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The Book I’m Not Recommending To Everyone

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What could be of the most help to you in a dangerous situation – pepper spray?  Martial arts proficiency? A concealed weapon permit?

Awareness is the most important aspect of self-defense.

How to recognize and harness our body’s intuition for danger – a sense we evolved to survive – is the subject of the book I am recommending to almost everybody.  Almost, because the book might be anxiety activating for people who’ve had recent experience with violent crimes.  Thus, my trigger warning.

 

 

But for the Almost Everybody Else, ®  I highly recommend the book moiself  finally got around to reading.

For years I’ve run across references and referrals to Gavin de Becker‘s The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence.  I’ve lost count of how many times various advice columnists, and journalists covering violent crimes, have recommended or cited it.  The book even got a mention in actor/comic/writer/producer Amy Poehler’s delightful 2014 memoir.  I can’t recall the exact context; I believe it had something to do with how when a woman answers a man’s question or request with “no” – in situations ranging from business negotiations to dating – the guy persists, as if she hadn’t answered him, and attempts to elicit the response he wants instead (read: he bullies and/or manipulates you):

“Gavin de Becker talks about this in his wonderful book The Gift Of Fear.
He talks about how the word ‘no’ should be the ‘end of discussion, not the beginning of a negotiation. ‘ ”
(Any Poehler, Yes Please )

 

 

Last week I read a letter from yet another advice seeker, writing to a columnist about a personal relationship problem, and asking something along the lines of, “I am very concerned…but am I overreacting?” Part of the advice the columnist gave was to trust your own instincts, and to learn how and why to do so, read The Gift of Fear.

No one in my life is threatening or gaslighting me; I haven’t been in a workplace shooting or walked into a 7-11 just as it is about to be robbed. However, I have been in dicey situations in the past, wherein trusting my gut reaction ( “something’s really wrong here” ) and paying attention kept me safe.  Statistically, as a human,   [1]   I am likely to encounter such situations again, be they personal (targeted and hassled by a stranger on public transit) or coincidental (walking into a mini-mart just as a robbery is about to take place).  So, I let this other person’s question be my own “trigger” for reading The Gift of Fear. And now,  I’m recommending it to *everybody.*   [2]  

 

 

Gavin de Becker is an American author and specialist in security issues and threat assessment.  He founded a private security firm and works as a consultant to everyone from governments, large corporations, public figures, and private individuals.  He was instrumental in developing the MOSAIC threat assessment systems, which evaluates threats in a variety of situations (e.g., threats in the workplace; threats by students against other students and/or school staff; threats against judges and other judicial officials; threats made to celebrities and public officials; stalking and domestic abuse).

The premise of GdB’s TGOF is that our (unfortunately, often discounted) intuition is a far better judge than our logical mind when it comes to recognizing and reacting to – and learning to anticipate and escape from as much as possible – dangerous situations.  Simply put, his aim is to teach you how to avoid people who will do you harm.

This intro is from the book’s blurb on Amazon (my emphasis):

True fear is a gift.
Unwarranted fear is a curse.
Learn how to tell the difference.

A date won’t take “no” for an answer. The new nanny gives a mother an uneasy feeling. A stranger in a deserted parking lot offers unsolicited help. The threat of violence surrounds us every day. But we can protect ourselves, by learning to trust—and act on—our gut instincts.

…this empowering book…shows you how to spot even subtle signs of danger—before it’s too late. Shattering the myth that most violent acts are unpredictable, de Becker…offers specific ways to protect yourself and those you love, including…how to act when approached by a stranger…when you should fear someone close to you…what to do if you are being stalked…how to uncover the source of anonymous threats or phone calls…and more. Learn to spot the danger signals others miss.

The world we live in can be dangerous, especially for women, whom, TGOF claims, evolved a higher sensitivity toward intuition – that is, picking up nonverbal cues –  than men. That skill was critical for our female homo sapiens ancestors to survive in a world where they were generally smaller and less muscular than men: they needed to quickly detect who around them was “safe” and who was a threat (to them, and to their children).

 

 

“It may be hard to accept its importance, because intuition is usually looked upon by us thoughtful Western beings with contempt.  It is often described as emotional, unreasonable, or inexplicable.  Husbands chide their wives about ‘feminine intuition’ and don’t take it seriously.  If intuition is used by a women to explain some choice she made or a concern she has, men roll their eyes and write it off…..
Americans worship logic, even when it’s wrong,
and deny intuition, even when it’s right….

Men, of course, have their own version of intuition –  not so light and inconsequential, they tell themselves, as that feminine stuff. Theirs is more viscerally named a ‘gut feeling,’ but it isn’t just a feeling. It (intuition; gut feeling) is a process more extraordinary and ultimately more logical in the natural order than the most fantastic computer calculation. It is our most complex cognitive process and at the same time the simplest.”
( TGOF Chapter 1: In The Presence of Danger )

“Intuition” or “a gut feeling” is your body’s and mind’s response to thousands of years evolution, of picking up on cues which alert you that something’s off.  GdB offers case studies of violent crimes, going through a step-by-step dissection of the situation with the survivors who said, regarding their feeling of impending doom, “I don’t know where it came from/it came from out of the blue.”  By asking specific questions, GdB helped them to see that their feeling of fear didn’t just come out of the blue; rather, their minds noticed an A-B-C-D list of aberrant or “off” behaviors, which their guts put together.

The Gift of Fear aims to teach you to listen to your instincts and heed them. Trust your gut; don’t suppress your intuition.  Don’t worry about hurting some stranger’s feelings or “being judgmental;” don’t endanger yourself to “be polite” – all of which are particular traps for women, who are socialized to “be nice” and “don’t make a fuss.”

Although many of the incidents recounted in TGOF are hair-raising, the book’s intent is not to scare you.  The message is:  Don’t be afraid; do be *aware.*

 

 

It’s not that GdB advises readers what clothing to wear or where not to go (although he cites taking common sense precautions, as in, should the businessman walking alone late at night through a dicey neighborhood known for strong arm robberies really be flashing his expensive Rolex?).  Rather, he presents ways where we can all learn to pay attention to the things we should be noticing, and offers strategies as to how we can choose to react.  His advice is not earth-shatteringly new, but it’s presented more succinctly and effectively than I recall seeing elsewhere.

So yeah, I really liked TGOF, even as moiself  recognizes the book’s knotty areas.

TGOF Problematical Issues:

* There is some dated material (including more than one mention of pay phones !?!).

* Some of his ideas may seem counter-intuitive and are likely controversial.  For example, he believes that not only do Protective [aka Restraining] Orders not help in most domestic violence/stalking situations, they are frequently the catalyst for escalating violence from the offender (GdB cites law enforcement data to back his opinion.)

* Much of the advice given is repetitive.  Seeing as how we’ve been trained to distrust or ignore our intuition, this is why (I think) he keeps repeating the salient points.

 

 

* A gender-related issue.  GdB is a strong ally for women – so much so that he has received some miffed feedback from men when he points out the prevalence of male violence.   [3]  Still, some of GdB’s advice re domestic violence situations might be taken as very subtle victim-blaming, even as he does acknowledge the reasons why a woman might not (be able to) choose to leave a violent home.

This is a judgement I moiself  struggle with. I am a strong believer in the wisdom behind the adage, “Fool me once; shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”  If I stay after a first violent encounter, am I not resigning myself to being the victim again?  GbD says as much.

However, he is also a long-time advocate for women, and in the partner-abuse cases he cites (the book is filled with case stories of and interviews with crime survivors), I truly believe his experience drives what could initially be seen as harsh – but is in fact is very good and even life-saving – advice.  He proceeds from the premise that all people, even abused women, are not just flotsam, and can be empowered:

“Though leaving is not an option that seems available to many battered women, I believe that the first time a woman is hit, she is a victim and the second time, she is a volunteer.
Invariably, after a television interview or speech in which I say this, I hear from people who feel I don’t understand the dynamic of battery, that I don’t understand the ‘syndrome.’ In fact, I have a deep and personal understanding of the syndrome,   [4]    but I never pass up an opportunity to make clear that staying is a choice.
Of those who argue that it isn’t, I ask: Is it a choice when a woman finally does leave, or is there some syndrome to explain leaving as if it too is involuntary? I believe it is critical for a women to view staying as a choice, for only then can leaving be viewed as a choice and an option.
( TGOF Chapter 10: Intimate Enemies [domestic violence].
GdB emphasis, my emphases )

 

 

Gdb also decries the disturbing scenarios we have about romance.  Our culture’s myths, literature, and stories told by TV shows and movies, have devolved into a formula (into a drug, I’d go so far to call it), which is marketed to both women and men as romantic. In this formula, a male’s aggressive behavior and stalking – so creepily and mistakenly labeled as “persistence” –  is rewarded and even celebrated:

“This Hollywood formula could be called Boy Wants Girl, Girl Doesn’t Want Boy, Boy Harasses Girl, Boy Gets Girl.

Many movies teach that if you just stay with it, even if you offend her, even if she says she wants nothing to do with you, even if you’ve treated her like trash (and sometimes because you’ve treated her like trash), you’ll get the girl…..

There’s a lesson in real-life stalking cases that young women can benefit from learning: persistence only proves persistence – it does not prove love.
The fact that a romantic pursuer is relentless doesn’t mean you are special – it means he is troubled.”

 ( TGOF Chapter 11: “I Was Trying to Let Him Down Easy” [Date stalking/violence] )

 

“This isn’t a movie; no means no.”

 

GdB tells many stories in TGOF, involving both institutions and individuals, wherein warning signs (re violence-prone people) were ignored, and tragedies followed.  Some of the stories can be hard to contemplate.  But, as the author emphasizes repeatedly, his aim is not to frighten, but to *enlighten.*  And he acknowledges that in almost all cases, from a manager ignoring signs that a worker was intent on shooting his officemates to an aggressive suitor who becomes a wife-beating husband,

“…the people involved….were doing the best they could with the tools they had at the time.  If they’d had the knowledge you (readers of the book) now have, I believe they’d have made different choices….
my observations are not about blame, but about education.”   [5]

 

 

*   *   *

Last Sunday eve, when I was just a few chapters into the book, son K joined MH and I for dinner.  I mentioned that moiself  was reading TGOF and could tell that I would likely be recommending it to all. We had interesting dinner table conversation centered around the most striking of what I consider to be the book’s problematic areas, which is:

* We (Americans) have a racially-directed fear response. How are we supposed to tell the difference between our systemic, racist social conditioning and our true, useful intuition?

Excuze-moi, but some truthfulness in narration is called for. We *could* have had an interesting conversation about those issues.  Ahem.  I began to relay GdB’s points about paying attention to fear and intuition, and in their zeal to point out something they’d both simultaneously thought of, MH and K interrupted me. They did not wait to see if moiself  was going to bring up the problem of instinct being mistaken for internalized racism (I was).  They also didn’t seem to notice that I had snapped at them (“Let me finish!”) before they astutely (in their minds) pointed out that problem with the gut-feeling-heeding.  It wasn’t exactly mansplaining;  it was…manterrupting?

 

 

Nevertheless….

What about the fact that our instincts and gut reactions might, in some cases, be based in prejudice and stereotypes?  What about the fact that police officers (of any background) often react to a gut feeling which tells them that a black man, no matter what he is doing ( just walking down the street or driving a car, FFS! ) is inherently more dangerous than a white man?

I told my menfolk that as I was reading the book moiself  too wondered about the gut feeling-racism issue.  Seeing as how I was just into the first few chapters, I was expecting GdB to address the issue later on.

Except that, he didn’t.

 

 

Study after study has shown that White Americans (both men and women) experience a gut fear response to the sight of Black men in certain situations. As a Criminal Justice major back in the day,  [6]  I encountered the statistics that African-American men commit more violent crime than White American men –  BUT – those statistics also showed that those same violent crimes are overwhelmingly directed at and experienced by other Black men, and that most violent crime is intra-, not inter-, racial.

I wasn’t sure if those statistics still held true.    [7]   Perhaps GdB can be excused for not addressing “race” on that basis: he was aware of the stats when he wrote the book, and since most violent acts are perpetrated by members of the same ethnic group as their victims, identifying a victim’s and/or perpetrator’s ethnicity was, in his mind, superfluous.

Or, perhaps I’m trying to rationalize GdB’s neglect of this issue and/or explain it to myself, other than to say that GdB himself just doesn’t know how to resolve the prejudice/instinct dilemma.  Regardless of why he didn’t do so, the two-ton, rainbow-colored, gender-inclusive elephant in the room is that most of us have a racially-motivated fear response. It would do us well to recognize that, when it comes to trusting our instincts. 

Having said that….in the heat of the moment, I’m likely to trust my instincts (this guy is giving off creepy vibes) regardless of skin color, and err on the side of offending someone/being called bigoted or other names.  Hey, better alive and insulted than dead but “woke.”  Still, it’s a crappy dilemma, a problem for which I’ve yet to read a good solution.  Someone much smarter and wiser than moiself  needs to figure out this shit.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Violent Crime Edition

Uh…maybe something totally unrelated is called for, to lighten this up.
Make that, Punz For The Day, Kitties and Pirates Edition

What’s a cat’s favorite color?
Purrple.

Why don’t pirates need to go on vacation?
They get all the arrr and arrr they need at work.

Why don’t felines do internet shopping?
They prefer catalogues.

What is a one-legged pirate’s favorite  restaurant?
IHOP.

