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The Vacation Schedule I’m Not Maintaining

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Trigger Warning

 

“I couldn’t believe it, because they actually did it.  The court actually took a constitutional right that has been recognized for half a century and took it from the women of America — that’s shocking when you think about it.”     [1]

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Baaaaaaaaack….

Attentive and longtime readers may have noticed that for the past eight weeks this disclaimer opened my blog posts:

Thanks for checking in, so to speak (…er, write).  I am taking moiself  on holiday.  From this Friday and through June, I will be posting blogs from the same time period of eight years ago (late May-June, 2014).  New posts will return in early-mid July.

That was due to the “exotic” travel schedule of MH and moiself, which began in mid-late May with a trip Florida.  [2]

Here is what our schedule was supposed to be:

* visiting MH’s mother in Florida for several days;

* on to Stockholm, a couple of days to acclimate ourselves to the time change (and all those Swedish meatball variations) before joining….

* a 14 day Rick Steves Tour of Scandinavia, starting in Stockholm and ending in Bergen;

* six days of touring Norway on our own, from Bergen back to Oslo;

* catching a train to join our Swenadian  [3] friends and spending a short week in their Swedish country stuga (cabin), then traveling with them to Gothenburg and vicinity;

* six days in Iceland “on the way back” to Oregon.

 

Here is what actually happened.

All went as planned until Day 13 of the tour, when MH awoke under the proverbial weather and tested positive for COVID.  The next 5 days were spent cancelling and rescheduling train-car rental-ferry-hotel bookings, trying to find a place to lay low for several days while we   [4]   recovered.  Our dear Swenadian friends, rightfully cautious due to their respective health concerns, came to visit us after we’d recovered.  While the afternoon walk we made around the parks of a Swedish town was a far cry from the longer time we’d hoped to have with them, it was good to have at least those two hours together.

What the what – if nothing else, travel teaches you to be flexible.  MH and I enjoyed some final days in Oslo and then Stockholm before flying on to Reykjavik, where our Iceland adventures were not impacted by the previous schedule rearranging. Also, there was the  blissful ignorance of being removed from everyday news reporting – moiself  had remembered that there’d been a pesky leak of a supposed/certain SCOTUS memo….

 

“I suppose I’ll have to be the one to say something to her.”

 

*   *   *

Department Of That Which Should Not Have To Be Mentioned

Our return flight last Thursday left Reykjavik a little before 5 pm and arrived in PDX ~ 6 pm. What with traveling east to west, we went back in time 7 hours….  Little did I know the news that would greet moiself  upon our return: my country’s legal system had gone back (what seemed like) more than a hundred years.

Really and truly, I knew nothing of this until I checked FB last Friday morning, and saw this post from my beloved nephew, who has been celebrating Pride Month with a series of personal reflections on what “being gay” means:

Being gay is…

…thinking that maybe you should get married on a sooner timescale than you’re ready for, because given how the Supreme Court’s minoritarian rule is going, your current right to do so might have an expiration date.

Sorry to steal the stage from today’s news. Fuck the Supreme Court majority that is not representative of majority public opinion.

 

 

 

Thus, my first FB post after stepping onto Oregon soil:

“Keep our nation on the track
one step forward, three steps back….”  [5]

I just returned last night from 6+ weeks in Europe, to find that certain intellectual, social and moral cretins who unfortunately hold positions of power in this country have effectively decided to turn back the clock, and I’m not talking the end of Daylight Savings time.

SCOTUS justices Thomas; Alioto; Gorsuch; Kavanaugh; Barret – I’d like to do a wire coat hanger D & C on their respective cranial contents.

*   *   *

As moiself  writes this it’s day five for me, back in Oregon, and I’m still in a fog. It’s not the time zone difference that has me discombobulated; rather, it’s the time travel thing, where I returned to find that my country’s legal/human rights system has warped back to the Dark Ages.  In case y’all haven’t guessed by now, I refer to the recent SCOTUS decisions involving guns, school employee-led prayer, and of course, Roe v. Wade.

Consider this:

SCOTUS Justices Who Voted to Overturn Roe v. Wade (the justice’s religion)

Samuel A. Alito, Jr. (Catholic)
Amy Coney Barrett (Catholic)
Brett Kavanaugh (Catholic)
Neil M. Gorsuch (Catholic)   [6]

and…wait for it…
Clarence Thomas (Catholic)

The fact that a practicing Catholic SCOTUS justice – or judge, of any court – is allowed to vote on this issue; i.e., is not legally and ethically *required* to recuse him or herself on any abortion case, as per their the Catholic sheep daddy Pope’s decrees on the matter…

 

 

“…. Roberts was asked by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) what he would do if the law required a ruling that his church considers immoral. Roberts is a devout Catholic and is married to an ardent pro-life activist. The Catholic Church considers abortion to be a sin, and various church leaders have stated that government officials supporting abortion should be denied religious rites such as communion….
Renowned for his unflappable style in oral argument, Roberts appeared nonplused and, according to sources in the meeting, answered after a long pause that he would probably have to recuse himself.”
(“The faith of John Roberts,” The Los Angeles Times)

Another butt-frosting fact: there are SCOTUS justices who adhere to the judicial philosophy of/refer to themselves as originalists   [7]  but who are also Catholic and/or female (hmm, what’s that musty odor, Amy Coney Barrett?), something the original founding fathers would never have imagined nor permitted.

And then, there is the festering turd atop the crumbling cake:

“In nearly 28 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Clarence Thomas has been its most unwavering ‘originalist.’ That means that he reads the Constitution as meaning today what he believes those who wrote it meant back then, no matter how conditions may have changed in America in the meantime.”
(“Justice Thomas, originalism and the First Amendment,” National Constitution Center)

Clarence Thomas is an originalist. All righty then:  “Justice” Thomas – you should be a slave.  And counted as 3/5 of a person, as the Originals intended.

 

 

But I have to stop going there. Moiself  has to stop applying rational arguments to irrational situations.  Therein lies madness.

*   *   *

Department Of Stories That Need Retelling

This, from my blog post of 5-24-19 (“The Two-Faced, Sanctimonious, Festering Turd-Of-Hypocrisy I’m Not Strangling”)

From the early 1980s – 90’s I worked for (several Planned Parenthood clinics)… and a private OB-GYN practice in the Bay Area….

We (The Practice’s Doc, Nurse Practitioner, and I) developed a personal relationship    [8]  and had many interesting conversations on issues re women’s health care. Doc and NP were both staunchly pro-choice, Doc in particular due to his knowledge of what things were like before Roe v. Wade.  He told me stories about The Bad Old Days, about how (surprise!) the rich could always get safe care, no matter what. Back in the late 50s – 60s when abortion was illegal, a Japanese airline had a clandestine (but procurable, if you knew the right people) package deal: the fare included flights to and from Tokyo from West Coast airports, overnight lodging in a Tokyo hotel, and the fee for an abortion performed by a Japanese doctor. Sympathetic American doctors whose desperate patients had no safe local alternatives would refer their patients to someone, who would refer them to someone else, who would refer them to….    [9]

One of The Practice’s OB patients, after a routine exam, asked Doc if he ever performed abortions. Although it was none of her %&!$ business (and moiself wanted him to tell her so) he answered honestly, while tactfully letting her know that he would not be steered down the anti-abortion harangue road she was heading for.  After she’d left, Doc signaled to me to follow him to the office’s back room, where old/inactive patient files were kept.

As Doc searched through the files he told me about a former patient of his who’d sought an abortion, back when the procedure was illegal except for “medical reasons.” This woman had had to go before a (male, of course) judge to get approval to have an abortion. Her physicians had to testify as to her mental and physical well-being, and they had lots of material: she had chronic health problems; was depressed to the point of suicide; her husband had left her and their three children…. She’d wanted to get her tubes tied after birthing her second child but could not find a doctor to do so – as per the standards of the time, hospitals would not book a sterilization surgery for a woman unless she met this weird algorithm (criteria included her age, the number of children she had, and other factors I can’t recall).  She also needed her husband’s permission for the surgery, which he’d refused.   [10]

The woman won her petition. At this point in the story Doc had found the patient’s chart, and showed me the transcript from her day in court.     [11]  I will never forget the sad yet determined look in his eyes as he said,
“Don’t ever let it go back to that.” 

And I will always remember how foolishly optimistic it was of moiself  to think, “It could never go back to that.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Business As Usual

Of course, no matter the legal restrictions and whatever else happens in the upcoming months, those with money and connections will always be able to wrangle safe medical care.  The trail of naïve, drugged and/or abused girls and women knocked up, intentionally or otherwise, by the Brett “I Love Beer” Kavanaughs of the world and their eternal frat bro contingents will always have an out, as powerful men do not want their mistakes publicly aired.  The poor and not-so-well connected will have to resort to measures of desperation – unless whatever choice they happen to make involves using a gun.

 

*   *   *

Department Of  And Yet One Never Fully Goes Back To The Past

There is too much water – and blood – under this particular bridge of human history.  Just as in the past, women and men will rise up to help those who need help (“Call Jane”).

Here is the message I recently received from a friend:

“Hope you are holding up with the end of democracy at hand.  Yeah.
Would you mind being a reference for me – I am applying to be a volunteer with the Colorado Abortion Doula Network.  I’m sure you’ve heard that CO clinics are overwhelmed with patients from OK and Tx….”

How proud I was of my friend; how sick to my stomach I was, for the reason for her (and other women and men) having to take that action.

When MH and I have attended NARAL fundraiser events in Portland, the organization’s staff has mentioned how their peers working in other states are “jealous” of Oregon’s long record of supporting reproductive rights.   [12]  Looks like my friends and I may soon be providing the same services, should Oregon experience a migration of patients.

*   *   *

Department Of, And One More Thing….

Don’t y’all be kidding y’alls’ selves that there is, ultimately or sincerely (ha!), *any* reason for the SCOTUS decision, other than that of controlling women and fearing women’s sexuality and autonomy.  I’ve seen firsthand the Scandinavian system and standard of living, and what societies looks like which actually care about children, put people ahead of politics, and relegate theocracy to the governmental dumpster fires of the past.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of, Unfortunately, There Is Always One More “One More Thing” :
The Quiet Part Out Loud

I am so, so, so sorry, my LGBTQ family and friends and fellow Americans…. You do know you’re next, right?

“Vice President Harris said Monday that she ‘never believed’ the Senate testimony of Supreme Court Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Neil M. Gorsuch, in which they stressed the importance of legal precedent in cases like Roe v. Wade, which established a constitutional right to abortion.

‘I never believed them. I didn’t believe them. That’s why I voted against them….’

Listen, it was clear to me when I was sitting in that chair as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that they were … very likely to do what they just did….”

Harris also addressed Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion, in which he called on the Supreme Court to reexamine cases on LGBTQ rights and contraception. ‘I definitely believe this is not over. I do. I think he just said the quiet part out loud,’ Harris said of Thomas.”

(Vice President Kamala Harris, “Harris says she ‘never believed’ Kavanaugh, Gorsuch would uphold Roe,”  Washington Post )

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
The Death Of Liberty Edition

I was looking forward to returning to this segment of my blog.  However, moiself  –  who looks for the levity in any situation and who sincerely hopes that friends and family entertain me with tasteless jokes should I come down with, say, butt cheek cancer or other dreadful diseases – is at a loss when it comes to being facetious about how religious conservative ideology is raping this country.   So, these may have to do:

A priest, a pedophile, and a rapist walk into a bar. He orders a drink.

Q. How many conservative evangelical Christians does it take to change a light bulb?
A. None. They just sit in the dark and demand you accept that the light is still on.

Q. How do you teach a bunch of kids about god—who he is, and what he does?
A. Gather them all in a classroom. Then never show up.

*   *   *

May you find power in the visualization of male SCOTUS justices who voted to overturn Roe V. Wade having yearly colonoscopies performed by unsterilized wire coat hangers;
May you take constructive action where and how you can to your maintain sanity;
May we all soon return to living in the 21st century;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] (Vice President Kamala Harris, “Harris says she ‘never believed’ Kavanaugh, Gorsuch would uphold Roe,”  Washington Post )

[2] The most exotic place of all, and as foreign as the state sometimes felt, we were never asked to show our passports.

[3] A Swede married to a Canadian.

[4] Yes, we – of course moiself eventually got it as well.  We were both glad to have been fully vaccinated, as our symptoms were relatively mild and followed the same course (fever disappearing in less than 48 hours…frankly, if we hadn’t have tested ourselves for COVID we’d have thought we’d contracted a mild influenza virus).

[5]  One of the rallying cries of the SF-based political activists group LAW [“Ladies Against Women”], who used satire – well, it seemed like satire at the time, and now it seems like prescient  journalism – to critique the religious/conservative right wing’s anti-women’s autonomy  political agenda.

[6] “Although Neil Gorsuch, appointed in 2017, attends an Episcopal church, he was raised Catholic, and it is unclear if he considers himself a Catholic who is also a member of a Protestant church or simply a Protestant.” (Daniel Burke (March 22, 2017). “What is Neil Gorsuch’s religion? It’s complicated.”)

[7] “In the context of United States law, originalism is a concept regarding the interpretation of the Constitution that asserts that all statements in the constitution must be interpreted based on the original understanding ‘at the time it was adopted.’ ” (Originalism, Wikipedia).

[8] Which continued after I left the practice and which exists to this day.

[9] I later heard about this same service from another doctor who was Doc’s age.

[10] Yep, that’s right – he knocked her up a fourth time, and then abandoned her and their children.

[11] Yes, that was way before HIPA laws.

[12] “Abortion is legal throughout pregnancy in Oregon – there is no ban or limit on abortion in Oregon based on how far along in pregnancy you are….”  (Abortionfinder.com, Abortion in Oregon)

 

The SCOTUS Justices I’m Not (Yet) Assaulting

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Department Of Any Questions, Stupid Or Otherwise?

 

 

Dateline Sunday 7:40 am; morning walk; listening to No Stupid Questions podcast, episode 98: Is Having Children Worth It?  The episode consists of hosts Stephen Dubner and Angela Duckworth discussing the various factors – from economic to personal to cultural and beyond – people weigh when considering parenthood.

