Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write). I am taking moiself on holiday. From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014). New posts will return in early-mid July.
Until then, I hope y’all enjoy these reruns (or at least gain a modicum of petty amusement from making fun of them, and/or noting how NOT perspicacious my 2014 blatherings observations turned out to be). Perhaps they may spark some sense of déjà vu in you, or cause you to contemplate what you were doing and thinking in those pre-pandemic, pre-idiocy epidemic times (i.e., before the debacle that was #45).
Moiself apologizes for the fact that visuals (pictures; video clips) in the original posts may or may not be included. * * *
One day back from de merveilleuses vacances à Paris with Belle, and I’m in no shape to blog.
I thought about running a greatest hits–type compilation from blogs past…as if the masses are clamoring for such a thing…and as if such a thing exists.
What an ego that would require – you’d think I was French or something.
Cette femme n’est pas Français!
Yes, we had a fantastic time, and yes, so much (but not all) of what is said about Paris is true.  Unbelievably wonderful bread and wine…
…served in charming cafes by debonair French waiters
Who, remercier les dieux, looked nothing like these gentlemen.
So, je ne post pas. Until I can muster the energy, and circadian readjustment to Oregon time, stunning visual images and a few jokes will have to do.
Here is the favorite of the many pictures we took:
I so did not take this picture. Neither did Belle.
Q: Which ghost was president of France?
A: Charles de Ghoul
Q: Why don’t they have fireworks at Euro Disney?
A: Because every time they shoot them off, the French try to surrender.
Q: What is a native of Paris called?
A: A parisite.
Time for equal time. The French do love their jokes about the Yanks.
Q: What do you call a beautiful woman in America?
A: A tourist.
Q: What is the difference between an American and a pot of yoghurt?
A: After a period of time, the yoghurt  begins to develop cultures.
This next one is from the Parisites to the Brits.
Q: What’s long, dark, hard, gloomy, and ends with millions of assholes?
A: The Channel Tunnel.
* * *
May you and yours always have Paris, and may the hijinks ensue.
had only one big ball
had two but they were small
Had something similar
And poor old Goebbels
had no balls at all. ♫
I’d vaguely known about Hitler’s goofy gonads (he suffered from right-side cryptorchidism – an undescended testicle). But the fact that this detail was woven into an anti-Nazi ditty delighted the spirit of the 11-year-old Girl Scout who still resides in me – the girl who wanted to sit in the back during the boring troop meetings and exchange bawdy jokes with the other so-inclined scouts instead of listening to yet another boring lecture on how we were supposed to be working on our camping merit badges.
“All in favor of skipping reciting the Girl Scout Promise and singing the Hitler song instead, raise your hands.”
* * *
Department Of Yet Another Podcast Citation
The most recent episode of the People I (Mostly) Admire podcast – website description: “Steven Levitt, the unorthodox University of Chicago economist and co-author of the Freakonomics book series….tracks down other high achievers and asks questions that only he would think to ask….” – had me hooked with the opening:
“My guest today, John McWhorter, likes to stir things up….
He’s a linguistics professor at Columbia university, author of over a dozen books, and has emerged as one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals. He’s an opinionated centrist, and chances are, whatever your politics, you’ll love his views on some issues, and despise his stance on others.” (intro to People I Mostly Admire, episode 72: “Leaving Black People in the Lurch” )
I was immediately intrigued by the host’s description of his guest: “an opinionated centrist.” Not being fond of political labels (at least for moiself), I don’t consider moiself to be a centrist. Rather, I approach issues as a “Does this make sense?-trist.” When some folks on The Far Left ® find out my liberal/religion-free/ flaming feminist viewpoints, they assume that I’ll tick off all their boxes on particular issues. And when they find out that I do not, *they* get ticked off.
My intrigue-ears perked up for other reasons as well, including the fact that McWhorter is a linguistics professor. Being a linguist, as in studying the cultural and cognitive development and application of languages, is one of my “if-I-were-to-do-it-all-over-again” professions.  Now, just because I maintain an interest in that area of study doesn’t mean that I have any current and/or particular skill in or aptitude for languages – far from it, as anyone who has heard me mangle the French language could attest to. And while moiself is on the subject I’d like to offer a shout-out to all you Parisian shopkeepers and restauranters who, despite the stereotype of the snooty French, were most patient and gracious with me when I was visiting your merveilluse villeand tried to order a pain au chocolat in every venue possible.
Let me guess, *elle demande* the entire tray, again?
Once again, I digress.
Back to the podcast opening.
Steve LEVITT: “In your day job, you (McWhorter) are a linguist at Columbia University and you also moonlight as a commentator on American society, especially around issues of race. But I’d like to talk first about linguistics, because I suspect if we start on race, we’ll never make our way back to linguistics.”
Linguistics/ race – I wanted to hear it all. Any author of a book called “Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter,” is all right by me. Then, after the first 15 minutes of linguistics talk, I was surprised by McWhorter’s choice in an answer to a certain question.
LEVITT: So, English is obviously emerging as something of a world language, and that’s mostly for accidental, historical, social, political reasons. And in my very first episode of this podcast, I had Steve Pinker, the Harvard linguist, on. And I tried to get him to make a vote for what the best world language would be. I had no luck. He would not bite on that at all. Is that a question you’ll bite on?”
MCWHORTER: ” Hell yeah. ….If all of the world were going to use a single language, it should be not English…. Really, the language of the world should be Indonesian.”
Really. He chose Indonesian.
MCWHORTER: “…Not the way it’s written, but the way it’s typically spoken, where you have almost no suffixes, almost no prefixes. (Indonesian is) not a tonal language. It’s very low on throwing you with things like, what does ‘pick up’ mean? You can pick up a disease; you can pick somebody up from school; speed is about picking up speed. Why deal with that? There’s very little of that. …. even though most people who don’t speak Indonesian would find it hard to learn just the words themselves….if you could pick up 500 of them, say 600 of them…the grammar would be very, very easy. You could make yourself understood. I would say it’s better. It’s easier for everybody — colloquial Indonesian would be the one.”
McWhorter’s quotes about the reasons why a language like Indonesian would be a better “world” language  made me think about Turkish, which I studied for a few days in an online course (until Putin’s aggressive assholery changed my travel plans  ).
Here are nine encouraging and refreshing observations I made during my brief foray into the Turkish language:
Two or more letters are never combined to make a new or different sound!
Turkish contains no articles at all!
It is also not a gendered language; nor is it tonal!
There is no 7th observation!
There are standard rules for making plurals!
Word Order is set: Subject-Object-Verb. The verb is always at the end in written Turkish! 
You’d spin with delight, too, if you spoke such a sensible language.
After twenty-five or so minutes of Fun With Words®, podcast host Levitt ventured into topics where McWhorter’s opinions have made people who are prone to look for divergent poles line up into their default defensive positions…such as McWhorter’s book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America.
LEVITT: “I was talking to a white friend of mine, someone who is deeply sympathetic to the anti-racist cause. And she said to me recently, ‘My daughter is friends with a Black girl in her nursery school class….and I’d like to invite that Black girl over to my house for a play date, but I’m afraid to because I don’t know the appropriate way to acknowledge my white privilege to the girl’s parents. And I don’t want to insult them by not acknowledging it.’
To me, what a disaster – when kids can’t build friendships because parents are so paralyzed by fear of not doing the right thing.”
MCWHORTER: “You know what? That woman is who I wrote Woke Racism for. That is exactly what I mean. That is somebody whose heart is very much in the right place, but she’s so afraid of being called the dirtiest-name-other-than-pedophile in our current cultural vocabulary that she’s basically hamstrung.
After a while, it might be that you end up avoiding Black people because you don’t want to take a wrong step. And then you get accused of being a racist. And where does that get us? To actually say, ‘What is the result of all this?’ is seen as somehow beside the point.
Rather, what’s considered important is smart people stating that racism still exists; racism is systemic. Now, what’s actually happening out on the ground, whether we’re improving Black lives by stating that, is considered subsidiary…..
And yet, that’s the situation that I saw us slipping into starting after the hideous murder of George Floyd. I saw us dealing with a kind of semaphore, where we say things and we say things and we say things, and what we’re really doing is fostering a kind of general guilt and engaging in a kind of passion play…. But the result is not anything that any civil rights leaders of the past would have recognized as meaningful. We need to get back to doing the real thing.”
Fine; you’re awake. Now, make the bed and start cleaning up the mess you left in the kitchen.
LEVITT: “I always ask my guests to give advice to my listeners. And I’m curious what advice you would give to young people trying to build a good life for themselves.
And would you give the same advice to a young white person and a young Black person?”
MCWHORTER (my emphases): “… at this point, in the way our national dialogue goes, I would say this to kids of any race: Distrust your impulse to suppose that people who don’t think like you are either naive or evil.
It’s very easy to think that if they don’t think like you. It’s either they don’t have the facts that you have, or if they do have the facts that you have, there’s something sinister about them. They’ve got motives that they’re not quite letting onto.
And the sad thing is that these days, young people are being taught to think that way by an awful lot of grown-ups.
It’s an easy misimpression to fall into because we tend to be binary thinkers. But with any debate that’s uniquely challenging or frankly, interesting, about which you might argue, that’s different from decreeing that people are either stupid or bad. And that’s what a diverse and large society is all about. That’s what diversity of opinion is.”
Moiself highly recommends that y’all’s selves listen to the entire interview, and pay attention to McWhorter’s insightful analysis re how “3rd wave anti-racism” (a term he borrows from the feminist movement) “is a religion.” It’s guaranteed to offend at least a few third wave anti-racists and religionists. Now, that’s my kind of a podcast guest.
* * *
Punz For The Day Woke Politics Edition
Why were environmental activists protesting outside the elementary school? That heard a rumor that the kids were singing, “Rain, rain, go away.”
What do you call a woke Star Wars droid? R2-Me2
Did you hear about the laundromat manager who had her Facebook account cancelled? FB monitors read that she told her customers to separate the whites from the colors.
One night I dreamt that I was a muffler… I woke up exhausted.
“There’s woke jokes, and then there’s woke jokes.”
* * *
May you choose meaningful action over virtue-signalling; May you have fond memories of your bawdy joke-telling, scout-meeting (or the equivalent) ignoring days; May you enjoy singing the song about Hitler’s balls; 
Content warning: Despite the date, and one or two moments of comic relief,  this is probably the most serious and personal blog post I have written. No foolin.’
* * *
Department Of Worst April Fool’s Day Ever
The following took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – twenty-one years ago today, April 1, 2001. Background info: MH and I and our offspring, K and Belle, were members of a local church.  Within the past seven weeks we’d celebrated K’s eighth birthday, and Belle’s fifth.
* * *
At approximately 12:20pm, Sunday, April 1, 2001, MH and I were in the ___ (church name) Fellowship Hall’s kitchen, doing cleanup after coffee hour. K and Belle were playing with other children outside, in the church’s courtyard. Belle found a hypodermic syringe (“A shiny toy,” as she later described it to me) on the grass under the bushes next to a play-shed in the courtyard. She picked up the syringe, which was capped, but the syringe’s needle — which was sticking out at an angle from under the side of the cap — poked her in her right thumb. She dropped the syringe and walked away.
K had seen Belle pick up something and then quickly drop it. He went over to where she had been, saw the syringe, and picked it up. He intended to take it upstairs to MH and I, to show us what Belle had touched…then he also got stuck by the needle (in his left thumb) when he picked up the syringe.
K came into the kitchen, holding the syringe. He told us that he’d found “this thing on the grass” and that he’d accidentally stuck himself with it. Before K had finished his sentence MH whisked the syringe from K, and recapped it (K said he took the cap off *after* the needle stuck him, as he wanted us to see exactly what it was that had stuck him, but that the syringe had the cap ON when he picked it up).
