Dateline: Saturday; mid-afternoon; on my way to drop off donations to Goodwill. Driving south on a throughway street which bisects residential areas to its east and west, I pass a blue sign on the left side of the road  . This sign directs you to find:
The sign is bent in the middle, which causes moiself, at first glance, to miss the I in the top word.
All those headed to the church of the Holy ARSE, turn right.
I like big butts and I cannot lie….
* * *
Department Of, Oh, Ya Think?
Dateline: 6:45am last Saturday. A dear friend is in the hospital, recovering from life-altering  surgery. I found a respected medical clinic’s website and looked up information on radical cystectomy, the surgery he has undergone. From the site:
“The procedure to remove the entire bladder is called a radical cystectomy. In men, this typically includes removal of the prostate and seminal vesicles….
“After removing your bladder, your surgeon also needs to create a new way to store urine and have it leave your body. This is called urinary diversion.”
Under risks associated with urinary diversion there is the following bullet point. Which I had to read several times to assure moiself, yep, that’s what it says. Apparently, one of the risks following removal of your bladder is:
* Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence)
Yeah; kinda difficult to control an organ you no longer have in your body.
Department Of Gawddammit It’s Like They Know I’m Coming In…
And so they put this right where I’ll see it. Because a sculpture like this, displaying both the talent and whimsy which moiself so admires in art…and which the artist oh-so-appropriately-not-to-mention-appealingly named, “Speckled Twerp”…they know who’s going to take it home.
At first I tried to divert moiself by falling for this charming piece, called…wait for it…Yellow Chicken.
But the twerp in me would not be denied.
“Are we all clear on the new installation? Have the twerp piece where she’ll see it, and maybe distract her first with the chicken….”
* * *
Department Of Things You Talk About With Good Friends After A Good Lunch
The Miriam Webster online dictionary has a special link for those and other “funny-sounding words,” but that’s not enough, sez moiself (and friends agree). There needs to be a special day set aside, or declared, to encourage the usage of these words.
* * *
Department Of Why Has It Taken Me So Long To Realize This?
I don’t use marjoram. As of last Wednesday, there is no longer a jar of marjoram in my Wall O’ Spices ®. You know how it is, when you redo your kitchen’s spice holding system and buy those pre-printed spice jar labels which of course include one for marjoram and you think, “Ah yes, a classic spice,” and so you give it jar space but then forget that you never use it because…you never use it.
Nor is there a marjoram jar or tin on the cabinet shelves filled with refills for spices I commonly use, and less-commonly-but-still-occasionally-used ones, from amchur and asafetida to celery powder to gochugaru.
When I last encountered a recipe calling for marjoram  I used up the pitiful amount I had left. And when looking for more, I found none in the bulk sections of several markets, and I wasn’t about to pay $8.99 for a small jar which would go stale before I would use even 10% of it.
Thus, for perhaps the first time in my adult life, I am marjoram-free.
Gopnik is a professor of psychology and researcher into cognitive and language development. She spoke with C+V podcast host Alan Alda about her (and other people’s) research which shows how children are generally curious about their world; thus, children are interested in science and have innate abilities for experimentation and theory formation…then tend to lose interest in the subject itself as they age. Gopnik, along with many other scientists, argue that this is, in great part, because of the way science is taught:
“Suppose we taught baseball the way we teach science. So for the first five years you’d be reading about baseball games, and maybe you’d be reading about some of the rules. And then in high school you’d get to reproduce famous baseball plays…and you would never get to play the game until you were in graduate school…. That’s kind of the way we teach science – you don’t really play the game, you don’t really *do* science, until you’re in graduate school.”
* * *
Department Of Here We Go Again Sub-Department OF Preview Of Coming Grievances Attractions
( Sub- Department explanation: my next three blogs will deal with various aspects of The Writing Life As Moiself Sees It ® ).
Dateline: Earlier this month, researching and updating guidelines for literary journals and publishers.  What I find in my research confirms one of many reasons moiself rarely submits my work anymore. For example, I come across this, from the guidelines of a self-proclaimed “international” journal:
“Submissions are open to all, but we particularly welcome work from….
First Nations and POC writers, the LGBTQI+ community, and writers with a disability.”
Should I decide to send my work to this journal I, like any writer submitting work to any journal, would not be doing so in person. I’d submit material as per their guidelines: either online via their submissions portal (the default nowadays) or via mail (much less common, but still used). Either way, the journal’s editors can neither see nor hear nor speak with me.
My first name may or may not indicate my gender; my surname might convey an impression (which could be a false impression either way) as to whether I am or am not a First Nations and POC writer. How will the editors know if I am a LGBTQI+ community, or a writer with a disability, unless I declare this in my cover letter? And if I do so, will the journal’s editors then “particularly welcome” my story due to my personal particulars that they have particularly decided to find particularly welcoming?
Moiself can’t help but suspect that the content of my work will be read and judged differently under such circumstances. Which moiself finds both ethically odious and disturbing. Speaking  both as a writer and *especially* as a reader, I don’t give a flying buttress’s butthole…
…about writers’ “identities” or “qualities.” I’m interested in the quality of the *stories* they write, not in who or what they *are.*
May you remember to make someone a sandwich; May you support the reform of how we teach science in schools; May you not be hornswaggled into giving a tarradiddle’s colleywobbles
about doing things widdershins; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 You’ve seen those signs, with names of churches or other businesses located in an otherwise residential area.
