Noteworthy science podcast anecdotes; musings on how we understand, use (and misuse) the term “educated;” wondering how and why some people can believe in the efficacy of intercessory prayer; a bad pun or two; the last Partridge of the Week, etc. I don’t know if the subjects I had planned to address in today’s post were more profound, but they were certainly more fun, than…this.
“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.” (Vice President Mike Pence, 1-6-21, in a letter to members of Congress. From “Pence defies Trump, says he can’t reject electoral votes,” apnews.com )
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done….” ( #45‘s tweet, after Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged he does not have the power to throw out electoral votes )
* * *
Someone needs to be shot for insurrection.
If #45 had the cojones he accused Pence of lacking, he‘d call a press conference, resign, then blow hisbrains out  on live television. He‘d get the “biggliest ratings, ever!” which is and always has been hisultimate concern.
* * *
“Prevoskhodno! This is all going according to plan.”
* * *
How many times did I read or hear, during the last four years,
“Yeah, I know he (#45) is a dick a horrible person as a person, but I’m voting for him because of ______ (conservative policy).”
As friend MM so succinctly put it,
“Everyone who voted for Trump for tax cuts and judges, you own this.”
* * *
What was it that the anti-Vietnam war protestors chanted as they were beaten by Chicago police in 1968?
“The whole world is watching.”
And they were. And we are.
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Department Of Get HimOut, Now. How Can You Not?
Congress: Impeach. Invoke the 25th amendment – #45is clearly “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”  Get the SCOTUS to lead a squad of Capitol Police to arrest him. Whatever it takes.
Please, no cries of, “But we only have to hang on another two weeks, for the good of the country…”
For the good of the country, he needs to go. Would *anyone else* who had fomented a riot – committed sedition – *not* be held accountable?
For the good of the country, his legacy, as MH put it, “needs to be appropriate.”
For the good of the country, we cannot let strongman hooliganism subvert or even delay our democratic processes.
For the good of the country, we need to show the world – we need to show ourselves – that we have not become another anarchic banana republic our laws and ideals have actual meaning.
And, if heis allowed to just…leave, do you really want any portion of your tax dollars to go to hispresidential pension? $219,000 a year, for the rest of hisdeplorable life, living among whatever other deplorables can stand to abide with him? 
“A Russian dacha or a North Korean apartment – your choice, Comrade.”
* * *
May we get the kind of honest, decent, compassionate leadership we need; May you-know-who finally get what hedeserves; May circumstances allow moiself to return to “regular programming” next week; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 Not to worry; it’d be a small splatter, considering the target.
 Section 4, 25th Amendment to the US Constitution.
 There need to be more footnotes, but the only appropriate footnote regarding this deranged disaster of democracy is an unending torrent of FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK !!!
As I’ve noted previously in this blog, moiself always serves some version of black-eyed peas (aka Hoppin’ John ) and greens for New Year’s Day dinner. These culinary creations are prepared in homage to my father’s family’s logic-defying adherence  to the tradition which told them that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day assures good luck in the year to come.
Good thing I followed that tradition, eh? What a luckity-luck-lucky year it turned out to be!
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Department Of Advising The Advisor
Moiself took it upon herself to email Amy Dickinson, who writes the syndicated advice column Ask Amy. My feedback was re Amy’s advice to a letter writer who was distressed about her cousins’ comments of victimhood re the 2020 election:
Dear Amy, Regarding the letter from “Text- challenged,” who was concerned that her conversations with her cousins were descending into their conservative political complaints, I must point out something about this comment of yours:
“…if you voted for the Democrat candidate in 2016, you might remember how it felt to be declared a citizen of Loserville, USA. You might have felt like a victim of some mysterious process.”
Actually, Amy, (in 2016) we all *were* victims of “some mysterious process.” It’s called The Electoral College, and this mysterious constitutional relic of slave state appeasement once again thwarted the will of the people by installing the *loser* of the popular vote as leader of our (alleged) democracy, transforming us all into citizens of Loserville.
(From the Pew Research Center: “Besides the U.S, the only other democracies that indirectly elect a leader who combines the roles of head of state and head of government (as the U.S. president does) are Botswana, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, South Africa and Suriname.” ) Wishing you all the best in the new year, Just another citizen, Robyn Parnell
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Department Of Partridge Of The Week
This week’s Partridge in our pear tree:
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Department Of Just What The World Needs…
Is another moniker to describe How (as in, What) Someone Eats ®. Thus, moiself will happily supply that for y’all.
We got your paleo, vegan, keto, raw foods, juice, sugar-free, food combination, raw food paleo, tantrum-throwing-picky-toddler single-food diets….
Many if not most “diets” are just that – diets – as in something-to-go-“on” (and then off) when a certain weight or health goal is reached, instead of a sustainable, lifestyle and/or nutritional change. Because someone recently asked, I thought about the best (as in, most ear-friendly) way to describe my not-a-diet FCP (food consumption patterns).
For five-plus years now I’ve been largely (as in 95%+) plant-based, but not vegan  as I have fish once or twice a week. And although I avoid other dairy products I also consume some (a diminishing amount, but still there) cheese, for both personal addiction taste reasons, and also to keep moiself travel-friendly. 
Come back to the dark side. We’re waiting for you….
MH asked me, “Doesn’t the label pescatarian describe how we eat at home/the majority of the time?” Maybe; but I don’t care for that term.
I consider my eating and cooking choices to be adventuresome, investigative, horizon-expanding rather than limiting,  and science-based/planet-friendly. I want an affable term to reflect that. Hmm; vegetarian; plant-based; planet-friendly;  fish, aquarium….
Oh, Yeaeeaaah. This is perfect.
I am a planetarium.
Feel free to borrow/appropriate, with attribution.
Can you say,”She seems quite pleased with herself,” boys and girls? I knew you could.
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Department Of Yeah What She Said
When it comes to commentary on American culture and politics, moiself often finds the musings of those who are on the outside looking in to be particularly incisive. As in this excerpt from the State of the Me blog post, by C.L. Hanson. Hanson, an engineer and expat American, describes her blog as “The Adventures of a Friendly French-American ExMormon Atheist Mom Living in Switzerland!!!” (my emphases):
“I’m happy that Trump will finally be leaving the White House. As I’ve said before, I don’t agree with the people who said that voting him out is the “right” way to get him out — he should have been impeached and convicted within the first year of his presidency. Whether the president is above the law is not a question that should be up for popular vote (or some weirdly-derived subset of the popular vote). If the US system can’t eject a president for constantly and openly breaking the law, then the system is broken. But this band-aid is better than nothing. The bare last line of defense has held firm against the deadly march of fascism — when there was no guarantee that it would. Hopefully this victory will help turn the tide and encourage the people to make serious changes and fix things for real.”
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Department Of Oh, Oh, How I Hate Hate Hate Having To Write This…
But, I have to. Because it’s bugging the ever-lovin’ sudoriferous secretions out of me. 
To start the new year, here are two things I look forward to seeing ended:
(1) This should go without saying: the termination of a certain administration (hint: this will take place on January 20)
(2) “Woke” and “Cancel” culture, which, IMO, is directly related to (1)…and my concern with it is tangentially related to the first entry in this post (as in, reading advice columns).
“…many Americans have come to believe that the only way to spur change is by ginning up anger. It isn’t enough to say your opponents are wrong. You have to say they are reprehensible….
So many tools of modern culture take ancient circuits in the brain and put them in hyperdrive…. We evolved to care about relationships, but social media has weaponized this, transforming personal connections into metrics of self-worth. Getting angry at (who we perceived to be) wrongdoers was helpful in our evolutionary past, but when people apply that same impulse today…what we get are doxing and death threats. Used recklessly or for self-promotion, outrage can poison the way we interact with each other. It can imprison us in our own echo chambers. ( excerpts from “Screaming Into The Void: How Outrage Is Hijacking Our Culture
And Our Minds,” Hidden Brain, 10-7-19 )
The Orwellian speak of #45’s administration reminds me of the opposite side of the same coin, which is groupthink, and “cancel” or “woke culture.” It seems I can’t spit (and I have tried) without hearing, from aggrieved persons or interest groups, cries of “hateful!” re someone who disagrees with them, and without citation of an actual, factual statement from that someone of hate. To list only two examples…
* a woman, having been sexually assaulted in a private/public room, articulates her concerns about any man being able to enter a women’s restroom if he claims to “identify as female”.  Her concerns are not addressed logically or compassionately; rather, she is shrieked at by trans activists, YOU’RE TRYING TO KILL US ALL!!
* People on “the left” seem to feel entitled to call someone who disagrees with them and/or their identity group, on a certain issue (even if they support other issues for that group) “hateful” and “evil.”
Moiself is reminded of #45’s kneejerk way of dealing with disagreements and critiques, particularly from women. He rarely attempts to refute the substance of the criticism (he’ll say it’s not valid, it’s fake news). Rather, he goes into attack mode, claiming that those women hate him because they are “nasty,” “evil,” “pathetic,” “sad”….
I’ve written of this – my concerns about and loathing of “cancel culture” and thought and language policing and their many variants  – severaltimes previously in this space. Here is the promised advice column link.
The write said that her youngest son loved the first Harry Potter book (read in class by his third grade teacher) and was asking her to read the remaining books with him. She’d read the entire HP series to her older two sons, who loved it. But now her oldest (trans) son asked her “…not to read the books to his younger brother and not to buy Harry Potter merchandise because it would feel to him that I was supporting J.K. Rowling’s horrible anti-trans comments.” The letter-writing mom is struggling with wanting to let her youngest “…enjoy the world of Harry Potter without supporting a bigot.”
DP‘s answer included a WTF ?!?! reference to the author of the Harry Potter series as an “artist who’s made transphobia a significant part of her career.”
I can’t help but wonder how the letter writer hear about Rowling’s alleged “horrible” comments – and did she even know of Rowling’s articulate, nuanced response to being slandered, or is she (and her oldest son) jumping on the Orwellian groupthink bandwagon? The DP columnist  didn’t correct the writer’s hyperbole and seems to agree with it. Although I (mostly) like the DP column I ‘ve noticed the groupthink tendency in DP‘s answers and assumptions. I’m not cancelling my on-line subscription – that would make me part of the cancel culture, right? But the stench of self-righteous piling-on lingers, and don’t know if I’ll be able to stomach reading DP column for a while.
Summary of the issue at hand, for those who’ve managed to remain blissfully ignorant of transphobia-hysteria: in December 2019 writer J.K. Rowling tweeted her support for a British woman who’d lost her job for posting so-called “transphobic” tweets. On 6 June, Rowling poked Twitter fun at the usage of the phrase “people who menstruate” – a phrase many people and writers (such as moiself ) find unnecessary, even bizarre, not to mention WTF, Saturday-Night-Live-skit-worthyawkwardness.
” ‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
I’m so glad Rowling beat me to it, because that would have been my first reaction. ROTFL.
Sexual dimorphism is a factual, biological phenomenon in mammalian species. There are a variety of opinions as to the diversity or spectrum of expression within that phenomenon itself and within our human, culture expressions of biology. Rowling and many others hold the opinion that being female is not just a “construct,” and now, such opinions are labeled by a vocal minority as “hate speech.” Many trans activists and their supporters called for Rowlings’ books to be burned, told Rowling she was “literally killing trans people with [her] hate,” called her a cunt and a bitch….
