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The Chemicals I’m Not Balancing

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Department Of Sometimes I Just Can’t Help Myself

Last week I ordered some Star Trek birthday cards, featuring the visage of Captain Jean Luc Picard, from an Etsy vendor. The vendor emailed me to verify the order:

I just wanted to contact you to say thank you for your order and to confirm your shipping information. So, you would like a set of 5 Star Trek Next Generation Birthday cards, shipped to ______(my address)

I of course had no choice but to respond: Make it so.

 

 

facepalm

 

 

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Department Of I Love Learning New Things

And here are four New Things ®  I’ve recently encountered. [1]  The first, via my “reupping” my volunteer status for C.A.T. (Cat Adoption Team).

 

 

flank

 

 

The typical female kitten or cat is (or once was) spayed via an abdominal incision. For several years now veterinarians have had the option of performing a “flank spay” – which uses a lateral entry. A lateral entry is especially useful for cats that are lactating, as it reduces chances of infection and makes it easier to monitor the incision as the cat does not have to be handled (turned on its back and its tender belly exposed) to do so.

 

 

How intriguing. Do tell us more.

How intriguing. Do tell us more.

 

New thing #2 is the third meaning of the word, abduction.

I was aware of the first two meanings of the word (1. The act of forcibly taking someone somewhere against their will; 2. The movement of a limb or muscle or other body part away from the mid-line of the body), but didn’t know that abduction is also a form of scientific reasoning, abductive  aka inference) reasoning:

…a form of logical inference which goes from an observation to a theory which accounts for the observation, ideally seeking to find the simplest and most likely explanation.

 

This came courtesy of a Freethought Radio podcast interview with physicist Sean M. Carroll,

 

 

Get on with it, please.

Get on with it, please.

 

 

New Thing #3: “Your brain has a chemical imbalance.”

That statement always sounded fishy to me, even when I was using it, with family members suffering from depression, to discuss their situation. Sure, it sounds scienc-y…but what does it actually mean?  As it turns out, in cases of brain disorders (aka depression and other mental illnesses), probably nothing, according to professor and psychologist Elliott Ingersoll, [2]. Ph.D. , who has given a provocative TED talk on the subject.

Unlike chemical imbalances in body organs or systems that can actually be measured (e.g. the insulin/blood sugar imbalance in diabetics, which can be measure through blood and urine tests), brain chemistry is highly complex and not completely understood. There is no way to measure levels of neurotransmitters, hormones and other messenger transmitters which may be involved in clinical depression, nor even an agreement on which ones are involved and what a “balance” of those would be.

I spent a decade researching psychopathology and psychopharmacology and neuroscience…but, I kept thinking I was missing something because I never came across what the actual chemicals were in this mysterious ‘chemical imbalance’ everyone kept talking about…. I came to realize that there was no such thing, and that, for years mental health professionals were telling clients, ‘You have a chemical imbalance in the brain,’ (A) there was no way to measure brain chemistry – it’s too complex and you can’t get it through peripheral measures like spinal fluid and, (B) I was more horrified to realize that this was being driven by marketing and pharmaceutical companies….”

(Dr. Ingersoll’s interview with Freethought Radio, 6-5-16

 

There is no New Thing #4.

 

rejoicing

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Department Of Kids Say The Darndest Things

Background info to apropos to this Department:

  1. Our annual family Solstice/Christmas/Year’s end letter to family and friends opens with a quote from each family member, chosen by each person to be somehow representative of the year for that particular family member…or to just confuse people.
  1. Son K is reveling in young adulthood: gainfully and happily employed, he’s residing in a house he rents along with four of his friends.

On Monday, apropos of seemingly nothing, K initiated the following exchange via FB Messenger:

K: Okay, my Christmas letter quote will be, “I am the Folks.”

Moiself: Nice to know in advance. I’m sure an explanation will be forthcoming.

K: door to door sales type guy asked if my folks were home and that was my response.

 

 

They are the folks.

They are the folks.

 

 

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Department Of All Things Must Pass

 

Buh-bye to our Honda Odyssey minivan. It joined our household…over sixteen years ago – can that be?  That’s the longest period of time MH or I have ever had a car.

