became vegetarian years ago. Now there are farms that raise animals and slaughter animals in a more humane way, but I’m still delighted that I’m not eating them.
LEVITT: You made a really powerful case for the wonder of pigs. Do you think for people whose goal it is get away from factory farming that maybe the strategy they should be taking is trying to teach people about the wonderful personality that pigs have?
MONTGOMERY: Oh, I have gotten so many letters from people telling me that my book was the end of their bacon. And also, after Soul of an Octopus, many people wrote and said, “You know what? I used to love to eat octopus. I don’t eat it anymore.”
I love food and I love making food, but the taste of that item is on your tongue for less than a minute before you swallow something else. And for someone to lose their life for a taste on your tongue, that just seems like an enormous waste when there’s so many other delicious and nourishing things that we could have and not take away somebody’s life, somebody who thinks and feels and knows.
* * *
Department Of Inquiring Minds Want To Know
“She holds a PhD in neuroscience, but I couldn’t find whether she ever actually worked as a neuroscientist. It’s obvious that her understanding of ‘strong science’ doesn’t mean what she thinks it means. I doubt if she reads Science-Based Medicine or understands the principles we go by.” ( Harriet Hall, MD aka “The SkepDoc”  )
Any claim that has the word “actually” in it must be true.
Moiself saw a commercial the other day in which Mayim Bialik, the child actor turned adult actor turned part-time Jeopardy host, has apparently now become a vitamin supplement shill. The ad was for Neuriva-Plus, a supplement which, its manufacturers claim, can make you smarter by increasing brain levels of “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF, and shame on you for thinking that the acronym refers to some kind of S & M practice).
Why should you trust the celebrity who is promoting such a product? Well, you silly goose, because the ad begins thusly:
“I’m Mayim Bialik, and I love brains. It’s why I became a neuroscientist.”
“Neuriva Plus is backed by strong science — yes, I checked it myself —
and it combines two clinically tested ingredients that help support six key indicators of brain health.”
Not only does Bialik claim to be a neuroscientist, in another, longer Neuriva ad she describes herself as, “America’s favorite neuroscientist”
Bialik went to college, studied neuroscience at UCLA, took a break from studies to return to acting, returned to school to earn her Doctor of Philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA, had two children, then went back to acting.  But nowhere in her (admittedly impressive) resumé can I find any reference to her working in the field of neuroscience.
I’m not concerned about how many reputable sources, including Psychology Today, have called the product Bialik is endorsing “Neuriva nonsense” and “just another snake oil.” Moiselfassumed that from the get-go.
Rather, I’m curious about the validity of her claim to be a “neuroscientist” when she doesn’t appear to be doing neuroscience. She studiedneuroscience; I get that. But she’s not doingneuroscience.
If you go to law school, get your law degree ( a J.D. in the USA ), then become a carpenter – i.e., for whatever reasons you decide you want to earn a living crafting furniture and do not practice law, either with a firm or in a partnership or by “hanging out your shingle” (solo practice) – is it accurate to say about yourself,
“I actually am a lawyer.”
“Don’t blame this one on me. You want snake oil? I’ll show you some snake oil.”
* * *
Punz For The Day Snake Oil Edition
Which snakes are best at mathematics? Adders.
I got mugged by a cobra when I was walking through the park. I told the police I couldn’t recognize it in a lineup, as it was wearing a hood.
Why don’t rattlesnakes drink coffee, or any caffeinated beverages? Because it makes them viperactive. 
What do you call a snake that builds houses? A boa constructor.
* * *
May you never feel compelled to refer to yourself as an “actual” anything; May you have fun imagining a southern hairy-nosed wombat; May you be delighted by those creatures which you choose not to eat; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
Hall is a retired family physician who researches and writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices.
Content warning: Despite the date, and one or two moments of comic relief,  this is probably the most serious and personal blog post I have written. No foolin.’
* * *
Department Of Worst April Fool’s Day Ever
The following took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – twenty-one years ago today, April 1, 2001. Background info: MH and I and our offspring, K and Belle, were members of a local church.  Within the past seven weeks we’d celebrated K’s eighth birthday, and Belle’s fifth.
* * *
At approximately 12:20pm, Sunday, April 1, 2001, MH and I were in the ___ (church name) Fellowship Hall’s kitchen, doing cleanup after coffee hour. K and Belle were playing with other children outside, in the church’s courtyard. Belle found a hypodermic syringe (“A shiny toy,” as she later described it to me) on the grass under the bushes next to a play-shed in the courtyard. She picked up the syringe, which was capped, but the syringe’s needle — which was sticking out at an angle from under the side of the cap — poked her in her right thumb. She dropped the syringe and walked away.
K had seen Belle pick up something and then quickly drop it. He went over to where she had been, saw the syringe, and picked it up. He intended to take it upstairs to MH and I, to show us what Belle had touched…then he also got stuck by the needle (in his left thumb) when he picked up the syringe.
K came into the kitchen, holding the syringe. He told us that he’d found “this thing on the grass” and that he’d accidentally stuck himself with it. Before K had finished his sentence MH whisked the syringe from K, and recapped it (K said he took the cap off *after* the needle stuck him, as he wanted us to see exactly what it was that had stuck him, but that the syringe had the cap ON when he picked it up).
I rushed K to the sink, quickly but thoroughly washed his thumb, and told MH to get Belle and meet us at the hospital. We had our two cars with us; I wrapped the syringe in several paper towels and ran down the back stairs of the hall with K in tow, telling him that we were going to the Tuality Hospital ER (which is less than half a mile from the church).
At this time MH and I did *not* know that Belle had also – and first – been stuck by that same syringe’s needle.
MH found Belle standing in the entrance to the Fellowship Hall, crying and holding her thumb, which was bleeding. MH asked another child, who was lying on a couch in the entrance, what was going on. The kid glanced at Belle and casually replied, “Oh, she cut herself.” MH asked Belle what happened; she said that “a knife” she found in the courtyard had cut her finger.
I’d parked on the street by the entrance to the Fellowship Hall. Just as I was about to pull away from the curb MH ran to my car, pounded on the window, opened the door and practically threw Belle in the back seat, next to K. MH told me about Belle’s thumb as he strapped Belle into her car seat; we tried to get more out of her, but she was very upset. She didn’t want to say that it was the needle which had cut her, but K said that it was, and then Belle confirmed this.
All of this — from the moment K came up to the kitchen with the syringe to MH running with Belle to the car — took place in less than two minutes. I squeezed Belle’s thumb to get more blood out, gave her a tissue to hold over her thumb, and drove to the ER, with MH arriving in our other car about four minutes after the kids and I did.
The bad news:
…was what had happened. Of particular concern was the fact that the syringe was from an “unknown source,” which is hospital jargon for, “We don’t have the syringe’s user to test.” However, as the hospital personnel  – and our own instincts and experience told us – as far as what the syringe had been used for, we should assume the worst. Translation: the syringe had been used to inject a person or persons with illegal drugs; it had not been left there by a diabetic who on the spur of the moment decided to adjust his blood sugar/insulin ratio in our church’s courtyard’s bushes. (Coincidentally, earlier that morning I’d been told by the church groundskeeper that the previous day, members of our church had done a cleanup of the church grounds, removing beer cans and trash from under and around the bushes in the courtyard, where the groundskeeper had occasionally found “vagrants and street people partying.”)