About twenty minutes into the podcast the show’s producer announces a break:

“Before we return to Stephen and Angela’s conversation about modern fertility, let’s hear some of your thoughts on the subject. We asked listeners to let us know the factors that affected their decisions to have kids. Here’s what you said.”

The producer plays three phone recordings. The sentiments expressed by the second listener/commentator were, unfortunately and predictably, no surprise to moiself.   [1]

Second commentator:
“As of now, my husband and I are leaning towards remaining childfree…. What I’ve found really interesting is the very different experiences that we’ve had in sharing this news when asked.
I get asked very frequently, ‘When are you having kids?’ It’s just assumed.
And if I tell someone, whether it’s a close friend or a complete stranger — which is very frequent — that we don’t plan to have kids, I get really strong reactions, and they’ve really made me question the value that I’d bring to society as a woman if I’m not a mother….
Meanwhile, my husband gets asked about once or twice a year, and his manhood and value is never brought into question.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Or Morality, Schmality – The Ultimate Litmus Test On This Issue

Moiself  has plenty o’ thoughts – some of them even/arguably suitable for non-R-rated audiences – about the leak of the SCOTUS draft which indicates that the conservative (read: Republican-appointed) SCOTUS justices have plans to return our society to the medieval mores of governance by religious superstition and female chattel-dom repeal Roe v. Wade

 

 

Those thoughts I will share…later.  As in, in several weeks from now, when the hoopla dies down (perhaps) and we get a handle on what’s really happening, and when I have been dissuaded from my karma-generating plan to hire a team of Valkyries and Ninjas to kidnap SCOTUS justices Alito, Kavanaugh, Roberts, and Thomas, transport them to a secure back alley where the justices will have coat hanger wires up inserted their respective urethras to perform a D & C of their potential abortion causing,   [2]   sperm factory organs.

 

 

 

 

For now, consider this:

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Applying Cognitive Behavioral Therapy To Moiself

Dateline: Sunday 7:50 am-ish, Oregon coast.  Returning from a walk along the beach. I turn around for one last glance,  [3]   pausing to gaze at the rising sunlight reflecting off the foaming waves, noticing how the retreating tide left a beautiful, reflective sheen to the green-gray sand…. Wait a sec – what is that awful, acrid smell, so early in the morning?

Looking behind moiself , I see a woman sitting on an Adirondack chair on the upper porch of a beach rental house across the street.  She is vigorously/alternately sucking on and exhaling the effluence from her cigarette; my instinctive disgust kicks in:

“It’s one thing to torment her own lungs, but holy self-pollution – smokers don’t seem to realize – or just don’t care – that their smoke travels, and torments *me,* even though I’m 30 feet away….”

 

 

Then I stop moiself, and recall a cognitive behavioral tenet I recently (re)heard:

If you can’t change your circumstances,
change how you think about your circumstances.  [4]

And I am struck by a wave of gratitude.

 

 

Both my parents were the only non-smokers among their respective siblings.    [5]   When I was in early grade school, having non-smoking parents seemed to be the minority experience for my peers…although not long after the Surgeon’s General’s landmark report on smoking and health was released, that began to change.

 

 

 

 

Looking back, I have to laugh at the naivete involved when I helped a friend, who was concerned about her mother’s health (she’d overheard her parents talking about how the mother’s doctor had advised her to quit smoking).  Friend and I conspired as to how we could get her mother to stop smoking.  As fourth graders, we knew nothing about the power of nicotine addiction, only the power of our preteen will:  we convinced ourselves that, by combing Friend’s house from top to bottom when her mother was out running an errand we could find and discard all of her mother’s cigarettes and cigarette lighters, and ta-da, she’d quit!  How can you smoke something that isn’t there?

 

“Look, honey, I found your last cigarette in the cat’s litter box.  Maybe you can skip your after-dinner smoke and we’ll watch ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ instead.”

 

Once again, I digress.

The gratitude which struck me: How lucky was I?  How lucky *am* I?

If moiself  had grown up with smoking parents, how likely is it    [6]    that I would have also fallen into that “filthy habit,” as my father called it?    [7]   And even if I’d managed to avoid becoming a smoker but had parents who were nicotine fiends, I would have had an increased risk of heart and lung disease from living with second-hand smoke.

And just like that, my annoyance dissipated ( like a puff of smoke? ), and morphed into a sense of gratitude.   [8]

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Marlboro Man Edition

I had a legless dog I named, “Cigarette.”
Every morning I took him out for a drag.

What does Han Solo put in his cigarettes?
Chewbacco.

My friend started punting his Marlboro packs – he’s trying to kick the habit.

Why are cigarettes like hamsters?
They are perfectly harmless until you stick one in your mouth and light it on fire.

 

 

*   *   *

May you feel grateful for unhealthy habits *not* practiced by those who raised you;
May you cultivate the ability to reframe your circumstances;
May the SCOTUS stay out of your respective lady and man parts;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Or, likely, to other female listeners, whether or not they have children.

[2] Abortions are caused by men – that is, unwanted pregnancies are caused by irresponsible male ejaculations… even the wanted pregnancies that must be terminated due to fetal abnormalities incompatible with life and/or maternal health issues, are also caused by men.

[3] Always say goodbye to the beach, every time you leave it.  Blow a kiss to the breakers; you never know when it will be the last time.

[4] If you can’t change your circumstances, work on changing the way you think about your circumstances, or how you frame your circumstances. Classic cognitive behavioral therapy advice, and one of the few things proven to help both your mood/attitude…which then may, even, eventually, help you to change your circumstances.

[5] My father smoked while in the army – cigarettes were part of a WWII soldier’s ration kit – but quit several years before meeting my mother.

[6] Three to six times more likely, as various studies show.

[7] He used that term privately, and not in front of our smoking relatives (which was, all of them) or friends or neighbors.

[8] And even a faint sense of pity for the nic-junkie on the beach house balcony.

The Russians I’m Not Absolving

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Department Of Scapegoating

Moiself  would like nothing better than to wake up tomorrow morning to the news that Vladimir Putin has

* kicked the KGB bucket
* cashed in his commie chips
* bit the Chernoyl dust,
* bought the fascist farm,
* given up the glasnost ghost
* won his last rabid dog lookalike ® contest…

 

 

 

you know – died.  Whether through “natural” means or otherwise; hey, I’m not picky.

Still, it doesn’t seem…wise…or right…or fair…or historically accurate, to blame Russia’s assault against Ukraine solely on that festering turd of a genocidal despot one leader.

Russia is a big ass country.  Even with an oligarchy-stained kleptocracy of a dictatorship masquerading as a federal republic, moiself  doesn’t think the P-boy can do what he’s doing unless he’s got a whole lotta other Russians – if not the majority – on his side.

This is the 21st century, and Russia is not North Korea.  In “First World” countries whose people have access to First World technologies (internet; cellphones) is impossible to completely control the narrative; it is impossible to make the majority of the Russian populace believe that Ukrainians are “neo-Nazis”,  or the other delusional justifications the P-pants-boy offers for invading a sovereign country, unless there are those who, for whatever reasons, want to believe such bizarre, totally unsubstantiated falsehoods.

Are Russians who support their country’s actions also victims (of P-face’s propaganda), as I have heard more than one person surmise,?  Or are they collaborators?  I’m not sure it matters, at this point.  Not to the dead Ukrainians, that’s for sure.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Thanks For The Imagery

Dateline: Saturday, March 26; circa 7:45 am; morning walk; listening to the People I Mostly Admire podcast’s latest episode:  No One Can Resist A Jolly, Happy Pig.  Host Steven Levitt is interviewing naturalist and author Sy Montgomery, who gets the following introduction on the PIMA website:

My guest today is bestselling author and naturalist Sy Montgomery. The Boston Globe describes her as “part Indiana Jones and part Emily Dickinson.” Her best-known book is The Soul of an Octopus, which was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2015. But she’s written about everything from tarantulas to hyenas to hummingbirds to pink dolphins. And as far as I can tell, she’s fallen in love with every one of them.

Levitt asks Montgomery how she got to where she is, in her profession – combining her two loves, of journalism and animals. Montgomery talks about visiting various people she knows who devote their lives to studying some obscure species, including a friend who is currently studying “the southern hairy-nosed wombat”…

…which caused moiself  to actually speak the following picture’s caption aloud.  To moiself, but ALOUD.

 

“Hey, Buford, y’all going to the barn dance tonight?”

*    *   *

Department Of Dietary Motivations

Back to the above-referenced podcast: Montgomery’s years of study of numerous animal species has caused her to refer to these animals as “people” (in aggregate) or “somebody” in particular. She explains her vocabulary choice:  not only do many of the scientists who study these animals attribute consciousness and emotion to them, but scientists who study animal brains consistently find the same or remarkably similar neurotransmitters and hormones that, in primates such as our homo sapiens selves, are responsible for the production and transmission of emotions.

 

 

Montgomery and Levitt had an interesting back-and-forth about such discoveries and attributions.  (Excerpts from their discussion; my emphases.)

LEVITT:
Now, I’m no expert on ethology, which is the study of animal behavior, but I suspect that the scholars in that area might be upset by your books….  I’m sure they would consider it a no-no to anthropomorphize animals, but that’s not even exactly what you do. You speculate about the unique ways each creature might experience the world. Am I right that some scientists complain that you go too far in that direction?

MONTGOMERY:
It’s not so much the scientists, but sometimes it’s the philosophers because they want humans to be the top of everything. Now, it is true that in science they use different words than I would use. Of course, in their scientific journals, they have different readers than I’m going to have, but things have changed a bit since, for instance, Jane Goodall first published her findings about tool use in chimps. No one wanted to publish that groundbreaking paper because she named her chimps instead of numbering them.

LEVITT:
Woah. Uh-huh.

MONTGOMERY:
Now things have changed…. There actually is a field of study that’s looking into animal personalities. I went on a personality survey with some of the top octopus researchers in the world…The person who headed that study…was the one who pointed out to me that if we fail to talk about emotions in animals, we are overlooking a central fact of neurobiology. And that is that every animal that has ever been studied, when you try to look for the hormones or neurotransmitters responsible for all of our feelings, like joy and fear, like stress and love, we find the exact same neurotransmitters. Even in taxa as different from ourselves, as octopuses, from whom we have been separated for half a billion years of evolution.

 

 

LEVITT:
The scientific, conventional wisdom for decades, hundreds of years, insisted that humans were unique on so many dimensions, like consciousness, the use of tools, ability to problem solve. Do you have a take on how these past scientists just got things completely wrong?

MONTGOMERY:
Yeah. I think it’s human supremacy, just like white supremacy. We wanted to be at the top, which would justify our exploitation of everybody else….

LEVITT:
Here’s something I strongly suspect will happen. When people look back in a hundred or 200 years, they will be shocked and dismayed at the cruelty that our society subjects animals to with factory farming. Do you agree?

MONTGOMERY:
A hundred percent. We will be appalled. And that’s why I became vegetarian years ago. Now there are farms that raise animals and slaughter animals in a more humane way, but I’m still delighted that I’m not eating them.

LEVITT:
You made a really powerful case for the wonder of pigs. Do you think for people whose goal it is get away from factory farming that maybe the strategy they should be taking is trying to teach people about the wonderful personality that pigs have?

MONTGOMERY:
Oh, I have gotten so many letters from people telling me that my book was the end of their bacon. And also, after Soul of an Octopus, many people wrote and said, “You know what? I used to love to eat octopus. I don’t eat it anymore.”

I love food and I love making food, but the taste of that item is on your tongue for less than a minute before you swallow something else. And for someone to lose their life for a taste on your tongue, that just seems like an enormous waste when there’s so many other delicious and nourishing things that we could have and not take away somebody’s life, somebody who thinks and feels and knows.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Inquiring Minds Want To Know

“She holds a PhD in neuroscience, but I couldn’t find whether she ever actually worked as a neuroscientist. It’s obvious that her understanding of ‘strong science’ doesn’t mean what she thinks it means. I doubt if she reads Science-Based Medicine or understands the principles we go by.”
Harriet Hall, MD aka “The SkepDoc”   [1]  )

 

 

Any claim that has the word “actually” in it must be true.

 

Moiself  saw a commercial the other day in which Mayim Bialik, the child actor turned adult actor turned part-time Jeopardy host,  has apparently now become a vitamin supplement shill. The ad was for Neuriva-Plus, a supplement which, its manufacturers claim, can make you smarter by increasing brain levels of “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF, and shame on you for thinking that the acronym refers to some kind of S & M practice).

Why should you trust the celebrity who is promoting such a product?  Well, you silly goose, because the ad begins thusly:

“I’m Mayim Bialik, and I love brains.  It’s why I became a neuroscientist.”

 

 

Uh, yes.  Several spring to mind. 

Elsewhere Bialik has also claimed:

“Neuriva Plus is backed by strong science — yes, I checked it myself —
and it combines two clinically tested ingredients that help support six key indicators of brain health.”

Not only does Bialik claim to be a neuroscientist, in another, longer Neuriva ad she describes herself as, “America’s favorite neuroscientist” 

 

 

Ooooooookaaaaaaay.

Bialik went to college, studied neuroscience at UCLA, took a break from studies to return to acting, returned to school to earn her Doctor of Philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA, had two children, then went back to acting.   [2]  But nowhere in her (admittedly impressive) resumé can I find any reference to her working in the field of neuroscience.

I’m not concerned about how many reputable sources, including Psychology Today, have called the product Bialik is endorsing “Neuriva nonsense” and “just another snake oil.”   [3]    Moiself assumed that from the get-go.

 

 

Rather, I’m curious about the validity of her claim to be a “neuroscientist” when she doesn’t appear to be doing neuroscience.  She studied neuroscience; I get that.  But she’s not doing neuroscience.

I’m wondering what actual (ahem) neuroscientists might think. Sam Harris? Brenda Milner? Any other neuroscientists care to weigh in on this?

If you go to law school, get your law degree ( a J.D. in the USA ), then become a carpenter – i.e., for whatever reasons you decide you want to earn a living crafting furniture and do not practice law, either with a firm or in a partnership or by “hanging out your shingle” (solo practice) – is it accurate to say about yourself,

“I actually am a lawyer.”

 

“Don’t blame this one on me.  You want snake oil?  I’ll show you some snake oil.”