 

Shiver me tim-purrs…and please don’t encourage her.

*   *   *

May you trust your gut feelings;
May you educate your mind and gut so that your instincts are trustworthy;
May you err on the side of keeping yourself from harm;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] And particularly, as a human *woman.*

[2] Keeping in mind your own capacity for being exposed to some frightening stories. And sorry for the crappy book jacket picture.

[3] Sorry, dudes, but the guy has the sad statistics on his side.

[4] de Becker survived a childhood which was filled with domestic abuse.  His unstable mother was abused by multiple husbands; she in turn threatened and abused her son, tried to shoot at least one of her abusive partners, and also turned the gun on her son.  GdB’s survival, due in part to the kind adults he credited with taking interest in and mentoring him, led to his interest in the field of recognizing threats and preventing violence.

[5] Chapter 9: “Occupational Hazards (Violence in the workplace).”

[6] A pre-law major who later decided against law school.  You’re welcome.

[7] I looked ’em up, and they do, as per the latest Department of Justice figures, compiled by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting and reported here.

The Binary Thoughts I’m Not Thinking

2 Comments

 

Department Of I’ve Told You Before, I Can’t Make This Up This Shit

“Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor under Donald Trump, claimed during an appearance on a conservative radio program that COVID vaccines were being added to salad dressing….
‘Somebody sent me a thing this morning where they’re talking about putting the vaccine in salad dressing…..’ said Flynn.
‘These people are seriously thinking about how to impose their will on us in our society and it has to stop,’ he added. “

( “Michael Flynn claims salad dressing is being infused with COVID vaccine,”
The National Post, 9-23-21 )

 

With the right vinaigrette, I could RULE THE WORLD !!

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Blast From The Past

Fortunately, I don’t need a really big time machine to go back only two years…

 

 

…to December 2019, when I first blogged about the yogic tradition of performing 108 sun salutations to mark the change of the season (solstices and equinoxes):

Department Of If My Hamstring Muscles Are Still Sore After 36 Hours,
Have I Reached Enlightenment?

Yoga Class:
“Why 108 Sun Salutations?”

Yoga Teacher:
“It’s an auspicious number in yoga; I know 108 sounds like a lot…”

Moiself:
“That’s because it is.”

Last Sunday (12/22/19), to celebrate the winter solstice, my yoga studio held an “Om-a-thon,” which is what Someone In Charge Of Marketing ®  called an hour and a half class consisting of 108 Sun Salutations.  A sun salutation, for you non-yogis, is a yoga exercise incorporating a sequence of nine or more linked asanas, or yoga poses/postures. The asanas are linked by the breath – inhaling and exhaling with each movement – and Sun Salutations involve moving from a standing position into Downward and Upward Dog poses and then back to the standing position, with many variations and modifications.

Why 108? It’s apparently an auspicious number (in the parts of the world where yoga originated), for many reasons.  Non-woo reasons include the fact that the distance between the Sun and Earth is roughly 108 times the Sun’s diameter and ditto for the ratio of the moon’s diameter and the distance between the moon and earth – scientific realities not likely surmised when the originators of yoga decided 108 was a magic special number.

There are plenty of woo reasons for venerating the number 108, and the teacher leading the class mentioned a few of them: there are 108 Upanishads (a series of Hindu treatises ca. 800–200 BCE); there are 108 beads in a mala (a meditation tool, an idea early Christian/Catholic missionaries stole “adapted”  from the Hinduism & Buddhism, and morphed into the Catholic rosary beads    [1]     ); there are nine planets and twelve astrological signs, and 9 x 12 = 108   [2]….

Oh, and most significantly of all, a Uno deck contains 108 cards. That’s gotta be a sign.

҉       ҉      ҉


That was then; this is now.  On Wednesday I celebrated the Autumnal Equinox by doing 108 Sun Salutations at home.  How does one keep count, inquiring minds want to know?  Moiself  has a glass bowl, containing 108 small, smooth glass beads, which I keep on the dining room table. Four times a year, when I’m doing the 108 Sun Salutations (Winter Solstice; Vernal Equinox; Summer Solstice/ Autumnal Equinox) I dump out the bowl in front of my yoga mat.  At the end of each sun salutation I move one bead into the bowl.

 

 

This year I decided to do 109 sun salutations, adding my avatar (visible in the above picture) to the bead count.  It just felt like the right thing to do, and if we’re going for auspicious numbers and all, 109 is a prime.    [3]

*   *   *

Department Of Is This Either/Or…On Or Off?

Dateline: Saturday 7 am-ish, walking along a totally deserted beach – deserted in terms of fellow bipeds.  There is a light rain falling, a welcome change after a previous night’s wind/raid downpour/power outage.  Leaving the house, moiself  noticed the wind had skejewed my yard sign, which I straightened up before heading down to the beach.

I mention the yard sign because the podcast I was listening to reminded me of the sign, in a way the podcast host and producers likely didn’t intend (nor would care about, I’d imagine).  Moiself,  however, found it a fun coincidence.

The podcast, No Stupid Questions (co-hosted by research psychologist Angela Duckworth [author of Grit]  and Stephen Dubner [co-author of the Freakonomics books and host of the Freakonomics podcast] ), is one I’ve mentioned several times in this space.  This episode of NSQ, “How Can You Escape Binary Thinking?”,  made me smile from the moment I heard the title.

 

 

Angela Duckworth:
“One of my life goals is to help people *not* binarize so much…. It turns out that for almost everything that psychologists study, including things that seem categorical, they really are continuous…and you do have to, at the end of the day, either allocate a therapist for this person or not, based on a diagnosis, but if we all *knew* that the underlying phenomena were continuous for *most* things, in psychology and maybe most things in life, that would be an advance.”

Stephen Dubner:
“Plainly, there is value in binary thinking. Literally, the fundamental building block of computing, as far as I understand it, is the bit, which is short for binary digit, which is either a zero or a one, and the reason that’s useful is that it makes it easier to do huge computation, which means you require less circuitry, less cooling, things can be smaller, things can be cheaper…

AD:
“It’s a massive data compression.”

SD:
“Yeah! So, it is a heuristic for computers, but I’d like to think maybe this is one way we could be better than computers, is not having to compress.  On the other hand, I am a fan of what I believe is called, generally, categorical thinking.  I just want more categories than two….

(excerpts from NSQ episode cited above)

Although I concede its utility in certain areas, I’m not a fan of binary thinking.    [4]   The yard sign I’d previously mentioned was a product of my distaste for that kind of thought.

 

 

An employee of the sign shop where I had my yard sign designed and printed asked me if I was critiquing “those other yard signs.”  I told him that my sign was 95% just for the fun of it…and, yeah, maybe, 5% satirizing “those others:”

 

One “The Others” variant

 

I agree with most of the sentiments expressed by the variants of Those Other Signs ® …but not all of them.  There are so many complexities and nuances to the positions alluded to in various versions of Those Other Signs ® I’ve seen.  In an ideal world, I’d hope that if my neighbors wanted to know my thoughts on certain issues, instead of having to read my lawn signage and extrapolate from there, they’d ask me, and we’d have a thoughtful and civil discussion about it.

 

Yep; happens all the time.

 

For example, as per illegal/undocumented immigration.  A line like, “No Human Is illegal” is a form of data compression.  No human is illegal – what does a particular person mean, when they say or write that?  Certainly, it is a pejorative to refer to a person as illegal – is that what they are objecting to – the un-charitableness of referring to a person as “an illegal?”  Also, and just as certainly, some people do things that are illegal, including violating the immigration laws of a country.  So, what is it that the no human is illegal line is conveying or signaling to others – your position on immigration, or your concern with word choice when referring to a person who is in a country unlawfully?

Binary thinking; data compression. I didn’t have the words for it when I was younger, but the first time moiself  ran across these terms I thought, *That’s* why I never felt at home a political party – the world is so much more complex than left and right.

Alas, binary thinking/data compression seems to be the norm for politics.  “You either agree with all of these things (insert your political checklist and/or party platform) or you’re not with us,” or, expressed in another way, “You must *disagree* with *everything* promoted by The Other Side ®, or you’re not with us.”

Zero or one; on or off. Data compression is great for computing, but can be disastrous for human relations. Very few people are completely ‘”on or off,” “this or that,” as per anything. To think otherwise is to opt for the safety of categorization versus risking seeing (and dealing with) complexity.

Lest y’all think I am perfectly consistent on avoiding the pitfalls of binary thinking…

 

 

…I recognize that moiself  has my own litmus tests when it comes to certain issues. I’ve had some interesting discussions with a few people who’ve called themselves feminists but who are also anti-reproductive choice – as in, not only do they say that they personally would not have an abortion under any circumstances, they would go further and deny the choice for others.   [5]   I have not decreed to them that an anti-choice feminist isn’t actually a feminist, as I am not the boss of that word.   [6]    I have presented my take on the matter:  people make decisions all the time, about matters trivial and momentous – decisions that I sometimes don’t like or vehemently oppose.  This is part of living in a pluralistic society.  But when it comes to this particular issue, I’ll go all binary on your ass:  you either support a person’s bodily autonomy, or you don’t. 

*   *   *

Department Of What I’m Listening To…
(Sub-department Of Not That You Care….)

This would be Lindsey Buckingham’s new, self-titled album.

I mistakenly watched a rerun of a recent Stephen Colbert show where Buckingham was the musical guest – the “mistakenly part was watching the show right before bedtime.  The energy of the song Buckingham played was so infectious and the melody/lyrics so catchy, I could not get to sleep after that.

The song (“On the Wrong Side“) seems to be a meditation on looking both backward and forward, with references to life in a touring band (Fleetwood Mac’s halcyon days, I assume) and living in the present, acknowledging the passage of time.  Not the lightest of subjects, yet the rumination is encased in an incredibly catchy pop rhythm and melody, with soaring and layered harmonies. ‘Tis a song that could easily be mistaken for a new Fleetwood Mac single. 

♫  Waitin’ for the night to come
Waitin’ for the moon to rise
Wondering just what have I done
That I never realized

Time is rolling down the road
Love goes riding in a hearse
We were young and now we’re old
Who can tell me which is worse  ♫

Buckingham’s solo work reveals just how much he brought to Fleetwood Mac, and how so much of the band’s sound   [7]  was due to his influence and contributions.

I dare you to listen to On the Wrong Side and then *not* walk around having the chorus stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

♫  I’m outta pity/I’m outta time
Another city/ another crime
I’m…
on the wrong side… ♫

 

 

 

*   *   *

Q & A Punz For The Day
Popular Music Edition

Name a rock group where none of the members sings or plays music.
Mt. Rushmore.

What kind of music do bunnies like?
Hip Hop.

Why did the hearing-impaired jazz musician bring a sweet potato to rehearsal?
He thought he’d been invited to a yam session.

How many guitarists does it take to play Stairway to Heaven?
Apparently, all of them.

 

Sorry about the bicycle wheel, but I couldn’t find any yams.

 

*   *   *

May you eschew most forms of binary thinking;  [8]

May you enjoy listening to at least one song from Lindsey Buckingham;

May you embrace your humanity by holding fast to at least one binary opinion;    [9]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Although the Catholics halved the number to 59 beads, in perhaps an effort to claim originality or refute charges of plagiarism.

[2] Except of course/again the originators of such superstitions did not know there were nine planets…and now we all know (though some of us refuse to accept the fact) that there are not nine planets, but eight.  And longtime readers of this blog can likely surmise what I think of astrology.

[3] A prime number is a whole number which is divisible only by itself and 1.

[4] Binary thinking (urban dictionary): “Denotes a system of thought that predominantly considers things in an “either, or”, “right, wrong”, “black, white” way, ignoring any subtleties or consideration of third or more alternatives.”

[5] As in, they support making abortion illegal, or at least highly restricting its availability.

[6] Yet.

[7] In that particular configuration during 1975 – 1987, when he and Stevie Nicks joined.  There have been many, many personnel configurations in the band’s fifty-plus year history.

[8] Except when it comes to black licorice: you either hate it (correct!) or love it (so very, very, wrong).

[9] Like, the one about black licorice.

The Virus I’m Not De-Worming

Comments Off on The Virus I’m Not De-Worming

Department Of A Boon For A Natural Selection

For a few glorious days, we could only hope that the reports were accurate.

Moiself  refers to reports surfacing which claimed that ivermectin –

a livestock de-worming, anti-parasite  veterinary drug, deemed by the brilliant minds of certain people who were too smart to waste time going to medical or veterinary school, to be an ideal treatment for the COVID-19 VIRUS (which is *not,* ahem, a parasite), to be taken by people, who are not livestock (except for the horses’ asses which thought up the idea in the first place and the sheep who followed them) –

can cause sterility in men.

 

“Yesssssssss!”

 

When I first heard the reports moiself  praised the gawds I don’t believe in, and immediately changed my opinion about people who would try such an unproven and dangerous “treatment.”  Instead of thinking that such people should be locked up for their own protection,   [1]   I decided to lobby to make ivermectin mandatory (and free!) for any man who wears a MAGA hat and/or refused to be vaccinated/wear a mask…and please, can there be a study showing that ivermectin produces infertility in women as well?

Some things are just too good to be true.  It turns out there are problems with the ivermectin-causes-sterility study being cited, as Forbes and other sources have reported.   C’est la vie; it was a nice fantasy, while it lasted. 