Hospital personnel told us the syringe was likely used to inject its user(s) with a certain kind of heroin (“Mexican brown”) and/or methamphetamine, which, for “street users,” were the injectable drugs of choice both the hospital and the police were seeing at that time. Although we brought the syringe with us (and could detect a micro-microscopic drop of fluid inside of it), we were told that there was nothing the hospital could test it for. In fact, it was hospital policy notto test it, for among other reasons, the false reassurance of any false negative results (which they would likely get, as there was no way to determine how long the syringe had been there).
The relatively good (or at least, less bad) news:
-Both kids’ immunizations were up to date, including for Hepatitis B.
-Although there were no vaccinations for Hepatitis C and the other rare strains (D, E, F), risk of transmission for those infections, in that kind of possible exposure, were negligible… Also, those strains of hepatitis were rarely seen in Oregon at that time (Hepatitis A is not transmitted via needle sticks).
-The syringe had a small gauge needle; thus, the possibility of a significant “viral load” transmission was small.
-HIV, the big fear factor at the time, is a very fragile virus. Despite its many mutations it can survive only a few hours (if that) outside a host body.
The children were seen by P.A. ____, who examined them and then spoke with us about what happened. Over the next three-plus hours, the P.A. consulted via telephone with Drs. E___ and L___ at Emmanuel Hospital’s Infectious Disease and Pediatrics Infectious Disease departments, with our pediatrician’s on call group, and with other physicians at the CDC. 
We were told (by the P.A. and a Tuality ER physician) that HIV prophylaxis treatment was something we should consider, for both K and Belle. We did, and decided against it, with the following information in mind:
– None of the doctors consulted would strongly recommend that we start either K or Belle on prophylactic treatment for possible HIV exposure, given the parameters of the particular accident/incident, nor was such treatment the recommended protocol for that kind of possible exposure.
– MMR (Morbidity & Mortality Report) statistics showed no transmission of disease had been recorded to have occurred in “this kind of injury,” in Oregon.
– Risk of transmission of HIV was estimated to be less than 1%; risk of side effects from AZT or other prophylactic HIV treatments definitely exceeded 1%.
K and Belle had blood drawn at the hospital for baseline HIV and Hepatitis titers, and we were given scripts to have the tests repeated at intervals of two, four, and six months. The P.A. suggested, for our own peace of mine, that we do another test at twelve months (although that was not the official recommendation).
Department Of The Aftermath
At one point, sitting in the ER exam room with MH and the kids, I remembered noting the date and thinking, “If only this were an April Fool’s joke….”
The above was the Dragnet (“Just the facts, ma’am”) version of the incident, which I sent to family, and wrote for our own records. I left out the emotions experienced by K, Belle, MH, and myself, which you can probably imagine (and which took me months to forget).
We were at that ER for hours. We waited, while the P.A. consulted with various specialists and/or waited for them to return his calls and periodically came into the exam room we occupied, to update us. All the adults were (trying to be) calm. The ER seemed understaffed, to me (a hospital staff member later told me it was unexpectedly busy “for a Sunday afternoon”). Even so and speaking of the afternoon, I wish one of the staff would have thought to offer our kids some food. It was lunch time when the accident happened, and a little after 4 pm when we got out of there. MH and I were too adrenalized to be hungry and, in our state of shock and with possible scenarios and outcomes running through our minds, we forgot that the kids, of course, were hungry ). I finally had the presence of mind to realize this, and got someone to bring them some sugary drinks, which made them both happy.
Waiting, waiting, waiting…. We bummed drawing supplies (paper and pens) from a nurse, to keep the kids amused or at least distracted, while hospital staff checked with one another and called various experts. We shut the door to the exam room we were in and talked loudly to the kids when an accident victim with a fractured femur was brought into the ER (we were mostly successful in muffling the victim’s cries of pain, which echoed down the ER hallway).
MH’s cousin is a pediatrician and her husband an epidemiologist; MH used some of the waiting time to call her (she lived on the East coast). She was very reassuring. She told us that, to her knowledge and after checking her sources, there were no cases of someone “sero-converting” – i.e., going from a negative HIV test to a positive – after having “that kind” of accident (being stuck with a needle which had likely been used and discarded several hours before the stick-accident).
Okay; yes; this is good. But, if this is common knowledge, why is this taking so long?
Why all the consults – are they preparing detailed information for us,
for a prognosis we don’t want to hear?
We had plenty of time, sitting/waiting/pacing in that exam room, to imagine the worst. I had worked for nine years in the women’s reproductive health care field but been away from the medical world for almost as many years and hadn’t kept up with “things.” HIV, despite its ability to mutate rapidly, was – or had been – a very fragile virus. Perhaps new strains had developed, which I was unaware of – new mutations which could survive hours outside a host body? I thought that unlikely, thus; actually, my main concern was not HIV.
I was more troubled to think that the kids might have been infected by one of the new strains of hepatitis that seemed to be cropping up left and right. When I’d worked at Planned Parenthood, just before MH and I moved up to Oregon, I’d had a needle stick accident,  and had to go through the routines of initial HIV/hepatitis blood tests, getting the Hep B vaccine series,  then follow-up HIV and hepatitis tests at two, four, and six month intervals.
Meanwhile, back in the ER…. Finally, a little before 4 pm, the ER staff attending to our case had documented it to their satisfaction. We needed the kids to each have their blood drawn for the first round of tests, and then we could go home. MH and I and the hospital personnel tried to be as straightforward – and as nonchalant – with the kids as possible. “Everything is going to be all right, we just have to do one test (which…er, yeah…will involve another needle stick)….”
K tried to be brave. He was old enough that we could explain the hospital procedures to him, how they’d need to draw a small amount of blood for a test. Did he think he could cooperate? His lower lip trembled as he nodded yes. He sat in my lap, I hugged him, and he hid his head under my arm when they drew his blood sample. For each of the subsequent, follow-up blood draws (at two, four and six months after the incident), K got better at handling the needle poke (he even watched the last one, instead of turning his head to the side!).
Belle’s reaction was…almost feral.
What a difference three years makes, especially for younger children, in terms of experience and comprehension. Looking back, I realize that Belle was also being brave, in a different way – in defense of herself. She did not understand why she had essentially been held captive for hours; she did not understand the need for the tests the adults were trying to explain to her. She understood that she had already been injured by one needle, and she was determined not to let that happen again.
The hospital personnel were kind and patient with her, but despite their assurances that they would use the tiniest needle possible (“The size we use on preemies,” a nurse told me) Belle became unhinged. Even her beloved daddy could not get her to cooperate, nor could he restrain her. Finally, in order to safely draw her blood, the hospital staff put her in what I can only describe as a full body straitjacket. It was a device/garment I’d never seen before,  and it provided me with one brief moment of levity in that dreary afternoon (I had to leave the exam room for a moment, to stifle my giggles).