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Snake Oil Edition

Which snakes are best at mathematics?
Adders.

I got mugged by a cobra when I was walking through the park.
I told the police I couldn’t recognize it in a lineup, as it was wearing a hood.

Why don’t rattlesnakes drink coffee, or any caffeinated beverages?
Because it makes them viperactive.     [4]

What do you call a snake that builds houses?
A boa constructor.

 

*   *   *

May you never feel compelled to refer to yourself as an “actual” anything;
May you have fun imagining a southern hairy-nosed wombat;
May you be delighted by those creatures which you choose not to eat;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Hall is a retired family physician who researches and writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices.

[2] as per her Wikipedia bio.  

[3] “Mayim Bialik’s Neuriva Commercials Make Questionable Claims,” Science-based Medicine, 7-6-21

[4] No snake footnotes here.

The April Fool’s Joke No One Was Playing

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Content warning: Despite the date, and one or two moments of comic relief,  [1]   this is probably the most serious and personal blog post I have written.  No foolin.’

*   *   *

Department Of Worst April Fool’s Day Ever

The following took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – twenty-one years ago today, April 1, 2001. Background info: MH and I and our offspring, K and Belle, were members of a local church.  [2]   Within the past seven weeks we’d celebrated K’s eighth birthday, and Belle’s fifth.

*   *   *

At approximately 12:20pm, Sunday, April 1, 2001, MH and I were in the ___ (church name)  Fellowship Hall’s kitchen, doing cleanup after coffee hour.  K and Belle were playing with other children outside, in the church’s courtyard.  Belle found a hypodermic syringe (“A shiny toy,” as she later described it to me) on the grass under the bushes next to a play-shed in the courtyard.  She picked up the syringe, which was capped, but the syringe’s needle — which was sticking out at an angle from under the side of the cap — poked her in her right thumb.  She dropped the syringe and walked away.

K had seen Belle pick up something and then quickly drop it.  He went over to where she had been, saw the syringe, and picked it up. He intended to take it upstairs to MH and I, to show us what Belle had touched…then he also got stuck by the needle (in his left thumb) when he picked up the syringe.

K came into the kitchen, holding the syringe.  He told us that he’d found “this thing on the grass” and that he’d accidentally stuck himself with it. Before K had finished his sentence MH whisked the syringe from K, and recapped it (K said he took the cap off *after* the needle stuck him, as he wanted us to see exactly what it was that had stuck him, but that the syringe had the cap ON when he picked it up).

I rushed K to the sink, quickly but thoroughly washed his thumb, and told MH to get Belle and meet us at the hospital.  We had our two cars with us; I wrapped the syringe in several paper towels and ran down the back stairs of the hall with K in tow, telling him that we were going to the Tuality Hospital ER (which is less than half a mile from the church).

At this time MH and I did *not* know that Belle had also – and first – been stuck by that same syringe’s needle.

MH found Belle standing in the entrance to the Fellowship Hall, crying and holding her thumb, which was bleeding.  MH asked another child, who was lying on a couch in the entrance, what was going on.   The kid glanced at Belle and casually replied, “Oh, she cut herself.”   MH asked Belle what happened; she said that “a knife” she found in the courtyard had cut her finger.

I’d parked on the street by the entrance to the Fellowship Hall. Just as I was about to pull away from the curb MH ran to my car, pounded on the window, opened the door and practically threw Belle in the back seat, next to K.  MH told me about Belle’s thumb as he strapped Belle into her car seat; we tried to get more out of her, but she was very upset.  She didn’t want to say that it was the needle which had cut her, but K said that it was, and then Belle confirmed this.

All of this — from the moment K came up to the kitchen with the syringe to MH running with Belle to the car — took place in less than two minutes.  I squeezed Belle’s thumb to get more blood out, gave her a tissue to hold over her thumb, and drove to the ER, with MH arriving in our other car about four minutes after the kids and I did.

The bad news:

…was what had happened.  Of particular concern was the fact that the syringe was from an “unknown source,” which is hospital jargon for, “We don’t have the syringe’s user to test.”  However, as the hospital personnel  [3]   – and our own instincts and experience told us – as far as what the syringe had been used for, we should assume the worst.  Translation: the syringe had been used to inject a person or persons with illegal drugs; it had not been left there by a diabetic who on the spur of the moment decided to adjust his blood sugar/insulin ratio in our church’s courtyard’s bushes. (Coincidentally, earlier that morning I’d been told by the church groundskeeper that the previous day, members of our church had done a cleanup of the church grounds, removing beer cans and trash from under and around the bushes in the courtyard, where the groundskeeper had occasionally found “vagrants and street people partying.”)

Hospital personnel told us the syringe was likely used to inject its user(s) with a certain kind of heroin (“Mexican brown”) and/or methamphetamine, which, for “street users,” were the injectable drugs of choice both the hospital and the police were seeing at that time.  Although we brought the syringe with us (and could detect a micro-microscopic drop of fluid inside of it), we were told that there was nothing the hospital could test it for.  In fact, it was hospital policy not to test it, for among other reasons, the false reassurance of any false negative results (which they would likely get, as there was no way to determine how long the syringe had been there).

The relatively good (or at least, less bad) news:

-Both kids’ immunizations were up to date, including for Hepatitis B.

-Although there were no vaccinations for Hepatitis C and the other rare strains (D, E, F), risk of transmission for those infections, in that kind of possible exposure, were negligible…  Also, those strains of hepatitis were rarely seen in Oregon at that time (Hepatitis A is not transmitted via needle sticks).

-The syringe had a small gauge needle; thus, the possibility of a significant “viral load” transmission was small.

-HIV, the big fear factor at the time, is a very fragile virus.  Despite its many mutations it can survive only a few hours (if that) outside a host body.

The children were seen by P.A. ____, who examined them and then spoke with us about what happened.  Over the next three-plus hours, the P.A. consulted via telephone with Drs. E___ and L___ at Emmanuel Hospital’s Infectious Disease and Pediatrics Infectious Disease departments, with our pediatrician’s on call group, and with other physicians at the CDC.  [4]

We were told (by the P.A. and a Tuality ER physician) that HIV prophylaxis treatment was something we should consider, for both K and Belle.  We did, and decided against it, with the following information in mind:

– None of the doctors consulted would strongly recommend that we start either K or Belle on prophylactic treatment for possible HIV exposure, given the parameters of the particular accident/incident, nor was such treatment the recommended protocol for that kind of possible exposure.

– MMR (Morbidity & Mortality Report) statistics showed no transmission of disease had been recorded to have occurred in “this kind of injury,” in Oregon.

– Risk of transmission of HIV was estimated to be less than 1%; risk of side effects from AZT or other prophylactic HIV treatments definitely exceeded 1%.

K and Belle had blood drawn at the hospital for baseline HIV and Hepatitis titers, and we were given scripts to have the tests repeated at intervals of two, four, and six months.  The P.A. suggested, for our own peace of mine, that we do another test at twelve months (although that was not the official recommendation).

******************************

Department Of The Aftermath

At one point, sitting in the ER exam room with MH and the kids, I remembered noting the date and thinking, “If only this were an April Fool’s joke….”

The above was the Dragnet (“Just the facts, ma’am”) version of the incident, which I sent to family, and wrote for our own records.  I left out the emotions experienced by K, Belle, MH, and myself, which you can probably imagine (and which took me months to forget).

 

 

We were at that ER for hours.  We waited, while the P.A. consulted with various specialists and/or waited for them to return his calls and periodically came into the exam room we occupied, to update us.  All the adults were (trying to be) calm.  The ER seemed understaffed, to me (a hospital staff member later told me it was unexpectedly busy “for a Sunday afternoon”).  Even so and speaking of the afternoon, I wish one of the staff would have thought to offer our kids some food.  It was lunch time when the accident happened, and a little after 4 pm when we got out of there.  MH and I were too adrenalized to be hungry and, in our state of shock and with possible scenarios and outcomes running through our minds, we forgot that the kids, of course, were hungry  [5] ). I finally had the presence of mind to realize this, and got someone to bring them some sugary drinks, which made them both happy.

Waiting, waiting, waiting….  We bummed drawing supplies (paper and pens) from a nurse, to keep the kids amused or at least distracted, while hospital staff checked with one another and called various experts.  We shut the door to the exam room we were in and talked loudly to the kids when an accident victim with a fractured femur was brought into the ER (we were mostly successful in muffling the victim’s cries of pain, which echoed down the ER hallway).

MH’s cousin is a pediatrician and her husband an epidemiologist; MH used some of the waiting time to call her (she lived on the East coast).  She was very reassuring.  She told us that, to her knowledge and after checking her sources, there were no cases of someone “sero-converting” – i.e., going from a negative HIV test to a positive – after having “that kind” of accident (being stuck with a needle which had likely been used and discarded several hours before the stick-accident).

Okay; yes; this is good.   But, if this is common knowledge, why is this taking so long?
Why all the consults – are they preparing detailed information for us,
for a prognosis we don’t want to hear?

We had plenty of time, sitting/waiting/pacing in that exam room, to imagine the worst.  I had worked for nine years in the women’s reproductive health care field but been away from the medical world for almost as many years and hadn’t kept up with “things.”  HIV, despite its ability to mutate rapidly, was – or had been – a very fragile virus. Perhaps new strains had developed, which I was unaware of – new mutations which could survive hours outside a host body? I thought that unlikely, thus; actually, my main concern was not HIV.

I was more troubled to think that the kids might have been infected by one of the new strains of hepatitis that seemed to be cropping up left and right. When I’d worked at Planned Parenthood, just before MH and I moved up to Oregon, I’d had a needle stick accident, [6]  and had to go through the routines of initial HIV/hepatitis blood tests, getting the Hep B vaccine series,   [7]   then follow-up HIV and hepatitis tests at two, four, and six month intervals.

Meanwhile, back in the ER….  Finally, a little before 4 pm, the ER staff attending to our case had documented it to their satisfaction. We needed the kids to each have their blood drawn for the first round of tests, and then we could go home.  MH and I and the hospital personnel tried to be as straightforward – and as nonchalant – with the kids as possible.  Everything is going to be all right, we just have to do one test (which…er, yeah…will involve another needle stick)….”

K tried to be brave.  He was old enough that we could explain the hospital procedures to him, how they’d need to draw a small amount of blood for a test.  Did he think he could cooperate?  His lower lip trembled as he nodded yes.  He sat in my lap, I hugged him, and he hid his head under my arm when they drew his blood sample.  For each of the subsequent, follow-up blood draws (at two, four and six months after the incident), K got better at handling the needle poke (he even watched the last one, instead of turning his head to the side!).

Belle’s reaction was…almost feral.

What a difference three years makes, especially for younger children, in terms of experience and comprehension. Looking back, I realize that Belle was also being brave, in a different way – in defense of herself.  She did not understand why she had essentially been held captive for hours; she did not understand the need for the tests the adults were trying to explain to her.  She understood that she had already been injured by one needle, and she was determined not to let that happen again.

The hospital personnel were kind and patient with her, but despite their assurances that they would use the tiniest needle possible (“The size we use on preemies,” a nurse told me) Belle became unhinged. Even her beloved daddy could not get her to cooperate, nor could he restrain her.  Finally, in order to safely draw her blood, the hospital staff put her in what I can only describe as a full body straitjacket.  It was a device/garment I’d never seen before,   [8]   and it provided me with one brief moment of levity in that dreary afternoon (I had to leave the exam room for a moment, to stifle my giggles).

The follow-up blood draws were, for Belle, not much better (although full body restraints were not necessary).  For years after that ER visit Belle maintained a visceral fear of needles.  Routine vaccinations were…stressful, to put it mildly, for Belle, her parents, and her pediatrician.

Despite Belle’s fear of needles (which had not been present before the trip to the ER), neither she nor K seemed to carry any long-term trauma from the needle stick accident.  They also barely displayed any short-term distress.  By the morning after they seemed to have accepted what the adults had told them (it was an accident; everything is going to be fine), and it was almost as if the accident hadn’t happened.

The night we came home from the ER they both fell asleep even quicker than usual (fatigued from the excitement, was my guess).  Oh, to have that short term memory dump capability, I remember thinking.  Meanwhile, as our children dozed in blissful ignorance, MH and I sat upright in our bed, eyes abuzz from our respective adrenaline overdoses.

“What just happened?” I said to MH.  “I feel like – like I should attack something.  I’m all geared up for battle, but there’s no one to fight.”

*   *   *

When the option for prophylactic HIV treatment had been offered to us, I thought:

Is this the day our lives change forever?

I hoped the medical personnel were going to advise *against* such treatment; instead, they’d presented the pros and cons, and left the decision to us.

I’d already decided that, unless there were compelling evidence to do so, no way was I going to agree to poison my kids to play the odds.  During some of the down time in the ER exam room I’d chatted with the kindly if seriously-demeanored P.A., and discovered that he too was a parent.  After he and a hospital physician had presented the HIV treatment option to MH and I, I waited until the physician left the room, then asked the PA,

“What would *you* do, if this had happened to *your* children?”

He paused, and I continued.

“I know you’re not supposed to answer that kind of question, but please?”

The P.A. nodded at me, in a way I can only describe as respectful, and I saw the brief flicker of a smile cross his eyes for the first time since he’d met us.  No, he said, if it were his children, he would not opt for the HIV prophylaxis.

*   *   *

Thanks to the merciful element known as “the passing of Time,” the distress of that day has morphed, for me, into having an impassive remembrance of what happened without having to relive how it “felt.”  Years will pass without me thinking about the accident, and then something will remind me.

One such reminder came via a local public television show I saw a few years ago, which featured an interview with an activist who “represented” an encampment which homeless people had been setting up in a Portland neighborhood.  The encampment was in an area which had been designated as a wildlife corridor; homeowners living near the corridor were disgusted and alarmed by the encampment’s accumulating trash, habitat destruction, and crime.  The activist/representative said that the camp occupants were policing themselves – she looked directly into the camera and declared that they had a strict, no drugs/no alcohol policy.