 

“There, there; I too was disappointed. It’s good to dream, Spock.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Podcasts I Mostly Admire…

Or used to.

Dateline: earlier this week, listening to the latest People I Mostly Admire podcast (Episode 44 ).  After the first twenty or so minutes of his interview with his guest, the podcast  takes a break.  During the break the show’s host, author and economist Steven Levitt,  had a letter from a listener read to him by the show’s producer, Morgan A. Levey.  This is the podcast’s typical format; the letters usually involve questions about recent podcast topics. This week’s questions led to….well, read on.

Morgan Levey (reading a letter from “Jordan,” to Steve; my emphases):
” ‘Steve, since you have quite a large family and are a thoughtful person, I want to get your opinion on the morality and ethics of having children in the face of climate change.’
It sounds like Jordan is thinking of starting a family, and he wants your opinion on having kids, since you have six of them.”

 

The host at home.

 

Steve Levitt:
“So Jordan, I do have six kids, and I have to say, in having those kids, I don’t think climate change ever crossed my mind.  Here’s the thing: there are 8 billion people on the planet, so if you add one more, it doesn’t really matter.  And, what I do, doesn’t affect anyone else’s behavior.  If my having a kid led hundreds of other people to have more kids, then it’s a different story.

To me, it’s a microcosm of the exact problem we face on climate change generally: no individual’s behavior actually matters very much, but collectively, we all have to act together.

When I think of climate change, I really look to other kinds of solutions, whether it’s technology to take carbon out of the air, or doing something at a larger scale….

So if it feels wrong to you to have kids, that’s totally your prerogative….  but at least for me I would not put climate change near the top of my list to have or not have children….

ML:
“So Jordan also wanted to know if you thought that your kids will struggle in the future with the result of climate change-induced issues, such as food security, pandemics, water shortages, if this is something you thought about and were worried about.”

 

 

SL:
“I’m not a climate scientist, and I don’t know the exact answer. It certainly is an impression people have that weather patterns are getting wilder, and it’s probably true. I also think there’s a bias toward people assuming that every time something extreme happens, that’s caused by climate change ….but my impression is that the really destructive impacts of climate change are much farther in the future.  That, at least for Americans, in the next fifty or a hundred years, there’s no reason to think that our quality of life is going to dramatically degrade.  As I sit here just pondering whether I think my kids will have a better or worse life than I had, I think probably better.  

Morgan, I don’t think Jordan is going to like my answer very much.
What do you think?”

I didn’t hear his producer’s retort until days later.  I had to stop listening.  My butt was frosted to hear Levitt’s casually dismissive statements about the effects of climate change – effects which are “probably true,” he admits, yet not enough to trouble him as he sits there “just pondering”  whatever it is he ponders (apparently, not the plight of other people), from the POV of his privileged, upper class, white American ass — pondering his ignorant defenses which excuse himself from any personal responsibility to act…or care.

How convenient for him, to convince himself that an individual’s behavior doesn’t matter much, and that what he does doesn’t affect anyone else.  Dude, your six children are watching you.  Even more than what you say, they watch what you do…and don’t do. 

Levitt admits the obvious – he’s no climate scientist – then ignores the facts climate scientists have been stating for some time, in favor of his flippant description of extreme weather events as an “impression people have“?  Holy cruising down the river of  De Nile.

 

 

 

But then, what should moiself  expect from someone with six children,  [2]  who doesn’t even include them in his statement of how what he does doesn’t affect anyone else.

Levitt is correct as to the need for global/larger solutions, but he is wrong about the individual’s impact, thinking it’s negligible because he’s one person out of 8 billion.  Eight billion people – how did we get here?   Holy compounding multiplication!  We got to that absurd number via one individual decision at a time. Multiply one person thinking having four to six biological children is fine times “only” one billion other individuals, and where will that get us?

 

 

As for Levitt’s comment about how his actions don’t influence people, how does he know that?  Whether or not he ever gets up on a podium and overtly decrees, “Everyone should have a large family, like me!” the fact of him having done just that that may cause others to think, “Oh, hmm…an educated and successful person does this, perhaps I can as well.”

Back to his producer’s response, to his question. At least she called him out about his cluelessness and privilege (however mildly, given the circumstances).

SL:
“Morgan, I don’t think Jordan is going to like my answer very much.
What do you think?”

ML:
“To be honest, Steve, *I* don’t like your answer very much.

I think what you said sounds a little  [3]  insensitive, considering the fact that that there’s already millions of climate refugees around the globe – people who’ve had to move because their home are unlivable.

We’ve just had the hottest month on record in human history, AND  extreme weather HAS been *undoubtedly* linked to climate change.  When I think about just ten years from now, *I*  worry about my own future, let alone if I have kids, what their future would be.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Beating Around the Bush…and Reagan…and Clinton….

” On May 12, 2015, potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush could not fully commit to an answer when asked if he would have voted to authorize the Iraq War in 2002, using the phrase “simple fact is, mistakes were made” on Sean Hannity’s radio show. He was lambasted by both liberals and conservatives for his answer.”

 

 

Remember the rightful disgust y’all have likely experienced over the years, whenever you heard the hideous passivity of, Mistakes were made.”   It’s the ultimate phrase of non-accountability, whether spouted by President Reagan re the Iran–Contra affair (the “arms-for hostages” debacle), or President Clinton as per a Democratic party fundraising scandal, or President G.W. Bush’s political advisor defending neocons re the Iraq War…as well as too many times before and after.

Mistakes were made.  By an unknown, but distressingly prevalent, almost mystical Mistake Maker ®,  apparently.

We’ve all been trained to use this passive voice; most of us don’t even know when we’re doing it.  But, think for a moment of the world it constructs.

 

 

I often get impatient when people nitpick language.  My fear: people often judge/dismiss and don’t really hear *what* someone is saying because they are too busy critiquing the  *how* someone is saying it.

Still, the writer in moiself  tries to never forget why word choice is important: it not only conveys, but shapes how we feel and think about issues.

Consider the different images that come to mind, when describing a disabled person’s mode of mobility:

“He rides (or uses) a wheelchair.”

“She is confined to a wheelchair.”

A wheelchair, for someone who has need of one, is actually a device of liberation.  Yet the second phrasing evokes images of shackling, and pity.

 

 

These subtle differences are why (as I’ve mentioned in this space, “The Speech I’m Not Policing” ) I think certain scholars and activists are correct in advising that we should retrain ourselves to use the term “enslaved” person, rather than “slave.”  The active voice is needed as a reminder, that people are not just born slaves, as they might be born a Swede or a redhead or with a certain eye color:

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for creating the 1619 project at The New York Times, which tracks the legacy of slavery.  In Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview with journalist Hannah-Jones, (which I referred to in a recent blog post as influencing my opinions about reparations for slavery), TG asked Hannah-Jones about why she uses the term “enslaved person” and not “slave” in her writing (my emphases):

“It was very important in the 1619 Project and whenever I write about this, to not use language that further dehumanizes people who every system and structure was designed to dehumanize.
I think when we hear the word “slave,” we think of slavery as being the essence of that person. But if you call someone an enslaved person, then it speaks to a condition. These people were not slaves. Someone chose to force them into the condition of slavery, and that language to me is very important, as is using the word “enslaver” over slave owner because these people didn’t have a moral right to own another human being, even though the society allowed it, and I think it needs to be active, that this was an active system of people choosing to treat other human beings as property.”

 

I recently saw the following on social media, and it was another click moment    [4]  for me.  I’m referring to it as The Real Problem:

 

 

Let’s resolve to use the active voice. To take responsibility – and to point the finger and accuse as well – when necessary.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Climate Edition

What do you call a weatherman who destroys dinosaurs?
A meteorologist.

It was a terrible summer for Humpty Dumpty, but he had a great fall.

People using umbrellas always seem to be under the weather.

What’s that Arabic country with loads of sheep and very wet weather?
Baaarain.

 

*   *   *

May we keep in mind The Real Problem and lose the passive voice;
May we never comfortably think that our individual actions don’t matter;
May we all anticipate having a great fall;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Whatever happened to just drinking bleach?  That wasn’t idiotic enough for them?

[2] I think two of them were adopted by Levittand his wife, from China.

[3] “And by ‘a little,’ Steve, I mean, absolutely fucking…”

[4] Click! In the 1970s that word signaled the moment when a woman awakened to the powerful ideas of contemporary feminism. Today “click” usually refers to a computer keystroke that connects women (and men) to powerful ideas on the Internet.  (Click! The Ongoing feminist revolution, cliohistory.org )

The Towel I’m Not Throwing In

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Department Of Throwing In The Towel

Sometimes it’s just easier to give them their own glass.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Profound Reflection After Being A Surgery Buddy  [1]

The inventor(s) of the twist-‘n-seal vomit bags should win the Nobel Prizes for Peace, and Medicine.  As well as any other awards the Swedes have lying around.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Speaking Of Things Related To Nausea
Sub-Department Of Let’s Get This Out Of The Way

 

 

I have been trying to avoid writing about the TexASS’s draconian anti-abortion law, because what hose TexASS politicians have done leaves moiself  almost speechless.

 

 

Can someone build a barf containment bag for the entire state of TexASS?

I know there are good people there; it’s a state which, once upon a time and despite its history of self-mythologizing and macho posturing, managed to produce a triumvirate of some of my favorite feminist raconteurs:

* Governor Ann Richards

* Author, political commentator, humorist and columnist Molly Ivins

*  Journalist Linda Ellerbee

But that was then and this is now.

Meanwhile, in the here and now, TexASS political leaders seem determined to secede from the 21st century.

Speaking of which, there is a history of secession movements in TexASS which extends beyond the Civil War to the present day, producing headlines such as

“Texas Republicans endorse legislation to allow vote on secession from US”
(The Guardian, 2-5-21)

…as well as a quote only a reality-oblivious politician could spew:

“You cannot prevent the people from having a voice.”
(Allen West, Texas Republican party chairman,
quoted in the above article)

 

“I’d like to buy a U”

 

The TexASS GOP chairman was speaking about the voice of TexASS citizens, as per their being allowed to vote for their state to secede from the USA and become an independent nation. Meanwhile, TexASS political leaders are hellbent on preventing people – female people – from having the final voice when it comes to managing their own bodies.

TexASS wants to secede?  Oh, honey, stop being such a tease.  Really; this is the stuff dreams are made of.  Fine; let ’em leave.

 

 

“Texas is ranked first in the U.S. in the variety and frequency of natural disasters.  Flooding, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, hailstorms sinkholes, drought, all occur in the state. Sometimes, even utilization of the state’s natural reserves of oil gas, and water can lead to subsidence and earthquakes.”
(“Natural And Man-Made Hazards In The State Of Texas,”
NASA’s NISAR Mission report: Reliable Observations for Hazard Mitigation )

As for that “independent nation” nonsense, it would be delicious to watch TexASS politicians come crawling, 10-gallon caps in hand, the next time they need emergency funds for the natural disasters which strike TexASS with mind-numbing regularity, along with the totally Texan-made disasters ( the most recent being the 2021 power grid failure) their infrastructurally-ignorant leaders refuse to recognize or address.

I’m sorry (former) Gov. Abbot, but can you drop the faux genteel drawl and enunciate clearly?
You see, For a moment, the rest of us thought we heard you request Federal Emergency funds – you remember, funds that come the federal government of the USA, the one y’all flipped off just before the door hit you in the ass as you left?

This way, dude. The line for Foreign Aid applications starts at the rear of the building, near the Voting Rights Act Memorial and gender-inclusive restroom.

 

 

I urge the rest of us to help any TexASS refugees that you can.  Then, do your research as to businesses that are based in that state.  From Exxon/Mobil to Southwest Airlines; from 7-11 to Dell trechnologies; from Frito-Lay to J.C. Penny to Gold’s Gym; from Pier I to Pizza Hut; from The Container Store to Zales Jewelers; from Nieman Marcus to Whole Foods (what ?!? Whole Foods?  Aw, shit)  [2] …. As much as possible, boycott all things from TexASS, from sports and arts and entertainment to goods and services. 

 

*   *   *

We now return you to our regular programming.

*   *   *

Department Of the Price of Reminiscence

Dateline: Monday afternoon.  MH decides to spend a portion of his Labor Day in doing a labor of love Periodic Household Task ® – going through stuff in the attic.  He comes upon a Star Trek Concordance, and finds, tucked into its pages, a list of episodes Someone ® has made. This list contains the names of certain TOS episodes, sorted into three categories.  The first category is faves; the second is stinkers.

“Do you know anything about this?” MH says, waving the list in my face. When I see the third category I realize that the list-making Someone ® must have been moiself …although I have no memory of compiling the list.

Category #3 is pesha.  ‘Tis a word which, mercifully, will mean nothing to y’all, nor to anyone outside of a certain circle of moiself’s  friends and college roommates.   [3]

Pesha is a dear friend’s family slang for, “wet fart.”   [4]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Earlier That Same Day…
Sub-Department Of Other Things I Thought Were Long Forgotten

MH and I are discussing son K’s recent surgery (alluded to in the earlier mention of moiself  being a surgery buddy), and how it involved moiself  doing quite a bit of blood-cleaning up afterwards (K’s post-surgical bleeding was not fully under control for a while).  Suffice to say, K’s kitchen floor got a thorough cleaning.

