Author Isaacson frames Doudna’s story with a statement the author makes as a fact (which could be disputed) about what he calls the three great revolutions of modern times:
“The invention of CRISPR and the plague of COVID will hasten our transition to the third great revolution of modern times. These revolutions arose from the discovery, beginning just over a century ago, of the three fundamental kernels of our existence: the atom, the bit, and the gene.”
Normal DNA: Moiself’s favorite DNA.
Revolution one, Isaacson posits, occurred in the first half of the 20th century. This was the atom-centered revolution, driven by physics and Einstein’ papers and theories, with the resulting developments of the atomic bomb, nuclear power, transistors and spaceships and laser and radar.
The second half of the 20th century gave us the information-based technology (the bit-centered revolution), based on the idea that all information could be encoded by binary digits…which led to the microchip, the computer, and the internet, the three of which combined to make “the digital revolution.”
The third revolution began in the late 20th century, and we are in the midst of it now: the gene-centered, “life-science revolution,” wherein “…children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code.”
“My work was both physics-driven and hair-raising.”
I’m midway through the book, which is quite a good read, if I do say so moiself.  Despite the author’s layperson-friendly presentation I find I must take frequent “brain breaks” to process the information presented.  I enjoy the weaving of Doudna’s story with the history of the eccentric, brilliant, and creative – and also competitive, back-biting, and oft times greedy and uncooperative and ungenerous (surprise!) – scientists working in the fields of gene and DNA research. Sadly/frustratingly, as when one delves into the history of any scientific field, these stories include how female scientists’ discoveries and contributions were hijacked and/or mis-credited (by and to male colleagues), as in the case of biochemist Rosalind Franklin’s work in X-ray crystallography.. Franklin’s extensive x-ray work,  which was initially used by fellow DNA researchers Francis Crick and James Watson without her permission (“photo 51“), led to the understanding and deciphering of the DNA’s double helix-complementary base pair structure. Crick and Watson and another (male) colleague of theirs were to receive the Noble Prize (“…re Franklin and the Nobel Prize she never won, even Watson begrudgingly says that she should have gotten it. ‘ “) 
Yet again, I digress.
The author’s opening premise struck me as quite profound: the idea that three miniscule “units” (atom; bit; gene) led and are leading to colossal scientific and cultural changes. Moiself shared this with MH, who took issue (picked a nit?) with the idea that the “bit” is a discovery (isn’t it more of an invention?). So, what thinketh y’all? Are those three an adequate encapsulation of the “revolutions” of the past century? Would you add (or subtract) others?
* * *
Department Of Quote Of The Week
Sue Black, Scottish forensic scientist, anthropologist, and professor, is the honored source of this quote, as per her appearance on the most recent Clear + Vivid podcast. ( “Sue Black, Forensic Supersleuth ” ).
Podcast host Alan Alda asked Black about the process of interviewing people who want to donate their body to scientific research. Black tries to speak with people who sign anatomical donation forms as part of her teaching empathy – as well as respect for such “a profound gift” – to her anatomy and dissection students. What are some of reasons people have given, Alda asked? A variety of reasons, as it turns out: from gratitude for scientific and medical advances that helped them or a loved one; or wanting to be part of a scientific/medical field but never able to do so, and this is their way of taking part….etcetera. Then Black shared one of her favorite stories.
“I had the most *gorgeous* lady who came into my office one afternoon. She must have been in her seventies and she was literally dressed to the nines – she had the makeup and she had the jewelry, and I said to her, ‘Why would you want to donate your body?’ and she looked at me and she said,
‘Quite frankly, young woman, *this* is just too good to burn!’ “
“Too good to burn, you bet your ass.”
In the end of the C+V podcasts, host Alda asks his guests “Seven Quick Questions” that have some connection with communication. Black said, in response to the question, “What’s the strangest question anyone has ever asked you?” that the strange questions she gets are usually in regard to what she wants to do regarding her own death. Black said that because of what she does she has no fear of death; she attributed that attitude in part to the fact that her grandmother taught her that “death is your friend that walks along side you all of your life,” and so “…you’d better get to know her and make a friend of her because she’s not going away and eventually is going to be there at the end.” Black told her family that she wants her body to be donated to the anatomy department to be dissected, and wants her bone to be retained,
“…and if they could string my skeleton up, then I could be an articulated skeleton, in my dissection room, teaching for the rest of my death.
I have no intention of ever stopping working, and death is not going to get in the way of that.”
Three days later I am still marveling at that. Especially as we age, we are so often asked what we intend to do “with the rest of your life.” What a beautiful and unique viewpoint, to think of what you’ll be doing for the rest of your death.
* * *
Punz For The Day Geneticists’ Edition
A mad scientist drugged, kidnapped, and experimented on me,
replacing my arms with a Grizzly’s paws. If I see him again I’ll tear him apart with my bear hands.
Geneticist: “We have your test results; I’m afraid your DNA is backwards.” Me: “And?”
Advertisers should use pictures of the 23rd chromosome pair in their commercials. Because, you know, sex cells.
* * *
May you forever be “too good to burn;” May you marvel at the atom-bit-gene revolutions; May you ponder what to do with the rest of your life…and death; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Department Of Why Are Some People Still Doing This?
“Summer is synonymous with barbecues, parades and fireworks. The National Safety Council advises everyone to enjoy fireworks at public displays conducted by professionals, and not to use any fireworks at home. They may be legal but they are not safe.” (National Safety Council, “Leave Fireworks to the Experts” )
Please don’t purchase or use fireworks. Moiself doesn’t give a roman candle’s flaming buttcrack about how fondly you look back on those childhood July 4th fireworks parties  – such an activity should be considered anachronistic at best.
“*I* can celebrate with a safe and sane fireworks display, I know it!”
I was surprised by my own visceral reaction (barely suppressed rage; an urge to approach the owners and employees and shame them into leaving) when I saw a fireworks stand this year. *WTF are they doing here?* This was before the heat wave that pummeled the Pacific NW (and western Canada). But folks, we’ve known for years about why, even if Some People ® just can’t get it up for Uh-Mur-ica without viewing explosive pyrotechnic devices, fireworks displays should be left to a few professional or civic shows.
Fireworks suck. For fleeting moments of pyrotechnic entertainment, we also get
* extensive air pollution produced in a short amount of time, leaving metal particles, dangerous toxins, harmful chemicals and smoke in the air for hours (sometimes days) and which find their way into our soil and water systems; 
* fear, acute anxiety and distress, risk of hearing loss (especially for dogs) for our pets; 
* habitat destruction and degradation for wild animals, which is particularly “…energetically costly and physiologically stressful for wild birds, which leave their roost in explosive panic and can smash their skulls or break their necks as the result of flying into trees, fences, billboards, houses and other solid objects that they cannot see in the gloom and smoky chaos (and survivors of the original explosive panic flight remain in danger because these birds are forced to find a safe place to roost in the middle of the night).” 
* over 19,000 fires set – from home roof blazes to wildfire – and over 9,000 people (most often children and teens) sent to emergency rooms due to severe burns and other injuries caused while using consumer fireworks. 
The 2017 Eagle Creek wildfire consumed 50,000 acres of the picturesque Columbia Gorge. Embers of the fire were still smoldering eight months after major containment. Hiking trails and other areas of that scenic wilderness were heavily damaged; U.S. Forest Service and other officials estimate that some trails may remain closed for years. The devastating conflagration was, like so many other wildfires and brushfires, started by fireworks.
Life is all about change, about altering our behavior to accomodate altering circumstances. We didn’t always have firework stands and home fireworks shows; we can survive, thrive, and celebrate without them.
Does this boy represent an ignorant, self-centered, head-in-the-sand danger to the humanity and environment…or is he just another cute dork in a silly costume?
* * *
Department Of The Cinematic Story Strategy Which Annoys MH
That would be time travel. Moiself appreciates (and mostly shares) MH’s aggravation with the over-used, cheap-way-not-to-have-to-deal-with-reality plot device.
Moiself cannot recall the name of the podcast I heard recently, in which the podcast hosts and guests discussed a (non-scientific) survey conducted about time travel. Random bench sitters were asked questions along the lines of,
“If you could travel in time, (1) would you choose to do so? (2) if you said yes to (1), would you choose to travel to the past,
or to the future?”
The surveyors seems to have the idea that time travelers going to the past would do so with the motivation of having the opportunity to change something that they did, or neglected to do – an action which, the time travelers hoped, would right a wrong and/or increase happiness or success in their present lives. (Indeed, some people questioned gave answers supporting that idea.)
There was a bit o’ surprise among the surveyors re the number of people over age 50 who wanted to travel to the future, not the past. Some of the younger folk – even a few children – said there were things in the past they’d like to change (words spoken; actions they wish they could do over). But most of the 50+ folk surveyed expressed little desire to go back in time to change some pivotal event (whether it be in their own/personal lives, or re world history  ). The podcast guests and hosts bantered about why that was so, and the answers of a few of those who were surveyed gave them a clue: older people know, from decades of experience, that there are innumerable incidents large and small which make up a lifetime; thus, going back to change what might seem like a pivotal moment would probably not make much of a difference in one’s long-term outlook and prospects.
I don’t know how the episode ended; I stopped listening midway through, as I was consumed with the thought of what *my* time travel choice would be. Seeing as how traveling to one’s past is Not One Of Those Things That Will Happen At All, Or At Least In My Lifetime ®, I dismissed that option, for a clear-eyed – and ultimately more fulfilling, moiself thinks – embrace of reality: I hold that each of us are, already, “one way” time travelers.
“Please elucidate, in a non-sesquipedalian manner.”
We are time travelers to the future. True, it’s on a smaller scale as compared with sci fi cinematic conceits, but that doesn’t change the fact that today is the future we were envisioning twenty years, ten months, two weeks, one day ago. Right now is yesterday’s future. With every breath and step I take, I travel into the future.
Although…how cool would it be to join Ms. Frizzle and the gang and ride The Magic School Bus back to the time of the dinosaurs?
* * *
Department Of The Best Way To Begin A Podcast
…is with an opening line comparable to this, from a recent episode of Curiosity Daily :
“The butt – way more versatile than you may expect…” ( Curiosity Daily, “Mammals can breathe through their butts,” 6-25-21 )
And why, you may ask, is such a possibility worthy of notation, or research? Researchers are hopeful that this discovery may lead to treatments for humans suffering from severely diminished lung capacity.
Well, of course they are.
As for moiself, although I generally avoid reality TV, I could be persuaded to tune in to see a butt-breathing act on one of those “America’s Got Talent”-type shows.
* * *
Punz For The Day Time Travel Edition
I used to be addicted to time travel, but that’s all in the past now.
If you time travel to the future and get decapitated, you really are a head of your time
If I travel back from the future and carry a bratwurst with me, do I have a link to the past?
I’ve invented a device to harvest herbs from the future: it’s a thyme machine.
“Please, Doc, take us back to before there was this blog.”
* * *
May you enjoy fantasizing about your own Magic School Bus destination; May you help your pulmonary-compromised friends and relatives practice butt-breathing (discretely, please); May you liberate yourself from the desire to buy and/or use fireworks; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 I have such memories. For many years now I’ve have realized that that’s just what they should be: memories, as in, in the past.
Department Of Food For Thought, And For The Planet Sub-Department Of It’s Just Too Damn Big A Problem For One Person…
…which is what keeps most of us, moiself included, from taking definitive actions regarding global warming/climate change. The problem is so big, so overwhelming, it’s easy to think we’ve gone too far already and nothing can save us so why drag out the inevitable – let’s all switch to coal-burning cars and get it over with….
However, “most of us,” as individuals, adds up to most of the planet, and if “most of us” made a concerted effort to change certain deleterious habits and adopt a more climate-friendly lifestyle, we could do the equivalent of sticking our fingers in the hole in the dike while our world leaders figure out a global energy strategy. 