I rushed K to the sink, quickly but thoroughly washed his thumb, and told MH to get Belle and meet us at the hospital. We had our two cars with us; I wrapped the syringe in several paper towels and ran down the back stairs of the hall with K in tow, telling him that we were going to the Tuality Hospital ER (which is less than half a mile from the church).
At this time MH and I did *not* know that Belle had also – and first – been stuck by that same syringe’s needle.
MH found Belle standing in the entrance to the Fellowship Hall, crying and holding her thumb, which was bleeding. MH asked another child, who was lying on a couch in the entrance, what was going on. The kid glanced at Belle and casually replied, “Oh, she cut herself.” MH asked Belle what happened; she said that “a knife” she found in the courtyard had cut her finger.
I’d parked on the street by the entrance to the Fellowship Hall. Just as I was about to pull away from the curb MH ran to my car, pounded on the window, opened the door and practically threw Belle in the back seat, next to K. MH told me about Belle’s thumb as he strapped Belle into her car seat; we tried to get more out of her, but she was very upset. She didn’t want to say that it was the needle which had cut her, but K said that it was, and then Belle confirmed this.
All of this — from the moment K came up to the kitchen with the syringe to MH running with Belle to the car — took place in less than two minutes. I squeezed Belle’s thumb to get more blood out, gave her a tissue to hold over her thumb, and drove to the ER, with MH arriving in our other car about four minutes after the kids and I did.
The bad news:
…was what had happened. Of particular concern was the fact that the syringe was from an “unknown source,” which is hospital jargon for, “We don’t have the syringe’s user to test.” However, as the hospital personnel  – and our own instincts and experience told us – as far as what the syringe had been used for, we should assume the worst. Translation: the syringe had been used to inject a person or persons with illegal drugs; it had not been left there by a diabetic who on the spur of the moment decided to adjust his blood sugar/insulin ratio in our church’s courtyard’s bushes. (Coincidentally, earlier that morning I’d been told by the church groundskeeper that the previous day, members of our church had done a cleanup of the church grounds, removing beer cans and trash from under and around the bushes in the courtyard, where the groundskeeper had occasionally found “vagrants and street people partying.”)
Hospital personnel told us the syringe was likely used to inject its user(s) with a certain kind of heroin (“Mexican brown”) and/or methamphetamine, which, for “street users,” were the injectable drugs of choice both the hospital and the police were seeing at that time. Although we brought the syringe with us (and could detect a micro-microscopic drop of fluid inside of it), we were told that there was nothing the hospital could test it for. In fact, it was hospital policy notto test it, for among other reasons, the false reassurance of any false negative results (which they would likely get, as there was no way to determine how long the syringe had been there).
The relatively good (or at least, less bad) news:
-Both kids’ immunizations were up to date, including for Hepatitis B.
-Although there were no vaccinations for Hepatitis C and the other rare strains (D, E, F), risk of transmission for those infections, in that kind of possible exposure, were negligible… Also, those strains of hepatitis were rarely seen in Oregon at that time (Hepatitis A is not transmitted via needle sticks).
-The syringe had a small gauge needle; thus, the possibility of a significant “viral load” transmission was small.
-HIV, the big fear factor at the time, is a very fragile virus. Despite its many mutations it can survive only a few hours (if that) outside a host body.
The children were seen by P.A. ____, who examined them and then spoke with us about what happened. Over the next three-plus hours, the P.A. consulted via telephone with Drs. E___ and L___ at Emmanuel Hospital’s Infectious Disease and Pediatrics Infectious Disease departments, with our pediatrician’s on call group, and with other physicians at the CDC. 
We were told (by the P.A. and a Tuality ER physician) that HIV prophylaxis treatment was something we should consider, for both K and Belle. We did, and decided against it, with the following information in mind:
– None of the doctors consulted would strongly recommend that we start either K or Belle on prophylactic treatment for possible HIV exposure, given the parameters of the particular accident/incident, nor was such treatment the recommended protocol for that kind of possible exposure.
– MMR (Morbidity & Mortality Report) statistics showed no transmission of disease had been recorded to have occurred in “this kind of injury,” in Oregon.
– Risk of transmission of HIV was estimated to be less than 1%; risk of side effects from AZT or other prophylactic HIV treatments definitely exceeded 1%.
K and Belle had blood drawn at the hospital for baseline HIV and Hepatitis titers, and we were given scripts to have the tests repeated at intervals of two, four, and six months. The P.A. suggested, for our own peace of mine, that we do another test at twelve months (although that was not the official recommendation).
Department Of The Aftermath
At one point, sitting in the ER exam room with MH and the kids, I remembered noting the date and thinking, “If only this were an April Fool’s joke….”
The above was the Dragnet (“Just the facts, ma’am”) version of the incident, which I sent to family, and wrote for our own records. I left out the emotions experienced by K, Belle, MH, and myself, which you can probably imagine (and which took me months to forget).
We were at that ER for hours. We waited, while the P.A. consulted with various specialists and/or waited for them to return his calls and periodically came into the exam room we occupied, to update us. All the adults were (trying to be) calm. The ER seemed understaffed, to me (a hospital staff member later told me it was unexpectedly busy “for a Sunday afternoon”). Even so and speaking of the afternoon, I wish one of the staff would have thought to offer our kids some food. It was lunch time when the accident happened, and a little after 4 pm when we got out of there. MH and I were too adrenalized to be hungry and, in our state of shock and with possible scenarios and outcomes running through our minds, we forgot that the kids, of course, were hungry ). I finally had the presence of mind to realize this, and got someone to bring them some sugary drinks, which made them both happy.
Waiting, waiting, waiting…. We bummed drawing supplies (paper and pens) from a nurse, to keep the kids amused or at least distracted, while hospital staff checked with one another and called various experts. We shut the door to the exam room we were in and talked loudly to the kids when an accident victim with a fractured femur was brought into the ER (we were mostly successful in muffling the victim’s cries of pain, which echoed down the ER hallway).
MH’s cousin is a pediatrician and her husband an epidemiologist; MH used some of the waiting time to call her (she lived on the East coast). She was very reassuring. She told us that, to her knowledge and after checking her sources, there were no cases of someone “sero-converting” – i.e., going from a negative HIV test to a positive – after having “that kind” of accident (being stuck with a needle which had likely been used and discarded several hours before the stick-accident).
Okay; yes; this is good. But, if this is common knowledge, why is this taking so long?
Why all the consults – are they preparing detailed information for us,
for a prognosis we don’t want to hear?
We had plenty of time, sitting/waiting/pacing in that exam room, to imagine the worst. I had worked for nine years in the women’s reproductive health care field but been away from the medical world for almost as many years and hadn’t kept up with “things.” HIV, despite its ability to mutate rapidly, was – or had been – a very fragile virus. Perhaps new strains had developed, which I was unaware of – new mutations which could survive hours outside a host body? I thought that unlikely, thus; actually, my main concern was not HIV.
I was more troubled to think that the kids might have been infected by one of the new strains of hepatitis that seemed to be cropping up left and right. When I’d worked at Planned Parenthood, just before MH and I moved up to Oregon, I’d had a needle stick accident,  and had to go through the routines of initial HIV/hepatitis blood tests, getting the Hep B vaccine series,  then follow-up HIV and hepatitis tests at two, four, and six month intervals.
Meanwhile, back in the ER…. Finally, a little before 4 pm, the ER staff attending to our case had documented it to their satisfaction. We needed the kids to each have their blood drawn for the first round of tests, and then we could go home. MH and I and the hospital personnel tried to be as straightforward – and as nonchalant – with the kids as possible. “Everything is going to be all right, we just have to do one test (which…er, yeah…will involve another needle stick)….”
K tried to be brave. He was old enough that we could explain the hospital procedures to him, how they’d need to draw a small amount of blood for a test. Did he think he could cooperate? His lower lip trembled as he nodded yes. He sat in my lap, I hugged him, and he hid his head under my arm when they drew his blood sample. For each of the subsequent, follow-up blood draws (at two, four and six months after the incident), K got better at handling the needle poke (he even watched the last one, instead of turning his head to the side!).
Belle’s reaction was…almost feral.
What a difference three years makes, especially for younger children, in terms of experience and comprehension. Looking back, I realize that Belle was also being brave, in a different way – in defense of herself. She did not understand why she had essentially been held captive for hours; she did not understand the need for the tests the adults were trying to explain to her. She understood that she had already been injured by one needle, and she was determined not to let that happen again.
The hospital personnel were kind and patient with her, but despite their assurances that they would use the tiniest needle possible (“The size we use on preemies,” a nurse told me) Belle became unhinged. Even her beloved daddy could not get her to cooperate, nor could he restrain her. Finally, in order to safely draw her blood, the hospital staff put her in what I can only describe as a full body straitjacket. It was a device/garment I’d never seen before,  and it provided me with one brief moment of levity in that dreary afternoon (I had to leave the exam room for a moment, to stifle my giggles).
The follow-up blood draws were, for Belle, not much better (although full body restraints were not necessary). For years after that ER visit Belle maintained a visceral fear of needles. Routine vaccinations were…stressful, to put it mildly, for Belle, her parents, and her pediatrician.
Despite Belle’s fear of needles (which had not been present before the trip to the ER), neither she nor K seemed to carry any long-term trauma from the needle stick accident. They also barely displayed any short-term distress. By the morning after they seemed to have accepted what the adults had told them (it was an accident; everything is going to be fine), and it was almost as if the accident hadn’t happened.
The night we came home from the ER they both fell asleep even quicker than usual (fatigued from the excitement, was my guess). Oh, to have that short term memory dump capability, I remember thinking. Meanwhile, as our children dozed in blissful ignorance, MH and I sat upright in our bed, eyes abuzz from our respective adrenaline overdoses.
“What just happened?”I said to MH. “I feel like – like I should attack something. I’m all geared up for battle, but there’s no one to fight.”
* * *
When the option for prophylactic HIV treatment had been offered to us, I thought:
Is this the day our lives change forever?
I hoped the medical personnel were going to advise *against* such treatment; instead, they’d presented the pros and cons, and left the decision to us.
I’d already decided that, unless there were compelling evidence to do so, no way was I going to agree to poison my kids to play the odds. During some of the down time in the ER exam room I’d chatted with the kindly if seriously-demeanored P.A., and discovered that he too was a parent. After he and a hospital physician had presented the HIV treatment option to MH and I, I waited until the physician left the room, then asked the PA,
“What would *you* do, if this had happened to *your* children?”
He paused, and I continued.
“I know you’re not supposed to answer that kind of question, but please?”
The P.A. nodded at me, in a way I can only describe as respectful, and I saw the brief flicker of a smile cross his eyes for the first time since he’d met us. No, he said, if it were his children, he would not opt for the HIV prophylaxis.
* * *
Thanks to the merciful element known as “the passing of Time,” the distress of that day has morphed, for me, into having an impassive remembrance of what happened without having to relive how it “felt.” Years will pass without me thinking about the accident, and then something will remind me.
One such reminder came via a local public television show I saw a few years ago, which featured an interview with an activist who “represented” an encampment which homeless people had been setting up in a Portland neighborhood. The encampment was in an area which had been designated as a wildlife corridor; homeowners living near the corridor were disgusted and alarmed by the encampment’s accumulating trash, habitat destruction, and crime. The activist/representative said that the camp occupants were policing themselves – she looked directly into the camera and declared that they had a strict, no drugs/no alcohol policy.
Local news reported that within days of authorities evicting the campers, the encampment resembled an EPA-declared toxic waste dump. City employees and volunteers who cleared out the hundreds of pounds of garbage the campers had left behind had to wear special gloves and protective garments, as the trash included – surprise, “self-policing” activist/representative! – drug paraphernalia, including contaminated syringes and needles.
When I read that follow-up story I was right back to that day – back to the moment when MH ran up to my car, carrying our frightened five-year-old in his arms; back to the moment when I realized that *both* of our children had been stuck by a hypodermic needle; back to the moment when, as surely as I could sense my own pulse hammering in my carotid artery, I felt as if my “spirit” were draining out of my skull, down through my chest and gut and legs, and exiting my body through the soles of my feet. And no, this is not a florid way of saying I peed my pants (which I didn’t). The sensation was so vivid, I later checked my car’s floormat for…something (I didn’t really know what I was looking for).