 

 

Local news reported that within days of authorities evicting the campers, the encampment resembled an EPA-declared toxic waste dump. City employees and volunteers who cleared out the hundreds of pounds of garbage the campers had left behind had to wear special gloves and protective garments, as the trash included  – surprise, “self-policing” activist/representative! – drug paraphernalia, including contaminated syringes and needles.

When I read that follow-up story I was right back to that day – back to the moment when MH ran up to my car, carrying our frightened five-year-old in his arms; back to the moment when I realized that *both* of our children had been stuck by a hypodermic needle; back to the moment when, as surely as I could sense my own pulse hammering in my carotid artery, I felt as if my “spirit” were draining out of my skull, down through my chest and gut and legs, and exiting my body through the soles of my feet.  And no, this is not a florid way of saying I peed my pants (which I didn’t).  The sensation was so vivid, I later checked my car’s floormat for…something (I didn’t really know what I was looking for).

Several months passed before the needle stick accident wasn’t the first and last thing I thought of every day.  Some mornings with stoic acceptance and some nights with fierce, Samuel L. Jackson-style defiance (“C’mon, just try and hurt us again, you needle-discarding, muthaF#&%?! ass#@&%* !”), I’d contemplate the fact that there are so many things out of a parent’s control.  Seemingly apropos of nothing, I would find myself ruminating on the plethora of shit, be it circumstantial, biological, genetic, or whatever, that I could neither anticipate nor control, but which could harm K and Belle.

I eventually made peace with the reality that generations of parents before me had recognized:

Your life can change in an instant;
your love for your children may be river deep and mountain high,
but it cannot protect them from everything that might harm them….
including random fate and their and other peoples’ (and your own) mistakes.

One day, several months after the NS accident and after things had returned to the proverbial normal, I was out running errands with Belle.  We were at a crafty-type store, getting supplies for her preschool project, and she had to pee.  The store’s restroom was a fairly large, handicapped access room. After Belle flushed the toilet and began to move to the sink to wash up, she exclaimed, “Look!” and reached for a shiny object lying on the floor, to the side of the toilet.

I had my first ever out-of-body experience: I watched as a hand (that was apparently my own) reached out with lightning speed and slapped Belle’s hand just before she touched the object; I heard a banshee’s voice from the bowels of the hells I don’t believe in bellow from my mouth:

” NO NO NO NO NO !!!
Don’t EVER pick up ANYTHING when you don’t know what it is –
didn’t you learn ANYTHING from the accident ?!?!? “

It took a stunned two seconds for first Belle and then me to burst into tears, and a nanosecond after that for me to apologize to her.

*   *   *

May you never have a similar story to tell;
May you make peace with life’s realities but do your damnedest anyway;
May you remember to ask for something to eat and drink when
you’re stuck in an ER room for hours;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] Thank you for the inspiration, Samuel L. Jackson.

[2] One of the more (if not most) liberal of the Protestant denominations.  Yes, this foulmouthed  expressive atheist and her family were active church members.

[3] The P.A., doctors, and nurses we saw during our ER stay.

[4] He had also spoken with at least two other Tuality hospital physicians, one of whom, along with the P.A., presented the HIV prophylactic treatment option to us.  We also had several nurses (in and out of the exam room where we and the kids waited) who never introduced themselves.

[5] Although, oddly enough, neither of them said anything to us about it…which I attribute to them being intimidated by the surroundings.

[6]  This happened as I was doing a finger poke blood draw from a high-risk (multiple sexual partners; IV drug user) patient: I poked myself with the same lancet I’d just used on the patient, as I was transferring the lancet to the sharpie container.  It was a move I’d done a hundred times, only that time I somehow managed to stick myself as I grabbed the sharpie container.  To this day, I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ll never forget how the patient looked at me and said, “Uh oh.” 

[7] Which I should have had anyway…but I’d kept putting off for time/scheduling reasons.

[8] Then a few months later, in a veterinary setting, I saw a similar garment used to restrain a fractious cat!

The FREE (All caps! Must be legit! ) Opportunity I’m Not Pursuing

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Department Of Sometimes The Blog Just Writes Itself

Dateline:  3-14 (Pi day).
First thing in the morning, moiself  receives this email (my emphases):

Hi Robyn!  My name is Raine    [1]
and I’m an Executive Assistant from Craniumz Magazine.   [2]

I came across your profile and find what you do both inspiring and in line with our topics and audience.

 

 

Excusez-moi for this diversion…I just can’t help but pause for a bullshit snort. What I do is so not in line with their “topics and audience.”

Back to the email:

We’re currently sourcing entrepreneurs for the opportunity to be registered as potential guest writers for free publicity opportunities, or to invite them as contributors for Craniumz Magazine. We’re also looking for inspiring coaches, leaders, and entrepreneurs who could be featured on The Craniumz Global Award List 2022 – a global list that will be released in June, and has featured names like Oprah Winfrey, Robin Sharma and Marisa Peer, to name a few.
Is any of this something you would be interested in being considered for?

Best regards, Raine Latte

 

 

OMG, my chance to have my name be somehow associated with Oprah’s!!  And two WTF  people I know nothing about!  I, of course, will drop everything, including common sense and any vestige of self-respect, to be exploited by have the honor of working with the Craniumz people who, according to their website, are a

“…Global Media Brand operated by ____  [3], a branding and digital media brand, with a focus on interviews, articles and information about business, mindset, innovation, leadership and lifestyles.”,

 

 

 

Holy bald-faced and obsequious ignorance. Indeed, if Ms. Raine came across my profile, she evidently didn’t follow it to/bother to check out my blog, which would clue her in as to how little I think of the concept of branding

 

 

Nevertheless, moiself  could not pass up the (FREE) opportunity to respond:

Hello Raine,
What is the compensation for guest writers
and/or contributors to Craniumz Magazine?
And if you came across my profile,
did you note that I am primarily a writer of fiction?
Curiously,
Robyn Parnell

The reply:

Hi
Great to hear from you. My first email serves as an invitation for you to be one of our potential Guest Writers.

Our Guest Writers get FREE access to opportunities that we have in the group such as free articles, podcast hosting, interviews and a chance to be on the list of awards – Craniumz 500 Global List & Global Award. Guest writers are encouraged to participate in the opportunities posted every week for them to get selected for free publicity. They may also opt to submit their proposed topic, quote or article through content@brainzmagazine.com. If the Content Team find it interesting and matched the theme for the month, they will surely approach you for information.

Hope this helps.  Best regards, Raine

 

 

I couldn’t just leave it at that:

Hi yourself.

Congratulations on your outstanding job of not answering my questions.
Since the proverbial picture paints a thousand (FREE) words,
I’ll express my opinion on this matter via the pictorial presentation of the artist/writer known as The Oatmeal:    [4]

 

*    *   *

Department Of How To Spot A Bot

I did not expect a response to the obvious disinterest – and inherent if not overt dis – contained in my last reply.  Yet the artist formerly known as Bot program pretending to be a human called Raine sent me one more oblivious/form reply:

“I’m happy to hear you’re interested!
If you have a spare minute now, it would be great if you could fill in your information in our contributor form, so that ____  [5] can review your details for the publicity opportunities. It’s just a couple of quick questions….

Once your information has been reviewed, you’ll receive an email within 24 hours with the headline ‘Publicity in Craniumz Magazine’ with instructions and information about the opportunities. (This email sometimes ends up in the spam folder, so don’t forget to check it’s not hiding in there!) 🙂

Just let me know when you’ve submitted, and I’ll try to speed up the process.
Looking forward to hopefully seeing more from you, as I think you would make a great addition to the Craniumz community! “

 

Except that, someone did.

 

*   *   *

Department Of St. Patrick’s Day Party Deferred

Dateline: Tuesday 3-17-20.  At 6 pm the dinner party, with ten people total,  [6]  had been scheduled to commence.   Anyone remember what else happened in mid-March,2020?

 

“I’ll take pandemics for $1000, Alex.”

 

I left the dining table as it was set – including moiself’s  lavish centerpiece (a very large – we’re talking four pounds – potato sporting a green crown) – for many months after, in hope, or defiance?   Come Autumn, when This Thing Looks Like It’s Going To Stick Around ® began to settle in my brain, I put away the plates and the cutlery, the napkins and the décor.  The centerpiece, by then, had begun to mutate, much like the virus which caused its dethronement.

 

She took away my crown, so I’m growing my own.

 

If I were to throw a party now, it would be one to celebrate the foreign troops’ withdrawal from Ukraine.  But seeing as how that Tin of Poo in charge of the Russian kleptocracy has an ego as large and skin as thin as those of our own #45…well, odds are he’s not going to leave quietly, ya know?

Moiself  is not hopeful for either a quick or peaceful resolution to the mess the Russians have made in the Ukraine.  I dread what Putin’s nose-thumbing, ass-licking, face-saving strategies could ultimately entail.  But in my dreams, all things are possible:

 

“Oops, my bad!  We’re leaving now.”

 

In the meantime, in an action about as effective in the long (or short) run as saying to the Ukrainians, “I’ll pray for you,” I’ve done the bare minimum to keep up the consciousness in my ‘hood.

 

 

And I hope readers, if you haven’t done so already, will join me in checking Charity Navigator    [7]   for an above-board relief organization to aid the Ukrainians, and make a contribution.  CN currently lists thirty-five organizations funneling relief aid to “The Ukrainian-Russian Crisis.”  The organizations are grouped under the following headings:  Medical Services; Medical Supplies; Non-Medical Supplies; Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH); Emergency Housing Long-Term Assistance; Other (inc. cash/cash vouchers, logistic supply, animals).    [8]

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

Department Of Nostalgia: Recalling My First Instruction In Deductive Reasoning

♫   Beans, Beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat; the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So let’s have beans for every meal!   ♫

 

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Musical Fruit Edition

Why did everyone notice when Bill Gates farted in the Apple store?
Because the store didn’t have any Windows.

I didn’t pass gas in front of my husband until we got married.
His family wasn’t impressed.

Life is so unfair – I just called the Flatulence Incontinence Hotline,
and the woman who answered said, “Can you hold, please?”

Why doesn’t Chuck Norris fart?
Because nothing escapes Chuck Norris.

When a clown farts, does it smell funny?

 

Clowns are NOT funny.

*   *   *

May you be entertained by bogus offers to link your name with Oprah’s;
May you appreciate your first lesson in deductive reasoning;
May you accept my belated slainté on behalf of March 17;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] A real person, according to the magazines website staff listing, (I checked), but not her real name…although I have a feeling she is a bot/creation.

[2] A supposedly real magazine (I checked), but not its real title.

[3] Some parent company headquartered in Sweden.

[4] The incomparable Matthew Inman.  Who, I imagine, would also not be impressed to be on a “global awards” list that may have once had Oprah’s name on it.

[5] Another ostensibly real person’s name, but likely not a Real Person ® .

[6] Including MH and I and son K.

[7] Charity Navigator is the world’s largest and probably best-known “nonprofit evaluator.” Itself a non-profit, CN analyses the integrity of a non-profit organization in financial terms, focusing on how much of contributed funds are used for the purpose(s) claimed by the charity, with an emphasis on the cost effectiveness (or impact) of the charity, its financial stability, adherence to best practices for accountability and transparency, and results reporting.

[8] Moiself  chose International Relief Teams, which has a “100%” rating from CN.

The Mask I’m Not Burning

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Department Of…And…They’re Off!

Tomorrow is the official day in my state, Oregon (and also Washington and California (Oregon) when the mask mandate is liftedExcusez-moi; it’s actually/officially lifted “after 11:59 p.m. on March 11.”   [1]

Recently I’ve overheard at least two  conversations   [2]   wherein people were talking about having a mask-burning party to celebrate the lifting of the mandate.  Moiself  gathered that these parties were more about embracing reaching certain pandemic milestones, and were light-hearted, akin to the tradition of the celebratory mortgage-burning parties. These intended parties were to be nothing akin to the hostile, the anti-mask demonstrations held in certain areas of certain states during the past year, e.g. Idaho, where mouth-breathing child abusing ignoramuses red-staters taught their children to embrace their parents’ imbecility and anti-science stances:

“Parents cheered Saturday on the steps of the Idaho Capitol building as children threw handfuls of surgical masks into a fire. Far-right groups and some lawmakers held similar demonstrations in more than 20 Idaho towns, seizing on growing impatience with COVID-19 restrictions.

‘Hey fire, you hungry?’ asked one boy as adults watched him toss face coverings into a burn barrel. ‘Here’s another mask!’

Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and state Rep. Dorothy Moon addressed the crowd of more than 100 people, standing behind a lectern on the Capitol steps. Nearby, a banner with the racist phrase ‘Wu Flu’ was draped over a replica Liberty Bell….

Idaho is one of 16 states that have not implemented a statewide mask mandate….

Idaho leads the Pacific Northwest in COVID-19 cases and death count per 100,000 residents. In the Gem State, people are dying at almost twice the rate of Oregonians, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.”

(“Mask burning rally in Idaho fans COVID-19 worries in Oregon” OPB 3-8-21)

 

Yeah, and not only that, those people are allowed to breed, and vote.

 

I don’t think moiself  will be burning any masks any time soon. Rather, I’m going to pause and take a moment of gratitude for the lives that mask-wearing saved, as documented here and here (and also here and here, and….) and also be grateful for how wearing masks contributed to a record-low flu season during the COVID pandemic.

Nope; not gonna burn, gonna celebrate, I thought to moiself, while I was out walking a couple of “laps” around the movie theater I’d arrived at. I had 20 minutes before the show began, and as I walked I looked at my surroundings, as I am wont to do, and my eyes were drawn to a trash comparison. Walking along the sidewalks of the busy streets by the movie theater, as well as the non-busy back alleys, I noticed one distinctive bit of trash which rivaled cigarette butts in number:  discarded facemasks.

When I think of all the excess trash the pandemic brought us, it frosts my butt.  It seems like we’d just gotten people to bring their own reusable bags when shopping, and to even consider bringing their own reusable drinking straws and take out containers when dining out…then came COVID and the (unnecessary, it turns out) regressive turn, back to the one-use, discard-after-use, plastic everything. This increase in our trash made me almost as sad as the number of COVID deaths.  I’m not exaggerating.

 

“The amount of plastic wastes generated worldwide since the outbreak
is estimated at 1.6 million tonnes/day.