We take a break from household tasks and decide to go out for lunch. As we are gathering critical lunch-out accoutrements (two copies of the days’ NYTimes crossword puzzle) MH starts singing, “Blood on the Saddle,” a song from Disneyland’s Country Bear Jamboree show.  With a heh-heh-heh tone to his voice, he teases me about how that song had to be one of my favorites.  He refers to the fact that, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I had a seasonal job at Disneyland’s Hungry Bear Restaurant   [5]  (which was adjacent to the Country Bear Jamboree theater).  I worked there summers and vacation times, after high school and my first year in college; that song was one I thought (hoped?) I’d never have to hear again.

Minutes later, in the car: MH fiddles with his phone and connects it to his car’s audio system.  For reasons only the gods I don’t believe in can understand, the Spotify music service has the Country Bear Jamboree soundtrack.  And MH proceeds to torture entertain me by playing the original Blood on the Saddle, which contains the immortal lyrics,

♫  There was….

Blood on the saddle/and b-blood on the ground

And a great…big…p-p-puddle…

Of blood all around.  ♫

 

This is followed by another ear-mangling cacophony  favorite I had also, for a few blessed decades, completely forgotten about:  Mama Don’t Whup Little Buford.

C’mon, everybody – y’all know the words.

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Pandemic Lessons Learned

Dateline: Saturday afternoon. After enjoying lunch at a Pastaria with MH – NOT the aforementioned lunch outing, where my auditory sensibilities were assaulted by country bear “music” – we headed for a nearby movie theatre, to take in the latest Marvel Superhero flick.    [6]

My lunch of whole grain spaghetti aglio e olio (pasta with garlic and oil), plus a side of garlic lemon spinach, was a gustatory delight…which then haunted me during the movie.  For 2 ½ hours in a darkened theater, I received continual feedback via my mask.  Read: I was surrounded with – and sometimes felt as if moiself  would be suffocated by – my own robust garlic breath.

 

Only my ten rings of minty breath fresheners can save civilization from the deadly Dweller-in-Darkness’s dragon breath.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Italian Noodle Edition

The cook at our local Italian Restaurant has died.
I guess you could say he pastaway.

Noodles are part of my daily rotini.

What type of pasta do they serve at haunted houses?
Fettuccini afraido.

Why do Gen Xers take selfies when they’re eating spaghetti?
They want to record it for pastarity.

My friend sometimes pretends to be a lasagna noodle – she’s such an impasta.

The shy pasta chef was in a contemplative mood, so I offered him
a penne for his thoughts.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you urge your congressional representatives to support
the secession of TexASS;
May you accept the consequences of that which leads to garlic breath;
May you turn up the volume and sing along with,
“Mama Don’t Whup Little Buford,” imagining that Buford
represents Texas politicians;    [7]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] You know what a surgery buddy is, even if you haven’t heard that term (and you may have been one, or needed one).  You provide a ride to and from the hospital or day surgery center with someone who is undergoing a surgery/procedure and given medications that prohibit them from driving.  Surgery buddy duties may also include pharmacy and drugstore runs, meal prep and other TLC, overnight stays, making sure the patient does not do any online shopping while under the influence….

[2] I shop at Whole Foods…but not anymore. I contacted them with an “I regret to inform you” letter notifying them that I will not shop there until there is demonstrable evidence that they have lobbied Texas political leaders to rescind the anti-abortion legislation (oh yeah, and fix your state’s racist voter suppression while you’re at it).

[3] I’m talkin’ you, LMW.

[4] There was only one TOS episode which I deemed worthy of the pesha appellation: “Turnabout Intruder.”

[5] Which, as many a hangry, tired, overheated and cranky customer (always male) pointed out to me, was not in fact a restaurant (haruumpf!) but was yet another one of Disneyland’s fast food eateries.

[6]Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. ”  Like most Marvel/Superhero movies, it is in serious need of editing for length, IMHO, and, of course, by now there aren’t many surprises.  Some good characters; you just need to get in the mood for such summer movie froth and it is entertaining.

[7] I think this is this blog’s longest “May you…” ever.  Gee. Thanks for the opportunity, TexASS.

The Germline I’m Not Editing

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“There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.”
( Salvador Dali  )

 

The romantic notion that mental illness and creativity are linked is so prominent in the public consciousness that it is rarely challenged….. To be sure, research does show that many eminent creators – particularly in the arts – had harsh early life experiences (such as social rejection, parental loss, or physical disability) and mental and emotional instability. However, this does not mean that mental illness was a contributing factor to their eminence. There are many eminent people without mental illness or harsh early life experiences, and there is very little evidence suggesting that clinical, debilitating mental illness is conducive to productivity and innovation.
( “The Real Link Between Creativity and Mental Illness,”
Scientific American)

Carrie Fisher had quite the resume that few people outside of Hollywood know about.  In addition to being an actor, best-selling author, and screenwriter, Fisher was  “one of the most sought after script doctors in town.”  As a script doctor,   [1]   Fisher’s (mostly uncredited) work included Hook, Sister Act, Last Action Hero, Made in America, and The River Wild.

Fisher also was known for being candid  – and wickedly self-deprecating – about her struggle with bipolar disorder and substance abuse.  Was known.  Damn. I so hate having to write about the multi-talented Fisher in the past tense, but it her bipolar disorder – specifically, how she’d tried to self-treat it – which killed her.

She died at age 60 – way too young.  After losing consciousness on a plane flight and dying four days later in an ICU, her autopsy revealed heroin and other opiates and MDMA in her system, a revelation which surprised and frustrated and saddened her family and friends.  Although I share most of those emotions, it (the revelation of the drugs she’d taken) was no surprise to moiself .  She’d been open about how the various psychiatric medications she took for her bipolar disorder didn’t always work well or consistently.  As a young adult Fisher discovered, long before getting her bipolar disorder diagnosed, that whatever it was that made her brain do the things it did, LSD and other the hallucinogens her friends ingested had the opposite effect on her, and it was an effect she welcomed. Whereas her friends took those drugs to “trip,” she took them to feel “normal;” as in, they tamed the frenzied delusions which so tormented her when she was in the manic phase of her disorder.  She continued self-medicating for the rest of her life.  Fisher had the best professional/medical help her Hollywood paychecks could buy, and it wasn’t enough.

 

“If only George Lucas had let me script-doctor this hairdo.”

 

People who buy into the “tortured artist” stereotype would credit Fisher’s bipolar disorder for her creativity.  I heartily enjoyed Fisher’s works and her wicked wit – some of the lines in her various books made me spit out my gum    [2]  in guffawing admiration.  But, if there had been a definitive cure for her bipolar disorder – one pill/surgery/treatment/genetic tweak and it’s all under control! –  and I’d expressed the opinion that Fisher should keep suffering in order to make art, I hope that someone would’ve slapped me upside the head and shamed me for being a cultural vampire.

Moiself most firmly holds to the following:

Writers, musicians, artists and scientists and other “creatives” produce great things *in spite of,* not because of,
any afflictions they may have.

This topic is on my mind because of The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race.  It is the book I’m reading…as in, ahem, still reading.  I’ve mentioned this book previously in this space; the reason I’m still reading it after two months is that it’s chock full of scientific, historical, and medical discoveries and the resulting political and cultural and ethical adaptations and information such discoveriespawn, and…the predicaments.  Some chapters I have to chew on for days, even weeks – in particular, the one I just finished: Chapter 41: Thought Experiments.

This chapter deals with the ethical questions raised by the CRISPR gene editing technology developed by Doudna and other scientists, a technology (“genetic scissors”) which may lead us to both the greatest opportunities and most disturbing dilemmas of our times.  It doesn’t matter that, for the present, the overwhelming majority of scientists (and the public) have either signed or supported pledges not to use the genetic scissors for germline editing.   [3]  Once the technology exists, it will be used – as in the Chinese scientist’s creation of the first gene-edited babies[4]  Gene editing, like any other activity or profession, can and will be regulated, but for what, and how, and by whom?  And there will be a black market for the technology, and hackers using and, (depending on your POV) “misusing” the technology.

 

 

Chapter 41 offers up specific examples wherein gene editing could do good (e.g., treating ALS) before, as the author puts it, “our knees jerk and we stumble onto hard-and-fast pronouncements (somatic editing is fine but inheritable germline edits are bad; treatments are fine but enhancements are bad).”  In one segment of the chapter, “Psychological disorders,” the author postulates how and if people will decide, should the genes that contribute to a predisposition for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression be isolated, whether or not to allow (or even encourage) parents to make sure that these genes get edited out of their children:

“But even if we agree that we want to rid humanity of schizophrenia and similar disorders, we should consider whether there might be some cost to society, even to civilization. Vincent van Gogh had either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  So did the mathematician John Nash (and also Charles Manson and John Hinckley). People with bipolar disorder include Ernest Hemingway, Carrie Fisher …and hundreds of other artists and creators….

Would you cure your own child from being schizophrenic if you knew that, if you didn’t, he would become a Vincent Van Gogh and transform the world of art (don’t forget, Van Gogh committed suicide)….

A reduction in mood disorders would be seen as a benefit by most of the afflicted individuals, parents, and families…. But does the issue look different when asked from society’s vantage point? As we learn to treat mood disorders with drugs and eventually with genetic editing, will we have more happiness but fewer Hemingways?  Do we wish to live in a world in which there are no Van Gogh’s?”

Here are the chapter notes moiself  made, while reading this section of the book:

First of all, IMO the world would get along just fine with fewer Hemingways.

 

 

And about a world with  “no Van Goghs” – seriously? He is/was one of my favorites.  But if people like VG had never been born, or were born but without their mood disorders, we wouldn’t miss what works they never produced…or perhaps we’d all be enjoying the art and literature they *did* produce, during a lifetime of creative endeavors not cut short by suicide (Hemingway at age 61; Van Gogh at age 37!).

VG’s world and Hemingway’s world had to get along without them, and did.
BECAUSE THEY WERE SO MISERABLE THEY FUCKING KILLED THEMSELVES.

We don’t have and likely never will have a time machine to see the “what ifs” that might occur should a person be born, or not born, or have this trait or tendency or lack another.  We often casually throw around such “what ifs” for the thought experiment, but we should never forget how many of the “tortured artists” we label as such were literally tortured to death by their mental demons.  Van Gogh *killed himself.* Although that fact is presented parenthetically in the book, I think it should be front and center to any debate about these issues.  I think that only a person who has no experience with the suffering inflicted upon a  loved one with schizophrenia would even be able to play devil’s advocate and pose such a question, about “society” being richer for one man’s exquisite anguish.

More chapter notes from moiself:

And how could you sentence your child to that fate, knowing the suffering?  “Yes, she’ll have bouts of – if not live the majority of her life with –  dealing with horrific, debilitating delusions…but she may write some catchy songs/paint some cool pictures other people will enjoy….”


So, we would chose to have other people suffer as long as there is the possibility they will do something to entertain us?

 

 

“Of course we should use germline therapy to fix things like schizophrenia that nature got horribly wrong.”
( James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA’s double helix.
Watson’s son Rufus has schizophrenia.
Quoted in chapter 41 of The Code Breaker )

Whenever I hear/read a claim about how the physical suffering of, say, a person afflicted with Huntington’s Disease caused that person to become more empathetic, or that the mental suffering of schizophrenia allegedly produces creativity, I think of all the kind, creative, empathetic peoples I know who have somehow managed to develop and nurture those skills and abilities without having to suffer the brutalities of the loss of language, thinking and reasoning abilities, memory, coordination and movement (Huntington’s disease) or hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior (schizophrenia).

We praise Van Gogh’s art and rightly note his influence on generations of artists…but the man never made a dollar from the Starry Night posters you see on dorm room walls all over the world, nor one cent from his Almond Blossom painting being reproduced on reusable tote bags. In fact, he never made any money at all from his art.  [5]

Yes, it is a great (and necessary) “Thought Experiment,” to think of both the positives and negatives that can come from having – or getting rid of – certain mental and physical maladies.  And you can play that game in a myriad of ways. Those what-if they’d-never-existed? arguments are, to me, ultimately ridiculous.  You can’t think of it one way without postulating the other – think about how much more great art could have been produced by those who suffered from mental illness, including artists we never heard of because they killed themselves before their talent came to fruition.

Gene editing, in some form, is inevitable.  I won’t even deal with the trivialities of how the technology may one day be used, such as using it to make would-be basketball players taller, or to have more green-eyed redheads in the world.  For me, who has seen the anguish severe mood disorders inflict upon individuals and their families, I would take the opportunity to relieve future generations of that, if the “genetic scissors” approach could be shown to be safe and efficacious.

Relieve suffering, if you can.  Trust me, art will survive.

 

“Glad you like the posters and tote bags.  I’d rather live with bouts of happiness, if it’s all the same to you.”

 

“Vincent Van Gogh’s mutilation of his own ear, Kurt Cobain’s suicide, and Ernest Hemingway’s alcoholism are just a few of the anecdotes that fuel the popular belief that creativity goes hand-in-hand with mental illness…. a systematic review and meta-analysis of the research on mood disorders and creativity found no clear link between them. ‘You can have a mood disorder and be creative, but those things are in no way dependent on one another.’ “
( “No Clear Link Between Creativity and Mood Disorders,”
Association for Psychological Science

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Carrie Fisher Memorial Mental Health Edition

I hate being bipolar… It’s fantastic!

I met a bipolar fortune teller yesterday – she says she either feels very manic,
or quite depressed – never a happy medium.

