“We’re so used to talking about who women are being
than about what they achieve.
And we’re so accustomed to putting attention on what men can achieve (or are perceived to achieve) versus who they are being.
We take this state of affairs so much for granted, that it’s almost invisible. Just think how much a woman running for office is scrutinized for how she speaks and dresses versus what she’s achieved in her decades-long career.
Meanwhile, a man can be a genuine predator, yet what he has done and what he’s perceived to be able to get done comes first and foremost
in how he’s evaluated.
We are obsessed with what men *do* and how women *are*.
Britney Spears is 10 years old, Ed McMahon is 69. She has just given a jaw-dropping performance in a TV singing competition. He approaches her. He comments on the 10-year old prodigy’s “pretty eyes,” rather than her powerful voice, and then asks: “Do you have a boyfriend?” “No, sir” she retorts politely. “Why not?” presses Ed. “Because they’re mean,” insists little Britney. He leans over her. “But what about me?”
* * *
Department Of Dressing Up At Home
Dateline: Last Sunday eve, watching the Golden Globe Awards. ‘Tis our family tradition (previously mentioned in this venue, including here and here) of having a movie awards watching party (not any old awards show – just the “biggies,” as in the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, and Tonys…and two of those don’t involve movies, but you get the idea) whilst consuming “movie food,” which is defined as hot dogs,  popcorn, chips & guac, Skittles and Junior Mints and Red Vines licorice and/or your favorite movie theatre candies and snacks, washed down with liberal amounts of a sparkling beverage.
Due to the you-know-what-19 pandemic, this year the party was toned down, both on our viewing end and on the GG presenting end. Friend LAH has been part of our tradition for years, and she joined MH and I for our distanced and masked celebration, along with our son, K (who is full vaccinated – we are all jealous, but that’s what working in medical research gets you).
The GG’s toned-down format was regretful. Part of the fun of watching the GGs is that the nominees are seated at tables, drinking and eating and drinking and chatting and drinking, and did I mention drinking? Thus, the atmosphere – and the acceptance speeches – tend to be looser (read: funnier and drunker) than the staid-by-comparison Oscars.
One bonus of this year’s show was getting to see many of the nominees in their homes (in some case, with their kids,who were so excited about Mom or Dad winning an award, which was adorable). Their attire ranged from Jason Sudeikis’ excessively casual, I’ll-never-win-so-I’m-going-to-be-comfy sweatsuit hoodie, to others who dressed as if they were headed for the red carpet interview (when we know they are in fact home, alone, counting the minutes until they can cover their Zoom screen and dash to the kitchen to scarf a fistful of Doritos during the commercial breaks).
In the latter category was Rosamund Pike, winner for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for I Care A Lot. Pike unexpectedly supplied us with a great GG moment – not as great as the likely-never-to-be-equaled Best Acceptance Speech Ever ® (given by Sacha Baron Cohen, 2007 winner for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, which can be seen in its glorious entirety here), but we still appreciated it.
This picture doesn’t do justice to the delightfully bizarre, horizontally expansive dress worn by Pike. I’m wondering if she would have worn it had the GG’sbeen in their usual venue – she would have had to sit at a table by herself, as there would be no room on the sides for anyone else. MH and I were reminded of The Nutcracker Ballet’s Mother Ginger, the character who…well, for a moment we expected a bunch of polichinelles to come scurrying out from under Pike’s voluminous hoopskirts….
Although I enjoyed the comic relief supplied by Pike’s dress, moiself didn’t want it to distract from why she won the award. So MH and I watched “I Care A Lot.” And you should, too. A perfect performance by Pike in a perfectly peculiar and entertaining film.
* * *
Department Of Dialog Which Causes Me To Spit Out What I Was Chewing And Guffaw Aloud, Alone, At The TV
Dateline: a weekend ago, having dinner by moiself, watching the streaming show, “Resident Alien.” As per the show’s website, RA is about an alien who
“…crash lands on Earth and must pass himself off as small-town human doctor Harry Vanderspeigle. Arriving with a secret mission to kill all humans, Harry starts off living a simple life…but things get a bit rocky when he’s roped into solving a local murder and realizes he needs to assimilate into his new world.”
Harry is played by the marvelous Alan Tudyk,  who gives Harry hard-to-describe verbal and physical mannerisms which are, IMHO, totally believable and consistent with what you might expect from a character who is the equivalent of the offspring of the proverbial fish-out-of-water and a precocious adolescent with Asperger’s syndrome…in other words, an ET who gets his ideas of human behavior – and a doctor’s “expertise” – from binge-watching episodes of Law and Order and consulting his cellphone for medical information.
The dialog to which I refer comes from episode two, during Harry’s first day at the town’s medical clinic. Standing outside the clinic’s exam room, reading the chart of a patient he is scheduled to see, Harry thinks, “I was a scientist on my planet so this is easy for me,” referring to his conception of human doctors spending years in medical school to learn a procedure as simple as burning off a wart. “All I need is the internet and I can graduate in five minutes.”
Harry enters the clinic’s exam room, staring at the chart in his hands. A woman is lying on the exam table, her feet in the stirrups. He doesn’t even look at he as he sits down at the exam stool at the end of the table, by her feet. “Okay, let’s take a look at that nasty thing,” he says, as he lifts the paper sheet covering her from the waist down. He drops the sheet, stands up, and blurts out, “You’re not a 12-year boy with a wart.”
The patient, a sardonic woman (who how you say, probably gets around), chuckles, “Well, I’m not a 12-year-old boy…”
The clinic’s nurse quickly apologizes, grabs the chart from Harry’s hand, and replaces it with the female patient’s chart, whom, the nurse tacitly explains to Harry, is in urgent need of a pelvic exam (“We had to move her up from tomorrow.”).
Harry had googled wart removal, not pelvic exam. “Pelvic exam…” Harry repeats, stalling for time. Both the nurse and the patient urge him to hurry things up; we see his head disappear beneath the sheet; he takes a look and triumphantly announces,
“Oh, okay, I see your problem – you sat on an earring!”
The patient flinches as Harry tugs at (what we assume is) her labial piercing. “No – ah, no!” she gasps, “That’s – that’s supposed to be there.”
You sat on an earring. I’m still dying, a week later. 
* * *
Pun For The Day, Alien Doctor Edition
I heard a joke about amnesia, but I forgot how it goes.
* * *
May you never have cause for a doctor, or anyone, to think you sat on an earring; May you disregard the unsolicited advice – about anything – from men wearing medieval cassocks and quoting Iron Age scriptures; May you fantasize delivering an acceptance speech to rival Sacha Baron Cohen’s; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Yes, that doesn’t qualify as “food,” and I have the plant-based version.
 Little children/clowns, depending on the production of the ballet.
Happy Lunar New Year to my Chinese friends and family, and all who celebrate it.
* * *
Department Of At Least They Didn’t Start A Forest Fire
“A 26-year-old Michigan man died on Saturday after he was hit with shrapnel from ‘a small cannon type device’ that exploded when….”
This is how the news article began. What words, would you think, could possibly complete the article’s lead sentence?
“… it was fired in celebration at a baby shower….
Because celebrating babies and pregnancy and impending parenthood – one immediately thinks: Ah, yes: armaments!
“A cannon type device.” As in, a cannon? It was a friggin’ baby shower; it was not a Civil War reenactment, nor battle enactment of any kind…although – WARNING: BAD PREGNANCY PUN AHEAD – many a woman in her ninth month of gestation has felt like she is personally fighting the Battle of the Bulge.
The story continues:
“The man, Evan Thomas Silva, a guest at the party, was about 10 to 15 feet from the device when it blew up in the backyard of a home. Metal shrapnel hit Mr. Silva, three parked cars and the garage where the shower was being held, the police said….. The night Mr. Silva died, he was among the guests…attending a baby shower — not a gender reveal party….” ( “Celebratory Cannon Salute at Baby Shower Ends in Death,” NY Times 2-7-21
Interesting that the article took pains to mention that this was *not* a gender reveal party, as per the idiotic trend in which celebratory pyrotechnics employed by excited parents-to-be inadvertently yet efficiently caused *more than one* wildfire in the past year (a trend which yours truly had mocked in a previous post).
Attention, expectant parents: stop this. Right now. Stop throwing such events for yourselves and stop attending them in your “honor.” Your friends and family will thank you: no matter what they are saying to your face, under your nose and behind your back they are embarrassed and appalled that you apparently find the fact of *your* impending parenthood – an event so ordinary that it happens worldwide, 385,000 times PER DAY – to be so special that it is the cause for the type of celebration usually reserved for a nation’s liberation from a dictator or the opening of yet another Disney theme park.
Have a party if you want to, of course! Keep it simple – those kind of celebrations are remembered most fondly, and are less stressful to plan *and* attend. Do the potluck thing, play music and silly games.  But have some perspective, puuuuuhhhhllleeeaassee. NO cannons, no fireworks – nothing which intentionally or otherwise explodes… with the exception of your Uncle Beauford’s mouth (and other orifices) after his third helping of your elderly neighbor’s double-chili-bean-cabbage-beer-garlic casserole.
“We’re so excited about baby’s first artillery!
* * *
Department Of What To Serve At Your Baby Shower Sup-Department Of Maybe Reconsider The Chicken Wings
Selective breeding by agricultural scientists for larger overall size and enormous breasts – the white meat consumers prefer – has produced “exploding chickens” that put on weight at a monstrous clip….The journal Poultry Science once calculated that if humans grew at the same rate as these chickens, a 2-month-old baby would weigh 660 pounds…. The chickens’ legs, unable to support the weight of their out-of-proportion bodies, often splay or collapse, making some chickens topple onto their backs (and then they cannot right themselves) and others collapse onto their bellies, where they lie in mounds of feces and suffer bloody rashes called ammonia burns – the poultry version of bed sores.
* * *
* * *
Department Of Memory Sparking
The film class moiself had in college: I hadn’t thought of it, nor of the class’s professor, in years. Now, twice in the past two months both have come to mind (and thus, to this blog).
The first time was two months ago, during the brouhaha manufactured by a Wall Street Journal columnist who chided Jill Biden, who holds a Ph.D. in education, for using her professional credentials. I’d remembered how I’d gotten a kick out of how Robert Miller, my film class’s professor,  made his point as to how he wished to be addressed. Miller, who had a Ph.D. in literature, introduced himself as “Professor Miller.” When a student speaking in class prefaced their remarks with, “Dr. Miller…” Miller would interrupt with, “Yes, nurse?”
The second time was last week, when I was listening to a recent Fresh Airinterview with former writer  and current professional observationist Fran Leibovitz. Leibovitz was promoting a new Netflix docuseries, “Pretend It’s a City,” in which the series’ director (Leibovitz’s longtime friend, Martin Scorsese) talks with Leibovitz about…well, about Leibovitz, and whatever Leibovitz thinks about any and every thing she thinks about. 
In the Fresh Air interview Leibovitz talked about her “career” background. Before enjoying her fifteen minutes of fame as a writer in the 1970s  Leibovitz held a series of menial/odd jobs. She claims she took housecleaning jobs and drove a taxi because, “I don’t have any skills. I didn’t know how to do anything else.”
“I also didn’t want to do the job that most of my friends did, which was wait tables, because I didn’t want to have to be nice to men to get tips or to sleep with the manager of my shift, which was a common requirement then for being a waitress in New York.”