( COVID pollution: impact of COVID-19 pandemic on global plastic waste footprint, Science Direct, 2-21 )

 

*   *   *

The Department Of Returning To Normalcy   [3]

Moiself  is not One Of Those People ® who rant and rave about self-checkout lines at the grocery (or other, but mostly grocery) stores – about how they are evil corporate plots to reduce employment  (even though they probably are), or how they are bring us one step closer to Orwellian scenarios, or how they are just inefficient or whatever.  I use the self-checkout option, occasionally to frequently, depending on the store. When I have a whole lotta items in my cart I’ll use the regular checkout lines…unless they are quite backed up, in which case I’ll do the time math in my head –

do I have more complex items which will require manual input and/or the self-checkout clerk’s attention – e.g. fresh produce and/or bulk items which require weighting and manual input of codes, wine – or primarily pre-packaged items, which I can scan almost as quickly as an experienced checker –

 and pick one or the other.

 

 

Midway through the pandemic restrictions, the checkout clerks at New Seasons   [4]  and I began joking about when the “return to normalcy” would begin, and what that normalcy would look like.  The NS clerks always seemed somewhat apologetic about their store’s policy banning customers bringing their own/reusable bags.  They were also one of the first stores to return to letting customers bring their own bags, and then one of the first to return to bagging customers’ purchases in the reusable bags.

Most of the other grocery stores I skulk around patronize have both regular and self-checkout options, the latter with no item limits (some still have a “15 items or fewer” option).  But I’ve learned, even if there is a line of three carts ahead of me in the regular check outline, if I have a cartload of items it’s ultimately worth it to get in the regular checkout line.

 

Hmmm, which line….

 

The checkers are just more efficient – surprise! It’s what they do, all day long.  And the logistics of the self-checkout stations…urgh.  I can count on the fingers of two hands the number of times they have truly been *self*-checkout (as in, no store employee contact) for moiself, despite my having used the self-checkout option hundreds of times.

It seems like I can’t get through checking out my own groceries without needing the employee in charge of overseeing the self-checkout lines to come over (and input his or her magic code, or whatever) when my self-checkout scanning machine refuses to scan any further because:

* it didn’t register the proper weight of an item

* when I rearranged an already checked item in one of my bags, trying to make room for another item, it thinks I took some items out and didn’t put them back

* I need an age/ID verification for an adult beverage

* I need a verification on the weight of my bags after I checked the “I brought my own bags” option on the scanner and it didn’t register them because my bags are deemed either too light or too heavy

* after I get the okay for my bags and arrange them in the (inadequate) space allowed, one end of one bag slips over the edge of the counter, and thus the last item I placed in it doesn’t get its weight registered properly

* the organic beets I’m trying to buy have no UPC code/tag and are not listed in the “look up item” option on the scanner….

All of these and many more scenarios stop the scanner, and trigger the dreaded hopeful, “Help Is On The Way” message on the scanner’s screen.  While waiting for the HIOTW employee to arrive I often look around at my fellow self-checkout-ers.. I see that they are also awaiting the same service; I see one of them shake his head and grumble that he’s been waiting for five minutes to get help because the loaf of the store’s freshly baked bread – FFS, he only has ONE item – lacks a scannable code, and the store’s self-checkout line overseer/employee is helping another customer scan their 985 coupons….

 

 

My favorites in the we-are-all-waiting-for-the-help-that-is-on-the-way group are the sweet and petite elderly women who wave their hands in a Yoo-hoo ® manner at store employees, optimistically yet incorrectly assuming that this will expedite the process.

Once again, I digress.

*Most* local stores have returned to allowing reusable bags, but why *all* have not returned to bagging a customer’s purchases using that customer’s reusable bag is a mystery to moiself.  After all, this is what we’re all supposed to do – bring our own bags – right?  There are a few grocery stores that, if you are in their regular checkout lines, will not bag your groceries if bring your own reusable bags. Yep, I’m talking to you, Albertsons  (and Safeway…and since one chain bought the other several years back, I’m assuming this is the parent company’s policy).

At first, I thought it was a staffing issue.  The last time I was at Albertson’s I decided to test this notion by going through a regular checkout line.  There were two people and their respective cartloads ahead of me, and an employee other than the cashier stood at the end of the cashier stand, bagging the customers’ groceries in the store’s paper bags. So, they *did* have staff available to bag.  When I unloaded my cart, placing my two reusable bags along with my groceries on the conveyor belt, the cashier pointed to my bags and asked me if I was “comfortable” bagging my own groceries.

Perhaps noticing the lack of enthusiasm in my, “ ‘Comfortable?’ Uh yeah…downright cozy” reply, the cashier followed up with, “We can’t do that” (indicating my reusable bags) because of “the COVID thing.”

Which is ridiculous.

 

“I told her I wasn’t going to touch her filthy reusable bags and the bitch done left me with her cartful of items.”

 

I did not tell her that her company’s policy is absurd, seeing as how she was a rank-and-file employee who was just following the store’s policy.  But the other employee, the one who either was the bagger or was temporarily functioning as such, stepped aside, yet remained at the bagging station…to do what? I wondered, as I pushed my cart to the end of the checkout line and began to bag my groceries. So, you’re not going to bag my items, you’re going to…uh, provide them with an escort?  Or chaperone me, while I bag them?  Dude, what is your function?

Many months ago at the afore-mentioned NS market, when they were still not bagging your groceries if you bought your own bags, the checkers and I joked about how it was understandable to have such draconian policies, two year ago, at the very beginning of the pandemic, when people weren’t sure what COVID-19 was or how it was transmitted.  But we’ve known for some time that COVID is an airborne virus.  You are not going to get it from my woven grocery basket, nor from my reusable bag made of nylon or another synthetic materials.

I tried and (mostly succeeded) in not berating store employees for following their company mandates, no matter how *not*-based-in-reality such mandates were.  There was one notable exception.

 

 

Several months into the pandemic moiself  tried to donate cans of pet food to a local animal shelter.  This is something I did periodically, although this particular trip was in response to moiself’s  having read an article about how the shelter was going through tough times and needed donations for food and other basic animal care items.  A volunteer at the shelter approached me as I began to lower my bags of canned food into the shelter’s donation bins – bins which were open, and at the entrance to the shelter, just as they had always been pre-pandemic.  The volunteer apologetically said that the shelter would not take a donation of cans, “…because of COVID.”

Moiself:
“Seriously?
You *do* realize that you can’t get COVID from a can of cat food…don’t you?”

I immediately regretted my outburst response, apologized to the volunteer,   [5]   adding that I realized he was not personally responsible for such an idiotic, non-science-based overly-cautious policy.    [6]

 

 

So, to reiterate: You (store clerk/business employee) are not going to get COVID from my reusable bag unless each component of the following scenario ensues:

* I, infected with COVID, am standing in your checkout line at your store.

* I feel a cough coming on, lift up my face mask, put my bag to my face, and hack and sputter into said bag.

* While bagging my groceries with the bag I brought and just coughed into, you – for  reasons fathomable only by a highly perceptive mental health professional – grab that bag, lift your own mask, stick your finger into the glob of moist ejecta I coughed onto the bag, stick that finger in your nostril and inhale deeply and then, just to make sure, lick that same finger before proclaiming, “Just as I thought! Definitely NOT lime Jell-O.”

 

 

Neither are you, nor I, *not* are going to catch COVID because you, the checker, obsessively sprayed and wiped your checkstand’s conveyor belt between each customer.  [7]    Our mask-wearing, social distance-maintaining, hand-washing; our getting vaccinated and staying home when we’re ill – these are the actions that matter.  However, store policies re obsessive cleaning are…well…policies.  And when a policy is established, for reasons sound or otherwise, it tends to remain in place.  ‘Cause, you know: Science.  [8]

So, Albertsons, answer me this: Do your fellow grocery stores, your competitors – do all those other stores and their employees have a special dispensation or super powers which allow them protection from those icky reusable bags which are out to contaminate your store’s employees?

Albertsons, hear this:  It is safe for your baggers to use customer’s reusable bags.  Update your policy. Either that or tell your “baggers” to get off their asses and move away if they’re not going to bag my groceries. I don’t need a chaperone or a witness while I do so. You could at least have them pretend to count the store’s supply of paper bags, or dust shelves or whatever, while I am doing what is supposed to be their job.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Sometimes I Amaze Even Moiself

Did I really just write over twenty paragraphs about the pesky   [9]  dilemma of grocery store bagging?

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Pundemic Pandemic Edition

I will tell you a Coronavirus joke now,
but you will have to wait two weeks to see if you got it.

Why are four out of five fishermen *not* worried about COVD-19?
Because they never catch anything.

What’s the difference between Covid-19 and Romeo and Juliet?
One’s the coronavirus, the other is a Verona crisis

What will we call the kids who celebrate their thirteenth birthday
thirteen years after the start of the pandemic lockdown?
The quaranteens.

Bonus
 Chuck Norris has been exposed to the COVID-19.
The virus is now in quarantine for a month.

Special bonus
Best pickup line, as overheard in a nursing home:
Single elderly man says to single elderly woman,
“If COVID doesn’t take you out, can I?”

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you never use “because of the COVID thing” as an excuse;
May this post not be your (only) reason for avoiding lime Jell-O;
May you remember to bring your reusable bags;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Lifted as in no longer mandatory in indoor public spaces and schools.  Federal requirements still include masks on public transit.

[2] Had between apparent friends, in public spaces.  And yes, I was keeping proper physical distancing.  I wasn’t exactly eavesdropping; they were talking loudly and my mask did not cover my ears. Or, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

[3] As in, post-pandemic…as in, assuming what we had and did before was somehow “normal.”

[4] My longtime favorite store.  Which does not (yet) have a self-checkout option.

[5] Moiself  used to volunteer at that same shelter.

[6] “They’ll take monetary donations,” he sheepishly responded.  The “they,” I assume, meant the shelter staff.

[7] Now, wiping the belt after the previous customer’s raw beef dripped blood all over it and I’m going to put down my fresh produce on that very belt – YES! Thank you!

[8] The law of inertia, or whatever.

[9] As in, slightly frustrating, but not approaching the level of invading-another-sovereign-country frustrating.

The Parties I’m Not Yet Hosting

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Department Of Getting This Out Of The Way

Since it would likely cause too much political turmoil for a legitimate government to engage in “regime change,” is it too much to suggest that some Russian patriots lay down their lives for A Greater Cause ® and take out their rapacious, rampaging, rat-faced ruler?

And while they’re at it, maybe they could do something about our own Tangerine Traitor?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Just Can’t Help It

If the aforementioned Russian patriots found a way to grind their leader into a pâté and spread him atop a cracker, would that be Putin on the Ritz?

 

The preferred final resting place of despots worldwide.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Well You Didn’t Have To Agree So Damn Quickly

It happened.  Again.

Dateline: last week; later afternoon; grocery store;  picking up soy milk, olive oil, apples, avocadoes, lemons, garnet yams, and other items for dinner.  It is a blustery day; I have a coat and scarf, my usual wide brimmed rain-or-shine hat, and a mask of course, all of which left little of my face exposed.  The checkout cashier gives me a careful look as she picks up the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from my basket.

Cashier (holding the bottle above the scanner, but not scanning it):
“May I see your ID?”

Moiself (pulling my mask up and my scarf down):
“Is this the neck of someone under 21 years old?”

Cashier (takes a look, scans my wine):
“Ha!”

 

 

*   *   *

 

Everyone take a deep breath. The frivolity will return after this important message.

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of If You’re Human, Please Read This

“In the throes of loss, people reach for certainty and control. My patient’s wife asked me what percentage of people as sick as her husband had survived and whether a risky therapy could promise life. I couldn’t offer her easy answers, only a willingness to stay and listen. Together, we wrestled with the burn of uncertainty. She shared photos of her husband over Zoom. They had sailed and cooked and taken selfies on the beach. Her photos said what words couldn’t. This is the person I have lost.

Earlier in my career, looking closely at this particular kind of pain was as blinding as looking at the sun. I distracted myself afterward with S.N.L. marathons and slabs of chocolate cake. Eventually, I realized that it wasn’t my job to protect people from their grief or to solve it.

I have learned to look when I want to look away.
I have chosen to stay when I’d prefer to run out of the room and cry. The prelude to compassion is the willingness to see.”

(Dr. Sunita Puri; my emphases)

 

 

If you’re over age twenty and live alone on a desert island, perhaps you have not yet had that choice – to stay, or run out of the room and cry.  Perhaps you have not yet had to grieve that inevitable, most human of losses: the death of a loved one.  For the rest of us, I recommend this essay:

We Must Learn to Look at Grief, Even When We Want to Run Away.

This brief, down-to-earth yet stunningly profound guest essay appeared last week in the NY Times.  Written by Dr. Sunita Puri, the essay begins with the story of a patient dying from COVID-19, and Dr. Puri’s relationship with the patient’s wife. The insights imparted by Dr. Puri, who is a palliative medicine physician, go beyond any particular diagnosis.

“I don’t believe in ‘moving on’ and ‘finding closure.’ This language distills the messy complexity of grief into tidy sound bites and asks people to leave something behind, bury it or lock it away. The challenge for my patients and their families is the challenge for all of us: Can we instead move forward with grief?
Can we find a way to integrate loss into life, to carry it with us? Can we feel tragedy together, without an artificial line between those who are ready to move on and those who can’t see a way out?”

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

*   *   *

 

Department Of The Ghost Of Potlucks Past

As we near the end of mandatory indoor masking regulations, moiself  is thinking of the gradual return of social gatherings.  For our family such events will be small, at first…which has got me to daydreaming about our parties of yore.

We (MH and I, and offspring K and Belle, when they were still in the nest) used to host potluck dinners for family/neighbors/friends.  On a semi-regular basis (every 6 months to a year) we could host twenty to thirty people to feast and frolic.

The potlucks were themed; guests were asked to bring a dish having something to do with the theme.  There are some parties whose themes moiself  can’t recall and whose invitations I didn’t save (DAMN!); others, I will never forget.

Here is a sample of the themes, plus a brief description of what kind of foods/dishes guests were asked to bring. 