The following excerpts are from the recent Curiosity Daily podcast: “The Climate Diet: 50 Simple Ways To Trim Your Carbon Footprint.”
The Climate Diet author Paul Greenberg: “A very simple one would be to switch from beef to chicken. A lot of your listeners are thinking, ‘Oh, no, we have to go vegan…’ but it turns out actually that if we could get the real solid meat eaters to not necessarily go for the bean burger but go to chicken they would cut their (contribution to carbon) emissions per pound by 75%….
That is pretty big and pretty significant, so if you’re going to start with anything, why not start with that?
CD Host: You also mentioned less cheese – what about that?
PG: “…when I was in college everybody loved this cookbook called The Moosewood Cookbook – it was the vegetarian cookbook that everybody embraced, but man, is there a lot of cheese in there! Is it turns out that cheese is actually worse from an emissions standpoint than chicken…. If you’re choosing your diet based on (carbon) emissions, eating vegetarian with a lot of cheese is really not the best choice – actually chicken or even fish is even better…. I don’t want to de-emphasize veganism – veganism is absolutely the best way to go if you want to be your very best, but if you can’t get there, then moving away from beef and cheese is a good start.
So let’s just put it in perspective: a vegan diet, it just blows doors off of everything: …a lentil, you’re talking about 0.9 kilos of carbon emissions per kilo of food; chicken is between 6 or 6, but beef is up at 27.”
* * *
Department Of There’s Always Something
“…Fetterman called for universal health care, marijuana legalization, and a much higher minimum wage well before it was popular. Now…Fetterman wants to convince his fellow Democrats that their party’s future depends less on fighting over fracking and more on embracing legal weed and embracing their populist roots. “This idea [of climate change] that every climate scientist in the world agrees [on] — we need to run on that,” he says. “We also can’t tell a bunch of workers, ‘Go work at Duolingo.’ That’s not fair. We still need to be a manufacturing powerhouse, too.”
…I actually don’t use marijuana. But I think you should be able to, or any adult should be able to, legally, safely, taxed, and not label them a criminal. We need to expunge all criminal convictions. If there is anybody serving jail time for a marijuana conviction, get them out immediately.
…You want to heal this country? Let’s start by acknowledging some universal truths. Health care is a basic human need and right. You can’t fucking live off $7.25 an hour.…Why are we imprisoning people in the failed war on drugs? These are things that transcend politics.
Run on the truth, and that’s what I’ll do. Run on the truth. And if you win, great. If you lose, great. But I will always run on the truth.”
( excerpts from “Big John Fetterman Can Save the Democratic Party —
if the Democrats Let Him,” Rolling Stone, 11-12-20 )
Recently on our family message group, son K alerted us (MH, his sister Belle, and moiself ) to the above article. John Fetterman is running for the Senate in what will be a key or battleground state; K thought we might want to send some support ($$) his way, as Fetterman seems to be ‘right on” on many issues we consider common sense. This led to a fun and thoughtful family IM-discussion, some of which is excerpted here.
I had heard of John Fetterman; the RS article was a better introduction than the vague, “I-think-he’s-this-guy” ideas I’d had, and I checked out his website as well. I liked most of what he said and was impressed with his background story.  I did send a donation…but there was something that gave me pause.
About the pause: Enter and-what-else-is-new? territory: No candidate is every going to be perfect, or check off on all your favorite issues.  I fully realize that, and strive not make the perfect the enemy of the good.
The RS reporter said that Fetterman has “…been out ahead on…issues that have since come into vogue: a higher minimum wage, marijuana legalization, same-sex marriage…” and Fetterman commented,
“I’ve never had to evolve on one of my positions on that because I’ve always said what I believe is true.”
“You’ll always know where I stand. I haven’t had to evolve on the issues, because I ‘ve always said what I believe is true and I’ve been championing the same core principles for the last 20 years.”
As my bumper sticker so eloquently and succinctly puts it:
The sticker pokes fun at the creationists’ anti-evolution/science, but I’ll apply it to politics as well. My opinions have evolved over time, as they should have, and as they will continue to do. The reasons moiself holds the opinions I do is because I try to engage with the facts, and update my viewpoints as thewhat-we-know-about-this-issue changes. No issues, no opinions, are – or should be, IMHO – static; it is unlikely that Fetterman or any candidate has been or will be on the right side of history when it comes to *every* issue. Our country – our world – needs political servants who understand that, and who have the self-awareness and strength of character to change their minds when necessary.
You can also admire someone for “spine,” which can be evident in, as K pointed out, their willingness not to compromise on “insane [ political]  demands.”
K: “I’ll take uncompromising but passionate at this point since we have too many lackluster moderate democrats who don’t do shit.”
MH: “I hope he’s willing to evolve his position even if it is one I currently agree with.”
Belle: “I appreciate the intent behind the statement, but I agree that I’d want a representative who is willing to change their views and isn’t ashamed of it or tries to hide it.”
Actor/dancer/choreographer Cheryl Gates McFadden is best known for playing Dr. Beverly Crusher on Star Trek: TNG. Her podcast is “…a series of conversations featuring close friends and former co-stars reminiscing on careers, personal life and more.”
Yesterday I listened to “more” – part II of McFadden’s interview with actor, dancer and fellow Star Trek alum, Nana Visitor, who played Major Kira Nerys on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  At the end of the podcast, McFadden and Visitor were sharing stories about their family members. The theme of the sudden realization that children – as well as adults – can have, wherein a familiar sight or regular activity suddenly, inexplicably, seems confounding or amazing (e.g., re brushing your teeth: “What am I doing? I am putting a stick in my mouth and moving it up and down and around my jaw and teeth – why do people do this, and who invented it?“) was fertile ground for McFadden’s “shower story.”
“When my son was three…we have a very open, big bathroom…and we have an open shower. I’m in the kitchen, and he runs in and says, ‘Mommy mommy, c’mere, c’mere, c’mere – mommy, mommy, come come come!‘ And we’re running, and he runs me right up to the shower, where his father is taking a shower. And he points to his…(father’s penis)…and he says, HAVE YOU SEEN THAT ?!?!’
And I said, ‘Yes, I have.’ “
* * *
Punz For The Day Global Warming Edition
Where did scientists get the idea that the ice caps are melting? They just thawed it up.
Global warming will kill every single person on this planet. It’s a good thing I’m married.
Did you know global warming is reducing terrorism? The ISIS melting.
What is it called when vermiforms take over the world? Global Worming.
* * *
May your positions on “the issues” be always evolving; May you compose your own virtue-signaling yard sign; May you hear stories (or see yard signs) that remind you why life is worth living; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Yes, there is a buttload of optimism in that last part.
 And not just because of all the legumes you’ll be eating! Sorry, but I’ve been suppressing fart jokes, with all the talk about diet and emissions, for a couple of paragraphs now, and I just need to let ’em rip….
 Three cheers for anyone running for office who is *not* a lawyer!
 And if you find one that does, you’d better look again, because it’s likely either you – or the candidate – are missing something.
 Be forewarned: if you listen to part one of the interview – and I think you should – it contains the story of Visitor’s near death experience (she was kidnapped and raped by two men, who followed her when she drove home after a late night on the ST:DS9 set and discussed with each other what to do with her body [they’d planned on killing her] after the attack). She suffered from trauma-induced PTSD for years afterward; her recovery plus her ongoing work in and advocacy for mental health issues is an amazing story of courage and resilience.
Because…yeah. I don’t know about you, but moiself would have no qualms trusting the person who extends my eyelashes to tend to my nervous system.
* * *
Department Of Adages Revisited
Sub Department OF Why I Don’t have My Own Marital Counseling Practice
Never go to bed angry.
Translation: Never go to bed when you are angry with your partner, lest a bad feeling hardens into resentment. Resolve the argument before going to bed.
But, that’s not always possible. Sometimes you’re too tired and/or cranky to resolve things diplomatically – that’s why you’re about to “go to bed angry” in the first place. So: go to bed; get some sleep; wake up, have a nice breakfast together…. Maybe, come the morning, whatever caused the argument won’t seem so serious.
Moiself’ssuggested classic advice addendum:
Never go to bed angry.
Oh, okay – go to bed angry if you must, but with someone else.
Actually, I’d say this advice is even crappier:
* * *
Department Of Sometimes The Best Intentions…
I drove past someone’s house recently, and saw a new sign in their front yard. The sign was similar in size, design and “composition” as the Black Lives Matter signs, only with a different message.
The message refers to  stopping the rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans. However, its phrasing prompted moiself to picture the following scenario: moiself driving past the sign, a well-meaning-but-clueless, elderly relative with me in the car – e.g., my late mother – who reads the sign, then sincerely wonders aloud,
“I don’t understand – what do Asians hate?”
“They all seem so nice….”
* * *
Department Of Cults? – Schmultz! They’re All Cults
“…I remembered Toni Morrison’s statement that ‘the function of freedom is to free someone else.’ Utah wasn’t the Deep South, and we Mormon dissidents were hardly the Underground Railroad. But I did believe that our culture had trapped us, that many Latter-Day Saints lived in mental and social prisons that perpetuated precisely the kind of insanity with which I’d grown up. It wasn’t slavery, but it was a powerful form of bondage: the belief that God had ordained a pattern of secrets and silence, that religious authority always trumped one’s individual sense of right and wrong, that the evidence of the senses must bow to the demands of orthodoxy, no matter how insane. It was a kind of institutionalized madness….” ( “Leaving the Saints: How I lost the Mormons and Found My Faith,” By Martha Beck )
Dateline: circa 5 years ago; Tacoma WA. Son K and a few of his college buddies are sharing stories about their various experiences with Mormons/the LDS religion. K’s friend and housemate SP is from Utah; SP and his family were minorities, as non-Mormons living in Salt Lake City. After listening to the other’s stories about the Mormon beliefs and behaviors that the friends found odd, SP chimes in:
“You all have *no* idea…. Out here, you have Mormon LITE.” 
K shared SP’s remarks over a recent Sunday dinner, with MH and I and friend LAH, after I’d spoken about having just finished Tara Westover’s book, Educated: A Memoir. The book is gripping, disturbing, at times downright horrifying, and ultimately/eventually a wee bit encouraging. I found Westover’s beautiful prose to be an often-jarring contrast to that which the prose presents: the account of her childhood, raised in a family headed by a fanatical, fundamentalist LD, survivalist, paranoid father (a man who was also likely afflicted with bipolar disorder  ). There were inspiring segments of the book which depicted the author’s inexplicably indomitable spirit (where did it come from, given her environment?); still, I had a headache at the end of each reading day – moiself realized I’d been clenching my jaw when reading through passages depicting the physical, emotional, and intellectual neglect and abuse she lived with, and the narrow confines of her world.
Westover yearned to be “educated,” in a world where women and girls were to aspire to nothing more than marriage and motherhood – in a world where she was told that to want an education was sinful and that women and girls must obey men and boys, even to the point of enduring sickening abuse from her psychotic brother. She did manage to extricate herself (physically, if not completely emotionally) from that world, but at great cost to her psyche. Her portrayal of the cost of childhood suffering, of the power that abusers (and those who abet them) wield, is chillingly insightful. Although I highly recommend the book, it also (and literally) gave me nightmares.
MH recommended the book to me a couple of years ago, and I’d listened to the Fresh Air interview with the author (which aired in 2019). I immediately thought of that interview when I read the first paragraph of the “Author’s Note” at the end of Educated:
“This story is not about Mormonism.
Neither is it about any other form of religious belief.
In it there are many types of people, some believers, some not; some kind, some not. The author disputes any correlation, positive or negative, between the two.”
Well, that was…odd. Most such disclaimers are at the beginning of *novels,* or short fiction collections. (“This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.”). It made me somewhat disappointed in FA host Terry Gross’s otherwise excellent interview. Did Gross not read the Author’s Note? If she did, why didn’t she ask Westover about it – was that disclaimer something the publishing company’s lawyers insisted on?