My film professor, who was a writer as well as a teacher, didn’t (to my knowledge) require any of his students to sleep with him – that’s not why this memory was sparked. He *did* do something which I thought was an abuse of power, although at that time I hadn’t the emotional or intellectual context to frame it as such, given its complexity.
One afternoon in class the topic was screenplay adaptation. As an example of how you would turn a literary story into a cinematic one, Professor Miller announced that our next assignment, due the following week, would be to write up a proposal for adapting a piece of short fiction he would give to us. We’ll spend the rest of the class time discussing the assignment, Professor Miller said. He began passing out photocopies of – I stifled a gasp when I read the byline – a short story *he* had written.
I remember thinking, “Uh, this a good idea? HELL NO.”
Would any student dare say, “This story is not adaptable,” or, “There’s no way I would want to adapt this even if I thought I could because I just don’t like it.…” or express any other critique, from mild to scathing, knowing that it is the professor’s own work?
I tried to stifle my instinctive, lip-curling expression as I read the story, which was a Mailer-Hemingwayesque male fantasy, about a backpacking trip taken by an Older Man ® (an artist-teacher of some kind) and the Much Younger Woman ® he is mentoring and – surprise! – fucking dating. Meanwhile, Professor Miller read aloud from the story’s campfire scene, a scene which, he told the class, would be particularly visually appealing for a screenwriter (the following is my summation of the scene):
OM and MYW are sitting around their campfire, their conversation terse and tense. There is a sense of growing strain between them for a variety of reasons, including the status of their relationship, and signs of bear activity in the vicinity. When MYW excuses herself (presumably to go behind the tent to take a pee break), OM ruminates about how their relationship will likely be coming to an end, as he is older, more educated and world-wise, and she is…well…she is what she is (young and beautiful).
MYW returns, tossing an item into the campfire as she sits down; OM sees a tampon briefly blaze before the flames incinerate it. He begins to panic….
Already feeling nauseated by the retch-worthy cliché of the older male teacher/younger female student predatory romantic relationship scenario, I had another thought that made me want to puke in class: he’s not going to incorporate the macho woodsymyth about bears being attracted to menstruating women in his story, is he?
OM starts asking MYW about why she didn’t tell him she was having her menstrual period – they’re in bear country, FFS! That explains his feeling that a bear has been stalking them. Now, they are in danger….
Several students (all male) took turns praising the scene and shared their ideas as to how they would script it. I remember Professor Miller looking at me several times, as if he expected my feedback – me, who remained silent, despite usually speaking up in class discussions; me, the one student (or so the professor told me a week earlier, when he’d returned an assignment of mine  ) whom he allowed to turn any assignment into a prose-writing opportunity. 
I remember looking around at the class, paying particular attention to the expressions on the other female student’s faces, and having a click-worthy moment of realization:
Oh, so *this* is how women learn to fake orgasms.
Up until that moment, the class as a whole had had little problem tearing into films we had been told were “classics” but which one or more of us found poorly made, reductive, or just plain boring. But for this assignment, what choice did we have, other than to act as if we liked the story? He was our professor; it was his story. We had to pretend to like or at least approve of it in order for us to succeed in that situation.
Somewhere near the end of class time moiself raised my hand and asked if we had other options for the assignment – for example, adapting works of…other authors. I remember phrasing my question as delicately as I could, and squeezing in some (faux) compliments of his story, compliments which were bland enough that I didn’t hate myself for wimping out on what I wanted to do, which was to object to the inherent hubris of him assigning his own story. Fortunately for me, several of the professor’s suck-ups acolytes weighed in on the subject, and my tacit criticism of his self-indulgent ego trip of an assignment didn’t seem to register (or at least not for long, as I got an A in the class).
* * *
Department Of Sometimes I Miss The Good Old Days Of Censorship
“When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better. ”
“I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure.”
― Mae West
The Good Old Days ® of any kind were usually not-that-good, just old. I am not condoning censorship; continuing with this post’s cinematic theme, I am remember the day in my film class where we learned about the Hays Code, aka the Motion Picture Production Code. The Hays Code was used, for almost four decades, by film studios to require that their pictures be “wholesome” and “moral” and free from a list of no-nos (e.g. nudity, overt violence, sexually suggestive dances, discussions of sexual perversity, characters which engendered sympathy for criminals, unnecessary use of liquor, making fun of religion, interracial relationships, “lustful kissing,” ridicule of law and order….)
A lively class discussion about the Hays Code ensued. Several students, and the professor, gave reasons for favoring some kind of code or guidelines (although not outright censorship), due to the artistic ingenuity such guidelines inevitably inspired.
This idea that “guidelines up the game” is one which crosses artistic genres. I recall experiencing a joy I don’t think can be replicated today, when I realized that 13-year-old moiself “got” The Kinks’ song, Lola, and my parents  and the radio censors didn’t. Presently, pop vocalists can call for the execution of people they don’t like, can call each other obscene and racist epithets, can brag about the…uh, humidity level of their intimate parts…. There are few if any lines to subversively read between.
A fun factoid about “Lola” is that the word “Coca-Cola” in the original recording had to be changed ( ♫ “I met her in a bar down in old Soho where you drink champagne and it takes just like Coca-Cola…” ♫ ). Singer Ray Davies dubbed in “cherry cola” for the song’s release, due to the BBC Radio’s policy against product placement.
Son K and I had an interesting IM session about the subject of censorship when, apropos of what-I-cannot-now recall, K came across some info about the Parents Music Resource Center, asked me some questions, and began searching for and then watching videos of the PMRC’s congressional hearing.
[ The PMRC, as some of y’all may recall, was an American governmental “advisory committee” formed in the 1980s which sought to increase parental control over children’s access to music with violent, sexual, and drug-related themes. The PMRC lobbied the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) to develop a music labeling system, ala the MPAA’s film rating system. Because the PMRC was founded by four women whose husbands had political connections (including Tipper Gore, married to Senator and later Vice President Al Gore) the group was sometimes derisively and dismissively referred to as “The Washington Wives.” ]
K: man so reading about the PMRC. what was tipper gore’s problem
Moiself: What made you read about the PMRC? Some say Tipper Gore was looking for a “cause,; others, including herself and her husband, say she was a concerned parent who became shocked when she listened to the lyrics of one of her daughter’s favorite songs…and then started acquainting herself with other lyrics to popular music. I think it’s probably a combination of both motivations. The PMRC was actually a milder version of other parental groups at the time which were calling for censorship – the PMRC wanted parental warning labels as to content….
I gave K a brief history lesson: at that time, many kids didn’t buy their own records – their parents or grandparents did. As a parent and “consumer,” I wouldn’t want to spend my money on songs that used racial epithets or promoted homophobic or misogynistic viewpoints to my kids. And in the ’80s lyrics were getting really explicit, which made me actually wish for the days of radio content restrictions…because then singers and songwriters had to be clever. It was so much fun when, ala my “Lola” reference, you knew something was slipped by the sensors – you caught a reference that even the supposedly hip radio programming directors, as well as your own parents, didn’t “get.”
K: just looking through it, (the PMRC hearings) all comes across to me as one of those bullshit moral crusades. a need to either feel self superior, or a need to control anything that doesn’t appeal to X person’s personal tastes, or both. it just reminded me of a milder version of McCarthyist witch hunting. demonizing something for political gain
Moiself: Yes, but the latter is a proven technique.
Later on, in an in-person dialogue, I shared with K my opinion that any form of guideline or structure-free art risks…well, think of the criticism of free verse poetry as playing tennis with the net down. I’m not lauding censorship per se, but, to reiterate, IMHO guidelines can actually make people more creative – or sneaky, which has a strong element of creativity to it. Because when you can’t just come out and say Certain Things ® you have to be subtle and sly, employing cheeky imagery and evocative dialogue. You have to be more poetic, in a way.
A movie critic once asked the late great writer/screenwriter/director Nora Ephron if Ephron agreed with the critic’s observation that there seemed to have been stronger roles for women actors, and better plots and dialog, in the earlier days of cinema. Ephron agreed, and lamented contemporary movies’ lack of witty dialogue and snappy repartee – and distinctive, self-assured female characters – which were found in the movies of the 30s and 40s and even 50s. Beginning in the late 60s, along came the “New Cinema” movement, which emphasized so-called gritty realism. You no longer had to employ clever camera angles and witty, double-entendre laden repartee – now you can just show (instead of imply) a graphic murder, have the protagonists jump into bed together (which had the effect of valuing, defining – and casting – female actors as per their sexual appeal)…and then what?
In an atmosphere where nothing is considered to be off-limits, you will never have the delightful shock value of experiencing, say, the judicious use of “strong” language. I fondly recall my mother telling me about her most memorable movie experience, when as a child she saw Gone With The Wind. She said she’d never forget how she was both scandalized and thrilled – and how “the entire theater gasped” – when Rhett Butler delivered his infamous parting line:
* * *
Pun(z) For The Day
Moiself: Did you hear about that actress, Reese, who just stabbed a guy to death? Innocent bystander: Witherspoon? Moiself: No, she used her knife.
Q. How does award-winning actor Reese eat her Cheerios?
I suppose I have to be a good sport about this.
* * *
May you shun any event mixing pyrotechnics and babies; May you neither actively nor passively contribute to “exploding chickens;” May you challenge yourself to both follow and subvert the guidelines; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Of course, have these events safely, distanced/outdoors, and masked until this damn COVID-19 thing peters out …do I really need to say this? Apparently.
 Leibovitz has famously suffered from writer’s block for years, and now seems to get by with having people pay to listen to her talk about the things she used to write about. Not a criticism – she has a keen, sardonic eye, and is quite witty. I have enjoyed the series, so far (haven’t as of this writing finished listening to all episodes).
 I’m not sure if “observationist” is a thing, but Leibovitz seems to be making a living from it.
 Which centers around her technophobic life in New York city; specifically, Manhattan.
 Using her satirical, NYC-centered wit, she opined on American life in two best-selling collections of essays, Metropolitan Life and Social Studies.
 After class I found a couple of Wildlife Fisheries Biology majors who confirmed that was a myth. Even so, it was a myth that got a lot of traction, and it wasn’t until in the 1980s and ’90s that biologists did studies proving that bears – or sharks – are no more attracted to menstruating women than to any other kind of human.
 storyboarding a dada-esque, vignette-style commercial for the soft drink, 7-Up, which he graded A+.
 We’d had and would continue to have various projects over the quarter, from “making” a short films or advertisements or animation. I’d no interest in filming anything or doing animation, and always chose to interpret “making” as doing the screenplay, storyboarding and/or writing portion of the project.
 When my friend’s très conservative mother was singing along to “Lola” on the radio while was driving us to the beach, I somehow resisted the urge to ask if she knew she was enjoying an ode to a naïve young man’s romance with a transvestite.
Dateline: Thursday, returning from my morning walk. A black van slowly drives by my house, then pulls up in my driveway just as moiself punches in the code to open the garage door. The car is unmarked; I figure it for a delivery vehicle, and indeed, the driver leaves the motor running as he exits the vehicle and approaches me, carrying a white, pizza-delivery-shaped box and three other items in his arms. He likely cannot discern my confused expression that slowly crosses my face (I am masked) when I see that the “packages” he’s toting all bear the Krispy Kreme logo.
“Excuse me,” I say, “I think you have the wrong address.” His eyes and forehead denote that he is smiling beneath his mask, but I’m not sure he understands me. “Do you have the correct house number?” I ask again. “We didn’t order….uh, we don’t eat…” I gesture toward his armful. “…any of that.”
