Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write). I am taking moiself on holiday. From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014). New posts will return in early-mid July.
Until then, I hope y’all enjoy these reruns (or at least gain a modicum of petty amusement from making fun of them, and/or noting how NOT perspicacious my 2014 blatherings observations turned out to be). Perhaps they may spark some sense of déjà vu in you, or cause you to contemplate what you were doing and thinking in those pre-pandemic, pre-idiocy epidemic times (i.e., before the debacle that was #45).
Moiself apologizes for the fact that visuals (pictures; video clips) in the original posts may or may not be included. * * *
The Day of all Days
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the largest seaborne invasion in history, WWII’s Normandy Invasion, aka D-Day. My uncle, Sgt. Bill O’Malley, was one of the hundreds of US 82nd and 101st Division Airborne paratroopers dropped behind the German lines. How he ended up not being one of the 12,000 Allied casualties that day was a mystery to him, he would later tell his curious 4th grad niece — that would be me — who asked him about what he did in the war (a question, I later found out, adults almost never posed as Bill had made it plain, after being released from a hospital after the war ended for treatment for “Battle Fatigue” — also aka shell shock, what we now know to be PTSD — that he didn’t want to talk about it).
The enormity and audacity of such an operation…well, there are a many books about it. One of them, Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers, which follows the exploits of a paratrooper division “Easy Company” from D-Day through the Battle of the Bulge to the German surrender, was made into arguably the best mini-series ever. You need to see it, if you haven’t already. I’m going to watch part of it tonight, and I’ll be thinking of my late uncle, my father, and the other paratroopers, whose courage and tenacity (a part of which was prompted by sheer circumstance and naivete — they so did not know what they were getting into) needs to be regularly retold, and honored.
The Flinging Blonde
That’s flinging blonde, not singing nun.
Dateline: June 1, out for my morning Nordic Walk on a sunny Sunday morning. I approach the grounds of the neighborhood junior high school and see two high school age girls walking on the sidewalk ahead of me. One girl has long (almost waist-length), shiny, thick, straight blonde hair. Long Blondie does two cartwheels in the grass beside the sidewalk. She springs to her feet after each flip and snaps her head forward and back, which causes her hair to cascade over her face and then down her back. She ceases her cartwheels but continues to fling her head, now from side to side, flipping her golden mane, which shimmers in the sunlight.
Look at this hair! Look what I can do with it! Look at me!
And yes, she had really, really, really beautiful hair.
Stop me before I fling again.
* * *
Speaking of things to fling…
How Much More Clear Does it Have to Get?
There are people, in media and social media outlets, who continue to twist themselves with mental gymnastics worthy of a Cirque de Soleil contortionist in order to assert that misogyny was not a prime motivating factor in the Isla Vista Shootings.
In every facet of his life, he professed and documented his hatred of women. But hatred of women, according to some denialists, could not have been the prime motivation of his killing spree. These denialists also assert that if we talk about misogyny, and about the parts of our culture that treat misogyny as normal, even acceptable or even entertaining, we are sensationalizing or “politicizing” a tragic event.
Sic ’em, Greta Christina:
“When men in Islamist theocracies assault, rape, and kill women, we have no problem calling it misogynist hatred. When they explicitly state that their motivation is to enforce God’s gender roles and put women in their place, we have no problem calling it misogynist hatred. And we have no problem laying the blame, in large part, on the culture that teaches this hatred, and on the thousands of ways both large and small that Islamist theocratic culture teaches this despicable concept of women.
“So why is it so hard to see the Isla Vista shootings as motivated by misogyny?”
In her righteously WTF? blog post Elliot Rodgers and Misogyny Denialism,  author and activist Christina calls out the b.s. in her usual, incisive, rational and pissed off prose…even as she she recognizes the motivations behind our desire to recognize the reality of our culture’s underlying misogyny: because it is just to damn painful, and frustrating, and humiliating.
Read it and weep. Better yet, read it and act.
* * *
Is the Paint Dry Yet?
Tuesday evening, the last High School Senior Class Awards ceremony I will ever have to snore through have the opportunity to attend. Belle received four academic awards; local merchants and community organizations gave out community scholarships…and oh, how a certain someone in the audience wanted to sandpaper her eyeballs in frustration when she heard yet another well-meaning, slow-talking older gent preface his bestowal of an award with, “Let me say a few words about the history of….”
* * *
The Snark Watch, Day Seven
MH and I made a bet as to who would make the first snarky comment re Belle’s tattoo: family friend JWW, or MH’s mother.  I will not reveal who bet on whom. Thankfully, neither of us has (so far) won the bet.
* In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.
* When good Americans die, they go to Paris.
* Paris is always a good idea.
(Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina Fairchild in Sabrina)
* The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older—intelligence and good manners.
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)
To err is human. To loaf is Parisian
* * *
May the erring and loafing begin, and surely the hijinks shall ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 I know, in last week’s post, I refused to mention his name. There it is.
 MH’s parents flew out from Florida last week, visiting for Belle’s high school graduation.
 Why are there only three footnotes in this post?
had only one big ball
had two but they were small
Had something similar
And poor old Goebbels
had no balls at all. ♫
I’d vaguely known about Hitler’s goofy gonads (he suffered from right-side cryptorchidism – an undescended testicle). But the fact that this detail was woven into an anti-Nazi ditty delighted the spirit of the 11-year-old Girl Scout who still resides in me – the girl who wanted to sit in the back during the boring troop meetings and exchange bawdy jokes with the other so-inclined scouts instead of listening to yet another boring lecture on how we were supposed to be working on our camping merit badges.
“All in favor of skipping reciting the Girl Scout Promise and singing the Hitler song instead, raise your hands.”
* * *
Department Of Yet Another Podcast Citation
The most recent episode of the People I (Mostly) Admire podcast – website description: “Steven Levitt, the unorthodox University of Chicago economist and co-author of the Freakonomics book series….tracks down other high achievers and asks questions that only he would think to ask….” – had me hooked with the opening:
“My guest today, John McWhorter, likes to stir things up….
He’s a linguistics professor at Columbia university, author of over a dozen books, and has emerged as one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals. He’s an opinionated centrist, and chances are, whatever your politics, you’ll love his views on some issues, and despise his stance on others.” (intro to People I Mostly Admire, episode 72: “Leaving Black People in the Lurch” )
I was immediately intrigued by the host’s description of his guest: “an opinionated centrist.” Not being fond of political labels (at least for moiself), I don’t consider moiself to be a centrist. Rather, I approach issues as a “Does this make sense?-trist.” When some folks on The Far Left ® find out my liberal/religion-free/ flaming feminist viewpoints, they assume that I’ll tick off all their boxes on particular issues. And when they find out that I do not, *they* get ticked off.
My intrigue-ears perked up for other reasons as well, including the fact that McWhorter is a linguistics professor. Being a linguist, as in studying the cultural and cognitive development and application of languages, is one of my “if-I-were-to-do-it-all-over-again” professions.  Now, just because I maintain an interest in that area of study doesn’t mean that I have any current and/or particular skill in or aptitude for languages – far from it, as anyone who has heard me mangle the French language could attest to. And while moiself is on the subject I’d like to offer a shout-out to all you Parisian shopkeepers and restauranters who, despite the stereotype of the snooty French, were most patient and gracious with me when I was visiting your merveilluse villeand tried to order a pain au chocolat in every venue possible.
Let me guess, *elle demande* the entire tray, again?
Once again, I digress.
Back to the podcast opening.
Steve LEVITT: “In your day job, you (McWhorter) are a linguist at Columbia University and you also moonlight as a commentator on American society, especially around issues of race. But I’d like to talk first about linguistics, because I suspect if we start on race, we’ll never make our way back to linguistics.”
Linguistics/ race – I wanted to hear it all. Any author of a book called “Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter,” is all right by me. Then, after the first 15 minutes of linguistics talk, I was surprised by McWhorter’s choice in an answer to a certain question.
LEVITT: So, English is obviously emerging as something of a world language, and that’s mostly for accidental, historical, social, political reasons. And in my very first episode of this podcast, I had Steve Pinker, the Harvard linguist, on. And I tried to get him to make a vote for what the best world language would be. I had no luck. He would not bite on that at all. Is that a question you’ll bite on?”
MCWHORTER: ” Hell yeah. ….If all of the world were going to use a single language, it should be not English…. Really, the language of the world should be Indonesian.”
Really. He chose Indonesian.
MCWHORTER: “…Not the way it’s written, but the way it’s typically spoken, where you have almost no suffixes, almost no prefixes. (Indonesian is) not a tonal language. It’s very low on throwing you with things like, what does ‘pick up’ mean? You can pick up a disease; you can pick somebody up from school; speed is about picking up speed. Why deal with that? There’s very little of that. …. even though most people who don’t speak Indonesian would find it hard to learn just the words themselves….if you could pick up 500 of them, say 600 of them…the grammar would be very, very easy. You could make yourself understood. I would say it’s better. It’s easier for everybody — colloquial Indonesian would be the one.”
McWhorter’s quotes about the reasons why a language like Indonesian would be a better “world” language  made me think about Turkish, which I studied for a few days in an online course (until Putin’s aggressive assholery changed my travel plans  ).
Here are nine encouraging and refreshing observations I made during my brief foray into the Turkish language:
Two or more letters are never combined to make a new or different sound!
Turkish contains no articles at all!
It is also not a gendered language; nor is it tonal!
There is no 7th observation!
There are standard rules for making plurals!
Word Order is set: Subject-Object-Verb. The verb is always at the end in written Turkish! 
You’d spin with delight, too, if you spoke such a sensible language.
After twenty-five or so minutes of Fun With Words®, podcast host Levitt ventured into topics where McWhorter’s opinions have made people who are prone to look for divergent poles line up into their default defensive positions…such as McWhorter’s book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America.
LEVITT: “I was talking to a white friend of mine, someone who is deeply sympathetic to the anti-racist cause. And she said to me recently, ‘My daughter is friends with a Black girl in her nursery school class….and I’d like to invite that Black girl over to my house for a play date, but I’m afraid to because I don’t know the appropriate way to acknowledge my white privilege to the girl’s parents. And I don’t want to insult them by not acknowledging it.’
To me, what a disaster – when kids can’t build friendships because parents are so paralyzed by fear of not doing the right thing.”
MCWHORTER: “You know what? That woman is who I wrote Woke Racism for. That is exactly what I mean. That is somebody whose heart is very much in the right place, but she’s so afraid of being called the dirtiest-name-other-than-pedophile in our current cultural vocabulary that she’s basically hamstrung.
After a while, it might be that you end up avoiding Black people because you don’t want to take a wrong step. And then you get accused of being a racist. And where does that get us? To actually say, ‘What is the result of all this?’ is seen as somehow beside the point.
Rather, what’s considered important is smart people stating that racism still exists; racism is systemic. Now, what’s actually happening out on the ground, whether we’re improving Black lives by stating that, is considered subsidiary…..
And yet, that’s the situation that I saw us slipping into starting after the hideous murder of George Floyd. I saw us dealing with a kind of semaphore, where we say things and we say things and we say things, and what we’re really doing is fostering a kind of general guilt and engaging in a kind of passion play…. But the result is not anything that any civil rights leaders of the past would have recognized as meaningful. We need to get back to doing the real thing.”
Fine; you’re awake. Now, make the bed and start cleaning up the mess you left in the kitchen.
LEVITT: “I always ask my guests to give advice to my listeners. And I’m curious what advice you would give to young people trying to build a good life for themselves.
And would you give the same advice to a young white person and a young Black person?”
MCWHORTER (my emphases): “… at this point, in the way our national dialogue goes, I would say this to kids of any race: Distrust your impulse to suppose that people who don’t think like you are either naive or evil.
It’s very easy to think that if they don’t think like you. It’s either they don’t have the facts that you have, or if they do have the facts that you have, there’s something sinister about them. They’ve got motives that they’re not quite letting onto.
And the sad thing is that these days, young people are being taught to think that way by an awful lot of grown-ups.