Readers generally understand that, even in non-fiction, individuals and their actions are not meant to represent Everyone and Everything. The “Author’s Note” struck me as being so unnecessary – and also, so fearful, of possible litigation, perhaps…and the author’s personal safety.
As per the latter: The LDS church is not as prone to rabid-dog harassment techniques as Scientology (whose “fair game,” policy re critics stated that “An enemy of Scientology, referred to as a suppressive person (SP), may be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist…may be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.”  ). Still, the LDS church has been known to lawyer-up when they think they have been presented in a bad light (in particular, by those who have managed to leave the church). But their most effective defense has been the spiritual training – read: psychological torture – with which members have been inculcated.
When I read Martha Beck’s memoir Leaving the Saints, I remember a section of the book where Beck wrote about the rituals she and her husband  participated in during their temple wedding (aka, “sealing”  ). Beck was willing to detail charges of sexual abuse against a very powerful LDS icon – her father, Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley – yet stopped short of describing the vows of secrecy (re the temple rituals) she and her husband made “for time and all eternity.” I recall she used almost a joking tone in addressing any readers who might be Mormon enforcers, writing something along the lines of, “Hey guys, I promised not to reveal the exact content, and I didn’t, okay? So please don’t disembowel me.”
There was an implicit seriousnessy behind her joshing: fear. She’d written this supposed tell-all book, yet she still was afraid to tell all.
I’d known about the vows Mormons take in temple rituals (in which they acknowledge the penalties they might face for revealing such secrets), but “known about” as in, I only knew that such vows existed – their content remained a mystery. Even Ex-Mos who had openly renounced everything else LDS seemed uniformly silent on the matter. Then, along came Richard Packham, founder of The Exmormon Foundation.
During the 2012 Presidential election Packham was troubled by the fact that vast majority of American voters – the vast majority of *anyone* outside of Mormonism – had no knowledge of the secret oaths Romney had taken as a faithful Mormon. Packham wondered aloud (as, in an article he wrote for businessinsider.com ):
“The question for American voters is: Knowing that Romney has taken this secret oath,  and that he is a faithful Mormon, do you want him to answer the question, ‘Would you feel bound by your sacred oath to obey the law of consecration that you made in the endowment ceremony and use the power of the presidency to benefit the Mormon church?’ “
Packham noted that “In all the extensive media coverage of Mitt Romney, much of it discussing his religion, not a word have I seen about the secrets of Mormonism, the secrets of Romney’s life-long beliefs and practices.”
Growing up as a Mormon close in age to Mitt Romney, Packham was, like Romney, “initiated into those same secrets.” Unlike Romney, Packham left Mormonism and decided to talk and write about it, including describing LDS secrets such as the endowment ritual  and other rituals, wherein Mormons are instructed in the “signs” and “tokens” of the Mormon priesthood, are given special “names” (or “passwords”), and must make an oath to never reveal these, outside the temple.
“…when Romney and I first went through this ceremony, we were taught that each of the first three signs and tokens also had a ‘penalty’ associated with each one, and we had to mime various ways of taking life to represent the penalty to us if we were to reveal the secret signs and tokens: slitting one’s own throat, ripping open one’s chest, disemboweling oneself. Yes, folks, this was part of the most sacred ritual in Mormonism: pantomiming your own bloody death.
So Mitt Romney, and all other righteous Mormons, can be confident that they know the secret passwords and secret handshakes to get into heaven. Do you see why Romney and his church are reluctant for ‘unworthy’ people (the rest of us, including Mrs. Romney’s parents) to know about this?
As Deborah Laake  put it in her autobiographical book, “Secret Ceremonies”:
“The actions that were going to guarantee my entrance at the gates [of heaven] would have nothing to do with love or charity or the other teachings of Christ that I’d been raised to believe God valued. In fact, I hadn’t heard a single one of those words spoken today, the most primary day of religious instruction in my entire life. No, I was going to burst into heaven on the basis of mumbo-jumbo. … The mysteries of life were fraternity rituals. … Did all the white-suited glorifiers in the room unquestioningly accept a ritual of nutty gestures from the pseudo-occult as a sacrament? Those were the first moments when I viewed Mormonism with suspicion.”
Or, as summarized by a Mormon missionary: ‘If we told investigators [prospective converts to Mormonism] about that, they wouldn’t join, because it’s too weird!’ “
Lest you think I pick on the LDS too much  back to the dinner table discussion: when moiself described Westover’s book to K and LAH as the author’s story of growing up in a Mormon fundamentalist cult, MH offered his opinion, that “It was more of a cult of that father.” We all then spoke of the fundy cults/offshoots of Mormonism with which we were famililar, offshoots which, like all so-called cults, serve to make the mainstream or parent religion – in this case, Mormonism – look “better,” in a way, especially to non-believers.
Most religious believers deride (and even loathe and/or fear) people in “cults,” but don’t realize they are in one themselves. Mainstream Christians laugh at the gullibility of Mormons who can believe that a god gave a revelation to Joseph Smith through golden tablets (which Smith translated via a magic stone he placed in his hat), but believe their god gave one of their prophets a revelation through stone tablets. They sneer at snake-handling faith healers who babble nonsense (aka, speak in tongues) and believe in prophecy, even as they themselves pray for people to be healed and hurricanes to be halted, and talk about an apocalyptic End Times.
When does a cult become a religion?
* When it is granted a tax-free status by the Government. * When it progresses from killing its members to killing non-members.
All religions begin as cults. Christianity began as one of several competing messianic sects and became a religion when Paul and his followers began proselytizing outside Judea. Cults fade away when those who knew the founder die. Who remembers the Ranters, the Sandemanians or the Muggletonians now? (excerpts from “Notes and queries,” ethical conundrums, theguardian.com )
What is a religion, but a cult with more money and real estate, and better lawyers and PR? All religions began as cults – as offshoots of a mainstream religion. Once they achieve mainstream status, established religions benefit from the existence of cults, in that they can point religion skeptics toward the cult’s beliefs and practices and say, “At least we’re not like that.”
* * *
Department of Explanations
Dateline: Tuesday am, morning walk. Moiself is listening to the season 13 trailer for the Clear + Vivid podcast, in which host Alan Alda and the C+V producer preview the new season. One preview plays excerpts from Alda’s interview with theoretical physicist and author Michio Kaku, whose latest book is The God Equation: the quest for the theory of everything. Alda describes Kaku as “one of our culture’s leading communicators… about one of the most tantalizing and hard to understand questions ever raised: ‘Is there a theory of everything?’ – is there some formula that explains pretty much every phenomenon of the universe?” And what would the effects of such a theory mean to you and me?
“The immediate, practical implication of finding the theory of everything is…nothing. It’s not going to effect you or me, I’ll be very blunt with you. However, it will answer some of the deepest philosophical, religious questions of all time….” (excerpt of C+V interview with Michio Kaku) 
I gotta wonder: should I save Dr. Kaku and his peers some time and energy, by submitting to them *my* concept? In a mere four words, my Theory Of Everything ® :
“Yep; there it is.”
* * *
Punz For The Day Theoretical Physics Edition
Q: Why should you go out wining and dining with neutrons? A: Wherever they go, there’s no charge.
A husband walks in on his wife, who is a string theorist, in bed with another man. She shouts, “I can explain everything!”
May you come up with your own Theory of Everything; May you be grateful toward those who encouraged you to be educated; May you realize that nobody, under any circumstances, ever needs to have their eyelashes extended; …and may the hijinks ensue.
 A diagnosis he would have rejected in favor of some explanation involving evil spirits and/or devils.
 “6 insane ways the Church of Scientology has tried to silence its critics,” salon 3-15-15
 Who is now also ex-Mormon, as well as her ex-husband.
 Mormons have two kinds of weddings: Temple weddings, and non-temple. Not all Mormons “qualify” for a temple wedding, even if they desire one. “If you don’t know much about Mormon weddings, there’s a good reason for it. The Mormons don’t want you to find out. Temple marriages are top-secret affairs — absolutely no non-Mormons are allowed to see these hidden events. Even some practicing Mormons, who aren’t deemed worthy of a ‘temple recommend,’ will be asked to wait outside. This can be downright heartbreaking for LDS couples with friends and family outside the faith, who find themselves without their loved ones by their side on their big day. (excerpt from “Mormon weddings “)
My sister’s (non-religious) freshman college roommate was aggressively courted by a senior boy who was a Mormon. When they married, she asked my sister to be her maid of honor. My sister, after months of warily watching her roommate being wooed, did not approve of the relationship, but wanted to support her roommate, and agreed. My sister, after buying and then of course wearing the dress, had to stand outside the temple – along with the bride’s parents (who paid for the wedding and the reception)! – during the ceremony, because they were not Mormons.
 Several oaths, actually, but the one Packham refers, “The Law of Consecration,” involves, if Romney won the election, thanking God for blessing him with the presidency and, as per that oath, promising to use that blessing for the benefit of the Mormon church.
 “a ritual reenactment of the creation, Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, mortal experience, and the return to God’s presence. At each stage of this progression, participants make covenants in the name of Jesus Christ.” (So What Happens in an LDS Temple? The Salt Lake Tribune. )
 Deborah Laake was a journalist and editor, raised and married in the LDS church, and was excommunicated by the church “…for apostasy because of her criticisms and also for her ‘detailed revelation of top-secret Mormon temple ceremonies’ ” shortly after the publication of her book, Secret Ceremonies, “a candid and critical account of her experiences growing up and marrying as a member of the LDS church.” ( Wikipedia entry for Laake. )
 Due to the book I read, LDS it was the primary topic, but longtime readers of this blog know I am a skeptic and debunker of all religions.
Department Of Quarantine Reflections Sub-Department of The Neurobiology Of Love
“Neuroscientists have studied madly-in-love folks, putting them in the fMRI machine…. The parts of the brain that ‘light up’ while looking at the lover are the same brain areas activated by cocaine—the reward centers. These researchers concluded that love is like a drug.
… The chemicals of early love: testosterone (the hormone fueling the sex drive in both men and women), dopamine (focusing on ‘that special someone’), and oxytocin (the bonding hormone/neurotransmitter)….in early love, the critical part of the brain goes quiet…
Crazy in love is a temporary state; the brain can’t stand the intensity forever. At some point the critical parts of the brain come back online, and we see our partners, warts and all. The jazzed-up chemicals settle down, and our drug high gives way to a calmer brain state. Romantic love, researchers find, yields to a tamer version, called companionate love….
Many couples are deeply disappointed when their romance fades into a more sedate version. They crave the high of early love, dopamine and all. Some have affairs, or divorce and remarry, seeking another hit of the drug. But eventually the new relationship will become old….
‘I still love my wife, but I’ve fallen out of love with her,’ a man said to me recently. He’s missing the hit of the drug, and is thinking of looking elsewhere for that love high again. To my mind, ‘falling out of love’ sounds so passive—like falling into a pothole! I propose a more proactive view of long-term love, in which both partners work to create a great relationship. Once the initial glow wears off, the real work of loving begins. The stakes are high; while happy relationships are associated with health and longevity, the stress of an unhappy marriage can result in illness and earlier death.”
“Frankly my dear, after the dopamine dips, I won’t give a damn.”
“That warm, fuzzy feeling…called limerence…refers to the intense, involuntary attraction we feel during the first stages of a romantic relationship. Limerence is often characterized by intrusive thoughts (we can’t stop thinking about someone) and a need for reciprocation (we can’t stand the thought of being rejected by someone).
Limerence has a biological basis. When we are first attracted to someone, our brains release chemicals like norepinephrine and dopamine, which make our hearts flutter and make us feel happy.
The feeling of limerence can last for weeks or decades, although most people start to feel its decline within a year or two of starting a romantic relationship. As we form a lasting romantic bond, dopamine and norepinephrine stop flowing. They’re replaced by hormones associated with social bonding, like oxytocin.”