He says MH’s name, in heavily accented (Russian?) English, and points to the top of the box, where MH’s first name and last initial are written in black ink. Seeing that I have my hands full (hat and gloves in one hand and walking poles in the other) he leaves the items on the front porch and waves to me as he scampers back to his van.
I enter the house via the garage and tell MH, who is in the kitchen, about the delivery. He fetches the items from the porch, and tells me that yesterday afternoon someone from work messaged him with the news that there would be a “sweet treat” delivered to him tomorrow, in honor of his 30 years with the company.
“I was hoping,” MH shakes his head, “for chocolates.”
Here is what MH got: a donut assortment and a bucket of coffee and eight cups and enough creamer to drown a possum (*eight* coffee cups? Whom do they think he’ll be having over during these COVID social isolation times?).
MH does not drink coffee (thirty years, and they don’t know this?), and doesn’t eat donuts.
Yeah, team! Way to know and value your employees!
Even as I type this MH is receiving “very nice” calls and messages from people he works with, regarding his 30 years with the company, and I can tell he is touched by their individual expressions of congratulations. “The company” as such does have an interesting history of less-than-stellar acknowledgements of significant anniversaries, as moiself noted in this space, five years ago. What the heck; it all makes for a better story than a gold watch.
* * *
Department Of What Have I Ever Done To Deserve This?
Thursday was quite the day. I awoke Thursday morning at 3:30 AM – a good five hours before the surprise KK delivery – and, as always when I awaken in mid-eve/early am, an earworm was infecting my brain.
This time, the song was a particularly odious one. I’m not talking Osmond Family odious, but almost.
“Oh, did you say something insulting? We’re too busy urging agents of the Mormon church to buy controlling percentages of Proctor & Gamble stock – the makers of the Crest Whitening Strips ® we heartily endorse! – to pay attention to your gentile gibes. ” 
Department Of The Stranger’s Post I’m Responding To. Sub Department Of Why. Do. I. Do. This.
A friend posted the following on Facebook (passing it on, I’m guessing, from someone else’s’ post). Underneath a faded photo of a baby girl and her adorable sisters (all of whom appeared to be under age three), was this entreaty (I removed the names; other than that, the post is as originally written and punctuated.):
PLEASE HELP!! 51 years ago our mother _ _ ___ (nee ____). Walked out of these 3 little girls lives ___ & ___ & ___ (last name) Castle . For what reason were really not sure, we have had several failed attempts to find her this is now our last chance of any hope of finding her. she could have moved abroad Australia or Canada. She will be 74 now born 9th December 1942. Social media seems to help with good things, life can never be complete when you don’t know who or where your mother is. We need this to go WORLD WIDE….. PLEASE HELP ….
I kept second guessing moiself as I typed my comment. I don’t know these people; they aren’t asking for my advice….except that they *are,* in that internet way. By asking for their post to go WORLD WIDE they are seeking a worldwide reaction.
As a citizen of this world, I still feel a keen loyalty to a part of the world with which I have a significant history: working in women’s reproductive health care clinics. Some of the women and girls I served were mired in the myriad of situations which might cause a woman to “walk out” of her children’s lives and resist any attempts to be found. Also, I cringed to read the post’s – unintentional, I assume, yet inherently presumptuous – dis of the lives of adoptees and orphans, and others who may not know their biological mothers but who nonetheless live lives filled with love, fulfillment, and purpose.
So yeah, moiself had to dive in:
“For what reason were really not sure, we have had several failed attempts to find her….” Do you really think it is wise to pursue this? There are probably reasons your “failed attempts to find her” have in fact failed….can you accept that there are likely reasons she may have, that have to do with her not wanting to be found, reasons that might be painful for you to know and impossible (in her mind, at least) for you to truly understand? I worked in women’s reproductive health care for years, and the stories I heard and was witness to….would take years to describe. Are you prepared for where this might lead? I’m sorry for your pain; even as I can’t let a statement like “life can never be complete when you don’t know who or where your mother is…” stand uncontradicted, as it is patently false, given the fact that people all over the world have lived fulfilling lives, having to deal with far more in terms of pain and uncertainty. I wish you and your sisters – and your biological mother, be she alive or dead – all the best, including peace in this matter.
* * *
Department Of Calling All Math Nerds
Help me out on this one. Dateline: Tuesday, circa 7 am, listening to a podcast while doing The Morning Walk Thing ® . The podcast (the name of which escapes me now)  featured an interview with a guest who was a mathematician. Mr. Math Man was talking about the “perfect number,” a mathematics concept wherein the divisors of said number add up to the number itself. For example, 6 is a perfect number because 3 + 2 + 1 = 6.
But wait one darn minute. Just prior to revealing this Perfect Number equation, Math Man said that the divisors of 6 are the numbers 3 and 2 (3 x 2 = 6), *AND* 6 and 1 (6 x 1 =6). If you add all of those together you get 12, not 6. Why was he leaving out 6 when he’d just said it was a divisor – as is 1, and he included the 1 in the “perfect number” equation?
No doubt there is some, because-we-define-it-this-way-that’s-why explanation that makes the less-than-perfect (IMO) definition of the perfect number more perfect – an explanation that would have to involve the divisors of the number but not the number itself being included in the “perfect” addition equation.
But wait, there’s more!
Since every whole number is divisible by itself and one, that leaves the number one as a partnerless divisor in those perfect number equations…and you could never have a perfect number, using the definition of perfect number which the guest presented, unless the number itself was excluded from its divisors addition – again, which leaves the number one missing its divisor partner. Which seems kinda lonely, to me. Can any number even be considered a divisor without the action of another number?
Yeah, I could google this. I’d just rather throw out to the universe this silly rumination of arcane concepts question of burning importance to the very nature of our existence.
Make that, the divisor stands alone.
* * *
Department Of Momentarily Missing The Point
Moiself has been using a new meditation app. One recent morning in a guided meditation, the narrator instructed me to “…make a mental note in my mind…”
Well…yeah…that iswhere I would make a *mental* note.
The note I was advised to make had to do about breathing, but instead and immediately moiself started making mental notes about the delightful redundancy of the suggestion.
Yes, my mind is where I make my mental notes,
as opposed to my elbow or my spleen…
Wow! Am I so ahead of the practice, or what?!?!?
That went on for…way longer than it should have.
Although my investigation of the phenomenon assures me that it is common to all humanity, I’ve always thought that the dictionary definition of monkey mind should include a picture of moiself.
* * *
Department Of Silver Linings
The Presidential Inauguration.
As much as I was thrilled for the new Prez and Veep to be sworn in, moiself girded my loins for the inevitable yet no-less-offensive-just-because-they-all-do-itinvocation. Of all the things that should *not* be heard in a secular democracy’s inauguration ceremony, religious rhetoric of any kind tops my list. It turned my stomach for a variety of reasons.
I don’t care about Biden’s personal religion – that’s the point, it should be *his* personal business. A nation based on a deliberately crafted, god-free constitution does not need to hear anything resembling advice or entreaties from a minister when we are installing our head of state – in particular, we don’t need the nonsense from a priest who quotes the head of state of the worldwide cabal of celibate (ha!) sexists and altar boy buggerers. 
I was saved from my disgust when I realized what was to follow the putrid proselytizing invocation. The Inauguration announcer, who used his Solemn And Important ® voice to announce the Supreme Court Justices, and Harris and Biden, and then the invocation speaker, was also going to use that same voice to introduce she-who-was-to-sing-our-national-anthem.
Mere words cannot describe the petty thrill that tickled moiself from eyebrows to tootsie-toes when I heard those stentorian tones used for the words I never expected would be part of an inaugural ceremony:
“Please welcome Lady Gaga.”
If only Her Ladyship could have worn her meat dress….
* * *
Department Of If I Had My Life To Live Over Again…
…I just might choose a multidisciplinary field of study which would have qualified me to be an “expert” on the recent Freakonomics podcast I found so entertaining. “The Downside of Disgust” (Ep. 448, 1-20-21) dealt with the human biological response and reflex known as disgust.
I imagine teaching an undergraduate course in the science and sociology of disgust. I would call moiself, Professor Eeeeeewwwwwwwwww. 
* * *
Department Of Blast From The Past
Typing the previous section about disgust led me to trip down the Memory Lane staircase, where I landed spread-eagle on the floor of a recollection I posted about, way back on 10-19-12 (yikes – moiself has been blogging for that many years?):
October 19, 1945, is the birthdate of Harris Glenn Milstead. Better known as his stage name, “Divine,” the flamboyant transvestite starred in ten John Waters films,  and would have been 67 today had he not died 25 years ago from an enlarged heart.
Divine holds a special place in my normal-sized heart ever since we shared an elevator ride in our nation’s capital. I was in town on a business trip, installing a computer system at WWDC.  The groundbreaking radio station  was located in a high-rise office building in downtown D.C. One morning after returning from our daily get-away-from-these-crazy-radio-people fresh air break, my installation partner R and I boarded an empty elevator in the building’s lobby. The elevator stopped at the next floor, and Divine and his PR agent (or so I guessed, from what I heard of their conversation) got on.
Although he lacked his customary stage attire and fright wig, the bald, 300 lb, self-proclaimed “Drag Queen of the Century” was (for me, at least) immediately recognizable. He was in full, eyebrow-elevating makeup, and looked petty much like the picture (below), despite his oddly conservative attire of a Hawaiian shirt, khaki pants and brown loafers.
R and I observed proper Elevator Etiquette and rode in silence, me using the elevator doors as a focal point as I tried to suppress my shit-eating grin. R stole several furtive/suspicious, OMG glances at Divine, who chatted with his agent about an upcoming promo appearance.
The men exited the elevator two floors before our stop. As soon as the elevator doors closed I turned to R and gushed, “That was Divine!
R’s cheeks nearly exploded with the force of her sputtered retort: “That was disgusting!”
Turns out R had no idea who Divine was.
I explained. It didn’t help.
* * *
Pun For The Day
With great flourish, the Spanish magician exclaimed,
“On the count of three, I shall make myself disappear! Uno! Dos!” …and then he vanished, without a tres.
* * *
May you discover the cheap thrill of using your lowest, most somber voice to say, over and over again, “Lady Gaga;” May you honor longtime colleagues with appropriate gifts – better yet, just tell them something you like about them; May your favorite memories be Divine (or at least never disgusting); …and may the hijinks ensue.
 Gasp – ’tis a podcast host’s worst nightmare, to have the name of their show less memorable than a listener’s random memory of it!
 Yes, that would be The Pope. A fucking pope, the most anti-democratic kind of “leader” there is…
 And on the first day of class, I’d ask Lady Gaga if I could borrow her meat dress….
 Most notably in “Pink Flamingoes,” as Babs Johnson, the film’s “Filthiest Person Alive,” dog-excrement eating heroine (just imagine what the film’s villains had to do).
 A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for a company that designed computerized “traffic” systems for radio and television stations.
 “DC-101” was the first American radio station to play a Beatles song: “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” in December 1963. DC-101 was where DJ Howard Stern was paired with news anchor Robin Quivers and honed his “shock jock” persona.
“As of 2019, the total fertility rate was 1.7 — that’s 1.7 babies born per woman of child-bearing age over her lifetime.”
I immediately thought of my two children, K and Belle, both young adults and successfully fledged. They keep up with politics, demographics and current affairs. I pondered how moiself, as a Loving and Responsible Parent ®, can honestly respond to them should they run across this statistic, then pose the inevitable question.
How will I decide which one of them is the .7 child? Should I flip a coin? Make my judgment based on which one is more likely to visit me in the nursing home (or less likely to put me in one)?