It’s an easy misimpression to fall into because we tend to be binary thinkers. But with any debate that’s uniquely challenging or frankly, interesting, about which you might argue, that’s different from decreeing that people are either stupid or bad. And that’s what a diverse and large society is all about. That’s what diversity of opinion is.”
Moiself highly recommends that y’all’s selves listen to the entire interview, and pay attention to McWhorter’s insightful analysis re how “3rd wave anti-racism” (a term he borrows from the feminist movement) “is a religion.” It’s guaranteed to offend at least a few third wave anti-racists and religionists. Now, that’s my kind of a podcast guest.
* * *
Punz For The Day Woke Politics Edition
Why were environmental activists protesting outside the elementary school? That heard a rumor that the kids were singing, “Rain, rain, go away.”
What do you call a woke Star Wars droid? R2-Me2
Did you hear about the laundromat manager who had her Facebook account cancelled? FB monitors read that she told her customers to separate the whites from the colors.
One night I dreamt that I was a muffler… I woke up exhausted.
“There’s woke jokes, and then there’s woke jokes.”
* * *
May you choose meaningful action over virtue-signalling; May you have fond memories of your bawdy joke-telling, scout-meeting (or the equivalent) ignoring days; May you enjoy singing the song about Hitler’s balls; 
Moiself would like nothing better than to wake up tomorrow morning to the news that Vladimir Putin has
* kicked the KGB bucket * cashed in his commie chips * bit the Chernoyl dust, * bought the fascist farm, * given up the glasnost ghost * won his last rabid dog lookalike ® contest…
you know – died. Whether through “natural” means or otherwise; hey, I’m not picky.
Still, it doesn’t seem…wise…or right…or fair…or historically accurate, to blame Russia’s assault against Ukraine solely on that festering turd of a genocidal despot one leader.
Russia is a big ass country. Even with an oligarchy-stained kleptocracy of a dictatorship masquerading as a federal republic, moiself doesn’t think the P-boy can do what he’s doing unless he’s got a whole lotta other Russians – if not the majority – on his side.
This is the 21st century, and Russia is not North Korea. In “First World” countries whose people have access to First World technologies (internet; cellphones) is impossible to completely control the narrative; it is impossible to make the majority of the Russian populace believe that Ukrainians are “neo-Nazis”, or the other delusional justifications the P-pants-boy offers for invading a sovereign country, unless there are those who, for whatever reasons, want to believe such bizarre, totally unsubstantiated falsehoods.
Are Russians who support their country’s actions also victims (of P-face’s propaganda), as I have heard more than one person surmise,? Or are they collaborators? I’m not sure it matters, at this point. Not to the dead Ukrainians, that’s for sure.
* * *
Department Of Thanks For The Imagery
Dateline: Saturday, March 26; circa 7:45 am; morning walk; listening to the People I Mostly Admire podcast’s latest episode: No One Can Resist A Jolly, Happy Pig. Host Steven Levitt is interviewing naturalist and author Sy Montgomery, who gets the following introduction on the PIMA website:
My guest today is bestselling author and naturalist Sy Montgomery. The Boston Globe describes her as “part Indiana Jones and part Emily Dickinson.” Her best-known book is The Soul of an Octopus, which was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2015. But she’s written about everything from tarantulas to hyenas to hummingbirds to pink dolphins. And as far as I can tell, she’s fallen in love with every one of them.
Levitt asks Montgomery how she got to where she is, in her profession – combining her two loves, of journalism and animals. Montgomery talks about visiting various people she knows who devote their lives to studying some obscure species, including a friend who is currently studying “the southern hairy-nosed wombat”…
…which caused moiself to actually speak the following picture’s caption aloud. To moiself, but ALOUD.
“Hey, Buford, y’all going to the barn dance tonight?”
* * *
Department Of Dietary Motivations
Back to the above-referenced podcast: Montgomery’s years of study of numerous animal species has caused her to refer to these animals as “people” (in aggregate) or “somebody”in particular. She explains her vocabulary choice: not only do many of the scientists who study these animals attribute consciousness and emotion to them, but scientists who study animal brains consistently find the same or remarkably similar neurotransmitters and hormones that, in primates such as our homo sapiens selves, are responsible for the production and transmission of emotions.
Montgomery and Levitt had an interesting back-and-forth about such discoveries and attributions. (Excerpts from their discussion; my emphases.)
LEVITT: Now, I’m no expert on ethology, which is the study of animal behavior, but I suspect that the scholars in that area might be upset by your books…. I’m sure they would consider it a no-no to anthropomorphize animals, but that’s not even exactly what you do. You speculate about the unique ways each creature might experience the world. Am I right that some scientists complain that you go too far in that direction?
MONTGOMERY: It’s not so much the scientists, but sometimes it’s the philosophers because they want humans to be the top of everything. Now, it is true that in science they use different words than I would use. Of course, in their scientific journals, they have different readers than I’m going to have, but things have changed a bit since, for instance, Jane Goodall first published her findings about tool use in chimps. No one wanted to publish that groundbreaking paper because she named her chimps instead of numbering them.
LEVITT: Woah. Uh-huh.
MONTGOMERY: Now things have changed…. There actually is a field of study that’s looking into animal personalities. I went on a personality survey with some of the top octopus researchers in the world…The person who headed that study…was the one who pointed out to me that if we fail to talk about emotions in animals, we are overlooking a central fact of neurobiology. And that is that every animal that has ever been studied, when you try to look for the hormones or neurotransmitters responsible for all of our feelings, like joy and fear, like stress and love, we find the exact same neurotransmitters. Even in taxa as different from ourselves, as octopuses, from whom we have been separated for half a billion years of evolution.
LEVITT: The scientific, conventional wisdom for decades, hundreds of years, insisted that humans were unique on so many dimensions, like consciousness, the use of tools, ability to problem solve. Do you have a take on how these past scientists just got things completely wrong?
MONTGOMERY: Yeah. I think it’s human supremacy, just like white supremacy. We wanted to be at the top, which would justify our exploitation of everybody else….
LEVITT: Here’s something I strongly suspect will happen. When people look back in a hundred or 200 years, they will be shocked and dismayed at the cruelty that our society subjects animals to with factory farming. Do you agree?
MONTGOMERY: A hundred percent. We will be appalled. And that’s why I became vegetarian years ago. Now there are farms that raise animals and slaughter animals in a more humane way, but I’m still delighted that I’m not eating them.
LEVITT: You made a really powerful case for the wonder of pigs. Do you think for people whose goal it is get away from factory farming that maybe the strategy they should be taking is trying to teach people about the wonderful personality that pigs have?
MONTGOMERY: Oh, I have gotten so many letters from people telling me that my book was the end of their bacon. And also, after Soul of an Octopus, many people wrote and said, “You know what? I used to love to eat octopus. I don’t eat it anymore.”
I love food and I love making food, but the taste of that item is on your tongue for less than a minute before you swallow something else. And for someone to lose their life for a taste on your tongue, that just seems like an enormous waste when there’s so many other delicious and nourishing things that we could have and not take away somebody’s life, somebody who thinks and feels and knows.
* * *
Department Of Inquiring Minds Want To Know
“She holds a PhD in neuroscience, but I couldn’t find whether she ever actually worked as a neuroscientist. It’s obvious that her understanding of ‘strong science’ doesn’t mean what she thinks it means. I doubt if she reads Science-Based Medicine or understands the principles we go by.” ( Harriet Hall, MD aka “The SkepDoc”  )
Any claim that has the word “actually” in it must be true.
Moiself saw a commercial the other day in which Mayim Bialik, the child actor turned adult actor turned part-time Jeopardy host, has apparently now become a vitamin supplement shill. The ad was for Neuriva-Plus, a supplement which, its manufacturers claim, can make you smarter by increasing brain levels of “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF, and shame on you for thinking that the acronym refers to some kind of S & M practice).
Why should you trust the celebrity who is promoting such a product? Well, you silly goose, because the ad begins thusly:
“I’m Mayim Bialik, and I love brains. It’s why I became a neuroscientist.”
“Neuriva Plus is backed by strong science — yes, I checked it myself —
and it combines two clinically tested ingredients that help support six key indicators of brain health.”
Not only does Bialik claim to be a neuroscientist, in another, longer Neuriva ad she describes herself as, “America’s favorite neuroscientist”
Bialik went to college, studied neuroscience at UCLA, took a break from studies to return to acting, returned to school to earn her Doctor of Philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA, had two children, then went back to acting.  But nowhere in her (admittedly impressive) resumé can I find any reference to her working in the field of neuroscience.
I’m not concerned about how many reputable sources, including Psychology Today, have called the product Bialik is endorsing “Neuriva nonsense” and “just another snake oil.” Moiselfassumed that from the get-go.
Rather, I’m curious about the validity of her claim to be a “neuroscientist” when she doesn’t appear to be doing neuroscience. She studiedneuroscience; I get that. But she’s not doingneuroscience.
If you go to law school, get your law degree ( a J.D. in the USA ), then become a carpenter – i.e., for whatever reasons you decide you want to earn a living crafting furniture and do not practice law, either with a firm or in a partnership or by “hanging out your shingle” (solo practice) – is it accurate to say about yourself,
“I actually am a lawyer.”
“Don’t blame this one on me. You want snake oil? I’ll show you some snake oil.”
* * *
Punz For The Day Snake Oil Edition
Which snakes are best at mathematics? Adders.
I got mugged by a cobra when I was walking through the park. I told the police I couldn’t recognize it in a lineup, as it was wearing a hood.
Why don’t rattlesnakes drink coffee, or any caffeinated beverages? Because it makes them viperactive. 
What do you call a snake that builds houses? A boa constructor.
* * *
May you never feel compelled to refer to yourself as an “actual” anything; May you have fun imagining a southern hairy-nosed wombat; May you be delighted by those creatures which you choose not to eat; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
Hall is a retired family physician who researches and writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices.
Content warning: Despite the date, and one or two moments of comic relief,  this is probably the most serious and personal blog post I have written. No foolin.’
* * *
Department Of Worst April Fool’s Day Ever
The following took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – twenty-one years ago today, April 1, 2001. Background info: MH and I and our offspring, K and Belle, were members of a local church.  Within the past seven weeks we’d celebrated K’s eighth birthday, and Belle’s fifth.
* * *
At approximately 12:20pm, Sunday, April 1, 2001, MH and I were in the ___ (church name) Fellowship Hall’s kitchen, doing cleanup after coffee hour. K and Belle were playing with other children outside, in the church’s courtyard. Belle found a hypodermic syringe (“A shiny toy,” as she later described it to me) on the grass under the bushes next to a play-shed in the courtyard. She picked up the syringe, which was capped, but the syringe’s needle — which was sticking out at an angle from under the side of the cap — poked her in her right thumb. She dropped the syringe and walked away.
K had seen Belle pick up something and then quickly drop it. He went over to where she had been, saw the syringe, and picked it up. He intended to take it upstairs to MH and I, to show us what Belle had touched…then he also got stuck by the needle (in his left thumb) when he picked up the syringe.
K came into the kitchen, holding the syringe. He told us that he’d found “this thing on the grass” and that he’d accidentally stuck himself with it. Before K had finished his sentence MH whisked the syringe from K, and recapped it (K said he took the cap off *after* the needle stuck him, as he wanted us to see exactly what it was that had stuck him, but that the syringe had the cap ON when he picked it up).
I rushed K to the sink, quickly but thoroughly washed his thumb, and told MH to get Belle and meet us at the hospital. We had our two cars with us; I wrapped the syringe in several paper towels and ran down the back stairs of the hall with K in tow, telling him that we were going to the Tuality Hospital ER (which is less than half a mile from the church).
At this time MH and I did *not* know that Belle had also – and first – been stuck by that same syringe’s needle.
MH found Belle standing in the entrance to the Fellowship Hall, crying and holding her thumb, which was bleeding. MH asked another child, who was lying on a couch in the entrance, what was going on. The kid glanced at Belle and casually replied, “Oh, she cut herself.” MH asked Belle what happened; she said that “a knife” she found in the courtyard had cut her finger.