“It’s just limerence, darling. We’ll live through it.”
Although more and more people are becoming vaccinated, the health care, social, psychological, and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will linger for some time. Perhaps it’s too early to be in “look back” mode, but since I have been fully vaccinated, moiself’s mind tends to go there. “There” includes bits of wisdom I attempted to impart to my offspring – when they were still in the nest, and then reminders  after they’d left – about the good which can come from hard times, including:
* realizing the value of resilience
* discovering, on more than a theoretical level, that you are (or can learn to be) more resilient and adaptable than you may have previously thought.
In the past year+ I have been reading about how people got on each other’s nerves during the pandemic. Fortunately, there were also stories about how some lucky folks found new things to admire in their partners and family members. A particularly pleasant side effect of the pandemic for moiself has been the reminder,
Oh yeah, I married the right guy. (Right for *me,* that is).
MH has simply been…easy to be with. I hope he found moiself as agreeable (or at least as tolerable) as I found him.
I don’t want to make light of what has been a trying time for all families, and very difficult for some. I also realize that, in this stage of our lives…well, things might have been way different if our offspring were not successfully fledged but were instead school age/living at home and we had to juggle both childcare and education responsibilities, and if our economic situation had been precarious and/or not amenable to working from home.
As fun (and also overwhelming) as the passion of the early times of a relationship can be, I have always and strongly believed that romantic love is overemphasized by our culture, and that relationships which prioritize that “romance” side of love above all else are doomed to fail, as the partners conflate the ebbing of romantic feelings with diminishment of the relationship. As per the research quoted in the above excerpts, romantic love by its very nature has a shelf life, determined in part by the sheer newness of getting to know someone as well as by the biological realities  which produce those over-hyped romantic emotions.
Although the following Life Advice ® of mine is unlikely to inspire cinematic tales of inspirational star-crossed lovers, it is, IMHO, essential:
Marry someone whose essential qualities and temperament make you think, “This is someone I could stand to be quarantined with.”
To put it in terms of my own ongoing realization:
“More important than ‘being in love’ with this person
is the fact that I *like* him.”
How could I not love a man who lets me take a picture of him with his hair in a “granny knot” (courtesy of daughter Belle’s styling skills)?
* * *
Department Of Back In The Saddle
Those who know me, and/or who have been reading this blog since before the pandemic, know that I am a fan of seeing movies in a movie theatre. While I am grateful for the many streaming services that kept us all entertained during the times of social/physical isolation, I am now Making Up For Lost Time. ® In the past five days moiself has seen three movies, in a movie theatre:
* A Quiet Place Part II
* Dream Horse
Abby the Emotional Support Avocado gives two thumbs up to each. 
* * *
Department Of Things Unlikely To Happen In My Lifetime
As part of my coming-out-of-pandemic mindset, I still like to think of such things, even if they are unlikely to happen. “Things” as in, solving the world’s pressing problems. “Things” along the lines of, what would happen If I Ran The World ® ? And by ‘running the world’ I do not mean moiself would be doing so as a queen or any kind of monarchist, ’cause y’all know how I feel about that.
Rather, If I Ran The World ® things would be like this:
* All nations would agree upon a “Marshall Plan” (or series of plans), to stop the damage we are doing to our home planet and for cleaning up the messes we’ve already made. Those coming up with workable solutions would be compensated (and celebrated) to the highest financial and “celebrity” degree.  Instead of being hailed for designing an app for more convenient shopping or food delivery or online gaming, the creative young (and older) engineering, artistic and scientific minds would be encouraged to pool resources and take up the various challenges (“Ok, our group will solve ground water storage and pollution; yours will do topsoil rejuvenation…”).
Components of this plan include coming up with solutions for
– renewable/sustainable non-polluting energy sources
– cleaning/filtering pollutants from our land skies and seas
– halting and reversing global warming
For example, in this if-I-ran-the-worldscenario in no one would be using or manufacturing plastics anymore, but what about the bazillion tons of plastic refuse that already exist? Somewhere out there is an idealistic student, in the suburbs of Portland or the streets of New Delhi, who is eager to put her brilliant but unappreciated mind to work inventing or discovering a bacteria or other organism that eats plastics and excretes something useful – or at least non-toxic – in return (read: that doesn’t turn into the sci-fi movie bogeyman which is going to take revenge on us all).
Unless of course, the organism turns out to be the inspiration for a classic monster movie, ala “The Blob.” Then I say, bring it on!
* National boundaries as such would become an anachronism; nations and governments would be organized according to Bioregions. 
* Daylight savings or standard time – we’d pick one of those for our clocks to be set to, year-round, and we’d adjust our work and school schedules accordingly.  The choice would be in agreement with what medical science tell us is optimal for the human mind and body.
* High Schools would eliminate the teaching of trigonometry and/or Algebra 2, and a mandatory math class for all students would be statistics and data analysis (aka Data Science). 
Religious believers may still cling to their creation mythologies and other dogmas: practitioners of the three major Abrahamic religions ( Christians and Jews and Muslims ) will be free to believe that the earth as it currently exists was created in six days 6000 years ago by their god, which then fashioned a man from dust/clay and a woman from a man’s rib; Hindus may believe in their various origins mythos, including that Brahma created the cosmos from a lotus flower which grew from Lord Vishnu’s navel with Brahma sitting on it, or that life in the universe came from the cracking of an enormous egg; Wiccans can hold that “the Goddess” birthed a race of spirits that filled the world and became humans, animals, plants, and all living beings; Scientologists may assure one another that Tom Cruise is the heir to Xenu’s galactic confederacy ….
Religious believers will be free to practice their beliefs as long as their doing so does not negatively impact their neighbors. For example, in the privacy of their own homes and churches, Christians will still be able to appease their deities through reenacting their Jesus-as-the-ultimate-animal-sacrifice ritual via the symbolic cannibalism of communion. However, there will be no governmental respecting of any religion’s theology, nor integration of such in public policy. Religious believers will still be able to vote however they please but will not be able to influence other people’s healthcare options, nor demand that public education incorporate their folklore about the origins of the cosmos as if those myths held equal weight to the geologic, biologic, and astronomical evidence.
* * *
Punz For The Day Cinephile Edition
French movie fanatics want to open a floating cinema in Paris, with drive-in boats! I just think that’s in Seine.
Have you seen the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie? It’s rated aRRRRRRRRRRRRR.
Why did Bruce Willis try to commit suicide with an overdose of Viagra? He wanted to Die Hard.
What is the internal temperature of a Tauntaun? Lukewarm.
* * *
May you appreciate those people you could stand to be quarantined with; May you make plans *right now* to go to the movie theater; May you start your own “If I Ran The World” list; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 “Reminders” sounds better than unsolicited life advice.
 Those romance hormones, like opiates and other “highs,” lose their potency as we develop tolerances to them.
 Well…Abby was a bit generous with Cruella, which needed at least 30 minutes of edits.
 Although I’d like to think the minds capable of solving our problems would not care about fame, it only seems fair that they’d be celebrated – and rewarded for their contribution to humanity – more than, say, the actor with the most Academy Awards or the basketball player with the highest field goal percentage.
 A bioregion is an ecologically and geographically defined area. Bioregionalism, as a governing philosophy, advocates that political, cultural, and economic systems to be organized around bioregions (which are defined through environmental features such as watershed boundaries, soil and topographical characteristics), rather than via the arbitrary and often unjust national boundaries established over the centuries via wars, immigration and expansionist policies, and desire for land acquisition and resource exploitation.
 Once every month or so, in order to maximize our productive times with the times of the most daylight, we would adjust our schedules to start or end an hour earlier or later, and such changes would be implemented with a week’s warning time: “Remember, next week/in six days School/work class begins at 9 AM not 10 AM.” We don’t change our clocks; we change our schedules. 9 AM is still 9 AM.
 The reality is that few of us will go on to use trigonometry, but all of us need to know how to sort out the overwhelming amount of data to which we are subjected in our daily lives, and how to determine what are valid stats verses what is being used to manipulate us (i.e., make us afraid).
Yesterday marked the second week after my second (Moderna) COVID vaccination. I feel…not quite invincible, but superb, nonetheless.
* * *
Dept Of Shame On The Shamers
I have a…how shall I describe it?…not, love-hate, but more, mostly like/sometimes WTF relationship with certain podcasts. The obsequiousness with which podcast hosts and their guests begin their show ranges from mildly annoying to barely tolerable. No matter the subject, from arts and entertainment to politics and science and comedy, it’s as if the podcast hosts and/or producers all received the same Podcast Handbook which decreed that each show must start with a mutual gushing session.
“I *love* your work!” “Oh, and *I* love *your* work!”
This week, on standup comic/actor Tig Notaro’s Don’t Ask Tig podcast (one of my regular, mostly like/sometimes WTF listens), her guest was “outspoken journalist/author/activist” Jane Velez-Mitchell. As soon as Velez-Mitchell described herself as a “fellow lesbian/sober/vegan,” moiselfgirded my aural loins for some particularly self-righteous gushing between Notaro and her guest.. After it subsided, I thought they would get on to the supposed raison d’etre for the show – reading listener’s letters.  It should have come as no surprise to moiselfthat their mutual dietary sanctimony took center stage, prompted by Notaro, who asked V-M when she became “plant-based.”
V-M told story of the “advice” she personally received from, Howard Lyman, the “Mad Cowboy” rancher-turned vegetarian-then-vegan. Background info: Lyman got his 15 minutes of fame in 1996 on The Oprah Winfrey show, when the former rancher’s comments on the practices of the American beef industry caused Oprah to declare on the air that she was done with hamburgers. (Oprah, and Lyman, later got more than their 15 minutes of famous lawsuits from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association).
V-M said she’d met Lyman when she had her own news/opinion/interview show, and she interviewed him. After the interview…
V-M: Lyman and his publicist walked up to my cubicle and said, “We hear you’re a vegetarian.” At that time I was a vegetarian. And I said yes, and they said, “Do you eat dairy?” And I kind of hung my head and because he had just talked about ——– (various horrors of the dairy industry) and I had said ‘yes’ and then he stuck his finger right at my nose and said, ‘Liquid meat!’ and that was the moment I went vegan.”
So. Lyman was able to shame V-M into doing something she probably was headed toward doing anyway. But is that a tactic she would endorse across the board? Subtle hints brazen evidence surfaced in her comments when she and Notaro got to reading letters, the first from a self-described, “time-strapped single mom” who wanted to know how to prepare healthy meals for her nine-year-old son, who recently declared himself vegan “…oh and did I mention that I am also cooking for his ninety- and eighty-eight-year-old grandparents?”
V-M began her advice with,
“But see there’s the inherent carnus bias in the question – that somehow it’s going to take longer to make something that’s vegan, so we always come from that carnistic bias that it’s going to be more expensive, it’s going to take longer …”
Not one complete sentence into her advice and she’s already invented two words: “carnus” and “carnistic.” 
V-M did have some actual advice for the advice-seeker advice re recipes, and getting the child involved re the cooking process, but she had to go further:
“…So, get your child involved in the cooking process, and then you can feed that vegan food to your elderly grandparents so that they live longer, because the best way to ensure longevity is to go plant-based.
So it’s a win-win for everybody; you son is clearly smarter than everybody else in the family….”
The letter writer had said nothing about the grandparents wanting to live longer or that they were seeking a change in *their* dietary habits. Nor had she mentioned her son’s intelligence vis-à-vis that of the other family members. But, because he wants to eat vegan, a vegan evangelist just *knows* that he’s “smarter than everyone else.”
As is the way of vegan proselytizers, V-M took (or made) an opening and ran with it. Reacting to another letter, from a man who wanted to tell his friend that opening a bakery is a terrible idea (the friend is not the best cook and her baked goods are atrocious), here’s how V-M dove in:
“First of all, I hope that if she does create this business that’s it’s a vegan bakery, because you don’t need eggs to make cake, or milk…”
Fellow Vegan Notaro could not suppress herself: “Or milk! You do not need it! You do not need it!”