 In itself a rare thing, and I have found that the recipe either won’t miss it or that oregano will do just fine – or even better – instead.
 (I’ve addressed complained about this issue previously, in this space.
 There should be at least five footnotes in this post.
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, http://www.ffrf.org
had only one big ball
had two but they were small
Had something similar
And poor old Goebbels
had no balls at all. ♫
I’d vaguely known about Hitler’s goofy gonads (he suffered from right-side cryptorchidism – an undescended testicle). But the fact that this detail was woven into an anti-Nazi ditty delighted the spirit of the 11-year-old Girl Scout who still resides in me – the girl who wanted to sit in the back during the boring troop meetings and exchange bawdy jokes with the other so-inclined scouts instead of listening to yet another boring lecture on how we were supposed to be working on our camping merit badges.
“All in favor of skipping reciting the Girl Scout Promise and singing the Hitler song instead, raise your hands.”
* * *
Department Of Yet Another Podcast Citation
The most recent episode of the People I (Mostly) Admire podcast – website description: “Steven Levitt, the unorthodox University of Chicago economist and co-author of the Freakonomics book series….tracks down other high achievers and asks questions that only he would think to ask….” – had me hooked with the opening:
“My guest today, John McWhorter, likes to stir things up….
He’s a linguistics professor at Columbia university, author of over a dozen books, and has emerged as one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals. He’s an opinionated centrist, and chances are, whatever your politics, you’ll love his views on some issues, and despise his stance on others.” (intro to People I Mostly Admire, episode 72: “Leaving Black People in the Lurch” )
I was immediately intrigued by the host’s description of his guest: “an opinionated centrist.” Not being fond of political labels (at least for moiself), I don’t consider moiself to be a centrist. Rather, I approach issues as a “Does this make sense?-trist.” When some folks on The Far Left ® find out my liberal/religion-free/ flaming feminist viewpoints, they assume that I’ll tick off all their boxes on particular issues. And when they find out that I do not, *they* get ticked off.
My intrigue-ears perked up for other reasons as well, including the fact that McWhorter is a linguistics professor. Being a linguist, as in studying the cultural and cognitive development and application of languages, is one of my “if-I-were-to-do-it-all-over-again” professions.  Now, just because I maintain an interest in that area of study doesn’t mean that I have any current and/or particular skill in or aptitude for languages – far from it, as anyone who has heard me mangle the French language could attest to. And while moiself is on the subject I’d like to offer a shout-out to all you Parisian shopkeepers and restauranters who, despite the stereotype of the snooty French, were most patient and gracious with me when I was visiting your merveilluse villeand tried to order a pain au chocolat in every venue possible.
Let me guess, *elle demande* the entire tray, again?
Once again, I digress.
Back to the podcast opening.
Steve LEVITT: “In your day job, you (McWhorter) are a linguist at Columbia University and you also moonlight as a commentator on American society, especially around issues of race. But I’d like to talk first about linguistics, because I suspect if we start on race, we’ll never make our way back to linguistics.”
Linguistics/ race – I wanted to hear it all. Any author of a book called “Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter,” is all right by me. Then, after the first 15 minutes of linguistics talk, I was surprised by McWhorter’s choice in an answer to a certain question.
LEVITT: So, English is obviously emerging as something of a world language, and that’s mostly for accidental, historical, social, political reasons. And in my very first episode of this podcast, I had Steve Pinker, the Harvard linguist, on. And I tried to get him to make a vote for what the best world language would be. I had no luck. He would not bite on that at all. Is that a question you’ll bite on?”
MCWHORTER: ” Hell yeah. ….If all of the world were going to use a single language, it should be not English…. Really, the language of the world should be Indonesian.”
Really. He chose Indonesian.
MCWHORTER: “…Not the way it’s written, but the way it’s typically spoken, where you have almost no suffixes, almost no prefixes. (Indonesian is) not a tonal language. It’s very low on throwing you with things like, what does ‘pick up’ mean? You can pick up a disease; you can pick somebody up from school; speed is about picking up speed. Why deal with that? There’s very little of that. …. even though most people who don’t speak Indonesian would find it hard to learn just the words themselves….if you could pick up 500 of them, say 600 of them…the grammar would be very, very easy. You could make yourself understood. I would say it’s better. It’s easier for everybody — colloquial Indonesian would be the one.”
McWhorter’s quotes about the reasons why a language like Indonesian would be a better “world” language  made me think about Turkish, which I studied for a few days in an online course (until Putin’s aggressive assholery changed my travel plans  ).
Here are nine encouraging and refreshing observations I made during my brief foray into the Turkish language:
Two or more letters are never combined to make a new or different sound!
Turkish contains no articles at all!
It is also not a gendered language; nor is it tonal!
There is no 7th observation!
There are standard rules for making plurals!
Word Order is set: Subject-Object-Verb. The verb is always at the end in written Turkish! 
You’d spin with delight, too, if you spoke such a sensible language.
After twenty-five or so minutes of Fun With Words®, podcast host Levitt ventured into topics where McWhorter’s opinions have made people who are prone to look for divergent poles line up into their default defensive positions…such as McWhorter’s book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America.
LEVITT: “I was talking to a white friend of mine, someone who is deeply sympathetic to the anti-racist cause. And she said to me recently, ‘My daughter is friends with a Black girl in her nursery school class….and I’d like to invite that Black girl over to my house for a play date, but I’m afraid to because I don’t know the appropriate way to acknowledge my white privilege to the girl’s parents. And I don’t want to insult them by not acknowledging it.’