Rowling responded to the criticism with an essay which, apparently, most of her critics (including, I’d guess, the mother who wrote to DP and DP himself ) – did not bother to fully, open-mindedly and carefully read. Nowhere in the essay did I find sentiments I’d even remotely consider hateful or “horrible,” nor indicative of someone who’s “made transphobia a significant part of her career.” Rowling is a committed feminist with a personal history of experiencing misogyny, gender discrimination, and sexual abuse. She believes that most trans people are “vulnerable and deserve protection,” and she calmly and articulately explained her concerns with the “the consequences of the current trans activism”:
We’re living through the most misogynistic period I’ve experienced. Back in the 80s, I imagined that my future daughters, should I have any, would have it far better than I ever did, but between the backlash against feminism and a porn-saturated online culture, I believe things have got significantly worse for girls. Never have I seen women denigrated and dehumanised to the extent they are now. From the leader of the free world’s long history of sexual assault accusations and his proud boast of ‘grabbing them by the pussy’, to the incel (‘involuntarily celibate’) movement that rages against women who won’t give them sex, to the trans activists who declare that TERFs  need punching and re-educating, men across the political spectrum seem to agree: women are asking for trouble. Everywhere, women are being told to shut up and sit down, or else.
I’ve read all the arguments about femaleness not residing in the sexed body, and the assertions that biological women don’t have common experiences, and I find them, too, deeply misogynistic and regressive. It’s also clear that one of the objectives of denying the importance of sex is to erode what some seem to see as the cruelly segregationist idea of women having their own biological realities or – just as threatening – unifying realities that make them a cohesive political class….
….as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume. ‘Woman’ is not an idea in a man’s head. ‘Woman’ is not a pink brain, a liking for Jimmy Choos or any of the other sexist ideas now somehow touted as progressive. Moreover, the ‘inclusive’ language that calls female people ‘menstruators’ and ‘people with vulvas’ strikes many women as dehumanising and demeaning. I understand why trans activists consider this language to be appropriate and kind, but for those of us who’ve had degrading slurs spat at us by violent men, it’s not neutral, it’s hostile and alienating.
This is a brief except from a 3,600 word essay. Read it in its entirety before forming an opinion; I realize it’s a bit longer than many kneejerk reactors are used to (if they don’t come across the corrext buzz words they are looking for in the first two paragraphs, bye bye). Maybe you agreed with all of it, some of it, none of it. What is your response if you truly (or think you ought to, because it’s the woke thing to do) disagree with Rowling – or anyone else, for that matter, on this issue or any other. Do you go from 0 to 120 in the blink of an eye? Is there nothing in between? Can you disagree with what someone says without conflating their opinions – or your interpretations of their opinions – with terms like “hateful” “horrible,” and twist her words into saying she calls for “literally killing” someone?
Rowling, on the record as supporting LGBTQ rights and people, envisioned one of the most beloved characters in literature, Professor Albus Dumbledoree, as gay . I find it both ironic and pathetic that the creator of the most famous and beloved world of witches and wizards is now herself the object of an ideological witch-hunt.
Those who jumped on the public chastisement bandwagon included actor Daniel Radcliffe, whom I took to task here. I in turn didn’t want to accuse Radcliffe of being “hateful” nor accuse him of trying to “kill” Rowling’s career…but perhaps I should have. As per our culture of outrage, no one will listen to you unless you go over the top.
“Harry Potter, you need to learn to think before you speak.”
Anyone from a bartender to a biologist who disagrees with the “woke” tenet re gender- that it exists in the mind/is primarily/only a social construct – will, sooner or later, be called transphobic. To disagree with someone is to “hate” them and what they say, and to label them as pathologically fearful.  You disagree with me on that? You hater, you…opposition-ophobe, you! And woe unto you if you make a simple, human error. If you absent-mindedly  call a trans-man by his birthname, even if you originally – as in, for forty frickin’ *years*- knew him as her, you are no longer a fallible friend who made a totally understandable slip of the tongue – you DEAD-named him, you transphobic bigot!
This issue is more than one of free speech and ideological and imaginational conformity (which, as a writer, I have great concerns about). This link directly to What Just Happened ® (in the past four years and the recent election), which we are still trying to figure out. Bear with me a bit longer as I make the point I earlier alluded to.
People stop talking with one another across party, ideological, and cultural “lines” if they know or fear that others are going to pay more attention to *how* they say something rather than *what* they are saying. In particular, folks who are not hateful and/or ignorant fools, but who
(1) don’t consider themselves deftly articulate or skilled in written expression, and thus (2) worry that they won’t use the “correct” jargon or terminology
fear being misunderstood, and are prone to withdrawing from dialogue with those who hold differing opinions.
Someone can disagree with you on an aspect of what you consider to be your most important or even defining cause, without rejecting your entire cause. That Someone can be an ally, can still be “on your side” – unless blindered, politico-speak conformity is your price for alliance, in which case you’ll end up driving allies away, or underground. Then, hey – good luck dealing with the vocal opposition, who are as firm in the self-righteousness of their position as you seem to be of yours.
This is not just a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with a successful author who has social media followers. The vitriol directed against Rowling is directly related to disturbing social phenomena which have political and cultural ramifications for us all – phenomena that give us headlines like the following, which too many left-leaning/”progressive” Americans either ignored or misunderstood, in their post-election head-scratching:
Although the election pollsters were mostly accurate about Trump’s impending defeat, Democrats lost ground in other important areas, which took pollsters by surprise. How could they have been so wrong about that? Several studies and theories point to the idea that although most folks, even conservatives, agreed that #45 had to go, people on all sides of all aisles are becoming more and more concerned with cancel culture, and they blame the Democrats/The Left for that (or for being the *least* willing to call it out). And because of cancel culture, people didn’t answer truthfully to pollsters (or even to their own family and friends) about their concerns, lest they be called evil, ___- o-phobes, and haters.
“Differences of opinion no longer are defined by one’s approach or framing of an issue, but rather by the person who holds a contrary position as being evil…. Comedy, one would think, should be exempt from restrictions on speech, but it is not. Chris Rock stated… ‘I stopped playing colleges (because of) … their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.’
Free speech in America is on the ballot for many Americans who see an intellectual orthodoxy rapidly developing….They fear that zealots have been permitted to gain power to banish anyone who questions or denies progressive beliefs or policies….
Pew Research found that “majorities in both major parties believe censorship is likely occurring (on social media.)” …. On Nov. 3, these beliefs may motivate a new voting bloc to cast their votes for the candidate who stands up to cancel culture.” ( “Cancel culture’ may spawn a new, silent voting bloc,” The Hill )
“…the mythical “blue wave” fizzled out into a splash long before the first ballot was even cast. While President-Elect Biden won with a sizable lead in both the electoral and popular votes, the Democratic Party barely held its own in the Senate and the House….and Republicans may be on track to win back the House in 2022.
If Democrats truly want to emerge mightily victorious in the future, they must analyze why over 73 million people voted against them and their party. The analysis must be a brutally honest one for it to have any merit,and conclusions such as the opposition being ‘racists’ or ‘fascists’ are lazy responses which fail to examine the failures of the Democratic Party to reach out to millions of Americans.
… Bill Maher — a vocal Democrat — (stated) that the biggest enemy to liberals is themselves…that the woke culture which has permeated both the personal and professional world is halting the Democrat’s chances at flipping right-leaning voters.
Maher’s analysis could not be more astute. Phenomenon such as…’woke’ culture are the very thing which created the political atmosphere in which a person like Donald Trump could thrive and rally supporters. Democrats created their own monster in this regard. While President Trump may be in office for only a few short months, the angst which propelled his political support is here to stay.
… many (on the Left) subscribe to the belief that ‘if you don’t agree with me, you’re a racist and a bigot and your career should be destroyed.’ …Fear has gripped many, as they struggle to articulate their thoughts, frightened if they may be the next ones to be ‘cancelled.’ “
You really want to equate JK Rowling to this?
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* * *
Pun For The Day
I was disappointed by the organizers of the New Year’s Eve celebration at Times Square.
Once again, they dropped the ball.
But wait – there’s more!
Did y’all here about the guy in England who assaulted a dozen people with a miniature replica of Big Ben on New Year’s Eve? He couldn’t wait for the clock to strike twelve.
Someone has to end this, and soon.
* * *
May the hyperbole of “woke” culture take a well-needed nap; May the new year be filled with new hope and old (but still loved) puns; May 2021 be better than…oh, you know; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 They were dirt poor sharecroppers tenant farmers. That good-luck-meal thing failed, year after year.
 Although when dining out – y’all remember that thing we used to do, way back in 2019? – I will ask for vegan items, to get the point across to restaurant staff that, for example, I don’t want the “vegetable” soup if it’s made with beef broth.
 It’s becoming easier to have plant-based options when traveling, but in many cultures and foreign countries – e.g., Arkansas – it can be difficult: the ideas and imaginations of some folks, when it comes to vegetarian/vegan foods, is remove the “meat” and add cheese and voila, it’s a veggie entrée! Also, I want to be a good visitor and not reject *everything* the host/local cuisine offers.
 Plant-based is not so much about out cutting meat, milk, and eggs —it’s about crowding them out with the amazing variety of fruits and veggies and nuts and legumes and grains that there are out there, many of which get overlooked when the centerpiece of the meal is a big hunk of flesh, accompanied by the usual side veggie suspects.
 Whaddya think, should I have just written, “sweat“?
 When daughter Belle was working closing shifts at a restaurant, and a lawyer friend of mine who was working for a law firm specializing in sexual assault cases found out that Belle’s duties included cleaning the restrooms, she warned Belle about never closing the doors and being very careful to watch her back, because of the number of cases she’d seen where a male waited until a female co-worker was alone in a restroom to assault her.
 Which include literary censorship (“write what you know” which equals “write what you are”) and “cultural appropriation.”
Moiself is torn between Sayit ain’t soand Good riddance. 
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Department Of Partridge Of The Week
This week’s Partridge in our pear tree:
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Department of Who Is This “We” Who Were Thinking This?
A recent podcast of Curiosity Daily, “Early Female Hunters Were More Common Than We Thought,” features a story on recent archaeological findings which have changed the assumptions scientists made about hunters of the early Americas. It turns out that female hunters were “…more common than we thought,” yet another discovery indicating that anthropological and archaeological interpretation of the lives and behavior patterns of early peoples have been interpreted through contemporary (read: patriarchal and male dominance) lenses.
Episode summary: anthropologists have long taught that life in hunter-gather societies was fairly unambiguous: the tribe’s strong, brave men hunted the animals and the patient, passive women gathered berries and roots and other necessities. Recent archeological finds showed that the man-equals-hunter hypothesis was off the mark. The archaeological find of a female hunter buried with her hunting accoutrements was “so unexpected” (by male archeologists) that researchers decided to cast a wide net and see if this finding was a “one-off,” or if there might be evidence of other female hunters in graves that had already been excavated and cataloged.
Researchers looked at records of burial sites in North and South American which were more than 7000 years old. A small percentage of those sites were found with artifacts which suggests that the graves/tombs belonged to hunters, and of that group, more than 40% were female. That was a surprise – to the researchers, but not to the “…ton of indigenous communities which already knew this.”
The fact that both the Greek and Roman gods of the hunt were female (Artemis and Diana, respectively) never gave researchers a clue?
The bigger, or perhaps ultimate story here, IMHO, involves, as the podcast host put it:
“…what counts as knowledge, or *whose* knowledge counts as ‘real’ knowledge? These findings are a big deal to the western scientists and archeologists who have been wrong about this, for centuries. The researchers point to a couple of reasons for this big mistake. One might be that men *seem* to do most of the hunting in contemporary hunter-gatherer societies, which may have led archaeologists to assume that this was always the case. They also point out that many researchers’ interpretations may have been colored by their own preconceived notions about males and females and the division of labor.”