V-M: “But the bigger thing is, people are on their journey, and it’s very hard for us to steer people on their journey.”
Except of course when it comes to steering them toward vegan land, when it is not hard at all for her to offer unsolicited advice, bordering on shame.
I used the term evangelists and proselytizers, because for hardcore vegans, their philosophy is truly a religion. Notaro and V-M obviously and sincerely believe that their veganism is saving the planet.  There are people who believe – just as passionately as Notaro and V-M believe in the benefits of plant-based nutrition – that all people have an eternal soul, and that a certain god has a plan for that soul, and that nothingis more important than that. How receptive would V-M be toward a conservative Christian who “stuck his finger right at your nose” and told her that being lesbian (even a sober, vegan one) is damning her to hellfire, harming heself and the planet, ad nauseum?
And yes, it’s the fucking same thing.
* * *
Department Of Random Thoughts At The Stop Light
I love my Subaru, and am impressed with Subaru’s’ reputation for quality and reliability. But when it comes time to get a new car I know I will not be going with their latest (and largest) SUV, due to my gut reaction when I became aware of the model’s name.
Dateline: Wednesday afternoon; running errands. Moiself was in my Outback, at a stop light, behind a model of Subaru I’ve never heard of. I looked to the right of the six-star Subaru logo on the car’s trunk to see the model’s name: Ascent. My kneejerk reaction/comment, which moiself uttered aloud to moiself:
“I guess that name must have market-tested better than Buttsmell.”
* * *
Department Of The Downside Of Unmasking
Dateline: last week speaking with an acquaintance who works in the personal services industry.  We talked about nearing the end of social/physical distancing, and about getting – or having – to see people without masks again. Moiself listed a few of the advantages of mask wearing, including the fact that I’d gotten used to running errands without feeling guilty for not having washed my face that morning or having showered in three days (distancing + mask…who’s gonna notice?). Acquaintance laughed heartily, even more so when I added, “No, I’m serious.”
I started to mention the return of something else which *wasn’t* missed by millions of women…then thought better of it, and chided moiself for being so cynical. Turns out, others have been thinking along same lines:
So in less than an hour out of the new CDC mask guidance, I just went outside and pulled mine down. A nearby construction worker immediately told me to “Smile.” I will miss masks for some reasons that are not pandemic-related. (tweet from @ Sarah_boxer, quoted in the article mentioned below).
For M. ___, the pandemic marked the first time in decades she hadn’t felt any pressure to adopt an obsequious, apologetic smile when asking for help at the grocery or the hardware store or the car dealership. For women, “the smile sort of neutralizes you. It implies that you’re more pliable, you’re not going to give them trouble,” she says. With the smile suddenly out of the equation…“it made me go a step further. I decided to not be the type of person who asks for something. Instead I would tell them what I wanted. I would say, ‘I need this.’ ” She plans to keep doing so even when she quits wearing a mask. (“Masks are off — which means men will start telling women to ‘Smile!’ again.” Washington Post, 5-22-21 )
* * *
Department Of Next Time I’m Going To Shout It To The Cosmos
Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Moiself, taking a bus to a job interview….
Oh lawwwdy, those were the days. Out of college, interviewing, no car, dependent upon a sketchy public transportation system. I became convinced that there were signs posted on my forehead and back of my head. These signs, invisible to moiself and normal  bus riders, apparently flashed neon clarion calls to every loud and loony and delusional and horny street person: “Talk to this one – she’ll listen to anything and she lovesunsolicited advice.”
Yet again, I digress.
I was riding the bus, passing the time by reading a magazine article. The bus slowed as it approached my stop; I looked up from my magazine and saw a man seated across the aisle, who was staring at me. I stood up and moved to the front of the bus; Staring Man said, loud enough for the other passengers seated at the front of the bus to hear:
“You’d look prettier if you’d smile.”
I muttered as I exited the bus, “And you’d sound smarter if you’d never open your mouth.”
♫ Ridin’ in the bus down the boulevard And the place was pretty packed, Couldn’t find a seat so I had to stand With the perverts in the back It was smellin’ like a locker room There was junk all over the floor We’re already packed in like sardines But we’re stoppin’ to pick up more, look out
Another one rides the bus, another one rides the bus And another comes on and another comes on Another one rides the bus Hey, he’s gonna sit by YOU, another one rides the bus… ♫
I write and mail two letters every Friday, one to son K and one to daughter Belle. Just because. They don’t get much in the way of snail mail these days (who does?); I thought it would be a nice for them to get something other than advertising flyers, and a fun discipline for moiself, and that it would give them the opportunity to say holy crap, not another one” and reach for the recycling bin lovingly tuck away these personal missives and review them later with fond nostalgia.
Each letter begins with either a haiku or a limerick I have composed, themes varying from personal to political to the weather or a new month/the passage of time…whatever. Usually I personalize the compositions, but last week they both got the same:
A Haiku For Those Counties Who Want To Leave “Liberal” Oregon Begone, ingrates, and
take your tR**p-licking mindset
With you when you go.
You diss Portland, yet
have no qualms about taking
disbursed by the state,
from higher earning/urban
cities, to your schools.
Wave bye-bye, and don’t
let the door hit your Proud Boy
asses when you leave.
That purple prose was inspired by a recent event in Oregon politics: the majority of voters who cast ballots in advisory special elections in seven eastern/southern Oregon counties approved measures for their counties to leave Oregon and join Idaho.
I should turn in my Scout’s current events badge; I had *no idea* that this issue was A Thing ® . My Not Paying Attention ® may be an example of one of the reasons why the people voting to “secede” did so: they think they play second fiddle to urbanized Oregon (i.e., the Portland and Eugene metro areas ), and that urbanites, such as moiself, don’t know (or care) about their concerns. And, in a democracy, that’s kind of true – the “second fiddle” analogy, that is.
The seven counties that voted to leave, Jefferson, Union, Baker, Grant, Lake, Malheur and Sherman, constitute almost 75% of Oregon’s landmass.
BUT – and it’s a big but here –
And also here.
BUT…all that land is meagerly populated, as in, only ~ 114, 000 total residents. The state’s entire population is ~ 4,238,000…so those leaving constitute ~ 3% of the total population. Those seven counties poll and vote “red.” And there is, of course, a conservative advocacy group behind this: ” Citizens for Greater Idaho.”
In all the excitement to thumb their noses at those damn liberals, it is likely that the people who voted to leave have not fully considered several factors in joining “Greater Idaho.” Two prime factors are:
* A good percentage of the jobs in those counties are minimum wage. Translation: those counties who want to leave are essentially agreeing to a pay cut for hourly workers, as the minimum wage in Oregon ($11.25) is a whopping four dollars higher than in Idaho.
* Speaking of higher, weed is illegal in Idaho. Are those disgruntled voters trading Oregon buds for Idaho spuds? Those (wanna-be) seceding Oregon counties have made a lot of money from legal marijuana sales (and, in the opinion of some of us, are obviously heavy users of the stuff themselves, as an Oregonian who would vote to join Idaho must be stoned).
Another reason not to miss those who want to go involves something Oregon’s urbanites have grumbled about for years when they hear criticism from the smaller eastern/southern counties:
Oregon is a state that disproportionately gets tax money from its most economically productive citizens — and regions — and which disproportionately spends its resources in economically struggling communities. (Oregon’s Fiscal Flow)
When it comes to contributing to state coffers and these smaller counties have usually received more, percentage wise, than they give. The much-despised liberal urban areas pay more than their share for the educational and other social services consumed by the smaller/rural areas.
Here is what Citizen’s For Greater Idaho Envision:
Here is moiself’s equally probable pipe dream, of redoing the borders of our entire nation, ever since the re-election of GWB:
Moiself’s personal take on all of this: I’ve no problem with those counties leaving (assuming Idaho is willing to take them). I actually think it would be a good thing, for our country, to see how it turns out. If it is a success (however that would be measured), I hope that California would then consider a split, or four, of its own. 
From what I’m reading, the secession of these seven counties is unlikely to happen, as per the layers of bureaucracy that have to be dealt with. Despite what the citizens of those counties voted for, they are dependent upon the approval of other government bodies: both the Oregon and Idaho state legislatures would have to agree to redefine their respective boundaries and redistrict their legislatures. And then the US Congress has final approval. 
Gee, does this dilemma sound so familiar? The majority voted a certain way; now, the will of the people being thwarted…. Hey y’all in the by-bye Oregon movement, do you now understand why so your fellow Americans want to get rid of the Electoral College?
* * *
Punz For The Day COVID Pundemic Edition
Why do they call it the novel coronavirus? It’s a long story….
Ran out of toilet paper and started using lettuce leaves.
Today was just the tip of the iceberg, tomorrow romaines to be seen.
We had a run on toilet paper in the USA,
but in Germany there was panic-buying of sausage and cheese – the wurst-kase scenario.
The World Health Organization announced that dogs cannot contract COVID-19; thus, dogs previously held in quarantine can be released.
Yep: WHO let the dogs out.
* * *
May you enjoy the new-car smell, no matter what your new car model’s name; May you soon (if you haven’t already) celebrate your vaccine victory day; May you hold the door open for anyone you know who wants to secede to Idaho; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 The podcast is an “advice column” in podcast form, although I wonder how many of the advice seekers are legit, or are just making up letters to get some airtime.
 I’m not sure re the spellings…but does it matter with a made-up terms?
 And as a 99% plant-based eater moiself, I’m in agreement with that idea…but not with how she’s promoting it. And yep, I manage to bake without (dairy) milk and eggs.
 And shame on you for immediately going to Euphemism Land. Think more along the lines of hair salon.
 “normal” as in polite, discreet, keeping their opinions and personal hygiene to themselves.
 It’s ridiculous that the 39+ MILLION Californians have less say in their lives than the 580 THOUSANDWyomingites as per Senate representation. Such incredible power-skewing is not what the framers of the US Constitution envisioned.
 The U.S. Constitution (Article IV, section 3) allows for states to be subdivided if the affected states’ legislatures consent and U.S. Congress approves,
Dateline: Monday, doing a 7:45 am warm-up on my elliptical thingy before my streaming yoga class begins. I tune in to the Curiosity Daily podcast, which begins (as always) with a brief preview of the day’s topics:
“Today we’ll learn about why introverts fared better than extroverts
during the pandemic; that time people were afraid that astronaut farts were a fire hazard…”
Wait – “that time?” What time was that? Please oh please oh please tell me that there was that time, because I really want to find a way to revisit it.
* * *
Department Of Everything Has Its Price
Dateline: last weekend. The man from the Home Maintenance Business  stood in our entryway, chatting with MH as I began to write out a check. This company provided us with a service which required several visits. I asked him to confirm that the price for the day’s visit was $158. He did, then said that if I would go online and give his company a five-star review, which he would very as coming from us, he’d knock it down to $150.
“I knew there was a reason I didn’t trust those reviews!”
Although my tone was humorous, I made no attempt to hide the are-you-fucking-kidding-me? indignation in my eyes, which met his above our respective face masks. He immediately (and defensively) added that, what with all the competition out there, reviews were essential to small businesses like his, and….
Yes, I imagine they are,I thought. And shouldn’t something essential be, essentially, honest?
I let him babble on as I continued to write the check for the original amount.
Had he merely asked me to review the company online, I probably would have done so. But he went further, in a way that flummoxed me, the more I thought about it. He offered me a laughably paltry discount contingent upon the kind of review I would write – AND, which he would “verify,” whatever that meant. Seeing as how he was prepared to take the check I wrote at that moment, how would he later enforce such a verification? If he went online, read my review, and discovered it wasn’t five stars, what was he going to do – return to our house, rifle through our petty cash drawer, and take eight bucks? 
