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The Natural Beauty I’m Not Protecting

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“I hope you’ll display it as a reminder of the natural beauty you’re protecting.”
(Note on a card sent,  along with a paper Christmas ornament, by The Nature Conservancy, in a three page won’t you contribute? solicitation.)

MH and I give a lot of thought to which charities we support. We donate to organizations we deem effective, whether on a local or global scale, in supporting our “favorite” causes. Over the years we’ve added some causes/organizations and deleted others, the latter action usually taken due to what we see as a misuse of our donations. For example, if we received waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many requests for additional contributions, including being dunned for “annual” dues/membership fees starting at seven months before the end of when our membership expires year, it’s buh-bye to that one.

One such charity was Nature Conservancy. We supported them for years, and then we didn’t. They do some really, really good work – who isn’t for preservation of natural lands and restoration of habitat for endangered species? – but the constant appeals for more, accompanied by trinkets we neither wanted nor asked for, including their latest we’d love to have you rejoin appeal, [1] remind me of why I decided our conservation $$ would be better spent elsewhere.

 

 

 

ornament

 

An unsolicited holiday ornament wrapped in plastic, made in China. Now, there’s some mighty fine stewardship of the earth’s resources.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Every Cart Tells A Story

My computer calendar gave me a pop-up reminder: time to change out the emergency water supply in the garage. [2]  Two days later I was standing in the unusually long line at the store,  [3] bored outta my gourd, checking out the items in other people’s shopping carts. I began a game I’ve played for years: concocting a story about strangers, my fellow shoppers.  Their age, jobs, educational and marital status, state and/or country of origin, likes and dislikes – even their political opinions – I make up a profile of them, based on what they have in their shopping carts.

Before long I considered the thirteen items in my own cart – twelve water jugs and a stick of antiperspirant – and wondered what would my story be, to someone playing a similar game?  [4]

This middle-aged, sweaty white woman is very, very thirsty.

 

 

 

cart

*   *   *

Department Of Things That Give Me Hope Re The Resilience Of The Human Spirit

The good folks who gave us that most refined parlor game, Cards Against Humanity, have now given us yet another reason to go on living: they dug a really, really big hole, into which money was thrown. Check it out at https://www.holidayhole.com/

 

*   *   *

Department Of Shoot Me Now And Get It Over With

Forget water boarding – if you ever want to see me with my spirit totally broken,  [5] force me to sit through a Singing Christmas Tree ® performance.

And yes, I have been to such a thing. Twice, when I was young. Whenever I had to picture the concept of hell (a concept adults seemed to believe in, or at least find useful, but which I thought was rubbish), I flashed back to those horrifically perky, Lawrence-Welk-on-Quaaludes-and-acid, holiday “concerts.”

 

singing-tree

*   *   *

Department Of And Then There’s That

Hoping for the best the best doesn’t exclude ignoring reality.

Specifically, I refer to my pondering (read: dreading) what will happen after January 20, 2017. Many Democrats and select Republican non-trolls have been making noises re working together with a PuJu [6] administration on what might be considered nonpartisan, everybody-wants-this-done issues.

Now, I’ll be one of the first to commend the actions of everyone involved in finding ways to, say, fix our crumbling bridges/update our infrastructure and reform/simplify our tax code, etc. Still, any such accomplishments will not erase the fact that we’ll have a boorish, narcissistic, knowledge-incurious, unrepentant racist and misogynist as head of state.

 

 

disappointed

*   *   *

We have reached the seventh circle of the hell I don’t even believe in.

I was listening to a podcast of a Freakonomics radio show, the 11-16-16 episode, How To Make A Bad Decision. The hosts and guests were discussing a research paper, Decision Making Under the Gambler’s Fallacy.   The paper’s authors analyzed decision-making within three different professions – baseball umpires, loan officers, and asylum judges – to see whether those professionals were likely to fall prey to the gambler’s fallacy.  [7]  

The podcast included an interview with professional baseball umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, who talked about the application of technologies such as the PITCHf/x system [8] and instant replays of close plays as ways of checking an umpire’s calls. Not all umpires are enamored with the technologies and the resultant second-guessing/undermining of their authority, but Wendelstedt was a supporter:

“… these pitch systems got into place, it’s been a great educational tool for us….it really helps us become a better-quality product for the game of baseball.

 

 

really

 

The world is indeed ending not with a bang, but with a whimper.

I completely lost interest in the rest of the podcast after hearing that quote.  I beg of all sentient beings:  Never, ever, refer to yourself, or any other human being, as a product.

Unless in your case the human being thing is just an act and you actually happen to be a can of Cheezey-whiz.

*   *   *

The Toes I’m Not Spreading

Balance; calm; equanimity, toe envy….

Wait a sec. Of all the elements one might pursue or experience in a yoga class, envy of any kind – well, it’s just not yoga.

Still, there I am, in my yoga class, glancing around to see my fellow yogis seemingly effortlessly widen their lithe, long, supple little piggies when the instructors suggests we spread our toes to help us balance in tree pose. Meanwhile, my puny, span-challenged podiatric digits spasm with the effort.

Stub toes [9]  is just one of the milder epithets which have been applied to my toes over the years.  Some folks have refrained from outright name-calling, but still have obviously noticed my phalange deficiencies. One afternoon in high school,  the dance teacher substituted for our field hockey coach (who was called away for some emergency) during warm-ups. Dance Teacher decided to teach us hockey ladies some exercises which, she said, would increase our flexibility. DT asked us to remove our shoes and socks, stand barefoot on the gym floor, feet approximately 18 inches apart…

“Now, everyone spread your toes…” DT patrolled the rows of smirking field hockey players (we needed stamina, not flexibility, so why weren’t we doing our warm-up laps?), checking everyone’s deportment, berating this girl’s posture and that girl’s stance. She came to me, looked downward, and scowled.

“Widen your toes!” DT insisted. She then pointed to the feet of the girl standing beside me, as if to inspire me, for that girl’s lengthy, prehensile toes looked as if they would enable her to hang upside down from a tree branch.

“I am,” I replied. “This is as wide as they go.”