To me, what a disaster – when kids can’t build friendships because parents are so paralyzed by fear of not doing the right thing.”
MCWHORTER: “You know what? That woman is who I wrote Woke Racism for. That is exactly what I mean. That is somebody whose heart is very much in the right place, but she’s so afraid of being called the dirtiest-name-other-than-pedophile in our current cultural vocabulary that she’s basically hamstrung.
After a while, it might be that you end up avoiding Black people because you don’t want to take a wrong step. And then you get accused of being a racist. And where does that get us? To actually say, ‘What is the result of all this?’ is seen as somehow beside the point.
Rather, what’s considered important is smart people stating that racism still exists; racism is systemic. Now, what’s actually happening out on the ground, whether we’re improving Black lives by stating that, is considered subsidiary…..
And yet, that’s the situation that I saw us slipping into starting after the hideous murder of George Floyd. I saw us dealing with a kind of semaphore, where we say things and we say things and we say things, and what we’re really doing is fostering a kind of general guilt and engaging in a kind of passion play…. But the result is not anything that any civil rights leaders of the past would have recognized as meaningful. We need to get back to doing the real thing.”
Fine; you’re awake. Now, make the bed and start cleaning up the mess you left in the kitchen.
LEVITT: “I always ask my guests to give advice to my listeners. And I’m curious what advice you would give to young people trying to build a good life for themselves.
And would you give the same advice to a young white person and a young Black person?”
MCWHORTER (my emphases): “… at this point, in the way our national dialogue goes, I would say this to kids of any race: Distrust your impulse to suppose that people who don’t think like you are either naive or evil.
It’s very easy to think that if they don’t think like you. It’s either they don’t have the facts that you have, or if they do have the facts that you have, there’s something sinister about them. They’ve got motives that they’re not quite letting onto.
And the sad thing is that these days, young people are being taught to think that way by an awful lot of grown-ups.
It’s an easy misimpression to fall into because we tend to be binary thinkers. But with any debate that’s uniquely challenging or frankly, interesting, about which you might argue, that’s different from decreeing that people are either stupid or bad. And that’s what a diverse and large society is all about. That’s what diversity of opinion is.”
Moiself highly recommends that y’all’s selves listen to the entire interview, and pay attention to McWhorter’s insightful analysis re how “3rd wave anti-racism” (a term he borrows from the feminist movement) “is a religion.” It’s guaranteed to offend at least a few third wave anti-racists and religionists. Now, that’s my kind of a podcast guest.
* * *
Punz For The Day Woke Politics Edition
Why were environmental activists protesting outside the elementary school? That heard a rumor that the kids were singing, “Rain, rain, go away.”
What do you call a woke Star Wars droid? R2-Me2
Did you hear about the laundromat manager who had her Facebook account cancelled? FB monitors read that she told her customers to separate the whites from the colors.
One night I dreamt that I was a muffler… I woke up exhausted.
“There’s woke jokes, and then there’s woke jokes.”
* * *
May you choose meaningful action over virtue-signalling; May you have fond memories of your bawdy joke-telling, scout-meeting (or the equivalent) ignoring days; May you enjoy singing the song about Hitler’s balls; 
Department Of the Peeviest of Pet Peeves,; Aka, Most Unhelpful Phone Message Ever
“The person at extension 4-0-0 is on the phone.”
That’s it. Followed by dead silence.
Gee, that’s…uh…great to know. The person at extension 4-0-0 is on the phone; I’m so happy for them.
No person’s name; no options to remain on the line, or return to the main menu, or to leave a message…no indication if the clinic is still “on the line”….
In order to protect the privacy of this business with the significantly inferior telephone answering/routing system, I’ll call them TheRinehart Clinic. Because that’s their name. (Oops.  )
The ten-plus phone calls I made to the clinic were regarding a message left on my cell phone Monday morning, in which The Person at Extension 4-0-0- ® asked me to call the clinic to “verify some information regarding your insurance.”  . As is the case with many businesses, when you call the number they leave on their message to you, there is no actual person with whom to speak.
“And If I cannot assist you, another White Man in A Blue Suit will be with you shortly.”
First, you must navigate through the answering messages (starting with, “Press 1 on your keyboard for English and 2 for Spanish…”) and go through the various options. No problem with that; moiself does it all the time…except that this time (these ten plus times I called over the next two days) I am left hanging with a “huh?” after I go through all of their menu options, none of which is the “for all other questions/options, press zero (and or stay on the line) and a person will assist you.”
* * *
Department Of All of #45’s “Die Hard Supporters” Deserve This Surname
A woman (“a die-hard supporter of former President D_____ J. _____”  ) living in a New Jersey Town has been ordered by a local judge to take down three of the ten anti-Biden signs she has put up outside her home, after she refused requests from the town mayor and code-enforcement officer to do so. Neighbors complained that three of the signs use the f-word and/or other obscenities, in violation of the town’s anti-obscenity ordinance.
” ‘There are alternative methods for the defendant to express her pleasure or displeasure with certain political figures in the United States,’ (a local judge) said in his ruling… noting the proximity of (the house) to a school.
The use of vulgarity, he continued, ‘exposes elementary-age children to that word, every day, as they pass by the residence.’…
‘Freedom of speech is not simply an absolute right,’ he added, noting later that ‘the case is not a case about politics. It is a case, pure and simple, about language.’ “
( “She Hates Biden. Some of Her Neighbors Hate the Way She Shows It.” NY Times 7-20-21 )
The die-hard woman’s name? Andrea Dick.