The review I might have given would have been a positive review, but not five stars. As a matter of principle, I generally do not give five stars (or eighteen thumbs up, or whatever the highest rating is, depending on the system). Moiself be suspicious of anything reviewed – from movies and books to restaurants and services – which has all top-rated/glowing reviews. Such hyperbole makes me think that the maker of the product being reviewed guilted and/or blackmailed convinced family and friends to rave about it. And then, there is the “everyone gets a trophy for participating” phenomena. If every rating is five stars, then a five-star rating is nothing special.
Perhaps, for him, it was business as usual. Thus, it’s possible that he didn’t think of his request in the same way MH and I did. As in, Dude, do you realize that you tried buy our integrity for $8?
Now, if it had been $50….
* * *
Department Of Return To Normalcy (?)
Dateline: Tuesday, 1:20p, a Cinemark theater. I saw “Those Who Wish Me Dead.” My first movie in a movie theater in well over a year (since mid-March of 2020).
Daughter Belle, when I proudly texted her re my outing, pointed out that I could have watched the same movie via Netflix (as she did). Yep, and duh. But I didn’t want to, and was glad I didn’t. It was the kind of movie whose cinematic presentation demanded…well…a cinematic presentation. Montana; wilderness; wildfires – big screen stuff.
There were about fifteen of us intrepid cinephiles scattered about the theatre. We all made ISN’T THIS GREAT ?!?!?!?! eye contact with one another as we entered the theater and found our respective (reserved online; generous spacing) seats. One older gent seated near the entrance greeted everyone with a lifting of his popcorn bag in a toasting gesture; no words were necessary to convey his meaning.
Moiself is hoping to return to regular (as in, weekly) movie-in-a-theater viewing.  Now I just have to hope for suitable movies available to see. 
* * *
Department Of They Only Want What’s Best For America
Dateline: May 14 (last Friday). I posted the following on Facebook:
Department of irrefutable evidence: I thought I was doing fine after my second COVID vaccination yesterday – just a sore arm; no other reactions. But later that evening, I allowed Amazon to charge me $3.99 to watch “Gidget Goes Hawaiian.” Should I report this to the CDC?
Apparently, my inclusion of the words “vaccination,” “reaction,” and “CDC” triggered Facebook’s Vigilant Guardians of Factual Information Monitors. ® MH alerted me to the fact that, within minutes of posting my post, Facebook had added a comment/post to my post, which read:
COVID-19 vaccines go through many tests for safety and effectiveness and are then monitored closely.
Source: World Health Organization.
The comment included a blue-highlighted “Get vaccine Information” link.
This amused me to no end. I had to comment further:
Isn’t it funny, that, because my post mentions the COVID vaccine, it got flagged for a warning? In case all my moron friends think that a desire to watch dreadful movies is a side-effect and decide to remain unvaccinated. They couldn’t protect us from Russian hackers stealing our elections, but my golly, FB monitors are gonna protect y’all from Gidget!
Carefree American teenagers riding surfboards, or Russian anti-vaxxer spies atop giant radioactive tongue depressors?
* * *
Department Of The Reaction I’m Not Reporting To Social Media
Dateline Friday afternoon, lounging on the sofa, languishing with my post second vaccine 100.6° temperature.  Following the CDC guidelines for recovery from illness, I fall asleep while watching TV. I doze off to a 2019 surfing championship program and awake 45 minutes later to see the cheery visage of the host of a “raw vegan” cooking show.
Moiself watches with fever-influenced interest as the host/chef works her way through several recipes, some of which look delicious, and others…not so. The show ends with a picture of the final recipe, accompanied by a voice-over listing the recipe’s ingredients, and three lines of text listing why you should make this recipe yourself. As in, this recipe is
* Promotes Digestion
Wait a minute. Even with a fever, I recognize the gobbledy-gook nonsense of that line #3.
That last line is one of those claims which, at first glance, can seem desirous (digestion is good, right?) but which in fact conveys…well, nothing.
Be specific. Do you mean to say that the casserole you’ll concoct by following this recipe is guaranteed to give you astronaut-worthy flatulence? Do you mean to convey, “People who suffer from intestinal blockages will be thrilled to know that this recipe contains ten times the amount of fiber found in a Douglas Fir floor joist, which is enough to clean out the colon of a constipated bull elephant….”
The recipe *promotes digestion.* Well, sure, it does. That’s what allfoods do, when you ingest them. Even non-food items will do the same, when swallowed.
“Hey babe, let’s promote *me* as your raisin d’etre.”
Digestion is your digestive system’s raison d’etre – that’s what it does. You don’t need to “promote” it.
Anything that manages to wriggle down your esophagus and into your stomach – whether it’s a lima bean, a raw vegan energy bar, or a piece of cardboard  – activates that organ’s digestive processes. Holy baloney on rye. 
* * *
Punz For The Day Promoting Digestion Edition
A surgeon told me that he once dropped a tool into a patient’s stomach. It was a gut-wrenching story.
I had some Greek food that upset my stomach. Now I falafel.
My mother, a doctor, told me that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach.
I’m guessing that’s why she failed her cardiac surgery internship.
* * *
May you experience the bliss of promotion-free digestion; May you be wary of five-star reviews; May your social media post be sprinkled with trigger words; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 The company’s name I will keep private, for obvious reasons.
 We don’t have a petty cash drawer. And although I have many petty pleasures in life, cash isn’t one of them.
 Last week’s blog had a bajillion footnotes. I’m behind pace; it’s time for another one.
 Previews are helpful in weeding out what I do not want to see: nothing featuring a scowling Bruce Willis or his macho-actor-saves-the-world equivalent, nor lots of explosions, nor grunting hordes of The Undead…and enough with the Superheroes, please.
 Which returned to normal less than 24 hours later.
 A kid who sat across from me in the second grade had this thing about eating paper. Sadly, that was his most memorable quality.
Dateline: May 1. A social media post caught my attention: several pictures of our friends’ daughter, who attends a university overseas. She and her fellow undergraduates, clad in their distinctive red academic gowns, were preparing for one of her school’s traditional activities: the May Dip.  Everybody into the North Sea!
It was all so gorgeous. Romantic, even. I visited the school’s website, and was entranced by the many pictures: of the academic gowns (students can chose to wear them for formal occasions, or all the time); the other traditions of the centuries-old institution (you gotta love an event called, “Raisin Weekend”); the beauty of the campus and the landscape…. Some of the pictures on the school’s website had moiself thinking, “That place *has* to be the inspiration for Hogwarts.”
My vicarious joy for my friends’ daughter’s college experience surprised me when, later that afternoon, it resurfaced in the form of an unexpected spasm of a wistfulness at the realization:
҉ There are some things you cannot do over. ҉
Not complaining. I was able to attend and graduate from college – an opportunity denied to many around the world. I received a good education (and, for the most part, had a helluva good time) at the college which was my #1 choice, one of the top schools in The University of California system, (which was at the time) the highest-rated state university system in the nation.
Still, contemplative pangs plagued me the next few days, and I felt drawn to revisit that overseas college’s website, and do the what-if ? thing. Speculating on alternative realities. I shared these speculations with friend LAH and son K, who joined MH and I for dinner Sunday night. Did they ever have similar thoughts/feelings, even regrets, such as wishing they had sought an adventure by going to university out of the country, or ___ fill-in-the-blanks?
The adventure that entices me now is one which never occurred to me to pursue at the time I was applying to colleges. Sure, I’d heard that some universities  had semester-study-abroad programs, but to do your entire undergraduate degree oversees? No teacher or guidance counselor ever mentioned that to me; I didn’t know that that was an option. And, realistically, it wouldn’t have been, for moiself.
Despite my high GPA and SAT scores in the 90th percentile, what with my family’s finances I would’ve needed a full scholarship to do four years of college abroad. Given my mindset then (and now), I *never* would have taken out a student loan. My parents were able to pay for one year of college; I put myself through the rest by doing something that isn’t possible for students today, given the exponential rise in the cost of a college education over the past 30+ years: While being a full-time student I worked approximately half-time hours at various student jobs  during the academic year (and full time during the summers). Working at a student job, even finding a job, is not always an option when you are a “foreign” student.
MH, LAH and K’s responses to my “do-you-ever-look-back?” questions/speculations were generally…nah. Like me, going overseas for college hadn’t occurred to them (although, with the encouragement of our Swenadian  friend, K investigated a few Canadian universities and made an on-campus visit to one of them). And, as MH reminded me, the young woman whose European college adventures I was so smitten with is the daughter of two scientists/academics, who have traveled much overseas (ofttimes with their offspring) and who have more knowledge of/exposure to those kinds of academic possibilities. K did express mild regret at not being more adventurous at the college he had chosen, in terms of getting more involved in intramural sports and games, and exposing himself to different kinds of art….
… and music and other activities which were out of his comfort, or even interest, zones. I would have liked to have heard daughter Belle’s answer to the same question, and may pose it to her, when I next see her in person.
Moiself came to the conclusion that these longings are my subconscious reminding me that I need to get out more. Preferably, out of the country. MH’s and my second vaccine doses are next week, and I’ve been having dreams of having the opportunity to, say, sip New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc  in an Irish pub while listening to a Canadian using a Spanish bagpipe to play Celtic music….
* * *
Department Of Surprises That Shouldn’t Be Surprises
The light. As in, Hey, there’s so much more of it!
Yes, this happens every year. Lighter in the morning; lighter in the evening; here comes the summer solstice. Still, I am, once again, surprised by and appreciative of the phenomenon.
Not so appreciative that I would devote my life to building one of these, but yeah, the light is nice.
* * *
Department Of Answer This Burning Question, Please
What is a Mom Joke, and why is that not a thing?
We all (think we) know what Dad Jokes ® are, right? Quintessential examples:
What kind of noise does a witch’s vehicle make?
What time did the man go to the dentist?
Me: “Dad, make me a sandwich.” Dad: “Poof, you’re a sandwich!”
Why is there no Mom Joke category? Is it because Dad is the ultimate Mom Joke?
* * *
Department Of Pleasant Thoughts To Meditate Upon Before You Go To Bed
Just when the general public seemed to be paying attention to our excessive (and usually/totally unnecessary) use of hand sanitizers and “anti-bacterial” soaps and wipes, enter, COVID-19 and “germ” hysteria. I wonder how many super bugs have been incubating during this pandemic?
“Good night; sleep tight; don’t let the bedbugs bite….”
* * *
Department Of Other Things I Think About At Night: The Mars Problem.
You might not even think there is a Mars Problem ® (except inside my tortured brain). Read on, you glutton for punishment, thoughtful person.
In order for people of all nations – including the folks who live next door – to be enthused about missions to Mars, and to feel that the gazillion hours of research and the gazillion $$$$ required to do so are time and money well-spent, what do we need?
Thanks for asking: we need to send humans to explore Mars (and other planets and/or moons), not just more probes.
We’ve already had a glimpse of the future of space exploration, which will entail a mixture of government and private funding – it won’t all be NASA or other governmental agencies. Even the corporations and gazillionaires willing to entertain such a partnership also need motivation (other than their self-aggrandizement). And psychologists and behavioral scientists have figured out that human activities are what attract the most human interest (and thus, human investment).
Yep, manned space exploration is horribly expensive, and dangerous…as were earlier explorations in their day. Homo Sapiens evolved as explorers. The reasons we have for exploring our solar system correspond to the reasons that prompted our ancestors to risk “sailing off the edge of the earth” to explore new (to them) oceans and lands on Earth. In sending a manned mission to Mars, we would be continuing a tradition, exercising a defining “trait” even, of human beings: exploration.
There are sound economic reasons for sending probes (or robots), vs. humans, to Mars. I won’t take issue with the naysayers, except to say my own version of nay.
Did I hear, neigh-sayers?
Regardless of whether “life” (or even enough usable mineral resources to, say, to make a tin can) can be found beyond our own planet, Mars exploration would boost our citizen’s pride in their country, spark renewed interest in the science and engineering necessary to achieve such a feat, and help lift the U.S. image abroad (Uncle Sam is in need of a face lift, after the worldwide embarrassment that was the #45 administration).