Researchers and scientists have preconceived notions about males and females? Shocking.
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Department Of Little Things I Missed This Year
The big picture of pandemic and worldwide economic upheaval, along with the twin holyshitrevelations of how many of our citizens are clueless (and/or in denial) re the realities of science and of our history of systemic racism, is enough to boggle any mind and frost any fanny.
Moiself, of course, wants all of these problems solved – or at the very least, acknowledged. No, mere acknowledgement won’t do. I want it all fixed. And more.
On a personal scale, I look forward to regaining some simple pleasures.
I want to be able to hug people. I want to laugh uproariously (not from more than 6 feet apart, or behind a mask, or via a computer monitor) at someone’s outrageously great (or stupendously lame) joke, while nudging their arm in appreciation.
I want to watch a movie in a theatre, and turn to the side (or glance behind me) to catch the eyes of fellow movie-goers, strangers in the dark, laughing and gasping together, united briefly by our mutual, “Can you believe that ?!?!?” reactions to what we have just seen onscreen.
I even miss having the opportunity to “Shhhhh!” people.
I’d like to greet fellow hikers on a trail without crawling up the hillside to give them enough space to safely pass by.
In February I bought some nice clothes.  I’d like to have somewhere and/or some occasion – other than a funeral – to wear them.
Considering what so many people have had to deal with during this dumpster fire of a year, these are small grievances, I realize.
Department Of Things I Am Thankful For: Friends Like SDH, Who Persist
This past year, and particularly before/during/after the election, my offspring and moiself had some interesting IM discussions triggered by all of us having come across certain social media postings. These postings led my offspring to voice their despair when they saw friends and relatives falling down the rabbit holes – i.e., either personally expressing conspiratorial/anti-science sentiments or posting links which indicated they agreed with such views.
“Leave them alone/they aren’t really listening anyway/nothing you can say will be helpful/don’t get dragged down to that level by even engaging….”
I know these and other arguments for maintain a modicum of sanity: DO NOT RESPOND.
I also know that if everyone else refuses to engage with such people re such matters, then the only voices they will hear are of those fellow inhabitants of the rabbit holes. And I also also *also* know personally, and have read about, other folks who have escaped from rabbit-hole viewpoints. These escapees attribute their being able to attain emotional and intellectual freedom to the patient, persistent, rational voices of a friend or family member – voices they discounted or even mocked at the time, yet which kept returning to them, and eventually got them to thinking,
“Wait a minute, how do I *really* know what I think I know?”
“Why am I trusting those sources, and not these?”
“Who benefits from me believing what I believe,
and who stands to lose – and lose what? – If I change my mind?”
I have pretty much given up on people who think doctors and researchers and scientists are lying to them but somehow find trustworthy the bullying rhetoric of a documented, serial liar/reality TV show host. Meanwhile, those who study human behavior tell us it’s rare for someone to change a deeply held opinion. That’s probably spot-on; still, I struggle with my responsibilities as a Good Citizen ® to countermand the crap that’s out there, particularly because moiself has changed my mind on many issues over the years. These changes were due to moiself encountering new or obtaining additional information on the issues at hand – and never, to my recollection, because someone insulted me or told me that my opinions were crap.
People rarely change their minds because someone calls them stupid or ignorant. A calm, persistent interest in their opinions, a respectful questioning of how their opinions were formed and where they get their “facts,” seems to be the only thing that “works,” even if the odds seem to be against that (or any) approach.
Thus, here’s to those who persist, despite the odds.
Over the years I have watched many such tenacious souls in action, both in person and via the one social media site I frequent. SDH in particular, whom I have known since junior high school journalism days, is quite amazing. He is a long-time professional journalist, and the investigative, analytical, and *people* skills he has honed over the years have served him, his profession, and our society,  quite well.
It’s not that SDH calls people out on their bullshit, it’s that, like the savvy reporter he is, he hangs in there. He will not be misdirected; he patiently and persistently asks questions (Where did you get that? What are your sources?) while deftly deflecting ad hominem attacks. He responds with facts, facts, and more facts – always trying to bring the argument back to reality.
I haven’t the stomach for it; I “lurk” on the sidelines, reading with awe as SDH takes on cretinous blathering face-palming misinformation spewing, often from friends/acquaintances/family – people he has known for decades.  I admire this quality of SDH’s more than I can say, but since I’m a lousy artist (stick figures dancing in exultation is likely the best tribute I could draw), the “saying” will have to do.
And in the “saying,” I’m going to out him. It is my policy in this blog to initialize or alias-ize the names of non-public people, but as a journalist, with decades of bylines, SDH is already out there…. Besides, I want him to bask in his well-deserved glory:
Scott Duke Harris, A Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation & Appreciation ® is for you.
* * *
Pun For The Day
Not to brag, but I already have a date for New Year’s Eve. It’s December 31st.
May you not need an archaeological find to make you examine your preconceived notions; May 2021 bring a return to your favorite, simple pleasures; May we all persist, despite the odds; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 The latter sentiment would refer to 2020, not my blog.
 Perspective check: “nice” as in relative to moiself’swardrobe. In other words, not tee-shirts or tie-dye.
 Absentee ballots, vote by mail – we’ll count them all!
Department Of There’s Always A Silver Lining (But Sometimes It Smells Like Rotten Eggs)
For long-married couples, the hardships of this year have given us an opportunity to reframe some…uh, activities. For example, a certain husband has been known to try to “sneak one” past his wife, and when she catches him  he tells her that in his ever-vigilant concern for her well-being he is merely giving her a daily hearing test, since it is a well-known fact that high frequency hearing loss accelerates with age.
Thanks to the viral vagaries of the past nine months. loving spouses can now also “test” one another for a more important concern. When your sweet baboo wrinkles his or her nose and grumblingly wonders aloud why you didn’t at least have the decency to leave the room to let one rip after your two-can Trader Joe’s limburger chili lunch, you can reply,
“My darling, I was merely administering to you, within the privacy and comfort of our home, a vital health test: the experts tell us that, in a person without any other symptoms, a sudden appearance of asomnia – loss of the sense of smell – is one of the earliest signs of COVID-19.”
“I heard that….”
* * *
Department Of Yet Another Thing I Was Told I Would Like…
And Looked Forward To Liking…
But Then I Didn’t
That would be the much-acclaimed HBO series, Big Little Lies. MH and I made it to episode four of the first season, and… Sorry. Moiself simply doesn’t wanna spend any more time around those characters.
If you are a fan of the BLL series, kindly restrain your knee-jerk reaction to channel your Literature Appreciation 101 professor in my direction. Yep, I totally get that unpleasant characters – in protagonist, antagonist, and supporting roles alike – can be vital components of compelling storylines. Duh, *fiction writer* here! For example: who is a sympathetic and/or likeable character in Macbeth?
But, sorry – BLL is no Macbeth.
And, the sex scenes…
“Like, I *know*….
BLL uses what I call the “movie sex” presentation, which I find ridiculous/boring:
* candle- or otherwise gauzily-lit locales
*nothing resembling safe sex being practiced
* unrealistic body presentation (read: the men can be flabsters but the women always look like models )
* smoldering looks passing for foreplay, yet both the men and women reach wall-pounding orgasms within two minutes
* and what’s with all the up-against-the-wall-pounding?
But my main objection to BLL’s sex scenes is the violence. Having worked in my past life  with victims of sexual violence, I don’t find violent, aggressive, “rough” and/or “merely coercive” sex to be entertaining, even when it’s excused justified as “necessary to portray the dysfunctional dynamic of the relationship.”
Sure, there’s great acting from all cast members, but so far, BLL is not moiself’s cup of strychnine tea. In time I may return to finish the series, but at this point not even the curiosity of finding out which character gets murdered  can compel me to stay with it.
* * *
Department Of Will There Ever Be A Vaccine For Flagrant Asininity?
“Coronavirus could be ‘under control’ in weeks if everyone wore masks,
CDC director says.”
(Washington Post, 7-14-20 )
“…the near-universal scientific consensus that, more than any of single action short of everyone entering solitary confinement, face coverings can prevent the transmission of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19….
The benefits of masking in reducing viral transmission are clear…. In an analysis of 194 countries, those that did not recommend face masks saw Covid-19 mortality increase 54% every week after the first case appeared; in countries with masking policies, the weekly increase was only 8%.” (“If everyone wore a mask, Covid-19 could be brought under control, CDC director urges,” statnews.com 7-14-20 )
Dateline: earlier this week. MH directed my attention to a Facebook post: a kinfolk of ours posted a “group selfie” picture with three other people, all smiling into the cellphone camera, their unmasked faces close together. As reported in the post, these folks were in a bar, celebrating a friend’s birthday with, among other activities, “karaoke singing.”
Yep. All that, plus karaoke singing.
“…singers…generate respiratory aerosols at high rates. In other words, they spew a lot of droplets into the air when they warble or blow.…. A professor explains the physics: ‘You have the air that’s coming out on your respiratory tube, your mouth, and your nose, and there’s liquid lining all of your respiratory system. …And when the air is going very quickly, (the force with which singers expel air) it can basically grab a little bit of that material and put it in a particle, and then you expel it out into the air….
anything that makes the air go faster or more strongly or produce more air is putting out more respiratory particles.
If you’re singing, you’re breathing in a lot of air, you’re breathing out very forcefully, and you’re also moving your vocal cords. The vocal cords are wet, they’re covered in this fluid, they’re vibrating, and that can also produce more particles.” As a result…group singing remains “extremely dangerous and irresponsible,” (the professor stated), pointing out numerous other super-spreading incidents among choruses worldwide.” ( ” Singers Can Be Coronavirus Superspreaders, Say Experts …” npr.org, 8-16-20 )
“…the more responsibly you’d choose to behave…ya think?
Yeah, right. Welcome to the USA.
“For months, public health officials have been warning about the dangers of going to bars: They’re indoor spaces, they frequently have poor air circulation, and after a few drinks, people tend to lean in close during conversations or put their arms around their besties, all while forgetting to wear their masks….
But if bars are dangerous during a pandemic, karaoke is even worse, regardless of what form it takes…. A fun way to spend a night on the town has become a raging cocktail of everything epidemiologists tell us to avoid: Gathering in groups, passing around a microphone that’s potentially covered in virus-covered respiratory droplets, and most of all, singing.
The dangers of singing in public were laid bare in March at a church choir practice in Skagit, Wash. Only one of the 61 attendees at the two-hour rehearsal was known to be symptomatic, but 53 would end up testing positive for the coronavirus, and two members died. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the act of singing “might have contributed to transmission through emission of aerosols, which is affected by loudness of vocalization.” ( “Karaoke is a health risk during a pandemic.” Washington Post, 8-17-20
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Department Of Damn Damn Damn Damn Damn!
Don’t you hate it when someone whom you otherwise admire –
say, a writer known for her empathetic take on complicated cultural and political topics (e.g., sexual violence, family relationships, race, privilege) using both a broad and personal lens, who is capable of recognizing the opinions of others while persuasively articulating her own –
says something which makes you realize that there is at least one  part of her brain wherein her subconscious spends way too much time staring at a frozen orange juice container because it says, “concentrate”?
Dateline: Wednesday am, beginning to listen to Tig Notaro’s “Don’t Ask Tig” podcast. Notaro’s guest is writer Roxanne Gay, and I’m excited to hear that…until I hear the following exchange, and have to press the what the fuck – seriously? stop button on my podcast app.
Host TN was asking RG how RG feels about being someone whose opinions people value and respect. RG responded that it feels great, if challenging, considering the kind of stressful  topics she is asked to speak about, but most of the time it’s fine….