* * *
Department Of The Age Of Aquarius…Not
For many years, when people asked for and/or estimated my age  they underestimated it. Most times by a decade or more.
Moiself thinks this is because I had my children relatively later in life.  Thus, I was older than most of my kids’ peers’ parents…and, if you hang in that group, everyone curves you down. That, plus basic immaturity and wearing Chuck Taylor Hightops as my formal footwear of choice got most people to shave ten years off my actual age. 
Guess what shoes moiselfwore to her wedding?
Just in case y’all think I’m bragging: that underestimation of my age? Doesn’t happen anymore.
I haven’t thought about that for a long time. Then, earlier this week, moiself was listening to the most recent Clear + Vivid podcast (“Paul Rudd: In The Moment With Antman”), and heard an exchange between host and guest which made me guffaw aloud, startling the woman who was across the street from me, walking her German Shepherd (neither the woman nor her dog noticed my earbuds; they just saw me as someone who seemingly made snorting laugh sounds, apropos of nothing).
What caught my attention was at the end of the podcast, where host Alan Alda asked his guest, actor Paul Rudd, several questions that have some connection with the topic of communication. The question of note was, “What is the strangest question anyone has ever asked you?”
Rudd: “I have one question that I never really know how to answer…in that people always want to know, they say, “You don’t age – what to do you do…”
like they want to know, uh, my skin care routine, or what is it? They don’t think I am aging as quickly as I should.…
I never know what to say…it’s nice…I go, ‘Thank you,’ but I always struggle with that one.”
Alda: “I have a funny version of that. I seemed to have looked younger to people, for a long time, than I really was. And when I was sixty, people would say, ‘How old are you?’ and I’d say, ‘I’m sixty,’ and they’d say, “Oh, no, no, c’mon…” and now they say, ‘How old are you?’ and I say, ‘I’m eighty-five,’ and they say, ‘Uh huh.’ There’s an age everybody reaches where it’s, ‘Uh huh.’ “
Rudd: “I know what you mean…I’m starting to get that – they ask, I say, ‘I’m fifty-two,’
and it’s, ‘Okay; yeah, that makes sense.’ “
* * *
Dateline: Thursday morning, returning from a walk. I see a small metallic object on the sidewalk, glistening in the morning sunlight. I stride past it, then turn around and take its picture, when I realize that it appears to be the basket from a deep fat fryer.
What is it doing there, alone, on the sidewalk, no other cullinary implements in sight? Obviously, this is proof of extra-terrestrial visitation. What other rational explanation could there be, other than an alien life form left a tracking device, cleverly disguised as an innocuous, commonly seen, fast food appliance part?
But seriously, ladies and germs… if moiself were to apply some classic deductive reasoning here, what is the context of this seemingly random item?
* I saw it on the sidewalk, between the light rail stop parking lot and the Washington County Fairgrounds complexes. * the sidewalk was about 500 yards away from where the Washington County Fair will be held, starting today.
You may have had the misfortune occasion to visit a county fair once or twice in your life, and in doing so it is likely you noticed how such events are infested with “food” booths that serve almost anything deep-fried, from corndogs to pickles to ice cream to Oreos to green tomatoes to macaroni-and-cheese…. Thus, it is possible that a food booth vendor or employee took the light rail (or drove there and parked their car in the light rail lot  ) and was on their way to the Fairground, toting some of the equipment for their food booth, and one smaller component – the fryer basket in question – fell out of their arms, or box, or bag…
Now, how could they drop such an object, without noticing? The basket was metal; it would have made a clattering sound when it hit the sidewalk. A possible explanation is that the Fryer Basket Dropper, ® ala 90% of the people I see each day, was walking with headphones or earbuds in their ears, listening to music (or a podcast!) or whatever, which effectively made that clattering sound just another a bit of background noise. And the basket wasn’t heavy enough to make the person notice its absence, as in, “Hey, my load has suddenly gotten really light – I all I must’ve dropped something…”
On the other hand, the ET object story is much more fun.
When trying to account for something which you find surprising, it is often more entertaining to take the religious point of view: don’t even question that which you do not understand, or for which you have no logical explanation. Instead, embrace it as one of the great Mysteries Of Life ® .
Perhaps a shrine to it will be erected soon. And is that an image of the Virgin Mary I see in the basket’s corner?
What does a Sith Lord use to immobilize his enemies in their old age,
instead of killing them? Darth Ritis.
An eight-year-old weasel walks into a bar.
The bartender says, “You’re under-aged; I can’t serve you any alcohol.
But I have bottled water, energy drinks, and pop.” “Pop!” goes the weasel.
As I get older and remember all the people I’ve lost along the way, I think to myself, “Maybe a career as a tour guide wasn’t for me.”
Husband: “You tell me several men had proposed marriage to you?” Wife: “‘Yes, several.” Husband: “Well, I wish you’d have married the first fool who proposed.” Wife: “I did.”
* * *
May you practice your freedom of political expression without being a Dick; May you enjoy the ages of “Uh-huh” and “Okay; that makes sense;” May you provide a really good explanation for a random object sighting; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Is that a violation of health care business HIPA?
 I received my COVID-19 vaccinations at a site run by the Rinehart Clinic; my only contact with them, so it must be re those visits.
 As long-time readers of This Blog ® know, that festering turd of an excuse for DNA shall not be dignified here by usage of his full, faux-human name.