* * *
Department Of Sometimes It’s Better To Let Your Imagination Run Wild With The Question And Not Even Care About The Answer
To what degree have car seats functioned as contraception?
* * *
“I thought Girl Scouts was supposed to be about making the world a better place. But this isn’t at all making the world better.” ( 14-year-old Girl Scout Olivia Chaffin, quoted in “Child Labor Linked to Palm Oil in Girl Scout Cookies, Snack Brands”)
Dateline: Sunday afternoon. Moiself was backing my car out of the driveway, just as The Cutest Girl Scout In The World ® left a flyer on my porch. She continued on, walking with her father (my guess) and another Scout to my neighbor’s house. I stopped my car, got out and waved, and from a maskless-but-safe-distance her father said the Girl Scouts were doing a different form of cookie sales this year – orders online – and that the information was in the flyer.
After returning from my errand, I googled to see if the reasons moiself had boycotted Girl Scout cookies the past few years were still valid. Sadly, yes. The Scouts are still using palm oil in their cookies…AND…a report has just been released linking the production of that palm oil to child labor violations.
I have long wished  that GS fundraisers would involve a community service drive several times a year, akin to the Boy Scouts’ Xmas tree recycling service. I mean, community service – yay! Besides, look at us Americans – no one should be eating those (or any organization’s fundraising) cookies.
When K & Belle were in the Oregon Zoo Teens program they learned about the problems with palm oil production, and began educating us – their parents, family and friends – on why we should choose products that did not contain palm oil and boycott those that did. Such education should be right up the Girl Scout’s alley, so to speak, with the organization’s declared belief in “…the power of every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader) to change the world,” and their manifesto, to build “girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.”
But, according to the EcoWatch article, “Child Labor Linked to Palm Oil in Girl Scout Cookies, Snack Brands,” that ain’t happening. Excerpts from the article (my emphases):
Environmental concerns first motivated then-11-year old Chaffin to investigate the source of the palm oil in the Girl Scout cookies she sold. Chaffin…saw that the palm oil listed on the cookie boxes was supposed to come from sustainable sources. However, she looked closer and saw the word “mixed”, which meant that sustainable and non-sustainable sources had been combined in the cookie recipe.
She swore off cookie-selling and launched a petition one year ago urging Girl Scouts to abandon palm oil….
Chaffin told The Associated Press that learning about the child labor issues  made her more motivated to fight for the oil’s removal….
The Girl Scouts did not respond to The Associated Press before the study was published, but did address the article on social media.
“Child labor has no place in Girl Scout Cookie production. Our investment in the development of our world’s youth must not be facilitated by the under-development of some,” the organization tweeted.
They said that their bakers and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) should take action if standards were being violated.
In other words, business as usual. They are shocked – shocked! – to learn about child labor violations (and don’t forget habitat destruction), but not enough to put any political or economic muscle behind their rhetoric.
The Girls Scouts claim to “…offer the best leadership development experience for girls in the world.” Their girls are inadvertently learning a lesson in politico-speak (express concern, but don’t make any actually changes which may threaten your income stream), which is sadly common to leaders worldwide.
* * *
Department Of Quote Of The Year, 2021:
“But fuck you for being there.”
Moiself realizes the year is young, but already there is a comment which so succinctly nails What Happened on January 6 ® that I am hard pressed to imagine what might beat it for Quote of the Year.
It comes from NPR’s January 15 article, “Meet Three D.C. Police Officers Who Fought For The U.S. Capitol.” Excerpted here, the article contains interviews with police officers who were attacked by the pro-#45 mobs who stormed the US Capitol.
Beaten, tased, lying dazed on the steps leading out of the west side of the U.S. Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6, Officer Mike Fanone remembered thinking,
“…about the movie Black Hawk Down when the pilot gets stripped from the cockpit because guys were grabbing gear off my vest, they ripped my badge off of me, and people were trying to get my gun, and they grabbed my ammunition magazines. I remember trying to retain my gun, I remember guys chanting, ‘Kill him with his own gun.’ “
Fanone was tased at least a half-dozen times. He says he considered using his gun to defend himself, but knew rioters would likely turn the gun on him. So he pleaded for his life.
“At one point, I decided I could appeal to someone’s humanity in this crowd. And I said I have kids,” he recalls. “Fortunately, I think it worked. Some people did start to protect me, they encircled me and tried to prevent people from assaulting me.”
Fanone, a 19-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department, was found and eventually pulled to safety by his patrol partner. He was hospitalized, and was told he had had a heart attack.
Fanone says he doesn’t want to get into what may have motivated Trump’s supporters, many of whom have long claimed they back police. He’s thankful he got out alive, but he’s angry that that was ever in question.
“The ones in the crowd that somehow appealed to their better angels and offered me some assistance, thank you,” he says. “But f*** you for being there.”
* * *
Department Of Yes, This. Reflections After The Inauguration
Although I love watching the Olympics and missed having the opportunity to do so in 2020, moiself did not miss having to listening to the devoted, often over-the-top-and-arrogant, fans of Team USA. Hearing their strident, hyperbolic chants of, “USA! USA! USA! We’re Number One!” makes me want to do a number two, as I think of how those chants represent many of my fellow citizens’ understanding of our place in the world, both historically and in the present.
When it comes to being a “great” country, we *are*number one…in self-delusion and mythology. Maybe, just maybe, we could be #1 in potential of across-the-board quality of life, if the majority of us could be honest with ourselves.
Those ideals in our founding documents,  national anthem and patriotic songs are just that. They are ideals to which we may aspire, but they are not reflections of either historical or present reality; they are a journey, not a destination. We are not “there yet” – how could we be, when the codification and implementation of the lofty democratic ideals of our so-called fore-fathers involved the complete exclusion of our foremothers? The omission of political power for over half the country’s population lasted for 144 – yes, that’s one hundred and forty-four – years after our country’s “birth”!
We are not there yet. And how can we ever be, when there is only grudging (if any) acknowledgement from too many of us about the reality of  the treatment of the original occupants of our land – the native/indigenous peoples, as well as those who did not come here willingly, but who instead were the “…tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore…” because our ancestors had enslaved them?
Make America great again? To anyone who chants that insipid call to political arms slogan: what can you possibly mean by, *again*?
You can’t make American something it never was. Make America Live up to its great ideals – or tear them down and start over.
So sez moiself. Thus, it was refreshing to hear Baratunde Thurston give his take on the subject, on a TED talk. Thurston, a writer, comedian, political commentator, activist, philosopher, and “futurist,” is also the producer/host of the marvelously titled, “How to Citizen, a podcast which “… reimagines the word ‘citizen’ as a verb and reminds us how to wield our collective power.”
“I really appreciate the honesty of saying, ‘We haven’t succeeded yet.’ I think we are so good at myth-making, about our greatness and our uniqueness and our specialness, that we forgot we’re not there yet. We have a big number of us who can say, like, ‘We used to be so great!’
How could you say that when half the population couldn’t even vote? *When are you starting the clock?* So, there’s a lot to do. There’s value to the honesty that we haven’t really done it yet, and there’s motivation to the idea that we might get there. And I think we have to be motivated by the pursuit, not just the arrival. That we’ve gotten a little bit better; that we’ve reckoned with some of the more painful things, knowing there’s a laundry list of stuff we still haven’t dared to face honestly. And if we get closer, that’s still good.”
( Excerpts from TED radio hour podcast, “How to Citizen,”
with Baratunde Thurston speaking with TED host Manoush Zomorodi )
* * *
Department Of Gut Check – Yep, I’m Still Numb
And just now daring to relax. The inauguration happened; no one was shot.
When I finally let myself watch part of the proceedings moiself was both mesmerized and comforted by Amanda Gorman’s recitation of her stunning poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
* * *
Department Of One More Thing
And – hello, New York Times headline on the 20th – I never, ever again want to read about #45 and his entire, vile, despotic, rapacious, racist, sexist, nepotistic, cadre of liars and thieves, unless the story has to do with their impending criminal charges, plea bargains, and convictions. 
* * *
Pun For The Day
Finally it’s, 2021, and now I can truthfully say that hindsight is 2020.
* * *
May your children all be 1.0 and never .7; May we work toward making our country great (not “again”); May we aspire to deserve the voices of poets like Amanda Gorman; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 A former girl Scout, and lover of their Thin Mints cookies.
 And have done more than wishing; i.e., expressing to Scout leaders and writing to the national organization (with no response).
 “Child labor is another major problem for the (palm oil) industry, according to The Associated Press. The UN’s International Labor Organization estimates that 1.5 million children aged 10 to 17 work in Indonesia’s agricultural industry, of which palm oil is the dominant crop. In Malaysia, a 2018 study found that more than 33,000 children work in the industry, and that almost half of them are between the ages of five and 11.”
 On the off-chance you were off-planet, the 2020 Olympics were cancelled due to the pandemic.
 e.g. The Constitution, the Declaration of Independence.
 And never mind the possibility of reparations for….
 Who gives a flying fuck if Tiffany tR**p is engaged? Shame on you for making me scroll past that in order to access my daily mini-crossword.
 And hopefully those stories will have at least eight footnotes.
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 There’s Always A Silver Lining (But Sometimes It Smells Like Rotten Eggs)
For long-married couples, the hardships of this year have given us an opportunity to reframe some…uh, activities. For example, a certain husband has been known to try to “sneak one” past his wife, and when she catches him  he tells her that in his ever-vigilant concern for her well-being he is merely giving her a daily hearing test, since it is a well-known fact that high frequency hearing loss accelerates with age.
Thanks to the viral vagaries of the past nine months. loving spouses can now also “test” one another for a more important concern. When your sweet baboo wrinkles his or her nose and grumblingly wonders aloud why you didn’t at least have the decency to leave the room to let one rip after your two-can Trader Joe’s limburger chili lunch, you can reply,
“My darling, I was merely administering to you, within the privacy and comfort of our home, a vital health test: the experts tell us that, in a person without any other symptoms, a sudden appearance of asomnia – loss of the sense of smell – is one of the earliest signs of COVID-19.”
“I heard that….”
* * *
Department Of Yet Another Thing I Was Told I Would Like…
And Looked Forward To Liking…
But Then I Didn’t
That would be the much-acclaimed HBO series, Big Little Lies. MH and I made it to episode four of the first season, and… Sorry. Moiself simply doesn’t wanna spend any more time around those characters.
If you are a fan of the BLL series, kindly restrain your knee-jerk reaction to channel your Literature Appreciation 101 professor in my direction. Yep, I totally get that unpleasant characters – in protagonist, antagonist, and supporting roles alike – can be vital components of compelling storylines. Duh, *fiction writer* here! For example: who is a sympathetic and/or likeable character in Macbeth?
But, sorry – BLL is no Macbeth.
And, the sex scenes…
“Like, I *know*….
BLL uses what I call the “movie sex” presentation, which I find ridiculous/boring:
* candle- or otherwise gauzily-lit locales
*nothing resembling safe sex being practiced
* unrealistic body presentation (read: the men can be flabsters but the women always look like models )
* smoldering looks passing for foreplay, yet both the men and women reach wall-pounding orgasms within two minutes
* and what’s with all the up-against-the-wall-pounding?
But my main objection to BLL’s sex scenes is the violence. Having worked in my past life  with victims of sexual violence, I don’t find violent, aggressive, “rough” and/or “merely coercive” sex to be entertaining, even when it’s excused justified as “necessary to portray the dysfunctional dynamic of the relationship.”