 

 

 

* Cusina Obscura
(foods of the “minor” or lesser known countries and/or cuisines, instead of the usual dining out suspects {Italian; French, Thai; Mexican. For example, find/make something Burmese instead of Chinese; Finnish instead of Swedish; Samoan instead of Hawaiian;) Uruguyan instead of Brazilian….)   [1]

* White Trash Food
(food you at one time liked and ate but now might be ashamed to admit it; e.g., a Wonder Bread mayo potato chip sandwich.  Basically, this gathering was a haute cuisine nightmare…and judging from the guests’ feedback, one of our most popular themes.
Our party’s centerpiece was a bottle of Pepto Bismol.   [2]  )

* The Dung Beetle Café
(food items must be round, or “rollable”)  [3]

*  All Things “P” Party
(all foods/dishes must have a word/ingredient beginning with the letter P)

* Better Red Than Dead
(food must be…wait for it…red. In some capacity.    [4])

 * Halfway to the Holidays
(party held in June; bring a dish which, to you, fairly screams fal-la-la-la-la/ yule/Christmas/Solstice whatever winter holiday you celebrate)

* PuPu Potluck
(as in the Hawaiian pupu platters – an all appetizer foods potluck )

* The Next Party
(inspired by a regular potluck party guest, who, when he encountered me at the grocery store or some public arena, asked,
“Isn’t it time for your next party?”   [5] )

 

 

Our friend BW, a regular potluck guest and gourmet chef with quite the cookbook collection, “gifted” us with this cookbook – along with a platter of the adore-mentioned potato chip sandwiches – when he attended our WT Foods party.

 

 

Here is a variant of our “standard” potluck party invitation (All Things “P” Party):

Potluck; Parsnips; Pickled peppers; Pasta; Peanuts; Pizza; Pesto
Pomegranate; Party; Porcini; Pirates; Parmigiano….

Do you pick up a pattern?  Perceptive person (or plural) that you are, you are invited to help us celebrate the glorious 16th letter of the alphabet by attending our
All Things “P” Potluck Party
Saturday October 7, 6:30 pm

Celebrate your culinary P-osity by bringing a dish to share with fellow potluck partakers.  This may be just the occasion you were looking for to dust off that recipe for Paprika Plum Pudding or Peruvian Pork Patties, or Papa’s favorite Purée of Prunes & Peas.

Your lovely and talented hosts will provide their usual combination of:
* joi de vivre and schadenfreude;
* plates, napkins, and tableware;
* restrooms sanitized for your protection;
* a motley assortment of leaded and unleaded beverages
(including Pepto Bismol for the prunes & peas partakers).

And yes, there will be Prizes awarded.  For…something.    [6]  

Here are just a few of the fabulous people who will  (not)  be attending the potluck:

-Monty Python’s Michael Palin
-Pancho Villa
-Dolly Parton
-Regis Philbin
-Sydney Poitier
-Plato
-Pandora
-Jean Luc Picard, Captain, USS Enterprise
-Emily Post
-Pocahontas
-Pongo the wonder chimp (Cheetah’s stunt double from the original “Tarzan” movies)

RSVP to _______.  Directions to our house, potluck suggestions, and personal hygiene tips will be provided upon request.

 

Actually, we were relieved Ms. Post could not attend the gathering, as we’d heard she was somewhat of a party pooper.

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Dinner Party Edition

Where does a baseball catcher sit at a dinner party?
Behind the plate.

I was so happy when son stopped chewing on his boogers at dinnertime.
He’s no longer a picky eater.

I invited a couple of Vikings to dinner, and they kept tapping on the table and laughing.
When I finally asked what was so funny, they said,
“You wouldn’t get it; it’s Norse code.”

My husband was mortified when I mentioned his underwear at a dinner party.
It was a brief conversation.

My cannibal neighbor showed up two hours late to my dinner party.
I gave him the cold shoulder.

 

Can we please extend cancel culture to cannibal jokes?

 

*   *   *

 

May you enjoy a gradual return to social gatherings;
May you learn to look at grief, even when you’d rather run away;
May being the subject of bad puns someday be enough
to depose Russian war criminals;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

[1] Our friend’s young adult son brought live meal worms to this event, which he sautéed, on a pan on our stove, in garlic and olive oil.  Not every guest was game;  I tried them  (after my third glass of champagne).

[2] This theme was inspired by a “white trash dinner” contest a group of fellow dormies and I had in college, one night when we were bored and looking for an excuse not to do homework.  (the one Native American, one Black, and one Philipino dormies in attendance asked for special dispensation for their contest entries to be considered White Trash ® ).  We shared stories of foods our respective families served, a dish which we’d grown up eating, but which embarrassed and/or horrified us to think of it now.  Then we all voted on which was “best” (read: worst).  My entry was my family’s fried Spam slices topped with Velveeta.  Guess who won that contest?

[3] Motivation for this theme came via a dinner I made which my offspring thought was too challenging to their palates (think of Thai curry when they wanted pizza), which led me into a good humored tirade about how, when I was a kid, I loved the opportunity to try new foods…and that they were lucky to have me for a mom:  “If I were a mother wolf I would be regurgitating your dinner for you…or, what if we were a family of dung beetles, and night after night it was the same thing:  ‘Hey mom what’s for dinner?  Oh, boy, dung balls again!’  “

[4] Surprisingly, we did *not* get 15 dishes featuring tomato sauce.  People used their imagination: red beans & rice; beet juice risotto; Red Hot Chili Pepper layer cake…. and our fear that we might end up dining on nothing but cabernet and ketchup was for naught.

[5] But I can’t remember what the food theme was.

[6] We usually had potluck party guests take a quiz, which I prepared, containing multiple choice questions having something (widely interpreted) to do with the party’s theme.  Prizes were given out for the high (and low) scorers.

The Five Star Rating I’m Not Giving

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Department Of All Of Us Probably Already Know This…
Why Five Ratings Are Almost Meaningless

Dateline: last week; 7:45 am-ish;  [1]  returning from a morning walk; listening to a podcast. At the end of the episode one of the podcast hosts says, without a detectable tinge of shame as per the audacity of her blatant hyperbole-scrounging:

“…if you like this podcast please, go online and give it a five-star rating.”

I do like the podcast.  But, as I understand it,  a five star rating means that the rating system being referred to goes from one to five stars.  Now, moiself  can like something and give it three or four stars instead of five.

Why not sign off with, “If you like our podcast please consider writing a review of it on ____.”  Don’t tell me how you want me to rate it; you might as well just write all the reviews yourself.   [2]   If all the reviews are five stars then five stars isn’t anything special.

Repeat after me, class:  if everyone gets a trophy, no one *really* got a trophy.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Breaking News…

I do not refer to retirement of Tom Brady.   C’mon, who ( certainly not moiself ) gives a FF about a multimillionaire football player, simultaneously the winning-est and cheating-est in his sport, hanging up his helmet (thus stopping both the winning and the cheating, I presume).  Yeah, sure – make an announcement.  But over and over….

Once again, I digress.

The breaking news to which I refer is is is Re Whoopi Goldberg getting suspended from The View over her comments that The Holocaust was “not about race.”

And why, you may ask, were the hosts and/or guests of The View talking about the Holocaust?  I didn’t see the show; apparently the subject was a Tennessee school districts’ banning of the holocaust-themed graphic novel, Maus, and the subject took off from there.

 

 

And yep, when I read what Goldberg said I thought, Whoa; she blew it.  But when I read her explanation/apology – about how she thinks of race – I realized that there’s more to it that meets the eye…or ear.

“In a later appearance on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show on Monday, Ms. Goldberg apologized, explaining that, as a Black person, she thinks of racism as being based on skin color but that she realized not everyone sees it that way.”
(ABC Suspends Whoopi Goldberg Over Holocaust Comments)

On The View Goldberg posited that The Holocaust was about “man’s inhumanity to man,” and that since “these are two white groups of people” (Germans and Jews) The holocaust “was not about race.”  Apparently she didn’t realize how much and specifically the Nazis considered the Jews to be a race, even if scientifically that isn’t true.

IMO, one of the greatest errors in cultural anthropology was the creation of the term, “race” (yet another gift to civilization from the British, who considered the Irish to be an inferior race).  If I ruled the world, we’d get rid of that classification.  There are no races, save for the human race – with a variety of ethnicities and cultures….

However, the Nazis didn’t know or care about *other* definitions of race. And like many – if not the majority – of us, it seems that Goldberg knew *what* the Nazis did, but not the reasons  *why* they did what they did.

And if moiself  may digress for a moment, it’s funny (to me) to be writing that word – Whoopi’s last name – in terms of this discussion.  The EGOT-winning actor/comic/author talk show host, Whoopi Goldberg, was born Caryn Johnson, and chose a Jewish surname for her professional name.  Holy meme confusion – and now, with this brouhaha, does this mean that Caryn who became Whoopi has become a Karen?

 

 

Not for a moment do I think Goldberg is antisemitic, or racist against Jews.  I do think that, like so many of us, she was either ignorant of and/or misinformed about the Nazis’ justification for their “Final Solution“:  i.e., she mistakenly thought it was religious or cultural prejudice which drove the Nazis.  Indeed, Nazi speeches and literature were peppered with the language of Christian Nationalist hatred of the non-Aryan/non-Christian, but their primary, anti-Jewish focus was the Jewish “race,” not religion.

The Holocaust seems to be, in some cases, fading into the pantheon of Really Bad People In World History.  People remember that the Nazis were the baddest of the bad – they killed 6 million Jews and 5 million other people belonging to groups they didn’t like – but forget (or never fully knew in the first place) the ideology behind why they were the baddest of the bad.

* Hitler and other Nazi leaders viewed the Jews not as a religious group, but as a poisonous “race,” which “lived off” the other races and weakened them.
* …the Nazi Party…political agenda…embodies racism. It demands racial purity in Germany; proclaims Germany’s destiny to rule over inferior races; and identifies Jews as racial enemies.
(excerpts from Holocaust Encyclopedia: Nazi Racism)

*  The Holocaust saw Nazi Germans systematically persecute Jews on the basis of an ideology that saw Jewish people as an inferior race and a threat to other races.
* The Nazis, and Hitler, went to great lengths to describe and define Jews as a race.
(Politifact, “Goldberg wrongly claims the holocaust was ‘not about race.’ ” )

Goldberg’s misassumption that The Holocaust was not about race is a historical oversight and/or educational mistake, easily correctable.  So, why suspend her?

During her appearance on Steven Colbert’s show, Goldberg further explained, re her Holocaust remarks, 

“I feel, being Black, when we talk about race it’s a very different thing to me….
But I thought it was a salient discussion because, as a Black person, I think of race as being something that I can see.”

 

 

That is a very important, very revealing statement, and (to me) also very understandable.  Goldberg is not the first person who, having experienced racism herself, has (perhaps unintentionally) played a variation of the “My people have it worse” or the “*That’s* not racism; lemme tell you what is racism” card.

I’d love to hear that issue discussed in depth.   And I think it would be beneficial for everyone who was there during the discussion (whence Goldberg’s initial remarks) to hash it out on the same “air,” so that, for example, the historians and Holocaust experts who called Goldberg to task could share their information and viewpoints with her, and the other hosts, and the audience. After all, isn’t the show she was suspended from called, The View?

*   *   *

Department Of Gung Hay Fat Choi, y’all.

 

 

Earlier this week I and MH were up in Tacoma, where our daughter Belle made us a Yummers ® Lunar New Year feast.  Moiself  used to refer to the celebration as The Chinese New Year, ®  because that’s how I knew about it via demographics.   [3]  However, many cultures and countries other than China celebrate The Lunar New Year, and ’tis likely the Tibetans and Koreans don’t care for the *Chinese* new year label.

Moiself  doesn’t, of course, “believe in” Chinese astrology, any more (or less) than I give credence to the silly, pre-scientific, superstitious idea that the month/date “alignment of planets and other celestial bodies” (i.e., the western zodiac) on the day of one’s birth has anything to do with one’s basic personality traits and fortune.  But, hey, (almost) any excuse for a celebration is fine by me.

*   *   *

Department Of Monkeyshines

Dateline: Monday, 6:15 am-ish.  MH and I arrived in Tacoma yesterday, for a few day’s visit with daughter Belle.  We’re up early this morning because Belle wants to do the annual “monkeyshines” search.  In Tacoma, around the time of the lunar new year, certain glass artists hide little baubles (monkeyshines) around in public places in city parks and other accessible areas.

 

A monkeyshine in a tree.

 

MH and moiself  are staying for three nights at the McMenamin’s Elks Temple  hotel, where I have stayed several times over the past three year.   [4] .  It’s a typical McMenamin’s joint – quirky and fun, good food and drink and entertainment and unique ambiance. My one gripe: There is no good parking for overnight guests at or around the Elks Lodge.  As their web site says:

“Elks Temple is located in downtown Tacoma, and parking options vary…”

Read: We’re in downtown Tacoma, and your parking options suck.

Downtown Tacoma, like many big cities, is plagued by street crime. There is metered parking in some of the streets surrounding The Elks Temple, a paid lot a few blocks away, but no dedicated hotel parking.  So, if you’re staying at the hotel and are lucky enough to find a nearby parking space, you have to move your vehicle every two hours (until 6 pm, when meter hours are over and start again at 8 am). If you go anywhere and come back in the early evening (after 6pm), when the lodge is jumping with its variety of its bars and restaurants and music options being patronized by non-hotel guests, you will not find a space near the lodge, until possibly late at night.  Which was the case when we arrived on Sunday.

After we spent some time with Belle, we tried to check in to the hotel but were unable to find any parking.  MH circled the building several times, finally let me out to check us in, then found a parking spot a block and a half away, up a hill, within eyesight of the hotel.

Back to the dateline, Monday am:  we leave the hotel early, get in the car, and as we are driving to pick up Belle at her apartment, we hear intermittent rattling sounds coming from the back of the car.  I say, “Did you pack a box of gravel?” to MH, who was driving.  I was somewhat serious, as the rear of the car had been packed with tools and lumber for a project of Belle’s, but we’d cleared the car of all of that the previous night, leaving it all in her apartment, emptying our car save for three bags of emergency supplies. MH replied, “Noooooo….”  He looked in the rear view mirror, and barely stifled a gasp.   “But our rear windshield is smashed.”