I’d parked on the street by the entrance to the Fellowship Hall. Just as I was about to pull away from the curb MH ran to my car, pounded on the window, opened the door and practically threw Belle in the back seat, next to K. MH told me about Belle’s thumb as he strapped Belle into her car seat; we tried to get more out of her, but she was very upset. She didn’t want to say that it was the needle which had cut her, but K said that it was, and then Belle confirmed this.
All of this — from the moment K came up to the kitchen with the syringe to MH running with Belle to the car — took place in less than two minutes. I squeezed Belle’s thumb to get more blood out, gave her a tissue to hold over her thumb, and drove to the ER, with MH arriving in our other car about four minutes after the kids and I did.
The bad news:
…was what had happened. Of particular concern was the fact that the syringe was from an “unknown source,” which is hospital jargon for, “We don’t have the syringe’s user to test.” However, as the hospital personnel  – and our own instincts and experience told us – as far as what the syringe had been used for, we should assume the worst. Translation: the syringe had been used to inject a person or persons with illegal drugs; it had not been left there by a diabetic who on the spur of the moment decided to adjust his blood sugar/insulin ratio in our church’s courtyard’s bushes. (Coincidentally, earlier that morning I’d been told by the church groundskeeper that the previous day, members of our church had done a cleanup of the church grounds, removing beer cans and trash from under and around the bushes in the courtyard, where the groundskeeper had occasionally found “vagrants and street people partying.”)
Hospital personnel told us the syringe was likely used to inject its user(s) with a certain kind of heroin (“Mexican brown”) and/or methamphetamine, which, for “street users,” were the injectable drugs of choice both the hospital and the police were seeing at that time. Although we brought the syringe with us (and could detect a micro-microscopic drop of fluid inside of it), we were told that there was nothing the hospital could test it for. In fact, it was hospital policy notto test it, for among other reasons, the false reassurance of any false negative results (which they would likely get, as there was no way to determine how long the syringe had been there).
The relatively good (or at least, less bad) news:
-Both kids’ immunizations were up to date, including for Hepatitis B.
-Although there were no vaccinations for Hepatitis C and the other rare strains (D, E, F), risk of transmission for those infections, in that kind of possible exposure, were negligible… Also, those strains of hepatitis were rarely seen in Oregon at that time (Hepatitis A is not transmitted via needle sticks).
-The syringe had a small gauge needle; thus, the possibility of a significant “viral load” transmission was small.
-HIV, the big fear factor at the time, is a very fragile virus. Despite its many mutations it can survive only a few hours (if that) outside a host body.
The children were seen by P.A. ____, who examined them and then spoke with us about what happened. Over the next three-plus hours, the P.A. consulted via telephone with Drs. E___ and L___ at Emmanuel Hospital’s Infectious Disease and Pediatrics Infectious Disease departments, with our pediatrician’s on call group, and with other physicians at the CDC. 
We were told (by the P.A. and a Tuality ER physician) that HIV prophylaxis treatment was something we should consider, for both K and Belle. We did, and decided against it, with the following information in mind:
– None of the doctors consulted would strongly recommend that we start either K or Belle on prophylactic treatment for possible HIV exposure, given the parameters of the particular accident/incident, nor was such treatment the recommended protocol for that kind of possible exposure.
– MMR (Morbidity & Mortality Report) statistics showed no transmission of disease had been recorded to have occurred in “this kind of injury,” in Oregon.
– Risk of transmission of HIV was estimated to be less than 1%; risk of side effects from AZT or other prophylactic HIV treatments definitely exceeded 1%.
K and Belle had blood drawn at the hospital for baseline HIV and Hepatitis titers, and we were given scripts to have the tests repeated at intervals of two, four, and six months. The P.A. suggested, for our own peace of mine, that we do another test at twelve months (although that was not the official recommendation).
Department Of The Aftermath
At one point, sitting in the ER exam room with MH and the kids, I remembered noting the date and thinking, “If only this were an April Fool’s joke….”
The above was the Dragnet (“Just the facts, ma’am”) version of the incident, which I sent to family, and wrote for our own records. I left out the emotions experienced by K, Belle, MH, and myself, which you can probably imagine (and which took me months to forget).
We were at that ER for hours. We waited, while the P.A. consulted with various specialists and/or waited for them to return his calls and periodically came into the exam room we occupied, to update us. All the adults were (trying to be) calm. The ER seemed understaffed, to me (a hospital staff member later told me it was unexpectedly busy “for a Sunday afternoon”). Even so and speaking of the afternoon, I wish one of the staff would have thought to offer our kids some food. It was lunch time when the accident happened, and a little after 4 pm when we got out of there. MH and I were too adrenalized to be hungry and, in our state of shock and with possible scenarios and outcomes running through our minds, we forgot that the kids, of course, were hungry ). I finally had the presence of mind to realize this, and got someone to bring them some sugary drinks, which made them both happy.
Waiting, waiting, waiting…. We bummed drawing supplies (paper and pens) from a nurse, to keep the kids amused or at least distracted, while hospital staff checked with one another and called various experts. We shut the door to the exam room we were in and talked loudly to the kids when an accident victim with a fractured femur was brought into the ER (we were mostly successful in muffling the victim’s cries of pain, which echoed down the ER hallway).
MH’s cousin is a pediatrician and her husband an epidemiologist; MH used some of the waiting time to call her (she lived on the East coast). She was very reassuring. She told us that, to her knowledge and after checking her sources, there were no cases of someone “sero-converting” – i.e., going from a negative HIV test to a positive – after having “that kind” of accident (being stuck with a needle which had likely been used and discarded several hours before the stick-accident).
Okay; yes; this is good. But, if this is common knowledge, why is this taking so long?
Why all the consults – are they preparing detailed information for us,
for a prognosis we don’t want to hear?
We had plenty of time, sitting/waiting/pacing in that exam room, to imagine the worst. I had worked for nine years in the women’s reproductive health care field but been away from the medical world for almost as many years and hadn’t kept up with “things.” HIV, despite its ability to mutate rapidly, was – or had been – a very fragile virus. Perhaps new strains had developed, which I was unaware of – new mutations which could survive hours outside a host body? I thought that unlikely, thus; actually, my main concern was not HIV.
I was more troubled to think that the kids might have been infected by one of the new strains of hepatitis that seemed to be cropping up left and right. When I’d worked at Planned Parenthood, just before MH and I moved up to Oregon, I’d had a needle stick accident,  and had to go through the routines of initial HIV/hepatitis blood tests, getting the Hep B vaccine series,  then follow-up HIV and hepatitis tests at two, four, and six month intervals.
Meanwhile, back in the ER…. Finally, a little before 4 pm, the ER staff attending to our case had documented it to their satisfaction. We needed the kids to each have their blood drawn for the first round of tests, and then we could go home. MH and I and the hospital personnel tried to be as straightforward – and as nonchalant – with the kids as possible. “Everything is going to be all right, we just have to do one test (which…er, yeah…will involve another needle stick)….”
K tried to be brave. He was old enough that we could explain the hospital procedures to him, how they’d need to draw a small amount of blood for a test. Did he think he could cooperate? His lower lip trembled as he nodded yes. He sat in my lap, I hugged him, and he hid his head under my arm when they drew his blood sample. For each of the subsequent, follow-up blood draws (at two, four and six months after the incident), K got better at handling the needle poke (he even watched the last one, instead of turning his head to the side!).
Belle’s reaction was…almost feral.
What a difference three years makes, especially for younger children, in terms of experience and comprehension. Looking back, I realize that Belle was also being brave, in a different way – in defense of herself. She did not understand why she had essentially been held captive for hours; she did not understand the need for the tests the adults were trying to explain to her. She understood that she had already been injured by one needle, and she was determined not to let that happen again.
The hospital personnel were kind and patient with her, but despite their assurances that they would use the tiniest needle possible (“The size we use on preemies,” a nurse told me) Belle became unhinged. Even her beloved daddy could not get her to cooperate, nor could he restrain her. Finally, in order to safely draw her blood, the hospital staff put her in what I can only describe as a full body straitjacket. It was a device/garment I’d never seen before,  and it provided me with one brief moment of levity in that dreary afternoon (I had to leave the exam room for a moment, to stifle my giggles).
The follow-up blood draws were, for Belle, not much better (although full body restraints were not necessary). For years after that ER visit Belle maintained a visceral fear of needles. Routine vaccinations were…stressful, to put it mildly, for Belle, her parents, and her pediatrician.
Despite Belle’s fear of needles (which had not been present before the trip to the ER), neither she nor K seemed to carry any long-term trauma from the needle stick accident. They also barely displayed any short-term distress. By the morning after they seemed to have accepted what the adults had told them (it was an accident; everything is going to be fine), and it was almost as if the accident hadn’t happened.
The night we came home from the ER they both fell asleep even quicker than usual (fatigued from the excitement, was my guess). Oh, to have that short term memory dump capability, I remember thinking. Meanwhile, as our children dozed in blissful ignorance, MH and I sat upright in our bed, eyes abuzz from our respective adrenaline overdoses.
“What just happened?”I said to MH. “I feel like – like I should attack something. I’m all geared up for battle, but there’s no one to fight.”
* * *
When the option for prophylactic HIV treatment had been offered to us, I thought:
Is this the day our lives change forever?
I hoped the medical personnel were going to advise *against* such treatment; instead, they’d presented the pros and cons, and left the decision to us.
I’d already decided that, unless there were compelling evidence to do so, no way was I going to agree to poison my kids to play the odds. During some of the down time in the ER exam room I’d chatted with the kindly if seriously-demeanored P.A., and discovered that he too was a parent. After he and a hospital physician had presented the HIV treatment option to MH and I, I waited until the physician left the room, then asked the PA,
“What would *you* do, if this had happened to *your* children?”
He paused, and I continued.
“I know you’re not supposed to answer that kind of question, but please?”
The P.A. nodded at me, in a way I can only describe as respectful, and I saw the brief flicker of a smile cross his eyes for the first time since he’d met us. No, he said, if it were his children, he would not opt for the HIV prophylaxis.
* * *
Thanks to the merciful element known as “the passing of Time,” the distress of that day has morphed, for me, into having an impassive remembrance of what happened without having to relive how it “felt.” Years will pass without me thinking about the accident, and then something will remind me.
One such reminder came via a local public television show I saw a few years ago, which featured an interview with an activist who “represented” an encampment which homeless people had been setting up in a Portland neighborhood. The encampment was in an area which had been designated as a wildlife corridor; homeowners living near the corridor were disgusted and alarmed by the encampment’s accumulating trash, habitat destruction, and crime. The activist/representative said that the camp occupants were policing themselves – she looked directly into the camera and declared that they had a strict, no drugs/no alcohol policy.
Local news reported that within days of authorities evicting the campers, the encampment resembled an EPA-declared toxic waste dump. City employees and volunteers who cleared out the hundreds of pounds of garbage the campers had left behind had to wear special gloves and protective garments, as the trash included – surprise, “self-policing” activist/representative! – drug paraphernalia, including contaminated syringes and needles.
When I read that follow-up story I was right back to that day – back to the moment when MH ran up to my car, carrying our frightened five-year-old in his arms; back to the moment when I realized that *both* of our children had been stuck by a hypodermic needle; back to the moment when, as surely as I could sense my own pulse hammering in my carotid artery, I felt as if my “spirit” were draining out of my skull, down through my chest and gut and legs, and exiting my body through the soles of my feet. And no, this is not a florid way of saying I peed my pants (which I didn’t). The sensation was so vivid, I later checked my car’s floormat for…something (I didn’t really know what I was looking for).
Several months passed before the needle stick accident wasn’t the first and last thing I thought of every day. Some mornings with stoic acceptance and some nights with fierce, Samuel L. Jackson-style defiance (“C’mon, just try and hurt us again, you needle-discarding, muthaF#&%?! ass#@&%* !”), I’d contemplate the fact that there are so many things out of a parent’s control. Seemingly apropos of nothing, I would find myself ruminating on the plethora of shit, be it circumstantial, biological, genetic, or whatever, that I could neither anticipate nor control, but which could harm K and Belle.