Sure, there’s great acting from all cast members, but so far, BLL is not moiself’s cup of strychnine tea. In time I may return to finish the series, but at this point not even the curiosity of finding out which character gets murdered  can compel me to stay with it.
* * *
Department Of Will There Ever Be A Vaccine For Flagrant Asininity?
“Coronavirus could be ‘under control’ in weeks if everyone wore masks,
CDC director says.”
(Washington Post, 7-14-20 )
“…the near-universal scientific consensus that, more than any of single action short of everyone entering solitary confinement, face coverings can prevent the transmission of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19….
The benefits of masking in reducing viral transmission are clear…. In an analysis of 194 countries, those that did not recommend face masks saw Covid-19 mortality increase 54% every week after the first case appeared; in countries with masking policies, the weekly increase was only 8%.” (“If everyone wore a mask, Covid-19 could be brought under control, CDC director urges,” statnews.com 7-14-20 )
Dateline: earlier this week. MH directed my attention to a Facebook post: a kinfolk of ours posted a “group selfie” picture with three other people, all smiling into the cellphone camera, their unmasked faces close together. As reported in the post, these folks were in a bar, celebrating a friend’s birthday with, among other activities, “karaoke singing.”
Yep. All that, plus karaoke singing.
“…singers…generate respiratory aerosols at high rates. In other words, they spew a lot of droplets into the air when they warble or blow.…. A professor explains the physics: ‘You have the air that’s coming out on your respiratory tube, your mouth, and your nose, and there’s liquid lining all of your respiratory system. …And when the air is going very quickly, (the force with which singers expel air) it can basically grab a little bit of that material and put it in a particle, and then you expel it out into the air….
anything that makes the air go faster or more strongly or produce more air is putting out more respiratory particles.
If you’re singing, you’re breathing in a lot of air, you’re breathing out very forcefully, and you’re also moving your vocal cords. The vocal cords are wet, they’re covered in this fluid, they’re vibrating, and that can also produce more particles.” As a result…group singing remains “extremely dangerous and irresponsible,” (the professor stated), pointing out numerous other super-spreading incidents among choruses worldwide.” ( ” Singers Can Be Coronavirus Superspreaders, Say Experts …” npr.org, 8-16-20 )
“…the more responsibly you’d choose to behave…ya think?
Yeah, right. Welcome to the USA.
“For months, public health officials have been warning about the dangers of going to bars: They’re indoor spaces, they frequently have poor air circulation, and after a few drinks, people tend to lean in close during conversations or put their arms around their besties, all while forgetting to wear their masks….
But if bars are dangerous during a pandemic, karaoke is even worse, regardless of what form it takes…. A fun way to spend a night on the town has become a raging cocktail of everything epidemiologists tell us to avoid: Gathering in groups, passing around a microphone that’s potentially covered in virus-covered respiratory droplets, and most of all, singing.
The dangers of singing in public were laid bare in March at a church choir practice in Skagit, Wash. Only one of the 61 attendees at the two-hour rehearsal was known to be symptomatic, but 53 would end up testing positive for the coronavirus, and two members died. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the act of singing “might have contributed to transmission through emission of aerosols, which is affected by loudness of vocalization.” ( “Karaoke is a health risk during a pandemic.” Washington Post, 8-17-20
* * *
Department Of Damn Damn Damn Damn Damn!
Don’t you hate it when someone whom you otherwise admire –
say, a writer known for her empathetic take on complicated cultural and political topics (e.g., sexual violence, family relationships, race, privilege) using both a broad and personal lens, who is capable of recognizing the opinions of others while persuasively articulating her own –
says something which makes you realize that there is at least one  part of her brain wherein her subconscious spends way too much time staring at a frozen orange juice container because it says, “concentrate”?
Dateline: Wednesday am, beginning to listen to Tig Notaro’s “Don’t Ask Tig” podcast. Notaro’s guest is writer Roxanne Gay, and I’m excited to hear that…until I hear the following exchange, and have to press the what the fuck – seriously? stop button on my podcast app.
Host TN was asking RG how RG feels about being someone whose opinions people value and respect. RG responded that it feels great, if challenging, considering the kind of stressful  topics she is asked to speak about, but most of the time it’s fine….
And where did you – where did that come from, in you?
Guest RG: I don’t know. I’m very quiet and very shy…I think it’s because, I tend to – I’m a Libra, and so I’m able to acknowledge multiple points of view.….
Host TN: Well, I’m an Aries, I don’t know what that means.
Guest RG: I don’t know either; I only know my own sign….I don’t fully understand astrology, but I have seen enough to believe in it, and take it seriously….
Damn damn damn damn damn.
I will, most likely, continue to read Ms. Gay’s essays and op-eds. Still, grrrrrrrr. I know that all idols have feet of clay, and that it’s good to be reminded of this, but do the idol’s clay feet have to be seemingly, blissfully, unaware that she’s stomping in horseshit?
Santa, please put Ms. Gay on your Christmas list, and sent her a special present this year: Carl Sagan’s baloney detection kit.
Moiself gets some of the reasons why people “believe in” astrology, or just like to read their horoscopes. For some folk it’s like a game, and astrology allows you to do the humble brag (or humble rag) thing: you can list your strengths or weaknesses without taking personal responsibility for either boasting or knocking yourself, because the credit (or blame) is in your stars.
I’ve met people who admit to “checking” their horoscope but say that they do so only for amusement purposes and don’t really think the predictions are valid. However, many scientists argue that even the “entertainment only” aspects of things like astrology are misleading and even harmful, in that they promote the idea that it is possible to interpret or explain reality of the natural world via the supernatural.
“Astrology can be tested by the lives of twins. There are many real cases like this: one twin is killed in childhood in, say, a riding accident or struck by lightning, while the other one lives to a prosperous old age. Supposed that had happened to me. My twin and I would have been born in exactly the same place and within minutes of each other, exactly the same planets would be rising at our births. If astrology were valid, how would we have such profoundly different fates?” ( Carl Sagan, as quoted in culturacolectiva.com )
The late great astronomer Carl Sagan was proficient in taking down astronomy and other pseudosciences. His life’s work involved encouraging people to
* learn critical and skeptical thinking skills * understand that science is not just a body of knowledge, but a way of thinking.
If you haven’t read Sagan’s book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, what are you waiting for? Even if you already know why, say, astronomy (or divination, fortune-telling, witchcraft, ad nauseum) is hokum, the book is an excellent explication of the scientific method to laypeople. Also, Sagan was a highly entertaining writer who was “incapable of composing a dull sentence,” as one admirer put it.
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2020: a year which started with murder hornets and descended into COVID-19, civil unrest (e.g., the BLM movement and police brutality protests), wildfires, hurricanes, and the myriad of unnatural disasters emanating from the White House….
When it comes to using bowling metaphors to describe the events of this year,  it was like our society just kept throwing a series of gutter balls.
So, the regular/festive tree will wait until next year. For 2020, this is all I can muster.
Lest you think moiself has totally Scrooged-out on the festivities this year, I found another “tree” at an antique store. This one has room for a mere nine hanging ornaments. It wasn’t as difficult a task as you might think – whittling down the 100+ ornaments we have to only nine. Most of our ornaments are way too big for this kind of display, so, an assortment of my favorite smaller ones will do, for now.
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Department Of Get A Load Of This Pair
Moiself was compelled to adopt these from the grocery store. But, what to do with them?
I thought, maybe something Thai-flavored. Thailand is The Country Formerly Known as Siam, ® and the first thing that came to my mind when I saw these orange beauties was, “Cool – Siamese squash.”
That thought was almost immediately followed by Well-Meaning Liberal’s Unnecessary Self-Flagellation ® : “Ooh, that might be taken as insulting, or culturally-appropriating. I should probably say, “Conjoined Squash.”
Call ’em whatever, but what to do with them? I asked for suggestions from my family, who were as helpful as always. Son K declined to comment. Daughter Belle’s response: “Boobies!” Thank you, daughter dearest, but I was thinking more along culinary lines. 
MH suggested that I could hang them from my car’s trailer hitch. Yeah, but then I’d have to paint them blue…. 
* * *
Pun For The Day
I left my husband because he kept making astrology puns – it finally Taurus apart.
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Department Of Partridge Of The Week
This week’s Partridge in our pear tree:
* * *
May you be judicious in choosing which home health tests you give to your loved ones; May you remember that the best way to treat your “besties”
is to wear a mask in their presence; May you realize that if you seriously want to know what the moon is in Aries,
then you need to know that your head is seriously up your ass; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Because there is too much post-election uncertainty for moiself to compose anything else, it’s time for the annual intro to the holiday season. Brace y’all selves.
Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid Chapter 22467 in a (never-ending) series
“The idea of a “War on Christmas” has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity…. Christmas is a federal holiday celebrated widely by the country’s Christian majority. So where did the idea that it is threatened come from?… The most organized attack on Christmas came from the Puritans, who banned celebrations of the holiday in the 17th century because it did not accord with their interpretation of the Bible….”
(“How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created,” NY Times, 12-19-16)
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Department Of If Something Seems Familiar, That’s Because It’s Time For My Annual Holiday Traditions Explained ® Post
What do vegetarians, egans, non-meat and/or plant-based eaters do on Thanksgiving? ( Other than, according to your Aunt Erva, RUIN IT FOR EVERYONE ELSE. 
The above question is an existential dilemma worthy of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, who wrote eloquent discourses on the subjective and objective truths one must juggle when choosing between a cinnamon roll and a chocolate swirl 
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Department Of I’ll Take Those Segues Where I Can Find Them
Three weeks from today will be the day after feasting, for many of us. Then, just when you’re recovering from the last leftover turkey sandwich/quiche/casserole/enchilada-induced salmonella crisis and really, really need to get outside for some fresh air, here comes the Yule season. You dare not even venture to the mall, lest your eardrums be assaulted from all sides by Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, Feliz Navidad, ad nauseum.
This observation provides a convenient segue to my annual, sincere, family-friendly, 
…that the Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that, “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.” 
Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681. 
“Do you celebrate Christmas?”
We Heretics/apostates non-Christians Happy Heathens often hear this question at this time of year. The inquiry is sometimes presented in ways that imply our celebration (or even acknowledgement) of Christmas is hypocritical. This implication is the epitome of cheek, when you consider the fact that it is the early Christians who stole a festival from our humanist (pagan) forebears, and not the other way around.
Who doesn’t like a party, for any reason? And we who are religion-free don’t mind sharing seasonal celebrations with religious folk– sans the superstition and government/church mumbo-jumbo — as long as they accept the fact that the ways we all celebrate this “festive season” predate Christianity by hundreds of years.
Early Roman Catholic missionaries tried to convert northern Europeans to the RC brand of Christianity, and part of the conversion process was to alter existing religious festivals. The indigenous folk, whom the RC church labeled “barbarians,” quickly discovered that when it came to dealing with missionaries, resistance is futile. The pagans intuitively grasped the concept of natural selection and converted to Christianity to avoid the price (persecution, torture, execution) of staying true to their original beliefs. But they refused to totally relinquish their old celebrations, and so the church, eventually and effectively, simply renamed most of them. 
Pagan practices were given a Christian meaning to wipe out “heathen” revelry. This was made official church policy in 601 A.D., when Pope Gregory the First issued the now infamous edict to his missionaries regarding the traditions of the peoples they wanted to convert. Rather than try to banish native customs and beliefs, missionaries were directed to assimilate them. You find a group of people decorating and/or worshiping a tree? Don’t chop it down or burn it; rather, bless it in the name of the Church. Allow its continued worship, only tell the people that, instead of celebrating the return of the sun-god in the spring, they are now worshiping the rising from the dead of the Son of God.