DT bent over, reached her hand down toward my foot, and made a clucking noise of patronizing sympathy. “I see, she sighed, and moved on down the line.

Flash forward to a couple of years later: I am in an athletic footware store, to purchase a new pair of running shoes. I am a regular customer of the store and know what size I wear, but the store’s new (to me) salesperson insists I remove my shoes and socks and step on the store’s shoe size measurer-thingamawhoowhooy-gadget. [10]

 

 

shoesize

You know, this thing.

 

 

Wow,” he gasps, as I comply with his request, “your toes are really short!” He crouches for closer inspection; I resist the urge to suddenly feign a spasm and kick him in the teeth.

“You know,” he looks up at me earnestly, “if your toes were normally proportioned to your feet, your shoe size would be one or even two sizes larger.”

Guess which salesman didn’t get that commission?

BTW – I rock at tree pose. Stub toes and all.

 

 

treepose

*   *   *

May you rock at your balance poses;
May your cart tell a noteworthy story;
May you dig a really big hole for any reason you chose;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] What could their financial/donations manager possibly be thinking? “Sure, they left us five years ago, but this paper ornament will bring them back!”

[2] Every six months I buy 12-one gallon jugs of water, swap them out with the supply already in the garage, and use the older supply for watering plants, etc.

[3] It’s the Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend; these people are already out of leftovers?

[4] Whom am I kidding – like anyone else would be playing that game, or looking up or around or anywhere but down, for that matter. Everyone else in my line, and in all the adjacent lines (Yep, I checked) was looking down at their cellphone…waiting for it to hatch a rare three-toed pygmy sloth dragon, or something equally significant, judging from the rapt expression on their face.

[5] If you did desire such a thing, that would make you a miserable little shit, wouldn’t it?

[6] aka Putin Junior, as I cannot bear to type his (allegedly real) name.

[7] The Gambler’s Fallacy is an erroneous  understanding of probability – the belief that the chances of something happening with a fixed probability, i.e., rolling 10 even dice in a row, become higher or lower as the process is repeated.

[8] A pitch tracking system which tracks the velocity, movement, release point, spin, and pitch location for every pitch thrown in a baseball game.

[9] Thanks, Mom!

[10] There must be a name for that device.

The Delicacy I’m Not Sampling

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Department Of Free At Last, Free At Last….

Five days, and we will be free of this festering dungheap of an election.

I have no illusions about the future. After a brief respite, yet another Turd In The Political Punchbowl of Life ® will bob to the surface. Yet for just one moment, perhaps, we may inhale through our nostrils, exhale through our mouths, and whisper,

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

 

ahhh

*   *   *

 

“If freshness and hygiene is a question, generally it’s tribal situations that are problematic, where the whole tribe, the chief is offering you something that’s what they have. Often they don’t have refrigeration, it’s often old…. Often these dishes are eaten in one large bowl with the whole tribe jamming their fingers in. So yeah, rotten food, food that’s clearly not clean, water that’s clearly not good — those are a challenge.”
(Anthony Bourdain, Fresh Air, 10-27-16)

Intrepid tourists from (that which we call) Western Civilization often  [1] pride themselves on being game to sample the local delicacies. The more obscure the travel destination and more repellent-sounding the delicacy, all the better for their reputation as Culturally Curious/Sensitive Travelers ®. American “bad boy” chef and author Anthony Bourdain demonstrated this proclivity in spades during his recent interview with the radio show Fresh Air, which ruined my breakfast entertained me one morning when I listened to a podcast of the show.

Bourdain shared stories about how a world traveler in search of “food adventures” has to navigate the tricky waters of being a guest in someone’s home and eating what is offered. This can be especially dicey when visiting poor/tribal peoples, who profess to honor you by offering you the local delicacy   [2]   – usually an obscure (to Western palates) animal parts concoction.  [3]  Which prompted the show’s host  [4] to ask Bourdain if it were true that, while visiting Namibia, Bourdain had been offered an “unwashed warthog rectum.”

 

 

 

warthogbutt

You want me to throw another what on the barbie?

 

 

 

Yep, it was true.

Well…the chief yanks that part out and throws it on the grill and grills it medium rare and splits it with me. And…the whole tribe is watching. He’s offering me what he sees as the best part. That’s a clear take-one-for-the-team situation…. What am I going to do, refuse him, embarrass him in front of his people, look ungrateful?”

When Bourdain was asked what grilled warthog rectum tasted like, he replied (my emphases), “It tasted like exactly what you would expect – a sandy, gritty rectum.”

Boys and girls, repeat after me:  WTF !?!?!?!?!?!?!

 

 

 

Now, that is the part that got me. More than the fact that Bourdain ate…what he ate. It’s how he described how it tasted. Excusez-moi, Monsieur….

To what “you” can Mr. Bourdain possibly be referring – the you who has exact expectations about what a warthog rectum would taste like?

I moiself have never been happier to confess that there is a thing about which I have never held and will never hold any expectations: what grilled warthog rectum tastes like.

 

 

anyquestions

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Department Of More Fun With Podcasts

Out for an early morning walk was the perfect venue for listening to a StarTalk radio show podcast titled Calling ET. As I watched the sun rise and gradually break through the veil of gray clouds overhead, I wondered, as per the podcast, who or what might be watching and/or listening to beings like moiself?

StarTalk frequently covers topics relating to the SETI program, including the speculation that if the first extra-terrestrials to discover earth find us due to our own transmissions, whether they be the early  radio and television transmissions which were (unintentionally) transmitted to the cosmos or the new plans to use planetary radar to send focused beams into space. The program invited sci-fi author, scientist and NSAS consultant David Brin to discuss many ideas inherent in the topic how to let extraterrestrial life know that that there is supposedly intelligent life on earth, and “when to say who you are.”

One of the things mentioned that caught my attention: Brin stated that although our technology has much advanced in the past 30 some years, the advent of cable and other non-antenna dependent way of accessing television shows means that we were “louder” (in terms of sending information outward) in the 1980s.