MH decided to get the van during the height of his company’s stock boom years. While many of his (male) work peers were opting for what Perspicacious Friend ©  SCM describes to her daughter as, The kind of car a man buys when he has a small penis,” MH opted for the Practical Family Car ® . Indeed, the van served our family well over the years, with little output in terms of repairs, until recently, when that mutha Father Time turned it into a new-transmission-needing money pit.

Although I came to see the logic of acquiring a minivan, I was initially and strenuously opposed to the purchase. (“If I want to drive a bus I’ll get a job with Trimet,” I huffed to MH). And then, I found a way to make it  – driving a minivan, FFS – more tolerable to me: I bumper-stickered the holy crap outta that vehicle:

 

 

 

VanBumperStickersArgus

 

 

The above picture was taken (unbeknownst at the time, by me) by a reporter for the now defunct [3]  Hillsboro Argus, and appeared on the paper’s front page, circa late 2009. Although we subscribed to the paper MH and I had no idea the back of our van front page news, until a friend e-alerted us to check out the paper’s latest edition (“That HAS to be your van!”). The photo was accompanied by a sweet – if misleading – caption, written by someone who AS to be yourobviously didn’t read all the stickers:

No Personal politics on display, but a bumper crop of humorous stickers to make fellow motorists smile at stoplights.”

Over the years, after shopping at New Seasons Market or running some other errand, or returning to our van after, say, seeing a movie, we discovered hand-written notes pertaining to our stickers left on the windshield. On more than one occasion I returned to the van as someone was in the process of writing such a note. I enjoyed sneaking up on them, pretending to be Not The Owner, and usually greeted them by indicating the back of the van and cracking, “Get a load of these weirdos, eh?”  to gauge their reaction.

It’s hard to believe, given the political and freethought nature of many of the stickers, that not once did anyone leave a negative comment (or slash our tires). Most of the notes expressed sentiments along the lines of this one, the only one I kept:

 

 

vannoteJPG

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Not Exactly Late Breaking News

 

In fact, I was wondering why it was even considered news, when I read that Rep. Speaker of the Houser Paul Ryan announced he will support Trump.

What an earth-shaking, bone-breaking, tooth-rattling, sphincter clenching surprise that absolutely no one could have predicted: The Republican Party leader announces he will support the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.

Please, someone bring me the smelling salts.

DO YOU SEE WHAT GAY MARRIAGE HAS LED TO ?!?!?!?!?!?!?

 

 

 

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Snakes on a Plane! ( Actually, in terrariums…. )

That was the subject line in ads MH and I placed on Craig’s List and the FB page for Oregon Reptile Association. We are trying – successfully, if current arrangements go well – to re-home our cornsnake, T’Pol, and ball python, Andy.

The snakes were acquired many years ago by our offspring, along with the late great bearded dragon, Belle (from whom my daughter took her pseudonym for the purposes of this blog).

 

 

Blueberry-loving Belle

Blueberry-loving Belle

 

 

All were captive bred, acquired during the kids’ Reptile Are Cool Years ®  (Belle the BD has since gone to join the great Beardy collective consciousness). In the past couple of years the snakes weren’t getting much pet action, what with son K and daughter Belle out of the house; thus, MH and I decided that finding another home for them was a Nest Cleaning ® thing to do.

 

 

T'Pol on a hot day, enjoying a dip in her water dish.

T’Pol on a hot day, enjoying a dip in her water dish.

 

 

We let K and Belle know of our intentions. [4]  Even as they understand our reasons for re-homing the reptiles, I imagine they’ve a certain sense of poignancy re the matter: another piece of childhood passing by.

 

 

 A rare picture of Andy not curled up into a ball (which ball pythons like to do).

A rare picture of Andy not curled up into a ball (which ball pythons like to do).

 

*   *   *

Department Of Signs Of The Times

The first (and not last, I hope) political yard sign of the season that’s made me laugh.

 

 

suck

 

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Department Of Current Events: In Case You Hadn’t Noticed

I am not planning on addressing the case of the Stanford Student/Swimmer who raped an unconscious women in this space. The despicable incident is just now coming to the general public’s attention due to the sentencing of the rapist and the revealing statements from the victim, the rapist’s father, and the rapist himself. I’ve let just a smidgen of my disgust and outrage leak out onto FB, but I just cannot go there…here.

 

*   *   *

May you heed the signs of the times;
May you leave kind notes on other people’s windshields;
May you be able to there when you are here,
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] New to moiself, although other people may find some of these tidbits old nets.