Did you hear about the white bear who had a female mate *and* a boyfriend?
Apparently, he was bipolar.

 

 

*   *   *

May you never conflate great art with great suffering;
May you read at least one of Carrie Fisher’s books;
May you engage in your own thought experiments of which genes you would
(or would not) edit out of humanity;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] A script doctor is a (usually uncredited) writer called in, by a movie’s producer and/or director, to help fix or improve a movie, by polish or fleshing out a character, “punching up” jokes, dialogue, and other story elements.

[2] Yep, despite rumors to the contrary, I can read and chew gum at the same time.

[3] A process wherein the genome of an individual is edited in such a way that the change is heritable – germline editing affects all cells in an organism, including eggs and sperm;  thus, the changes will be passed on to future generations.  This is in contrast with somatic gene editing, which affects only certain cells of the patient being treated.

[4] After which the scientist, He Jiankui, who carried out his own experiments on human embryos to try to give them protection against HIV, was convicted of violating the Chinese government’s ban on such experiments.  For acting  “in the pursuit of personal fame and gain”, seriously disrupting “medical order” and crossing “the bottom line of ethics in scientific research and medical ethics,” He was sentenced to three years in prison and fined three million yuan (roughly $430,000 ).

[5] He made not one legitimate sale of his paintings.  His brother Theo bought one ( so VG could claim to have sold one and thus be a professional artist, which was the requirement to have his work shown at a certain gallery), but that doesn’t count. 

The Maze I’m Not Navigating

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Department Of Veracity For Sale
Sub-department Of The Suspect Authenticity of User Reviews

This was underneath a peel-off sticker on a product I recently purchased from Amazon:

 

 

Yeah. It’s not so much that they are trying to bribe me, but do they really think my integrity can be bought so cheaply. Considering what the product cost, a 50% refund means they think moiself  – any of their buyers – can be had for $6.99?    [1]

*   *   *

Department Of I Was Not Made For This World

As I was writing this post, I received an email notification from my blog host platform:

purplesheepsbladder@nunchucks.com  just started following you at https://theblogimnotwriting.com.
They will receive an email every time you publish a post. Congratulations. “

 

 

Moiself  has received these notifications one to five times per week, ever since the “birth” (or onset…although that sounds like symptoms of a disease) of my blog, some nine years ago.  So, to get the approximate number of followers of this blog…do the math, if you’re interested.  I, however, am not, so I won’t.

“In social media, a follow represents a user who chooses to see all of another user’s posts in their content feed. Getting users to follow their accounts is a primary objective for online businesses with a social media presence.”
( “What is ‘following’ and what does it mean on social media?” bigcommerce.com )

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,    [2]   I had a conversation with a friend (who also wrote a blog), which went something like this:

A Blogging Friend ® :    [3] “How many people follow your blog?” 

Moiself:
“Huh?”

ABF ® :
“Follow your blog – readers who subscribe to get an alert so that they can read it on a regular basis.”

Moiself:
“Yes, I know what it means. I was “Huh”-ing you because I don’t know how many people follow my blog.”

ABF ® :
“Well, you know you can find out by checking your blog post, the administrative page, under stats, and….”

Moiself:
“Yep, I know about that option. I just don’t care about the numbers;
so, what would be the point in knowing?
That’s not why I write it.”

ABF ® :
“But aren’t you curious?”

Moiself:
“About many things, but this?  Nope.  Although, *you* obviously are.”

ABF ® :
“No, really – don’t you want to know?”

Moiself:
“If I did, I would.
Okay: I assume my blog has fewer followers than someone who posts cat-fart videos on YouTube, and more than my dead grandmother
– oh yeah, who doesn’t even blog, so there’s that….
Besides, where I come from, knowing that people are ‘following’ me – that’s not a good thing.”

ABF ® :
” ?!?!?!?!? “

‘Tis a sad thing, to see an otherwise witty person not get the joke.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Hahaha – That’s Not Funny

Content Warning: Yes.

 

 

Moiself  showed this picture (from a social media post) to MH. We both found it mildly amusing, and also mildly annoying. The picture’s caption flaunts the inherent ageism that people posting pictures and memes are seemingly okey-dokey with.  We bantered about the fact that most people seem to have no problem making fun of the cognitive deficits that a minority of people experience as they age, thus reinforcing that stereotype of the Doddering Elderly.  Whereas, making fun of the cognitive deficits experienced by the majority people with certain, non-age-related, genetic conditions, life situations and/or circumstances is a big NO NO NO NO what’s wrong with you?

“What do you think would happen,” MH wondered aloud, “if, instead of making fun of ‘old people,’ the picture’s caption read, ‘Corn maze for retards’ “?

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Don’t listen to that doddering old goat – the following is, in fact, something quite similar.

Department Of If I Ran The World…
This Would Be The First “Ism” To Be Dealt With

Translation: dealt with = “cured.”  I’m talking about   [4]  the ism of ageism.

Synonyms & Antonyms of old (Entry 1 of 2)
being of advanced years and especially past middle age

Synonyms for old
aged, aging (or ageing), ancient, elderly, geriatric, long-lived, older, over-the-hill, senescent, senior, unyoung

Words Related to old
centenarian, nonagenarian, octogenarian, septuagenarian, sexagenarian, oldish
adult, grown-up, mature, middle-aged, pensioned, retired, superannuated, matriarchal, patriarchal, venerable, anile, decrepit, doddering, senile, spavined, tottery,  [5]   overage (also overaged)

Phrases Synonymous with old
long in the tooth, of a certain age
dating or surviving from the distant past

Synonyms for old
age-old, aged, ancient, antediluvian, antique, dateless, hoar, hoary, immemorial, venerable
( Merriam-Webster thesaurus, entries for “old” )

Dateline: Several months back; a gorgeous spring afternoon; sitting with friend CC on her back porch overlooking her and her hubby’s pastureland.  We are having one of our regular, COVID-distance-safe, takeout-Thai-lunch-and-chat sessions.  As we look out at the farmlands behind CC’s pasture  [6]   we chew the proverbial fat   [7]   about everything from family stories to political opinions.   As per the latter, we basically (and succinctly!) solve the problems of the world, as long-term friends are wont to do.

CC and moiself  spoke of our mutual pleasure at our reactions to the new Presidential administration – of how refreshing it is to (once again) have a national leadership team which is too busy trying to do good to have the time (or inclination) to snipe at critics on social media.

 

Joe and Kamala and cabinet – this hamster thumb’s up is for you!

 

We were pleased and surprised by what a fine job Joe Biden is doing, and surprised to realize the source of our surprise, which came from the fact that each of us had not wanted him, at first, to be the Democratic nominee.   It’s not that we thought Biden was unqualified or didn’t have good ideas – far from it!  It’s that we wanted him and the other members of his age group to hand things to the younger folks. His generation had done their share; it’s time to move on.

It was, simply and ultimately, about his age.  It was ageism.

And there we were, both pleased and embarrassed to see what he is doing.  He’s diving right in, being quiet and mostly not having press conferences because there are so damn many problems to fix and he’s in there doing it, working the system with the knowledge he’s acquired after years in Washington, with a sure and steady hand….  Being pleased about that is obvious; the embarrassment came from the fact that his commitment and passion for this job – fixing the country – might have been denied the country, if ageist biases, like the ones we both held, had prevailed.

And that led to our conversational “tour on ageism.” We spoke of our own issues and challenges with the physical aspects growing older (while acknowledging that the things we complain about are actually privileges denied to many   [8]  ). We’ve both become beyond frustrated with the way aging is portrayed in – well, in *everything,* from literature and film and media to medicine to product marketing.  This has always been especially true for women; however, men are starting to get more of it, too, when it comes to the detestable, “anti-aging” label which is attached (as if it “stopping aging” should be a desirable, attainable goal) to every sort of thing which can be merchandised, from clothing to vitamins to exercise equipment and regimens to, of course, cosmetic products and surgical procedures.

 

Allow me to introduce you to the ultimate anti-aging products.

The only sure-fire, anti-aging product is death.  Wrinkle cream, shrinkle cream – die now, at age 59, and you’ll never look like you’re 60! 

Reality smackdown:
No matter what your age, you are older today than you’ve ever been,

and are younger today than you will be tomorrow.

 

…just thinking about that.

 

“It’s not that aging is wrong, it’s just that people will judge you and treat you differently if you look old,” is the advice I have actually heard (translation: ” ‘Other people,’ but, uh, not me…the one who is telling you that your gray hair and wrinkles need erasing”). And, gawddammit, that is (at least partly) true…but it’s not going to change if these Judging People don’t have positive models of those who gracefully accept getting older sans product intervention.

The stop-aging/anti-aging product world has learned from criticism: recently, most of its advertising (that moiself  has seen) takes the proactive approach, emphasizing the “be the best that you can be/look the best you can, at any age!” messaging.  That’s a tiny step up from “Your naturally graying hair makes you look like a hag;” however, it still conveys the undercurrent message, which is that “looking your age,” which is whatever you look like at whatever age you are, is not a good thing.  Those wrinkles that you earned, the gray hair, all of the physical changes which are the natural, inevitable result of being alive – get rid of ’em!  You don’t want to look “old,” because in our culture equals incompetent, senile – and, and creepiest of all, in a way – ugly. Old equals ugly.

I’ve seen many movies (back in the movie theater, yay! ) this summer, and also, during the previews, several trailers for a M. Night Shayamalan movie, which I’ve decided to put on my fuck no no thanks list.  The movie is being marketed in the horror genre. Just the title alone is insulting – I mean of course, so descriptive.  As in, what could be more horrifying than…becoming this:

 

 

A Curiosity Daily podcast I’d recently listened to presented studies showing that younger people who saw themselves as advocates for equality are most likely to hold discriminatory views re older adults.  Yep, it turns out that those often involved in fighting, say, racism and sexism (and such people are in their twenties, thirties and even forties) are likely to discriminate against older folk because they view the oldsters through the lens of their own ageism – they think that people older than themselves are more likely to be racist and sexist.

 

 

“Social justice movements, such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, have done huge amounts to address racism and sexism in our society…. However — and this is a big however — people who are keenest to advocate for women and racial minorities harbour more prejudice against a group that reports almost as much US workplace discrimination as these two: older people….
Ageism is so condoned in American culture that many do not see it as an ‘-ism’, in the same manner of other forms of prejudice…
…people who scored higher on (egalitarian advocacy study tests) scale were more disapproving of racism and sexism but also more likely to endorse ‘Succession-based ageism’ — the idea that older people should step aside to improve younger people’s job opportunities…
… researchers found that the more that (study participants) endorsed egalitarian advocacy, the more money they wanted to go to women and racial minorities — and the less they wanted to go to older people. Questionnaire results showed that this was driven by a belief that older people block women and racial minorities from getting ahead….this research suggests that when it comes to egalitarianism, equality for all may only mean equality for some….”

( “Advocates Of Equality For All Are More Like To Show Prejudice Against Older Adults At Work,” The British Psychological Research Society Digest, 3-4-21 )

 

 

Oy, the futility of it all. Ageism, in moiself’s opinion, is the stupidest of the isms.  It should be the one discrimination which is in everyone’s self-interest to combat.  So, why don’t we?  It seems that everything else which divides us – country of origin, religious and worldviews, political affiliations, culture, gender, sexual orientation – cannot be fully reconciled, and I have heard people (well-meaning, sincere, actively-working-for-the good-for-all people ) despair that, ultimately, there is no commonality. But, there IS.

White and black; female and male; hateful redneck third generation Texan and hopeful Latino immigrant; blustery climate change denier and introverted renewable energy supporter; nattering homophobe and flaming drag queen – we all have one commonality: We will all be Old People ®  someday.

Only death will relieve or prevent you from joining The Senior Set ®, that denigrated demographic.  Thus, it is in everyone’s best interest to work to eliminate the stereotypes of old age.  One of the most effective ways to do that is to make sure that vibrant aging minds and bodies still have vibrant and ample opportunities to contribute to society.

 

 

If, as a young person, you do not see people decades older than you being ( or, being *allowed to be* )  active and engaged members of any and all professions; if all you see of “the elderly” is images of people being warehoused (whether in their own homes or in golf course-infested retirement communities); if you can’t joke about someone’s gender or ethnicity but sharing a meme about feeble-minded old dudes who can’t navigate a corn maze always gets a laugh – well then, of course, what will you think?

One of my solutions:  Unless it can be scientifically demonstrated that no one over age 65 can continue to be, for example, an airline pilot, get rid of age-related mandatory requirement.  *Do* require training and testing, not forced departure, for certain jobs at a certain ages.  It’s no secret that certain physical capabilities and mental facilities can decline in some (but not all) older people.  And there are ways to test for these deficits, ways that, unlike mandatory retirement regulations, do not discriminate.  A lot of the removal of people from physically and mentally taxing jobs is voluntary; for where it’s not, yearly/periodic training or retesting could help weed out those who are no longer performing at the proper capacity for their particular profession.

Consider The Notorious RBG, who even months before her death from pancreatic cancer – hell, who, even from the grave – could run intellectual circles around SCOTUS colleagues decades younger than herself.  ( Yeah, I’m talkin’ *you,* Brett “I like Beer” Kavanaugh and Amy Originalist Conehead Coney Barrett.) .