I eventually made peace with the reality that generations of parents before me had recognized:
Your life can change in an instant;
your love for your children may be river deep and mountain high,
but it cannot protect them from everything that might harm them….
including random fate and their and other peoples’ (and your own) mistakes.
One day, several months after the NS accident and after things had returned to the proverbial normal, I was out running errands with Belle. We were at a crafty-type store, getting supplies for her preschool project, and she had to pee. The store’s restroom was a fairly large, handicapped access room. After Belle flushed the toilet and began to move to the sink to wash up, she exclaimed, “Look!” and reached for a shiny object lying on the floor, to the side of the toilet.
I had my first ever out-of-body experience: I watched as a hand (that was apparently my own) reached out with lightning speed and slapped Belle’s hand just before she touched the object; I heard a banshee’s voice from the bowels of the hells I don’t believe in bellow from my mouth:
” NO NO NO NO NO !!! Don’t EVER pick up ANYTHING when you don’t know what it is – didn’t you learn ANYTHING from the accident ?!?!? “
It took a stunned two seconds for first Belle and then me to burst into tears, and a nanosecond after that for me to apologize to her.
* * *
May you never have a similar story to tell; May you make peace with life’s realities but do your damnedest anyway; May you remember to ask for something to eat and drink when you’re stuck in an ER room for hours; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Thank you for the inspiration, Samuel L. Jackson.
 One of the more (if not most) liberal of the Protestant denominations. Yes, this foulmouthed expressive atheist and her family were active church members.
 The P.A., doctors, and nurses we saw during our ER stay.
 He had also spoken with at least two other Tuality hospital physicians, one of whom, along with the P.A., presented the HIV prophylactic treatment option to us. We also had several nurses (in and out of the exam room where we and the kids waited) who never introduced themselves.
 Although, oddly enough, neither of them said anything to us about it…which I attribute to them being intimidated by the surroundings.
 This happened as I was doing a finger poke blood draw from a high-risk (multiple sexual partners; IV drug user) patient: I poked myself with the same lancet I’d just used on the patient, as I was transferring the lancet to the sharpie container. It was a move I’d done a hundred times, only that time I somehow managed to stick myself as I grabbed the sharpie container. To this day, I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ll never forget how the patient looked at me and said, “Uh oh.”
 Which I should have had anyway…but I’d kept putting off for time/scheduling reasons.
 Then a few months later, in a veterinary setting, I saw a similar garment used to restrain a fractious cat!
Tomorrow is the official day in my state, Oregon (and also Washington and California (Oregon) when the mask mandate is lifted. Excusez-moi; it’s actually/officially lifted “after 11:59 p.m. on March 11.” 
Recently I’ve overheard at least two conversations  wherein people were talking about having a mask-burning party to celebrate the lifting of the mandate. Moiself gathered that these parties were more about embracing reaching certain pandemic milestones, and were light-hearted, akin to the tradition of the celebratory mortgage-burning parties. These intended parties were to be nothing akin to the hostile, the anti-mask demonstrations held in certain areas of certain states during the past year, e.g. Idaho, where mouth-breathing child abusing ignoramuses red-staters taught their children to embrace their parents’ imbecility and anti-science stances:
“Parents cheered Saturday on the steps of the Idaho Capitol building as children threw handfuls of surgical masks into a fire. Far-right groups and some lawmakers held similar demonstrations in more than 20 Idaho towns, seizing on growing impatience with COVID-19 restrictions.
‘Hey fire, you hungry?’ asked one boy as adults watched him toss face coverings into a burn barrel. ‘Here’s another mask!’
Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and state Rep. Dorothy Moon addressed the crowd of more than 100 people, standing behind a lectern on the Capitol steps. Nearby, a banner with the racist phrase ‘Wu Flu’ was draped over a replica Liberty Bell….
Idaho is one of 16 states that have not implemented a statewide mask mandate….
Idaho leads the Pacific Northwest in COVID-19 cases and death count per 100,000 residents. In the Gem State, people are dying at almost twice the rate of Oregonians, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.”
(“Mask burning rally in Idaho fans COVID-19 worries in Oregon” OPB 3-8-21)
Yeah, and not only that, those people are allowed to breed, and vote.
I don’t think moiself will be burning any masks any time soon. Rather, I’m going to pause and take a moment of gratitude for the lives that mask-wearing saved, as documented here and here (and also here and here, and….) and also be grateful for how wearing masks contributed to a record-low flu season during the COVID pandemic.
Nope; not gonna burn, gonna celebrate, I thought to moiself, while I was out walking a couple of “laps” around the movie theater I’d arrived at. I had 20 minutes before the show began, and as I walked I looked at my surroundings, as I am wont to do, and my eyes were drawn to a trash comparison. Walking along the sidewalks of the busy streets by the movie theater, as well as the non-busy back alleys, I noticed one distinctive bit of trash which rivaled cigarette butts in number: discarded facemasks.
When I think of all the excess trash the pandemic brought us, it frosts my butt. It seems like we’d just gotten people to bring their own reusable bags when shopping, and to even consider bringing their own reusable drinking straws and take out containers when dining out…then came COVID and the (unnecessary, it turns out) regressive turn, back to the one-use, discard-after-use, plastic everything. This increase in our trash made me almost as sad as the number of COVID deaths. I’m not exaggerating.
“The amount of plastic wastes generated worldwide since the outbreak
is estimated at 1.6 million tonnes/day. ( COVID pollution: impact of COVID-19 pandemic on global plastic waste footprint, Science Direct, 2-21 )
Moiself is not One Of Those People ® who rant and rave about self-checkout lines at the grocery (or other, but mostly grocery) stores – about how they are evil corporate plots to reduce employment (even though they probably are), or how they are bring us one step closer to Orwellian scenarios, or how they are just inefficient or whatever. I use the self-checkout option, occasionally to frequently, depending on the store. When I have a whole lotta items in my cart I’ll use the regular checkout lines…unless they are quite backed up, in which case I’ll do the time math in my head –
do I have more complex items which will require manual input and/or the self-checkout clerk’s attention – e.g. fresh produce and/or bulk items which require weighting and manual input of codes, wine – or primarily pre-packaged items, which I can scan almost as quickly as an experienced checker –
and pick one or the other.
Midway through the pandemic restrictions, the checkout clerks at New Seasons and I began joking about when the “return to normalcy” would begin, and what that normalcy would look like. The NS clerks always seemed somewhat apologetic about their store’s policy banning customers bringing their own/reusable bags. They were also one of the first stores to return to letting customers bring their own bags, and then one of the first to return to bagging customers’ purchases in the reusable bags.
Most of the other grocery stores I skulk around patronize have both regular and self-checkout options, the latter with no item limits (some still have a “15 items or fewer” option). But I’ve learned, even if there is a line of three carts ahead of me in the regular check outline, if I have a cartload of items it’s ultimately worth it to get in the regular checkout line.
Hmmm, which line….
The checkers are just more efficient – surprise! It’s what they do, all day long. And the logistics of the self-checkout stations…urgh. I can count on the fingers of two hands the number of times they have truly been *self*-checkout (as in, no store employee contact) for moiself, despite my having used the self-checkout option hundreds of times.
It seems like I can’t get through checking out my own groceries without needing the employee in charge of overseeing the self-checkout lines to come over (and input his or her magic code, or whatever) when my self-checkout scanning machine refuses to scan any further because:
* it didn’t register the proper weight of an item
* when I rearranged an already checked item in one of my bags, trying to make room for another item, it thinks I took some items out and didn’t put them back
* I need an age/ID verification for an adult beverage
* I need a verification on the weight of my bags after I checked the “I brought my own bags” option on the scanner and it didn’t register them because my bags are deemed either too light or too heavy
* after I get the okay for my bags and arrange them in the (inadequate) space allowed, one end of one bag slips over the edge of the counter, and thus the last item I placed in it doesn’t get its weight registered properly
* the organic beets I’m trying to buy have no UPC code/tag and are not listed in the “look up item” option on the scanner….
All of these and many more scenarios stop the scanner, and trigger the dreaded hopeful, “Help Is On The Way”message on the scanner’s screen. While waiting for the HIOTW employee to arrive I often look around at my fellow self-checkout-ers.. I see that they are also awaiting the same service; I see one of them shake his head and grumble that he’s been waiting for five minutes to get help because the loaf of the store’s freshly baked bread – FFS, he only has ONE item – lacks a scannable code, and the store’s self-checkout line overseer/employee is helping another customer scan their 985 coupons….
My favorites in the we-are-all-waiting-for-the-help-that-is-on-the-way group are the sweet and petite elderly women who wave their hands in a Yoo-hoo ® manner at store employees, optimistically yet incorrectly assuming that this will expedite the process.
Once again, I digress.
*Most* local stores have returned to allowing reusable bags, but why *all* have not returned to bagging a customer’s purchases using that customer’s reusable bag is a mystery to moiself. After all, this is what we’re all supposed to do – bring our own bags – right? There are a few grocery stores that, if you are in their regular checkout lines, will not bag your groceries if bring your own reusable bags. Yep, I’m talking to you, Albertsons (and Safeway…and since one chain bought the other several years back, I’m assuming this is the parent company’s policy).
At first, I thought it was a staffing issue. The last time I was at Albertson’s I decided to test this notion by going through a regular checkout line. There were two people and their respective cartloads ahead of me, and an employee other than the cashier stood at the end of the cashier stand, bagging the customers’ groceries in the store’s paper bags. So, they *did* have staff available to bag. When I unloaded my cart, placing my two reusable bags along with my groceries on the conveyor belt, the cashier pointed to my bags and asked me if I was “comfortable” bagging my own groceries.
Perhaps noticing the lack of enthusiasm in my, “ ‘Comfortable?’ Uh yeah…downright cozy” reply, the cashier followed up with, “We can’t do that” (indicating my reusable bags) because of “the COVID thing.”
Which is ridiculous.
“I told her I wasn’t going to touch her filthy reusable bags and the bitch done left me with her cartful of items.”
I did not tell her that her company’s policy is absurd, seeing as how she was a rank-and-file employee who was just following the store’s policy. But the other employee, the one who either was the bagger or was temporarily functioning as such, stepped aside, yet remained at the bagging station…to do what? I wondered, as I pushed my cart to the end of the checkout line and began to bag my groceries. So, you’re not going to bag my items, you’re going to…uh, provide them with an escort? Or chaperone me, while I bag them? Dude, what is your function?
Many months ago at the afore-mentioned NS market, when they were still not bagging your groceries if you bought your own bags, the checkers and I joked about how it was understandable to have such draconian policies, two year ago, at the very beginning of the pandemic, when people weren’t sure what COVID-19 was or how it was transmitted. But we’ve known for some time that COVID is an airborne virus. You are not going to get it from my woven grocery basket, nor from my reusable bag made of nylon or another synthetic materials.
I tried and (mostly succeeded) in not berating store employees for following their company mandates, no matter how *not*-based-in-reality such mandates were. There was one notable exception.
Several months into the pandemic moiself tried to donate cans of pet food to a local animal shelter. This is something I did periodically, although this particular trip was in response to moiself’s having read an article about how the shelter was going through tough times and needed donations for food and other basic animal care items. A volunteer at the shelter approached me as I began to lower my bags of canned food into the shelter’s donation bins – bins which were open, and at the entrance to the shelter, just as they had always been pre-pandemic. The volunteer apologetically said that the shelter would not take a donation of cans, “…because of COVID.”
Moiself: “Seriously? You *do* realize that you can’t get COVID from a can of cat food…don’t you?”
I immediately regretted my outburst response, apologized to the volunteer,  adding that I realized he was not personally responsible for such an idiotic, non-science-based overly-cautious policy. 
So, to reiterate: You (store clerk/business employee) are not going to get COVID from my reusable bag unless each component of the following scenario ensues:
* I, infected with COVID, am standing in your checkout line at your store.
* I feel a cough coming on, lift up my face mask, put my bag to my face, and hack and sputter into said bag.