 And 99% of the times people asked that question, the information was not relevant and my kneejerk, if unspoken, reaction was, “And you want to know this because….?”
 I birthed son K when I was 36 and daughter Belle when I was 39.
Moiself, too. So, why do we act as if we think are not?
I highly recommend the latest edition of the podcast Clear + Vivid. In a moving and candid conversation – frequently seasoned by laughter (which might be surprising to some, given the subject matter) – podcast host Alan Alda talks with his guest, author and Rabbi Steve Leder, about the inevitability of death, and grief. These are subjects people usually avoid, which, Leder says, only adds to the losses people inevitably face in life.
At one point in their conversation, as Alda and Leder discussed the importance of acknowledging our mortality, Alda said, “Talk some more about this. ‘Cause you still haven’t convinced me to die.” Leder’s response, which prompted laughter from both men, was, “Well, I don’t have to.”
I love it when Someone With Experience And Authority ® confirms a suspicion I’ve had for years. Thus, thank gawd (sez the atheist) that Leder disagrees with the “Five  Stages of Grief” mythology. Leder says we have “been done a terrible disservice” with this idea that there are stages or phases of grief, which implies that grief is a linear process (“First you will deal with Stage A, then you will feel Stage B…”).
Grief is non-liner; Leder declares. It is much more analogous to waves:
“They come very close together and are very large at first. They do spread out, and sometimes you even get beautiful, calm seas for a day, a week, a month, a year…. And then sometimes, when your back is turned, there can be a massive wave of grief that takes you down. And that is not ‘stages.’
Before my father died, what I used to say to people is, ‘Look, the most honest and helpful think I can say to you right now is that it won’t always hurt so much.’ And I don’t say that anymore. Now I say, ‘It won’t always hurt so *often.*’ Because when it hurts, it hurts every bit as much.”
* It’s whowe have, not what we have, that matters.
*The beauty of the flower is that it fades.
*The meaning of life is that it ends.
* Understanding the ephemeral nature of life – choosing to acknowledge that we don’t have forever – makes things great and small (our children and friends; a hot fudge sundae) more precious, not less.
These and other observations which Leder shares and expounds upon are no less profound for their relative simplicity. Check out the entire interview: “Make the End a Beginning” Clear + Vivid.
Alda and Leder also have an interesting chat about what is revealed by what people put on their gravestones.
* * *
Department Of Reality Checks
As in, my attempt to provide one. No doubt I will need one as well, if moiself thinks that my feedback will either get a response (I doubt it/am not expecting it) or make a difference (I hope it will).
The following feedback was sent by moiself, earlier this week, to Shankar Vedantam, the science journalist and host of one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain.
Dear Mr. Vedantam,
Love your show; regular listener here. As per your interview on “Useful Delusions,” re your upcoming book of the same name, I cringed to hear you give credence, even in the context of how people respond to stress, to that “…old proverb, ‘There are no atheists in the foxhole’….”
Yes, it is an old proverb. Old, insulting, and lousy – as in, inaccurate.
I wish you’d do a story on that.
An atheist-themed festival drew hundreds of people to an Army post in North Carolina on Saturday for what was believed to be the first-ever event held on a U.S. military base for service members who do not have religious beliefs. Signs in support of atheism are seen during the “Rock Beyond Belief” festival at Fort Bragg army base in North Carolina March 31, 2012. The atheist-themed festival drew hundreds of people to Fort Bragg on Saturday for what was believed to be the first-ever event held on a U.S. military base for service members who do not have religious beliefs. Organizers said they hoped the “Rock Beyond Belief” event at Fort Bragg would spur equal treatment toward nonbelievers in the armed forces and help lift the stigma for approximately 295,000 active duty personnel who consider themselves atheist, agnostic or without a religious preference. Defense Department policy holds that all service members have the right to believe in any or no religion. But those gathered at the event described being ostracized and harassed in the military community for not believing in God and worried about getting passed over for promotions if their secularist stances were widely known. ( “Military nonbelievers’ event shows there are atheists in foxholes.” (Reuters)
Not only have there *always* been atheists in foxholes, the FFRF periodically bestows an award, “Atheists in Foxhole,” to commemorate that fact:
“This award was suggested by Vietnam War vet…Steve Trunk, to combat the ridiculous myth that there are no “atheists in foxholes,” and, in particular, to recognize activism to defend the constitutional principle of separation between state and church which every soldier takes an oath to uphold.”
To repeat: there are and have always been “atheists in foxholes;” however, they often have compelling reasons to remain in the foxhole/closet while they serve in the military. Religion-free soldiers can feel that they face an equal or greater danger from their fellow soldiers and commanding officers than from enemy fire, if their religious comrades discover that they are not religious believers.
“When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending. But minutes into the talk, the officer…began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism…. Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them…. Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall’s right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. (Specialist Hall) was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers. ( “Soldier Sues Army, Saying His Atheism Led to Threats,” NY Times )
Staff Sgt. Richlin Chan, who served in Afghanistan, is an “Atheist in Foxhole” who was profiled in the FFRF’s newsletter, Freethought Today (June/July 2010). Chan told this story:
In 2007, a soldier named Jeremy Hall was threatened and persecuted by fellow soldiers and a higher-ranking officer for holding an atheist meeting in Iraq. After a firefight in which a protective screen deflected enemy fire, his commander later asked him if he believed in god. Jeremy responded, “No, but I believe in plexiglass.”