 

 

Two of my cousins (both now deceased) were firefighters in LA County.  Years ago, when there’d been some public consternation about firefighter recruiting and testing requirements, firefighter/EMT cousin TTB told me the following story: TTB’s captain had surprised his crew one afternoon by ordering the crew – all of whom were at least fifteen-year veteran firefighters – to take the physical abilities testing given to recruits.  The crew, like all firefighters, participated in regular training drills, but the captain without warning made them do the grueling physical test give to wannabe firefighters. Almost all of the veterans failed.   [9]  Yet, they were good at their jobs. Should they have been fired/dismissed on the spot?  Just the previous day, the crew had responded to a fire and a medical emergency, and had done everything that needed to be done, in each case.  Apparently, their lack of peak/youthful brute strength was more than compensated for by their years of experience.

Also, the strapping young man who easily passed the physical challenges tests at age 21 might not be able to do so again, even at the relatively young age of 32 (like my cousin; see footnote). But if the skills testing is not done across the board (i.e., is only given to people above a certain age), by virtue of his youth, he may be allowed to continue on the job for which, according to that test, he is no longer qualified…or, it just might be that his experience will outweigh the somewhat random application of a physical skills test.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Reverse Ageism Edition

Why do Generation Z-ers always type in lowercase?
Because they reject capitalism.

Why are today’s youth are so odd?
Because they can’t even.

Why does Santa Claus outright refuse to employ any Gen Y’ers to work as elves?
There are already too many snowflakes at the North Pole.

What do you call a bird that likes avocado toast?
The Millennial Falcon.

 

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

*   *   *

May you have fun getting lost in a corn maze, no matter your age;
May all of your product reviews be kickback-free;
May you, if you so desire, have people “following” (and not stalking) you;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Now, triple that and then we’re talkin.’

[2] Or maybe…like…six years?

[3] The friend was over a decade younger than moiself …which might be considered significant, given the topics which follow.

[4] Okay; actually, I’m writing it.  Picky, picky.

[5] Okay; these words are pejorative, but I really do like the sound of, “tottery.”

[6] Our conversation is punctuated by a neighbor farm’s loquacious bovine, whom I have nicknamed B4: Bill the Boisterous Bellowing Bull.

[7] Monosaturated, of course.

[8] We both have friends and family who have died “young”…how we wish they could have lived to complain their aching joints and wrinkled skin….

[9] Including my cousin, who had a pot belly the most calorie-seeking, nearing-hibernation-bear would have admired.

The Butt I’m Not Kicking

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Department Of You Want Me To Pay Extra So You Can Kick My What?

‘Tis a sheltered life I have led. Until now.

Dateline:  Monday, 4pm, in a local Regal Theater Cinema complex, seeing the movie “Free Guy,” in the “ButtKicker recliner seating” theater.  Although that cinema complex has had one theater designated ButtKicker for several years, moiself  had never seen a movie in the BK theater.  I’d always assumed that the BK label meant that it was a theater equipped with a particularly loud sound system…which I don’t care about.  The reason I chose that theater (and paid the extra ticket charge) was because it was my only choice, for the particular time slot I had that day, to see a movie.

It turns out that the BK experience was not just loud, but… juddering.   [1]  The ButtKicker Recliners ®  are not, as I initially thought, a Regal Theater marketing gimmick, as moiself  discovered when I got home and did a little web snooping.  It’s an actual Thing ®.  As in, a thing you can purchase and install for your own home movie theater.   [2]

“Get ready for the most fun you’ve ever had watching a movie at home. Feel all the action and excitement – just like being at a 4D special effects theater. ButtKicker® 4D brings family movie-time to life. Using patented technology, ButtKicker products connect to your couch or chairs and send the FEELING of special effects, explosions, rocket launches, racing engines, music and much more right through it and the viewers. It’s a new, immersive dimension in home entertainment.”
( “Bring Your Theater to the Next Level,” Buttkicker Home Theater )

Because, who *wouldn’t* want to send “…the FEELING of…rocket launches …right through it.”  As in, through your chairs or couch, and thus, your butt.

 

“Take *that,* you pretentious cinephile!”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Do These People Know How To Party, Or What?

Fun stuff this week in our household! Including:

*taking 14 year old Nova to her veterinary appointment, for a well-kitty exam plus getting her up-to-date on her rabies, Feline Leukemia and FVRCP vaccinations;

* a visit from the Varmint Control Guy, to do roof repairs to fix the damage a squirrel invasion ( previously histrionically kvetched written about in this space ) had done to our roof and eaves;

* MH’s first COVID-19 test…

*…which he had to do before starting the oh-so-circumspectly named Bowel Prep Kit

*… to clear the landing field, so to speak, in preparation for his routine colonoscopy, which was scheduled the day before his birthday.

 

Nova, leaping (sleaping?) for joy, knowing MH can go back to eating high fiber foods just in time for his birthday.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Post-Procedural Updates

Background info: MH has never been able to roll his rs, which is the main reason, he told me many years ago, that he took German as a foreign language in high school.  He’d thought Spanish would be more useful/practical, but he simply could not roll his rs as is required for the correct pronunciation of many Spanish words, and he was somewhat intimidated/embarrassed by his lack of being able to perform that particular linguistic feat.  And it’s true: over the years, I’ve tried to get him to do it (or trick him into it), and he simple cannot roll his rs.

Dateline: Thursday, 10:50 am. MH is back home after his colonoscopy.  He thinks he’s fine, but it’s obvious to moiself  that the effects of the Versed (the sedative used during the procedure) are still reigning.   [3]  He’s…goofy

He stands at the kitchen counter, looking at the color printout he was given at the hospital, which includes a map of the lower intestines. He begins reading off the “map sites” to me:

MH (in a voice much higher than his usual range):
“The ilium!
The cecum!
The rrrrrrrrrrrectum…”

Moiself:
What?!?!?!  Holy crap; did you hear yourself?!  You rolled your rs!

MH (in miffed toddler mode):
“No I didn’t.”

Moiself:
“Oh yes you did!”

He proceeds to say “rectum’ over and over, drawing out the r sound without rolling it.  But for one glorious, Versed-induced moment, them rs were rolling like a river.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My New Slogan

Which is…well, it’s not exactly a t-shirt or bumper stucker worthy maxim, or a…

 

 

Okay, its’:

Don’t Drop The H.

This random thought, brought to you by moiself , was sparked by my listening to a podcast in which the guest was consistently *not* pronouncing the first letter in certain words which began with h. For example, he spoke of doing experiments on umans instead of on humans.

Really, y’all: what’s with the dropping-the-h thing, moiself  has long wondered? It’s a perfectly respectable letter and I assume it’s there for a reason.

We’ve all either noticed this pronunciation peculiarity or are ourselves the perpetrators of it.  Although I have not studied this phenomenon scientifically, my anecdotal recollection is that “h-dropping” (and it is a thing –  it has its own Wikipedia page!), by those who do so, occurs most often when the word beginning with h is followed by the vowel, u.  Favorite example: I once heard someone complain that his date did not appreciate his “uge sense of umor.”

All right now, class:

 

I am a human being, not a uman being.
I cook with herbs, not erbs.
I live in a house, not in a ouse…

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of As Seen On TV As Mentioned Last Week:
Driverless Cars Ruminations

As in, moiself  ruminating on driverless cars, and not the other way around.   [4]

My Subaru Outback has Eyesight Driver Assist Technology ®,  which consists of a variety of features, including

* Pre-Collision Braking
* Pre-collision throttle management
* Lane keep assist and sway warning
* Rear/backup cameras
* Side view cameras (“blind spot” monitoring)
* Adaptive cruise control

Thus, in a (very) small way, moiself  has become at least marginally acquainted with the technologies which will be more fully employed in what we refer to as driverless cars and/or self-driving vehicles….  Although, the latter term seems somewhat problematic to moiself , as it makes me ruminate on the sentience of automotive vehicles…   [5] 

 

A car driving itself?  No problem. but nothing can replace driver initiative when it comes to bumper sticker adornment.

 

Yet again, I digress.

So, yeah: contemplating the technologies needed for driverless cars is neither foreign nor unimaginable to me, even though, as per my experience with what is state-of-the-market, some of these technologies have a way to go in terms of fine-tuning.  For example, my car’s brakes have automatically engaged – a tad too vigorously for my nervous system – when I’ve been backing into my driveway and my car’s sensor system thinks that the neighbor’s tree branches dangling harmlessly over the fence are a dangerous obstacle and my car must be brought to a complete stop RIGHT NOW.

Ah…but it’s looking out for me, how sweet.

 

“Who’s a good girl?!”

 

I haven’t seen any 2021 reports on the subject, but have read studies from the past couple of years which show that the majority of Americans fear the idea of riding in autonomous driving vehicles. It seems to moiself  that the more complete technology of “driver assist” sensors et al is bound to happen, and I am okay with, or as least accepting of, the inevitability of a driverless car future.  And, realizing that moiself  holds this attitude surprises moiself, as I am someone who has *never* used the cruise control feature of a vehicle I am driving.   [6]

It would be easier for me to fully accept driverless cars if everyone has them (for some reason, the idea of half the people on the road being in “driverless” cars and half doing it the old way…it creeps me out).

And I often wonder what will the greater “We” will accept, in terms of mistakes, from this particular technology?  Of course, there will be accidents involving and/or caused by autonomous driving cars.  I have a feeling most of them will be similar to the kinds we already have, from the minor fender benders, backing into a trash can…  Then again, some will be horrific and will involve loss of life: driving off of a cliff, running a stop sign and t-boning another vehicle….

Just like the kind of accidents we fully/allegedly sentient human drivers have been getting into, for over 100 years.

Another consideration:  a driverless vehicle will never have the excuse of

* driving drunk and blowing through a stop sign;

* passing out and running off the road and hitting and killing a child,
due to the driver experiencing a diabetic coma or other medical emergency;

* being distracted by kids bickering in the back seat;

* being Bubba Redneck, who purposefully tail-gates the car in front of him and causes the driver (whose Greenpeace sticker inexplicably irritates Bubba)
to become intimidated and lose control of his vehicle;

* falling asleep at the wheel;

* trying to compensate for a small penis impress the ladies and/or his homies by engaging in illegal street racing;

* running a red light while texting;

* simply overestimating its own ability to negotiate this turn/these streets under these conditions/at these speeds….

 

 

A prime example of the Dunning-Kruger effect is how drivers rate their own competence. It’s the human thing to do, apparently, to think that we are better driver than we are. Study after study shows that the overwhelming majority of American drivers rate themselves as cautious and safety-conscious and “above average” as drivers.  Yet, despite this…

“…there are approximately 10 million car crashes every year in the US alone.  That’s about 27,000 per day, or about 19 crashes every single minute of the day, every single day. Yikes. In these, about 35,000 people are killed every year.  That’s just under a hundred people a day, killed in car crashes.  Another 6,500 people are seriously injured in crashes each day.
So, if the overwhelming majority of road users are better than average, why are so many crashes still happening?
Part of the answer is likely due to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which is a cognitive theory which hypothesizes that incompetent people lack the self-awareness to identify their own incompetence.”
( Driving and the Dunning_Kruger Effect, moderndriver.org )

It’s easy to ignore the reality that we are, in so many ways, at the mercy of the skills of the other drivers around us…and that we tacitly accept that risk every time we back out of our driveway, whether we are embarking on a 1000-mile road trip or a half-mile errand to Home Depot. We may be doing fine; we may be alert and paying attention and obeying all the rules of the road…and along comes the naive and cocky, speeding teenage driver, or the “been-driving-for-60-years-and-never-had-an-accident” grandpa who confuses his car’s brake pedal with its accelerator, or the average Joe or Jane in his or her prime (read: you or me) who, for whatever reason, is momentarily distracted…and we’re lucky if all we get out of the encounter is a fender-bender.

The idea of being in a self-driving car, as a passenger, can fill me with dread, anticipating situations over which I have no control.  The idea of working my crossword or KenKen puzzle, then looking up and seeing my self-driving car veer off the road onto a sidewalk, or not decelerating for the pedestrian in the walkway – that gives me the willies.  However, I’ve already experienced that situation…or at least, I have a comparison.  And so do you.  Perhaps we just need to reframe our references?

We’ve all, already, had our driverless car situations, but didn’t frame them as such.  Sitting in a car’s front passenger or backseat (as in, we are a passenger in the car, and not the driver), we have had to watch as the driver does, or is about to do, something frightening or dangerous, and we are not at the controls and all we can do is white-knuckle our armrest and yell, “Look out!” or “Stop!”  Or, in the case of teaching your own teenaged offspring to drive, you hear yourself screech, “WHAT the fuck are you doing are you trying to kill us all?!?!?!”) calmly yet urgently advising, “You’re going to need to drastically slow down to negotiate this hairpin curve ahead….”

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Automotive Edition

I accidentally drove my Outback into the river. Now it’s a Scubaru.

Two French cheese trucks were in a head-on collision –
there’s da brie all over the road!

What do you get when dinosaurs crash their cars?
Tyrannosaurus wrecks.

My Norwegian cousin works as a prostitute.
You might say she’s a Fjord Escort.

Jimi Hendrix broke his guitar in a car crash.
Yep, the accident was a Fender-bender.

 

*   *   *

May you, at least once in your life, have a juddering cinematic experience;
May you come to terms with a “driverless” future;
May you always pronounce the damn h;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Which is a good word that deserves to be used more often than it is.

[2] Should you have a few thousand dollars you need to get rid of.