And where did you – where did that come from, in you?
Guest RG: I don’t know. I’m very quiet and very shy…I think it’s because, I tend to – I’m a Libra, and so I’m able to acknowledge multiple points of view.….
Host TN: Well, I’m an Aries, I don’t know what that means.
Guest RG: I don’t know either; I only know my own sign….I don’t fully understand astrology, but I have seen enough to believe in it, and take it seriously….
Damn damn damn damn damn.
I will, most likely, continue to read Ms. Gay’s essays and op-eds. Still, grrrrrrrr. I know that all idols have feet of clay, and that it’s good to be reminded of this, but do the idol’s clay feet have to be seemingly, blissfully, unaware that she’s stomping in horseshit?
Santa, please put Ms. Gay on your Christmas list, and sent her a special present this year: Carl Sagan’s baloney detection kit.
Moiself gets some of the reasons why people “believe in” astrology, or just like to read their horoscopes. For some folk it’s like a game, and astrology allows you to do the humble brag (or humble rag) thing: you can list your strengths or weaknesses without taking personal responsibility for either boasting or knocking yourself, because the credit (or blame) is in your stars.
I’ve met people who admit to “checking” their horoscope but say that they do so only for amusement purposes and don’t really think the predictions are valid. However, many scientists argue that even the “entertainment only” aspects of things like astrology are misleading and even harmful, in that they promote the idea that it is possible to interpret or explain reality of the natural world via the supernatural.
“Astrology can be tested by the lives of twins. There are many real cases like this: one twin is killed in childhood in, say, a riding accident or struck by lightning, while the other one lives to a prosperous old age. Supposed that had happened to me. My twin and I would have been born in exactly the same place and within minutes of each other, exactly the same planets would be rising at our births. If astrology were valid, how would we have such profoundly different fates?” ( Carl Sagan, as quoted in culturacolectiva.com )
The late great astronomer Carl Sagan was proficient in taking down astronomy and other pseudosciences. His life’s work involved encouraging people to
* learn critical and skeptical thinking skills * understand that science is not just a body of knowledge, but a way of thinking.
If you haven’t read Sagan’s book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, what are you waiting for? Even if you already know why, say, astronomy (or divination, fortune-telling, witchcraft, ad nauseum) is hokum, the book is an excellent explication of the scientific method to laypeople. Also, Sagan was a highly entertaining writer who was “incapable of composing a dull sentence,” as one admirer put it.
* * *
2020: a year which started with murder hornets and descended into COVID-19, civil unrest (e.g., the BLM movement and police brutality protests), wildfires, hurricanes, and the myriad of unnatural disasters emanating from the White House….
When it comes to using bowling metaphors to describe the events of this year,  it was like our society just kept throwing a series of gutter balls.
So, the regular/festive tree will wait until next year. For 2020, this is all I can muster.
Lest you think moiself has totally Scrooged-out on the festivities this year, I found another “tree” at an antique store. This one has room for a mere nine hanging ornaments. It wasn’t as difficult a task as you might think – whittling down the 100+ ornaments we have to only nine. Most of our ornaments are way too big for this kind of display, so, an assortment of my favorite smaller ones will do, for now.
* * *
Department Of Get A Load Of This Pair
Moiself was compelled to adopt these from the grocery store. But, what to do with them?
I thought, maybe something Thai-flavored. Thailand is The Country Formerly Known as Siam, ® and the first thing that came to my mind when I saw these orange beauties was, “Cool – Siamese squash.”
That thought was almost immediately followed by Well-Meaning Liberal’s Unnecessary Self-Flagellation ® : “Ooh, that might be taken as insulting, or culturally-appropriating. I should probably say, “Conjoined Squash.”
Call ’em whatever, but what to do with them? I asked for suggestions from my family, who were as helpful as always. Son K declined to comment. Daughter Belle’s response: “Boobies!” Thank you, daughter dearest, but I was thinking more along culinary lines. 
MH suggested that I could hang them from my car’s trailer hitch. Yeah, but then I’d have to paint them blue…. 
* * *
Pun For The Day
I left my husband because he kept making astrology puns – it finally Taurus apart.
* * *
Department Of Partridge Of The Week
This week’s Partridge in our pear tree:
* * *
May you be judicious in choosing which home health tests you give to your loved ones; May you remember that the best way to treat your “besties”
is to wear a mask in their presence; May you realize that if you seriously want to know what the moon is in Aries,
then you need to know that your head is seriously up your ass; …and may the hijinks ensue.
When it comes to giving grieving advice, the best (as in, most helpful) might be:
Speak for yourself.
Hardly profound…but…really. Share your experiences and perspectives if asked to do so, but remember, they are just that. *Your* experiences and perspectives are not necessarily prescriptive for others. Preface your remarks with something along the lines of, “I can’t speak to everyone’s situation; this is what happened to me/my family, and this is what was helpful to me/us, and this is what was not….”
I have been reading up on grief experienced by families who have lost an adult child to addiction – a subject with which my extended family has had the misfortune to become acquainted with. In several online articles and forums, I came across three similar stories of parents telling how
* news of their child’s death was greeted by silence from both friends and family; * such silence was painful to these parents as they grieved their loss; * people later justified their silence with, “I honestly didn’t know what to say; I was afraid I’d say the wrong thing, and hurt your feelings….”
The similarity in these three stories was in the response of the parents to those people who explained or justified their silences. I am summarizing and paraphrasing their responses here, by quoting one particular parent:
” ‘Hurting our feelings?’ That’s impossible!” “It is *impossible* to hurt *anyone* who has lost a child – we have already suffered the worst hurt imaginable.
Say something, anything, to acknowledge our loss.”
Her adamancy on this matter practically screamed from the text. And I thought, “Well…certainly, she’s an expert on her own feelings, but why is she speaking in such absolutes – why is she presuming to speak for “anyone” (read: everyone) who has lost a child?”
Also, in several of the stories I read which both preceded and followed the It-is-impossible-to-hurt-us parent’s story, other parents – those whom she had labeled as-impossible-to-hurt – spoke of how they *had* been further hurt, by unintentionally but nevertheless painful and/or thoughtless comments from friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, doctors and law enforcement officers. Some people’s attempts at comfort came off as giving unsolicited advice to the grieving parents – often in the form of tacit or even overt religious proselytizing – or as passing judgement regarding the deceased, whose death was spoken of as inevitable (“his own fault;” “a foreseeable consequence of her poor choices”) and therefore less shocking than losing a child in other ways, such as via auto accidents, illness, even homicide or suicide.
Moiself doesn’t want to add to humanity’s burden of of consistently and compassionately understanding when and how to comfort loved ones who’ve suffered these kinds of devastating, personal losses. It’s complicated, to say the least, for both sides – the giving and receiving of condolences. As one poet friend so precisely and evocatively wondered,
“Many have traveled here, so why are there no better maps?” 
Better maps, indeed. Someday, we may have them. Until then, speak to and about someone’s loss with love and kindness. When it comes to giving advice, speak for yourself. And only yourself. And *listen* to the bereaved, as if your life depended on it.
* * *
Department Of Is That An Infectious Parasite In Your Brain Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?
“Toxoplasma gondii exerts a strange sort of mind control on rodents: Once infected with the brain parasite, they seem to lose their fear of cats and become more likely to get eaten. When they are, the microbe can make its way into the feline intestine to reproduce. But a new study argues that T. gondii’s effects on rodents aren’t cat specific; instead, the parasite simply makes mice more eager to explore and less fearful of any species that might gobble them up.” (Science, “Brain parasite may strip away rodents’ fear of predators—not just of cats.”
Given my previous advice, I shouldn’t speak for my entire species, so I’ll just say that moiself has no desire to gobble up a mouse or any rodent. However, I recently saw a mouse infected with (I’m guessing) toxoplasmosis.
I can’t think of what else might explain its unusual, survival-fail behavior. Oh, and if you’ve never heard about the life cycle of the toxoplasma gondii, treat yourself to a brief overview of arguably one of Mother Nature’s strangest, most face-palming, biological phenomena.
Dateline: Tuesday, 7 am-ish, leaving my house via the garage, to go for a walk. The sun is not quite up; as I walk down the driveway toward the sidewalk I notice something scurrying in the front yard, to the right, about five feet from me, in the dirt underneath our redbud tree. I approach the Scurrying Something, and see a mouse.
The mouse also sees me. Instead of freezing in place or fleeing, it raises up on its hind feet and looks up, its beady little eyes staring right at me. It begins to run in circles, first towards then away from me, and makes little leaps into the air and prances about, as if it is trying to attract my attention. Is this a batshit crazy mouse, I’m thinking, or is this behavior trying to distract me away from, say, its nest that is nearby?  Or…is this a horny mouse who’s lookin’ for love in all the wrong places, and it thinks I smell like cat pee? I’ll admit that my regular shower schedule has lapsed during the COVID quarantine months, but hey – it’s not THAT bad.
“Toxoplasma gondii …can only reproduce within the bodies of cats, and in mice, the mind-controlling parasite has evidently evolved to make mice unafraid of felines and even…sexually attracted to the odor of cat urine….” ( “Mind-Control Parasite Kills Mice’s Fear of Cats Permanently,” livescience.com )
Moving right along….
I’m bundled up against the 30˚ temp and fumble through my layers of clothing, trying to get my cellphone out of my pants pocket. I want to videotape this mouse’s interpretive dance or whatever it is, and show it to my offspring, both of whom were biology majors and worked with mice in undergraduate research projects. Just as I get my phone and find the video mode, the mouse scampers toward me, which gives me pause (uh, what if it’s rabid…and is that even a mouse-thing? ). Manic Mouse gets to within less than a foot of my foot, does a little pirouette, then makes a beeline for our pear tree, which is about four feet away, by the sidewalk. I follow the mouse; it resumes its acrobatic antics around the pear tree’s trunk and underneath the surrounding azalea bushes. The combination of the darkness, the rapidity of the mouse’s movements, and my less-than-stellar cinematography skills makes for a poor video. I bid the mouse adieu and go for my walk, pondering, among other metaphysical wonders:
Why isn’t it pronounced, tox-o-plas- MOUSE -is?
“Yeah, what she said.”
* * *
Department Of Just Wondering #589 In A Never-Ending Series
Why do our big toes *not* have their own separate, special name? We have a unique moniker for the pollex, the short, thick first digit of the human hand: we call it the thumb, thus distinguishing it from the other fingers. But we have ten toes, and they’re all just…toes. Okay, the first ones are the big toes, but, c’mon, what kind of pansy-ass distinction is that?
Department Of What Happens To Your Brain When You When You Read Celebrity News
Before You Go To Bed
The news in question was someone’s Facebook posting of a Twitter announcement, from an actor, of said actor’s newly-claimed  trans status. The announcement included, of course, the customary pronouns preference:
“… I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they…”
I read this before dozing off ~ 10 pm. Later, in the literal wee hours of the morning, I was awakened by the not-unfamiliar sounds of MH, getting out of bed to go to the bathroom but being not-quite-awake and forgetting where he was (read: he’d walked into a wall and was feeling around for the bathroom door).
Moiself, sitting upright: MH!
Moiself: You’re in Hillsboro. And…
I stopped at “and.” But, honest-to-the-gods-whose-existences-I-refute, I almost added, 
“… The problem with gender reveals has grown so out of control, the woman who popularized them begged parents to “stop having these stupid parties” on social media. The most recent fire in California was started when clouds of blue smoke for a boy preceded the flames, which the expectant parents tried to put out with bottled water. In 2017, an Arizona gender-reveal party explosion started a wildfire that burned about 47,000 acres.” ( “After Gender Reveal Celebration Sparks Fire, Some Say The Parties Have Gotten Out Of Hand,” Here and Now, 9-9-20 )
On one end of the scale of Humans Who Are Concerned About Such Things®, there’s a small but vocal crowd which insists, “Gender is just a construct.” At the other end are those for whom gender is such defining human characteristic that they cause wildfires by trying to announce to an ask-us-if-we-careworld the sex of their not-even-born precious snowflake baby.