Several months passed before the needle stick accident wasn’t the first and last thing I thought of every day. Some mornings with stoic acceptance and some nights with fierce, Samuel L. Jackson-style defiance (“C’mon, just try and hurt us again, you needle-discarding, muthaF#&%?! ass#@&%* !”), I’d contemplate the fact that there are so many things out of a parent’s control. Seemingly apropos of nothing, I would find myself ruminating on the plethora of shit, be it circumstantial, biological, genetic, or whatever, that I could neither anticipate nor control, but which could harm K and Belle.
I eventually made peace with the reality that generations of parents before me had recognized:
Your life can change in an instant;
your love for your children may be river deep and mountain high,
but it cannot protect them from everything that might harm them….
including random fate and their and other peoples’ (and your own) mistakes.
One day, several months after the NS accident and after things had returned to the proverbial normal, I was out running errands with Belle. We were at a crafty-type store, getting supplies for her preschool project, and she had to pee. The store’s restroom was a fairly large, handicapped access room. After Belle flushed the toilet and began to move to the sink to wash up, she exclaimed, “Look!” and reached for a shiny object lying on the floor, to the side of the toilet.
I had my first ever out-of-body experience: I watched as a hand (that was apparently my own) reached out with lightning speed and slapped Belle’s hand just before she touched the object; I heard a banshee’s voice from the bowels of the hells I don’t believe in bellow from my mouth:
” NO NO NO NO NO !!! Don’t EVER pick up ANYTHING when you don’t know what it is – didn’t you learn ANYTHING from the accident ?!?!? “
It took a stunned two seconds for first Belle and then me to burst into tears, and a nanosecond after that for me to apologize to her.
* * *
May you never have a similar story to tell; May you make peace with life’s realities but do your damnedest anyway; May you remember to ask for something to eat and drink when you’re stuck in an ER room for hours; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Thank you for the inspiration, Samuel L. Jackson.
 One of the more (if not most) liberal of the Protestant denominations. Yes, this foulmouthed expressive atheist and her family were active church members.
 The P.A., doctors, and nurses we saw during our ER stay.
 He had also spoken with at least two other Tuality hospital physicians, one of whom, along with the P.A., presented the HIV prophylactic treatment option to us. We also had several nurses (in and out of the exam room where we and the kids waited) who never introduced themselves.
 Although, oddly enough, neither of them said anything to us about it…which I attribute to them being intimidated by the surroundings.
 This happened as I was doing a finger poke blood draw from a high-risk (multiple sexual partners; IV drug user) patient: I poked myself with the same lancet I’d just used on the patient, as I was transferring the lancet to the sharpie container. It was a move I’d done a hundred times, only that time I somehow managed to stick myself as I grabbed the sharpie container. To this day, I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ll never forget how the patient looked at me and said, “Uh oh.”
 Which I should have had anyway…but I’d kept putting off for time/scheduling reasons.
 Then a few months later, in a veterinary setting, I saw a similar garment used to restrain a fractious cat!
Department Of The Fail-Safe Therapy Tool For Kids Of All Ages
Before I commence to deal with some Serious Subjects ® , I’m going to play for a few seconds with the farty putty (aka, “noise putty”) device MH got me as a Christmas stocking stuffer. ‘Tis such a primal amusement, and also an effective stress reliever. I think the American Psychological Association should recommend it to their counselors, to have on hand for sessions that get really intense: “It’s time for a farty putty break.” 😉
Lest you think moiself jests about its therapeutic applications, feast your eyes on this, from the National Autism Resources website (my emphases):
“Kids of all ages love to play with noise putty! It has an unusual squishy texture that you can squeeze between your fingers. Push it back into its jar and listen to it make funny, gastronomical sounds. Use it to work on fine motor skills….”
And not to worry, for y’all who consider yourselves to be technically-challenged. It even has handy-dandy instructions:
* * *
Department Of Not Up To Their Previous Standards
Moiself is referring to the latest installment of Serial, the Peabody award-winning investigative journalism podcast (developed by This American Life) which made a name for itself in the past ten or so years with its episodic, documentary-style presentation of compelling non-fiction stories. Past seasons included an investigation of the 1999 murder an 18-year-old student at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore, and an in-depth look at what happened to Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, an American Army soldier who was held for five years by the Taliban, then charged with desertion.
The Trojan Horse Affair,Serial’s latest installment, claims to take a closer look at the 2013 scandal in England which involved claims of a conspiracy to introduce Islamist tenets into several schools in Birmingham – claims which were set out in an anonymous letter  sent to Birmingham City Council. TTHF is hosted and reported by American veteran producer Brian Reed and a novice journalist, Hamza Syed, a British doctor-turned-reporter from Birmingham, England.
“This is my first story as a journalist. I don’t plan for it to be my last story as well, but given what’s happened in the years I’ve been working on this, it probably will be.” ( Hamza Syed, from his interview on NPR’s Fresh Air 2-15-22)
Syed’s provocative quote, and my enjoyment of Serial’s previous installments, got me interested in listening to the series. After having done so, I’ve concluded that if, indeed, TTHA turns out to be Syed’s last story as a journalist it won’t be because of his concerns, both overt and implied, of anti-Muslim prejudice against him. It will be because he proved to be a lousy reporter.
Besides displaying a rather volatile temper, Syed made a major faux pas which cast doubt on the integrity of his methods and motives, and on his ability to distinguish between his personal identity and an investigation’s subject matter.
“Long story short” territory: In a latter episode of the TTHA series (# five or six, I think, of eight total episodes) it was revealed that, at one point in Syed’s and Redd’s investigation, Syed, frustrated with being unable to get sources to confide in him, played the Muslim card:  Syed wrote a letter to a potential interviewee (a Muslim man), saying he has never believed the accepted narrative around the case, nor many of the people involved in the investigations around it, and that his (Syed’s) identity as a Muslim takes precedence for him in his investigation.
MH and I each (separately) listened to the podcast, and each of us had similar, jaw-dropping reactions to what Syed had done. Given the opportunity to provide feedback to Syed, I’d have phrased my reaction thusly:
Why should I take *anything* from you seriously, when you’ve just admitted that you do *not* have journalistic integrity at heart, in a story that especially demands it?
Like the evangelical creationist who admits he views science through the lens of how he interprets Christian scriptures, you have told a person – from whom you are trying to get information – that, like him, you are ultimately and firstly a Muslim.
Now, were you lying to get him to trust you? Or were you telling the truth? Either way, I can take nothing you say or do as if it were coming from a serious journalist striving for truth, integrity, and objectivity.
Despite our respective shock and disgust at what the reporter had done, both MH and I found the TTHAstory intriguing, and continued to listen to the rest of the series. But we weren’t the only ones to have an issue with it, and with more matters than its rookie journalist’s whopping boner of a tactic. There was also the assumption the series seemed to take, from the beginning of the podcast: that anti-Islamic sentiment was behind and/or ultimately responsible for *everything* in the scandal. Accusations (including incidents of verifiable and disturbing behaviors  ) about sexism, anti-LGBTQ teachings, and child abuse on the part of some Muslim men – alarms raised by Muslim women – were mentioned in several TTHA episodes, in marginal ways, then dropped.
We weren’t the only ones who were disturbed by this. To quote only one critique:
“The Trojan Horse Affair presents a one-sided account that minimizes child protection concerns, misogyny and homophobia in order to exonerate the podcast’s hero… In doing so, it breaches the standards the public have the right to expect of journalists, with cruel consequences for those it uses and abuses along the way.”
Nope. The WAPO writer refers to a documentary (among five nominees for this year’s Academy Award for best documentary feature) which takes place in India.
Indian politicians would have you believe that their country is a major power in the modern, 21st century world, yet they do the bare minimum to change aspects of their culture which hark back to 1500 BCE, when the caste system was established.
The good news: in India, one of the most dangerous countries in which to practice journalism,  there is an astoundingly brave and persistent group of reporters committed to the ultimate tenet of good journalism: holding the powerful to account. What’s amazing about this group is that is it composed of people with inarguably the least amount of power in their country: Dalit (the lowest caste, aka “untouchables”) women.
“Writing With Fire“ is the documentary which tells the story of these reporters and their newspaper/news outlet, Khabar Lahariya (translation: “News wave”). Moiself urges you to see it (streaming on Amazon, and available via other venues).
” In India’s millennia-old caste system, Dalits fall entirely outside the structure. Once pejoratively referred to as ‘untouchables’…over centuries Dalits have remained oppressed by tradition and the rest of Indian society.
‘I tell my daughters, their caste identity will always follow them. This is how our society is structured, but it’s important to keep challenging the system,’ says Meera Devi, the outlet’s chief reporter who is the main protagonist of the film.
But day after day, the women defiantly expose sexual violence against women and the corruption of illegal mining operations in rural India.
‘We don’t trust anyone except you. Khabar Lahariya is our only hope,’ the husband of a woman who has been repeatedly raped by a group of men in their village tells Devi in one of the rare moments in the film in which a man acknowledges the organization’s value and impact.”
Writing With Fire has a bajillion  story levels to it (other than that of the newspaper itself and the stories it covers), including the reporters’ uphill battle against centuries of patriarchy, and gender and caste prejudice. It’s also an excellent briefing on what makes a good journalist, in any culture.
Some standout moments of the film, for moiself, include:
* Two of the reporters, while preparing a meal, are discussing questions they will be asking of participants in an upcoming election. One reporter asks the other,“Tell me something honestly, why do we call our country ‘mother India?’ Why celebrate the country as a mother?…. I get very irritated watching the celebrations on TV glorifying our democracy. But where is the democracy? Neither are we a democracy, nor are the women free.”
* Later in the documentary one of the more the most promising young journalists of Khabar Lahariya is interviewed about her having to leave the newspaper. She’d spoken earlier about not wanting to succumb to the pressure to get married, and about what happens to women in her society. And then…
“What can I say? At one point I thought of not getting married at all. Many things were on my mind. So I thought, why get married? But I’m under a lot of pressure. I need to protect my parents, because being a single woman is not an option here.
People are questioning my integrity as well as my family’s. They were saying that they (her family) want to live off my earnings, ‘…and at night your daughter…’ It tortures the family and creates a lot of tension. So I realize marriage is inevitable. I don’t want to be the cause of my family suffering. Let’s think that whatever will happen will be for the best. Things have a way of working out, and that’s what I’m hoping for….” (She pauses, shakes her head, holds back tears) “I’m finding it difficult to speak anymore.”
The film depicted scenarios both horrendous, and uplifting, depressing and emboldening, What affected me the most? It wasn’t…
* the husbands and families of these brave journalists showing lackluster (if any) support for their work;
* the frustrations of the reporters trying to learn and use digital technologies when most of them have never been able to afford a cell phone, and then, when they are issued smart phones and/or touchscreen tablets by the newspaper, they can’t charge the equipment because their homes lack electricity;
* the rising influence of the Anti-Muslim bigot Hindu nationalist, Prime Minister Modi, and the prevalence of his inflammatory rhetoric using that most unholy of alliances – politics and religion;
* the danger and threats (physical, emotional, and sexual) the women face; nor the way way sexual slurs are used to try to cow and humiliate them and their families…
One small, domestic scene really got to me, probably because I took it to be illustrative of what these reporters, as women in a seemingly women-denigrating culture, have to deal with: with the shouldand should not limitations all women face, in a world still dominated by patriarchal attitudes.