The follow-up blood draws were, for Belle, not much better (although full body restraints were not necessary). For years after that ER visit Belle maintained a visceral fear of needles. Routine vaccinations were…stressful, to put it mildly, for Belle, her parents, and her pediatrician.
Despite Belle’s fear of needles (which had not been present before the trip to the ER), neither she nor K seemed to carry any long-term trauma from the needle stick accident. They also barely displayed any short-term distress. By the morning after they seemed to have accepted what the adults had told them (it was an accident; everything is going to be fine), and it was almost as if the accident hadn’t happened.
The night we came home from the ER they both fell asleep even quicker than usual (fatigued from the excitement, was my guess). Oh, to have that short term memory dump capability, I remember thinking. Meanwhile, as our children dozed in blissful ignorance, MH and I sat upright in our bed, eyes abuzz from our respective adrenaline overdoses.
“What just happened?”I said to MH. “I feel like – like I should attack something. I’m all geared up for battle, but there’s no one to fight.”
* * *
When the option for prophylactic HIV treatment had been offered to us, I thought:
Is this the day our lives change forever?
I hoped the medical personnel were going to advise *against* such treatment; instead, they’d presented the pros and cons, and left the decision to us.
I’d already decided that, unless there were compelling evidence to do so, no way was I going to agree to poison my kids to play the odds. During some of the down time in the ER exam room I’d chatted with the kindly if seriously-demeanored P.A., and discovered that he too was a parent. After he and a hospital physician had presented the HIV treatment option to MH and I, I waited until the physician left the room, then asked the PA,
“What would *you* do, if this had happened to *your* children?”
He paused, and I continued.
“I know you’re not supposed to answer that kind of question, but please?”
The P.A. nodded at me, in a way I can only describe as respectful, and I saw the brief flicker of a smile cross his eyes for the first time since he’d met us. No, he said, if it were his children, he would not opt for the HIV prophylaxis.
* * *
Thanks to the merciful element known as “the passing of Time,” the distress of that day has morphed, for me, into having an impassive remembrance of what happened without having to relive how it “felt.” Years will pass without me thinking about the accident, and then something will remind me.
One such reminder came via a local public television show I saw a few years ago, which featured an interview with an activist who “represented” an encampment which homeless people had been setting up in a Portland neighborhood. The encampment was in an area which had been designated as a wildlife corridor; homeowners living near the corridor were disgusted and alarmed by the encampment’s accumulating trash, habitat destruction, and crime. The activist/representative said that the camp occupants were policing themselves – she looked directly into the camera and declared that they had a strict, no drugs/no alcohol policy.
Local news reported that within days of authorities evicting the campers, the encampment resembled an EPA-declared toxic waste dump. City employees and volunteers who cleared out the hundreds of pounds of garbage the campers had left behind had to wear special gloves and protective garments, as the trash included – surprise, “self-policing” activist/representative! – drug paraphernalia, including contaminated syringes and needles.
When I read that follow-up story I was right back to that day – back to the moment when MH ran up to my car, carrying our frightened five-year-old in his arms; back to the moment when I realized that *both* of our children had been stuck by a hypodermic needle; back to the moment when, as surely as I could sense my own pulse hammering in my carotid artery, I felt as if my “spirit” were draining out of my skull, down through my chest and gut and legs, and exiting my body through the soles of my feet. And no, this is not a florid way of saying I peed my pants (which I didn’t). The sensation was so vivid, I later checked my car’s floormat for…something (I didn’t really know what I was looking for).
Several months passed before the needle stick accident wasn’t the first and last thing I thought of every day. Some mornings with stoic acceptance and some nights with fierce, Samuel L. Jackson-style defiance (“C’mon, just try and hurt us again, you needle-discarding, muthaF#&%?! ass#@&%* !”), I’d contemplate the fact that there are so many things out of a parent’s control. Seemingly apropos of nothing, I would find myself ruminating on the plethora of shit, be it circumstantial, biological, genetic, or whatever, that I could neither anticipate nor control, but which could harm K and Belle.
I eventually made peace with the reality that generations of parents before me had recognized:
Your life can change in an instant;
your love for your children may be river deep and mountain high,
but it cannot protect them from everything that might harm them….
including random fate and their and other peoples’ (and your own) mistakes.
One day, several months after the NS accident and after things had returned to the proverbial normal, I was out running errands with Belle. We were at a crafty-type store, getting supplies for her preschool project, and she had to pee. The store’s restroom was a fairly large, handicapped access room. After Belle flushed the toilet and began to move to the sink to wash up, she exclaimed, “Look!” and reached for a shiny object lying on the floor, to the side of the toilet.
I had my first ever out-of-body experience: I watched as a hand (that was apparently my own) reached out with lightning speed and slapped Belle’s hand just before she touched the object; I heard a banshee’s voice from the bowels of the hells I don’t believe in bellow from my mouth:
” NO NO NO NO NO !!! Don’t EVER pick up ANYTHING when you don’t know what it is – didn’t you learn ANYTHING from the accident ?!?!? “
It took a stunned two seconds for first Belle and then me to burst into tears, and a nanosecond after that for me to apologize to her.
* * *
May you never have a similar story to tell; May you make peace with life’s realities but do your damnedest anyway; May you remember to ask for something to eat and drink when you’re stuck in an ER room for hours; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Thank you for the inspiration, Samuel L. Jackson.
 One of the more (if not most) liberal of the Protestant denominations. Yes, this foulmouthed expressive atheist and her family were active church members.
 The P.A., doctors, and nurses we saw during our ER stay.
 He had also spoken with at least two other Tuality hospital physicians, one of whom, along with the P.A., presented the HIV prophylactic treatment option to us. We also had several nurses (in and out of the exam room where we and the kids waited) who never introduced themselves.
 Although, oddly enough, neither of them said anything to us about it…which I attribute to them being intimidated by the surroundings.
 This happened as I was doing a finger poke blood draw from a high-risk (multiple sexual partners; IV drug user) patient: I poked myself with the same lancet I’d just used on the patient, as I was transferring the lancet to the sharpie container. It was a move I’d done a hundred times, only that time I somehow managed to stick myself as I grabbed the sharpie container. To this day, I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ll never forget how the patient looked at me and said, “Uh oh.”
 Which I should have had anyway…but I’d kept putting off for time/scheduling reasons.
 Then a few months later, in a veterinary setting, I saw a similar garment used to restrain a fractious cat!
As the Tokyo Olympics Games enter the final week, I’m realizing I will soon be going through the withdrawal I experience every two years, after watching two-plus weeks of (summer or winter) Olympics events. I’m not normally a frequent televised-sporting-events fan, but moiself does enjoy The Games ®.
As always, besides the events themselves, I find interest (and sometimes, petty and/or snarky entertainment) in “the human drama of athletic competition;” that is, the stories behind the stories. Does anyone else remember the ABC Wild World of Sports intro?
In the second week, with track and field events predominating, moiself is thinking about a conversation I had with daughter Belle, several weeks back, about how the USA’s track star Sha’ Carri Richardson received a suspension for testing positive for marijuana, and thus would not be participating in the Olympics.