* While bagging my groceries with the bag I brought and just coughed into, you – for reasons fathomable only by a highly perceptive mental health professional – grab that bag, lift your own mask, stick your finger into the glob of moist ejecta I coughed onto the bag, stick that finger in your nostril and inhale deeply and then, just to make sure, lick that same finger before proclaiming, “Just as I thought! Definitely NOT lime Jell-O.”
Neither are you, nor I, *not* are going to catch COVID because you, the checker, obsessively sprayed and wiped your checkstand’s conveyor belt between each customer.  Our mask-wearing, social distance-maintaining, hand-washing; our getting vaccinated and staying home when we’re ill – these are the actions that matter. However, store policies re obsessive cleaning are…well…policies. And when a policy is established, for reasons sound or otherwise, it tends to remain in place. ‘Cause, you know: Science. 
So, Albertsons, answer me this: Do your fellow grocery stores, your competitors – do all those other stores and their employees have a special dispensation or super powers which allow themprotection from those icky reusable bags which are out to contaminate your store’s employees?
Albertsons, hear this: It is safe for your baggers to use customer’s reusable bags. Update your policy. Either that or tell your “baggers” to get off their asses and move away if they’re not going to bag my groceries. I don’t need a chaperone or a witness while I do so. You could at least have them pretend to count the store’s supply of paper bags, or dust shelves or whatever, while I am doing what is supposed to be their job.
* * *
Department Of Sometimes I Amaze Even Moiself
Did I really just write over twenty paragraphs about the pesky  dilemma of grocery store bagging?
* * *
Punz For The Day Pundemic Pandemic Edition
I will tell you a Coronavirus joke now, but you will have to wait two weeks to see if you got it.
Why are four out of five fishermen *not* worried about COVD-19? Because they never catch anything.
What’s the difference between Covid-19 and Romeo and Juliet? One’s the coronavirus, the other is a Verona crisis
What will we call the kids who celebrate their thirteenth birthday
thirteen years after the start of the pandemic lockdown? The quaranteens.
Bonus Chuck Norris has been exposed to the COVID-19. The virus is now in quarantine for a month.
Special bonus Best pickup line, as overheard in a nursing home: Single elderly man says to single elderly woman, “If COVID doesn’t take you out, can I?”
* * *
May you never use “because of the COVID thing” as an excuse; May this post not be your (only) reason for avoiding lime Jell-O; May you remember to bring your reusable bags; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Lifted as in no longer mandatory in indoor public spaces and schools. Federal requirements still include masks on public transit.
 Had between apparent friends, in public spaces. And yes, I was keeping proper physical distancing. I wasn’t exactly eavesdropping; they were talking loudly and my mask did not cover my ears. Or, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
 As in, post-pandemic…as in, assuming what we had and did before was somehow “normal.”
 My longtime favorite store. Which does not (yet) have a self-checkout option.
Moiself used to volunteer at that same shelter.
 “They’ll take monetary donations,” he sheepishly responded. The “they,” I assume, meant the shelter staff.
 Now, wiping the belt after the previous customer’s raw beef dripped blood all over it and I’m going to put down my fresh produce on that very belt – YES! Thank you!
I’m going through my every-two years (pandemic-influenced schedule changes notwithstanding), post-Olympic blues, where after dinner I sit down in one of our way-too-comfy chairs and expect instant access to televised, Holy ACL tear, how do they *do* that? feats of athleticism. Despite my enjoyment of the spectacle, my attention feels somewhat squirm-worthy…. Moiself doesn’t even try to justify my interest in The Games ® with my abhorrence of the host country’s abysmal human rights record.
The USA engaged in a “diplomatic boycott” of these Beijing-hosted games. Remember the lackluster response to that announcement?
Few if any sports fans tune in to watch the participating countries’ political envoys compete in the Ambassadorial Mixed Team Relay Luge, what’s the point? When it comes to action strategies, a diplomatic boycott reminds me of prayer – it’s a way of trying to provide the illusion that you’re doing something when in fact you’ve done nothing of consequence.
“We’re doing a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics.”
“We’re praying for the victims of human rights violations.”
Can or should sports (or any human endeavor) be politics-free? And if the answer is yes, what kind of human rights violations and atrocities are allowed to eclipse those leave-politics-out-of-these-games declarations?
When the USA boycotted the Russian-hosted 1980 Summer Olympic to protest Russia’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, 64 other countries joined the boycott. Sound like a lot? Think again – 80 countries did not, and sent representative athletes to the games. What was accomplished? Oh, that’s right; how quickly I forget. Shamed as bullies before the free world, Russia renounced its oppressive ways and turned into a beacon of liberty and civil rights for the downtrodden masses across the globe.
Back to the actual games. The big-liest story involved the 15-year-old Russian figure skater, Kamila Valieva. Valieva tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance but was still was allowed to compete (and then fell apart during a key performance).
Moiself would wager that many teenaged Olympic athletes are “older” than their non-athletic team member peers in many ways, after years of single-minded devotion and adherence to a grueling practice schedule that would break most adults. There is a second part to my wager: at the same time, these teen athletes’ pursuit to excel at their sport makes them more naïve than other teens. Young Olympics-bound athletes often little experience of the maturation that comes from encountering “real life,” having been shielded from the day-by-day mundane decisions and activities – by both their coaches and parents – so that they can concentrate on mastering the backside quad cork 180˚ or whatever.
So, who’s responsible for Valieva’s doping? Was it the athlete, or her coach(es)? Given how coaches control influence their athlete’s lives, and the age of the skater in question, it’s not that difficult for me to imagine Valieva’s unquestioning compliance to a command recommendation.
“Here comrade, take pill/shot, and don’t worry, it’s …uh… vitamin B-12! Da, that is what it is.”
Still, there is the argument that if she’s old enough to be on the Olympics team she’s old enough to take responsibility for following the Olympics’ rules. If a substance is banned, you don’t take it, and you don’t let anyone give it to you.
No matter who’s at fault, I hated to see/think of a 15 year old getting ripped a new one by her coaches…which is what happened. Whosever decision it was to dope – hers, or her “support” team’s – maybe it doesn’t matter in long run. And maybe someone should check on Valieva, after she’s returned to Russia and the hoopla dies down, to make sure she hasn’t been carted off to the All-Gulag Tour of Ice Dancing With The Russian Stars.
My interest in watching any of the figure skating dropped after the Valieva doping-but-excused revelation. It left a bad taste in my mouth, particularly when I compared the skater’s outcome with what happened to a Summer Olympics track star. Why wasn’t there a huge outcry about the difference in treatment – USA sprinter Sha’ Carri Richardson was kicked off the Summer Olympics team for failing *her* drug test. A few people commented, including, succinctly, Richardson herself:
“The only difference I see is I’m a black young lady.” ( “Double Standard, Racism? Sha’Carri Richardson Booted From Olympics For Cannabis, Russian Skater No Problem For Doping.” Benzinga 2-14-22)
Moiself does recall that someone else commented about the brouhaha, at the time when Richardson got the boot….
As the Tokyo (Summer) Olympics Games enter the final week, I’m realizing I will soon be going through the withdrawal I experience every two years, after watching two-plus weeks of (summer or winter) Olympics events. I’m not normally a frequent televised-sporting-events fan, but moiself does enjoy The Games ®….
In the second week, with track and field events predominating, moiself is thinking about a conversation I had with daughter Belle, several weeks back, about how the USA’s track star Sha’ Carri Richardson received a suspension for testing positive for marijuana, and thus would not be participating in the Olympics.
Belle was peeved that Richardson would not be able to compete, due to what Belle sees as an unfair and archaic drug testing system. I mentioned that Richardson’s competitors might also be disappointed in Richardson’s absence from the games. As I understand it, when you’re at the top level of your sport, you want to compete against the best. Also, whatever your accomplishments, you don’t want an asterisk next to them (as in, “* ___ won the gold medal, after the favorite ____ was disqualified for….”).
We agreed that athletes should be tested for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs; definitely-absolutely-go-for-it. But Belle and I had fun wondering back and forth about why athletes are tested for alcohol and marijuana…. it seems to moiself that weed and booze, with their relaxant and depressive properties, would diminish, not enhance, athletic performance. And really now: in what sports could marijuana be considered a performance *enhancing* drug? Competitive eating? Belle suggested.
You’d think athletes would *want* their rivals to get the munchies before competition: “Here comes Richardson, strolling across the finish line in last place, giving the other racers a, ‘What’s up with all the hurry?’ look as she heads for the pizza roll vendor….”
“I’d like to thank my coach, and my training partner, Maui Wowie.”
So, lobby to change the Olympics’ drug testing rules, if you think it would be worthwhile to do so. Until then, it would be unfair to other athletes to make exceptions for some and not others, in terms of how existing drug rules are applied. 
Also, the athletes know full well what they will be tested for. My advice  to them is, don’t act surprised and/or disappointed if you used a banned substance and then get caught. Take responsibility. Don’t play dumb when you’re not. (Excerpts from 8-6-21 blog post, The Drug Test I’m Not Failing, full text here)
Once again, I digress. Time to finish with the Winter Olympics.
As always, moiself thrilled to watch the ariel snowboarding and skiing and ski jumping events, marveled at the WTF?!? stamina and skill required by the XC skiers and Biathlon-ers,  and yawned through (read: ignored) the curling/bobsled/luge/skeleton events.  Although it was great to see pioneering USA snowboarding champ Shaun White in Olympic action again/for the last time, it was also awe-inspiring to see the younger snowboarders – many if not most of whom were inspired by White – perform their gravity-defying new stunts…and then it was poignant to realize, as White seemed to do so graciously, that his time at that level of competition had passed. Most of all, it was great fun, for moiself at least, to see a smaller country, Norway (population 5 million, led the medal count with thirty-seven. Yes; 37), dominate the competition. 
But, my enjoyment was dampened by the skating scandal. And also, the host. Fucking People’s Republic of Human Rights Bullies China.
My gradually-souring mood was saved by son K, who steered me toward an old video clip of Shaun White as a bright-eyed 19 year old, being interviewed by CNN after his first Olympics. Refreshingly unjaded and enthusiastic, gushing as if amazed by his own success, White described how, during his plane flight back to the USA, the flight attendants  fawned over his Olympic medal. White’s charmingly disarming, duuuuude, totally rad persona, seemingly endemic to surfers and snowboarders, surfaced when the CNN interviewer interrupted White with an attempted “gotcha” moment. It reminded me why I’m gonna miss the red-haired dude and his ‘tude:
* * *
* * *
Department Of Things I Sometimes Forget
Such as, sometimes I forget how much I like a simple veggie chili, which can be made rather quickly with Staples I Almost Always Have Handy ® . As for the simple part, you can complexify  it up, as much as you want, with different beans and pepper combos, and get jiggy with the toppings.
– 2 cans no salt added chopped tomatoes -1 can each (~15 oz) of the following (no salt added) cooked beans, rinsed & drained: Black, kidney, garbanzo, lima – 1 c white frozen corn, thawed – 3 T chili powder – 1 T ground cumin seed (toasted first – optional, but delish) – ½ t each kosher salt & freshly ground black peppercorns; cayenne pepper to taste
– 1 t (or more) red wine vinegar – 3T rinsed pickled jalapeno slices (more or less to taste) 
– lime slices
Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1m. Add beans through cumin seeds, mix well, and bring to simmer over med-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until flavors are blended, ~ 30m.
Season w/salt, pepper and cayenne, and jalapenos. Add vinegar to taste. Serve with lime slices to squeeze over.
Additional toppings: Avocado chunks or slices or guacamole; chopped fresh cilantro; chopped scallions; plant-based or regular sour cream or plain yogurt; shredded veg or other cheeses; crushed tortilla chips; red or green chili salsa; a mother’s bitter tears….
Your final product should look nothing like this.
* * *
Punz For The Day Chili Edition
I got a miniature fresh habañero pepper at the farmer’s market. When I returned home I put a tiny blanket on it, because it was a little chili.
We are thinking about making Five Alarm Bean and Cabbage Chili for Christmas Eve. We’re starting a new tradition called, ‘Silent But Deadly Night.’
How do you make a good vegan chili? Stick her in the freezer.
What do dead Norseman like in their chili? Vallhallapeños.