The scene took place early in the morning. Meera Devi, who like her Khabar Lahariya peers has worked all the previous day (and well into the night), is braiding her daughter’s long hair before school. Like all of her married reporter peers, the vast majority (if not all) of household tasks fall upon Devi, even as she works full-time out of the home. Her daughter is insisting on two braids (“plaits”), as Devi wearily (if good-humoredly) grumbles about not having time for that…one plait should be enough. But the daughter pleads, telling her mother that she will be (and has been) scolded at school if her mother doesn’t do her hair in two plaits, “…because teacher says all girls should have two plaits.”
All girls should…. All girls are …. All girls must… All girls should never….
* * *
Department Of International Relations
MH and moiself are doing some much anticipated traveling overseas this summer. For some of the travel we’ll be in a Scandinavian tour group. The tour begins in Stockholm; following savvy traveler advice, I booked us rooms in a Stockholm hotel two days ahead of when the tour begins, so that we can adjust to the time difference and all that pickled herring and Swedish chefs, etc.
Moiself got an English translation while booking online, but the confirmation the hotel emailed to us was in Swedish. It began with a cheery greeting which I was mostly able to figure out, except that I transposed two letters in the fourth word, which made for an interesting impression/translation: “Tak För Din Bokning!”
Me, to Moiself: ” ‘Thanks for the bonking ?!?!? ‘ Wow – this really is an all-service hotel!”
Swedish inventors have created cyborgs which are hard to distinguish from real humans. Critics are concerned about the use of artificial Swedeners.
Why does the Swedish military put barcodes on their ships? So when the ships return to port they can scan da navy in.
My neighbor drones on and on about his notoriously unreliable Swedish sports car… It seems like a great big Saab story to me.
Did you hear about a new Broadway show that combines magic with Swedish pop songs? It’s called ABBA-Cadabra.
Mamma Mia, there she goes again.
* * *
May you enjoy the therapeutic applications of “funny, gastronomic sounds;” May you watch Writing With Fire (then maybe Spotlightand other journalism-themed movies) and appreciate the absolute necessity of a free press to a vital democracy; May you put on ABBA’s “Waterloo” and dance around your living room (you know you want to); …and may the hijinks ensue.
 Over forty journalists in India have been killed since 2014.
 Fortunately, the reporters of Khabar Lahariya, constrained as they are by sound journalistic principles, would never stoop to using such sensationalistic exaggerations as those employed by moiself.
 Later still there is footage of her at her wedding, in her wedding finery. Moiselfwanted to cry; I’ve never seen a more downhearted looking bride…or woman in almost any situation, for that matter. But, in the documentary postscript, it was reported that she had rejoined the newspaper several months after her marriage.
 Uh, that would be, booking, as in, booking a room with them. Nudge Nudge wink wink.
Tomorrow is the official day in my state, Oregon (and also Washington and California (Oregon) when the mask mandate is lifted. Excusez-moi; it’s actually/officially lifted “after 11:59 p.m. on March 11.” 
Recently I’ve overheard at least two conversations  wherein people were talking about having a mask-burning party to celebrate the lifting of the mandate. Moiself gathered that these parties were more about embracing reaching certain pandemic milestones, and were light-hearted, akin to the tradition of the celebratory mortgage-burning parties. These intended parties were to be nothing akin to the hostile, the anti-mask demonstrations held in certain areas of certain states during the past year, e.g. Idaho, where mouth-breathing child abusing ignoramuses red-staters taught their children to embrace their parents’ imbecility and anti-science stances:
“Parents cheered Saturday on the steps of the Idaho Capitol building as children threw handfuls of surgical masks into a fire. Far-right groups and some lawmakers held similar demonstrations in more than 20 Idaho towns, seizing on growing impatience with COVID-19 restrictions.
‘Hey fire, you hungry?’ asked one boy as adults watched him toss face coverings into a burn barrel. ‘Here’s another mask!’
Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and state Rep. Dorothy Moon addressed the crowd of more than 100 people, standing behind a lectern on the Capitol steps. Nearby, a banner with the racist phrase ‘Wu Flu’ was draped over a replica Liberty Bell….
Idaho is one of 16 states that have not implemented a statewide mask mandate….
Idaho leads the Pacific Northwest in COVID-19 cases and death count per 100,000 residents. In the Gem State, people are dying at almost twice the rate of Oregonians, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.”
(“Mask burning rally in Idaho fans COVID-19 worries in Oregon” OPB 3-8-21)
Yeah, and not only that, those people are allowed to breed, and vote.
I don’t think moiself will be burning any masks any time soon. Rather, I’m going to pause and take a moment of gratitude for the lives that mask-wearing saved, as documented here and here (and also here and here, and….) and also be grateful for how wearing masks contributed to a record-low flu season during the COVID pandemic.
Nope; not gonna burn, gonna celebrate, I thought to moiself, while I was out walking a couple of “laps” around the movie theater I’d arrived at. I had 20 minutes before the show began, and as I walked I looked at my surroundings, as I am wont to do, and my eyes were drawn to a trash comparison. Walking along the sidewalks of the busy streets by the movie theater, as well as the non-busy back alleys, I noticed one distinctive bit of trash which rivaled cigarette butts in number: discarded facemasks.
When I think of all the excess trash the pandemic brought us, it frosts my butt. It seems like we’d just gotten people to bring their own reusable bags when shopping, and to even consider bringing their own reusable drinking straws and take out containers when dining out…then came COVID and the (unnecessary, it turns out) regressive turn, back to the one-use, discard-after-use, plastic everything. This increase in our trash made me almost as sad as the number of COVID deaths. I’m not exaggerating.
“The amount of plastic wastes generated worldwide since the outbreak
is estimated at 1.6 million tonnes/day. ( COVID pollution: impact of COVID-19 pandemic on global plastic waste footprint, Science Direct, 2-21 )
Moiself is not One Of Those People ® who rant and rave about self-checkout lines at the grocery (or other, but mostly grocery) stores – about how they are evil corporate plots to reduce employment (even though they probably are), or how they are bring us one step closer to Orwellian scenarios, or how they are just inefficient or whatever. I use the self-checkout option, occasionally to frequently, depending on the store. When I have a whole lotta items in my cart I’ll use the regular checkout lines…unless they are quite backed up, in which case I’ll do the time math in my head –
do I have more complex items which will require manual input and/or the self-checkout clerk’s attention – e.g. fresh produce and/or bulk items which require weighting and manual input of codes, wine – or primarily pre-packaged items, which I can scan almost as quickly as an experienced checker –
and pick one or the other.
Midway through the pandemic restrictions, the checkout clerks at New Seasons and I began joking about when the “return to normalcy” would begin, and what that normalcy would look like. The NS clerks always seemed somewhat apologetic about their store’s policy banning customers bringing their own/reusable bags. They were also one of the first stores to return to letting customers bring their own bags, and then one of the first to return to bagging customers’ purchases in the reusable bags.
Most of the other grocery stores I skulk around patronize have both regular and self-checkout options, the latter with no item limits (some still have a “15 items or fewer” option). But I’ve learned, even if there is a line of three carts ahead of me in the regular check outline, if I have a cartload of items it’s ultimately worth it to get in the regular checkout line.
Hmmm, which line….
The checkers are just more efficient – surprise! It’s what they do, all day long. And the logistics of the self-checkout stations…urgh. I can count on the fingers of two hands the number of times they have truly been *self*-checkout (as in, no store employee contact) for moiself, despite my having used the self-checkout option hundreds of times.
It seems like I can’t get through checking out my own groceries without needing the employee in charge of overseeing the self-checkout lines to come over (and input his or her magic code, or whatever) when my self-checkout scanning machine refuses to scan any further because:
* it didn’t register the proper weight of an item
* when I rearranged an already checked item in one of my bags, trying to make room for another item, it thinks I took some items out and didn’t put them back
* I need an age/ID verification for an adult beverage
* I need a verification on the weight of my bags after I checked the “I brought my own bags” option on the scanner and it didn’t register them because my bags are deemed either too light or too heavy
* after I get the okay for my bags and arrange them in the (inadequate) space allowed, one end of one bag slips over the edge of the counter, and thus the last item I placed in it doesn’t get its weight registered properly
* the organic beets I’m trying to buy have no UPC code/tag and are not listed in the “look up item” option on the scanner….
All of these and many more scenarios stop the scanner, and trigger the dreaded hopeful, “Help Is On The Way”message on the scanner’s screen. While waiting for the HIOTW employee to arrive I often look around at my fellow self-checkout-ers.. I see that they are also awaiting the same service; I see one of them shake his head and grumble that he’s been waiting for five minutes to get help because the loaf of the store’s freshly baked bread – FFS, he only has ONE item – lacks a scannable code, and the store’s self-checkout line overseer/employee is helping another customer scan their 985 coupons….
My favorites in the we-are-all-waiting-for-the-help-that-is-on-the-way group are the sweet and petite elderly women who wave their hands in a Yoo-hoo ® manner at store employees, optimistically yet incorrectly assuming that this will expedite the process.
Once again, I digress.
*Most* local stores have returned to allowing reusable bags, but why *all* have not returned to bagging a customer’s purchases using that customer’s reusable bag is a mystery to moiself. After all, this is what we’re all supposed to do – bring our own bags – right? There are a few grocery stores that, if you are in their regular checkout lines, will not bag your groceries if bring your own reusable bags. Yep, I’m talking to you, Albertsons (and Safeway…and since one chain bought the other several years back, I’m assuming this is the parent company’s policy).
At first, I thought it was a staffing issue. The last time I was at Albertson’s I decided to test this notion by going through a regular checkout line. There were two people and their respective cartloads ahead of me, and an employee other than the cashier stood at the end of the cashier stand, bagging the customers’ groceries in the store’s paper bags. So, they *did* have staff available to bag. When I unloaded my cart, placing my two reusable bags along with my groceries on the conveyor belt, the cashier pointed to my bags and asked me if I was “comfortable” bagging my own groceries.
Perhaps noticing the lack of enthusiasm in my, “ ‘Comfortable?’ Uh yeah…downright cozy” reply, the cashier followed up with, “We can’t do that” (indicating my reusable bags) because of “the COVID thing.”
Which is ridiculous.
“I told her I wasn’t going to touch her filthy reusable bags and the bitch done left me with her cartful of items.”
I did not tell her that her company’s policy is absurd, seeing as how she was a rank-and-file employee who was just following the store’s policy. But the other employee, the one who either was the bagger or was temporarily functioning as such, stepped aside, yet remained at the bagging station…to do what? I wondered, as I pushed my cart to the end of the checkout line and began to bag my groceries. So, you’re not going to bag my items, you’re going to…uh, provide them with an escort? Or chaperone me, while I bag them? Dude, what is your function?
Many months ago at the afore-mentioned NS market, when they were still not bagging your groceries if you bought your own bags, the checkers and I joked about how it was understandable to have such draconian policies, two year ago, at the very beginning of the pandemic, when people weren’t sure what COVID-19 was or how it was transmitted. But we’ve known for some time that COVID is an airborne virus. You are not going to get it from my woven grocery basket, nor from my reusable bag made of nylon or another synthetic materials.
I tried and (mostly succeeded) in not berating store employees for following their company mandates, no matter how *not*-based-in-reality such mandates were. There was one notable exception.
Several months into the pandemic moiself tried to donate cans of pet food to a local animal shelter. This is something I did periodically, although this particular trip was in response to moiself’s having read an article about how the shelter was going through tough times and needed donations for food and other basic animal care items. A volunteer at the shelter approached me as I began to lower my bags of canned food into the shelter’s donation bins – bins which were open, and at the entrance to the shelter, just as they had always been pre-pandemic. The volunteer apologetically said that the shelter would not take a donation of cans, “…because of COVID.”
Moiself: “Seriously? You *do* realize that you can’t get COVID from a can of cat food…don’t you?”
I immediately regretted my outburst response, apologized to the volunteer,  adding that I realized he was not personally responsible for such an idiotic, non-science-based overly-cautious policy. 
So, to reiterate: You (store clerk/business employee) are not going to get COVID from my reusable bag unless each component of the following scenario ensues:
* I, infected with COVID, am standing in your checkout line at your store.