Belle was peeved that Richardson would not be able to compete, due to what Belle sees as an unfair and archaic drug testing system. I mentioned that Richardson’s competitors might also be disappointed in Richardson’s absence from the games. As I understand it, when you’re at the top level of your sport you want to compete against the best. Also, whatever your accomplishments, you don’t want an asterisk next to them (as in, ” * ___ won the gold medal for the 100-meter race, but the favorite ____ was disqualified”).
We agreed that athletes should be tested for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs; definitely-absolutely-go-for-it. But Belle and I had fun wondering back and forth about why athletes are tested for alcohol and marijuana. Perhaps I don’t know enough about the subject, but it seems to moiself that weed and booze, with their relaxant and depressive properties, would diminish, not enhance, athletic performance. And really now: in what sports could marijuana be considered a performance enhancing drug? Competitive eating? Belle suggested.
You’d think athletes would *want* their rivals to get the munchies before competition: here comes Richardson, strolling across the finish line in last place, giving the other racers a, “What’s up with all the hurry?” look as she heads for the pizza roll vendor….
“I’d like to thank my coach, and my training partner, Maui Wowie.”
So, lobby to change the Olympics’ drug testing rules, if you think it would be worthwhile to do so. Until then, it would be unfair to other athletes to make exceptions for some and not others, in terms of how existing drug rules are applied. 
Also, the athletes know full well what they will be tested for. My advice to them  is, don’t act surprised and/or disappointed if you used a banned substance and then get caught. Take responsibility. Don’t play dumb when you’re not.
* * *
Department Of Levar Burton, Please Reconsider And/Or Retract
We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like? ( Jean Cocteau, French novelist and director)
The acknowledgment of luck, circumstance, and “accidents” in our lives (and in the universe) is one of the hallmarks of wisdom, maturity, and humility. Sure, sometimes the cream rises to the top all by itself; sometimes, someone achieves fame and fortune not because they were the most talented writer/actor/scientist in the room, but because they were the *only* writer/actor/scientist in a room that needed their skills At That Very Moment…or they just happened to be in the right room at the right time, with the Right People to notice and promote them.
To some degree we can choose how we respond to luck, happenstance, and accidents, but we can neither totally nor consistently control nor predict these accidents (which is why such things are called…all together now…accidents).
On the first bumper sticker (or, maybe it was a chariot sticker) known to humankind, an ancient philosopher wrote a vulgar yet tersely wise summary of the existential acknowledgement of the fact that life is filled with unpredictable events:
Yet, some folks just don’t seem to get this.
Dateline: Wednesday 6:50-ish a.m., warming up my on elliptical exercise machine while listening to comedian Tig Notaro’s “advice” podcast, Don’t Ask Tig. Tig’s guest was producer-actor-writer Levar Burton, best known for his role as Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and for being host of the beloved PBS children’s series, Reading Rainbow.
Moiself has always enjoyed Burton’s work. Thus, my WTF ?!?!? indignation when he said something in the capacity of advice-giver on the podcast, something which made me want to dust off my old Asshat Of The Week award and bestow it upon him.
Asshat Of The Week. Just waiting for the right recipient….
Burton and Notaro were responding to a letter from an advice-seeker when he flung this:
“I have had to learn over time that there are no accidents in the universe – that everything has purpose.”
The rest of Burton’s advice, about being mindful of one’s patterns and intentions, etc., would have been fine. But he had to insert that boner of a bogus bromide.
“There are no accidents in the universe – everything has purpose.”
No, Mr. Burton, that is not what you have “learned* over time” – that is what you inexplicably *believe.* Not only do you have no evidence for that belief, I would think that, looking around the world – excuse me, the UNIVERSE (using Geordi LaForge’s electromagnetic scanning VISOR, if necessary) – with a truly open mind, you would have to admit that there is quite the evidence to the contrary.
There areaccidents, or random incidents, in the universe. All. The. Time. Call them what you will; there is happenstance/luck/circumstance. The “purpose” of the series of tornadoes which struck Tennessee on March 2-3 2020 was not to kill the 25 people that they did; the tornadoes were accidents/incidents which occurred due to the particular combination of topography and weather patterns which spawn any tornado.
That execrable “There are no accidents in the universe” statement to the contrary, you’ve always seemed to moiself to be intelligent, curious, and kind. Thoughtful person that you seem to be, have you neglected to take under consideration the logical conclusions of such there-are-no-accidents beliefs?
Dude: the denial of accident/chance/luck/circumstance is Blaming The Victim 101.
What about that woman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was attacked by a serial rapist? What purpose did it serve; what part did she play in it, or what lesson did she need to know – after all, if there truly are no accidents then everything happens “on purpose;” i.e., for a reason.
And the historical and ongoing oppression of people of color? You spoke briefly of experiencing racism in your life, but you also mentioned something indicating that you believe in “karma,” so then, there’s no accident there. You were born into an oppressed minority, through no choosing of your own…or….? Did you, do you and other people who have experienced discrimination, somehow have something to do with it? That’s what the philosophy of karma would say: that subconsciously or otherwise people choose their fates.  And since there are no accidents and everything has a purpose, what greater purpose (for those enslaved) did the enslavement of millions of people serve?
I’ve written about this before (most extensively, here) , and likely will again, as the “everything happens for a reason” horseshit philosophy is blithely held and repeated by too many otherwise non-rational well-meaning people.
Thank you for your attention. We now return to our regular programming.
* * *
Department Of a Memory Seemingly Apropos Of Nothing…
Whatever the prompt (or whatever Levar Burton might say is its “purpose”), I am grateful to recall the incident.
Dateline: 7-24-2015. The memory is from the day when a friend and I made some hastily scrawled protest signs and did an impromptu picketing of the anti-choice protesters who themselves were picketing outside of Portland’s Lovejoy Surgicenter.
Our adventures were recounted more extensively by moiself in this blog post; the specific remembrance I’m referring to was when my friend and I entered the clinic after the protestors had left, and chatted with a few members of the (all-female) clinic staff. This blurb still deserves the title I gave it six years ago:
Department of Possibly The Best Answer to a Question, Ever
We stayed until the Antis left, then entered the clinic. The Ladies of Lovejoy got quite the kick out of our signs and expressed their gratitude for our support. We chatted with them for several minutes, trading protester stories and shop talk. 
As per the latter, one of the clinicians mentioned that the clinic had expanded services to include male healthcare, and that she “really enjoys” doing vasectomies. I, of course, had to ask her why she found vasectomies so enjoyable. After working with women’s health all day, she said, “It’s a nice change of scenery.”
* * *
Pun For The Day Vasectomy Edition
What do a Christmas tree and a vasectomy have in common? The balls are only ornamental.
What do you call an artist who had a vasectomy? Seriously, does anyone know? I’m drawing a blank here.
Is there much difference between a man who’s had a vasectomy and a man who hasn’t? Yes, there’s a vas deference.
Most men can take having a sore arm or leg. But a vasectomy? That’s a whole different ball game.