You can see yourself out.
* * *
May you never be subjected to an Olympic-sized double standard; May you never engage in a diplomatic boycott (of anything); May you join your loved ones in a rousing chorus of, “I’m talkin’ ’bout Mountain Dews, baby!” 
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 As in, she fell, several times, during her last performance, where, favored to take first place in the Women’s Singles competition, she did not medal.
 Richardson claimed she used weed to cope with receiving the news of the unexpected death of her biological mother. If that’s the case, I’m wondering why she didn’t alert officials before she was tested, along the lines of, “BTW, I used this substance for this reason,” to try to explain or at least warn them that she wasn’t trying to sneak anything past them.
 Which they clamor for, night and day…it gets soooooo annoying.
 Only Norwegians could come up with such a body-punishing, seemingly disparate skills-requiring event as biathlon.
 The nuances of the sledding events evades me (“He tilted his body one degree to the right to steer the sled higher on the turn”…uh huh). No doubt fun to do yourself, but a snoozefest to watch someone else do it.
 Second place Germany, population 83 million , 27 medals…summer Olympics powerhouse USA (population 330 million) got 25 winter Olympic medals.
 Although he refers to them using the antediluvian term, “stewardesses.” DUDE ?!?!?
I went to a career advancement program at work, where I was advised, “Dress for the job you *want,* not the job you *have.*”
“Great!” I thought.
The next day, they fired me for violating the dress code at the bank.
Hypocrites. How am I ever going to become a sumo wrestler now?
* * *
Department Of Mysteries Of The Mind Chapter 82 In An Ongoing Series.
Admittedly, it’s been years since I watched the film. I recall finding it an overrated snooze fest; also, the inclusion of an appalling ethnic stereotype character erased, for moiself, any possibility of enjoying the performance of the gamin-like ® Audrey Hepburn. 
And, yes indeedy-doo, I am aware of the pitfalls of employing the standards of today to judge the art of yesterday. But, holy fortune cookie on a chopstick! – the movie was release in 1961, not 1916, and it had Mickey Rooney playing Hepburn’s buck-toothed, nearsighted, Japanese landlord (“Mr. Yunioshi”).
Effin’ MICKEY ROONEY?
* * *
Department Of Classic Bits Of Advice That Are SooooooNot True
Such as the following, from a great English writer and social critic who wrote so movingly about the human condition, you think he’d know better.
Department Of Do You Think They’ll Even Care (Or Read It)? 
Dateline: last week, Thursday. After listening again, to a repeat episode of one of my regular/favorite “science info” podcasts, and being, annoyed, again, by the same thing that annoyed moiselfthe first (and second) time I heard it, I had to write to the podcast hosts.  Except that the podcast website provides no way to do that. Thus….
Dear Curiosity Daily Hosts Cody Gough and Ashley Hamer,
Regular listener of CD here. Love the science; loathe the hyperbole.
“…A massive new study says…that you are a totally different person in the morning than you are at night.”
No. And, no no no.
I am certain that’s not what the study (if it claims any relation to scientific validity) says. Remember, words impart meaning, which is why we argue over their usage.
A “Tweet analysis” study (geesh; really?), even a so-called massive one, did not discover a “total” change in personhood. Rather, it indicated that there could be a difference in some peoples’ moods, focuses, and vocabulary usage over the course of a day.
No earth-shattering discovery there. Altering interests and focuses over the day do not transform you into a “totally different person.”
If you were a *totally* different person, that would be something along the lines of, you woke up as a lonely 50-year-old male Ukrainian airline pilot obsessed with learning to play the didgeridoo, and went to bed as a gregarious 13-year-old female Guatemalan ballet dancer who’s planning to run for 8th grade class president.
Sincerely (if not totally) yours,
* * *
Department Of Memory Lane Sub-Department Of Not My Finest Moment of Being A Supportive Sibling
Recently I had cause to think back upon a childhood memory: the one big rebellion of my older sister (N). I shared it with daughter Belle…and now, with y’all.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…okay, in Santa Ana, CA. I was in the second grade, my sister, your Aunt “N,” was in grade 4.
One night, with our family at the kitchen table, N did something astonishing (for her): she cleaned *most* of her plate (she always ate everything on it), but refused to eat a certain portion of her dinner.
I can’t remember exactly what it was that she didn’t eat – a new vegetable, or side dish?  The thing was, N, the stereotypically good/obedient first child, refused to take a bite and try it. And that was sooo un-N-like, which is probably what irritated my parents the most. They decreed that N had to remain at the kitchen table; she had to stay seated until she sampled __ (whatever it was). She stayed at the table, but refused to take a bite.
I was fascinated by this. I remained sitting at my usual place beside her on the table, while Mom and Dad and my younger sister RA (this was before your uncle, RS, was born) cleared their plates and went to the living room to watch Gilligan’s Island, which just happened to be one of N’s favorite TV shows. The following conversation ensued (transcript approximate; not verbatim):
Moiself: “Gilligan’s Island is about to start.”
N: “I don’t care.”
Moiself: “Mom and Dad said you have to stay at the table until you finish eating.”
N: “Then I’ll sit here, all night.”
Moiself: “You’re really gonna sit there, all night?”
N: “I’m gonna sit here forever.”
Moiself: “Oh, okay.” (a pause of several seconds.) “Then, can I have your room?“
N: “Fine; I don’t care.”
I can’t remember all the details of the aftermath; indeed, N was still sitting at the kitchen table when my parents informed RA and I that it was our bedtime (earlier than usual, and I was pissed by that. I thought that they were going to argue with N or something and didn’t want us to see). I had to go to bed in my own room; in the morning, it was obvious N had gone to bed at some point and did not stay at the table all night.
Years later, when I asked N about the incident, she said she didn’t remember it, and Mom and Dad are both gone so I can’t ask them: Well, did she take a bite, or didn’t she? It certainly made an impression on me – N (not me, for once) getting in trouble and being willfully disobedient. What I also remember is how much power it gave N, even if only temporary. Her refusing to take even one measly, No Thank You Bite ® drove my parents nuts.
* * *
Department Of Faith-Based Lack-of-Initiative
“Portland mayor’s top adviser proposed massive, militarized group shelters as step in ending homeless camping….” ( The Oregonian, 2-11-22 )
Moiself recently saw the above headline about the latest proposal possibly being considered by Portland’s mayor – a proposal that likely will go nowhere/do nothing re the city’s ongoing homeless/street camping problem.
There is a seeming intractability to this multifaceted issue, where no one can agree on what to do without infringing on someone’s “rights.” Moiself leans toward the rights of taxpaying homeowners and renters to *not* have to live next to, and among, hazardous waste sites,  nor abide pollution and fires and destruction of wetlands, wildlife corridors and other protected wildlife habitats directly resulting from homeless encampments. 
I am not impressed with the assertion, made by well-meaning but ultimately misguided (IMO) folks, that a mentally ill and/or addicted/substance-abusing person has the “right” to wander the streets, muttering gibberish, panhandling ( which can devolve into threats and aggression, demand and extortion  ) eating from dumpsters, defecating on the streets, and dying of hypothermia.
And it got me to thinking…about all those churches. Specifically, all those church buildings and the real estate they own and (occasionally) occupy.
Some religious buildings are rather modest; others, particularly those belonging to the evangelical “mega” churches, are more like compounds which could house a small country. Speaking of housing – the majority of churches buildings, no matter their size, lie unused most of the time. Except for a few Sunday services and a couple of mid-week bible studies, youth group meeting or other gatherings, they basically serve as a social hall for their members.
Ariel photo of Pastor Joel Osteen’s $10.5 million dollar home, which is a 17,000 square foot compound on 1.86 acres.in River Oaks, a wealthy Houston suburb (Osteen also has another house, a $2.9 million mansion in Tanglewood, another Houston suburb). “The property boasts loads of unique and luxurious features which span across the large mansion, including 6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, 5 open wood fireplaces, 3 elevators, a 1 bedroom guest house, a pool, and a pool house.” ( Backstage: Joel Osteen’s house)
Criticizing the hypocrisy of the wealthy evangelical preachers is like shooting low-hanging fish in a fruit barrel. Preachers like Joel Osteen, known for peddling the Christianity “prosperity gospel” (translation: high on prosperity – for the leader/preacher, and low on gospel), is one of the wealthiest, and thus, lowest…uh, hanging.
But I’m holding all Christian churches, and Christians, responsible for the following observation of moiself:
If Christians took their faith seriously, there would be no homeless problem. 
(I’m not ragging on dealing with other religions right now, although regular/longtime readers of this blog know that I do not hesitate to do so. But the subject here is homelessness in the USA, where Christianity is the dominant religion among those who claim a religious affiliation. )
Christians, in particular those prone to a conservative, evangelizing theology, like to proclaim to non-Christians that, “Jesus/god loves you and has a plan for your life!” even as they conveniently ignore the plans that *their* god supposedly gave to believers in their own so-called holy book: 
“Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’ ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.’ ‘Which ones?’ he inquired. Jesus replied, ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” ( Matthew 19:15-21 )
“…For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ …Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matt: 25 42-45 )
Jesus could identify with the homeless in His itinerant ministry.
In Matthew 8:20, Jesus states that even animals have a place to call home, but He had nowhere to lay His head.
He stayed in the homes of whoever would welcome Him and sometimes outside.
God expects His people to help those who are homeless. The Law directly addressed care for those in need. In Leviticus 25:35 God commands His people to help support those who have no home and cannot support themselves: “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.” (see also Deuteronomy 15:7–11). The Lord rebuked those who kept the outward form of religion yet did not care for the poor: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen . . . to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6–7). (“What does the bible say about the homeless/homelessness.” Gotquestions.org )
Conservative/prosperity gospel practitioners of Christianity seem to take literally only a few scriptural injunctions which have to do with sex (i.e. those which they think don’t apply to themselves). But Jesus’ many admonitions to his followers re helping the poor and not amassing treasures on earth? Nah; those have nothing to do with them. Obviously, JC meant for his followers to take *those* commands figuratively, as in this amazing rationalization, which I’ve actually heard from more than one Christian (when I’ve questioned them re their obvious comfort with acquiring wealth while so many in their community are impoverished):
“What the Bible means is that we should tend to a person’s *spiritual* (not financial) poverty, since material possessions ultimately don’t matter.”
Cool story, bro. Just one problem:
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”
* * *
Punz/Jokez For The Day Hypocrisy Edition
My pastor told me that my generation can’t live without technology. I called him a hypocrite and unplugged his life support machine.
When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bike,
until I realized the Lord doesn’t work that way. So I stole one and asked him to forgive me instead.
My priest is such a hypocrite. He called my friend a hero for donating a kidney, but when I turned tried to donate ten, he called me a monster.
* * *
May the job you want be the one you’re dressing for; May you not rely upon iron age scriptures to discern and solve twenty-first century problems; May you watch a better, if lesser-known, Audrey Hepburn film  (than “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”); …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
Gaminis the word many movie critics seem to think one is required by law to use4 when commenting on Audrey Hepburn.
 Who are also the writers of many (but not all) of the show’s segments.
 Which hardly seems likely, as I can count on the fingers of less than one hand the times my mother added anything new to the standard rotation of dinners she cooked.
 RA and I shared a bedroom; I dreamed of having my own.
 When homeless encampments move and/or are relocated, the resulting cleanup, with the combination of human waste, drugs, needles and other drug paraphernalia, has been likened to dealing with EPA toxic sites.
 “…the environmental impacts of homeless encampments in parks and green spaces…include erosion, destruction of native vegetation, debris accumulation, water quality issues, habitat destruction, public health issues (including hypodermic needles and possibly E. coli fecal coliform bacterial contamination of the creek and its tributaries), and discouragement of public use of parks and green spaces. ” (Environmental Damage and Homeless Camps, Thornton Creek Alliance )
 Some street beggars set themselves in such a way as to block your passage unless you give them money, or essentially extort nearby businesses – e.g., setting themselves up by the entrance to a café, and letting the cafe staff know that they will be there, harassing and scaring away would be customers, unless they get a certain “contribution” (read: unless the café staff pays them what amounts to a toll).