I was grateful to realize one implication of that statement:  Duck Dynasty is less likely to be accessed by potential ET visitors. But it gave me pause to consider what any intelligence sufficiently advanced to receive our broadcast from the 1980s – when most popular TV shows included such intellectually-stimulating fare as Joanie Loves Chachi and  The Love Boat – might think about us. My guess is the ETs might immediately erect the cosmic equivalent of police yellow tape around paths leading to the planet Terra, and warn their fellow galactic travelers to “move along folks, move along folks, there’s nothing here to see.”

 

loveboat

They’re looking for intelligent life? What a coincidence – so are we!

*   *   *

Department Of Peeking At A Writer’s Glamorous Life
Item #1382

The upside of receiving biannual royalty statements for a book which was published eleven years ago and is out of print and thus hasn’t sold any copies in several years: It takes less than thirty seconds to reconcile and file the statement. 

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Department Of Om – What She Said

I practiced yoga at home, off and on but mostly on, for ~ 25 years. FAVOR, [5] mostly including a pesky tendinitis-like injury to my left elbow, [6] my mat work in that form of exercise has been sparse-to-non-existent the past five years.

In all those years my practice was self-motivated and solo; I never attended a yoga class, but learned from a wide variety of teachers via videos and DVDs.  The days of when I could (and wanted to) jump back into chaturanga during a vinyasa, (landing in a low pushup with body weight supported only by toes and hands) are likely long gone. Also gone is my desire to do the more vigorous forms, “power” yoga. I’ve got free weight routines for that kind of workout. These days, I’m all about relaxation and stress reduction.

As for the latter, I figured it was time to find a good class/studio/teacher…but I’m selective, and not much of a joiner.  And, as un-yoga as it may be to be so critical, what I was not seeking (and what is too easy to find) is a couple of twenty-something PYTs who took a few yoga classes, liked how they looked in yogatards, [7] forked out $3k for a Yoga Training certificate, rented a space, opened a studio, call themselves Experienced Yoga Teachers and want to fill their classes with bodies like their own and have no idea about the capabilities and concerns of those of us whose joints have 50+ years of mileage.

 

 

yoga

Sorry, lady…maybe the AARP offer something suitable for you?

 

 

After much perusal I think I’ve found a match. The practice space at Yogaomazing is…well…amazing. As was the class I took there, given by a very nice yogini, who maintained her attentive calm and gentle, unflappable spirit and batted not one eyelash when I used the word dildo [8] in her beautiful, light-filled, wall-of-windows studio.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Public Service Announcements

Remember to Celebrate National Cher Day  [9] tomorrow before you go to bed.

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you find a reason to exhale;
May you have the poise to refuse “delicacies” that would knock a buzzard off a shit wagon;
May you, like Cher, remember to turn back time;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] And often mistakenly, IMHO.

[2] A part of me thinks there is no such tradition, and that as soon as the well-meaning (read: patronizing) white guest leaves, the tribe later dishes themselves: “Can you believe we got him to swallow that – what kind of ignoramus thinks we eat hyena pus pie?”

[3] e.g., the ones I’ve heard of include things like monkey brains or slug’s milk cheese or shark’s bladder soup Or other “food items” I’ve read about which should induce immediate vegetarianism in those who would even consider ingesting said items.

[4] Reporter Dave Davies, substituting for host Terry Gross, who must be slapping herself over having missed such a stimulating conversation.

[5] My favorite (no pun intended) acronym, which translates For A Variety Of Reasons.

[6] Not yoga-related…but a good story, which I may relay in these pages one day, with my offspring’s’ permission.

[7] The term for a one-piece stretch garment worn by some yogis – not a pejorative for a spastic person trying to do advanced yoga poses…shame on you for even thinking that.

[8] Nothing yoga-related, I assure you, but, believe-it-or-not, apropos to a story I was telling her.

[9] Aka knows as the end of Daylight Savings Time.

The Instinct I’m Not Obeying

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Department Of Fun With Student Drivers

Dateline: Tuesday, early a.m., out for my morning walk, waiting to cross a street. As I watched the cross traffic’s stoplight and saw the green-changing-to-yellow light – the pedestrian’s rewarding indicator that it will soon be your turn to cross the street – I noticed a white sedan slowing down much more deliberately than is usual yet still not managing to come to a complete stop until the car’s front bumper was just a tad into the crosswalk.

My light changed to green, I began to cross the street, and saw the telltale red and yellow logo for a local driving academy on the car’s driver’s door.  A student driver?

Excellent.

I looked inside the car: the student in the driver’s seat sat ramrod straight, an expression of nervous anticipation drenching her face. Her white-knuckled hands gripped the steering wheel and her gaze was fixed ahead. Her instructor was looking down at a clipboard he held; neither of them seemed aware of my approaching presence.

My instinctive reaction was to throw myself onto the hood of the car and scare the living pee-pee out of both of them.

How I managed to restrain myself, I’ll never know.

But, I did. Okay?

 

student

*   *   *

 

Pity the afore-mentioned scenario happened Tuesday, and not today. Had I gone through with my whimsical notion, ‘twould have made a good – dare I say, even legendary? – April Fool’s Day prank.

 

aparil

 

You gotta love a day that is devoted to honoring and encouraging practical jokes, hoaxes, and pranks both well- and feebly-played. 

The origins of April Fools Day’s are not completely agreed upon by historians, and have been variously attributed. What is agreed upon is that many cultures, going back to the ancient Romans and Egyptians, have set aside days for celebrating jokes and pranksters. Perhaps, as some people have speculated, there’s just something about the day’s timing – the fading of winter and the blooming of spring, which lends itself to the observance of light-hearted frivolity.

 

dipstick

 

 

I can recall only a few of the pranks I’ve played on friends, family and co-workers over the years. The memories are silly but fond, and include:

* Sneaking a package of Hydrox cookies [1] from the family snack drawer and replacing all the cream fillings in the second row of cookies with toothpaste.

* Showing two positive pregnancy test dipsticks to a newbie Planned Parenthood co-worker and telling her I was pregnant with twins.

* Adding just a couple of drops of blue food coloring to the carton of nonfat milk in my parent’s refrigerator.