* I feel a cough coming on, lift up my face mask, put my bag to my face, and hack and sputter into said bag.
* While bagging my groceries with the bag I brought and just coughed into, you – for reasons fathomable only by a highly perceptive mental health professional – grab that bag, lift your own mask, stick your finger into the glob of moist ejecta I coughed onto the bag, stick that finger in your nostril and inhale deeply and then, just to make sure, lick that same finger before proclaiming, “Just as I thought! Definitely NOT lime Jell-O.”
Neither are you, nor I, *not* are going to catch COVID because you, the checker, obsessively sprayed and wiped your checkstand’s conveyor belt between each customer.  Our mask-wearing, social distance-maintaining, hand-washing; our getting vaccinated and staying home when we’re ill – these are the actions that matter. However, store policies re obsessive cleaning are…well…policies. And when a policy is established, for reasons sound or otherwise, it tends to remain in place. ‘Cause, you know: Science. 
So, Albertsons, answer me this: Do your fellow grocery stores, your competitors – do all those other stores and their employees have a special dispensation or super powers which allow themprotection from those icky reusable bags which are out to contaminate your store’s employees?
Albertsons, hear this: It is safe for your baggers to use customer’s reusable bags. Update your policy. Either that or tell your “baggers” to get off their asses and move away if they’re not going to bag my groceries. I don’t need a chaperone or a witness while I do so. You could at least have them pretend to count the store’s supply of paper bags, or dust shelves or whatever, while I am doing what is supposed to be their job.
* * *
Department Of Sometimes I Amaze Even Moiself
Did I really just write over twenty paragraphs about the pesky  dilemma of grocery store bagging?
* * *
Punz For The Day Pundemic Pandemic Edition
I will tell you a Coronavirus joke now, but you will have to wait two weeks to see if you got it.
Why are four out of five fishermen *not* worried about COVD-19? Because they never catch anything.
What’s the difference between Covid-19 and Romeo and Juliet? One’s the coronavirus, the other is a Verona crisis
What will we call the kids who celebrate their thirteenth birthday
thirteen years after the start of the pandemic lockdown? The quaranteens.
Bonus Chuck Norris has been exposed to the COVID-19. The virus is now in quarantine for a month.
Special bonus Best pickup line, as overheard in a nursing home: Single elderly man says to single elderly woman, “If COVID doesn’t take you out, can I?”
* * *
May you never use “because of the COVID thing” as an excuse; May this post not be your (only) reason for avoiding lime Jell-O; May you remember to bring your reusable bags; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Lifted as in no longer mandatory in indoor public spaces and schools. Federal requirements still include masks on public transit.
 Had between apparent friends, in public spaces. And yes, I was keeping proper physical distancing. I wasn’t exactly eavesdropping; they were talking loudly and my mask did not cover my ears. Or, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
 As in, post-pandemic…as in, assuming what we had and did before was somehow “normal.”
 My longtime favorite store. Which does not (yet) have a self-checkout option.
Moiself used to volunteer at that same shelter.
 “They’ll take monetary donations,” he sheepishly responded. The “they,” I assume, meant the shelter staff.
 Now, wiping the belt after the previous customer’s raw beef dripped blood all over it and I’m going to put down my fresh produce on that very belt – YES! Thank you!
I went to a career advancement program at work, where I was advised, “Dress for the job you *want,* not the job you *have.*”
“Great!” I thought.
The next day, they fired me for violating the dress code at the bank.
Hypocrites. How am I ever going to become a sumo wrestler now?
* * *
Department Of Mysteries Of The Mind Chapter 82 In An Ongoing Series.
Admittedly, it’s been years since I watched the film. I recall finding it an overrated snooze fest; also, the inclusion of an appalling ethnic stereotype character erased, for moiself, any possibility of enjoying the performance of the gamin-like ® Audrey Hepburn. 
And, yes indeedy-doo, I am aware of the pitfalls of employing the standards of today to judge the art of yesterday. But, holy fortune cookie on a chopstick! – the movie was release in 1961, not 1916, and it had Mickey Rooney playing Hepburn’s buck-toothed, nearsighted, Japanese landlord (“Mr. Yunioshi”).
Effin’ MICKEY ROONEY?
* * *
Department Of Classic Bits Of Advice That Are SooooooNot True
Such as the following, from a great English writer and social critic who wrote so movingly about the human condition, you think he’d know better.
Department Of Do You Think They’ll Even Care (Or Read It)? 
Dateline: last week, Thursday. After listening again, to a repeat episode of one of my regular/favorite “science info” podcasts, and being, annoyed, again, by the same thing that annoyed moiselfthe first (and second) time I heard it, I had to write to the podcast hosts.  Except that the podcast website provides no way to do that. Thus….
Dear Curiosity Daily Hosts Cody Gough and Ashley Hamer,
Regular listener of CD here. Love the science; loathe the hyperbole.
“…A massive new study says…that you are a totally different person in the morning than you are at night.”
No. And, no no no.
I am certain that’s not what the study (if it claims any relation to scientific validity) says. Remember, words impart meaning, which is why we argue over their usage.
A “Tweet analysis” study (geesh; really?), even a so-called massive one, did not discover a “total” change in personhood. Rather, it indicated that there could be a difference in some peoples’ moods, focuses, and vocabulary usage over the course of a day.
No earth-shattering discovery there. Altering interests and focuses over the day do not transform you into a “totally different person.”
If you were a *totally* different person, that would be something along the lines of, you woke up as a lonely 50-year-old male Ukrainian airline pilot obsessed with learning to play the didgeridoo, and went to bed as a gregarious 13-year-old female Guatemalan ballet dancer who’s planning to run for 8th grade class president.
Sincerely (if not totally) yours,
* * *
Department Of Memory Lane Sub-Department Of Not My Finest Moment of Being A Supportive Sibling
Recently I had cause to think back upon a childhood memory: the one big rebellion of my older sister (N). I shared it with daughter Belle…and now, with y’all.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…okay, in Santa Ana, CA. I was in the second grade, my sister, your Aunt “N,” was in grade 4.
One night, with our family at the kitchen table, N did something astonishing (for her): she cleaned *most* of her plate (she always ate everything on it), but refused to eat a certain portion of her dinner.
I can’t remember exactly what it was that she didn’t eat – a new vegetable, or side dish?  The thing was, N, the stereotypically good/obedient first child, refused to take a bite and try it. And that was sooo un-N-like, which is probably what irritated my parents the most. They decreed that N had to remain at the kitchen table; she had to stay seated until she sampled __ (whatever it was). She stayed at the table, but refused to take a bite.
I was fascinated by this. I remained sitting at my usual place beside her on the table, while Mom and Dad and my younger sister RA (this was before your uncle, RS, was born) cleared their plates and went to the living room to watch Gilligan’s Island, which just happened to be one of N’s favorite TV shows. The following conversation ensued (transcript approximate; not verbatim):
Moiself: “Gilligan’s Island is about to start.”
N: “I don’t care.”
Moiself: “Mom and Dad said you have to stay at the table until you finish eating.”
N: “Then I’ll sit here, all night.”
Moiself: “You’re really gonna sit there, all night?”
N: “I’m gonna sit here forever.”
Moiself: “Oh, okay.” (a pause of several seconds.) “Then, can I have your room?“
N: “Fine; I don’t care.”
I can’t remember all the details of the aftermath; indeed, N was still sitting at the kitchen table when my parents informed RA and I that it was our bedtime (earlier than usual, and I was pissed by that. I thought that they were going to argue with N or something and didn’t want us to see). I had to go to bed in my own room; in the morning, it was obvious N had gone to bed at some point and did not stay at the table all night.
Years later, when I asked N about the incident, she said she didn’t remember it, and Mom and Dad are both gone so I can’t ask them: Well, did she take a bite, or didn’t she? It certainly made an impression on me – N (not me, for once) getting in trouble and being willfully disobedient. What I also remember is how much power it gave N, even if only temporary. Her refusing to take even one measly, No Thank You Bite ® drove my parents nuts.
* * *
Department Of Faith-Based Lack-of-Initiative
“Portland mayor’s top adviser proposed massive, militarized group shelters as step in ending homeless camping….” ( The Oregonian, 2-11-22 )
Moiself recently saw the above headline about the latest proposal possibly being considered by Portland’s mayor – a proposal that likely will go nowhere/do nothing re the city’s ongoing homeless/street camping problem.
There is a seeming intractability to this multifaceted issue, where no one can agree on what to do without infringing on someone’s “rights.” Moiself leans toward the rights of taxpaying homeowners and renters to *not* have to live next to, and among, hazardous waste sites,  nor abide pollution and fires and destruction of wetlands, wildlife corridors and other protected wildlife habitats directly resulting from homeless encampments. 
I am not impressed with the assertion, made by well-meaning but ultimately misguided (IMO) folks, that a mentally ill and/or addicted/substance-abusing person has the “right” to wander the streets, muttering gibberish, panhandling ( which can devolve into threats and aggression, demand and extortion  ) eating from dumpsters, defecating on the streets, and dying of hypothermia.
And it got me to thinking…about all those churches. Specifically, all those church buildings and the real estate they own and (occasionally) occupy.
Some religious buildings are rather modest; others, particularly those belonging to the evangelical “mega” churches, are more like compounds which could house a small country. Speaking of housing – the majority of churches buildings, no matter their size, lie unused most of the time. Except for a few Sunday services and a couple of mid-week bible studies, youth group meeting or other gatherings, they basically serve as a social hall for their members.
Ariel photo of Pastor Joel Osteen’s $10.5 million dollar home, which is a 17,000 square foot compound on 1.86 acres.in River Oaks, a wealthy Houston suburb (Osteen also has another house, a $2.9 million mansion in Tanglewood, another Houston suburb). “The property boasts loads of unique and luxurious features which span across the large mansion, including 6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, 5 open wood fireplaces, 3 elevators, a 1 bedroom guest house, a pool, and a pool house.” ( Backstage: Joel Osteen’s house)
Criticizing the hypocrisy of the wealthy evangelical preachers is like shooting low-hanging fish in a fruit barrel. Preachers like Joel Osteen, known for peddling the Christianity “prosperity gospel” (translation: high on prosperity – for the leader/preacher, and low on gospel), is one of the wealthiest, and thus, lowest…uh, hanging.
But I’m holding all Christian churches, and Christians, responsible for the following observation of moiself:
If Christians took their faith seriously, there would be no homeless problem. 
(I’m not ragging on dealing with other religions right now, although regular/longtime readers of this blog know that I do not hesitate to do so. But the subject here is homelessness in the USA, where Christianity is the dominant religion among those who claim a religious affiliation. )
Christians, in particular those prone to a conservative, evangelizing theology, like to proclaim to non-Christians that, “Jesus/god loves you and has a plan for your life!” even as they conveniently ignore the plans that *their* god supposedly gave to believers in their own so-called holy book: 
“Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’ ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.’ ‘Which ones?’ he inquired. Jesus replied, ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” ( Matthew 19:15-21 )
“…For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ …Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matt: 25 42-45 )
Jesus could identify with the homeless in His itinerant ministry.
In Matthew 8:20, Jesus states that even animals have a place to call home, but He had nowhere to lay His head.
He stayed in the homes of whoever would welcome Him and sometimes outside.
God expects His people to help those who are homeless. The Law directly addressed care for those in need. In Leviticus 25:35 God commands His people to help support those who have no home and cannot support themselves: “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.” (see also Deuteronomy 15:7–11). The Lord rebuked those who kept the outward form of religion yet did not care for the poor: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen . . . to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58:6–7). (“What does the bible say about the homeless/homelessness.” Gotquestions.org )
Conservative/prosperity gospel practitioners of Christianity seem to take literally only a few scriptural injunctions which have to do with sex (i.e. those which they think don’t apply to themselves). But Jesus’ many admonitions to his followers re helping the poor and not amassing treasures on earth? Nah; those have nothing to do with them. Obviously, JC meant for his followers to take *those* commands figuratively, as in this amazing rationalization, which I’ve actually heard from more than one Christian (when I’ve questioned them re their obvious comfort with acquiring wealth while so many in their community are impoverished):
“What the Bible means is that we should tend to a person’s *spiritual* (not financial) poverty, since material possessions ultimately don’t matter.”