( Easter is the one/odd exception, where the pagan celebration was adapted by Christians without a name change. Easter is a word found nowhere in the Bible. It comes from the many variants (Eostra, Ester, Eastra, Eastur….) of a Roman deity, goddess of the dawn “Eos” or “Easter,” whose festival was in the Spring.)
The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas” tradition that does not originate from Teutonic (German),Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism.  A celebration in the depths of winter – at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north – is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties. The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.
But, isn’t “Jesus is the reason for the season”?
The reason for the season? Cool story, bro. Since you asked; actually, axial tilt is the reason for the season. For all seasons.
And Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.  My calling Wednesday “Wednesday” doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship or “believe in” Woden. I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.
“Now, go fetch me the sheisskopf who took the Woden out of Woden’s Day!”
The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22. However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.  The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other major deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or about the week of December 25  included Horis, Huitzilopochtli, Isis, Mithras, Marduk, Osiris, Serapis and Sol.) The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the Roman pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions. 
In other words, why are some folk concerned with keeping “the Christ in Christmas”  when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?
* * *
Whatever your favorite seasonal celebrations may be, I wish you all the best.
May you have the occasion to (with good humor) ruin it for everyone else; May you find it within yourself to ignore the Black Friday mindset; May you remember to keep the Saturn in Saturnalia; …and may the fruitcake-free hijinks ensue.
 “Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England (London, 1687). See also Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday,” New York: Vintage Books, 1997.
 Stephen Nissenbaum, “The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday.”
 “Learn not the way of the heathen…their customs are vain, for one cuts a tree out of the forest…they deck it with silver and gold…” Jeremiah 10:2-5
 Wednesday comes from the Old English Wōdnesdæg, the day of the Germanic god Wodan (aka Odin, highest god in Norse mythology and a big cheese god of the Anglo-Saxons until the seventh century.)
 The Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar ~ 46 B.C.E., was off by 11 min/year, and when the Gregorian calendar was established by Pope – wait for it – Gregory, the solstice was established on 12/22.
 In 601 A.D., Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries regarding wooing potential converts: don’t banish peoples’ customs, incorporate them. If the locals venerate a tree, don’t cut it down; rather, consecrate the tree to JC and allow its continued worship.
 And nothing in the various conflicting biblical references to the birth of JC has the nativity occurring in wintertime.
Department Of One Of My Favorite Questions To Ask (of anyone, about moiself )
“Do I have a bit of chocolate stuck between my teeth?”
She’d be happier if it were a piece of Lindt 85% instead of spinach.
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Department Of Getting Really, Really Genre Specific Sub-Department Of Who’d A Thunk It?
After a three-year, self-imposed sabbatical from the business side of What I Do ®  I’ve been doing some research into the state of literary publishing Research as in, getting (re)acquainted with who (as in publishing companies, large and small) is out there and what they want and/or specialize in.
When I started this task, I was wondering if things are just as bad as when I said *ick* and walked away. The answer: Yep (as in, duh), and even more so.
However, I am discovering hidden  gems that make this task worthwhile. Such as, this list, from the writers guidelines posted on the website of a particular publishing house, for a particular editor’s areas of interest rearding manuscripts she wishes to review (my emphases ):
“….contemporary romance, women’s contemporary fiction, historical fiction, gay fiction, dark suspense and thrillers, Amish romance.…”
Holy bodice ripper! There’s more than one editor with that unusually specific, uh, specification:
“80,000-word contemporary romance—either sexy or sweet, Amish and inspirational romance, women’s fiction….”
“Amish romance” as a genre. This is news to moiself– and, perhaps, only to moiself? Did y’all know about this and if so, why did you keep it to y’all selves?
I’m not a genre writer, nor reader. I have read books that would fit such classifications (e.g. a Zane Grey western or two; some Agatha Christie mysteries, four or five Star Trek “novels” ). Without knowing much about the genre – except that there are, apparently, far more sub-genres than I would have imagined – “romance” is the least interesting genre to moiself…up until now.
I find moiself wanting to at least skim through the pages of something that would qualify as an Amish Romance. I’m trying to imagine the content of such: the exchange of furtive glances over the milking stool; sly winks by the well after the quilting bee; coy lasses who offering their luscious berries for perusal during the barn raising….
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Department Of Next Tuesday, Y’all Know What To Do
* * *
Speaking of the election, and what with the approaching holiday season….
Department Of How To Get Dis-Invited To Extended Family Gatherings
It’s easy! First, post something like this on your Facebook page:
I have family members, who are religious, who are likely voting for #45.
Because tR*** says the magic words conservative Christians want to hear about two key issues for them: taxes and abortion – and he of course *lies* to his supporters about this (he was pro-choice until he planned his presidential run as a Republican, as documented here and other places: https://qz.com/…/trump-shifted-from-pro-choice-to-pro-life…/), they are apparently willing to ignore/overlook/excuse all the rest?
This saddens me in ways I cannot express…so I’ll post it here, and never get invited to extended family Thanksgiving dinners again.
Lather; rinse; repeat, and conservative evangelicals will lick your otherwise faith-mocking, narcissistic, heathen patootie. 
It is interesting to moiself – and by “interesting” I mean, repulsive – that so many Christians are willing to overlook a politician’s flagrant, repeated, unapologetic violations of *their* scripture’s advice on issues which, if you take their scriptures as true and literal accounts of their god’s messages to them (and most conservative Christians do), were of primary importance to Jesus:
* caring for the sick, poor, imprisoned, and vulnerable
* treating others as you wish to be treated
* giving your possessions, even clothing, to those who have none
… and instead support this same lying adulterous racist misogynist politician who spouts the rhetoric they want to hear about abortion, an issue about which Jesus never spoke, despite abortion being known and practiced since ancient times. Yep, as long as humans have been pregnant/getting each other pregnant, they have found ways of intentionally ending unwanted pregnancies.
The practice of abortion—the termination of a pregnancy—has been known since ancient history. Various methods have been used to perform or attempt an abortion, including the administration of abortifacient herbs, the use of sharpened implements, the application of abdominal pressure, and other techniques…. Many of the methods employed in early cultures were non-surgical. Physical activities such as: strenuous labor, climbing, paddling, weightlifting, or diving were a common technique. Others included the use of irritant leaves, fasting, bloodletting, pouring hot water onto the abdomen, and lying on a heated coconut shell. In virtually all cultures, abortion techniques developed through observation, adaptation of obstetrical methods, and transculturation.
“The Bible never once specifically forbids abortions; it’s actually quite the contrary! Not only were methods of abortion well-known at the time, there’s times when the Bible states God commands that one take place. I’m going to walk through a few examples as illustrations. * In Genesis 38, we have the story of Tamar * Hosea: Progeny of the Rebellious Shall Not be Born (Hosea 9:14: God will cause the deaths of the unborn, as he will “give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.” Hosea 13:16: “Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.”) * Sotah: Abortion-Inducing Potion due to Husband’s Jealousy 
(In Numbers 5, instructions are given by God to Moses regarding situations where a husband is fiercely jealous of his wife: his wife should be made to take a drink that will cause an abortion if she slept with another man…regardless of whose child it is). * Causing a Miscarriage: Mere Property Loss (The Bible didn’t treat miscarriage as murder, regardless of intent. Rather, it was treated as a property loss by the father, punishable by whatever fine the judges felt was appropriate. This is spelled out in Exodus 21:22-25 ) (excerpts from Biblical Abortion: A Christian’s View)
As for taxes, Jesus is quoted as advising tax collectors to do their job honestly. He is mentioned/quoted about twice in personal stories about taxes, both times advising that people pay the taxes they owe. He had plenty to say about people who strive for and value the accumulation of wealth, and none of it was positive.
In the New Testament, Jesus offers more wisdom and has more to say about money than any other subject besides the “Kingdom of God.” I remember when I first heard a pastor proclaim from the pulpit that Jesus said more about money than he did about love. To be honest, I was a little angry. There was no way that was true, I thought to myself. I’ve grown up hearing that “God is love,” but now I find out He may care more about my checkbook than my heart? Sure enough, after doing a bit of research on this subject as well, I discovered that the pastor was right: Jesus talked more about money than he did Heaven and Hell combined. Eleven of the 39 parables He tells are about finances. ( “Jesus Talked the Most about…Money? “)
“Gotcha on that one, eh bro?”
Jesus presented the desire to accumulate riches as both an offense to faith and an obstacle to faith. This is something “prosperity Christians” find easy to ignore, by concentrating on other issues they think don’t apply to themselves (like homosexuality and abortion, both of which existed in biblical times and yet were not condemned, nor even spoken of, by Jesus).
Some of Jesus’ better-known quotes on the subject of money include:
* “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6)
* Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23–25)
* “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” ( Luke 16:13)
* “Whoever has two tunics should share with him who has none, and whoever has food should do the same.” (Luke 3)
Every so often when discussing the prosperity gospel, I hear proponents say, “But surely God doesn’t want us to be poor, does he?” ….People who say such things ignore the many Bible passages addressing wealth…
They also choose to ignore the many biblical passages warning against the detrimental effects of wealth—and especially love for wealth. You don’t hear prosperity preachers mention such verses. It’s as if their Bibles are missing them. (from “Bible Verses Prosperity Preachers Wish Didn’t Exist“)
Jesus did not oppose the payment of taxes. In fact, Jesus paid taxes. In Matthew 22:15-22, the Pharisees ask Jesus, “Tell us … is it against our law to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor or not?” Jesus responds, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin for paying the tax!” They brought him the coin and he asks them, “Whose face and name are these?” “The Emperor’s,” they answer. So Jesus says to them, “Well, then, pay to the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor, and pay to God what belongs to God.” Matthew 17: 24-27 relates the story of a group of tax collectors asking Peter, “Does your teacher pay the … tax?” Peter’s answer, “Of course,” is followed by Jesus instructing Peter as follows: “… go to the lake and drop in a line. Pull up the first fish you hook, and in its mouth you will find a coin worth enough for my tax and yours. Take it and pay them our taxes.” Romans 13:6-7: Paul explains, “That is also why you pay taxes, because the authorities are working for God when they fulfill their duties. Pay, then, what you owe them; pay your personal and property taxes, and show respect and honor for them all.” ( excerpts from “What does the Bible say about taxes?
By Ken Milani, professor of accountancy at the University of Notre Dame, and Claude Renshaw, emeritus professor of business administration at Saint Mary’s College.
Both men are Christians.)
“Got that? And keep your noses out of women’s and LGBTQ folk’s business!”
* * *
Pun For The Day
A cheese factory exploded in Paris – onlookers were showered with de Brie!
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May you not feel the need to consult Iron Age manuscripts for 21st century personal or financial guidance; May you imagine your own Amish romance; May we all get chocolate stuck in our teeth; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. AND GET OUT THERE AND VOTE !!
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 For a variety of reasons, some discussed in this space, mostly summed up by my disdain for what is happening in that business: ICK.
Now I know I’ve given up: I put away the St. Patrick’s Day dinner decorations.
Moiselfand MH had a dinner party planned for Tuesday, March 17, an event that – surprise! – got…suspended. At the time, I told would-be attendees that we were, in an act of delusion optimism, not cancelling the invitation but merely postponing it, and that I would be leaving the dining table decorated. And I did, for two months. Then, gradually, the napkins and plates were put away, and I put the table décor, such as it is/was (think: an eight-year-old’s idea of festive holiday dining), into its long term storage bag but did NOT transport it to its shelf in the attic. It remained on the table, until three days ago.