* Calling my father at his office and convincing him (if only temporarily) that someone had bought a raffle ticket in his name for the local animal shelter’s fundraising event, he’d won the raffle, and could he please let the shelter know when he was coming to claim his prize: an English Mastiff and a week’s supply – a 100 lb. bag of kibble – of the dog’s food.  [2]

 

I don't get it – why would that be funny?

I don’t get it – why would that be funny?

 

 

* Swapping my and my siblings’ framed high school graduation pictures, which hung in my parent’s hallway, with pictures of the members of Led Zeppelin.

* Replacing the hard-boiled egg in my sister’s school lunch bag with a raw egg.

* Cutting my finger, smearing my blood on the scissors in co-worker Roger’s cubicle, leaving a note on my computer saying I had been threatened by Roger and feared for my life, then faking my own death and leaving town.

 

Oops, that’s right – I never got around to implementing the last one.  

As pleasurable as it is to pull off an epic prank, it can be equally fun, IMHO, to have a great prank played on your own self. I hope y’all have a Happy April Fools’ Day…and I hope that I do not regret having made that previous declaration.

 

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Speaking of foolery…

Department Of Uh, Since You’ve Asked, That Would Be, “No”

Last Sunday a FB friend began her post thusly:

Happy Easter, everyone! Can I share what it means to me?

FBF went on to – surprise! – offer her testimony for Jesus, without waiting for an answer to her question.

 

raptor jesus

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Department Of So What Am I Supposed To Use, A Q-Tip?

The following non-instruction was printed on the top of a large, thick, sturdy cardboard shipping container, which was filled with non-delicate items (cans of cat food).

 

sharp

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different

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“My hunter buddy tells me, ‘Don’t worry, when I hunt I use every part of the animal.’
You know who also uses every part of the animal? THE  ANIMAL.”
Deepak Sethi, writer/comedian

 

 

huntsport

 

*   *   *

Department Of Asking The Same Question, But For Different Reasons

“What is wrong with people?”

That question was posed on the FB page of an outdoor archery range which is located ~ 15 miles from my little house on the prairie home in Hillsboro. I was researching archery practice ranges, and remembered there is one up in the hills that is open to the public, as per a man I’d met at the Washington Park range. The range he recommended caters primarily to bow hunters,[3] or so I guessed after finding its website.

There wasn’t much current info on the website. I followed a link to the range’s Facebook page, where I encountered a post with the above question accompanied by a photo – a photo that caused me to ask the same question, but for very different reasons.

The photo, which you can see here (9-15-15 post) if you are so perverse inclined, was of the decapitated head of an enormous bull elk. The head rested atop a bloodied blanket in the bed of a pickup truck. The post asked for help in returning this pathetic souvenir of macho death lust trophy to the hunter who’d killed the elk:

“These antlers were stolen from a man in his 70’s who has never killed a bull this big with a bow. It was taken from his property….”

These antlers.

No mention of the rest of the animal; no mention of the head to which those antlers were attached – the head which showed the elk’s tongue protruding from its mouth, a mute testimony to the elk’s agonizing death throes; [4]  no mention of concern for the remaining 600 lbs of the animal. A magnificent creature was slaughtered, not for sustenance or in self-defense, but so that some old dude could hang a part of that creature’s body on his wall as a testimony to the fact that he’d previously “never killed a bull this big.”

huntpenis

 

What is wrong with people?

As posed by the FB poster(s), the question speculates as to what kind of person would steal an elderly hunter’s booty. As posed by moiself, the question wonders what kind of person of any age enjoys killing any creature for “sport.”

 

*   *   *

And One More Thing

If you consider trophy hunting to be a legitimate sport, I obviously disagree with your assessment, although I respect our difference of opinion on this matter.

And by I respect our difference of opinion on this matter I sincerely mean,

Go fuck yourself.

 

 

fair

*   *   *

May you always respect my difference of opinion, on any matter;
May you have unending patience with apprentice drivers;
May your day be filled with April foolery…
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Anyone else remember the precursor (and competitor) to Oreos?

[2] My sisters making muffled barking sounds to approximate background animal shelter noise was a great help in pulling off this prank.

[3] Rather than wimpy anti-hunting target shooters like moiself.

[4] Death by arrow is not instantaneous, not matter how expert the marksman.

The Pants Seat I’m Not Flying By

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This has been a week of Deep Thoughts ®. Bear with me.

Conversation Of The Week

Sensing that I’m a friendly person – or perhaps that pesky, Go Ahead, You Can Say Anything To This One sign was flashing on my forehead, again – the stranger behind me in the checkout line begins chatting with me while she unloads her cartful of groceries. I had just a few items, including a bag of son K’s favorite cookies, which she commented on (“I didn’t know they came in mini-size!”). She hefted a 10 lb. bag of potatoes onto the scanner belt, followed by several other fresh vegetable items, and began to complain about the produce selection at the “new store.”

Woman Whom I’ve Never Seen Before: “I was really disappointed at the produce selection at the new store. There’s hardly any variety in vegetables – nothing like here.”

Me: “The new store?” I assumed she meant that a new franchise of the supermarket chain she and I are in has opened.  “I didn’t know they’d built another one.”

WWINSB: “Yeah, the new store.” She paused, anticipating the light of recognition in my eyes that never appeared. “You know the one. It’s right by where I live.” 

Me (as sweetly and patiently as humanly possible): “I have no idea where you live.”

WWINSB: “Right by the new Wal-Mart.”

We were not in a Wal-Mart.

 

WTF Spock

*   *   *

Fess up. Neither you nor I nor the rest of the world, I bet, have ever seen someone actually flying by the seat of their pants. For some reason, this is bothering me.

I’ve a general awareness of the definition of the idiom (“to proceed or work by feel or instinct, without formal guidelines), and also that it has several origin stories, including, no surprise, an anecdote from the early days of aviation.

But that story doesn’t help to explain the images that come to mind or are implied when that expression is employed.

 

pantsflypng

 

Does that mean that you are able to fly by, what, flapping your pants’ seat? Or, is it that the seat of your pants is flying, as are you, and you are flying “by” (in formation, alongside, or proximity to) the seat of your pants…in which case, if your pants are flying by themselves then you are flying pants-less, and the wind-chill factor is likely to do a number on your noonies.