Maybe y’all are ahead of me on this, but moiself was gob-smacked to discover, which I did only recently, that more than one gender reveal party has started a wildfire.
Please, someone set fire to this.
To all future, even halfway serious considerers of holding a “gender reveal” gathering of any kind, please consider this: the only thing you will be revealing is probably no secret to those who know you:
“Congratulate us, we’re having a _____ (humanoid offspring of narcissistic morons) ! “
Gender is not “just” a construct, if only “just” by the fact that for some folks, determining if a developing fetus is male or female gets their (non-gender-fluid) panties in a knot.
Imagine the size of the knot which could entangle this pair.
“Just-a-construct;” “the end all and be all of life.” Perhaps these gender perspectives are the opposite side of the same coin… or, the adjacent sides of the same tetrahedron, considering the complexity of the issue? 
When I was pregnant with son K and then daughter Belle, our neighbors gave a baby shower/party for moiself and MH. Me being, well, me, my dear, tolerant friends knew better than to host a women/moms only event, and the guys/dads truly seemed to enjoy being included in the festivities. MH and I dared to wade through the murky waters of Being A Gracious Guest Etiquette ® by letting the party hosts know in advance that we did not want anything “gendered” – please, none of that pink or blue crap swag.  MH made it known that, in particular, any of those dreadful baby bows, which were popular at the time (mid-1990s) would be, how you say, not appreciated by the mother-to be. 
From what I’ve seen lately, those ridiculous bows are making a comeback. People: why are y’all doing this to your girl-childs?
The first time I saw a girl-baby with one of those forehead bands, I felt so…dispirited. Yet another reminder of how early it starts, for females: a few days out of the V-shute and the world wants to start decorating her already?
I queried the first sets of parental units I saw whom had accessorized their child thusly; I asked in (what I thought was) an open-minded, even-toned manner, about what the forehead bow-thingy was for? Each parental unit answered in the same way:
Gender-Crazed Parental Units: “Oh, isn’t it cute?! That’s so people know our baby is a girl!”
Moiself: “Oh…okay…well…your family and friends already know – I assume you’ve told them – your baby’s name, and that she’s a girl, right?”
GCPU: “Yes, but other people don’t. And with most little babies, you can’t tell by looking at their faces whether it’s a boy or a girl. “
Moiself: “And it is important for ‘other people,’ including strangers, to know your child’s sex, because…?”
 I had amniocentesis with both of pregnancies; MH and I knew, well in advance of any baby showers, K’s and Belle’s respective sex…but I can’t remember whom we told. I know we kept the names private until birth – which we’d been advised to do by a wise friend: “If someone doesn’t like the name you’ve chosen and they think there’s a gnat’s ass of a chance that they can change your mind – and they always think there is a chance that they can change your mind – they will try, so don’t tell anyone the name until it’s on the birth certificate.”
 Can you say, sling-shotted into orbit around Mars?
 And, it should go without saying, share it with moiself .
Is today still considered Black Friday, what with the COVID crisis limiting the for some white trash who look forward to the traditional shoving match at Walmart customary, day-after-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy?  Using the post-holiday letdown as an excuse inspiration, moiself has decided that this will a lighter, less filling, politics-free post.
* * *
Department Of Someone Is Not Understanding The Concept
Our city’s curbside recycling services recently (within the past year) added food waste recycling to their yard waste recycling service. Each household was issued a small (~ 1 gallon) tan container for the house, to be kept on your kitchen counter, under the sink, wherever, for your potato and apple peels, squash rinds – all of your plant food waste. When that container is full you empty it into your large (60 gallon) brown yard waste bin which you keep outside a foot or so over the property line, so as to annoy your neighbors next to your other garbage and recycling bins. the smaller container goes back inside the house. You wheel the big brown bin to the curb when it is your street’s garbage/recycling pickup day. Pretty basic stuff.
house food waste container on the front/left, which you empty into the yard waste bin on the right.
Our city, like most cities these days, has a fleet of garbage/recycling vehicles which are automated side load trucks. The trucks have a crew of one – the driver, who operates a mechanical arm which grabs and lifts the recycling bin and dumps it.
Here is what moiself observed on Monday morning, when I was walking in a neighborhood ~ 1 mile from my house, on that neighborhood’s recycling day.
* * *
Dept Of Avoiding Politics To Keep The Peace For Just One Day, But Of Course She Found Something Else to Tantalize Offend Some of Y’all
There are so many, many, many examples I could use, but I’ll settle on this one: Why do religious folk still engage, and/or seem to believe in, the efficacy of intercessory prayer, considering what happened to Elizabeth Smart?
Jesus Lied About Prayer (excerpts from “Lies Jesus Told,” from the blog, “EvilBible.com – fighting Against Immorality In Religion” )
“Jesus is quoted many times in the Bible saying that a believer can ask for anything through prayer and receive it. He even goes so far as to say that mountains and trees can be thrown into the sea simply by praying for it. This is clearly a lie, and can be proven to be a lie by any believer. Simply pray for me to be converted to Christianity right away. Or better yet ask God to move the mountains behind my house. He could make a lot of converts that way. If I’m converted today, I’ll post a public apology on my web site and devote my life to kissing God’s ass. If I’m not converted it would only be fair for you to apologize and devote your life to kissing my butt. Here are the quotes from Jesus that proves that he lied:”
(moiself’scomment: the following is number three of nine demonstrably claims, from the New Testament, attributed to Jesus, that the author of this blog lists): (3) “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.
(Matthew 18:19-20 NAS)”
Remember the Mormon girl, Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home at knifepoint when she was fourteen years old? She was held captive for nine months by her abductor.  The man, an excommunicated Mormon, claimed to be a prophet and an angel, and told Smart that she was …”the first of many virgin brides he planned to kidnap, each of whom would accompany him as he battled the Antichrist.” He repeatedly raped Smart, “…sometimes multiple times a day, forced her to look at pornographic magazines, and regularly threatened to kill her.”
Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.
If the human interest stories about the case that I read were correct – if what we know about human nature is correct – there were definitely more than two or three people praying, in Jesus’ name, from day one when news of Smart’s abduction broke. For nine months people prayed alone, and in groups, Mormons and Christians alike,  as well as believers of other faiths, for that poor girl to be found and returned to her family.
And Jesus was…where, during all of this?
If what Jesus said was trustworthy – and Christians claim that their scriptures are reliable in its narration of Jesus’ words and deeds – when those people were praying he was in their midst doing…just what, exactly? Listening to them, hearing their earnest supplications, discussing it with his supposed father/god/himself ,  and ultimately, apparently, saying something along the lines of, “Yeah, we’ll let them find her, but not now. We’ll allow her to get sexually assaulted for several more months, like the Congolese women who also keep praying to us as they are raped in the refugee camps.”
* * *
* * *
Department Of This Is In The Running For Best (Verbal) Curse Ever
The visual version of this curse would be having to look at this picture.
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Department Of What The World Needs Now, Is Love Sweet Love…. Or, Failing That, A New Game
Dateline: Thursday morning. My thoughts while walking past the Manzanita Links golf course, where moiself espied at least six people prepping for a round of golf before halving to attend to Thanksgiving dinner or whatever.
As I passed the end of the course – the ninth hole – moiself had a sudden realization: while I have no interest in golf such as it is, I am intrigued by the idea of playing it backwards. How about instead of playing golf, we play Flog ® ?
“Only a stupid infidel would use a nine iron off the tee!”
No no no; not *that* kind of flog.
Here’s how to Flog: Using a specialty club –golf putters may need to be repurposed for flogging – players “hit” (or somehow coax) their flog balls out of the ninth hole, with the aim of getting the balls up to and atop the ninth hole tee. Repeat with each hole after (before?) that, until you end up at the first tee.
Just imagine the skill set involved! I mean, anyone can (eventually) hit a golf ball off of a tee, but the precision, tenacity, and dexterity in getting one *on* to it? Flogging will require an abundance of Zen-like focus and patience.
Flogging will be a high-scoring game – probably no two- or even three-par holes, and the odds against any player shooting a hole in one (tee in one?) will be astronomical.
What do you think – could this attract a whole new generation of players? Or, are the logistics insurmountable ? Obviously, you couldn’t have people golfing and flogging at the same time, as you’d end up with weird traffic jams,  so an existing course would have to decide, day by day, to be either for golfing, or for flogging.
So, when moiself wins the lottery  I will rent out an entire course golf course for moiself and some thrill-seeking friends, and we shall Flog.
Community Service/Making The World A Better Place ® Bonus: We floggers will be a better-dressed bunch than golfers. That’s almost too easy to guarantee.
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Department Of Partridge Of The Week
Our neighborhood knows the holiday season is in full swing when the lights go up on the pear tree in our front yard (the weekend after Thanksgiving) and stay up until early January. Each week, the tree hosts a Special Guest Star ®. This week’s Partridge in our pear tree is, as always, the lead-off:
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Pun For The Day
The cook couldn’t bother to season the thanksgving Turkey – she didn’t have the thyme.
“Yeah, sure lady – you’re a vegan, like we believe that!
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Department Of False Advertising
Although I promoted today’s post as being politics-free, moiself can’t resist mentioning this. Dateline: Wednesday afternoon, listening to a podcast, wherein a physician/scientist was being interviewed about the COVID-19 vaccine options. ‘Twas music to my ears to hear, more than once, the interviewer ask the scientist what he would be expecting and/or hoping from “…The Biden Administration.”
For the first time in four years, I could hear the word “administration,” referring to the federal government, and not feel the, nauseating, gut-twisting, I-told-you-not-to-eat-those-oysters sensation in the pit of my abdomen, as was the case when the word “administration” was precede by the name of #45.
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May you intrigue your mind with thoughts of other games which might be played backwards; May your soul be soothed by phrases like, The Biden Administration; May all your shits have antlers; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 Which might be considered a silver lining, of sorts.
 And is batshit crazy-evil wife, who abetted him.
Because there is too much post-election uncertainty for moiself to compose anything else, it’s time for the annual intro to the holiday season. Brace y’all selves.
Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid Chapter 22467 in a (never-ending) series
“The idea of a “War on Christmas” has turned things like holiday greetings and decorations into potentially divisive political statements. People who believe Christmas is under attack point to inclusive phrases like “Happy Holidays” as (liberal) insults to Christianity…. Christmas is a federal holiday celebrated widely by the country’s Christian majority. So where did the idea that it is threatened come from?… The most organized attack on Christmas came from the Puritans, who banned celebrations of the holiday in the 17th century because it did not accord with their interpretation of the Bible….”
(“How the ‘War on Christmas’ Controversy Was Created,” NY Times, 12-19-16)
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Department Of If Something Seems Familiar, That’s Because It’s Time For My Annual Holiday Traditions Explained ® Post
What do vegetarians, egans, non-meat and/or plant-based eaters do on Thanksgiving? ( Other than, according to your Aunt Erva, RUIN IT FOR EVERYONE ELSE. 