Cool story, bro. Just one problem:
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”
* * *
Punz/Jokez For The Day Hypocrisy Edition
My pastor told me that my generation can’t live without technology. I called him a hypocrite and unplugged his life support machine.
When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bike,
until I realized the Lord doesn’t work that way. So I stole one and asked him to forgive me instead.
My priest is such a hypocrite. He called my friend a hero for donating a kidney, but when I turned tried to donate ten, he called me a monster.
* * *
May the job you want be the one you’re dressing for; May you not rely upon iron age scriptures to discern and solve twenty-first century problems; May you watch a better, if lesser-known, Audrey Hepburn film  (than “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”); …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
Gaminis the word many movie critics seem to think one is required by law to use4 when commenting on Audrey Hepburn.
 Who are also the writers of many (but not all) of the show’s segments.
 Which hardly seems likely, as I can count on the fingers of less than one hand the times my mother added anything new to the standard rotation of dinners she cooked.
 RA and I shared a bedroom; I dreamed of having my own.
 When homeless encampments move and/or are relocated, the resulting cleanup, with the combination of human waste, drugs, needles and other drug paraphernalia, has been likened to dealing with EPA toxic sites.
 “…the environmental impacts of homeless encampments in parks and green spaces…include erosion, destruction of native vegetation, debris accumulation, water quality issues, habitat destruction, public health issues (including hypodermic needles and possibly E. coli fecal coliform bacterial contamination of the creek and its tributaries), and discouragement of public use of parks and green spaces. ” (Environmental Damage and Homeless Camps, Thornton Creek Alliance )
 Some street beggars set themselves in such a way as to block your passage unless you give them money, or essentially extort nearby businesses – e.g., setting themselves up by the entrance to a café, and letting the cafe staff know that they will be there, harassing and scaring away would be customers, unless they get a certain “contribution” (read: unless the café staff pays them what amounts to a toll).
I need to rephrase that, because moiself *wants* you to listen to this Radio podcast, even though it will make you cry.  Because a person you love, maybe even your own self, is either walking in Matt’s shoes, or will be, someday.
“… of mini pep talks designed to help us all get through this cold, dark, second-pandemic-winter-in-a-row. But this is about someone trying to get through something arguably much more difficult, something a pep talk can’t solve, but that a couple friends — and one very generous stranger — might be able to help make a little more bearable.”
In the interview, Matt tells how he wrote about his loss and grief to a man who was, essentially, a stranger, after a friend had given Matt an excerpt from a book by this stranger, the author George Saunders. Matt found Saunders’ writing touching, and beneficial in that it wasn’t cliched:
“….he didn’t say it was going to get better;
he didn’t expect me to think that it was going to get better.
All it was, was just making me feel that the way I’m feeling is okay.”
Matt read from the letter he wrote to Saunders:
“Hello. I just lost my fiancé two weeks ago, and she was buried last Saturday. She was 29; we had just moved into our first house together and we were about to start our life. A friend send me an excerpt from your new novel and I keep it with me always…. I don’t even know if anyone will see this, but I just want you to know that you have helped me. I don’t even know what to do anymore, so thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve never experienced loss like this, and the only thing that’s keeping me from taking my life is that I know what it does to others. Be well.”
To Matt’s surprise, Saunders wrote back.
“Dear Matt. Oh, I am so so sorry for your loss.
That must be just unspeakably difficult….
I don’t really know what to say, except that someone told me this recently: that grief is a form of praise.
You are praising the wonder of the person you lost. The great pain you are feeling means great love. I can’t imagine that helps, but it is true.
It is like cause and effect, you really saw and knew and cherished her – that’s what your grief is proving, and proving that she was wonderful, and that you appreciated that….” 
Saunders later reached out to Matt on social media, to check in with him. Their correspondence is beyond touching.
You deserve, and probably need ,  a good cry, followed by a good uplift. You’ll get both if you listen to that episode.
* * *
Department Of Not The Murder Mystery Show I Was Expecting
Trigger warning: The following contains references to a “fact-based” TV series about murdered family members.
Dateline: two weeks ago, MH and I began watching A Confession, a six part BritBox series currently streaming on various services. I knew next to nothing about it; I thought it was going to be a typical murder mystery. But there wasn’t much of a mystery: the person who *seemed* to be the obvious perpetrator *was* the perpetrator.
Moiself only made it to the first part episode three when I realized where the series was headed. Despite the stellar acting and writing, I had to get up and leave the room.
It’s not a genre I spend a lot of time watching (or reading); still, it seems to me that in the typical murder mystery, the murder itself is or becomes almost a side note, to get the plot rolling to focus on
* the investigation and the antics of various law enforcement stock characters (the jaded veteran, the /overenthusiastic but naive new recruit, etc.);
* the machinations of the legal/criminal justice system;
* what the crime and/or its investigation says about the larger culture.
The victim and family are not the primary focus. In many cases where the story is an adaptation of a murder/mystery novel, you don’t even care about the victim, who is portrayed as an unsympathetic character, thus sparking the whodunit intrigue (“Whodunit? The dude was a devious, hateful SOB – everybody who knew him had reason to dunit to him.”)
But A Confession, during the second episode, began to home in on the aftermath for the murdered young women’s families – their profound sorrows, horrors, regrets; their wrenching questions which will never be answered. This change in focus is a change I welcome for the genre…in theory. In practice, it turned out I was unprepared, and it proved to be too much for moiself to continue watching.
Perhaps because the subject personal is to me, I can’t help but wonder: do people who write these stories actually have close friends or family members who have been killed? I’m not talking about the classic or typical murder mystery series, many of which (e.g. the genre’s novels by Agatha Christie; Sayers, Grafton’s “alphabetical series”  ) seem to be almost…comical is not quite the word I’m looking for, but the tone is definitely light.
But A Confession was quite dramatic and realistic,  in terms of showing the overwhelming emotional consequences haunting a murder victim’s family and friends. And thus, my wondering: would anyone who has experienced this kind of a tragedy write such a story for…entertainment? And that’s what it is, isn’t it? We are watching a story about murder, to…pass the time, and amuse ourselves? Even if “fact-based,” the stories are not documentaries; we’re not watching them for edification, or to be informed as to, say, how we can avoid serial killers. And that proposition seems odd, to me.
Confession A: I was riveted to “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” the HBO documentary based on the book of the same name, about the serial rapist and murderer known as the Golden State Killer. Even though I knew what happened and how it ended, moiself still wanted to see the portrayal of (at least partial) justice done, as I felt a connection to the story. I was in college near the area where the GSK started his crime spree – back then he was known as the East Area Rapist ( moiself previously blogged about his capture).
Confession B: Silence of the Lambs is one of my all-time favorite movies – although I’ve no doubt it would *not* be if it were a true story. Still, are A and B hypocrisies, or inconsistencies, on my part?
* * *
Department Of Watch This Instead
That would be the National Geographic documentary, The Rescue.
You are likely at least somewhat familiar with the against-all-odds, how-the-hell-didn’t-they-all-die ?!?!?, amazing true story The Rescue tells. If not, here’s a teaser:
One day in June 2018, members of Thai boys soccer team and their coach went for a hike in the Tham Luang cave. Most of the boys had been inside the cave before – exploring it was something of a local rite of passage, and they wanted to go further inside than they’d gone before, as part of a team-building exercise. (Two team members, who were tired and/or not feeling well did not go into the cave).
The cave became flooded; rising waters from sudden torrential rains blocked the exit and trapped twelve boys (ages 11 -16) and their 25-year-old coach when they were 2.5 miles from the cave’s entrance. Despite heroic efforts by Thai Navy SEAL divers,  search and rescue efforts were obstructed by the rising waters and strong currents within the cave. Having no contact with the trapped party for a week, Thai authorities summoned British rescue divers specializing in cave diving, who found the group alive, trapped on a cave ledge. But how the heck were they going to get them out? An international rescue operation was mounted….
You’ll feel baby-sloth-heart-warmed, after watching this inspiring story.
* * *
Department Of A Flawless Segue To Yet Another Content Warning:
Department Of Next Time, Why Not Adopt An Egalitarian Mixed Breed?
Did you know that at least 60% of Golden Retrievers will develop cancer, and that cancer is the leading cause of death in all but 11 purebred dog breeds?
Calling all dog lovers: please consider boycotting watching the Westminster Kennel Dog Show, and all other such grotesque spectacles which celebrate the dog “breed standards,” which contribute to people’s preference for purebreds, which is responsible for the lack of genetic diversity within “pure” breeds and the resulting decline in the health of such dogs.
Holy doggy-do disposal device – think about it: the very term “purebred” reeks of…well, privilege (and even canine racism, one could argue).
And remember, the so-called “royal” families around the world have shown us what inbreeding can lead to.
“By age five, for example, half of all King Cavalier Spaniels will develop mitral valve disease, a serious heart condition that leaves the dogs susceptible to premature death. By the same age, up to 70 percent will suffer from canine syringomyelia, a debilitating neurological disorder in which the brain is too large for the skull, causing severe pain in the neck and shoulders, along with damage to parts of the dog’s spinal cord. And although Cavaliers may be a particularly obvious case of purebreds with problems, they aren’t alone. Most purebred dogs today are at a high risk for numerous inherited diseases….
For almost 4,000 years people have been breeding dogs for certain traits….But the vast number of modern breeds—and the roots of their genetically caused problems—came about over the past two centuries, as dog shows became popular and people began selectively inbreeding the animals to have specific physical features. Over time the American Kennel Club (AKC) and other such organizations have set standards defining what each variety should look like. To foster the desired appearance, breeders often turn to line breeding—a type of inbreeding that mates direct relatives, such as grandmother and grandson.” (“Although Purebred Dogs Can Be Best in Show, Are They Worst in Health?” Scientific American )
Because some humans think it’s cute for a dog to have, for example, a smashed-in face (ala the pug and bulldog varieties), dogs have been bred to emphasize features and traits that humans find adorable but which are in fact genetic disorders and malformations.
That’s shocking…but, what about cats?
The multi-exotic-breed-mania has infected the cat world to a lesser degree. You don’t see the extremes in domestic cats:
* 360 recognized breeds, ranging from a 4 lb Chihuahua to a 300 lb English Mastiff.
Many veterinarians, biologists, cat breed associations, and other animal lovers want to keep it that way. Noting that it is cruel to breed animals with genetic deformities intentionally, they protest the breeding of The Munchkin (aka “sausage cat”), a relatively new breed of cat characterized by very short legs caused by a genetic mutation.
While many people think Munchkins are cute (and call them the “wiener dogs” cats), their stunted limbs impact their mobility – they struggle to run and jump, and suffer from back and hip problems similar to those experienced by short-legged dog breeds. 
Cute? Sure, if you think animals should be bred for debilitating and painful deformities to amuse you.
“Much controversy erupted over the breed when it was recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1997 with critics voicing concern over potential health and mobility issues. Many pedigree cat associations around the world have refused to recognize the Munchkin catdue to the welfare of the breed and severity of the health issues, including the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy. (Wikipedia, Munchkin cat entry)
“Andrew Prentis, of Hyde Park Veterinary Centre has warned that it’s cruel to breed the cats knowing of their physical defects. He said: ‘The cat in its natural form has evolved over thousands of years to be pretty well designed and to be very efficient, healthy and athletic. The idea that someone wants to breed them to have effectively no legs and for entirely cosmetic reasons is very disappointing.’ …
A spokesperson for PETA told Metro.co.uk: ‘Let’s leave cats be and admire them for their natural selves. They’re not bonsai trees to be contorted into unnatural shapes on a selfish whim.