* * *
May you enjoy the human drama of athletic competition ®; May you understand and accept the reality of luck and circumstance; May you always appreciate a change of scenery; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Richardson claimed she used weed to cope with receiving the news of the unexpected death of her biological mother. I that’s the case, I’m wondering why she didn’t alert officials before she was tested, along the lines of, “BTW, I used this substance for this reason,” to try to explain or at least warn them that she wasn’t trying to sneak anything past them.
 Which they clamor for, night and day…it gets soooooo annoying.
 The karmic premises of cause and effect: “each action (as well as a person’s thoughts and words) a person takes will affect him or her at some time in the future,” and “like causes produce like effects”
 Even if you don’t recognize the trigger at the time.
 A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I worked in women’s reproductive health care, both in a public clinic setting (Planned Parenthood) and in a private OB/GYN practice.
Because…yeah. I don’t know about you, but moiself would have no qualms trusting the person who extends my eyelashes to tend to my nervous system.
* * *
Department Of Adages Revisited
Sub Department OF Why I Don’t have My Own Marital Counseling Practice
Never go to bed angry.
Translation: Never go to bed when you are angry with your partner, lest a bad feeling hardens into resentment. Resolve the argument before going to bed.
But, that’s not always possible. Sometimes you’re too tired and/or cranky to resolve things diplomatically – that’s why you’re about to “go to bed angry” in the first place. So: go to bed; get some sleep; wake up, have a nice breakfast together…. Maybe, come the morning, whatever caused the argument won’t seem so serious.
Moiself’ssuggested classic advice addendum:
Never go to bed angry.
Oh, okay – go to bed angry if you must, but with someone else.
Actually, I’d say this advice is even crappier:
* * *
Department Of Sometimes The Best Intentions…
I drove past someone’s house recently, and saw a new sign in their front yard. The sign was similar in size, design and “composition” as the Black Lives Matter signs, only with a different message.
The message refers to  stopping the rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans. However, its phrasing prompted moiself to picture the following scenario: moiself driving past the sign, a well-meaning-but-clueless, elderly relative with me in the car – e.g., my late mother – who reads the sign, then sincerely wonders aloud,
“I don’t understand – what do Asians hate?”
“They all seem so nice….”
* * *
Department Of Cults? – Schmultz! They’re All Cults
“…I remembered Toni Morrison’s statement that ‘the function of freedom is to free someone else.’ Utah wasn’t the Deep South, and we Mormon dissidents were hardly the Underground Railroad. But I did believe that our culture had trapped us, that many Latter-Day Saints lived in mental and social prisons that perpetuated precisely the kind of insanity with which I’d grown up. It wasn’t slavery, but it was a powerful form of bondage: the belief that God had ordained a pattern of secrets and silence, that religious authority always trumped one’s individual sense of right and wrong, that the evidence of the senses must bow to the demands of orthodoxy, no matter how insane. It was a kind of institutionalized madness….” ( “Leaving the Saints: How I lost the Mormons and Found My Faith,” By Martha Beck )
Dateline: circa 5 years ago; Tacoma WA. Son K and a few of his college buddies are sharing stories about their various experiences with Mormons/the LDS religion. K’s friend and housemate SP is from Utah; SP and his family were minorities, as non-Mormons living in Salt Lake City. After listening to the other’s stories about the Mormon beliefs and behaviors that the friends found odd, SP chimes in:
“You all have *no* idea…. Out here, you have Mormon LITE.” 
K shared SP’s remarks over a recent Sunday dinner, with MH and I and friend LAH, after I’d spoken about having just finished Tara Westover’s book, Educated: A Memoir. The book is gripping, disturbing, at times downright horrifying, and ultimately/eventually a wee bit encouraging. I found Westover’s beautiful prose to be an often-jarring contrast to that which the prose presents: the account of her childhood, raised in a family headed by a fanatical, fundamentalist LD, survivalist, paranoid father (a man who was also likely afflicted with bipolar disorder  ). There were inspiring segments of the book which depicted the author’s inexplicably indomitable spirit (where did it come from, given her environment?); still, I had a headache at the end of each reading day – moiself realized I’d been clenching my jaw when reading through passages depicting the physical, emotional, and intellectual neglect and abuse she lived with, and the narrow confines of her world.
Westover yearned to be “educated,” in a world where women and girls were to aspire to nothing more than marriage and motherhood – in a world where she was told that to want an education was sinful and that women and girls must obey men and boys, even to the point of enduring sickening abuse from her psychotic brother. She did manage to extricate herself (physically, if not completely emotionally) from that world, but at great cost to her psyche. Her portrayal of the cost of childhood suffering, of the power that abusers (and those who abet them) wield, is chillingly insightful. Although I highly recommend the book, it also (and literally) gave me nightmares.
MH recommended the book to me a couple of years ago, and I’d listened to the Fresh Air interview with the author (which aired in 2019). I immediately thought of that interview when I read the first paragraph of the “Author’s Note” at the end of Educated:
“This story is not about Mormonism.
Neither is it about any other form of religious belief.
In it there are many types of people, some believers, some not; some kind, some not. The author disputes any correlation, positive or negative, between the two.”
Well, that was…odd. Most such disclaimers are at the beginning of *novels,* or short fiction collections. (“This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.”). It made me somewhat disappointed in FA host Terry Gross’s otherwise excellent interview. Did Gross not read the Author’s Note? If she did, why didn’t she ask Westover about it – was that disclaimer something the publishing company’s lawyers insisted on?
Readers generally understand that, even in non-fiction, individuals and their actions are not meant to represent Everyone and Everything. The “Author’s Note” struck me as being so unnecessary – and also, so fearful, of possible litigation, perhaps…and the author’s personal safety.
As per the latter: The LDS church is not as prone to rabid-dog harassment techniques as Scientology (whose “fair game,” policy re critics stated that “An enemy of Scientology, referred to as a suppressive person (SP), may be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist…may be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.”  ). Still, the LDS church has been known to lawyer-up when they think they have been presented in a bad light (in particular, by those who have managed to leave the church). But their most effective defense has been the spiritual training – read: psychological torture – with which members have been inculcated.
When I read Martha Beck’s memoir Leaving the Saints, I remember a section of the book where Beck wrote about the rituals she and her husband  participated in during their temple wedding (aka, “sealing”  ). Beck was willing to detail charges of sexual abuse against a very powerful LDS icon – her father, Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley – yet stopped short of describing the vows of secrecy (re the temple rituals) she and her husband made “for time and all eternity.” I recall she used almost a joking tone in addressing any readers who might be Mormon enforcers, writing something along the lines of, “Hey guys, I promised not to reveal the exact content, and I didn’t, okay? So please don’t disembowel me.”
There was an implicit seriousnessy behind her joshing: fear. She’d written this supposed tell-all book, yet she still was afraid to tell all.
I’d known about the vows Mormons take in temple rituals (in which they acknowledge the penalties they might face for revealing such secrets), but “known about” as in, I only knew that such vows existed – their content remained a mystery. Even Ex-Mos who had openly renounced everything else LDS seemed uniformly silent on the matter. Then, along came Richard Packham, founder of The Exmormon Foundation.