Yeah, I know: A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

 

facepalm

*   *   *

Department Of My Brain Hurts

Just a sample of the thoughts spinning through (orbiting?) my head after listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio podcast , “Colonizing Mars with Bas Landsdorp.” [1]

Some of my questions/thoughts were addressed or at least acknowledged…but not fully answered, IMHO…by  my buddies, Neil and Bas. The issues facing the successful, long-term survival of colonists do not, to me, seem to be primarily those which will be solved [2] by engineers and – oh, I love the chance to type this – rocket scientists.  The main obstacles of establishing and maintaining a colony on Mars would seem to be psychological and sociological. Some of my concerns include:

* What kind of person volunteers for a no-return trip? Are you going to end up with a ship (and then colony) full of highly intelligent, scientifically and technologically literate, highly motivated…sociopaths and misanthropes? I know there will be psychological/personality testing up the wazoo for any volunteers…and I also know that highly motivated and highly intelligent and highly manipulative people can figure out how to beat those tests.

* Establishment of a long-term or permanent colony brings up the dilemma of how the colony members will be replenished: by continuing trips from earth, or via reproduction?  Humans evolved to live in social groups; most people instinctively crave the love and support of family life, want to pass on both their genes and their experiences, and find pleasure in raising children. If you assume that people will do what people will do and plan to let nature take its course…will nature even be able to find a course?  Can humans, who evolved on earth, even reproduce in different gravity environments, and what will happen with pregnancy and fetal development?

* Humans are humans. If you don’t send already established couples to the colony, there will be competition/jealousy when it comes to the finding a mate issue. Also, the pickings, initially, will be slim. Will the desire or need for reproduction (to keep the colony going) rule out sending gay male scientists and explorers? [3]

* If/once you have a colony rug rat or two, ay yi yi. How can you give a child a normal life without endangering the colony and/or driving both the parents and the child insane via the need for constant vigilance? It’s one thing if little Marina kicks a soccer ball through the neighbor’s plate glass window, quite another if she inadvertently takes out a solar panel or other crucial piece of equipment.

* The most important question of all: will I live to see any of this?

 

 

mars

 

*   *   *

Department Of This Is What Happens When You Talk Loudly Next To A Blogger
Aka, With Friends Like These, Who Needs Lunch Dates?

After my Qigong class at the community college I treated myself to lunch at a nearby pasta restaurant. Two women in their mid-to-late sixties were seated at the table next to me, and I had no problem catching parts of their conversation about a friend of theirs who had bailed out on their lunch invitation.

Friend #1: I probably shouldn’t say this…

(But of course, she does.)

Friend #1: I know there is such a thing as migraines, but sometimes I think she just doesn’t want to get out of bed.

Friend #2: “Well, that’s her problem.”

Friend #1: “She takes one or two prescriptions, but she won’t take the prescriptions that the doctor gives her.”

Friend #2: “So why bother going to the doctor?”

Friend #1: “That’s what I told her. She said she doesn’t want drugs, she only (#1 sniffs disdainfully) wants ‘natural stuff.'”

 

gossip

*   *   *

Department of Great Movie Lines

One of the greatest (IMHO) pieces of movie dialogue consists of only one word. Oh, but what a word. A Golden Scroll from the Department of Cultural Literary ® if you can remember [4] where this one comes from:

Ovaltine?

Think hard, and this trophy can be yours.

Think hard, and coveted this trophy is yours.

*   *   *

May you never have your lunchtime gossip chitchat recorded by a stranger;
May your flights by any kind of pants be safe and turbulent-free;
May we all live to see a (human) Mission to Mars…
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

[1] Bas Lansdorp is a Dutch entrepreneur best known as the founder of the Mars One Project , not a kind if rocket or an extra planetary colonization technique. But you knew that.

[2] And I believe the mechanics of getting people to mars and housing and feeding them while they are there will be solves.

[3] Gay women can still conceive and bear children.

[4] Hint: no.

The Lab Specimens I’m Not Sniffing

1 Comment

 

Department of Big Surprises

Son K is enjoying his job as a research assistant for a medical diagnostics company, and I love to hear his stories about his tasks. Recently he was preparing lab specimens used to cultivate proteins. Specifically, he was working with  e. coil bacteria. Dare you guess how descriptive K was when trying to convey to MH and I what the lab samples smelled like?

 

bad smell

 

*   *   *

And now, a related breaking (sorry) news story, which I shall classify under

Department of Tempting Fate

From The Looks Of Things © , I am probably the youngest student in my Tai Chi-Qigong class.  And from the sounds of things, I am also the only student who has not (yet) inadvertently let one slip – if you know what I mean and I think you do – during one of  the class’s twisting routines.

 

qifart

*   *   *

By Grabthar’s Hammer…

…this is one actor I am really going to miss.

Alan Rickman played an amazing range of characters over the years. Praised for his performances across the board in the theatre and television, he was most widely known for his movie roles. He was perfectly cast to play the complexly nuanced, ostensible-villain-turned-heart-rending-hero, Severus Snape, [1] and probably most widely known for turning what could have been just another wise-cracking action film (Die Hard) into Something Truly Memorable, with his performance as arguably the greatest bad guy of all time, German terrorist Hans Gruber.

My favorites of Rickman’s many movie roles included the reticent, infatuated, honorable Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility) and Alexander Dane, the hilariously frustrated classically trained actor fallen on hard times who finds himself stuck repeating a catchphrase from his role in a sci-fi Television franchise he despises (Galaxy Quest).  And I managed to forgive Rickman for so convincingly playing the conflicted husband who broke wife Emma’ Thompson’s heart in Love, Actually. For a real cinematic treat, revel in his “gloriously nasty” portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham, by which Rickman steals Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves right out from under Kevin Costner’s spasmodic British accent.

When I read the news of Rickman’s passing I noted he was the same age as David Bowie. The world lost two truly Great Brits, esteemed and beloved in their respective fields. Thanks and RIP – you guys rock (ed).