Hard to imagine that, in this picture, my father was younger than I am now and I was younger than my daughter Belle is now
Gone from this earth; always present in our hearts and minds. Chester (“Chet the Jet”) Bryan Parnell died this evening, thirteen years ago.
Moiself was home from college for a Christmas visit. I remember how proud Chet was that he could still lift me in his arms (and that I would consent to him showing off by doing so).
* * *
Department Of One Solution To A Seemingly Unsolvable Problem?
“The rift between police and Black Americans can feel impossible to bridge. But in his work with police departments across the U.S., Yale psychologist Phillip Atiba Goff has found novel ways to address the problem.” (Hidden Brain website)
Okay; everybody drop what you’re doing right now – unless you’re doing something really important, like making me dinner. Whether you have ever (or never) had any encounters with police officers, or you y’all’s own self are a police officer, please listen to this podcast episode: Hidden Brain: Changing Behavior, Not Beliefs
HB host Shankar Vedantam: “I find it fascinating that you’re effectively addressing problems related to racial disparities in policing, without accusing police officers of being bigots. There’s very little finger-pointing in your work, right? “
Goff: “In my day to day when I’m talking with law enforcement, when I’m talking with communities, when I’m talking to my team, we talk about racism a *whole lot.* What we *don’t* talk about is whether or not you meant to (a cop acting in a way that promotes racial disparity), or are ‘a good person.’
We don’t talk about ‘character,’ almost ever. But everybody who can answer the question, ‘Would you like to kill fewer people – would you like to be engaged in less racial disparity?” with a ‘Yes, I would like to do that morally obvious thing,’ there are things that can be done. But we don’t have to talk about racism the way most people talk about racism, because the way most people talk about racism is what kind of person you are, and I have found that to be almost entirely irrelevant to making the problem get better.” 
Psychologist Goff says the key to changing policing disparity and lowering incidences of police using unnecessary force is focusing on the *behavior* of officers, not on their *character.* Whether or not a person holds entrenched/racist beliefs is subjective, difficult if not impossible to assess – how do we really know what is in a person’s mind?  – and ultimately impossible to screen for (truly racist applicants would learn how to “lie”, on both tests and in interviews, if they were determined to join the police force).
And whether or not an officer aspires to be a card-carrying Klansman or considers himself to be the reincarnation of Mr. Rogers is not the issue – his behavior is. And his behavior is directly influenced by his training, which colors his perceptions (even when the officer is a POC  ) of what kind of persons and situations are inherently dangerous.
Goff and others studying the situation point to the fact that it is the police officer’s behaviors, not indiscernible attitudes or “character,” which cause problems. Goff argues for DE-escalation, not defunding, for police. He calls for changing the training for officers and for those who deploy them, including recognizing situations where employing officers with badges and guns should only be a last resort and not a first response (i.e. most traffic infractions and mental health calls and neighborhood disputes).
We should all be so lucky as to de-escalate by partaking in a relaxing foot soak with Mr. Rogers.
The character of police officers involved in, for example, the shooting of an unarmed Black man, is impugned or assumed: “The officers must be racist! That may or may not be the case, but Goff argues that we should focus our attention on what we can measure and alter, rather than what the officer’s “character” might be, which we can only presume. We should look at the behavior involved, including:
* how officers are trained to react a certain situations
* knowledge of the fact that certain situations predispose the officers to respond more violently and/or fearfully: such as, the foot chase and high speed auto chases. And even – especially, as it turns out – the lowly, “routine” traffic stop.
“Thanks to police culture and training, many officers have been conditioned to believe — *wrongly* — that traffic stops are high-risk, the report explains. (Research has indicated that the chances of a police officer being killed during a traffic stop are actually less than 1 in 3.6 million.) The high-risk mindset leads to overreaction and hyper-violence against people who are not a threat.
‘All [officers have] heard are horror stories about what could happen,’ Sarah Mooney, assistant police chief in West Palm Beach, told the Times. ‘It is very difficult to try to train that out of somebody.’ ” ( “New Report Details How and Why Routine Traffic Stops Turn Deadly,” NYmag.com )
The first time moiself heard or read about the call to, “defund the police” I expressed my concern that the term was *extremely* poorly chosen. It is fear-inducing for many if not the majority of citizens, and likely to put police officers on the defensive and refuse to listen to rational calls for reform.
One acquaintance shared her opinion that “…it doesn’t actually matter (what phrase you use) because they (police departments) are going to disagree no matter what you call it.”
Maybe…? With a large, mmmmmmmm.
Second thought: No; it does matter what you call it. Because, words and phrases both carry and impart meaning – that’s the whole point of arguing about them.
And the meaning of “defund the police” is different from the desired outcome for police reform, which is not slashing essential police budgets, but reassigning and re-delegating certain tasks police have had to handle. These specific tasks are those which police officers and departments across the nation have complained about for decades – tasks that have been defaulted to police to handle, despite police lacking the training or mandate to handle them, e.g., the post deinstitutionalization mental health crises.
“When a person has a mental-health crisis in America, it is almost always law enforcement—not a therapist, social worker, or psychiatrist—who responds to the 911 call. But most officers aren’t adequately trained to deal with mental-health emergencies. And while laws intended to protect civil liberties make it exceedingly difficult to hospitalize people against their will, it is remarkably easy to arrest them.
As a result, policing and incarceration have effectively replaced emergency mental-health care, especially in low-income communities of color. In many jails, the percentage of people with mental illness has continued to go up even as the jail population has dropped. Today, nearly half the people in U.S. jails and more than a third of those in U.S. prisons have been diagnosed with a mental illness, compared to about a fifth in the general population.”
The mental health issue is arguable the most complex, with almost all sides involved in the discussion admitting that there is a huge problem, but offering no doable solutions…other than agreeing on the fact that the vast majority of mental-health related calls to emergency services should not involve or be handled by police. But there are several less complicated fixes to other issues that could make a big difference in racial disparities in policing. One of these fixes involves simply reducing the amount of unnecessary citizen-police encounters in non-life-threatening situations.
There’s no reason for badges-and-guns officers to be involved in citing minor traffic infractions, non-violent mental health crises “checks,” or policing petty neighborhood disputes, when community resources – e.g. trained mediators, mental health professionals, road cameras or even 1920s-style “traffic vigilantes” [see below] – could be used.
Some cities and police departments recognize this, and are advising their police officers to “no longer pursue drivers for low-level traffic infractions — including expired plates and broken headlights — unless related to an immediate safety threat.”  These recommendations are due in part to studies showing wide racial disparities in traffic stops, including one massive study cited by Kelsey Shoub, a professor of political science at the University of South Carolina, which analyzed data from twenty *million* traffic stops. The study’s data provided “…few big takeaways,” Professor Shoub said, “…and the first two are probably not surprising.”
“The first is that DWB (‘driving while black’) is very much a thing; it’s everywhere and it’s not just a North Carolina or a Southern problem but across the United States. ….The second thing is that it appears to be more systemic than a few ‘bad apple’ officers engaged in racial profiling.”
Significant findings from Shoub’s and her colleagues’ analysis of the study’s dataset include:
* Blacks were 63 percent more likely to be stopped even though, as a whole, they drive 16 percent less. Taking into account less time on the road, blacks were about 95 percent more likely to be stopped.
* Blacks were 115 percent more likely than whites to be searched in a traffic stop (5.05 percent for blacks, 2.35 percent for whites).
* Contraband was more likely to be found in searches of white drivers.
“So, black drivers were stopped disproportionately more than white drivers compared to the local population and were at least twice as likely to be searched, but they were slightly less likely to get a ticket,” Shoub says. “That correlates with the idea that black drivers were stopped on the pretext of having done something wrong, and when the officer doesn’t see in the car what he thought he might, he tells them to go on their way.”
(“Racial disparities revealed in massive traffic stop dataset.” U of SC post, 6-12-20 )
A driver speeding 100 mph through red light after red light? That person is a danger to everyone – go get him, asolutely. But having and guns-and-badges officers pull someone over for expired registration tags or for failing to properly signal a right-hand turn or exceeding the speed limit by 5 mph? Use capture camera footage or whatever – send them a ticket in the mail, but only escalate when absolutely necessary.
Although many people view traffic enforcement as a basic aspect of policing, this has not always been the case….
How traffic enforcement evolved over time
Traffic enforcement has been a responsibility of policing since the invention and wide use of automobiles and other vehicles. Cars were seen as dangerous, and originally, there were no rules or regulations governing their use. Outraged over accidents and other safety concerns, civilians demanded public safety support, despite law enforcement’s own lack of automobile use.
Traffic stops are now one of the most common acts of policing. Officers engaged in traffic enforcement have the discretion to decide whether to stop a driver based on a long list of potential violations, including not using a turn signal early enough, not using headlights on a cloudy day.… Officers have further discretion in how the stop is handled, including whether they will conduct a search of vehicle, issue a citation, arrest the driver, or let them go.
The deeply entrenched racial disparities in traffic enforcement and the continued killing of Black drivers show that regardless of intentions, the harms of traffic stops far outweigh any potential public safety benefits. Traffic stops result in neither increased trust in the police nor increased perceptions of safety among community members, and they often have the opposite effect.”
Yesterday I saw a police officer wearing a pilot’s uniform. I thought it was odd; then I realized he was one of those plane clothes cops.
There’s a mysterious crime spree going on at our local IKEA. The cops are having a hard time putting the pieces together.
Police officer: “I’m arresting you for downloading all of Wikipedia.” Suspect: “No, wait! I can explain everything!”
I got pulled over by a cop who asked me if I had a police record. I said, “No, but I’ve got a Sting CD.
What’s all this about Police brutality?
* * *
May you remember that what you call something matters; May you find another term for “defunding the police;” May you get out that old Police album – or picture of a departed loved one – and appreciate
how the gifts of the past can enrich the present; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 The first footnote is not actually a footnote. This does not bode well for the completion of my Ph.D.
 We may have legal standards for proof of “intent,” but such standards are legal – not scientific – constructions.
 “Racial bias isn’t necessarily about how a person views himself in terms of race, but how he views others in terms of race…. In the case of police, all cops are dealing with enormous cultural and systemic forces that build racial bias against minority groups. Even if a black cop doesn’t view himself as racist, the way policing is done in the US is racially skewed — by, for example, targeting high-crime neighborhoods that are predominantly black. These policing tactics can also create and accentuate personal, subconscious bias by increasing the likelihood that officers will relate blackness with criminality or danger — leading to what psychologists call “implicit bias” against black Americans. Combined, this means the system as a whole — as well as individual officers, even black ones — by and large act in ways that are deeply racially skewed and, potentially, racist. ( excerpts from ” How systemic racism entangles all police officers — even black cops,” Vox )
 “Portland police halt minor traffic stops, citing disparity.” Abc news.
Why do I keep hearing Chopin’s Funeral March (Piano Sonata No 2) playing in my head, when I even think of the events of one year ago?
Department of Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!
“The wheels of justice turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine.”
Or so the old saw says. Moiself can only hope the wheels will speed up when it comes to grinding the bones of the USA’s most recent, grievous traitor, whose name shall not sully this space, but which can be fittingly acronymed as Damn Turd Pol.
Speaking of acronyms for the names of treasonous snakes, Donald Be Cretin = Benedict Arnold.
Department Of It Was The Best Of Times; It Was The Worst Of Times
Well, *that* was a bit hyperbolic. Still, going through the file cabinets in my office – MH and I determined to whittle down the various stored documents from eight to four file drawers – proved to be more draining than I anticipated.
Dateline: Monday afternoon…which soon turned into Monday evening. Sorting through most of the files’ contents was surprisingly easy (decision-wise, when it came to what to keep and what to shred), if tedious. It turns out we really don’t need the receipt and owner’s manual for a big ass TV we had 20 years ago… and given our own experiences of going through our respective parents’ files, it is safe to assume we won’t have any interest in neither our offspring’s old report cards nor the seemingly 10,000 colored pen drawings they did of the same spaceship. 
But K’s early attempts at comics – definitely keepers.