[2] Yep, related to (a great-grandnephew of) the greatest American few people outside of the Freethought and atheist communities have heard of, the 19th century civil rights champion, orator & lawyer Robert G. Ingersoll.

[3] as an actual, as opposed to virtual, community newspaper.

[4] And overrule it, should they be able to provide a home (read: get a landlord’s approval) for one or both snakes.

The Stamps I’m Not Licking

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Department of Petty pleasures and Cheap Thrills

I miss the stamps.

Although literary and publishers have the (deserved) reputation for being resistant to change and slow to adapt to technology, the past few years have seen even many of the olde-time journals modify their guidelines.  Publishers and journals who only accept hard copy/snail mail queries and submissions have become, in my experience, the minority.

Being able to submit manuscripts and correspond electronically has significantly reduced business expenses for me and other writers. I enjoy the lowered postage and paper and toner costs, and increased efficiency of correspondence.  But, I miss the postage stamps.

I’m no philatelic by any stretch of the definition.  Still, on the increasingly-rare opportunities when I have to mail a manuscript, I enjoy choosing the stamps for the task.  A sixteen page story, plus cover letter and SASE, requires 4 ounces of postage, and as much as possible, I will “customize” choosing the various stamp combinations which will total the necessary $1.50 for the first class/large envelope fee.

My customization is idiosyncratic, peculiar, [1] sometimes admittedly petty, and until this daring revelation, known by and meaningful to only moiself.  It includes such “guidelines” as:

* When submitting to journals with all-male names on the masthead, I choose stamps featuring female authors and artists

woman stamp

* When sending materials to publishers located in southern states with a history of slavery and/or segregation, I go for stamps honoring African-Americans and/or civil rights.

jordan

* For journals whose guidelines have overt or implicit religious or spiritual overtones, I choose stamps honoring scientists or other secular achievers.

science stamps

And now you know.

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I don’t often watch the network news or any TV news.  For a reason that now escapes me I turned on ABC World News Tonight earlier this week and saw, for the first time, substitute host David Muir.  Muir is apparently a legit reporter [2] and not a Chippendale’s model posing as a newsman on special assignment for Donald Trump’s latest reality show.  I was taken…aback?  affront?  a-sideways? by his nudge-nudge-wink-wink delivery style.  His sly glances, his way of slightly turning to the side and then looking directly into the camera made me think there was some off-mic photographer urging him on (in a heavily exaggerated fake Italian accent):

“Yes, yes, zer zey are, give zem more, you makealove de to de camera…”

Hmmmm.  Maybe it’s just me, I thought.  Or, it’s something to do with the specific story he’s reporting.  I changed channels for a few minutes, then returned to ABC.  There he was, on with another story, and those playful intonations and coy mannerisms.  Every man, woman, and golden retriever staring at their television set was receiving this unmistakable subtext: “Yes, it’s true, I know what you look like naked.”

A Google search revealed that Muir is considered something of an “info Hunk,” a category I heretofore had no idea existed, by both gay male and straight female news groupies devotees.  Ah, the joys perils of enlightenment.

*   *   *

Department of Sorry, Too Late:

Republican governor Bobby Jindal tells the GOP to “stop being the stupid party.”

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Should the USA and its allies prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and thwart North Korea’s series of underground missile testing?  Can the Social Security system be reformed, or should it be gutted and redesigned?  How can renewable, non-polluting energy sources be developed in the face of ongoing budget crises and societal inertia?  The answers to these and a myriad of other pressing questions are complex almost beyond belief.  But, thank the FSM [3], there is someone willing to tackle one of life’s most insidious dangers:  demonic possession of used goods.

Y’all might need to get out the smelling salts for this revelation.  You know that hideous vintage Rudolph the Red-Nose reindeer Christmas sweater you got for next to nothing at the thrift shop?  Did you think you were being a smart consumer when you got that crockpot at a garage sale instead of buying a new one? A certain religious evangelist, whose thoughtful intellectual discourse is rivaled only by that of a weed whacker, has some news for you.

In the World According to Telewhackadoodlery,[4] not only do demons exist, but these evil spirits can attach themselves to inanimate objects.  That classic thesaurus you found at the Goodwill for only $1.50 – you don’t really know where it has been, do you?  You’d better  pray the second hand Roget away , lest it rise up in the night and unleash its demonic [5] powers upon you.