Alden Munson, a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, noted that,
“A lot of the warmest feelings people have had around the world have had to do with the space program. It’s hard to put a value on that.” 
We need humans in space because what interests most humans *about* space is humans *in* space. The whole world would be rooting for the first earthlings on Mars, just as they did for the Apollo moon landing. And we’ll want (and need) the rest of the world to get involved in research, designing, tracking, and maybe even the funding, of a manned Mars mission. The human appeal – yes, even (or especially) re the dangers involved – tugs at our intellectual and emotional strings in ways that seeing a robot or probe – as cool as that is! – does not.
Also, human explorers can do things that robots/AI devices cannot, including playing hunches, making last-minute decisions in emergency situations, and noticing objects and phenomena that can turn out to be significant, but which missed the programmers’ viewscreens, so to speak.
The most important factor of any manned space mission is the human factor. Our behavioral science knowledge points to the fact that the most difficult part of any space exploration will likely be the crewmembers, getting along with one another, in the years-long mission (at least 7 months there/7 months to return, and a stay of…months/years?).
Thus, the rigorous psychological profiling and testing required for astronaut candidates.
So, we come to (my version of) The Mars Problem. Moiself be thinking: you need a crew with a mix of temperaments, interests and skills. You don’t want carbon copies, not at all Type A/gung-ho Marines on the one hand or all introverted science geeks on the other hand; you need a mix of diverse but also stable personalities. A mission as fraught as going to Mars will involve years of commitment, not only to the training beforehand, but to get there, stay there, then return…or, not? Many of Those Who Know What They Are Talking About ® suggest that mission-to-Mars astronauts who volunteer for the program should assume that they will not return.
There goes the neighborhood.
““How can you leave forever?” “What does your family think about this?” “Your husband’s O.K. with you leaving him?”
These are the questions I’m peppered with when I tell people this is a one-way trip. And these are reasonable questions, perfectly understandable, and they deserve well-considered answers.” (Sonia Van Meter, Mars 1 candidate, “Why I’m volunteering to die on Mars” )
This kind of trip will be unlike any before it. Not just crossing an ocean to a land you heard of (no matter how stormy the seas, you can stick your head out of the porthole for some fresh air) and much farther than humans have ever attempted. Thus, you need a crew who are, essentially, willing to volunteer for a suicide mission. Are well-adjusted humans really capable of this (even though we who will volunteer will say that we are) ?
Other than someone who’s already under a death sentence  (“What the heck, my oncologist gives me another seven years”/”I’ve nothing to lose – Huntington’s disease will get me in a decade”), who’s gonna think this is okay? What kind of person is willing to say, this is somehow worth it, to die for this mission? What kind of person could prioritize that ‘”mission” abstraction over the reality of the loss that will be experienced by their loved ones – spouses and children, family and friends – who will be 34 million miles away?
How does being able to parse that death/loss/grief v. mission equation mesh with being psychologically healthy? So, you’ll need a crew composed of people who are intelligent and skillful…and are in denial about statistics and reality in terms of their chances of survival…or who simply don’t give a flying fuck.
My conclusion: For such an undertaking, you’ll need a sane, insane crew.
Just wondering out loud.
As should be obvious by now, moiself fully supports a manned mission to Mars. In my younger days I’d have considered volunteering for it, but only, if I’d been unencumbered by family and friends – people who loved me. I would have volunteered if I’d had no one who loved and/or cared about me…which would have meant that I was, what? An isolated jerk. Just the kind of person you’d want to share limited space and resources with for a couple of years, eh?
OK, all y’all who think you are smarter than moiself – Elon, for the last time, put your hand down and return to your desk! – figure it out and get back to me.
The perfect space crew? Just clone me five times!
* * *
Punz For The Day: Space Exploration Edition
Did you hear how NASA recruited the first cow astronaut? They told her she could land on the mooooooooooooon.
My astronaut friend divorced her astronaut husband. She calls him her SpaceX.
Please don’t waste our precious oxygen supply by laughing.
* * *
May you enjoy the extra light, whether or not it surprises you; May you be loved enough that you would never volunteer to die on Mars; May you be inspired – but not haunted – by roads not taken; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 At dawn on May Day, after staying awake all night, students run into the North Sea as they are serenaded by madrigals sung by the university’s Madrigal group.
 Those tended to be the wealthier/private schools, or so it seemed.
 Including typing other student’s reports and term papers. I charged those engineering students – for some reason, their reports were always a last minute/emergency thing – twice my per page fee when I had to work past midnight.
 Longtime readers will recognize that appellation as my friend the Canadian, married to a Swede.
 Many people are unaware that, in this infamous poster, the “flasher” is Bud Clark, the eccentric and beloved former Portland mayor.
 I’m not a beer drinker; thus, no Guinness or Harp for me. It seems that the pubs of Ireland have some sort of deal with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc distributors, because that is the wine I found in every Irish pub MH and I visited, when we were there four years ago.
 That happened to us, in the wee town of Kinsale.
 No money, no space travel. The phrase comes from The Right Stuff, a movie about the beginnings of US space exploration…. “Buck Rogers” was a space-traveling comic strip character in the early 20th century. (The Free dictionary)
Dateline: Tuesday afternoon, circa 2:30 pm, driving to the grocery store. I turned on my car’s radio; the local NPR station was airing The World (“a public radio program and podcast that crosses borders and time zones to bring home the stories that matter. “). I caught the tail end of one story being covered, wherein I heard host Marco Werman say something about “…the mighty beaver or beavers who broke the Internet.”
I muttered to moiself about why a respectable news outlet would waste time covering the woes of an oversubscribed porn site. When I got home I looked up The World’s website, and discovered that the actual subject of story about which I was…uh…mistaken…was about how the small town of Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia was without internet and phone service for 32 hours after beavers gnawed through some fiber cables.
“Aren’t we sweet? Imagine what pictures she could have posted had she just Googled ‘internet beaver?’ “
* * *
“‘A ‘detoxifying’ cleanser or face mask can remove dirt from your skin, like soap, but it’s not pulling toxins out of your bloodstream,’ (Gregory Rauch, MD, Rush University Medical Center) says. ‘That’s a mischaracterization.’
Similarly, juice cleanses might temporarily bring your weight down or make your stomach feel empty, but that’s simply because you’re consuming fewer calories. They don’t actually cleanse anything, though they can prevent you from getting needed nutrients and interfere with the workings of your metabolism.” ( “The Truth About Toxins: What to know before you try any product that promises to rid your body of toxins.” Rush University System For Health newsletter )
I saw this question posted recently, on Facebook: “What word or phrase do people use that you can’t stand?” This got moiself thinking about my own semantic pet peeve – a certain word and its adjective form, which are over- and/or misused:
toxin, and toxic
Moiself actually thinks the adjective form can, sometimes, be useful (read: descriptive), in terms of its metaphorical application to extremly harmful relationships, interactions, and situations (think, “a toxic work environment“). However, I still think it is overused and hyperbolized (your father-in-law giving a less-than-flattering review of your husband’s new tattoo does not make their relationship toxic).
As for the word toxin…ay yi yi.
This week, in a yoga class on YouTube I tried out (after I missed my regular streaming class yoga class – which I had to skip to let the pest control guy into the house…a long story  which fortunately did not involve Canadian beavers chewing on anything), I was hoping my eyerolls could be detected through my laptop screen when the yoga teacher said that a certain asana helps “…cleanse the toxins from your body.”
From juice fasts to purifying diets to colon cleanses and salt baths and homeopathic remedies and exercise regimens and even types of guided meditation, there are people peddling products and regimens which purport to “rid your body of toxins.”
Such claims either promise or imply a solution to a problem– the idea that we have “toxins” lurking in our bodies – that is, essentially, horseshit made up. 
It can be an effective scare tactic/snakeoil claim lure, to get people to think, “Gee, I’ve got poisons in my body, I should probably get them out.” However, have you ever encountered, in the descriptions of such products, the products’ makers explicitly naming *what* toxins their, say, detoxifying tea will rid you of?
Of course not. Because :
(1) there aren’t any poisonous substances in your body that these kinds of products could actually remove from your body;
(2) most people making or repeating such claims seem not to know what a toxin is.
(3) there is no #3. Aren’t (1) and (2) enough?
I don’t think the “helps eliminate toxins” claims are always, or even typically, done maliciously or with intent to deceive. Such assertions have just become a part of the health/wellness lingo, wherein proponents of products and services use the vocabulary of science without actually knowing what they’re talking about. It’s analogous to all the people who do not have Celiac disease but chose gluten-free products because they think such products are “healthier,” but, when asked, cannot give an accurate definition what gluten is (watch late night talks show host Jimmy Kimmel take hilarious advantage of this phenomenon with this on-the-street interview segment).
“C’mon, kiddies, let’s get out our mad scientist dictionaries!”
A poison is a substance which “…can cause death, injury or harm to organs, tissues, cells, and DNA usually by chemical reactions or other activity on the molecular scales, when an organism is exposed to a sufficient quantity.”  A toxin is a specific type of a poison. Most commonly, toxin is used to refer to a chemical poison which has a living source (‘biotoxin‘ or ‘naturaltoxin‘). Toxicology is the branch of science which studies the harmful effects of chemicals, whether synthetic (manufactured) or natural, on living organisms. Examples of synthetic chemical toxins include dioxins, pesticides, and nerve gases; naturally occurring toxins (biotoxins) include belladonna, botulinum, and tetanus.  Almost everyone has experience with one class of naturally occurring toxin – the venoms produced by living organisms which are injected via a bite or sting (snakes, spiders, bees, scorpions, wasps….).
We now pause for this public service announcement: You can find a good/basic primer about poisons and toxins at Science Learning Hub
Many well-meaning (or at least naïve) people seem not to know that the human body evolved organs which are very good at getting rid of substances that don’t belong in the human body. These organs are the lungs (which filter airborne contaminants), the liver and kidneys (which filter the blood), and the colon (described by one doctor as the body’s “self-cleaning oven.”) . Should these organs be damaged, via actions/accidents or disease (say, the lungs via smoking, or the liver via hepatitis), or you have symptoms indicating that your body’s organs aren’t working well, y’all need to stop chugging your thermos-ful of raw juice detox-cleanse and get y’all’s selves to an ER.
I’ve had a home yoga exercise practice for almost 40 years; moiself thinks that literally everyone – save for infants and toddlers and Vladimir Putin (you know if he were in your yoga class he’d insist being in the front/center row and removing his shirt) – can benefit from having a yoga practice and/or attending yoga classes. A regular yoga practice can boost your strength and flexibility and help you cultivate mindfulness, all of which contribute to your physical and mental well-being. These benefits are backed by scientific studies and are not just the claims of a gym owner trying to sell you a package of yoga classes. But when I come across a yogi, be they a teacher or a practitioner, who says things like, “Try these easy yoga poses to detoxify your body!” I…well…
…which isn’t very yoga of me.
Fortunately, in my four years of attending yoga classes at a local studio, I can only recall – praaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaise de lawd!!– hearing the word “toxin” used twice. I cringed both times, and considered asking the teacher (after class) to clarify her usage and understanding of the term…but decided not to rock the boat.
This boat won’t be rocking.
Nor will this one.
* * *
Department Of The Wisdom From Experience Which No One Wants To Experience
“Grief has slowly become integrated into my body and my art. Sometimes it still hurts enough that I gasp for air. Less often, grief curls me into a ball and renders me blind to anything outside of my shape. Other times, it moves into my chest as a wave, and with my hand to my heart and a deep breath, I sway with it until the intensity passes. The end point on the chart of grief is, for me, the beginning of knowing how to live with it; the understanding that the intensity passes and will return and pass again.” ( Christa Couture)
* her two sons (one died within hours of his birth, the other at age 14 months from a congenital heart condition);
* her leg (amputated, to cure the bone cancer which could not be cured by chemo and radiation treatments, when she was 12 years old); * her marriage (via divorce; the pain of losing their children was too much for the relationship to survive); * her singing voice (thyroid tumors, likely the result of the radiotherapy treatments for her bone cancer).