It was also a somewhat educational experience. Or, rather re-educational. As in, re-learning the dangers of having too much storage space – yes, that’s a thing – which we did last year when we went through the attics.  If you’ve a big attic and lots of file cabinets, you can just throw stuff in there and say, I’ll deal with it later, instead of making the decision on the spot. What with online access to almost everything these days, we don’t need to hang onto back copies of utility bills or checking account statements or maps from our various travels, or copies of every veterinary visit summary, or even user’s manuals for appliances. With a few Important Financial Stuff ® exceptions,  most of what we kept are papers that have sentimental value.
We checked with our offspring; indeed, they’ve no interest in their K-12 report cards, projects, etc. But perusing the kid’s folders, from old artwork, letters, school files (special projects; grades; awards; certificates; teacher’s conference notes; school pix and other memorabilia) – ay yi yi.
This ominously labeled envelope contained a very young but determined Belle’s letter to MH and moiself, detailing the reasons why she should be allowed to have a pet tarantula.
Even the “fun stuff” was occasionally challenging to go through (read: emotionally sapping). More than one letter or other document triggered moiself into reliving times when one child or the other was being picked on (and in a couple of cases, outright bullied) and/or having a hard time socially. There were also a couple of hilarious-in-hindsight teacher evaluation reports, from our son K’s teachers, on K’s beneficial – and problematic– traits and tendencies, some of which MH and moiself still see today, in how K approaches and reacts to certain situations.
The reminders of our offspring’s’ social dilemmas  were the most heart-tugging. How did we all get through that? I found moiself wondering. And yet, we did.
On the plus side, moiself got to relive the pride I’d had in my daughter’s tenacity, intelligence, and gumption, when I came across a letter Belle wrote in the sixth grade, to her teacher. In the letter Belle stated her case on why she should be allowed to bring her cat to the class show-and-tell pets day. Tamping down her anger over the unfairness of a classmate’s (false, as it turned out) claims as to why Belle’s pet should be excluded, Belle managed to compose a calm, clear-eyed statement of the facts. Using kick-ass deductive reasoning skills any district attorney would be proud of, Belle listed objective evidence to show that Belle’s classmate Cruella  was not in fact deathly (nor even mildly) allergic to cats, as Cruella had claimed. 
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Department Of I Still Miss Siskel & Ebert
Movie theaters in Oregon began reopening on a limited basis in late April-early May 2021. Starting in May, moiself did my best to see a movie in a theater, at least once a week. The following is a chronological list of these movies. My favorites are starred.
Confession: the list includes three movies (marked with a zzz) which I did not watch all the way through. Translation: the movies I walked out of – not in disgust (that hasn’t happened in years), but in disappointment. To bastardize a book title of long ago, those are movies which I put in the category, *I’m Just Not That Into You.* Yep, moiself paid for the tickets, but my hours and even minutes are important, and if I’m disappointed and don’t feel like sitting through it to See If It Gets Better ®, I’m outta there.
Piggets my vote for picture of the year. Despite its WTF/why-is-this-in-here? “fight club” scene, I found the movie remarkable, and kept thinking about it days later. Will the critics remember to think of it, come awards time ( movies released early in the year always seem to be at a disadvantage)? Plus, all the recognizable Portland area settings – delightful.
House of Gucci was one of the zzzs. Given the subject matter, and the dynamic actors – Lady Gaga and Adam Driver could hold my attention reading electric can opener instructions – it should’ve been more interesting. But Jared Leto, playing whatever role he was playing (some Gucci brother)….eeeeeewwwww. I’m not sure whether to hold him or the director responsible for Leto’s channeling of so many cringeworthy Italian stereotypes.
* * *
Department Of Because, Why Not?
There is a yoga pose  for, and named after, just about anything. And, especially at the beginning of a new year, why wouldn’t you want to try “… a whimsical lateral bend that stretches and balances superficial and deep back muscles to simultaneously improve shoulder mobility and address one of the most common causes of lower back pain. “
Did you hear that a banana tried her first case as a district attorney? She won the conviction but slipped up on the appeal. 
Q. Why do plantains never slip when they walk down the stairs?
A. They hold on to the bananaister.
My husband asked for a pair of slippers for Christmas, so the kids and I tied banana peels around the soles of his feet.
Q. Where do bananas go to learn about religion?
A. Sundae school.
Q. What do you call a plantain who gets all the girls? A. A banana smoothie.
* * *
May you try to see a movie every week, in a theater; May you feel liberated by a files purge; May your heart be warmed by that which you find in the files
and decide to keep forever; …and may the hijinks ensue.
It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself will be hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard. 
Can you guess this week’s guest Partridge?
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Department Of Here We Go Again
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Department Of I’d Still Adore My Offspring Even If They Weren’t So Talented…
But on a consistent basis, they make it so easy, by doing things like this.
Dateline: several weeks ago. On our family chat sight, daughter Belle posted a picture of a limited edition, signed and numbered screen-print of an Igor Galanin painting (“Rabbit with Strawberries“) that she’d come across:
She coveted the print, and joked that, should we still be considering what to get her for Christmas, if we’d pool our assets, for a mere $1265 we could purchase that art for her.
Dateline#2: Christmas morning. Belle opened her present from her brother K. It was a painting he had done for her.
I told K if he loses interest in medical research he could have a career in art forgery.
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Department Of The Difference Between A Popular Yet Facile And Ultimately Misleading Maxim Masquerading As Insight, And A Pithy Two Words Encapsulating The Wisdom Of Accepting The Inevitability Of Uncertainty And Causality, And Thus Embracing Reality
“Everything happens for a reason.”
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Department Of Why I Sometimes Read A Local Small Town Newspaper Police Log
Saturday, Dec. 4 A caller reported they could hear “happy noises” coming from a nearby residence late night. Officers were unable to detect any noises in the area, happy or otherwise.
Sunday, Dec. 5 A caller reported a suspicious envelope with cryptic symbols had been left on their front porch. On arrival, and per the caller’s request, the officer opened the envelope and discovered a decorative card emblazoned with the phrase “Merry Christmas.”
While clearing a late-night call at a local hotel, a man approached officers to inquire as to whether he was wanted by Forest Grove police. It just so happened he was. He was arrested and lodged at the jail.
Thursday, Dec. 9 A caller reported a man known to have been arrested the previous day was knocking on their door in the middle of the night and sending unwanted text messages. The man left prior to police arrival, but not before leaving a box of shrimp at the caller’s door.
Sunday, Dec. 12 A caller reported a man, possibly under the influence, approached the caller and their spouse, while enthusiastically jumping up and down, advised that he was in a gang, then proceded on his merry way through their residential neighborhood. Officers were unable to find anyone hopping, skipping, or jumping in the area.
Thursday, Dec. 16 a caller reported a possible drunk driver at a fast-food drive thru late at night, advising the vehicle was moving erratically and nearly backing into the caller. Police located the driver neaarby and found they were not impaired or intoxicated, just having difficulty navigating the complex pattern of a drive-thru.
The following suggestion for a resolution is not one moiself needs to make. Faultless Flawed creature that I am, I’ve plenty to work on, and yet I dare suggest something for Other People – specifically, anyone who has ever used the term “no-kill shelter” with regard to animal rescue organizations.
I heard a Well-Meaning Person ® recently talking about why they supported a certain animal rescue organization, which they described as “no-kill,” thus differentiating it from those *other* shelters – read, the county Kill-a-Thon Animal Shelter.
Organizations described as “No-Kill” shelters are privately funded; shelters funded by taxpayer dollars, such as your local city/county shelters, get the (implied, and sometimes outright) label, “Kill shelters.” Moiself has logged years of service volunteering for both kinds of animal shelters, and have seen first-hand how the “no-kill/kill” statistics and labels are inflated and/or misleading.
We’ve all heard the stories (perhaps true in the past but often exaggerated in the present) about how some county shelters are overcrowded and that animals brought in, whether found on the streets or surrendered by owners, can be euthanized within 72 hours if they are not adopted out. Whereas a shelter that touts itself as “no-kill'” means its policy is to never euthanize a healthy animals for any reason, due to illness or behavior issues. Once they take in a cat or dog, it stays with them until it is adopted out.
Sounds great – noble even, right?
Except when reality creeps in; as in, the reality of how such organizations operate. Private shelters can and do screen the animals they accept. They often have a waiting list for admissions  and will not take in an animal with deadly or not easily treated illnesses and injuries, or animals with dangerous behavioral “issues.”
The government-funded shelters do not have that luxury. The veterinarians and vet techs and staff and volunteers of these shelters are just as dedicated as those of the private shelters, and, they have to take whatever comes their way. They will try try try and try again  to rehabilitate an aggressive, fearful dog, but if there is a credible chance that the dog will bite and would pose a danger to any prospective adoptive family, they will regretfully euthanize it. A dog who has bitten a human and/or killed other dogs or pets and is a repeat offender and has been removed from its home by a court order – guess where that dog ends up? Not in the private shelter. The stray dog or cat lying on the road, dying due to horrific injuries it received after being hit by a car – Animal Control services will take the poor creature to the county shelter, where it will be humanely euthanized.
All of those animals will be on the shelter’s “kill” statistics – the “no kill” shelter never had to deal with them in the first place. The private shelter will refer a desperately injured animal or an aggressive dog with a history of biting to the county shelter, knowing full well what will be the likely outcome…then later crow about their “no kill’ record.
For many decades there was no centralized coordination or analysis of public (or private) animal shelter care. That has changed, and Portland area shelters have been leaders in reducing the number of animals euthanized and increasing adoptions. Public animal shelters around the nation are adopting the strategies of Portland-Area shelters which formed a network in 2006 (Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland, ASAP) and later adopted the Asilomar Accords methods.  They’ve pledged to work in cooperation with other area shelters, sharing their data and working as a team to help out and, for example, transfer an animal to another shelter when one shelter is full. Withing two years of forming the network, The Oregonian reported that ASAP shelters had cut their euthanasia rate by 65 %, and the number of animals put down at Bonnie Hays Shelter plunged by 82 %.
Sometimes, a dog or cat will linger at one shelter for two weeks, getting no interest from prospective pet adopters, and all it takes is a change of venue – it goes from the Washington County Animal Services to the Clackamas County shelter and is adopted within the day.  I’ve seen it happen.
“If we can’t find a home for a cat or dog, we work very closely with a network of shelters and rescue groups in Oregon and southwest Washington that may be able to help. We have many placement partners that work with us to rehabilitate and find homes for dogs and cats. Unlike most animal shelters that take in stray animals, every healthy unclaimed animal that comes to our shelter finds an adoptive home. Most of the animals that have medical and behavioral problems also find loving homes through our adoption program or through our rescue partners. ” ( from the Bonnie L. Hays Animal Shelter Website )
Would you think of, or refer to, the dedicated staff and volunteers of that rescue organization as, “Those people who work at a ‘kill shelter’?” They deserve better.
* * *
Punz For The Day Pets Edition
Q. How did the engineers determine the dog was in a cat fight? A: By using a simple claws and effect analysis.
Q: What do you call a hamster you keep in your automobile? A. A Carpet
My cat won’t stop leering at passersby; I think he’s a purrvert.
My sled dog is not fat, he’s just a little husky.
My cat knows how to get anything she wants. She’s very purrsuasive.
A cat won first place at a dog show. Dog owners said it was a cathastrophy.
Lassie was having a sad day – you might say she was meloncollie.
I’ll jump in the well with little Timmy rather than listen to more of these.
* * *
May you find and read a nearby small town newspaper’s police log; May you support your local animal shelters; May we all have a safe and fun New Year’s Eve; …and may the hijinks ensue.
 Sometimes wasting their time and resources, in my opinion.
 Ten years ago a cross-section of animal welfare agencies created and shared a National Database to enable the measurement of progress in animal welfare and inspire life-saving collaboration between shelters. The Asilomar Accords created a database to collect basic shelter data, allow shelters to compare their data and enhance individual and collective efforts to modify and guide shelter actions and policies.
 I’ve seen it happen! That is such happy news to get, when you’re working in the shelter.
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.