During the 2012 Presidential election Packham was troubled by the fact that vast majority of American voters – the vast majority of *anyone* outside of Mormonism – had no knowledge of the secret oaths Romney had taken as a faithful Mormon. Packham wondered aloud (as, in an article he wrote for businessinsider.com ):
“The question for American voters is: Knowing that Romney has taken this secret oath,  and that he is a faithful Mormon, do you want him to answer the question, ‘Would you feel bound by your sacred oath to obey the law of consecration that you made in the endowment ceremony and use the power of the presidency to benefit the Mormon church?’ “
Packham noted that “In all the extensive media coverage of Mitt Romney, much of it discussing his religion, not a word have I seen about the secrets of Mormonism, the secrets of Romney’s life-long beliefs and practices.”
Growing up as a Mormon close in age to Mitt Romney, Packham was, like Romney, “initiated into those same secrets.” Unlike Romney, Packham left Mormonism and decided to talk and write about it, including describing LDS secrets such as the endowment ritual  and other rituals, wherein Mormons are instructed in the “signs” and “tokens” of the Mormon priesthood, are given special “names” (or “passwords”), and must make an oath to never reveal these, outside the temple.
“…when Romney and I first went through this ceremony, we were taught that each of the first three signs and tokens also had a ‘penalty’ associated with each one, and we had to mime various ways of taking life to represent the penalty to us if we were to reveal the secret signs and tokens: slitting one’s own throat, ripping open one’s chest, disemboweling oneself. Yes, folks, this was part of the most sacred ritual in Mormonism: pantomiming your own bloody death.
So Mitt Romney, and all other righteous Mormons, can be confident that they know the secret passwords and secret handshakes to get into heaven. Do you see why Romney and his church are reluctant for ‘unworthy’ people (the rest of us, including Mrs. Romney’s parents) to know about this?
As Deborah Laake  put it in her autobiographical book, “Secret Ceremonies”:
“The actions that were going to guarantee my entrance at the gates [of heaven] would have nothing to do with love or charity or the other teachings of Christ that I’d been raised to believe God valued. In fact, I hadn’t heard a single one of those words spoken today, the most primary day of religious instruction in my entire life. No, I was going to burst into heaven on the basis of mumbo-jumbo. … The mysteries of life were fraternity rituals. … Did all the white-suited glorifiers in the room unquestioningly accept a ritual of nutty gestures from the pseudo-occult as a sacrament? Those were the first moments when I viewed Mormonism with suspicion.”
Or, as summarized by a Mormon missionary: ‘If we told investigators [prospective converts to Mormonism] about that, they wouldn’t join, because it’s too weird!’ “
Lest you think I pick on the LDS too much  back to the dinner table discussion: when moiself described Westover’s book to K and LAH as the author’s story of growing up in a Mormon fundamentalist cult, MH offered his opinion, that “It was more of a cult of that father.” We all then spoke of the fundy cults/offshoots of Mormonism with which we were famililar, offshoots which, like all so-called cults, serve to make the mainstream or parent religion – in this case, Mormonism – look “better,” in a way, especially to non-believers.
Most religious believers deride (and even loathe and/or fear) people in “cults,” but don’t realize they are in one themselves. Mainstream Christians laugh at the gullibility of Mormons who can believe that a god gave a revelation to Joseph Smith through golden tablets (which Smith translated via a magic stone he placed in his hat), but believe their god gave one of their prophets a revelation through stone tablets. They sneer at snake-handling faith healers who babble nonsense (aka, speak in tongues) and believe in prophecy, even as they themselves pray for people to be healed and hurricanes to be halted, and talk about an apocalyptic End Times.
When does a cult become a religion?
* When it is granted a tax-free status by the Government. * When it progresses from killing its members to killing non-members.
All religions begin as cults. Christianity began as one of several competing messianic sects and became a religion when Paul and his followers began proselytizing outside Judea. Cults fade away when those who knew the founder die. Who remembers the Ranters, the Sandemanians or the Muggletonians now? (excerpts from “Notes and queries,” ethical conundrums, theguardian.com )
What is a religion, but a cult with more money and real estate, and better lawyers and PR? All religions began as cults – as offshoots of a mainstream religion. Once they achieve mainstream status, established religions benefit from the existence of cults, in that they can point religion skeptics toward the cult’s beliefs and practices and say, “At least we’re not like that.”
* * *
Department of Explanations
Dateline: Tuesday am, morning walk. Moiself is listening to the season 13 trailer for the Clear + Vivid podcast, in which host Alan Alda and the C+V producer preview the new season. One preview plays excerpts from Alda’s interview with theoretical physicist and author Michio Kaku, whose latest book is The God Equation: the quest for the theory of everything. Alda describes Kaku as “one of our culture’s leading communicators… about one of the most tantalizing and hard to understand questions ever raised: ‘Is there a theory of everything?’ – is there some formula that explains pretty much every phenomenon of the universe?” And what would the effects of such a theory mean to you and me?
“The immediate, practical implication of finding the theory of everything is…nothing. It’s not going to effect you or me, I’ll be very blunt with you. However, it will answer some of the deepest philosophical, religious questions of all time….” (excerpt of C+V interview with Michio Kaku) 
I gotta wonder: should I save Dr. Kaku and his peers some time and energy, by submitting to them *my* concept? In a mere four words, my Theory Of Everything ® :
“Yep; there it is.”
* * *
Punz For The Day Theoretical Physics Edition
Q: Why should you go out wining and dining with neutrons? A: Wherever they go, there’s no charge.
A husband walks in on his wife, who is a string theorist, in bed with another man. She shouts, “I can explain everything!”
May you come up with your own Theory of Everything; May you be grateful toward those who encouraged you to be educated; May you realize that nobody, under any circumstances, ever needs to have their eyelashes extended; …and may the hijinks ensue.
 A diagnosis he would have rejected in favor of some explanation involving evil spirits and/or devils.
 “6 insane ways the Church of Scientology has tried to silence its critics,” salon 3-15-15
 Who is now also ex-Mormon, as well as her ex-husband.
 Mormons have two kinds of weddings: Temple weddings, and non-temple. Not all Mormons “qualify” for a temple wedding, even if they desire one. “If you don’t know much about Mormon weddings, there’s a good reason for it. The Mormons don’t want you to find out. Temple marriages are top-secret affairs — absolutely no non-Mormons are allowed to see these hidden events. Even some practicing Mormons, who aren’t deemed worthy of a ‘temple recommend,’ will be asked to wait outside. This can be downright heartbreaking for LDS couples with friends and family outside the faith, who find themselves without their loved ones by their side on their big day. (excerpt from “Mormon weddings “)
My sister’s (non-religious) freshman college roommate was aggressively courted by a senior boy who was a Mormon. When they married, she asked my sister to be her maid of honor. My sister, after months of warily watching her roommate being wooed, did not approve of the relationship, but wanted to support her roommate, and agreed. My sister, after buying and then of course wearing the dress, had to stand outside the temple – along with the bride’s parents (who paid for the wedding and the reception)! – during the ceremony, because they were not Mormons.