Now, if you believe the old husband’s tale that “these things [2] come in threes,” who’d you put $$ on to be the next to go? I hear O.J. Simpson is turning 69 this year….

 

 

*   *   *

Yet Another Reason To Hate/Quit Writing Go On Living

I belong to several professional writers associations. The Authors Guild is the largest, oldest and most influential of the lot, and the one I most admire. As per its mission to “…advocate for authors on issues of copyright, fair contracts…protect authors’ copyrights…establish fair royalty rates for both e-books and print books…” the AG has its work cut out for it, especially in these days of the digital and electronic piracy and royalty grabs changes in publishing.

 

book

 

The AG are the good guys; they fight the right fights. There are so many fronts, so many battles, for authors these days, I truly wish I could – as per the suggestion on the AG’s membership renewal form – add a donation in addition to my dues to further their work.

Except for one pesky detail: I have no spare writing income with which to do so.

The AG has a tiered membership dues structure, based on author members’ annual income from book and magazine writing.  There are four levels: I ($0 – 24,999; II ($25 – $49,999); III ($ 50,000 – 100,000): IV ($ over $100,000), with dues rates increasing with each level.

I am (surprise!) at the lowest level. My writing income-loss sheet [3] has remained the same as last year, and the AG’s Level I dues have jumped 38%, from $90 to $125.

 

sob

*   *   *

Department of Apparently It’s a Thing ® Now

…to leave up your Christmas or solstice tree year round, and decorate it according [4] to whatever season’s or month’s commemorations strike your fancy. For example, you might hang paper flags from the branches during July (to celebrate Independence Day);  Bunny and Easter egg ornaments in March (Spring); candy corn and mini pumpkins in October (Halloween); Quaaludes and still photos from The Bill Cosby Show in April (Sexual Assault Awareness Month)….

Well. I’ve left our tree up, but I’m not sure you can call it decorated (I did leave two of my favorite ornaments on it). I just like having it around. I don’t know why, but I derive much sinple contentment from looking at the little blinking lights.

 

tree

*   *   *

May your enjoy whatever constitutes your own blinking lights of contentment,
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] I don’t need to reference the Harry Potter series of books and films, do I? I do not require readers to be fans of either; I do assume a certain amount of cultural literacy.

[2] In this case, famous and/or infamous peoples’ deaths.

[3]  I’ve not done the figuring for 2015, but already know it will rival last year in pathetic-osity.

[4] Simply not enough footnotes in the New Year.

The Military I’m Not Saluting

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And They Said The Honeymoon Wouldn’t Last

I sliced the steaming, freshly roasted squash down the middle, and sighed. “I love the aroma of roasted Delicata squash.” I waved a piece of squash under MH’s nose, and bid him to inhale.  “I just want you to know that.”

This is good to know, MH replied. He assured me that, upon my death, a Delicata squash would be cremated alongside my body.

 

squash7

*   *   *

The Verisimilitudinous Vermin of Autumn

I kick through the foliage detritus at least once a day, during my morning walk. Still, I never tire of the splendor of the Fall colors, which have a way of elevating and beautifying everything they surround…including, as I discovered ~ seven in the morning last Monday, the parking lot of a nearby athletic field. A brief portion of the otherwise mundane asphalt surface was transformed, however ephemerally, into Nature’s abstract palate, when I espied the desiccated, flattened carcass of a rat adorned by nature’s seasonal garland.

 

rat

*   *   *

Belated Veterans Day Thoughts and Wishes

 

Thank you for your service.
(A phrase employed far too often, IMHO, by civilians, directed to military personnel)

I have come to despise that trope of alleged appreciation, even though I’ve no doubt it is used sincerely by many who wish to thank our brave men and women in uniform [1] for doing…well…what the rest of us would rather not spend much time thinking about.

It’s just too easy…it is too sanitized and safe. Thank you for your service – it’s as effective as, I’ll pray for you. It gives the spouter of the phrase the feel-good illusion of action, when in fact you’ve done nothing concrete.

You want to thank soldiers for their service? Lobby or work to insure veteran’s benefit reforms and to get our soldiers out of these never-ending, police-the-world wars…and, oh yeah, end the all-volunteer military and reinstate the draft and/or some form of compulsory national service.

 

REALLY

 

Yes, really. Do you think we’d still be ass-deep in the AfghaniRaquPakistania quagmire if every American family had to face the possibility of their age-appropriate sons and daughters serving in the military?

Once again, I digress.

My intention for this segment was to honor a certain generation [2] for What They Did When They Did What They Had To Do. [3]

Six years ago my father, Chester Bryan (“Chet the Jet”) Parnell, had military honors at the graveside service following his funeral. The honors consisted of a brief observance involving a color guard, a gun salute, and presentation of an American flag to my mother, along with the “thanks of a grateful nation.” It was a ceremony Chet’s usually-not-impressed-with-such-things second born daughter [4] found very moving.

Although he never left the US of A during his military service, Chet was credited with serving in a combat zone. He and his fellow Army paratroopers stationed in Alaska were training for the inevitable invasion of Japan, and were also tasked with guarding the Aleutians, which the Japanese, as part of their Aleutian Islands campaign, were determined to invade and occupy. [5] Thus, Chet was eligible for “full” military honors at his funeral. Although Chet was proud of his WWII service he’d let us know in advance he didn’t want the full treatment (whatever that would involve – military flyover? Invasion of a small island in the Pacific?), out of respect for those soldiers who had engaged in active combat.

One day many years before Chet’s death, when my family was down in SoCal for a visit, Chet asked if MH could copy, enlarge and clarify a photo Chet had discovered while cleaning out his desk. The picture – actually, a small, wrinkled, time-worn copy of a picture sent from a paratrooper buddy – was one the few pictures Chet had from his Army days.  MH put his computer wizard /Photoshop skills to use, and was able to earn Son-In-Law Of The Year ® honors by providing Chet with a cleaned-up enlargement.  MH also had the enviable [6] task of informing Chet about a certain aspect of the picture, what I think of as a Photo With Benefits.  By enlarging the photo, a gesture made by one of Chet’s fellow soldiers – a “military salute” common among paratroopers but heretofore obscured by the photo’s size and lack of clarity – was clearly revealed.