If you’re interested, other resources include the MAAF (Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers); “I was An Atheist in a Foxhole,” (American Humanist Association) ; “The US Military Has a Problem With Atheists,” (The Week); “Military atheists seeking the rights and benefits offered to religious groups”(Stars and Stripes).
Yours in the never-ending battle to temper inaccurate proverbs with reality checks,
* * *
Lest you think my picking that certain nit  spoiled the podcast for me, it did not. I found the (rest of the) episode (Hidden Brain: Useful Delusions) quite enjoyable. Of particular interest to moiself was Shankar’s exposition on the adaptive or “useful” effects that delusional thinking can have, as well as the phenomenon of “naive realism.”
Naive realism allows us to judge others for engaging in what we’d call delusional thinking, while we convince ourselves that we, even in the same position as a desperate person, would never, say, vote for a demagogue or buy a snake oil potion/miracle cure, etc. Vedantam illustrates this with a personal story of his own. Several months ago, while travelling several hours from his home, Vedantam suffered a retinal detachment. He had to seek emergency medical care, without having time to check reviews or get recommendations for a doctor or weighs pros and cons of treatment options. He found a doctor who was willing to open his practice up at 9 pm and see him. The doctor said Vedantam had to have emergency surgery ASAP or he would lose his eyesight. And so, Vedantan did….
“…what all of us do, in positions of great vulnerability: I put all my faith and trust in this doctor. Now, as it turned out, he was a brilliant surgeon and he ended up saving my eye, for which I am profoundly grateful. But imagine for a moment that he had not been a brilliant doctor; let’s imagine if he had been a charlatan. Would it have been any less likely for me to put my faith in him? And I would argue the answer is no, because my faith in him did not arise because of what *he* did, my faith arose because of what *I* was going through.
I was going through a period of great vulnerability, a period of great fear. Trusting him made me feel better…. Expand this in all kinds of ways, and you can see why people sometimes gravitate to beliefs that are false, to demagogues and false prophets. It’s not so much because of the demagogues and false prophets, it’s because of their own vulnerabilities.”
* * *
Department Of My Favorite Euphemisms
Dateline: last weekend, listening to a podcast in which anthropologists discussed the DNA sequences found from human bodies in caves in Siberia, Spain, and Croatia.
What the anthropologists found shows evidence of human-Neanderthal interbreeding as far back as 100,000 years ago. What I found was a delightful, heretofore-unknown-to-moiself, synonym…genteelism…rewording.
According to scientists, early humans and Neanderthals engaged in
“gene flow events.”
This substitute term should be a relief to teens everywhere. Despite their legendary taking of delight in shocking their elders by singing along to salacious pop song lyrics, teens are notoriously squeamish, to the point of disgust, when it comes to even thinking about the fact that their parents might have hooked up with one another in order to produce their offspring. Chill, Ethan and Emma: your mother and father didn’t get it on. They merely engaged in a gene flow event.
* * *
Department of, Bingo!
But when Abby and I announced our relationship, the first article…said, “Abby Wambach in love with Christian mommy blogger.”…So the rest of the world picked up that one — and now on my tombstone, no matter what else I do, it’ll say Christian mommy blogger…. I feel like it’s the most misogynistic, ridiculous title ever. Because no male activist or New York Times bestseller is described as a daddy…or by his religion. ( Glennon Doyle, from the podcast, Sway, 2-25-21)
I’m somewhat new to Sway, but after listening to a few episodes I’m impressed with the variety of guests and topics. Hosted by Kara Swisher, “Silicon Valley’s most feared and well-liked journalist,” the podcast’s focus is “power: who has it, who’s been denied it, and who dares to defy it.” In the episode whence the above quote, Swisher interviews Glennon Doyle, best-selling author and activist previously best known – or rather, labeled – as a Christian-LGBTQ-friendly blogger and “confessional” writer, and most recently getting (unwanted) tabloid-type attention in the past few years for divorcing her (cheating) husband and marrying US soccer star Abby Wambach.
The reason for Doyle’s interview On Sway was Doyle having been named by many of Joe Biden’s campaign strategists as the person whose campaign endorsement, they believed, would influence women the most. The part of the interview that interested me the most was when Doyle shared her reactions to the male-values-dominated worlds of publishing and book reviews and publicity.  Doyle rejects the labels that have been put upon her, including “self-help expert” and “mommy blogger,” as reductive and misogynistic.
Doyle: “…I think that it’s very often the case that when a man puts work out into the world, the world looks at the work and says, ‘Is this work worthy?’ And I think that when a woman puts work out into the world, the world looks at the woman and says, ‘Is this woman worthy of putting out work?’
For example, the first big article that was put out about (her new memoir) in a big newspaper, the headline was, ‘Glennon Doyle writes third memoir?’ Question mark, question mark.”
Kara Swisher: “As if you shouldn’t have many memoirs in you. That’s the suggestion.”
“Like, ‘Jesus Christ, this woman is going to say a *third* thing? We already let her say two things. She said two things, and then she’s going to come back and say a third thing. Who does this person think she is.’ Right?’ Sedaris came out with his new book, and it was like, ‘David Sedaris releases 158th memoir.’ Not, question mark, question mark.”
* * *
Department Of It’s Not My Fault; My Mind Just Goes To These Places
Apropos of nothing I can think of, while coming back from a walk the other day I mused about ways to get junior high school aged students interested in “classic” works of literature. I’ve heard many a teacher say that engaging that age group (particularly for the boys) will determine whether reluctant readers will show interest in, for example, the plays of William Shakespeare.