[3] I suggested he go upstairs and sit or lie down, as he was rather wobbly standing.  He wanted to go up the stairs by himself; I insisted he hold on to the handrail, which he did, while vaulting up the stairs two at a time.  When I snapped at him to slow down he said, “It feels better this way!”

[4] Who cares what driverless cars think about *me*?

[5] As in, do they know they exist?  If a car is self-driving, does it have a sense of “self”?

[6] For a variety of reasons, including reading studies that show that cruise control actually raises crash risks, and reading about several accidents caused when cars’ cruise control mechanism “stuck,” including this horrific one… and also, I think it keeps me more awake and engaged by having to keep my foot on the throttle, and brake.

The Drug Test I’m Not Failing

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As the Tokyo Olympics Games enter the final week, I’m realizing I will soon be going through the withdrawal I experience every two years, after watching two-plus weeks of (summer or winter) Olympics events.  I’m not normally a frequent televised-sporting-events fan, but moiself  does enjoy The Games ®.

As always, besides the events themselves, I find interest (and sometimes, petty and/or snarky entertainment) in “the human drama of athletic competition;”  that is, the stories behind the stories.  Does anyone else remember the ABC Wild World of Sports intro?

 

 

In the second week, with track and field events predominating, moiself  is thinking about a conversation I had with daughter Belle, several weeks back, about how the USA’s track star Sha’ Carri Richardson received a suspension for testing positive for marijuana, and thus would not be participating in the Olympics.

Belle was peeved that Richardson would not be able to compete, due to what Belle sees as an unfair and archaic drug testing system.  I mentioned that Richardson’s competitors might also be disappointed in Richardson’s absence from the games.  As I understand it, when you’re at the top level of your sport you want to compete against the best.  Also, whatever your accomplishments, you don’t want an asterisk next to them (as in, ” * ___ won the gold medal for the 100-meter race, but the favorite ____ was disqualified”).

We agreed that athletes should be tested for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs; definitely-absolutely-go-for-it.  But Belle and I had fun wondering back and forth about why athletes are tested for alcohol and marijuana.  Perhaps I don’t know enough about the subject, but it seems to moiself  that weed and booze, with their relaxant and depressive properties, would diminish, not enhance, athletic performance.  And really now: in what sports could marijuana be considered a performance enhancing drug? Competitive eating? Belle suggested.

You’d think athletes would *want* their rivals to get the munchies before competition: here comes Richardson, strolling across the finish line in last place, giving the other racers a, “What’s up with all the hurry?” look as she heads for the pizza roll vendor….

 

“I’d like to thank my coach, and my training partner, Maui Wowie.”

 

So, lobby to change the Olympics’ drug testing rules, if you think it would be worthwhile to do so.  Until then, it would be unfair to other athletes to make exceptions for some and not others, in terms of how existing drug rules are applied.  [1]

Also, the athletes know full well what they will be tested for.  My advice to them   [2]  is, don’t act surprised and/or disappointed if you used a banned substance and then get caught.  Take responsibility.  Don’t play dumb when you’re not.

*   *   *

Department Of Levar Burton, Please Reconsider And/Or Retract

We must believe in luck.
For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like?
( Jean Cocteau, French novelist and director)

The acknowledgment of luck, circumstance, and “accidents” in our lives (and in the universe) is one of the hallmarks of wisdom, maturity, and humility.  Sure, sometimes the cream rises to the top all by itself; sometimes, someone achieves fame and fortune not because they were the most talented writer/actor/scientist in the room, but because they were the *only* writer/actor/scientist in a room that needed their skills At That Very Moment…or they just happened to be in the right room at the right time, with the Right People to notice and promote them.

To some degree we can choose how we respond to luck, happenstance, and accidents, but we can neither totally nor consistently control nor predict these accidents (which is why such things are called…all together now…accidents).

On the first bumper sticker (or, maybe it was a chariot sticker) known to humankind, an ancient philosopher wrote a vulgar yet tersely wise summary of the existential acknowledgement of the fact that life is filled with unpredictable events: 

 

Yet, some folks just don’t seem to get this.

Dateline: Wednesday 6:50-ish a.m., warming up my on elliptical exercise machine while listening to comedian Tig Notaro’s “advice” podcast, Don’t Ask Tig.  Tig’s guest was producer-actor-writer Levar Burton, best known for his role as Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and for being host of the beloved PBS children’s series, Reading Rainbow

Moiself  has always enjoyed Burton’s work.  Thus, my WTF ?!?!?  indignation when he said something in the capacity of advice-giver on the podcast, something which made me want to dust off my old Asshat Of The Week award and bestow it upon him.

 

Asshat Of The Week.  Just waiting for the right recipient….

 

Burton and Notaro were responding to a letter from an advice-seeker when he flung this:

“I have had to learn over time that there are no accidents in the universe – that everything has purpose.”

 

 

The rest of Burton’s advice, about being mindful of one’s patterns and intentions, etc., would have been fine.  But he had to insert that boner of a bogus bromide.

“There are no accidents in the universe – everything has purpose.”

No, Mr. Burton, that is not what you have “learned* over time” – that is what you inexplicably *believe.*  Not only do you have no evidence for that belief, I would think that, looking around the world – excuse me, the UNIVERSE (using Geordi LaForge’s electromagnetic scanning VISOR, if necessary) – with a truly open mind, you would have to admit that there is quite the evidence to the contrary.

 

 

There are accidents, or random incidents, in the universe.  All. The. Time.  Call them what you will; there is happenstance/luck/circumstance.  The “purpose” of the series of tornadoes which struck Tennessee on March 2-3 2020 was not to kill the 25 people that they did; the tornadoes were accidents/incidents which occurred due to the particular combination of topography and weather patterns which spawn any tornado.

That execrable “There are no accidents in the universe” statement to the contrary, you’ve always seemed to moiself  to be intelligent, curious, and kind. Thoughtful person that you seem to be, have you neglected to take under consideration the logical conclusions of such there-are-no-accidents beliefs?

Dude: the denial of accident/chance/luck/circumstance is Blaming The Victim 101.

What about that woman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was attacked by a serial rapist? What purpose did it serve; what part did she play in it, or what lesson did she need to know – after all, if there truly are no accidents then everything happens “on purpose;” i.e., for a reason.

And the historical and ongoing oppression of people of color? You spoke briefly of experiencing racism in your life, but you also mentioned something indicating that you believe in “karma,” so then, there’s no accident there. You were born into an oppressed minority, through no choosing of your own…or….?  Did you, do you and other people who have experienced discrimination, somehow have something to do with it?  That’s what the philosophy of karma would say: that subconsciously or otherwise people choose their fates.  [3]   And since there are no accidents and everything has a purpose, what greater purpose (for those enslaved) did the enslavement of millions of people serve?

I’ve written about this before (most extensively, here) , and likely will again, as the “everything happens for a reason” horseshit philosophy is blithely held and repeated by too many otherwise non-rational well-meaning people.

 

Thank you for your attention. We now return to our regular programming.

 

*   *   *

Department Of a Memory Seemingly Apropos Of Nothing…

But it’s always *something,*   [4]  isn’t it?

Whatever the prompt (or whatever Levar Burton might say is its “purpose”), I am grateful to recall the incident.

Dateline: 7-24-2015. The memory is from the day when a friend and I made some hastily scrawled protest signs and did an impromptu picketing of the anti-choice protesters who themselves were picketing outside of Portland’s Lovejoy Surgicenter.

Our adventures were recounted more extensively by moiself  in this blog post; the specific remembrance I’m referring to was when my friend and I entered the clinic after the protestors had left, and chatted with a few members of the (all-female) clinic staff. This blurb still deserves the title I gave it six years ago:

Department of Possibly The Best Answer to a Question, Ever

We stayed until the Antis left, then entered the clinic. The Ladies of Lovejoy got quite the kick out of our signs and expressed their gratitude for our support. We chatted with them for several minutes, trading protester stories and shop talk.   [5]

As per the latter, one of the clinicians mentioned that the clinic had expanded services to include male healthcare, and that she “really enjoys” doing vasectomies.  I, of course, had to ask her why she found vasectomies so enjoyable.  After working with women’s health all day, she said,
“It’s a nice change of scenery.”

 

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day
Vasectomy Edition

What do a Christmas tree and a vasectomy have in common?
The balls are only ornamental.

What do you call an artist who had a vasectomy?
Seriously, does anyone know?  I’m drawing a blank here.

Is there much difference between a man who’s had a vasectomy and a man who hasn’t?
Yes, there’s a vas deference.

Most men can take having a sore arm or leg.
But a vasectomy? That’s a whole different ball game.

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you enjoy the human drama of athletic competition ®;
May you understand and accept the reality of luck and circumstance;
May you always appreciate a change of scenery;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Richardson claimed she used weed to cope with receiving the news of the unexpected death of her biological mother.  I that’s the case, I’m wondering why she didn’t alert officials before she was tested, along the lines of, “BTW, I used this substance for this reason,” to try to explain or at least warn them that she wasn’t trying to sneak anything past them.

[2] Which they clamor for, night and day…it gets soooooo annoying.

[3] The karmic premises of cause and effect: “each action  (as well as a person’s thoughts and words) a person takes will affect him or her at some time in the future,” and “like causes produce like effects”

[4] Even if you don’t recognize the trigger at the time.

[5] A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I worked in women’s reproductive health care, both in a public clinic setting (Planned  Parenthood) and in a private OB/GYN practice.

 

The Relationship Advice Book I’m Not Buying

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Department Of Inquiring Minds Want To Know   [1]

Commercial heard between podcast segments:

“At ____ (regional grocery store chain), we go out of our way to ensure
that all of our produce is fresher than fresh.”

The word fresh is repeated several times during the commercial; apparently, that is the produce standard for which the store strives – a standard which, if you believe the commercial, the store exceeds.

So: what exactly, is *fresher than fresh,* and how would I recognize it if moiself  saw it?

How can a thing be more than it claims to be?  If I am “happier than happy,” then maybe I’m something else…like, ecstatic, or elated. It seems like there should be a word above fresh, and that the advertisers should use it, instead of going for for the “-er” option.

Or, how’s about lowering expectations and going for humility instead:

“At ____ we guarantee our produce was delivered some time earlier this week, and none of it is slimy.”

If you, like moiself , find yourself thinking about such things, perhaps you have the proverbial Too Much Time on Your Hands ®…which gets me to wondering.  Why, when one is said to have Too Much Time, it accumulates on your hands, instead of on your feet, or your shoulders?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Graceful Segue

 

 

The podcast I was listening to, wherein I heard the “fresher-than-fresh” commercial, was the July 26 episode of Curiosity Daily, which began with the following teaser:

“Learn about the ‘Dog Days of Summer;’ why scientists did magic tricks for birds; and the smallest conceivable length of time.”

“…magic tricks for birds.” That phrase inspired such wonderful scenarios in moiself’s   mind, it almost seemed unnecessary to actually listen to the segment.

 

“Forget the top hat and the stupid wand! I’m telling ya, watch his sleeve, watch his hands!”

*   *   *

Best Definition Of A Construct, Ever   [2]

Culture is trying to please other people.

There’s a lot to unpack in a mere seven letters.

 

 

But, I can’t remember where I heard that…

Sotto voce:  Later that same day….

Oh, now I remember.  “Culture is trying to please other people.” I heard it on the most recent episode of Don’t Ask Tig.   [3]  It came from Tig’s guest, sociologist, author, and “Life Coach”   [4]   Martha Beck.  Beck likely knows more than your average bear about unpacking cultural expectations and people-pleasing: she was born into an influential Mormon family; she left the LDS church as an adult and accused her father (one of Mormonism’s most well-known  “apologists“) of sexual molestation; she chose to give birth to a handicapped child; she divorced her husband and came out as a lesbian.

Later in the podcast Beck made another interesting observation. It was a jest about her next book, inspired by the please-give-me-advice letter Tig read, sent in by a Quaker minister. The minister was dreading what we all (say we) have been hoping for: the return to “normal.”  Things had been well for the minister’s congregation during the COVID-mandated, Zoom-only gatherings; the minister was anxious about going back to in-person meetings. This was due to a dynamic the minister had realized about the congregation, a dynamic made even more clear during the year-plus of physical isolation:

“We really don’t like each other.”

On the subject of resuming “normal” post-pandemic social relationships, Beck noted that she and her partner joked that Beck’s next book should be titled,

How To Keep Your Loved Ones At Bay
Now That Covid Won’t Do It For You Anymore.

 

“I love Jesus, but y’all are flaming a-holes!”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Yet Another Smoooooooth Segue

Now that we have some of Life’s Most Profound Questions ®  out of the way (can produce be *too* fresh; what is culture; where on your body does Too Much Time rest),  we turn to mindless pursuit of intellectually void diversions the simple joys of watching an interesting sporting event. And when The Olympic Games are held, we’ve seemingly hundreds to choose from.   [5]

Depending on what floats your boat (and there are several boat-related events to choose from  [6] ), many of the sports might not be in your category of things you find “interesting” to watch.  Say you’ve don’t know (or even care) much about cycling.  Why not take this opportunity to expose yourself to something new?

 

 

Many sports can be fun to play, but are not inherently exciting enough to capture your attention if you are merely observing them. A good sports color commentator can give you enough background information (without making you feel like you’re in a lecture hall) to get you to appreciate facets of a sport you previously felt was fundamentally tedious.