Thus, the return of the Horseradish-and-Batshit Crazy Yap Flapper award
goes to perennial award contender, Pat Robertson

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last weekend MH and had lunch at PF Chang’s.  As usual, fortune cookies came with the tab.  MH opened his, and unlike many fortune cookies, this one contained an actual fortune; i.e., a forecast or prediction.[6]  He read his aloud, we both had a laugh, and I eagerly tore my cookie in half and discovered…nothing.  No fortune; it was empty.  Apparently, there is no future for me.

 The busy week: Monday, Belle and I had our last CAT volunteer shift.  Due to financial considerations, the feline-exclusive, no kill-shelter is closing a couple of its outreach adoption sites, including the one at the Hillsboro Petsmart, where we’ve volunteered since 2007.  We’re still in a bit of shock and mourning over this, and hope to be able to volunteer for CAT in some other capacity in the future.  The closing of one volunteer opportunity freed me up for another one, and on Monday, I fulfilled a long-time I-should-do-this goal and interviewed at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve.  I will assume weekly volunteer duties there starting next Monday, where I will be helping gather information for a biologist’s small mammal survey.  My new motto is:  I Love Voles.

This week also saw the beginning of high school track season, which means Belle juggles two hour daily track and field practices with an afterschool job, her Oregon Zoo Teen volunteer duties, and the homework that comes with taking a bajillion AP classes…and which means MH and I juggle the resultant teen conveyor duties.[7]  Where is the transporter promised by Star Trek?  Where is the Jetson’s Jetpak?  Dammit, the future was supposed to be here, by now.

jetpak

 Thursday night we had a most yummer dinner with friends, the lovely and talented couples MB & RB, and JR & DC.  After dinner we all attended the opening preview reception for the Celebration of Creativity, an annual art show that, this year, runs through Sunday 3/3.  This juried fine arts exhibit and sale features original works from 80+ artists in 15+ different media categories, from photography, jewelry, sculpture, fiber, glass, oils, wearables, acrylic, water color, pastels, garden sculptures, woodworking, pottery, mixed media….  Friend and artist LAH  has a variety of pieces in this year’s show.  MH & I have purchased many objects ‘d’art at the show (read: there is no more room on our walls), and look forward to seeing this year’s works.

As a patron of the arts [8] I often find myself thinking about the differences between fine art and fiction, especially when it comes to public showings or “sales.”  At an art show, the art is right there – it is immediate.  You see a painting or sculpture in its entirety.  You can walk away from it, or it can grab you by the throat right then and there, or come back to haunt you as you peruse the other booths but keep thinking, I really, really love that enormous cable fish. There is little or no leap of “faith” required in its purchase.

In my few experiences at book fairs, both as a buyer and an author, I’ve come to think of them as dicey ventures.  You walk by a table, there’s an author with a book, you see the author, you see the book and its jacket illustrations…but there are a whole lotta pages in between the front and back covers.  Perhaps you can scan the cover blurbs [9] , perhaps the author reads select passages from the work, but  you don’t know you’re going to like (or loathe) it until after you’ve bought it.

FYI, Cable Fish was rubber chicken-free at time of purchase.

 May your weekend be artful, and may the hjinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1]  And also limited by the currently available stamp selection. I hate it when they discontinue my favorites.

[2] which is probably no news to everyone except moi, who, as stated, does not kept up with TV news.

[3] Flying Spaghetti Monster.  Have you been touched by His noodly appendage?

[4] Saddle up the dinosaurs, in this world.

[5] (crazed; diabolical; fiendish; satanic)

[6]  Attention, fortune cookie makers: complimentary statements are not fortunes. “People like you,” is not a fortune.  “People like you are destined for disfiguring automobile accidents,” now, that’s a fortune.

[7] thanks to budget cuts, the bus doesn’t go where she needs to go at the times she needs to get there…and she still hasn’t taken her driver’s license test.

[8]  My definition:  I buy stuff.  Art stuff.  From artists whose works make me go, “Wooooo!”

[9] Hardly the place for objective recommendations. When’s the last time, after reading a mediocre novel, you realized you should have heeded the quotation on the book flap, which warned, ” Destined to become a classic the truth is, the prose is boring and derivative, the plotting is plodding. Get yourself a book of KenKen puzzles instead.”