So, considering the age group, I humbly suggest this approach:
֍ Shakespearean Gas Theater ֍
English, literature, and drama teachers can search the internet databases for well-known Shakespearean lines which can be altered and/or…uh, illustrated…as per the theme.
From Twelfth Night, the name of character Sir Toby Belch fits right in with those certain enhancements which tween actors could give to the delivery of Sir Toby’s classic lines:
”Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous,
there shall be no more cakes and….Baaaaaaaarrrrrrraaasaaaapppp…ale?
And, let’s face it, few 12-year-old boys want to play the lead male role of Romeo and Juliet‘s 14th century lovestruck Italian teen. But when the line Romeo calls out to Juliet (in the famous balcony scene) is transformed, boys will be jostling for the opportunity to raise their arms in supplication and cut the cheese with romantic gusto while reciting,
“What wind thorough yonder window breaks.”
Then again, maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t pursue a career as an Arts in Education consultant.
* * *
Pun For The Day
When a road construction worker farts, don’t blame him – it’s his asphalt.
“I want no part of this juvenile humor.”
* * *
May you write as many memoirs as you have in you; 
May you appreciate the beauty of that which will fade;
May you be lucky enough to have an atheist beside you in the foxhole;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Or nine…or seven…or twelve. Different self-appointed grief experts have different numbers, but most people are familiar with psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross‘s five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
 The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a non-profit founded in 1978, is the nation’s largest association of Atheists, Agnostic, Freethinkers, Humanists and Skeptics .
 This particular issue is more the size of a glacier than a nit, as the number of the non-religiously affiliated and atheists – and thus the number of people insulted and mischaracterized by such inaccurate adages – continues to grow/be revealed.
 A subject about which I have both opinions and experiences, as regular and/or long time readers of this blog may know.
Even in these pandemic times of social isolation, you’d have to have been in a prison secure enough for Hannibal Lecter to *not* have heard that a certain royal couple was recently interviewed by Oprah she-who-needs-no-surname.
“Quid pro quo, Clarise. You let me watch Oprah’s interview with Harry and Meghan and I name the killer.”
I’ve been a lifelong anti-monarchist – lifelong as in, when I was old enough to understand the concept of royalty, my five-year old self was like, “WTF is this classist, elitist, endemically racist, anachronistic institution doing in the 20th (and now, 21st ) century?” Thus, I had no interest in watching The Recent Royal Interview ®. From what I saw on FB, the Average Person’s realizations, after watching the interview, were almost hilariously non-spectacular:
“After hearing about Harry’s and Meghan’s experiences, I’m convinced the monarchy is out-of-date and racist!”
Moiself was delighted to see the interview produced in op-ed pieces from around the (western) world). I gravitated toward reading articles with titles like, Down With the British Monarchy, whence the following excerpt :
“The existence of a monarchy is an admission that a government can’t, or doesn’t care to, solve people’s problems. Instead, it offers spectacle. It has always been easier to elevate one family to a fairy-tale life of luxury than to do the dreary work of elevating every single family to a decent standard of living. The common people fund the lifestyle of a tiny, exalted and thoroughly unworthy elite, rather than the other way around. Any nation that still has a monarchy in 2021 is proving itself to have a mortifying lack of revolutionary gumption.
America is guilty of many crimes against humanity, but this is one thing we got right. Our presidents may be national embarrassments, but at least Americans are not required to scrape and bow before some utterly random rich wastrel whose claim to legitimacy is being the child of the child of the child of someone who was, centuries ago, the nation’s biggest gangster. Yes, we have our own hypnotic capitalist addiction to celebrity, but monarchy is something altogether more twisted — as if the Bush family, the Kardashians and the Falwells were all rolled into one bejeweled quasi-religious fame cult, topped off with a bracing dose of imperialism.”
I mean, how much right-on fun is that?
Leave it to the Irish to nail the situation in the most amusing (and snarky) manner:
“Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories.
More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown. Beyond this, it’s the stuff of children’s stories. Having a queen as head of state is like having a pirate or a mermaid or Ewok as head of state. What’s the logic? Bees have queens, but the queen bee lays all of the eggs in the hive. The queen of the Britons has laid just four British eggs, and one of those is the sweatless creep Prince Andrew, so it’s hardly deserving of applause…. The contemporary royals have no real power. They serve entirely to enshrine classism in the British non-constitution. They live in high luxury and low autonomy, cosplaying as their ancestors, and are the subject of constant psychosocial projection from people mourning the loss of empire. They’re basically a Rorschach test that the tabloids hold up in order to gauge what level of hysterical batshittery their readers are capable of at any moment in time.” (“Harry and Meghan: The union of two great houses, the Windsors and the Celebrities, is complete,” The Irish Times)
cosplaying as their ancestors. I wish I’d thought of that line.
* * *
Speaking of anachronistic institutions still existing in the 21st century…
Department Of “Free To Be You And Me”  … Or Not
Dateline: Tuesday; out for a walk; 7 am-ish (not amish); listening to the latest Clear + Vivid podcast: “Ash Sanders and Sarah Ventre – Life in a Cult.” In this episode host Alan Alda interviews journalists Ventre and Sanders about their podcast series, Unfinished: Short Creek. The two journalists researched their story for four and a half *years,* including embedding themselves in a fundamentalist Mormon community, Short Creek (a town on the border between northern Arizona and southern Utah), and “…wove together the stories of both those in thrall to its all-powerful prophet and others seeking escape.”