The above question is an existential dilemma worthy of Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, who wrote eloquent discourses on the subjective and objective truths one must juggle when choosing between a cinnamon roll and a chocolate swirl 
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Department Of I’ll Take Those Segues Where I Can Find Them
Three weeks from today will be the day after feasting, for many of us. Then, just when you’re recovering from the last leftover turkey sandwich/quiche/casserole/enchilada-induced salmonella crisis and really, really need to get outside for some fresh air, here comes the Yule season. You dare not even venture to the mall, lest your eardrums be assaulted from all sides by Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, Feliz Navidad, ad nauseum.
This observation provides a convenient segue to my annual, sincere, family-friendly, 
…that the Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that, “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.” 
Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans, and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts until 1681. 
“Do you celebrate Christmas?”
We Heretics/apostates non-Christians Happy Heathens often hear this question at this time of year. The inquiry is sometimes presented in ways that imply our celebration (or even acknowledgement) of Christmas is hypocritical. This implication is the epitome of cheek, when you consider the fact that it is the early Christians who stole a festival from our humanist (pagan) forebears, and not the other way around.
Who doesn’t like a party, for any reason? And we who are religion-free don’t mind sharing seasonal celebrations with religious folk– sans the superstition and government/church mumbo-jumbo — as long as they accept the fact that the ways we all celebrate this “festive season” predate Christianity by hundreds of years.
Early Roman Catholic missionaries tried to convert northern Europeans to the RC brand of Christianity, and part of the conversion process was to alter existing religious festivals. The indigenous folk, whom the RC church labeled “barbarians,” quickly discovered that when it came to dealing with missionaries, resistance is futile. The pagans intuitively grasped the concept of natural selection and converted to Christianity to avoid the price (persecution, torture, execution) of staying true to their original beliefs. But they refused to totally relinquish their old celebrations, and so the church, eventually and effectively, simply renamed most of them. 
Pagan practices were given a Christian meaning to wipe out “heathen” revelry. This was made official church policy in 601 A.D., when Pope Gregory the First issued the now infamous edict to his missionaries regarding the traditions of the peoples they wanted to convert. Rather than try to banish native customs and beliefs, missionaries were directed to assimilate them. You find a group of people decorating and/or worshiping a tree? Don’t chop it down or burn it; rather, bless it in the name of the Church. Allow its continued worship, only tell the people that, instead of celebrating the return of the sun-god in the spring, they are now worshiping the rising from the dead of the Son of God.
( Easter is the one/odd exception, where the pagan celebration was adapted by Christians without a name change. Easter is a word found nowhere in the Bible. It comes from the many variants (Eostra, Ester, Eastra, Eastur….) of a Roman deity, goddess of the dawn “Eos” or “Easter,” whose festival was in the Spring.)
The fir boughs and wreaths, the Yule log, plum pudding, gift exchanges, the feasting, the holly and the ivy and the evergreen tree….It is hard to think of a “Christmas” tradition that does not originate from Teutonic (German),Viking, Celtic and Druid paganism.  A celebration in the depths of winter – at the time when, to those living in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears to stop its southerly descent before gradually ascending north – is a natural instinct. For thousands of years our Northern Hemisphere ancestors greeted the “reason for the season” – the winter solstice – with festivals of light and gift exchanges and parties. The Winter Solstice was noted and celebrated long before the Roman Jesus groupies pinched the party.
But, isn’t “Jesus is the reason for the season”?
The reason for the season? Cool story, bro. Since you asked; actually, axial tilt is the reason for the season. For all seasons.
And Woden is the reason the middle of the week is named Wednesday.  My calling Wednesday “Wednesday” doesn’t mean I celebrate, worship or “believe in” Woden. I don’t insist on renaming either Christmas, or Wednesday.
“Now, go fetch me the sheisskopf who took the Woden out of Woden’s Day!”
The Winter Solstice is the day with the shortest amount of sunlight, and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere it falls on what we now mark as December 21 or 22. However, it took place on December 25th at the time when the Julian calendar was used.  The early Romans celebrated the Saturnalia on the Solstice, holding days of feasting and gift exchanges in honor of their god Saturn. (Other major deities whose birthdays were celebrated on or about the week of December 25  included Horis, Huitzilopochtli, Isis, Mithras, Marduk, Osiris, Serapis and Sol.) The Celebration of the Saturnalia was too popular with the Roman pagans for the new Christian church to outlaw it, so the new church renamed the day and reassigned meanings to the traditions. 
In other words, why are some folk concerned with keeping “the Christ in Christmas”  when we should be keeping the Saturn in Saturnalia?
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Whatever your favorite seasonal celebrations may be, I wish you all the best.
May you have the occasion to (with good humor) ruin it for everyone else; May you find it within yourself to ignore the Black Friday mindset; May you remember to keep the Saturn in Saturnalia; …and may the fruitcake-free hijinks ensue.
 “Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England (London, 1687). See also Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday,” New York: Vintage Books, 1997.
 Stephen Nissenbaum, “The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday.”
 “Learn not the way of the heathen…their customs are vain, for one cuts a tree out of the forest…they deck it with silver and gold…” Jeremiah 10:2-5
 Wednesday comes from the Old English Wōdnesdæg, the day of the Germanic god Wodan (aka Odin, highest god in Norse mythology and a big cheese god of the Anglo-Saxons until the seventh century.)
 The Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar ~ 46 B.C.E., was off by 11 min/year, and when the Gregorian calendar was established by Pope – wait for it – Gregory, the solstice was established on 12/22.
 In 601 A.D., Pope Gregory I issued a now famous edict to his missionaries regarding wooing potential converts: don’t banish peoples’ customs, incorporate them. If the locals venerate a tree, don’t cut it down; rather, consecrate the tree to JC and allow its continued worship.
 And nothing in the various conflicting biblical references to the birth of JC has the nativity occurring in wintertime.
Department Of One Of My Favorite Questions To Ask (of anyone, about moiself )
“Do I have a bit of chocolate stuck between my teeth?”
She’d be happier if it were a piece of Lindt 85% instead of spinach.
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Department Of Getting Really, Really Genre Specific Sub-Department Of Who’d A Thunk It?
After a three-year, self-imposed sabbatical from the business side of What I Do ®  I’ve been doing some research into the state of literary publishing Research as in, getting (re)acquainted with who (as in publishing companies, large and small) is out there and what they want and/or specialize in.
When I started this task, I was wondering if things are just as bad as when I said *ick* and walked away. The answer: Yep (as in, duh), and even more so.
However, I am discovering hidden  gems that make this task worthwhile. Such as, this list, from the writers guidelines posted on the website of a particular publishing house, for a particular editor’s areas of interest rearding manuscripts she wishes to review (my emphases ):
“….contemporary romance, women’s contemporary fiction, historical fiction, gay fiction, dark suspense and thrillers, Amish romance.…”
Holy bodice ripper! There’s more than one editor with that unusually specific, uh, specification:
“80,000-word contemporary romance—either sexy or sweet, Amish and inspirational romance, women’s fiction….”
“Amish romance” as a genre. This is news to moiself– and, perhaps, only to moiself? Did y’all know about this and if so, why did you keep it to y’all selves?
I’m not a genre writer, nor reader. I have read books that would fit such classifications (e.g. a Zane Grey western or two; some Agatha Christie mysteries, four or five Star Trek “novels” ). Without knowing much about the genre – except that there are, apparently, far more sub-genres than I would have imagined – “romance” is the least interesting genre to moiself…up until now.
I find moiself wanting to at least skim through the pages of something that would qualify as an Amish Romance. I’m trying to imagine the content of such: the exchange of furtive glances over the milking stool; sly winks by the well after the quilting bee; coy lasses who offering their luscious berries for perusal during the barn raising….
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Department Of Next Tuesday, Y’all Know What To Do
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Speaking of the election, and what with the approaching holiday season….
Department Of How To Get Dis-Invited To Extended Family Gatherings
It’s easy! First, post something like this on your Facebook page:
I have family members, who are religious, who are likely voting for #45.
Because tR*** says the magic words conservative Christians want to hear about two key issues for them: taxes and abortion – and he of course *lies* to his supporters about this (he was pro-choice until he planned his presidential run as a Republican, as documented here and other places: https://qz.com/…/trump-shifted-from-pro-choice-to-pro-life…/), they are apparently willing to ignore/overlook/excuse all the rest?
This saddens me in ways I cannot express…so I’ll post it here, and never get invited to extended family Thanksgiving dinners again.
Lather; rinse; repeat, and conservative evangelicals will lick your otherwise faith-mocking, narcissistic, heathen patootie. 
It is interesting to moiself – and by “interesting” I mean, repulsive – that so many Christians are willing to overlook a politician’s flagrant, repeated, unapologetic violations of *their* scripture’s advice on issues which, if you take their scriptures as true and literal accounts of their god’s messages to them (and most conservative Christians do), were of primary importance to Jesus:
* caring for the sick, poor, imprisoned, and vulnerable
* treating others as you wish to be treated
* giving your possessions, even clothing, to those who have none
… and instead support this same lying adulterous racist misogynist politician who spouts the rhetoric they want to hear about abortion, an issue about which Jesus never spoke, despite abortion being known and practiced since ancient times. Yep, as long as humans have been pregnant/getting each other pregnant, they have found ways of intentionally ending unwanted pregnancies.
The practice of abortion—the termination of a pregnancy—has been known since ancient history. Various methods have been used to perform or attempt an abortion, including the administration of abortifacient herbs, the use of sharpened implements, the application of abdominal pressure, and other techniques…. Many of the methods employed in early cultures were non-surgical. Physical activities such as: strenuous labor, climbing, paddling, weightlifting, or diving were a common technique. Others included the use of irritant leaves, fasting, bloodletting, pouring hot water onto the abdomen, and lying on a heated coconut shell. In virtually all cultures, abortion techniques developed through observation, adaptation of obstetrical methods, and transculturation.
“The Bible never once specifically forbids abortions; it’s actually quite the contrary! Not only were methods of abortion well-known at the time, there’s times when the Bible states God commands that one take place. I’m going to walk through a few examples as illustrations. * In Genesis 38, we have the story of Tamar * Hosea: Progeny of the Rebellious Shall Not be Born (Hosea 9:14: God will cause the deaths of the unborn, as he will “give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.” Hosea 13:16: “Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.”) * Sotah: Abortion-Inducing Potion due to Husband’s Jealousy 
(In Numbers 5, instructions are given by God to Moses regarding situations where a husband is fiercely jealous of his wife: his wife should be made to take a drink that will cause an abortion if she slept with another man…regardless of whose child it is). * Causing a Miscarriage: Mere Property Loss (The Bible didn’t treat miscarriage as murder, regardless of intent. Rather, it was treated as a property loss by the father, punishable by whatever fine the judges felt was appropriate. This is spelled out in Exodus 21:22-25 ) (excerpts from Biblical Abortion: A Christian’s View)
As for taxes, Jesus is quoted as advising tax collectors to do their job honestly. He is mentioned/quoted about twice in personal stories about taxes, both times advising that people pay the taxes they owe. He had plenty to say about people who strive for and value the accumulation of wealth, and none of it was positive.
In the New Testament, Jesus offers more wisdom and has more to say about money than any other subject besides the “Kingdom of God.” I remember when I first heard a pastor proclaim from the pulpit that Jesus said more about money than he did about love. To be honest, I was a little angry. There was no way that was true, I thought to myself. I’ve grown up hearing that “God is love,” but now I find out He may care more about my checkbook than my heart? Sure enough, after doing a bit of research on this subject as well, I discovered that the pastor was right: Jesus talked more about money than he did Heaven and Hell combined. Eleven of the 39 parables He tells are about finances. ( “Jesus Talked the Most about…Money? “)
“Gotcha on that one, eh bro?”