 Several oaths, actually, but the one Packham refers, “The Law of Consecration,” involves, if Romney won the election, thanking God for blessing him with the presidency and, as per that oath, promising to use that blessing for the benefit of the Mormon church.
 “a ritual reenactment of the creation, Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, mortal experience, and the return to God’s presence. At each stage of this progression, participants make covenants in the name of Jesus Christ.” (So What Happens in an LDS Temple? The Salt Lake Tribune. )
 Deborah Laake was a journalist and editor, raised and married in the LDS church, and was excommunicated by the church “…for apostasy because of her criticisms and also for her ‘detailed revelation of top-secret Mormon temple ceremonies’ ” shortly after the publication of her book, Secret Ceremonies, “a candid and critical account of her experiences growing up and marrying as a member of the LDS church.” ( Wikipedia entry for Laake. )
 Due to the book I read, LDS it was the primary topic, but longtime readers of this blog know I am a skeptic and debunker of all religions.
Noteworthy science podcast anecdotes; musings on how we understand, use (and misuse) the term “educated;” wondering how and why some people can believe in the efficacy of intercessory prayer; a bad pun or two; the last Partridge of the Week, etc. I don’t know if the subjects I had planned to address in today’s post were more profound, but they were certainly more fun, than…this.
“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.” (Vice President Mike Pence, 1-6-21, in a letter to members of Congress. From “Pence defies Trump, says he can’t reject electoral votes,” apnews.com )
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done….” ( #45‘s tweet, after Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged he does not have the power to throw out electoral votes )
* * *
Someone needs to be shot for insurrection.
If #45 had the cojones he accused Pence of lacking, he‘d call a press conference, resign, then blow hisbrains out  on live television. He‘d get the “biggliest ratings, ever!” which is and always has been hisultimate concern.
* * *
“Prevoskhodno! This is all going according to plan.”
* * *
How many times did I read or hear, during the last four years,
“Yeah, I know he (#45) is a dick a horrible person as a person, but I’m voting for him because of ______ (conservative policy).”
As friend MM so succinctly put it,
“Everyone who voted for Trump for tax cuts and judges, you own this.”
* * *
What was it that the anti-Vietnam war protestors chanted as they were beaten by Chicago police in 1968?
“The whole world is watching.”
And they were. And we are.
* * *
Department Of Get HimOut, Now. How Can You Not?
Congress: Impeach. Invoke the 25th amendment – #45is clearly “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”  Get the SCOTUS to lead a squad of Capitol Police to arrest him. Whatever it takes.
Please, no cries of, “But we only have to hang on another two weeks, for the good of the country…”
For the good of the country, he needs to go. Would *anyone else* who had fomented a riot – committed sedition – *not* be held accountable?
For the good of the country, his legacy, as MH put it, “needs to be appropriate.”
For the good of the country, we cannot let strongman hooliganism subvert or even delay our democratic processes.
For the good of the country, we need to show the world – we need to show ourselves – that we have not become another anarchic banana republic our laws and ideals have actual meaning.
And, if heis allowed to just…leave, do you really want any portion of your tax dollars to go to hispresidential pension? $219,000 a year, for the rest of hisdeplorable life, living among whatever other deplorables can stand to abide with him? 
“A Russian dacha or a North Korean apartment – your choice, Comrade.”
* * *
May we get the kind of honest, decent, compassionate leadership we need; May you-know-who finally get what hedeserves; May circumstances allow moiself to return to “regular programming” next week; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Not to worry; it’d be a small splatter, considering the target.
 Section 4, 25th Amendment to the US Constitution.
 There need to be more footnotes, but the only appropriate footnote regarding this deranged disaster of democracy is an unending torrent of FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK !!!
Department Of Nomination For Lyrical Couplet Of The Year
My nomination hails from the musical-comedy “The Prom,” the Netflix-streamed movie, adapted from the 2018 Broadway show of the same name. The story revolves around the political, cultural and social shenanigans which ensue when a small town Indiana High School PTA announces their intention to cancel the school’s prom because a female student wants to take her girlfriend to the dance. 
The couplet moiself refers to is sung by an archetypal cheerleader/popular/hot/girl, who is quite pleased with her perceptions of her own “hotness” as she arrives at her much-anticipated high school prom:
♫ …You have to hand it to me I mean even I would do me ♫
(lyric from “Tonight Belongs To You”)
* * *
Department Of Good News For Office Party Nerds
Speaking of sexual/physical desirability, a recent episode of the Curiosity Daily podcast, “Why Birds Wore Funny Hats for Science,” dealt with scientific experiments in avian mate preference and selection.
“A female finch was given a choice between two males. One was just a regular guy, but the other had an upgrade. He was wearing a tiny hat with a giant white feather sticking straight up. …Imagine being uncontrollable attracted to him, because that’s what happened in the trials. Females went wild for the guys in funny hats….”
* * *
Department Of The Doctor Will See You Now… So Turn Our Head And Cough
“Many Ph.D. holders are fine with reserving the title for medical doctors in common parlance, viewing insistence on the title as arrogant and elitist, and do not use their titles even in a scholarly setting. But for women and people of color, an academic title can be a tool to remind others of their expertise in a world that often undermines it.”
( “Should all Ph.D’s be called ‘Doctor’ ” KQED )
“…female engineers with Ph.D.s who said they are under-represented in their field, and feel like they need to put doctor in front of their names to get the same respect that male engineers get. …researchers found that male doctors introduce their male colleagues as “Dr.” around 70 percent of the time, but introduce their female colleagues as doctor a little less than half the time.”
( “Who Gets To Be Called ‘Doctor” And Why It Matters,” WHYY )
Yep, moiself just has to put my two cents’ in re The Dr. Jill Biden Thing ® .
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (UC Davis, circa 1979), most of my college professors had Ph.D.s in their respective fields. When it came to their professional titles, I can’t recall how most of them preferred to be addressed (“Professor,” “Dr.” “Ms. ___” or “Mr. ___”), nor what I or the other students called them…with one notable exception.
I took a class from Robert Miller,  who had a Ph.D. in literature and taught a class on film/cinema (the name of which escapes me). From day one of the class Miller made it clear as to how he preferred to be addressed. In-class questions and discussions were encouraged, but when any student raised their hand and began their remarks with, “Dr. Miller…? Miller would interrupt with, “Yes, nurse?”
Most of the students caught on rather quickly. One particularly obsequious toady with artistic pretensions (he wore all black attire, no matter the weather, including black turtleneck shirt AND, I kid you not, a black beret) did not. After the fifth or six occasion of him hearing, “Yes, nurse?” he got up the nerve to ask Miller some deferential version of, whaz up wit dat?
Miller took that opportunity to tell the entire class that, yes, he had a doctorate degree, but he preferred to be addressed by the title, “Professor,” because that was his profession. He went on to tell an entertaining story of the history of academic titles. According to Miller, the title “professor “fell out of favor during the mid-late 19th century, when traveling snake oil salesman referred to themselves thusly, to add a cloak of respectability re the noxious potions they peddled. Thus, the term “professor” became associated with charlatans, and actual professors who held doctorate degrees began calling themselves “Dr.,” a title which had heretofore been reserved for physicians.