For a person with that life resumé, the book’s focus is, not surprisingly, on her experiences living with grief and loss. However, this memoir is not all lamentation and devastation. Couture did go on to have a daughter and recovered her voice, and she has a distinctive, understated, wry sense of humor and outlook on The Human Condition ® . Also, if you read this book (and I hope you will), you’ll get her take on such topics as why you should not refer to a disabled person as “inspirational” ( unless they are, at that moment, actually doing something inspirational, like using their prosthetic limb to stamp out a wildfire or free golfer Tiger Woods from a car crash ).
I found the closing passages in her book to be lyrically profound as well as wise (if not…uh…inspirational?):
“Some days, you will see grief coming, and you will be able to say, ‘Now is not a good time.’ And it will listen. Sorrow can be a stubborn friend, but also a patient one.
Know that sorrow evolved from joy—that she knows and remembers happiness as well as she understands where tears come from. For that, sorrow is a powerful and wise emotion, and you will be wiser with her. You will be tender in new spots and harder in others. You won’t be the same person as before—I’m sorry, that, too, is a loss.
I will not tell you that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I will not tell you your loss is for the better. You will lose everything, and it will be different. Remember: you have the right to honour. To honour the memory of the person, place, time and potential you lost. To remember, as often as you need, what you love, what you miss, what still brings you joy, what still hurts your heart.
And—you have the right to forget. Truly. The most painful memories are yours to let go of, when you’re ready. You are not dishonouring those memories by letting them go. Trust me. If you like, find a place for them, for safekeeping. Tell a person close to you and let them know you are telling them this story for them to remember and you to forget. Write a letter and drop it, unaddressed, in a mailbox or into the flames of a fire or under a mound of dirt at the base of a tree. Walk into the woods, dig a hole and cry or sing or sob or tell your most painful memory into the earth.”
* * *
Department Of Remind Us Once Again Why He Married This Person And Had Children With Her?
Dateline: late last week. I was out of town; MH had been hearing strange noises seemingly coming from from (what we hoped was) the roof, and investigated. The following are excerpts from a dialog on our family messenger site (son K weighed in at the end of this thread). BTW, this is the bedroom our family calls the cat shelf room:
MH: I went in the attic behind the cat shelf room and there were squirrels in there. I’m going to Home Depot to get some traps (live.)
Moiself: Yikes! I suppose we’ll have to figure out how they got in…
MH: I know exactly how they’re getting in. Or at least a couple of ways.
Moiself: Well don’t leave me in suspense.
(He sent a picture of a corner of the roof, where squirrels had been chewing a hole) This morning there are wood bits all over the roof near there.
Moiself: Holy crap. They need to die.
K: We gotta get you one of them flamethrowers.
Moiself: Good idea! If your house burns down, then squirrels can’t break into it.
K: Mom can reenact the ending of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
Insert squirrels, stage left.
BTW, Happy anniversary, MH!
* * *
Puns For The Day Wedding Anniversary Edition
MH and I look forward to celebrating our 200th wedding anniversary. It’ll be our bison-tennial.
When I asked MH if he’d like me to get him a new Mini Cooper convertible to celebrate our
anniversary, he exclaimed, “Nothing would make me happier!” So I got him nothing.
“I’ll go back on the endangered species list before I’ll listen to any more of these….”
* * *
May your relationship with squirrels and other pests be non-toxic; May you take a yoga class and try rocking your boat pose (trust me; it’s fun); May you be loving and forbearing with those who lose “everything” (and remember, all of us, eventually, will lose something); …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Which moiself will not relay in great detail. Suffice to say while I do *not* have bats in my belfry, MH and I do have squirrels in our attic.
 Or at best vastly misunderstood and misinterpreted.
I was going to title this segment, Department Of No Comment…except that – surprise! – moiself be commenting.
Gender Reveal Device Explodes, Killing Man in Upstate New York A man who was expecting his first child was killed on Sunday and his brother was injured when a device they were preparing for a gender-reveal party exploded in a garage in the Catskills in New York, the authorities said….(another) brother, called what happened “the freakiest of freak accidents…” What set off the explosion remained under investigation…. The device consisted of some kind of pipe that was intended to be used at a gender-reveal party, but the nature of its explosive material was not yet known…. ( Gender-Reveal Device Explodes, Killing Man in Upstate New York, NY Times 2-22-21 )
Apparently, my sarcastic rebuke wise warning words re the foolhardiness of the gender reveal party phenomenon was not significant to the expectant father/now existent cremation candidate. He, of course, like 99.9999999% of the population, doesn’t (uh, didn’t) know or care that I exist, nor what I write about. Common sense, along with any sense of proportion and propriety wasn’t enough, either. Nor was Learning From The Mistakes Of Others. ® 
As for the description of the incident as, “the freakiest a freak accidents…”
Public Service Announcement: it’s not a freak accident when an explosive device explodes. That’s what explosive devices are designed and constructed to do.
Ask fire fighters or EMTs or hospital ER personnel: their collective “Can you believe this?!?” arsenal of stories is replete with tending to people injured by explosive devices which unintentionally exploded – people from munitions “experts,” to the schmuck who volunteered to shoot his high school’s pep rally confetti cannon.
* * *
Different as in, something which restored my optimism about humanity.
Department Of: This.
Dateline: Tuesday morning; circa 7:30 am. I am on my morning walk, headed toward a light rail station. As I turn onto the bike/walk path which parallels soccer and baseball fields I see a young woman walking on the path ahead of me. She hears my footsteps as I close the gap between us, or so I assume because she does (and then I do) The Right Thing® : she scooches all the way to the right and I to the left, and we both raise our masks.
I call out a good morning to her; she greets me in return, and although my pace is quicker than hers for a moment we are side-by-side (if 10 feet apart). She says something else which I can’t understand due to both her mask and her heavily accented English. I politely ask her to repeat herself; she asks how I am doing…but not in that casual way where people say, How are You? in lieu of Helloor Good Morning. She means it.
I hope she sees the smile beneath my mask which makes it up to my eyes, when I reply that I am doing very well, thanks, and that I hope the day will be good for her. “Yes, yes it will be,”she says, as we both reach the point where the path ends. She begins to head right, toward the light rail station, and I am headed left.
I stop, turn to face her, and call out, “By the way, thank you for asking.” She gives me a cheerful wave and we go our separate ways.
And I was…content. I had the proverbial warm and fuzzies, which lasted all day. Two strangers made a connection, brief yet significant, heartfelt if ephemeral, with the subtext of, in these stressful pandemic times, intentionally acknowledging a passerby beyond the usual, “G’morning.”
It takes no time at all and only a few kind words to acknowledge a fellow human being. “Hi there – I’m here; so are you. I wish good things for us both.”
“If she starts singing ‘Kumbaya’ I’m gonna stop reading her insipid blog and turn on a WWF match.”
* * *
Department Of Something New To Do When You’re Bored
Take out your canned food, your cereal boxes, your condiments and beverage cartons from the frig, your vitamins/nutritional supplements, and line them up on the kitchen counter. One by one, read the items’ ingredients list, out loud, and wherever it lists “extract” substitute the word, “urine.”
* * *
Department Of Just Wondering
Moiself is imagining something of a sticky wicket situation for women in science. Specifically, in the branch of biology known as zoology.
Say you’re a female British ornithologist curating your university’s natural history museum. A visiting American professor of ornithology wishes to review your collection of native European bird species. You invite him to the museum to do so.
Now, are you technically responsible for his reaction, when he sees your display case of Parusmajor specimens and exclaims,
Department Of Yet Another Reason To Never Fine-Tune
My Cellphone’s Voice Typing Feature
Dateline: Sunday; MH and I both away from home, separately running errands. As I’m entering a grocery store I receive a text from him, alerting me to the fact that we are out of hairball chews  and asking if moiself’s errands are taking me anywhere near a pet supplies store which might have them?
I reply in the affirmative. Except, dictating through my mask (and, as always, sending it before proof-reading), my text comes out thusly:
I will go to PetSmart to get the hairball truth.
When I read what I’d sent, moiself is transported into existential-mode. First, I follow up that text with
Chews! I will get the chews! That’s the truth.
But I can’t stop thinking about it. What *is* the hairball truth? Is it something that can be gotten, or comprehended – or merely contemplated – by mere bipeds?
YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE HAIRBALL TRUTH !
* * *
Department Of Did You Know About This?
Woman in Motion is now available for streaming. And you are going to watch it, right?
I knew that actor Nichelle Nichols, best known as the iconic Lt. Nyota Uhura from Star Trek’s original series, is quite beloved by the sci-fi aficionados for her knowledge of the genre and passion for space travel, the latter of which included working to recruit astronauts for NASA. I did not know of the extent of her involvement.
“Woman in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and the Remaking of NASA,” tells the story of how Nichols, in the late 1970s, led recruitment efforts at NASA to bring in more women and people of color. According to the film’s synopsis, “In 1977, with just four months left, NASA struggles to recruit scientists, engineers and astronauts for their new Space Shuttle Program. That is when Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura, challenges them by asking the question: Where are my people? She embarks on a national blitz, recruiting 8,000 of the nation’s best and brightest, including the trailblazing astronauts who became the first African American, Asian and Latino men and women to fly in space.” (Daily Star Trek news 2-8-21 )
“I am so much more than ‘Hailing frequency open, Captain,” and don’t y’all forget it.”
* * *
Department Of What I Aspire To (Metaphorically. If Not Literally)
You’ve seen your pet  do it: find that sunny spot on the rug or floor or windowsill or bed (or, if it’s your cat, your computer keyboard), plop down atop it, and bask in the simple pleasure of basking. They’re not trying to figure out where the coveted sunny spot came from, what causes it, or where it’s going. they’re just…there.
Moiself aspires towards, at least occasionally, achieving an equanimity akin to the cat-on-the-sunny-spot-on-the-carpet moment. And when the spot “moves” I’ll move with it, or realize that what I had was enough, and get up and go on with whatever.
Sometimes, just the paws are enough.
* * *
Department Of Huh?
Dateline: Sunday 2-21. I am posting a for sale notice on a classified ads internet site. MH suggests I also post on the FB marketplace, so I check it out. I find several local/neighborhood groups, and request to post on four of them. Two of these groups have questions you must answer before you can be “‘approved” to join (and thus post on) them.
The first group has only one question: Are you advertising for a business? The second group, for my city, has two questions: What is your zip code? (I assume to make sure you really live in Hillsboro, and/or weed out scammers), and:
“What is your favorite thing about Hillsboro?”
That question strikes me as odd. It’s not relevant to my intent, nor the intent of others posting on the group who, I assume are, like moiself– listing items we wish to sell to anyone who might wish to purchase them, regardless of what they like (or don’t like) about the city.
My musician friends formed a quartet called “Duvet.” They’re a cover band.
“A-one and a-two and a-nobody laugh.”
* * *
May all of your food item’s extracts be bona fide extracts; May you exchange greetings with amiable strangers at every opportunity; May you find your sunny spot on the rug; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 “Celebratory Cannon Salute at Baby Shower Ends in Death,” (NY Times 2-7-21); “…An Iowa woman was killed when her family inadvertently built a pipe bomb as part of their gender-reveal party” (The Atlantic 11-11-19); A fire sparked by a “pyrotechnic device” during a celebration meant to debut the sex of the hosts’ baby-on-the-way has scorched more than 10,000 acres of Southern California (The Washington Post 9-10-20)
 The great tit is the actual name of a species of bird in the songbird/perching bird family known as the tit family (Paridae), which includes chickadees, tits, and titmice. I think it is safe to assume that some British dude is responsible for the name.
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.