Jesus presented the desire to accumulate riches as both an offense to faith and an obstacle to faith. This is something “prosperity Christians” find easy to ignore, by concentrating on other issues they think don’t apply to themselves (like homosexuality and abortion, both of which existed in biblical times and yet were not condemned, nor even spoken of, by Jesus).
Some of Jesus’ better-known quotes on the subject of money include:
* “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6)
* Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23–25)
* “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” ( Luke 16:13)
* “Whoever has two tunics should share with him who has none, and whoever has food should do the same.” (Luke 3)
Every so often when discussing the prosperity gospel, I hear proponents say, “But surely God doesn’t want us to be poor, does he?” ….People who say such things ignore the many Bible passages addressing wealth…
They also choose to ignore the many biblical passages warning against the detrimental effects of wealth—and especially love for wealth. You don’t hear prosperity preachers mention such verses. It’s as if their Bibles are missing them. (from “Bible Verses Prosperity Preachers Wish Didn’t Exist“)
Jesus did not oppose the payment of taxes. In fact, Jesus paid taxes. In Matthew 22:15-22, the Pharisees ask Jesus, “Tell us … is it against our law to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor or not?” Jesus responds, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin for paying the tax!” They brought him the coin and he asks them, “Whose face and name are these?” “The Emperor’s,” they answer. So Jesus says to them, “Well, then, pay to the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor, and pay to God what belongs to God.” Matthew 17: 24-27 relates the story of a group of tax collectors asking Peter, “Does your teacher pay the … tax?” Peter’s answer, “Of course,” is followed by Jesus instructing Peter as follows: “… go to the lake and drop in a line. Pull up the first fish you hook, and in its mouth you will find a coin worth enough for my tax and yours. Take it and pay them our taxes.” Romans 13:6-7: Paul explains, “That is also why you pay taxes, because the authorities are working for God when they fulfill their duties. Pay, then, what you owe them; pay your personal and property taxes, and show respect and honor for them all.” ( excerpts from “What does the Bible say about taxes?
By Ken Milani, professor of accountancy at the University of Notre Dame, and Claude Renshaw, emeritus professor of business administration at Saint Mary’s College.
Both men are Christians.)
“Got that? And keep your noses out of women’s and LGBTQ folk’s business!”
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Pun For The Day
A cheese factory exploded in Paris – onlookers were showered with de Brie!
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May you not feel the need to consult Iron Age manuscripts for 21st century personal or financial guidance; May you imagine your own Amish romance; May we all get chocolate stuck in our teeth; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. AND GET OUT THERE AND VOTE !!
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 For a variety of reasons, some discussed in this space, mostly summed up by my disdain for what is happening in that business: ICK.
Now I know I’ve given up: I put away the St. Patrick’s Day dinner decorations.
Moiselfand MH had a dinner party planned for Tuesday, March 17, an event that – surprise! – got…suspended. At the time, I told would-be attendees that we were, in an act of delusion optimism, not cancelling the invitation but merely postponing it, and that I would be leaving the dining table decorated. And I did, for two months. Then, gradually, the napkins and plates were put away, and I put the table décor, such as it is/was (think: an eight-year-old’s idea of festive holiday dining), into its long term storage bag but did NOT transport it to its shelf in the attic. It remained on the table, until three days ago.
Instead of deleting the reminder I had on my computer calendar (“Rsch St. Patrick’s day dinner when COVID shit is over”) I have reduced its occurrence from weekly to every other month. The computer prompt, initially a hopeful harbinger of a return to normalcy, came to be a dispiriting reminder of physical isolation: I miss the company of dining and conversing with friends, both long time and recently met, all treasured, and groaning at each recitation of a dreadful (but occasion-appropriate) joke and pun. 
All apologies to the centerpiece: Good Lady Spud, your time shall come again.
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Department Of The Title I Want When I Grow Up
…I’ve carved out this little niche for myself on the internet…
because as we all know, the easiest way to be at the top of your field is to choose a very small field.” (inventor Simone Giertz, in her TED talk)
Dateline: Monday; listening to a TED Radio Hour episode, titled “Pure Joy.” A description of the episode, as per the TEDsite:
More than ever, we need to make time for joy. This hour…(we)…explore talks that surprise, inspire, and delight.
The first talk excerpted was one given two years ago by Simone Giertz. Twenty-nine-year-old Giertz, the creator of the toothbrush helmet,  is a Swedish inventor and robotics enthusiast. She’s also, and perhaps most prestigiously for her generation, that which most generations never imagined would be a thing: she is a YouTube celebrity ®.
In her talk, “Why You Should Make Useless Things,” Giertz apparently advocates for inventing devices which are “useless at solving the problem they are attempting to solve,” but which serve a higher purpose of overcoming your fear of failure (by working hard at something you know is bound to fail) and teaching you engineering and design skills. I say “apparently” because I was unable, or rather unwilling, to listen to the rest of her talk, after hearing the podcast curator describe Giertz as
“…the queen of useless robots.”
Overcome with both admiration and envy, moiself completely lost interest in listening further. I figured it was better to let my imagination take the wheel as I envisioned the perks and responsibilities of that particular kind of royalty.
“…uneasy is the head that wears a crown” …unless of course that head belongs to The Queen of Useless Robots.
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Department of The Neighborhood Guerilla Prankster Strikes Again… In Her Dreams
There’s a house a couple of blocks away from my street with an attached, two-door, three-car garage set up:
An older couple lives in said house. Depending on the route I take, I often walk past the house in the morning, and I’ve seen it with either or both garage doors open; thus, moiself knows that the smaller, one-car garage is not used as a garage but has been turned into the workshop space of the older gentleman. When the workshop/garage door is open you can see the tool racks and radial saw and other workshop equipment; when the workshop/garage door is closed, you can see a sign on it which reads, MEN ONLY.
When I first saw the sign, and then every time I walked past the house, moiself had the almost overwhelming desire to take a picture of it, then take the picture to a signage shop and order a self-adhesive sign in similar lettering, color and size that read: GIRLY. The plan: early one morning, I would post GIRLYabove MEN ONLY.
Alas; the time for that prank has passed. I recently noticed that the exterior of the house (including the garage doors) has been painted, and the MEN ONLY sign has not reappeared on the garage door. Still, I think of it when I pass that house, and remind moiself of the ultimate reason I decided against enacting my prank: the ubiquity, nowadays, of cell phones and home security cameras. Ending up on someone’s YouTube shaming video is not something I crave for moiself, even in the performance of (what would have been) a public service.
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Department Of Just Wondering
Due to the wildfires plaguing the West, I am checking the Air Quality Index several times daily – even though a cursory look out of my house’s (all tightly closed) windows tells me all I need to know about whether or not it’s safe to go outside.
How quickly I and my friends have adapted to using yet another acronym:
“So, what’s the AQI in your town?”
This is so surreal. The air where I live has been smoky-jaundice-colored; the pictures I’ve seen of the Bay Area’s midday, sci-fi/Martian orange skies have a certain, apocalyptic beauty, even as I realized the horrific reasons behind them that had nothing to do with a more benign reason, such as a particularly flamboyant sunset or sunrise. 
In my early morning walks (the ones I used to do before our AQI was at Hazardouslevel – the carefree mornings before I even knew what an AQI was) I pass by several houses where I often see a smoker out on his front porch, lighting up his first deathstick cigarette of the day. Actually, I smell the smokers before moiself sees them – even from across the street. I’ve come to know which houses they live in and cross to the other side before passing by. (Most smokers seem to not know – or care – how far their effluence travels and how long it lingers.)
From having exchanged pleasantries with them over the years, I know that the main reason these folks are lighting up on their porches is because they are the only smoker in their household, and they’ve been forbidden by their spouses and/or other family members from polluting their domicile and have been banished to puffing in The Great Outdoors ® .
I haven’t done a morning walk since the AQI reached the first level of Unhealthy…even though I didn’t know it had done so at the time. I’d gone out earlier than usual and wore a mask; it was the first morning where the sky looked…suspicious. I decided to end my walk after 30 minutes, and thought I probably shouldn’t walk outside again until I figured out what was going on. On my way back I passed by two of the Porch Smokers, the glowing ends of their cigarettes providing an eerie impetus for me to get back home.
Our current situation: we’ve been warned about the wildfires near and far, spewing particulate matter in the air which, at an AQI in the upper ranges (which we’ve been having in the Pacific NW for days), can aggravate or trigger serious respiratory conditions in otherwise healthy people, even with relatively short exposure.
So, when smokers awaken, and eagerly or furtively inhale the day’s first fumes into their lungs, moiself can’t help but wonder: what’s being circulated in the organ between their ears? Amidst the reports of the wildfire’s devastation – it’s been all wildfires, all the time, for local news reporting – including the loss of life from burns and smoke inhalation, do they consider even for a moment the fires’ victims? Do they find their eyes tearing up with compassion as they think to themselves, “Oh, how awful! Those poor people!”as they suck in their own mini-conflagration?
While we live with the warnings to not go outside even for short periods of time because breathing the air could sicken or even kill you, and smokers continue to expedite that process by lighting up their cigarettes.
We humans are experts at compartmentalization and denial…and, yeah yeah yeah, nicotine is one of the most addictive substance on earth, and addicts are not known for rationality and or introspection thoughts…. Still, it boggles my mind.
The Great American Smokeout, the American Cancer Society’s annual “quitting campaign,” is on the third Thursday in November. The Not-so-Great American Smoke-In is happening as I type. Aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh.
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Department Of, Of All The Things To Be Thinking About….
2020. The year that, on a national and global shitstorm level, has brought us:
* Year three of criminally negligent governance by a musty scrotal hair of a human being (#45) and his soul-sucking sycophants;
* Too many Americans determined to focus on someone looting a 7-11 rather than face the centuries of systemic injustice which have prompted the (majority peaceful) displays of civil disobedience;
* the apocalyptic wildfires in the US, yet another testament to the consequences of ignoring of global warming…
Thank you, and please demoralize us further.
On a personal level,  my concerns include a friend who fled the wildfires (her town is essentially gone; her neighbors have lost nearly everything); my daughter Belle who, recovering from foot surgery, has developed an allergy to medical adhesives holding her bandages in place; MH’s “sister/cousin”  and her protracted recovery from the heart surgeryand kidney failure after she and her young adult daughter discovered they both have a genetic disorder which has given them, among other conditions, aortal defects; learning that the son of my MIL’s longtime friend and business associate has just lost his son to suicide….
Two days ago, amidst all of these woes and more, I found moiself thinking,
The beloved comedian/writer/screenwriter/playwright/songwriter/director and WWII vet has seen so much in this world, and contributed so much to our culture…and now here’s this shitty year in which Mel had to mourn the death of his best buddy – another national comedy treasure, Carl Reiner.
I just want Mr. Brooks to be able to survive this year. I would so look forward to his commentary on all of this, you know?
Two of my favorite scenes from my favorite Mel Brooks movie:
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Pun For The Day
The past, the present, and the future walk into a bar. It was tense! 
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May we work for the best (even if we suspect the worst); May we return to the privilege of not knowing our AQI; May we all be deserving of even the most obscure royal title; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 “What do you call an Irishman with an IQ of 100? A village.”
 A device which you have never heard of because it is “recommended by zero out of ten dentists,” the inventor admits.
 Henry IV, Part 2. I don’t imagine Shakespeare imagined just how heavy – or silly – crowns could get.
 Ash higher in the atmosphere turned the Bay Area skies orange, as opposed to around me, where the smoke was lower. If I can remember some basic physics/light refraction, I think this has to do with the high ash/smoke particles scattering blue light & only allowing certain wavelengths of light – yellow-orange-red light – to reach the earth’s surface.