At the time the picture was taken Chet of course was facing the camera, and had no idea how the other guys in the photo had posed. He got such a hoot out of it – which came as no surprise to me.  What was a wonderful surprise was how much my mother enjoyed the photographic revelation: she giggled like a schoolgirl who’d just understood her first A nun walks into a bar… joke  [7].

 

Chet, front row far left, looking tough (but cute).

Chet, front row far left, looking tough (but cute).

 

*   *   *

Department Of Some Phone Calls Are Harder Than Others

And getting through some 12 minute phone calls can seem more exhausting than running a three hour marathon, when I’m constantly “on guard” during said calls, with a pins and needles/jaw clenching concentration, giving myself a headache that lasts the rest of the day, reminding myself of what to say as well as what not to say when the only truthful/logical response to what my elderly mother just asked would be to give the correct information….

However. I have learned from Compassionate Communication With The Memory-Impaired and other resources that when dealing with those afflicted with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other conditions which beget memory-disabilities, compassion must trump rationality and logic. And even truth.

My mother’s truth, her reality, can change from day to day. I am well aware of this; still, the ups and down sometimes catch me seemingly unaware. This week I was pleasantly surprised by her lucidity and higher-than-usual energy mode – I’m always the one who calls, but she called me on my cellphone (she’d remembered– with a caretaker’s reminder – that she’d been napping when I’d called the previous day)! We were having a nice if boring conversation, and in a normal (for her) voice she asked how long it had been since MH’s father had died (Hey, she remembered he died! I silently rejoiced). When I answered her question about the relative suddenness of my FIL’s passing (Well, he’d been living with Parkinson’s for many years…), and she reacted with shock and horror to a fact she’s known for over a decade.

“No!” she gasped. “No!  How awful! I had no idea!’

I gently tried to steer the conversation to another subject, which led to the inadvertent revelation that she’d forgotten MH’s sister is married and has a 14 year old son. Her overt change of atone accompanied the implied, painful, fearful accusation: Why have you/has everyone been keeping this information from me?

And during our phone conversation next week she may well remember what she’d forgotten…and then forget something else. Like the existence of my children.

Her sudden plummet into the memory abyss hit me harder than usual this week. I found myself sitting in my car in a parking lot, fighting off a crying jag, holding my cellphone to my ear and nodding reassurances to someone who wasn’t there.

“Old age is no place for sissies.”
Bette Davis

elderly bird

*   *   *

Department of Can You Run A Tab At An Urgent Care Center?

Speaking of children I do remember, Belle is back to practicing with the UPS Women’s Rugby team, although she will not be playing in any league games until next semester, due to her broken finger and resultant surgery. Last week she took a hard blow to the chest during a practice. A visit to the Student Health Center and subsequent x-ray confirmed her coach’s fear: Belle had suffered a separated rib.

Belle’s (severely) broken finger occurred during a practice in early September. Last year’s injuries included a cracked rib and…I forget what else. Going through the mail last weekend, I told MH that it just isn’t a normal week unless we receive yet another Explanation of Benefits form from our insurance company, along with a bill from a doctor or a physical therapist or an urgent care center….

 

Good news – post game party in the Emergency Room, drinks are on Belle!

Good news – post game party in the Emergency Room, drinks are on Belle!

 

*   *   *

Department Of Need I Say More?

Happy Belated Exploding Whale Day! Forty-five years ago, yesterday, a day that put Oregon on the map…and gushy whale parts on anyone standing within a quarter mile range of the event:

*   *   *

May you remember and appreciate the service (and “salutes”) of others;
may your fondest memories be as fuzzy or clear as time permits;
may you find beauty in unexpected places and sights (and rodents);
and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Another clichéd phrase I loathe.

[2] No, not “the Greatest” generation, and damn you, Tom Brokaw, for that well-meaning but inaccurate description…which Andy Rooney, bless his atheist heart, tried to counter at every opportunity.

[3] Which was actually Steven Spielberg’s first choice for the title of his epic WWII movie (okay…actually…not). Can you believe Saving Private Ryan won out?

[4] That would be moiself.

[5] They succeeded in occupying two: Kiska and Attu.

[6] In my opinion. MH was a little hesitant to reveal what he’d found, thinking it might be embarrassing (“Uh…will they – meaning my parents – be okay with this?”).

[7] A nun, badly needing to use a restroom, walked into a bar. The place was hopping with music and conversation, and every once in a while the lights would briefly flicker off and then go back on, whereupon the patrons would erupt into cheers. However, when the crowd saw the nun, the room went dead silent. The nun approached the bartender,and asked, ‘May I please use the restroom?”

“Sure,” the bartender replied, “but I gotta warn you: there’s a statue of a naked man in there wearing only a fig leaf.”

“Thank you; I’ll just look the other way,’ said the nun.

The bartender showed the nun to the back of the restaurant. After a few minutes she came back out, and other patrons stopped what they were doing and gave the nun a loud round of applause.

“Excuse me, sir,” she said to the bartender. “Why did they applaud for me just because I went to the restroom?”

“Well, now they know you’re one of us,’ said the bartender. “‘Would you like a drink?”

“No thank you,” said the puzzled nun, “but, I still don’t understand.”

“You see,” laughed the bartender, “every time someone lifts the fig leaf on that statue, the lights go out.”

The Bully I’m Not Canonizing

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Department of Simple Pleasures

My table calendar by artist Joyce Gabriel makes the time-passes-too-damn-fast transition somewhat bearable…and I never peek ahead. I like to be surprised by each month’s mascot.

Yesterday was goodbye, cucumber, hello, candy corn.

 

month17month2

 

The artist also makes the Best Playing Cards Ever ® .

*   *   *

Department of Simple Pleasures, the Sequel

Dateline: yesterday morning, circa 7:30 am, walking through a local park. Many school children, sometimes accompanied by a parent or older siblings, take the park’s paths to the nearby elementary school. A lad (age six or seven, I’d guess) riding a scooter was on the path, headed toward me. He called, “It’s hard.” At least5, I think that’s what he said – I was listening to a podcast and had my ear buds in.