 

 

MH pulled over, and we got out to see what we hadn’t noticed when we got into the car.  Indeed, the rattling sound we’d been hearing were the sounds of the pieces of safety glass, which were still attached to the remaining edges of (what had been) the rear windshield, dropping down onto the inside/back of the car.

At first we thought nothing was missing; no one seems to have gotten into the vehicle or rifled through the glove compartment or anyplace else.  The idiot(s) who did it just smashed and moved on, as far as we could tell.   [5]    This very thing happened to Belle a few years back, when she lived four blocks up from the hotel: some street asshole disturbed soul one walked along one night, smashing the side and/or rear windows of every other car he passed (but didn’t stop to steal anything from any of the cars).  Not long after that, someone did a similar thing in her neighborhood, stealing from the first car whose window he smashed, then smashing the windows of the neighboring cars…just because he could.

 

 

Seriously.  Apparently this is not an uncommon crime in Tacoma. Lovely.

As you might imagine, this put a damper on my monkeyshines-looking-for spirit.  While MH and Belle searched Wright Park in the dark, I half-heartedly followed along, using my cellphone flashlight to look into trees and monument nooks and crannies while phoning various Tacoma car dealerships and auto shops.

 

The Wright Park Lions.

 

I found an auto glass repair shop which squeezed us in for an emergency “wrap” of the rear window space, but they did not have the necessary glass to replace the windshield.  Summary of my many calls: Y’all know all those empty shelves and spaces you see at the supermarket and other stores? The car parts industries are having the same supply and shipping problems.  As of this writing I am back in Hillsboro, with an appointment to have the rear window of my car replaced…sometime…pending the arrival of the part.

 

Maybe someone finally took issue with my bumper stickers.

 

MH and Belle and I went out to breakfast, circa 9 am, after our monkeyshines search.   [6]    I informed our son K about our crime victim status, via text, while we were waiting for our food to arrive, and ended with, “Well, at least I’m handling it better than I would have 20 years ago.”

K’s response:
“How would the Robyn of 20 years ago have handled it?”

Moiself:
 “With much more profanity.”    [7]

 

Coda the first:  at the aforementioned restaurant – Shakabra, which I highly recommend if you’re ever looking for a yummers breakfast in Tacoma –  when our waiter greeted us with the standard (but sincere,  moiself  truly believed), “How’s everyone doing this morning?” I decided to answer him truthfully.  I said something along the lines of “Ok, except for having our rear windshield smashed this morning….”  He shook his head in sympathy and disgust, and said, “I’m sorry; I hear that happens a lot in Tacoma.”

Coda the second:  Later the next morning, MH and I were discussing what to bring back for K, who was watching our two cats in his Portland home while we were up visiting his sister.  We both brought up getting him a t-shirt from the vast McMenamins collectionmoiself  suggested we ask the Elks Temple staff if we could special order a shirt with McMenamins’ iconic Hammerhead Ale logo, with the hammer striking a car windshield….

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Automotive Edition

I have a sad tale about a European car… never mind.
You don’t want to hear my Saab story.

When we were kids, my cousins used to stuff me in a car tire
and roll it down a big hill.  Ah yes; those were the Goodyears.

A thief stole the wheels off my car last night.
I’m working tirelessly to catch him.

 

“Don’t you think I’d make her stop if I could?”

*   *   *

May you handle adversity better than you did 20 years ago;
May you have a stupendous Year of the Tiger;
May you rate this blog nine out of five stars;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Not Amish.

[2] Already happening, I’d bet.

[3] Most of the people I’d known who celebrated it were of Chinese ancestry, and my SIL was born and raised in Canton.

[4] Although MH has visited the Elks Temple – Belle used to work there – this was his first time staying overnight at its hotel.

[5] Two days later, the morning we drove back to Oregon, we were transferring our car’s items – which we’d put in Belle’s apartment for safekeeping – back to our car, and discovered that one of our car’s emergency bags was missing.  So, the window-smashing asshat got a black bag filled with earthquake and other disaster emergency supplies.

[6] We – ahem, make that, moiself – did find one!  It was a white marble with an orange streak, hidden in the curled tail of one of the Wright Park Lions statues. Not a true monkeyshines, but Belle said it counts:  “In addition to glass balls, Monkeyshine items include marbles, ceramic medallions, teacups and ornaments made by Tacoma artists.”  (Hunting for Art and Community in Tacoma: the Monkeyshines Project))

[7] Note the subtle indication that there was not a complete lack of cussin.’

The Shows I’m Not Watching

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Department Of I Dare You To Listen To This Without Crying

The 11th: A Letter From George

I need to rephrase that, because moiself  *wants* you to listen to this Radio podcast, even though it will make you cry.  [1]   Because a person you love, maybe even your own self, is either walking in Matt’s shoes, or will be, someday.

Matt is the grieving man who is interviewed in this The 11th: A Letter From George  podcast, which, as per the Radiolab website, is part of a series

“… of mini pep talks designed to help us all get through this cold, dark,
second-pandemic-winter-in-a-row.
But this is about someone trying to get through something arguably much more difficult, something a pep talk can’t solve, but that a couple friends — and one very generous stranger — might be able to help make a little more bearable.”

 

 

In the interview, Matt tells how he wrote about his loss and grief to a man who was, essentially, a stranger, after a friend had given Matt an excerpt from a book by this stranger, the author George Saunders.  Matt found Saunders’ writing touching, and beneficial in that it wasn’t cliched:

“….he didn’t say it was going to get better;
he didn’t expect me to think that it was going to get better.
All it was, was just making me feel that the way I’m feeling is okay.”

Matt read from the letter he wrote to Saunders:

“Hello.  I just lost my fiancé two weeks ago, and she was buried last Saturday. She was 29; we had just moved into our first house together and we were about to start our life. A friend send me an excerpt from your new novel and I keep it with me always…. I don’t even know if anyone will see this, but I just want you to know that you have helped me.  I don’t even know what to do anymore, so thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve never experienced loss like this, and the only thing that’s keeping me from taking my life is that I know what it does to others. Be well.”

To Matt’s surprise, Saunders wrote back. 

“Dear Matt. Oh, I am so so sorry for your loss.
That must be just unspeakably difficult….
I don’t really know what to say, except that someone told me this recently: that grief is a form of praise.
You are praising the wonder of the person you lost. The great pain you are feeling means great love.  I can’t imagine that helps, but it is true.
It is like cause and effect, you really saw and knew and cherished her – that’s what your grief is proving
, and proving that she was wonderful, and that you appreciated that….”   [2]

 

 

Saunders later reached out to Matt on social media, to check in with him.  Their correspondence is beyond touching.

You deserve, and probably need ,  [3]  a good cry, followed by a good uplift.  You’ll get both if you listen to that episode.

*   *   *

Department Of Not The Murder Mystery Show I Was Expecting

 

Trigger warning: The following contains references to a “fact-based” TV series about murdered family members.

Dateline: two weeks ago, MH and I began watching A Confession, a six part BritBox series currently streaming on various services.  I knew next to nothing about it; I thought it was going to be a typical murder mystery.  But there wasn’t much of a mystery: the person who *seemed* to be the obvious perpetrator *was* the perpetrator.

Moiself  only made it to the first part episode three when I realized where the series was headed.  Despite the stellar acting and writing, I had to get up and leave the room.

 

 

It’s not a genre I spend a lot of time watching (or reading); still, it seems to me that in the typical murder mystery, the murder itself is or becomes almost a side note, to get the plot rolling to focus on

* the investigation and the antics of various law enforcement stock characters
(the jaded veteran, the /overenthusiastic but naive new recruit, etc.);

* the machinations of the legal/criminal justice system;

* what the crime and/or its investigation says about the larger culture.

The victim and family are not the primary focus.  In many cases where the story is an adaptation of a murder/mystery novel, you don’t even care about the victim, who is portrayed as an unsympathetic character, thus sparking the whodunit intrigue (“Whodunit?  The dude was a devious, hateful SOB – everybody who knew him had reason to dunit to him.”)

But A Confession, during the second episode, began to home in on the aftermath for the murdered young women’s families – their profound sorrows, horrors, regrets; their wrenching questions which will never be answered.  This change in focus is a change I welcome for the genre…in theory.  In practice, it turned out I was unprepared, and it proved to be too much for moiself  to continue watching.

 

 

Perhaps because the subject personal is to me, I can’t help but wonder:  do people who write these stories actually have close friends or family members who have been killed? I’m not talking about the classic or typical murder mystery series, many of which (e.g. the genre’s novels by Agatha Christie; Sayers, Grafton’s “alphabetical series”  [4]   )  seem to be almost…comical is not quite the word I’m looking for, but the tone is definitely light.  

But A Confession was quite dramatic and realistic,   [5]  in terms of showing the overwhelming emotional consequences haunting a murder victim’s family and friends.  And thus, my wondering:  would anyone who has experienced this kind of a tragedy write such a story for…entertainment? And that’s what it is, isn’t it?  We are watching a story about murder, to…pass the time, and amuse ourselves?  Even if “fact-based,” the stories are not documentaries; we’re not watching them for edification, or to be informed as to, say, how we can avoid serial killers. And that proposition seems odd, to me.

Confession A: I was riveted to “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” the HBO documentary based on the book of the same name, about the serial rapist and murderer known as the Golden State Killer.  Even though I knew what happened and how it ended,  [6]  moiself  still wanted to see the portrayal of (at least partial) justice done, as I felt a connection to the story.  I was in college near the area where the GSK started his crime spree – back then he was known as the East Area Rapist ( moiself  previously blogged about his capture).

Confession B: Silence of the Lambs is one of my all-time favorite movies – although I’ve no doubt it would *not* be if it were a true story.  Still, are A and B hypocrisies, or inconsistencies, on my part? 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Watch This Instead

That would be the National Geographic documentary, The Rescue.

You are likely at least somewhat familiar with the against-all-odds, how-the-hell-didn’t-they-all-die ?!?!?, amazing true story The Rescue tells. If not, here’s a teaser:

One day in June 2018, members of Thai boys soccer team and their coach went for a hike in the Tham Luang cave.  Most of the boys had been inside the cave before – exploring it was something of a local rite of passage, and they wanted to go further inside than they’d gone before, as part of a team-building exercise.  (Two team members, who were tired and/or not feeling well did not go into the cave).

The cave became flooded; rising waters from sudden torrential rains blocked the exit and trapped twelve boys (ages 11 -16) and their 25-year-old coach when they were 2.5 miles from the cave’s entrance.  Despite heroic efforts by Thai Navy SEAL divers,   [7]  search and rescue efforts were obstructed by the rising waters and strong currents within the cave.  Having no contact with the trapped party for a week, Thai authorities summoned British rescue divers specializing in cave diving, who found the group alive, trapped on a cave ledge.  But how the heck were they going to get them out?  An international rescue operation was mounted….

 

You’ll feel baby-sloth-heart-warmed, after watching this inspiring story.

 

*   *   *

Department Of A Flawless Segue To Yet Another Content Warning:

 

 

Department Of Next Time, Why Not Adopt An Egalitarian Mixed Breed?

Did you know that at least 60% of Golden Retrievers will develop cancer, and that cancer is the leading cause of death in all but 11 purebred dog breeds?

Calling all dog lovers:  please consider boycotting watching the Westminster Kennel Dog Show, and all other such grotesque spectacles which celebrate the dog “breed standards,” which contribute to people’s preference for purebreds, which is responsible for the lack of genetic diversity within “pure” breeds and the resulting decline in the health of such dogs.

Holy doggy-do disposal device – think about it: the very term “purebred” reeks of…well, privilege (and even canine racism, one could argue).

And remember, the  so-called “royal” families around the world have shown us what inbreeding can lead to.

 

 

“By age five, for example, half of all King Cavalier Spaniels will develop mitral valve disease, a serious heart condition that leaves the dogs susceptible to premature death. By the same age, up to 70 percent will suffer from canine syringomyelia, a debilitating neurological disorder in which the brain is too large for the skull, causing severe pain in the neck and shoulders, along with damage to parts of the dog’s spinal cord. And although Cavaliers may be a particularly obvious case of purebreds with problems, they aren’t alone. Most purebred dogs today are at a high risk for numerous inherited diseases….

For almost 4,000 years people have been breeding dogs for certain traits….But the vast number of modern breeds—and the roots of their genetically caused problems—came about over the past two centuries, as dog shows became popular and people began selectively inbreeding the animals to have specific physical features. Over time the American Kennel Club (AKC) and other such organizations have set standards defining what each variety should look like. To foster the desired appearance, breeders often turn to line breeding—a type of inbreeding that mates direct relatives, such as grandmother and grandson.”
(“Although Purebred Dogs Can Be Best in Show, Are They Worst in Health?”

Scientific American )

Because some humans think it’s cute for a dog to have, for example, a smashed-in face (ala the pug and bulldog varieties), dogs have been bred to emphasize features and traits that humans find adorable but which are in fact genetic disorders and malformations.

 

That’s shocking…but, what about cats?

 

The multi-exotic-breed-mania has infected the cat world to a lesser degree.  You don’t see the extremes in domestic cats:

*  43 – 71 recognized breeds (depending on what authority you listen to) ranging in size from a 5 lb Singapura to a 20 lb Main Coon

that you do in dogs:

* 360 recognized breeds, ranging from a 4 lb Chihuahua to a 300 lb English Mastiff.

Many veterinarians, biologists, cat breed associations, and other animal lovers want to keep it that way.  Noting that it is cruel to breed animals with genetic deformities intentionally, they protest the breeding of The Munchkin (aka “sausage cat”), a relatively new breed of cat characterized by very short legs caused by a genetic mutation.

While many people think Munchkins are cute (and call them the “wiener dogs” cats), their stunted limbs impact their mobility – they struggle to run and jump, and suffer from back and hip problems similar to those experienced by short-legged dog breeds.   [8]

 

Cute? Sure, if you think animals should be bred for debilitating and painful deformities to amuse you.