 This not some Mormon polygamy term; rather, she is cousin who is more than a cousin but not technically a sister – she came to live with MH’s family when she was an adolescent, after both of her parents died.
 I’m sorry, but there is no room for a seventh footnote.
Dateline: Wednesday, circa 4pm, outside a grocery store. A woman who exited the store ahead of me scurries to a spot around 30 feet from the store’s exit door. She pulls a cigarette and lighter from her purse, pulls down her mask and lights up. She proceeds to take several long, desperate drags of the cigarette, pulling her mask up inbetween, in a bizarre ritual: lower mask; suck on her death sticks; exhale; raise mask; wait five seconds; repeat.
Lady, just take down your mask, go into a filthy public restroom, run your bare hands over every surface and then touch your hands to your face and mouth and rub your eyes. Get it over with.
Celebrities like Ben Affleck won’t let a pesky pandemic stop their slow suicide, so why should she?
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Department of Yep, This.
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Department Of My Defund The Police Story
In the ongoing Defund the Police ® debate, some folks declare that an alternative phrase for police reform is needed. It seems that too many (white) people read or hear “defund” and lose their shit react defensively. They interpret “defund” as doing away with police forces entirely, instead of the how the term is used by reform activists: as shorthand for reallocating funds from police departments to non-policing forms of public safety and community support, (e.g. social, mental health, housing and education services).
Moiself has heard this defensive reaction explained along these lines:
White people get defensive and even frightened at that notion (doing away with police) because white people associate police with security, in ways that communities of color, because of their collective history with aggressive and discriminatory policing, do not.
Sometime in the late 1970s-early 1980s, I read a feature article in a So Cal newspaper about police officer recruitment. Police chiefs were just starting to realize that for community policing to be effective the police force needed to be representative of all members of the community. Given the rising number of Vietnamese immigrants in So Cal, local police departments were trying, and mostly failing, to recruit Vietnamese-Americans. The reason for that failure was not apparent to the majority white police staff, until a cultural liaison enlightened them:
The police forces in Vietnam, and several other Asian countries, were considered to be corrupt, and the average Southeast Asian immigrant’s contact with them had been unpleasant. Thus, young Asian men  who might have been interested in being recruited were discouraged from doing so by their parents, who thought policing a dishonorable profession.
There’s a very basic lesson here: your experiences color your perception.
Yep, that seems evident on a Psychology 101 level. Moiself thinks it’s a bit more far-reaching than that, and ties into the Black Lives Matter movement in a variety of ways and from a variety of perspectives…including the one I am about to share here.
Little known fact about moiself: from about my 5th to 8th grade years, I hated and feared the police. I held particular fear and loathing for men I suspected were undercover cops in unmarked cars. This is because of an experience I had….
Translation: there is a story to be told.
Key elements of this story (“The Wagner Incident”) became much beloved by my family as the years past. My parents in particular loved for my older sister and I to recall the tale, and I always obliged. However, most of my family never knew that I was actually quite traumatized by what happened.
There is (unfortunately or yee-haw! depending on your enjoyment of background information) stage-setting to be done, for this Drama of Shakespearean Importance. 
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, my family lived in a house on Martha Lane in Santa Ana (CA). Martha Lane extended west from a major thoroughfare down to a cross-street (Pacific Ave.) which led to the local community college.  Across Pacific Ave., Martha Lane continued as a cul-de-sac, where my family’s house was located. 
The Wagners were an older couple  whose house was on the main part of Martha Lane (ML). The Wagners had gained a reputation – not a good one – among the other denizens of ML. Mr. Wagner, occasionally accompanied by Mrs. Wagner, walked their massive dog twice daily around the neighborhood. They made of one or two loops around the main portion of ML (they did not cross the street to the cul-de-sac), and they let their dog defecate on other people’s lawns. They made no attempt to pick it up the droppings or at least “curb” their dog; they let him go where he wanted to go. 
Some of the neighbors began to come out of their houses and speak to Mr. Wagner as he made his rounds. At first they politely suggested – then, as time passed and the poop accumulated, they increasingly and more frustratingly demanded – that the Wagners’ dog should do its doggie business at their own home, and not foul other people’s property. The Wagners ignored all such requests, with Mr. Wagner on a couple of such occasions responding with strongly-worded suggestions as to what the other homeowners could do with his dog’s “business.”
Petty, inconsiderate neighbor shit, so to speak, right? Nothing either novel or earth-shattering.
There were other actions the Wagners took that, looking back, seemed almost intentionally aimed at making them the scourge of the neighborhood. It was as if the Wagners got some kind of petty pleasure in taunting their neighbors, in particular, the Young People ®. I can find no other explanation for their behavior.
As a Girl Scout, moiself had the twice-a-year fundraising duties (which I loathed) of going from house to house in my neighborhood, peddling Girl Scout Cookies in the spring and Girl Scout Calenders  in the fall. The Wagners did not have a no solicitingsign on their porch; nevertheless, the first time I rang their doorbell on behalf of the Scouts I received a very snooty dismissal from Mrs. Wagner, when a simple, “We’re not interested” would have sufficed. The second (and last) time I approached their house as a Girl Scout (having forgotten about the first incident, since six months had passed), Mrs. Wagner apparently saw me coming, and couldn’t wait until I set foot on her porch to reject my sales pitch. Before I’d taken three steps from the sidewalk to her driveway her front door flew open and she came barreling out of her house. Her voluminous bat wings shook along with her index finger, which she waggled at me while she bellowed about how she didn’t want to buy anything.
I fled the Wagner driveway with as much dignity as I could muster. Later, I compared stories with other neighborhood kids, whom, I discovered, had experienced similar treatment when they were seeking donations for, say, a school paper drive or other charities. The next time I had to do my GS soliciting I remembered my lesson, and as I left the porch of the house *before* the Wagners’ I proceeded on to the house *after* the Wagners’. As I did so, Mrs. Wagner once again came charging out of the house into her driveway – how strange, I later thought, as she must have been sitting by her front window, just waiting for…what? For a youngster to yell at? – and proceeded to berate me. Apparently, I was a stand-in for all the neighborhood children, as she began her rant with, “YOU KIDS….” I hadn’t even made the slightest indication of stopping at her house – I was just walking past it, on the sidewalk!
At least she wasn’t armed with a garden hose.
Sharing and comparing stories – that’s what kids in a ‘hood do. As the years passed the older kids began to compile a hefty dossier of Wagner Incidents, many of them involving the holidays. A few neighbors told about “Christmas incidents,” stories I cannot now recall,  and every July 4 we heard about how the Wagners did their own fireworks in the street in front of their house, then loudly complained if their next door or across-the-street neighbor’s – in particular, their neighbor’s children or grandchildren – did the same…or just yelled at teens who were walking on the other side of the street, on their way to a friend’s family’s fireworks party.
October 31 seemed to bring out the worst (or weirdest) in the Wagners. On Halloween night the Wagners always turned their porch light on and hung Halloween decorations on their front door, then were randomly and mystifyingly rude to the kids who rang their doorbell. In our neighborhood the trick-or-treaters tended to go in groups of four or more children; the Wagners would often single out someone in your group, make disparaging remarks about a costume they didn’t like, then give candy to some kids and not to others. Sometimes, as if on a whim, they would answer the doorbell, refuse to give candy (from the big jar they had on display) to anyone, and shoo your entire group off their porch. 
Like many grade school-aged children, I found the world of adults both baffling and boring. Unless a home contained children of my or my siblings’ ages, I didn’t pay much attention as to who lived in what house on my block. It took a couple of years for it to sink in: you don’t go to the Wagner‘s house for Halloween…or anything else.
Can you guess what kind of attitude among the neighbors, in particular among the youth of Martha Lane, was engendered by the Wagners, toward the Wagners?
“I knew you could, boys and girls.”
There were many more incidents that my older sister and her friends shared with moiselfand my friends. Slowly but surely, a vendetta arose. The older kids in the neighborhood had had it with the Wagners, and conspired to tease them at every opportunity.
My older sister and her friend rewrote lyrics to the tune of, “We Love You Conrad,” (a song from the Broadway musical, Bye Bye Birdie):
♫ We hate you Wagners Oh yes we do We don’t hate anyone like you When you are near us, P.U.! Oh Wagners we hate you. ♫
Yeah; I know – hardly cutting-edge satire. Still, I thought my sister and her friend were so clever when sang me that song, and they were obviously proud of themselves. They taught the song to all the neighborhood kids, and made us all vow to sing it at any Wagner-sighting opportunity.
Things escalated, as they say, from there.
Early one hot summer night a bunch of us ML kids were hanging out on the corner of Pacific and ML, negotiating which chase/tag game we would play that evening (Green Monster? Hide n’ Seek?) We spotted Mrs. Wagner up the street, identifiable from even 200 feet away by her towering, glow-in-the-dark white beehive hairdo and imperious, waddling stride. She was walking her dog, and one of us in the group – I can’t remember who but it might have been me or my older sister – had the brilliant idea to begin humming the Miss America theme song:
♫ There she is…Miss America…
There she is, your ideal…. ♫
Silly stuff – hardly the material of celebrity stalking lawsuits. Even so, it apparently put a burr under Mrs. Wagner’s saddle (or that ridiculous beehive). Unbeknownst to us kids, when Mrs. Wagner returned home she told her husband what we kids had done, and he called the police and insisted they open a harassment investigation.
We hummed the Miss America song – that’s what put them over the edge? We didn’t even sing the words.
Also unbeknownst – to me, at that time – were other incidences of kids taking revenge on the Wagners. Some older teens who lived on the main section of ML had, with their parents’ knowledge and approval, saved some of the “droppings” the Wagner’s dog left on their lawn. After accumulating several days’ worth, the kids delivered shovelfuls of feces to the Wagner’s lawn. When this failed to deter Mr. Wagner from his dog walking/dumping, on July Fourth one family’s teenage son played the proverbial, flaming-sack-of-poop prank on the Wagner’s front porch. 
That and other incidences enabled the Wagners to convince the police to open a harassment file…or a case…or whatever it was.
“Martha Lane Kids v. Wagner” ? – what is this bullshit, Danno?
So. This “case” was going on, without my knowledge.
Then, one day….
I’ve always wanted to say that.
The story continues, in next week’s post.
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May you get to say something you’ve always wanted to say; May you be mindful of how petty neighborhood disputes can escalate; May you bear with me until next week; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 And it was only men who were being recruited, at that time.
 Those two portions of Martha Lane no longer exist. Under eminent domain, the community college took over the properties in the early 1980s. In archetypical, SoCal development fashion, the area where my family house once stood is now a parking lot.
 Do people still use that term? For the young ‘uns who may be unfamiliar with it, to curb one’s dog involved pulling it off the curb – away from someone’s lawn or sidewalk – and making it poop in the street gutter.
 Anyone remember those? The Girl Scouts stopped selling them in 2008.
 The Wagners scared off Santa’s reindeer with a shotgun? Nothing would surprise me.
 But they would leave the porch light on – the universal sign of “open for business” for trick-or-treaters – and answer the doorbell when the next group of kids came by. Yep, we watched, to see what happened.
 He filled a brown paper bag with the Wagner’s dog’s droppings, put the bag on the Wagner’s front porch, set it afire, rang their doorbell, and hauled ass up the block. And yes, when Mr. Wagner answered the doorbell he attempted to stamp out the flames….
Active, reliable, sarcastic, affectionate, bipedal, cynical optimist, writer, freethinker, parent, spouse and friend, I am generous with my handy supply of ADA-approved spearmint gum and sometimes refrain from humming in public.