Instead of deleting the reminder I had on my computer calendar (“Rsch St. Patrick’s day dinner when COVID shit is over”) I have reduced its occurrence from weekly to every other month. The computer prompt, initially a hopeful harbinger of a return to normalcy, came to be a dispiriting reminder of physical isolation: I miss the company of dining and conversing with friends, both long time and recently met, all treasured, and groaning at each recitation of a dreadful (but occasion-appropriate) joke and pun. 
All apologies to the centerpiece: Good Lady Spud, your time shall come again.
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Department Of The Title I Want When I Grow Up
…I’ve carved out this little niche for myself on the internet…
because as we all know, the easiest way to be at the top of your field is to choose a very small field.” (inventor Simone Giertz, in her TED talk)
Dateline: Monday; listening to a TED Radio Hour episode, titled “Pure Joy.” A description of the episode, as per the TEDsite:
More than ever, we need to make time for joy. This hour…(we)…explore talks that surprise, inspire, and delight.
The first talk excerpted was one given two years ago by Simone Giertz. Twenty-nine-year-old Giertz, the creator of the toothbrush helmet,  is a Swedish inventor and robotics enthusiast. She’s also, and perhaps most prestigiously for her generation, that which most generations never imagined would be a thing: she is a YouTube celebrity ®.
In her talk, “Why You Should Make Useless Things,” Giertz apparently advocates for inventing devices which are “useless at solving the problem they are attempting to solve,” but which serve a higher purpose of overcoming your fear of failure (by working hard at something you know is bound to fail) and teaching you engineering and design skills. I say “apparently” because I was unable, or rather unwilling, to listen to the rest of her talk, after hearing the podcast curator describe Giertz as
“…the queen of useless robots.”
Overcome with both admiration and envy, moiself completely lost interest in listening further. I figured it was better to let my imagination take the wheel as I envisioned the perks and responsibilities of that particular kind of royalty.
“…uneasy is the head that wears a crown” …unless of course that head belongs to The Queen of Useless Robots.
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Department of The Neighborhood Guerilla Prankster Strikes Again… In Her Dreams
There’s a house a couple of blocks away from my street with an attached, two-door, three-car garage set up:
An older couple lives in said house. Depending on the route I take, I often walk past the house in the morning, and I’ve seen it with either or both garage doors open; thus, moiself knows that the smaller, one-car garage is not used as a garage but has been turned into the workshop space of the older gentleman. When the workshop/garage door is open you can see the tool racks and radial saw and other workshop equipment; when the workshop/garage door is closed, you can see a sign on it which reads, MEN ONLY.
When I first saw the sign, and then every time I walked past the house, moiself had the almost overwhelming desire to take a picture of it, then take the picture to a signage shop and order a self-adhesive sign in similar lettering, color and size that read: GIRLY. The plan: early one morning, I would post GIRLYabove MEN ONLY.
Alas; the time for that prank has passed. I recently noticed that the exterior of the house (including the garage doors) has been painted, and the MEN ONLY sign has not reappeared on the garage door. Still, I think of it when I pass that house, and remind moiself of the ultimate reason I decided against enacting my prank: the ubiquity, nowadays, of cell phones and home security cameras. Ending up on someone’s YouTube shaming video is not something I crave for moiself, even in the performance of (what would have been) a public service.
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Department Of Just Wondering
Due to the wildfires plaguing the West, I am checking the Air Quality Index several times daily – even though a cursory look out of my house’s (all tightly closed) windows tells me all I need to know about whether or not it’s safe to go outside.
How quickly I and my friends have adapted to using yet another acronym:
“So, what’s the AQI in your town?”
This is so surreal. The air where I live has been smoky-jaundice-colored; the pictures I’ve seen of the Bay Area’s midday, sci-fi/Martian orange skies have a certain, apocalyptic beauty, even as I realized the horrific reasons behind them that had nothing to do with a more benign reason, such as a particularly flamboyant sunset or sunrise. 
In my early morning walks (the ones I used to do before our AQI was at Hazardouslevel – the carefree mornings before I even knew what an AQI was) I pass by several houses where I often see a smoker out on his front porch, lighting up his first deathstick cigarette of the day. Actually, I smell the smokers before moiself sees them – even from across the street. I’ve come to know which houses they live in and cross to the other side before passing by. (Most smokers seem to not know – or care – how far their effluence travels and how long it lingers.)
From having exchanged pleasantries with them over the years, I know that the main reason these folks are lighting up on their porches is because they are the only smoker in their household, and they’ve been forbidden by their spouses and/or other family members from polluting their domicile and have been banished to puffing in The Great Outdoors ® .
I haven’t done a morning walk since the AQI reached the first level of Unhealthy…even though I didn’t know it had done so at the time. I’d gone out earlier than usual and wore a mask; it was the first morning where the sky looked…suspicious. I decided to end my walk after 30 minutes, and thought I probably shouldn’t walk outside again until I figured out what was going on. On my way back I passed by two of the Porch Smokers, the glowing ends of their cigarettes providing an eerie impetus for me to get back home.
Our current situation: we’ve been warned about the wildfires near and far, spewing particulate matter in the air which, at an AQI in the upper ranges (which we’ve been having in the Pacific NW for days), can aggravate or trigger serious respiratory conditions in otherwise healthy people, even with relatively short exposure.
So, when smokers awaken, and eagerly or furtively inhale the day’s first fumes into their lungs, moiself can’t help but wonder: what’s being circulated in the organ between their ears? Amidst the reports of the wildfire’s devastation – it’s been all wildfires, all the time, for local news reporting – including the loss of life from burns and smoke inhalation, do they consider even for a moment the fires’ victims? Do they find their eyes tearing up with compassion as they think to themselves, “Oh, how awful! Those poor people!”as they suck in their own mini-conflagration?
While we live with the warnings to not go outside even for short periods of time because breathing the air could sicken or even kill you, and smokers continue to expedite that process by lighting up their cigarettes.
We humans are experts at compartmentalization and denial…and, yeah yeah yeah, nicotine is one of the most addictive substance on earth, and addicts are not known for rationality and or introspection thoughts…. Still, it boggles my mind.
The Great American Smokeout, the American Cancer Society’s annual “quitting campaign,” is on the third Thursday in November. The Not-so-Great American Smoke-In is happening as I type. Aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh.
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Department Of, Of All The Things To Be Thinking About….
2020. The year that, on a national and global shitstorm level, has brought us:
* Year three of criminally negligent governance by a musty scrotal hair of a human being (#45) and his soul-sucking sycophants;
* Too many Americans determined to focus on someone looting a 7-11 rather than face the centuries of systemic injustice which have prompted the (majority peaceful) displays of civil disobedience;
* the apocalyptic wildfires in the US, yet another testament to the consequences of ignoring of global warming…
Thank you, and please demoralize us further.
On a personal level,  my concerns include a friend who fled the wildfires (her town is essentially gone; her neighbors have lost nearly everything); my daughter Belle who, recovering from foot surgery, has developed an allergy to medical adhesives holding her bandages in place; MH’s “sister/cousin”  and her protracted recovery from the heart surgeryand kidney failure after she and her young adult daughter discovered they both have a genetic disorder which has given them, among other conditions, aortal defects; learning that the son of my MIL’s longtime friend and business associate has just lost his son to suicide….
Two days ago, amidst all of these woes and more, I found moiself thinking,
The beloved comedian/writer/screenwriter/playwright/songwriter/director and WWII vet has seen so much in this world, and contributed so much to our culture…and now here’s this shitty year in which Mel had to mourn the death of his best buddy – another national comedy treasure, Carl Reiner.
I just want Mr. Brooks to be able to survive this year. I would so look forward to his commentary on all of this, you know?
Two of my favorite scenes from my favorite Mel Brooks movie:
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Pun For The Day
The past, the present, and the future walk into a bar. It was tense! 
* * *
May we work for the best (even if we suspect the worst); May we return to the privilege of not knowing our AQI; May we all be deserving of even the most obscure royal title; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 “What do you call an Irishman with an IQ of 100? A village.”
 A device which you have never heard of because it is “recommended by zero out of ten dentists,” the inventor admits.
 Henry IV, Part 2. I don’t imagine Shakespeare imagined just how heavy – or silly – crowns could get.
 Ash higher in the atmosphere turned the Bay Area skies orange, as opposed to around me, where the smoke was lower. If I can remember some basic physics/light refraction, I think this has to do with the high ash/smoke particles scattering blue light & only allowing certain wavelengths of light – yellow-orange-red light – to reach the earth’s surface.
 This not some Mormon polygamy term; rather, she is cousin who is more than a cousin but not technically a sister – she came to live with MH’s family when she was an adolescent, after both of her parents died.
 I’m sorry, but there is no room for a seventh footnote.
Department Of The Calm Before The Storm Sub Department Of Something Sweet Before The Ranting Thoughtful Consideration of Provocative Subjects Begins
We celebrate half-birthdays in my family – not my family of origin, but the family MH and I created. This is MH’s doing. When he found out that our first date was the day after my birthday, he expressed mild disappointment that he had missed helping me celebrate. I thought nothing of it until six months later, when I received a small gift from him and a birthday card with its pre-printed “Happy Birthday” altered to read, “Happy (half) birthday.”
I found that delightful.
And I did the same for him, when his half-birthday rolled around. And we’ve kept doing it all these years, also with our children, K and Belle.
What makes it such a simple pleasure is that although we/ve been doing this for decades (!?), every year, without fail, I forget when it is my own half-birthday, until, for example, like Tuesday morning, when I came downstairs and found a card and small package and realized, “Oh yeah – it’s my half-birthday!”
This year’s card is arguably the best ever. The inside message, “Hope Your (Half) Birthday Is This Much Fun!” is an almost impossible wish, given the expression of unsurpassed, mischievous joy on the puddle jumping girl. It is a familiar expression, one I’ve seen in many a picture pasted in my parents’ old photo albums. It makes me think of them fondly, knowing if they were alive they’d both laugh in recognition when I’d show them the card, and my father would exclaim,
“Where did MH find it?! Robbie Doll, that is *you*!”
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Department Of Much Ado About Nothing You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me Sup-Department Of The Hidden Book In A Beloved Fantasy Series: Happy Potter And The People Who Play Their Nitpick Fiddles While Hogwarts Is Burning Down Around Them
What a fun past couple of weeks we’ve had. And because there is not enough injustice to keep us all busy, several self-appointed transphobia warriors have Twitter-twisted their rainbow panties in a knot because they felt excluded – even, “erased” – due to a 21-word tweet from author JK Rowling.
Bear with me as I make a related association.
One of my favorite podcasts,Alan Alda’s “Clear and Vivid,” focuses on connections we make via communication. The response to Rowling’s tweet reminds me of one of the issues brought up in Alda‘s recent podcast interview with cognitive scientist, linguist, professor and author Steven Pinker. In the latter half of “Talking About Talking,” Alda and Pinker discussed the “pr” problem science currently has, in that many (non-scientist) people seem to have little idea how science and scientists actually work, and thus fall for pseudo science and conspiracy theories. These science doubters don’t trust science and scientists, partly because they think scientists cannot really speak out due to academic orthodoxy and the “cancel culture” (which, moiself notes, is a problem typically more associated with the liberal arts and social sciences).