 

“Much controversy erupted over the breed when it was recognized by The International Cat Association (TICA) in 1997 with critics voicing concern over potential health and mobility issues.    Many pedigree cat associations around the world have refused to recognize the Munchkin cat due to the welfare of the breed and severity of the health issues,  including the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy.
(Wikipedia, Munchkin cat entry)

“Andrew Prentis, of Hyde Park Veterinary Centre has warned that it’s cruel to breed the cats knowing of their physical defects.  He said: ‘The cat in its natural form has evolved over thousands of years to be pretty well designed and to be very efficient, healthy and athletic.  The idea that someone wants to breed them to have effectively no legs and for entirely cosmetic reasons is very disappointing.’ …

A spokesperson for PETA told Metro.co.uk: ‘Let’s leave cats be and admire them for their natural selves. They’re not bonsai trees to be contorted into unnatural shapes on a selfish whim.

‘The demand for ‘designer pets’ is fueling cruel breeding practices that cause animals to suffer from painful, debilitating conditions such as lordosis, whereby their spinal muscles grow too short, meaning that the spine arches inwards, because their bodies are unnaturally long. People who buy them view them in the same way one might a designer handbag – and once the novelty wears off, many animals will inevitably be abandoned, putting extra strain on already overburdened shelters.

‘And while breeders continue to profit from churning out felines with genetic mutations, thousands of healthy, highly adoptable cats languish in shelters, just waiting for someone to take them home.’

( excerpts from “Vets are warning animal-lovers to stay away from the cruel trend
for so-called sausage cats.”  UK Metro )

Please, please, next time, adopt a mixed-breed, aka, a mutt.  If the demand for “pure” breeds (and “designer” breeds   [9]  and hybrids   [10])  goes away, so will the supply.

  

We’ll see you at the shelter!

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Royal Inbred Family Edition

The 17th century French royalty depleted their treasury…
I guess you could say they were baroque.

What was the Russian royalty’s favorite fish?
Czardines.

My dentist told me that I am a royal descendant!
I get my crown next week.

What member of the royal family should always carry an umbrella?
The Reigning Monarch.

 

*   *   *

May you advocate for the mutts of this world;
May you appreciate the heroic efforts of rescue divers
(while not being reckless enough to need their services);
May you forgive yourself for enjoying Silence of the Lambs;   [11]

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] If it doesn’t, then there’s something wrong with you.  Yes, that’s judgmental of me, but here, in this space, I am The Judge.  What, you didn’t get the memo?

[2] Excerpts from Saunders’ response (my emphases).

[3] Yeah, presumptive of moiself, isn’t it?

[4] “A is for Alibi…”B is for Burglar”… “C is for Corpse”….

[5] From what I saw, which, again, is why I couldn’t watch the series to its conclusion.

[6] I’d read the book.

[7] One of whom tragically died during an attempted rescue.

[8] (e.g. dachshunds and corgis, which were also bred for a naturally occurring but distorting and potentially crippling genetic mutations)

[9] For example, labradoodles, whose creator later lamented his decision to create the breed, saying, “I opened a Pandora box and released a Frankenstein monster.” (“Health Problems in Labradoodles.”)

[10] Four Facts About Hybrid Dogs Unethical Breeders Don’t Want You to Know

[11] Which is a finely crafted film, from writing, directing, acting, cinematography and soundtrack – the whole cinematic enchilada.

The S-Words I’m Not Mispronouncing

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Department Of Starting The New Year With A Memory Of Teacher Appreciation

Someone once lost an argument with me….

 

 

No; really.

Someone once lost an argument with me….

 

Who does she think she is, ME ?!?

(hint: this is called, foreshadowing)

I’ll try again.

Someone once lost an argument with me re the correct the answer to the question, “What is the USA’s ‘National Pastime’?'”  Someone said the answer was baseball; moiself  pointed out that our national pastime is criticizing other people’s parenting skills.  [1]  Someone began his rebuttal, then quickly conceded.

Another easy target for critique is K-12 schoolteachers. I recently ran across some grousing about teachers, which caused me to reflect upon how it is so easy – too easy – to look back and criticize schools and teachers, to parse what they neglected to do, or what they did do, but did wrongly or inadequately.    [2]   I wanted to take a different tack, to start the new year.  And so, here is A Good Thing ® which happened to me, when I was in grade 3, courtesy of select staff members of Wilson Elementary School.

 

“I have to have that Parnell girl in my class?  Give me a minute while I check my Valium supply….”

 

Background info (as in, a memory spark):  Dateline: a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (college, late 1970s).  I was out to dinner with my Boyfriend. In a tender moment ® and apropos of something I cannot now recall, BF reached across the table, used his index finger to brush a strand hair off of my forehead, and said he’d noticed that, sometimes when I was tired and/or had something cold to drink  (I was drinking a glass of ice water at the time   [3]  ), I spoke with a soft lisp. BF said he found that little tic of mine to be “adorable.”

I thought he was nucking futs, and told him so.

 

 

What was he talking about – nobody had ever said anything like that to me?!  For some reason, moiself  was…not pleased. But I asked a couple of close friends, who confirmed BF’s observation.  The next night I telephoned my parents, and my mother filled me in.

“Oh, I haven’t thought of that in years – don’t you remember?” she began.

Up until age eight or nine I apparently spoke with a slight lisp. I say “apparently” because I have no recollection of having done so.  But after the afore-mentioned memory spark inspired me to phone home, my mother confirmed that, yes, I’d spoken with a “minor” lisp as a child.  Mom said that they (my parents) had consulted with my early teachers (grades K-2), who advised *against* giving me any speech treatment or therapy. Their reasoning was that I was an early and confident reader, a “social leader” among the other students,   [4]  and a straight A student. In other words, my lisp did not seem to be an impediment in my life. It was barely obvious to adults, and I wasn’t teased about it by other children.  Why risk singling me out and making me feel like there was something wrong with me?

However, my third-grade teacher advocated for speech therapy, which my parents agreed to. Thus, for a couple of months I got excused from class, twice a week in the afternoon, to go to a special group therapy meeting, with other kids in the school who also lisped.

Wait a minute, Mom, seriously? Wouldn’t I remember this?

It took me a moment, and then I had the face-palming realization:

Holy Misarticulated sibilants –THAT was speech therapy?!?!?

 

 

I had completely forgotten about that group.

Indeed, for a period of a little less than two months, third-grader moiself  got to leave class a couple of times a week, during afternoon reading sessions, to join a group of four or five other kids (all of them younger than I and in the first or second grades), and we got to play board games.

As the memory came back, I recalled thinking at the time that the games were somewhat childish – but, hey, it got me out of class and doing something different.  Also, my teacher and the nice young woman (the speech therapist, although I didn’t know that that’s what she was) who ran the games acted like it was an honor to be chosen for the group.

The games consisted of the participant students rolling dice and hopping their game tokens around a game board.  When you landed on certain squares you had to draw a card from the pile of cards next to that square, and pronounce the words or describe the pictures and/or actions being depicted on the cards – all of which…hmmm…started with an S, or sometimes a Z or Th  (“Three sealions are serving seaweed soup and sandwiches to Sally.“)   The speech therapist looking on would make some comments about pronunciation, but after the first few sessions she mostly hung back, as the students began to correct one another.  And then we’d get candy, or some kind of prize.

 

 

Here is where the Teachers  [5]  Doing Their Job Right ® comes in.

I’ve heard other adults tell of how they (or their children) were embarrassed for needing special help in school – whether for speech or physical or academic impediments – in part because of how they were singled out and/or removed from class to receive the tutoring they needed.  Not only did I have no shame whatsoever in going to (what I did not realize was) speech therapy, I thought it was yet another privilege I was given, like being able to go to The Back Of The Class without asking for my teacher’s permission.

The Back Of The Class, consisting of a table and two bookshelves, was the class’s mini-library.  Those students who finished their work early during individual project times (and who had been deemed by the teacher to be mature enough to self-monitor their behavior) could get up from their desks, quietly go to the back of the room, and take whatever book they wanted from the library back to their desk.

 

 

I consistently finished my in-class assignments earlier than the other students. My teacher noted this early on in the school year; she also noted how I got easily bored (and prone to mischief involving distracting my peers) when I had nothing to do.  She wisely instituted the “class library policy,” and so I got to read Kon Tiki (for what seemed like 20 times) and other adventure stories, instead of just sitting in my seat fidgeting while my classmates finished their math worksheets, handwriting practice, etc.

My teacher had already enlisted me in helping other students with their multiplication tables and spelling lists; it was an easy leap for moiself  to think that the speech therapy board games were yet another way in which I was being recruited to help Other Kids ®.  The teacher’s and therapist’s deft handling of the situation – aided in part by my own cluelessness – had me thinking that I was getting rewarded for academic success by being able to leave class –  *not* having to stay after class, or miss part of recess or lunch break – and go play games (even if it was with other kids who talked funny).

 

*   *   *

Departments Of One Of The Word’s Cruelest Ironies

BTW: Whose brilliant idea was it, for the word lisp to have an s in it?

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Keeping The Relationship Fresh,
Chapter 198 In A Never-Ending Series

Dateline: January 2; MH and I go for a “Second Day”   hike  [6]  at the newly opened Chehalem Ridge Nature Reserve. The reserve is home to upland forests, oak woodlands wetlands and other habits, and its ten miles of intersecting trails offers several lovely views of the Tualatin Valley, Mt. Hood, and other Willamette Valley/Portland Metro area sights.  The area’s recent snowfalls were an added hiking bonus (read: a challenge, re icy trails), and were a good backdrop for other kinds of nature observations, such as this picture MH took, and posted on FB:

 

MH’s caption: “Can anyone identify this scat with a size 13 shoe for scale?”

 

MH received comments, ranging from helpful to guffaw-worthy, in response to his question.  The science/biology-minded folks got into comments re color and texture, while others just enjoyed the possibility for thinly-disguised poop jokes.

Moiself’s contributions included:

– It’s slightly greenish, with the striations that may be… Plant matter?… Fur? But it’s not pellets so it’s not a deer or other ungulate
– Our biology-trained daughter (who has also worked with big cats) thinks it’s bobcat scat, and that the striations are fur, not plant matter.

 Other scoops on the (presumed) poop:

– The tapered end and size makes me think Coyote.
The green is odd, was it near a wetland?
-To me it looks like a cat’s fur ball hack…
which would explain the fur and greenish liquid oozing.

Then, this past Monday morning, I saw that MH had made an addition to his post:

“I tried googling for bobcat hair balls. There’s a video of a bobcat bringing one up, but I didn’t come across any good pictures. There was this lengthy page that includes stories of domestic vs bobcat….”

To which moiself  had to reply:

“I tried googling for bobcat hair balls.”
Now, there’s an afternoon well spent.

I have heard that *gentle* teasing can keep a relationship young.   [7]  That may be debatable, but surely one of the more fulfilling aspects of a decades-long relationship is discovering something that you are surprised to know about your partner. Never would I have predicted, as a new bride over thirty-some years ago, that a sentence containing the phrase “…googling for bobcat hairballs” would ever be used by my beloved.

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Scat Edition

Did you hear about the monkey who was arrested for throwing its feces at zoo patrons?
She was charged with Turd debris assault.

Why did the Packy the elephant bring toilet paper to the zebra’s birthday bash?
Because Packy was a party pooper.

Remember, dog owners, when you walk the dog you have to pick up its poop.
It’s your doo diligence.

Why is Chuck Norris’s dog trained to pick up its own poop?
Because Chuck Norris doesn’t take shit from any one.

Chuck Norris doesn’t flush the toilet.
He scares the shit out of it.

Yeah, I know, scat is typically used to denote animal feces, but I’ve heard that making at least one Chuck Norris Joke ®  – aka, reciting a Chuck Norris “fact” – at the beginning of the year is a guarantee of good fortune in the weeks to come.   [8]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Bonus Round Of You-Know-Who Jokes

(Happy New Year to son K, who once brought me to helpless tears of stomach-cramping, snotty-nosed laughter when he loaned me his Chuck Norris Factbook to read while we were seated in a booth in a restaurant, waiting for our lunch to arrive).

* Chuck Norris doesn’t read books.
He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.

* The flu gets a Chuck Norris shot every year.

* When Chuck Norris plays dodgeball, the balls dodge him.

* Chuck Norris doesn’t worry about high gas prices. His vehicles run on fear.

* The Dead Sea was alive before Chuck Norris swam there.

* When Chuck Norris was born, he drove his mom home from the hospital.

* There is no theory of evolution, just a list of animals Chuck Norris allows to live.

 

* Death once had a near-Chuck-Norris experience.

* There is no chin behind Chuck Norris’ beard. There is only another fist.

* MC Hammer learned the hard way that Chuck Norris can touch this.

* Chuck Norris has been to Mars. That’s why there are no signs of life there.

* Chuck Norris can strangle you with a cordless phone.

* If Chuck Norris traveled to an alternate dimension in which there was another
Chuck Norris and they both fought, they would both win.

* Chuck Norris’ farts smell like freshly baked cinnamon rolls.

*   *   *

Okay; I gotta get control here.  Seriously; somebody stop me; this could go on forever.

* Chuck Norris counted to infinity — twice.

 

 

*   *   *

May you have a legitimate reason for “googling hairballs;”
May you cherish memories of a really good teacher;
May you read a series of Chuck Norris jokes that makes you laugh so hard
you fear a proverbial pants-wetting session may ensue;

 

Chuck Norris peed here.

 

…and may the (continent) hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] All together now: specifically, mothers.

[2] I am not in anyway implying that teachers should be immune from critique…and I have *plenty* of I-can’t-believe-they-did-this examples from my own life as a student, who had to deal with massive teacher fails.

[3] His theory was that the ice numbed my tongue, making it easy for my mouth and tongue to slip back into my former lisp, which I was subconsciously controlling…or something like that.

[4] Is that teacher-speak for, “bossy?”

[5] I include the speech therapist in that category.

[6]  “First Day Hikes are part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks to encourage people to get outdoors.  On New Year’s Day, hundreds of free, guided hikes will be organized in all 50 states….” (from “First Day Hikes,” American Hiking Society )

[7] That, and appreciation – or at least toleration – of fart jokes.  And, this should go without saying (so I’ll type it,) farts.

[8] That is something I just made up.  But it makes as much sense as any of the “Doing _____ will guarantee good luck in the new year!” prescriptions I’ve ever heard.

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