‘The demand for ‘designer pets’ is fueling cruel breeding practices that cause animals to suffer from painful, debilitating conditions such as lordosis, whereby their spinal muscles grow too short, meaning that the spine arches inwards, because their bodies are unnaturally long. People who buy them view them in the same way one might a designer handbag – and once the novelty wears off, many animals will inevitably be abandoned, putting extra strain on already overburdened shelters.
‘And while breeders continue to profit from churning out felines with genetic mutations, thousands of healthy, highly adoptable cats languish in shelters, just waiting for someone to take them home.’
( excerpts from “Vets are warning animal-lovers to stay away from the cruel trend for so-called sausage cats.” UK Metro )
Please, please, next time, adopt a mixed-breed, aka, a mutt. If the demand for “pure” breeds (and “designer” breeds  and hybrids ) goes away, so will the supply.
We’ll see you at the shelter!
* * *
Punz For The Day Royal Inbred Family Edition
The 17th century French royalty depleted their treasury… I guess you could say they were baroque.
What was the Russian royalty’s favorite fish? Czardines.
My dentist told me that I am a royal descendant! I get my crown next week.
What member of the royal family should always carry an umbrella? The Reigning Monarch.
* * *
May you advocate for the mutts of this world; May you appreciate the heroic efforts of rescue divers (while not being reckless enough to need their services); May you forgive yourself for enjoying Silence of the Lambs; 
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 If it doesn’t, then there’s something wrong with you. Yes, that’s judgmental of me, but here, in this space, I am The Judge. What, you didn’t get the memo?
 Excerpts from Saunders’ response (my emphases).
Why do I keep hearing Chopin’s Funeral March (Piano Sonata No 2) playing in my head, when I even think of the events of one year ago?
Department of Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!
“The wheels of justice turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine.”
Or so the old saw says. Moiself can only hope the wheels will speed up when it comes to grinding the bones of the USA’s most recent, grievous traitor, whose name shall not sully this space, but which can be fittingly acronymed as Damn Turd Pol.
Speaking of acronyms for the names of treasonous snakes, Donald Be Cretin = Benedict Arnold.
Department Of It Was The Best Of Times; It Was The Worst Of Times
Well, *that* was a bit hyperbolic. Still, going through the file cabinets in my office – MH and I determined to whittle down the various stored documents from eight to four file drawers – proved to be more draining than I anticipated.
Dateline: Monday afternoon…which soon turned into Monday evening. Sorting through most of the files’ contents was surprisingly easy (decision-wise, when it came to what to keep and what to shred), if tedious. It turns out we really don’t need the receipt and owner’s manual for a big ass TV we had 20 years ago… and given our own experiences of going through our respective parents’ files, it is safe to assume we won’t have any interest in neither our offspring’s old report cards nor the seemingly 10,000 colored pen drawings they did of the same spaceship. 
But K’s early attempts at comics – definitely keepers.
It was also a somewhat educational experience. Or, rather re-educational. As in, re-learning the dangers of having too much storage space – yes, that’s a thing – which we did last year when we went through the attics.  If you’ve a big attic and lots of file cabinets, you can just throw stuff in there and say, I’ll deal with it later, instead of making the decision on the spot. What with online access to almost everything these days, we don’t need to hang onto back copies of utility bills or checking account statements or maps from our various travels, or copies of every veterinary visit summary, or even user’s manuals for appliances. With a few Important Financial Stuff ® exceptions,  most of what we kept are papers that have sentimental value.
We checked with our offspring; indeed, they’ve no interest in their K-12 report cards, projects, etc. But perusing the kid’s folders, from old artwork, letters, school files (special projects; grades; awards; certificates; teacher’s conference notes; school pix and other memorabilia) – ay yi yi.
This ominously labeled envelope contained a very young but determined Belle’s letter to MH and moiself, detailing the reasons why she should be allowed to have a pet tarantula.
Even the “fun stuff” was occasionally challenging to go through (read: emotionally sapping). More than one letter or other document triggered moiself into reliving times when one child or the other was being picked on (and in a couple of cases, outright bullied) and/or having a hard time socially. There were also a couple of hilarious-in-hindsight teacher evaluation reports, from our son K’s teachers, on K’s beneficial – and problematic– traits and tendencies, some of which MH and moiself still see today, in how K approaches and reacts to certain situations.
The reminders of our offspring’s’ social dilemmas  were the most heart-tugging. How did we all get through that? I found moiself wondering. And yet, we did.
On the plus side, moiself got to relive the pride I’d had in my daughter’s tenacity, intelligence, and gumption, when I came across a letter Belle wrote in the sixth grade, to her teacher. In the letter Belle stated her case on why she should be allowed to bring her cat to the class show-and-tell pets day. Tamping down her anger over the unfairness of a classmate’s (false, as it turned out) claims as to why Belle’s pet should be excluded, Belle managed to compose a calm, clear-eyed statement of the facts. Using kick-ass deductive reasoning skills any district attorney would be proud of, Belle listed objective evidence to show that Belle’s classmate Cruella  was not in fact deathly (nor even mildly) allergic to cats, as Cruella had claimed. 
* * *
Department Of I Still Miss Siskel & Ebert
Movie theaters in Oregon began reopening on a limited basis in late April-early May 2021. Starting in May, moiself did my best to see a movie in a theater, at least once a week. The following is a chronological list of these movies. My favorites are starred.
Confession: the list includes three movies (marked with a zzz) which I did not watch all the way through. Translation: the movies I walked out of – not in disgust (that hasn’t happened in years), but in disappointment. To bastardize a book title of long ago, those are movies which I put in the category, *I’m Just Not That Into You.* Yep, moiself paid for the tickets, but my hours and even minutes are important, and if I’m disappointed and don’t feel like sitting through it to See If It Gets Better ®, I’m outta there.
Piggets my vote for picture of the year. Despite its WTF/why-is-this-in-here? “fight club” scene, I found the movie remarkable, and kept thinking about it days later. Will the critics remember to think of it, come awards time ( movies released early in the year always seem to be at a disadvantage)? Plus, all the recognizable Portland area settings – delightful.
House of Gucci was one of the zzzs. Given the subject matter, and the dynamic actors – Lady Gaga and Adam Driver could hold my attention reading electric can opener instructions – it should’ve been more interesting. But Jared Leto, playing whatever role he was playing (some Gucci brother)….eeeeeewwwww. I’m not sure whether to hold him or the director responsible for Leto’s channeling of so many cringeworthy Italian stereotypes.
* * *
Department Of Because, Why Not?
There is a yoga pose  for, and named after, just about anything. And, especially at the beginning of a new year, why wouldn’t you want to try “… a whimsical lateral bend that stretches and balances superficial and deep back muscles to simultaneously improve shoulder mobility and address one of the most common causes of lower back pain. “
Did you hear that a banana tried her first case as a district attorney? She won the conviction but slipped up on the appeal. 
Q. Why do plantains never slip when they walk down the stairs?
A. They hold on to the bananaister.
My husband asked for a pair of slippers for Christmas, so the kids and I tied banana peels around the soles of his feet.
Q. Where do bananas go to learn about religion?
A. Sundae school.
Q. What do you call a plantain who gets all the girls? A. A banana smoothie.
* * *
May you try to see a movie every week, in a theater; May you feel liberated by a files purge; May your heart be warmed by that which you find in the files
and decide to keep forever; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Department Of Getting Nostalgic As The Year’s End Approaches
Yep; it happens. Thus, I checked out a sample of what moiself was posting around this time, three years ago:
Department Of Authenticity
Next week I am hosting my annual Ladies Lefse Party. Well, once upon a time it was an annual event. After a hiatus of two years, following my mother’s death, I’m ready to get back in the saddle – or lefse griddle, that is.
After my paternal grandfather, a full-blooded Norski-American married to a full-blooded Irish-American,  died, my grandmother no longer felt up to making the lefse her husband had so adored and that she’d come to love as well.  My mother’s eldest sister, my late Aunt Erva, lived in Spokane, and after Erva’s husband died  Erva would drive south every year in autumn, ahead of the first Spokane snowfall, to spend the winter with her mother in Santa Ana. Thus, Erva assumed the mantle of lefse maker in our family. She made meatcakes (Norwegian-spiced meatballs, a traditional lefse accompaniment) as well.
Like many traditional ethnic dishes, lefse has foundational ingredients, and also variants in composition, preparation, and serving. Every family I’ve met who also “do the lefse thing” have their own favorite recipe which, of course, they consider the most authentic way to make and eat lefse.
I’ve been making lefse for longer than I can remember. I took Erva’s recipe and evolved it over the years (or made it “kooky,” as Erva would likely say  ). The lefse is still delicious, if dairy-free, and the “meat” cakes I make are now sans meat (a plant-based version, main ingredient either lentils or tempeh). Back when I did eat (some) meat I used ground turkey when I made meatcakes, instead of Erva’s more traditional, pork-beef blend. But what with my using the distinctive/traditional spices  my parents, when they were guest at my Christmas Eve table, said that they couldn’t taste the difference. Still, moiself always felt my version was missing that certain tinge of maternal family authenticity, which, I came to realize, had nothing to do with the kind of ground meat used. Here is the “flavoring” my versions of meatcakes have always lacked:
(1) an overly crisp exterior (read: I didn’t burn them, which Erva did, without fail);  (2) the ash from Erva’s cigarette. 
What other key ingredients am I missing? One tablespoon repression, ¼ cup disillusionment with life choices….
* * *
Department Of Back To The Present
In a recent No Stupid Questions podcast (“Why Can’t Baby Boomers and Millennials Just Get Along?” SQ Ep. 76) The podcast’s subtopic, prompted by a listener question, was how phone cameras affect the way we experience live events; specifically, does recording them increase or interfere with your engagement of the events being recorded? Both sides (recording an event leads to more engagement; recording an event leads to less engagement) were presented and briefly discussed.
I put videotaping – remember that? – in the same category (of phone camera recordings), because all-but-bygone technology was the recording milieu of choice when MH’s and moiself’soffspring were in elementary and junior high school. And I developed strong opinions then (surprise!) as to those recording devices’ deployment.
For three years in their respective late elementary school/early junior high years, our son K and daughter Belle attended the kind of school (Waldorf-y) which had a media policy – which translated into, basically, a Media Forbidden policy. Computers and digital technology were not part of the early grades curriculum, as per the school’s conviction that such technologies are not age-developmentally appropriate until…
“… a young person has reached the intellectual maturity to reason abstractly and process concretely on his or her own, which is at around the age of 14. Society might challenge this principle, as many young children are well able to complete sophisticated tasks on a computer; the Waldorf perspective is that computer exposure should not be based on capability but on developmental appropriateness. While many applaud adult-like thinking in young children, we observe that a child’s natural, instinctive, creative and curious way of relating to the world may be repressed when technology is introduced into learning environments at an early age.” ( from Waldorf Education, FAQs )
The premise for the media policy, while seemingly extreme to some people, was (is) one that I found valid. I mostly concur with this phrasing, from one Waldorf schoo’sl website (my emphases):
“…healthy emotional development and meaningful relationships with their environment and other people are undermined by encounters with media that separate children from authentic experience and promote a distorted, developmentally inappropriate, and consumerist view of the world.”
The technology and Electronic Media listed in our children’s school’s media policy included television, movies, computers, and all other video and audio devices, including cell phones, video games, and music/MP3 players. None of that was allowed in the classroom, and parents, while attending school events, were forbidden from recording their child’s performance in a school play, music recital, etc. 
“Did, like, a teacher or someone say something?”
I was in favor of most – but not all  – of the aspects of the policy. I particularly appreciated that policy when, during K’s and Belle’s school years before and after that three year Waldorf stint, I attended school student performance and/or presentation events and noticed that I couldn’t get a clear view of, for example, the stage, what with all the parents standing up/leaning over/jumping into the aisle – and by parents I mean, Video Dads ® – their various devices clicking and whirring as they conferred with their spouses…. Then, when I spoke to the vidiots parent videographers afterward about their child’s presentation, I realized that they didn’t seem to remember exactly what had happened, only that they had recorded it (“I’ll watch it when I get home,” one Photoparent actually said to me).