 

scooterboy

 

I paused the podcast and looked around. The boy was alone; the friendly, please-notice-me expression on his face was definitely directed my way. As he scooted past me he showed to a stop and indicated with one hand the direction from which he’d come.

“It’s hard, riding all that way,” he said. “I’m new at this.” I gave him a thumbs up and told him I never would have guessed that –  he rode like a champ! The bashful smile on his face indicated I had made his morning…and he, mine.

*   *   *

I’d been trying to avoid most of the All Pope/All the Time coverage infesting seemingly every media outlet [1] of that RC dude known as Francis’ “Rocking America” tour. It frosts my butt, FAVOR, [2] to see a smoke-and-mirrors appointed leader of a patriarchal mythological religion [3] treated as if he were the head of a legitimate nation with whom the USA has strategic interests and/or trade and arms agreements.

(And don’t get me started even thinking about how much thi$ i$ co$ting taxpayer$ in providing $ecurity and other logi$t6ical arrangement$.)

 

angrylionpng

 

As per my life de-stressing campaign, a part of my pope-news-evasion strategy includes trying to ignore the fawning statements by some of my allegedly liberal sisters and brothers, who rhetorically pee their tighty-whities [4] with excitement when Frankie says something that sounds even vaguely 21st century (his predecessors set the bar way low, so the rejoicing is almost understandable).

I understand the hopeful, the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend reasoning.  Still, I cannot ignore the fact that, his welcome rhetoric on climate change aside, Frankie has changed not one mote of the Roman Catholic Church’s dark ages, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-reality doctrine.

And then I hear this: during his visit, PF canonized Junipero Serra.

 

WTF, Captain?!

WTF, Captain?!

 

Okay. The whole thing with saints is, of course, just another embarrassing relic/irrational ritual, so who cares who gets in to the RC Hall of Superstition.  But, really, Junipero Serra? The convert-or-die, religious fanatic bully Franciscan friar who marched north from Mexico with the conquistadors through what is now California, establishing the mission system, beating and enslaving Native Americans and asking the Spanish Inquisition headquarters in Mexico City to send an Inquisitor to the Sierra Gorda missions?

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

 

 "For crissake, child, cover those buns with the smallpox-infested breeches we've so generously given to you ignorant savages."

“For crissake, cover your buns with the smallpox-infested breeches we’ve so generously given you ignorant savages.”

 

Regular readers of this blog [5] might rightly assume that I view the RC hierarchy as a misogynist, anti-intellectual, humorless gang of doddering old men. Still, I gotta credit their wacky sense of humor when it comes initiating and maintaining the saint circus.

There’s a patron saint for everything, from coffee houses and broken bones (St. Drogo) to kidney disease and spelunkers (St. Benedict of Nursia ) and motorcyclists (St. Columbanus) and civil disorder (St. Andrew Corsini)  and toothache (St. Medardus) and beekeeping (St. Valentine) and…no, really, ice skaters (St. Lidwina)? and….

So, I guess there is plenty of room for Serra – why not a patron saint of cultural genocide?  Give ’em another hundred years and some pope will find a way to sanctify Risadle of Ballarat, patron saint of altar boy diddlers and child molesters.

 

Saint Lidwina, I beseech thy intercession, for my triple axel doth grievously suck.

St. Lidwina, I beseech thy intercession, for my triple axel doth grievously suck.

*   *   *

 

“It’s not what kind of church I believe in – for that should be important only to me – but what kind of American I believe in.”
(Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, 9-12-1960, speaking before the Houston Ministerial Association

Attention, ye bloviating Baptists and chattering Catholics – yes, I’m talking to you, Republican presidential candidates – who so liberally [6] imbue your political rhetoric with what should be your private primitive, mythologically-based ignorance nonsense religious opinions: I cringe with embarrassment for y’all – with the embarrassment y’all are apparently to self-unmindful to feel – when I hear your why-my-god-told-me-to-run-for-president blathering.  Such a pathetic contrast to the soaring reassurances from one who came before you.

 

SOAPBOX

 

That speech to the Houston Ministerial Association addressed what was a pressing issue at the time – what Kennedy referred to as “the so-called religious issue.” This issue, which distracted from the real issues that should decide a political campaign, was the idea that, if elected, JFK would be the first “Catholic President” and thus would be subject to “taking orders” from the Vatican.

“I believe in an American where the separation of church and state is absolute…”

We’ve all likely heard or read that oft-quoted excerpt from Kennedy’s masterful oration, but I urge you to listen to or read the transcript of the entire speech.

Have we fallen so far so fast, that politicians feel comfortable – even obligated – to advertise their personal religious beliefs, as if publicly stated allegiance to imaginary friends are prerequisites or necessities for gaining votes in our patently (and constitutionally mandated) secular democracy? I despair when I consider the fact that so many god-talk people are apparently/willfully ignorant of the deliberately god-free constitution of the country they aspire to lead.

Oh, and a prescient shout-out from JFK’s speech, to scofflaw county clerk Kim Davis [7] and others of her ilk:

“But if the time should ever come …when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.”

 

*   *   *

I Realize Marijuana Has Been Legalized in Oregon…

 

But I wasn’t expecting my broccoli to be getting all giggly about it.

 

romanesco

*   *   *

Recently Overheard

 

“I would not wish ____

* shingles

* leukemia

* Huntington’s Disease

* the heartbreak of psoriasis

* mandatory attendance at an Adam Sandler film festival

*standing downwind of Mike Huckabee after a Gods, Guns Grits & Gravy workout

* ( name your affliction )

on my worst enemy.”

 

Just wondering: what would you wish on your worst enemy?

 

*   *   *

May your worst enemies send you their best wishes,
May you live a life free from possible sainthood,
may your vegetables give you the drug-free giggles,
and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Shame on you, NPR.

[2] For a variety of reasons.

[3] A redundant description, I realize.

[4] Rainbow colored, in this case.

[5] As well as those who suffer from occasional irregularity.  Sorry.

[6] Well, in a manner of speaking.

[7] How embarrassing for us all, that this ignorant, hypocritical bigot now has her own Wikipedia entry.

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