Pinker: The backsliding in universities – away from free speech and open ideas, the ideological conformity, the political correctness, the policing of ideas – can be corrosive, precisely because it erodes that knowledge of what the rules (of science) are – mainly, you shouldn’t be able to get away with claiming something false, because someone will call you on it.
But when the impression the public has is that the universities are just another cult, where you really can’t speak your mind or you’ll be drummed out or you’ll be cancelled or you’ll be shut down by protests, that feeds the conspiracy theories….”
As my offspring would verify (with a modicum of eye-rolling, moiself dares to hope), I reminded them at any opportunity – when they were young and especially later, when they were talking about their college classes where they sometimes felt discussions about pertinent or controversial issues were was stifled because someone said something that another person did not want to hear or claimed was “offensive” – of the following:
The reason I have the opinions I have today, opinions that keep evolving and adapting to new information, is that (particularly during my school/observing-how-the-world-works-and-how-) I get to hear and read about ideas and events that the Someone Else ® chorus found dangerous, offensive, blasphemous, destructive.
For example, my lifelong feminism has been possible because I got to hear people argue with and debate the various “sides” of the issue. And the idea that males and females should have equal value, rights and opportunities but that powerful cultural, governmental, religious and academic structures are designed to prevent that and preserve patriarchal status quo – that was highly offensive, to many, many people.
I will never forget the reaction of the charismatic, good looking, Nice Christian Boy ® in my high school’s gifted math class when the teacher brought in a recently published academic study on gender bias. The study showed how school’s math textbooks, from an early age through the upper grades, discriminatorily portrayed boys and girls when presenting “story problems.” For example, the study showed pictures of grade school math workshop books, where boys were overwhelmingly/statistically over-represented and were portrayed as active agents in the story problems, while girls, if mentioned at all, were in domestic scenarios or doing housework. This NCB’s boy’s way entering the discussion on this issue, which another girl and moiselfwere having with a couple of our male classmates, was to interrupt, and name-call us (the two girls) and dismiss our concerns and observations:
“This is ridiculous!
Stuff like that doesn’t matter – I can’t believe you’d fall for….”
Later in the school year this boy, in his yearbook graduation notes (where seniors got to list favorite activities, friends, future aspirations and what they wanted to be remembered for, etc.) wrote that his life goal was “to tactfully convey to those around me what the Lord has done for me.” The Very. First. Things. I thought of at the time, when I read what he’d written – and the first thing that comes to mind today, on the rare occasions I have to recall him – is the “This is ridiculous” incident, and several others involving the ridiculing of classmates, wherein NCB demonstrated (what would later be defined by stand-up comics as) the phenomenon of “punching down.”
Once again, I digress. Thank you for bearing with me.
“You’re welcome. Now, as you were saying….”
So: JK Rowling’s tweet was in response to a May 28 article,  from the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council,  titled,
At first glance, I thought the article’s title was a headline from The Onion. It would seem JK Rowling did as well, and she beat me to the satirical punch (as easy thing to do, as moiself is not on Twitter). Here is Rowling’s tweet in its entirety:
” ‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and resulting economic recession, with the largest unemployment figures since The Great Depression and uncertain options for recovery, while simultaneous grappling with nationwide civil unrest after the horrific death of yet another black man murdered by police officers,  with demonstrations in a few cases turning to riots and sparking even more shocking displays of police brutality …which seems to be leading us toward a long overdue reckoning of our country’s entrenched system of political, judicial, financial, educational and cultural racism, the (grudging, in the case of many white folks) acknowledgement of which is fueling calls for the Herculaneum and potentially divisive (as counter-protests by white supremacist terrorist groups – which have yet to be labeled as such by our federal law enforcement agencies – indicate) tasks of addressing systemic racism, which includes reforming – or some cases, even dismantling– our nation’s law policing agencies….
And does even *one* of y’all think Rowling’s tweet is a fight worth picking? Are you having a really bad period – excuse me, are you a Person On The Rag?
The denizens of the Transphobia Determination Committee and their special friends, famous and otherwise, began to pile on. One Twitter-er responded to Rowling with a judgmentally terse, “Why did you do this?”
Rowling doesn’t need me to defend her (she explains her wider concerns with gender and feminist issues, including the censorial tyranny of “wrongthink,” here). But, As A Writer, ® I understand exactly (at least one) reason why Rowling “did that.” Because she wrote  just what I was thinking – and likely would have mentioned in this space, had I come across the article’s title before this silly controversy began…because the phrase “People Who Menstruate” is a stand-up comic’s wacky, face-palming, WTF?!? gift…not to mention grammatically ungainly.
Oh, and, Et tu, Daniel Radcliffe?
For those of you who’ve been off-planet for the past nineteen years, actor Radcliffe played the title character in the eight movies made from Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. In his intro to a piece he wrote for the Trevor Project blog site, Radcliffe opined on Rowling’s tweet. He stated that he feels compelled
“…as a human being…”
(nice of him to clarify that, for those people who may think he is actually some kind of non-human wizard, or something)
“…to say something at this moment.
Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people….”
Oh, Danny boy. Do you really think that JK Rowling possesses what would be the most powerful magic ever: that she could, in a mere 21 words, cast a wizarding spell which “erases the identity and dignity“ of any of your fellow human beings?
Identity erasure,schmasure. Rowling said no such thing – who is trying to attach this “erasure” identity onto her? Just as she called out conservative evangelical Christians who accused her of promoting Satanism and the occult in her Harry Potter books, Rowling is calling b.s. on the transphobic accusation. You supported her re the former “charges;” why are you so quick to accept the latter?
Rowling’s tweet poked fun at a comically cumbersome phrase. Harry Potter (whoops! sorry for the unintentional erasure of your true identity) Daniel Radcliffe, you owe your career to this gifted writer, who created a seven book series filled with wonder and adventure and, arguably more importantly, interspersed with nuanced portrayals about individual and group reactions and responsibilities vis-à-vis recognizing and responding to good and evil. Now here you are, forsaking even a modicum of nuance in jumping on the *Someone is Offended!* bandwagon. Did you even think to contact Rowling privately, before joining the social media pile-on?
What is happening to Rowling frosts my butt. At best it’s snippy – and at worst can be confusing, angering, and frustrating and sometimes dangerous – to be labeled as something that you are not. Hmm, this phenomenon seems somehow…familiar. Other people trying to force an unwanted and inaccurate identity upon you – hey, y’all “transphobic” accusers: double standards, much?
Humans are mammals. In mammalian species all females have uteri, most have an estrous cycle, and the females of ten primate species, four bats species and a couple of other rodent species have a menstrual cycle. Human females are generally referred as women (although as per gender identity theories a small percentage of people who identify as women are not born female).
Pick your battles, folks. Don’t alienate those who are your allies, or who would like to be allies but who are hesitant to go public with their support because they fear you might rip ’em a new one if they use terminology you don’t like or “misuse” pronouns, etc.
Where is Monty Python at a time like this?  Imagine the Ministry of Silly Terminology or Argument Clinic-style skits they could get out of this Twitter tantrum.
You who want to pick fights over what should be non/the smallest of issues – pick away. Meanwhile, #45 ( aka Chief Little Bunker-Bitch ) and his minion of bigots keep pulling this shit while they notice we’re busy picking at ourselves:
Moiselfcan hardly believe how many keystrokes I’ve wasted on this brouhaha. It’s errand time; my essential supplies are getting scarce. There are some chili bean-loving dudes coming for a visit in a couple of weeks, so I’m off to stock up on toilet paper for when the guys – excuse me, I mean, People Who Shit – stop by.
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Department Of Can’t Resist This Segue: Speaking Of Labeling…. Sub-Department Of Message To Police Officers Everywhere (That They Are *So* Likely To Read….)
I’ve seen several Facebook posts linking to an article published recently in The Baltimore Sun. In ” An open letter to a protester from a Baltimore County police officer,” officer Seth Templeton, a five year police veteran who views himself as “one of the good guys,” writes with sincerity, articulation, and heartfelt regret about his pain, as a police officer, of being tainted by the actions of a few bad cops.
“I would ask that you judge me not by my uniform,
but by the content of my character.”
To the “good guys” (and good gals) in police forces across the nation:
Do you not see what an *amazing* gift this tainting is?
I don’t mean to dismiss your pain; if you can’t understand my explanation of why this tainting is actually a gift, please take a breather and read it again…then, if you still don’t get it, moiself humbly but seriously suggests that, for the good of the nation and your own sanity, you should find another profession.
Most of us think we have the ability to do, or are presently doing, what in fact is one of the more difficult tasks human being can undertake, in our journey to be Better People ®: to put ourselves in another person’s place. You remember the axiom about not judging a person until you have….
This is your chance for change and growth, a chance to start your own mindful practice of empathy. If you consider yourself a good/honest/upright police officer, if you took your oath *to protect and serve* seriously, please do the following:
Every time you feel tainted by the actions of a few of your “brothers in blue,” put yourselves in the shoes of another of your could-be brothers and sisters – of just one of the countless black men and women whose entire lives are tainted by the assumptions and prejudices of others. They are
* pulled over for minor traffic infractions – or for no reasons at all – because they fit a stereotype in some cop’s mind of what a criminal is/does/looks like
* pulled over while driving and questioned because they do *not* fit the police officers’ image of what kind of person drives a luxury car/lives or works in this wealthy neighborhood/has a car with MD license plates…
*stopped, questioned and frisked, in their neighborhood or on their own front porches, by the police, who are looking for drugs, while their same age white peers living on college are told by the campus police to move their marijuana plants away from their dorm windowsill so that parents attending Homecoming Weekend won’t see them
Here’s the thing: those people who judge you, who do not know you personally but who put you in the category of “bad cop,” because of your uniform? Those people do not have the weight of your gun, night stick, taser, squad car and fellow officers and police union to back you up, along with a judicial system predisposed to believe your word (even when there are eyewitnesses and objective evidence – including video footage from street cams, stores, cellphones, and even your own body cam – to contradict you).
Those people who judge, fear and/or slag on you have…what? Merely their scorn, their fear that you are “one of *those* cops.” Do you realize how skewed the power dynamics are? Even as I’m hoping you take this opportunity to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, the shoes are hardly the same size, are they?
It’s a big culture to reform; police officers are part of their communities and do not operate in a vacuum. Rather, the violence, prejudice and corruption we see in policing stems from the systemic racism promulgated by the mythology of white superiority that has plagued our nation since its founding, and which permeates *every* aspect of its power structures. This is your opportunity be part of the solution…or get out of the way if you’re not up to it.
But, I hope you don’t leave. Your essay gives me hope that you have the strength to do the right thing, even if it means bearing the sting of false accusations (while remembering that so many others have borne and continue to bear so much more than mere false accusations). I’d rather you stay and work for change, and justice. Because that is what a good cop would do.
* * *
Pun For The Day
My aunt urgently needed a transfusion…
but she died before we could remember her blood type.
Her last words to us were, “Be positive!”
May you surprise someone by celebrating their half-birthday; May we all try to be the good cops; May you enjoy making your own damn dinner; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 in Devex, a “global development media platform.”
 The WSSC is a global organization advocating for “…poverty eradication, health and environmental improvement, gender equality and long-term social and economic development.” The article deals with the worldwide requirements, pandemic or no, for safe access to “menstrual materials, toilets, soap, water, and private spaces in the face of lockdown living conditions that have eliminated privacy for many populations.”.
 Or should I say, George Floyd was murdered by “People With Guns and Badges.”
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.