“Can you remind daddy what actually happened here?”
Apparently even the most visually and aesthetically challenged of us now have camera technology at our disposal – via our smart phones – which are the equivalent of the $14k Hasselblads Ansel Adams and other renowned photographers used in their day. But, Some Of Us ® sometimes wonder whether the ease of taking sharp, professional-looking pictures paradoxically reduces their value (as in, now there are so damn many of them)?
Well before my offspring started attending the afore-mentioned, camera-free school, I had, with a few notable exceptions, mostly stopped taking pictures (with either my own or someone else’s camera). I did this after realizing, one day while looking through a batch of recently developed pictures of some event I’d attended, that I’d mostly forgotten the experience I’d photographed.
I do use my phone to take pictures of a sight I find particularly noteworthy (or amusing). But sometimes, most of the times, I want to experience the experience in my heart and head, and not in my phone’s circuit board.
Case in point: Dateline; two weeks ago, early on a Saturday morning. Moiself was returning from a walk, and as I strode by an empty lot between two houses I saw two adolescent male deer grazing amongst the manzanita and other shrubs covering the lot.
No deer were harmed, or photographed, during the typing of this story.
I slowed my pace; the deer looked up from their grazing and kept their eyes on me. As my species is prone to do, I anthropomorphized, imagining the deer were the Jets and I was a member of the Sharks.  They radiated that flighty, adolescent male energy; they looked ready to rumble, and for a moment, I thought I’d better be careful lest one or both of them comes after me. I assured them I was no harm to them; I’m just a biped passing by, going on my way.
Later that day, when I described the encounter to someone, they asked if I’d taken any pictures of the deer. It had occurred to me, but I decided against it, for three reasons:
(1) It – the movement of reaching into my pocket for my phone – might have startled the deer. 
(2) I was in the moment, as they say. Yeah, a picture and/or video of the two deer’s heads, their eyes suspiciously following my every moment, would have been nice. But I took, and stored, the picture here.
And again, here.
BTW, as you may have noticed, there is no third reason. The first two are sufficient.
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Punz For The Day Photography and Cameras Edition
I had to give up my career in photography. I kept losing focus.
When using my smartphone to take pictures, I only think of its positive points. There aren’t any negatives.
Q. How does Santa take photos? A. With his North Polearoid.
Q. Why are paparazzis like aggressive dogs?
A. They may snap at any time.
I told my son that if he behaves nicely, I’ll gift him an action camera. He said that’s Quid GoPro.
My new self-developing film camera is depressed and has mood swings. I think it has Biopolaroid disorder.
That’s enough, thank you.
* * *
May you be in the moment more than you are in the picture; May your finest pictures be in your head and heart; May you annoy your Aunt Erva equivalent  with your kooky adaptation of a family tradition; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Moiself missed including The Partridge Of The Week ® feature the past two weeks, in this blog. Don’t worry; Keith and the little one may make another appearance.
 That was considered somewhat of a mixed marriage in Northern Minnesota; however, “Bapa” (my Irish grandma) told me that her husband’s parents would have considered it “worse” if he “had married a Swede.”
 No great surprise that an Irishwoman took to loving something which is essentially a potato tortilla.
 “Kooky” was Erva’s catch-all descriptor for things of which she did not approve, which could range from one’s choice of life partner to haircut or clothing to your career or political opinions . Deciding to open a boutique, which the wife of one of my cousins did, was, according to Erva, “a kooky thing to do.”
 She swore that’s the only way you could tell if they were “done.”
 More than once I “caught” Erva in grandma’s kitchen frying the meatcakes, a cigarette clenched between her lips, the cigarette’s inch long ash column precipitously dangling over the frying pan.
 Due to parental requests (read: pressure), parents were allowed to take a group photo of the students performing in a school Shakespeare play, but only after the play was over, and with the supervision of teachers and the play director making “not too many” pictures were taken and shutting down the picture taking session after three minutes.
 The exceptions included when a teacher of K’s 7th & 8th grade class, herself not a Waldorf fundamentalist, wanted to use a National Geographic video to enhance a subject that the class was studying. She made the request of the school’s administration to allow the exception. The video was to be used as per what was the most appropriate use of such media – a use that both the teacher and the students’ parents had agreed upon – as a supplement to – not a substitute for – the more direct personal/visual learning experience. Still, the administration quashed the request. Slippery slope, and all.
 You’re going to see the new, Spielberg-directed version of “West Side Story,” aren’t you?
 Nature Girl® that I am, I know that consuming as many calories as possible to bulk up for the upcoming scarcity of winter is the deer’s main focus now. Moiself causing them to unnecessarily expend those calories by making them feel that I might be a threat and so they need to bound away…not nice.
 Everyone has an aunt Erva, no matter what you call her.
Check ’em out, for the children (or parents of children) in your life and on your holiday shopping list.
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One of my yoga teachers, Jill Baker, wore this shirt to class two years ago…back when I was attending class in the studio (I am now streaming classes from the studio). Moiself had to have it. Wearing it puts me in the yule mood. So does hearing one of my favorite pieces of holiday music – while I was making sandbakkels for my annual lefse-making party dessert, I had to play it (“…over and over and over…” as MH noted).
For the non-Norskis, sandbakkels (“sand tarts”) are a traditional Norwegian holiday cookie. Its dough, a somewhat crumbly texture due to the proportions of sugars and almond flour, resembles “sand,” (if, like a good Norwegian, you use your imagination, or plenty of Aquavit); thus, the name. Moiself does a plant-based version, as I do when making lefse.
You can – and I will – place a dollop of fruit jam in the center depression of the sandbakkels just before serving them. My younger sister claims Nutella is also yummy in that capacity; however, she’s well known as the family culinary lunatic, so there’s that.
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Department Of Variation On A Theme
Dateline: Wednesday, this one (December 8). After the pandemic cancellation of last year, my annual Ladies Lefse Party returned this year…in a somewhat limited and altered format. The “ladies” – always a questionable modifier, considering the attendees  – were mostly not in attendance. I kept the number of invitees limited to the two friends nearby who were part of our COVID safe circle, then one had to cancel, so I opened up the party to The Menfolk. After the last-minute cancellation of our son K, it was just MH and moiself, friend L, and a newbie to the festivities, L’s friend, G. Somehow, we managed to have enough fun that we sat down at 7p, then all of a sudden it was 10p.
A nuclear fallout of flour still is circulating in the kitchen. That means we did it right.
No children were harmed in the making of this lefse.
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Department Of Will Someone Please Explain This To Me Before I Die? 
First time lefse party attendee G was an affable addition to the dinner. As a fellow American with a Norwegian background, it was inevitable that, at some point during the dinner,  we shared some of the aspects about our family heritage which, as children, we found nonsensical. In particular, it was hard for us young-uns to understand the fierce rivalry we’d heard about – particularly in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other hotspots  of Norwegian-to-USA migration – between Americans of Norwegian and Swedish heritage. For example, a marriage between a first generation Norwegian and a first gen Swede was considered a “mixed marriage.”
Also inevitable was our descent into recollections of the astronomically lame, “Ole and Sven and Lena” jokes, and then G said, “Remember this one?” He repeated a saying that I hadn’t heard in years, but which caused me to stamp size 9 feet with excitement:
“One hundred Swedes
ran through the weeds
chased by one Norwegian.”
Remind me again, why are we laughing?
Yes yes yes – and WHY? My mother told me that her (full blooded Norski) father would occasionally recite that lame “verse,” then chuckle softly to himself. Okay; Mom, but why did he do that – where did it come from, and why did he think it was funny? She said he never explained it, and she didn’t want to ask, because that would reveal to her father that she didn’t get it, and she wanted him to think that she did.  Sure, that’s understandable, Mom, but do you now, today, as an adult, get what you didn’t get at the time? I never got an answer from her.
Is it just the rhyming of Swedes with weeds ? Why not then,
One hundred Swedes
dressed in their tweeds
tailored by one Norwegian.
To this day, I have never received an explanation (make that, a satisfactory explanation) as to why this Swedes-weeds thang was supposed to be funny. Any takers?
You wouldn’t think it was so funny if there were a hundred of us.
* * *
Department Of I’m Not Naïve But…
I mean, I get around the block, depending on your definition of block. So why was I caught offguard…when I was?
Dateline: last week. Several days in a row. After dinner we turn on our Roku feature to see what is on TV, and the clever device lists several ongoing shows it thinks moiself might like. I followed its suggestion to an episode of The Waltons, not realizing, until the commercial break, something that came as no surprise to MH – The Waltons reruns were being played on The Hallmark Channel, where it is apparently their “Countdown to Christmas.”
Believe it or not…
…I had never previously visited that channel. But for three evenings in a row, I tuned in to see parts of one The Waltons episode, and was tortured by treated to previews of upcoming Hallmark Channel produced “movies.”
I’d been vaguely aware of THC’s schmaltzy reputation; even so, moiself lacks the family-friendly vocabulary to describe how eye-gouging dreadful the previews were. And although the commercials were promoting (supposedly) different features with different titles, it seemed to me that THC was going to be airing eight versions of the same movie, repackaged.
“You look familiar – weren’t we in this movie last year?”
Meet The Plucky Protagonist,® an attractive white woman estranged from/bored with her family and/or disillusioned with/burnt out by her High Stress Job In The Big City ®, who returns to flyover country her home town where she meets the simple-minded mild-mannered incredibly handsome dude who shows her the holiday sausage fest she’s been missing all her life the real meaning of Christmas.
THC’s moldy cheese Christmas romcoms are likely the same basic plot, recycled with variations in ages of the participants and locales. I don’t know why THC’s programming executives even bother to give them different names. Why not just run night after night of,
Hallmark presents: “A (Heterosexual) Hunk for Christmas.”
In the spirit of it-might-be-so-bad-it-could-be-a-teeny-bit-good, or at least morbidly entertaining, moiself be considered parking it on the couch with an emergency bottle of insulin and/or a jug of Pepto-Bismol handy, and trying to watch one of those movies. I’m still considering it.
* * *
Department of Thanks For The Imagery…ooooommmmm….
Dateline: Thursday, circa 6:15 am. I hear the best ever – as in, most evocative – focal point (aka mantra) offered by one of the three meditation apps I regularly use.
I am a thunderbolt of good vibes.
* * *
Department Of I Promise Not To Do This At Your House. Sub Department Of Am I The Only One Who Ever Gets This Feeling?
Sometimes, when I pick up or am holding a large, heavy, porcelain or china or glass or ceramic plate or bowl, I have the urge to fling it across the room like a frisbee. For just a (so far) resistible instant, it seems to moiself that to see and hear the plate shatter against the wall would be very satisfying. It’s not a catharsis issue – I don’t get this feeling when I am angry at or irritated by something. Rather, just when I’m feeling… musical?
* * *
Punz For The Day Norski Heritage Edition
I want to visit Norway soon, but I can’t a fjord it.
How was the Mr. Ed Show theme song adapted for Norwegian television? ♫ A Norse is a Norse of course, of course….♫
I always appreciate a good pun, but never geographical ones. There’s Norway I’d sink Oslo as that.
Did you hear about the bike race that goes all the way across Norway and Sweden? It ends at the Finnish line.
* * *
May you never recite deeds of chasing Swedes through the weeds in their tweeds; May you be a thunderbolt of good vibes; May you one day just let loose and fling that #@!&%!% plate against the wall; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 Disclosure: I do know this person, and like her. So I may be biased…y’all can handle that.
 ages 3-8. Accessible info for older bipeds as well. No boring quantum mechanics or string theory.
 Remember: axial tilt is the reason for the season – for *all* seasons.
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.