Professor Miller briefly expressed his opinion that academics in any field who insisted on being called “Dr.” were either insecure with or overly impressed by their own credentials. For clarity, Miller thought that “Dr.” should refer to a practicing M.D.
Until recently, I shared Professor Miller’s antipathy toward the use of Dr. referring to anyone other than a physician. I am also loath to address physicians, when they are not on duty, as Doctor, and in social settings I am suspicious of medical doctors who insist on being introduced that way. If you are a medical doctor, off-duty at the grocery store or at your spouse’s office party or any other situation wherein I can expect that you will *not* be putting a tongue depressor into my mouth, what is the point – other than for your own self-aggrandizement – to introduce yourself to me as a doctor?
Years ago, in social situations where there were enough people unfamiliar with each other so as to require name tags, I encountered that situation frequently, enough so that I was inspired to Do Something About It ®. I’d noticed that some (not all) of the party attendees added, either before their first name or after their surname, their professional titles and/or initials in situations which clearly did not require the identification of one’s profession. Think, “Rev. Blowschlock” at a non-religious gathering, or “Elmer Turnblatter, M.D.,” at a New Year’s Eve party or other, non-medical setting. In anticipation of the next such event, I made moiself a name tag which I could proudly wear on Those Special Occasions. 
Being proud of your accomplishments is one thing; unconsciously or otherwise hoping for special notice/treatment because of the letters after your name is another. Cynical moiself usually assumed the latter reasoning, when it came to people who insisted that others know or use their professional letters and titles in non-professional situations.
Which brings us to Joseph Epstein, BFD.
In case you’ve spent the last two weeks in a drunken stupor/hiding under a rock/binge-watching”Grey’s Anatomy paying attention to more weighty matters, you may not know about the column that journalist Joseph not-a-doctor Epstein wrote for the Wall Street Journal. In the column, Epstein offered unsolicited advice to Jill Biden, who has a doctorate degree in education, as to how people should address her and how she should refer to herself. His column…I shall not link to it here. Not to worry, you can easily find it, as the odor from his festering turd of deprecating sexism disguised as an op/ed can be detected across the country. The stench begins with the first paragraph.
“Madame First Lady — Mrs. Biden — Jill — kiddo: a bit of advice on what might seem like a small but I think is not an unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name? ‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels a touch fraudulent, not to mention comical.”
Yep. He wrote that.
Epstein has heretofore *not* offered such advice to other Ph.D. holders in the public eye.  Nor did No-doc Epstein voice any complaints when his newspaper identified non-medical doctor Henry Kissinger as Dr. Kissinger. Epstein is taking some well-deserved heat for his comments, and is responding to this blowback by clutching his proverbial pearls and hiding behind the whiny, entitled skirts of crying, “Cancel culture!!” instead of taking this criticism as an opportunity to examine his own myopia when it comes to equal respect for and treatment of professional titles.
“As supporting evidence for his reasoning (that “no one should call himself Dr. unless he has delivered a child.” ), Epstein cites his own refusal to be called “Dr.” when he taught courses at Northwestern University — which would, in fact, have been fraudulent and comical because Epstein’s highest degree is a bachelor’s. It seems he would like Jill Biden to deny herself what she earned, because he denied himself what he did not.”
Doctor? What doctor? Epstein’s “advice” ends as malodorously as it begins.
“Forget the small thrill of being Dr. Jill and settle for the larger thrill of living for the next four years in the best public housing in the world as First Lady Jill Biden.”
“the small thrill of being Dr. Jill….”
Got that, folks? Regardless of how you or I think about what professional titles any person should or should not use, Epstein reveals his closeted (perhaps even to himself) sexism in his finale: Jill Biden’s own hard work and achievements should not be as important as those “larger thrills” which society may bestow upon her by virtue of the man she married, and that she should accept this marital title and the perks (best public housing, ever, yee haw!) and refrain from claiming her personal identity and accomplishments.
It may be possible that (doctor-less) Epstein truly doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. The mere fact that he could pen such a condescending column indicates he has had his head up his ass in the sand of entitlement for the past X decades, when it comes realizing how women have had to fight for respect, to have their professional accomplishments acknowledged – and even attributed, what with the history of males claiming credit for their female colleagues’ accomplishments….
*The Art of Claiming Credit: Why women in particular have to be strategic with our suggestions and insights, plus advice on calling out credit stealers.
* When Teamwork Doesn’t Work For Women: …new evidence suggests that the underrepresentation of women reflects a systemic bias in that marketplace: a failure to give women full credit for collaborative work done with men.
All else being equal, I would hold with my original discomfort with non-medical-docs using the Dr. title. But we do not live on planet All Else Being Equal.
Also, my college film professor was not entirely correct regarding his take on the doctor v. professor issue. Ph.D.’s, not M.D.s, were the original “doctors.”
“The term doctor can be traced back to the late 1200s, and it stems from a Latin word meaning “to teach.” It wasn’t used to describe a licensed medical practitioner until about 1400, and it wasn’t used as such with regularity until the late 1600s.”
(““M.D.” vs. “Ph.D.” vs. “Dr.,” dictionary.com )
“The premise that only medical doctors should get to hold the Dr. title is etymologically specious because, as Merriam-Webster dictionary pointed out on Twitter, “doctor” comes from the Latin word for “teacher”; it was scholars and theologians who, back in the 14th century, used the title well before medical practitioners.”
(Monica Hessee, Washington Post op cit )
* * *
Department Of Save That Poop – It May Save your Life
So happy to have yet another excuse to mention Murder Hornets before this year is consigned to the dumpster fire of history.
“To ward off giant hornet attacks, honeybees in Vietnam will adorn the entrances to their nests with other animals’ feces, a defensive behavior called fecal spotting…. The odious ornamentation seems to repel the wasps — or at least seriously wig them out…. Decorating one’s home with dung might sound indecorous….But the scat-based strategy appears to capitalize on a relatable trend: Most creatures aren’t keen on muddying their meals with someone else’s waste.” ( “When Murder Hornets Menace Their Hive, Bees Decorate It With Animal Feces,”
(NY Times, Sciences, 12-9-20 )
A house completely made of dung. Notice the lack of murder hornets…or people, within a 50 yard radius.
A dung beetle spent an entire day rolling a ball of dung up a hill, only to have it fall into a ravine on the other side. Needless to say, he lost his shit.
Make. It. Stop.
* * *
May your title denigration be equal opportunity, if you feel the need to discount someone’s adacemic achievements; May you always choose the guy (or girl) with the funny hat; May you do whatever you have to do-do when the Murder Hornets arrive; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Although “The Prom” is fictional, it is based on the true story of what happened in 2010 at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi, where school officials, objecting to a lesbian student who wanted to bring her date to the prom, decided that, rather than face lawsuits of discrimination against that student they would cancel the entire prom, for all students, rather than allow gay couples to attend.
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.