(Except for golf.  There’s just no hope there, for moiself ).

 

“It even bores me, when I’m playing it.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Is Why I Watch The Olympics

To paraphrase (read: plagiarize) Lindsay Crouse’s recent article in the NY Times, I’m tired of being cynical about everything. I read every day about how the ship I’m on is sinking…and, certainly in both this blog and out of it, I’m one of the ones pointing out the gaping holes in the ship’s hull.  But, right now, I want to rearrange the lawn chairs in the Titanic’s deck and listen to the band.

Read Crouse’s This NY Times op-ed for a more nuanced explanation.

Or, consider this:

 

 

Dateline Monday, 7:30 PM-ish. Sport: swimming. Event: the women’s 100m breaststroke final.  In an upset that stunned everyone, including and especially the winner, the gold medal was won by 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby, from Alaska.  Yep, Alaska, a state with only one fifty meter pool in the entire state and, prior to this event, no Olympic gold medalists.  She beat out the two favorites, including a fellow American.

 

 

Just as glorious as the look of disbelieving delight on Jacoby’s face was when the telecast cut to an event “watch party” in Seward, Alaska, where the crowd went apeshit.   [7]

As per the Washington Post:

“Seventeen-year-old Lydia Jacoby won gold for a tiny town in Alaska, a state that has one Olympic-sized pool, while overwhelming favorite Lilly King claimed bronze. Please watch the intoxicating video of Alaska celebrating:”

*   *   *

Department Of A New Sport To Appreciate

Well, it’s not a new sport, particularly to me, who played it competitively in high school.  But I haven’t played it…well, since high school, and have never watched it played in the Olympics or in any other professional settings, by Serious Athletes ®.  Both MH and I are surprised at how much we enjoy watching the matches.

We’re talking badminton.

 

 

Really.  Mixed doubles, in particular.

We’re not talking the backyard piffle fest played with the $39.99 plastic racquets-birdies-net set you got on sale at Walmart.  Badminton, played by people who know what they’re doing, is incredibly fast-paced.  And I enjoyed watching the games, once I got past feeling flummoxed (and a wee bit humiliated) to realize that I couldn’t remember the rules.

Moiself was both laughing and marveling when I watched the service – for doubles teams, that is.  The singles players serve as I remember having served, way back when.  But in the doubles games we observed, the servers did this awkward backhand, almost inversion placement of their racquet, while grasping just the very edge of the shuttlecock, as if it were something icky they’d picked up off the carpet but they didn’t have gloves and there was no tissue to protect their fingers but they wanted the icky thing off the carpet RIGHT NOW – something like picking up an errant cat turd from the litter box.

 

“Ew, I touched it!”

 

All the doubles teams we saw served that way; I didn’t know if it was a rule or just a tradition/or strategy (and moiself  decided *not* to Google it, to preserve the “errant turd” imagery in my mind). The team receiving the serve were also entertaining in their own right, stretching out their racquets and/or hands in a warding-off-demons manner, or as if they were casting a spell.

Moiself  mentioned earlier having played badminton competitively in high school.  I must qualify that statement.  It’s hard to even think of the word “competitively” applied to my high school’s badminton teams, after watching the Olympic players.  Their skill level is so high, their reflexes so lightening-fast – my high school doubles partner and I would not be worthy to merely stand on the sidelines during the Olympians’ games, gazing at them in awe, and picking up loose feathers from their shuttlecocks…or birdies, as some people call the cone-shaped projectile used in the game of badminton.  Either term is fine; it’s fun to have an excuse to say (or write), “shuttlecocks.”

 

 

DLF was my high school doubles partner.  Senior year we were the #1 doubles team of our school, which meant that we played the #1 badminton doubles teams of other schools in our league, which was composed of three beach-city high schools (read: spoiled rich kids), a few other “normal” Orange County high schools, and Santa Ana High School, which was considered (by the other schools) to be inner city and gang-infested.  This was not (exactly) true. However, the reputation helped us during matches with other schools; thus, we did little to dispel it. It especially worked to our advantage in contact sports, such as field hockey.  But even in a non-contact sport like badminton we had the intimidation factor…until, a few minutes after meeting and observing us, the wealthier schools figured out they had nothing to fear (i.e., we did *not* have switchblades taped to our racquet handles) and their anxiety transformed into patronizing distain.

Watching Olympics badminton games has caused me to take a stroll down Memory Lane.  [8]   My badminton doubles partner, DLF, went on to have a career as a science writer.  She was and is a woman of many abilities, but during our senior year badminton partnership she exhibited a heretofore unknown (to moiself ) talent for mimicry.

On the afternoon we played the most obnoxious beach city team (for privacy’s sake I will call them Newport Harbor High, because, oh yeah, that’s who they were), DLF entertained me (read: tried to distract me from my evident disgust with The NHH rich brat antics) during breaks and timeouts – and all through the rest of the season, when we were playing other schools – by imitating the NHH doubles team we played.

DLF (fluttering her fingers over her mouth, while smiling obsequiously
and giggling, in a high-pitched voice):

“Oh my goodness golly gee, was that out?”

There we were, the SAHS low lifes [9]  in our white and red striped shirt and red shorts – the same “uniform” we had for every sport.  Our NHH rivals wore matching outfits: white shirts, bright skirts designed with patterns featuring their school’s colors, matching hair ribbons and barrettes (also in the school colors) festooning their (same length, same shade) blonde hair, and – for some reason, this is the accessory that drove me nuts – bandannas tied around their necks, the material of which matched their skirts. 

Thus, losing to those Barbie twins was humiliating enough on sartorial grounds, but also, and mostly, for *how* they played – particularly, the patronizing way they made their baseline and sideline calls.   [10]

Badminton Barbies:
“Oh, Gee – do you think that was out?”
(Exchange giggles; smile; giggle again and tug at hair ribbons)
“I don’t know, I think it was out…what do you think?”
(more giggles and racquet-twirling)

Moiself: (thinking, but not – usually [11]  – saying aloud):
“Of course it was out, you twit.
You were at the baseline, and I was aiming for your tits and you stepped aside.
FFS, use your big girl voice, call it out, and take the serve.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Olympic Sports Edition

The Olympic volleyball teams’ website is down.
I think they are having problems with their server.

Why was the fencing champion born in France, but raised in the U.S.,
able to play for both countries in the Olympics?
Because she has duel citizenship.

Is plate-throwing worthy of being an Olympic sport?
Discuss.

Did you hear about the naked toddler competing in the Olympics’ 100m dash?
He was running a little behind.

How does the Olympic torch, which is lit near Athens, manage to stay lit all the way to the opening ceremony?
Because it’s hard to put out a Greece fire.

The divorce rate is high among Olympics tennis players – love means nothing to them.

 

Enough! Even an Olympian has limits!

 

*   *   *

May you occasionally enjoy listening to the band while the boat sinks;
May you appreciate playing or watching a sport that uses shuttlecocks;
May all of your produce be fresher than slimy;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] It’s too early for a footnote.

[2] Or at least, in a long, long time.

[3] With perhaps the best description an “advice” podcast can have:  “Comedian Tig Notaro doesn’t have all the answers, but that won’t stop her from giving advice on your questions about life’s many challenges in this podcast.”

[4] Yeah, I know.

[5] Actually, the 2021 Summer Olympics have 33.

[6] Canoe/kayak flatwater and slalom; rowing; sailing)

[7] Or, the Alaskan equivalent.  Whaleshit?

[8] Which, is an actual street in Santa Ana.

[9] Actually, the SAHS school mascot/sports name was, so inappropriately, “The Saints.”

[10] The teams made their line calls, on the honor system.  Girls’ competitive athletic programs were minimally funded and there was no money (or staff) staff for referees.

[11] There were a few exceptions.

The Code I’m Not Breaking

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Department Of Good Reads

Checkout The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race, by Walter Isaacson.  Doudna is the American biochemist who, along with French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, received the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their ground-breaking development of a method for genome editing (CRISPR).

Author Isaacson frames Doudna’s story with a statement the author makes as a fact (which could be disputed) about what he calls the three great revolutions of modern times:

“The invention of CRISPR and the plague of COVID will hasten our transition to the third great revolution of modern times. These revolutions arose from the discovery, beginning just over a century ago, of the three fundamental kernels of our existence:  the atom, the bit, and the gene.”

 

Normal DNA: Moiself’s favorite DNA.

 

Revolution one, Isaacson posits, occurred in the first half of the 20th century. This was the atom-centered revolution, driven by physics and Einstein’ papers and theories, with the resulting developments of the atomic bomb, nuclear power, transistors and spaceships and laser and radar.

The second half of the 20th century gave us the information-based technology (the bit-centered revolution), based on the idea that all information could be encoded by binary digits…which led to the microchip, the computer, and the internet, the three of which combined to make “the digital revolution.”

The third revolution began in the late 20th century, and we are in the midst of it now:  the gene-centered, “life-science revolution,” wherein “…children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code.”

 

“My work was both physics-driven and hair-raising.”

 

I’m midway through the book, which is quite a good read, if I do say so moiself.   [1]   Despite the author’s layperson-friendly presentation I find I must take frequent “brain breaks” to process the information presented.   [2]  I enjoy the weaving of Doudna’s story with the history of the eccentric, brilliant, and creative – and also competitive, back-biting, and oft times greedy and uncooperative  and ungenerous (surprise!) – scientists working in the fields of gene and DNA research. Sadly/frustratingly, as when one delves into the history of any scientific field, these stories include how female scientists’ discoveries and contributions were hijacked and/or mis-credited (by and to male colleagues), as in the case of biochemist Rosalind Franklin’s work in X-ray crystallography..  Franklin’s extensive x-ray work,   [3]  which was initially used by fellow DNA researchers Francis Crick and James Watson without her permission (“photo 51“),  led to the understanding and deciphering of the DNA’s double helix-complementary base pair structure.  Crick and Watson and another (male) colleague of theirs were to receive the Noble Prize (“…re Franklin and the Nobel Prize she never won, even Watson begrudgingly says that she should have gotten it. ‘ “)   [4]

Yet again, I digress.

The author’s opening premise struck me as quite profound: the idea that three miniscule “units” (atom; bit; gene) led and are leading to colossal scientific and cultural changes.   Moiself  shared this with MH, who took issue (picked a nit?) with the idea that the “bit” is a discovery (isn’t it more of an invention?).  So, what thinketh y’all? Are those three an adequate encapsulation of the “revolutions” of the past century?  Would you add (or subtract) others?

 

“Class, discuss!”

*   *   *

Department Of Quote Of The Week

Sue Black, Scottish forensic scientist, anthropologist, and professor, is the honored source of this quote, as per her appearance on the most recent Clear + Vivid podcast. ( “Sue Black, Forensic Supersleuth ” ).

Podcast host Alan Alda asked Black about the process of interviewing people who want to donate their body to scientific research.  Black tries to speak with people who sign anatomical donation forms as part of her teaching empathy – as well as respect for such “a profound gift” –  to her anatomy and dissection students. What are some of reasons people have given, Alda asked?  A variety of reasons, as it turns out: from gratitude for scientific and medical advances that helped them or a loved one; or wanting to be part of a scientific/medical field but never able to do so, and this is their way of taking part….etcetera.  Then Black shared one of her favorite stories.

“I had the most *gorgeous* lady who came into my office one afternoon. She must have been in her seventies and she was literally dressed to the nines – she had the makeup and she had the jewelry, and I said to her, ‘Why would you want to donate your body?’ and she looked at me and she said,

‘Quite frankly, young woman, *this* is just too good to burn!’ “

 

“Too good to burn, you bet your ass.”

 

In the end of the C+V podcasts, host Alda asks his guests “Seven Quick Questions” that have some connection with communication.  Black said, in response to the question, “What’s the strangest question anyone has ever asked you?” that the strange questions she gets are usually in regard to what she wants to do regarding her own death.  Black said that because of what she does she has no fear of death; she attributed that attitude in part to the fact that her grandmother taught her that “death is your friend that walks along side you all of your life,” and so “…you’d better get to know her and make a friend of her because she’s not going away and eventually is going to be there at the end.” Black told her family that she wants her body to be donated to the anatomy department to be dissected, and wants her bone to be retained,

“…and if they could string my skeleton up, then I could be an articulated skeleton, in my dissection room, teaching for the rest of my death.
I have no intention of ever stopping working, and death is not going to get in the way of that.”

Three days later I am still marveling at that. Especially as we age, we are so often asked what we intend to do “with the rest of your life.”  What a beautiful and unique viewpoint, to think of what you’ll be doing for the rest of your death.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Geneticists’ Edition

A mad scientist drugged, kidnapped, and experimented on me,
replacing my arms with a Grizzly’s paws.
If I see him again I’ll tear him apart with my bear hands.

Geneticist:  “We have your test results; I’m afraid your DNA is backwards.”
Me: “And?”

Advertisers should use pictures of the 23rd chromosome pair in their commercials.
Because, you know, sex cells.

 

 

*   *   *

May you forever be “too good to burn;”
May you marvel at the atom-bit-gene revolutions;
May you ponder what to do with the rest of your life…and death;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] And I just did.

[2] And keep all the names straight, from the scientists to the names of the organisms and processes they study.

[3] which likely contributed to the cancer which killed her at age 37

[4] Lynne Osman Elkin, professor of biological sciences at California State University, as quoted in the Nova program: Secret of Photo 51.

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