Moiself hasn’t yet decided whether I will listen to the Short Creek podcast. Given the subject matter, it sounds both compelling and repellant. The latter emotion arises in me from the simple/depressing fact of the continued existence of such abhorrent ideologies in the 21st century, and of hearing about how difficult it is for people born into such a life to escape it, and how reluctant too many outsiders are to confront it (“Hey, it’s their religion/their choice…”). I do know, from the podcast interview, that there is at least one woman who got out, and her story is featured, so that may sway me. Something hopeful to look forward to.
Halfway through the C+V podcast I flashed back to a conversation I had years ago with an “Exmo” (former Mormon). Exmo Man  talked about the “misunderstandings” he felt that outsiders had about his (former) faith. He said that even while he was growing up in a (mainstream, not fundy) Mormon family, with only other Mormon kids allowed to be his friends and playmates, he was told by both his family and church officials that he had “the freedom to choose this.” Emphasis on *this.* He was assured (by the Mormon adults around him) that all Mormons had freely chosen their beliefs. And he did make his choice, eventually to leave the LDS religion. He also chose to (well, he attempted to) redirect my questions, when I gently but persistently tried to discern whether or not his choice meant that he lost family and friends, or had such relationships compromised, by his decision to leave the church. His not-so-skillfully avoidant answers indicated to me that, due to his choice, he had been essentially shunned.
A week or so after that conversation I read an article by a Muslim-American Woman who wrote about her freedom to choose whether or not she wore the hijab (veil or scarf; niqua; burka; or any of the varieties of face or full body coverings prescribed for Muslim women). Although she considered herself to be a liberal/feminist re many other aspects of her life, this MAW said she chose to wear a head scarf as a symbol of her culture and faith… and also, I gathered from what she wrote, to proclaim identity politics and give a defiant FUto her friends and colleagues (whether Muslim, of other faiths, or religion-free) who were anti-hijab. Within days of reading her essay I came across the social media posts of another MAW, this one in the entertainment industry, who supported Muslim women’s “right” to wear head coverings, even though she herself does not do so.
The Exmo man and the MAWs each spoke of how they had the freedom to choose their own *this* ( for Exmo, life as a Mormon; for the MAWs, wearing a hijab). In doing so, they missed the entire fucking point, in moiself’s opinion, which is that there was only one *this* presented to them as the correct choice. And a choice of one is no choice at all.
Exmo may have been told he was free to choose *this, * i.e. remaining in Mormonism, but of course his LDS family and church elders and officials seriously didn’t think he would make another choice. And when he did choose to leave The One True Faith,  he paid for it with the estrangement from his family and support group.
“You are free to choose *this*”translates as, “You are free to choose – and here is your (one) choice.”I am reminded of the old joke about Russian elections; specifically, a Communist party official countering Western claims that his country’s elections are not open and fair and certainly not democratic:
“Of course our people get to choose their leaders! They may vote for whomever they chose!” crows the election official, who hands a voter a ballot with pre-selected candidates. “And here is the list of whom you may choose, comrade!”
If you are a Muslim female who chooses not to don the veil and you are living in a culture/country which requires it,  you may be considered as immodest and immoral, labeled an apostate or heretic…or worse.
“Iranian Police released an official statement saying that any women found protesting Iran’s compulsory veiling code would be charged with “inciting corruption and prostitution,” which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.” (“Dozens of women ill-treated and at risk of long jail terms for peacefully protesting compulsory veiling,” Amnesty International)
It’s your choice, you may be told, but know that Muslim men and boys – even members of your own family, and even if you are living in a non-Muslim country – can feel justified in attacking you, verbally and physically for not wearing a veil. You may even be assaulted if you are wearing it, but not “properly.”
“The devout Muslim father of a 16-year-old girl, whose friends say was killed for not wearing a hijab, has been charged with second-degree murder…. Aqsa Parvez died on Monday night in hospital after being attacked in her home in a suburb of Toronto….the girl’s friends said Parvez frequently clashed with her estranged family over her reluctance to wear a traditional Islamic headscarf, or hijab.” (“Muslim Dad Murders daughter over hijab,” The Age)
“…a woman has been …assaulted by a vigilante for wearing a loose hijab.
(video footage) shows a woman crossing path with a man, who then follows her down the street and appears to threaten her. He then grabs her by the arm and kicks her in the stomach twice, propelling her onto the road….
the police refused to arrest the attacker as he claimed to be “voluntarily enforcing morality codes.” (National News Opinion, 3-12-20)
“Ruqiya Farah Yarow was killed outside her hut near the southern Somali town of Hosingow….militants had ordered her to put on a veil, and then killed her after returning and finding she was still not wearing one….” (“Somali woman killed for not wearing veil,” BBC News )
Cool story, bro.
Yes my dear, you are *free* to choose *this* (the veil).
If you choose *not this* you may be harassed, slandered, discriminated against, assaulted, even killed.
But hey – don’t listen to critics and cynics – you are free! The choice is entirely yours!
If a “choice” I am “free” to make carries with it the very real threat of physical and emotional harm, I am not truly free to make it. If you are told you are free to choose *this,* but then by not choosing *this* you may be emotionally or literally and physically isolated or estranged or kicked out of your family and/or community (which also affects your ability to earn a living)…well, a person using those terms in those circumstances has very different ideas from moiself as to what constitutes freedom, and choice.
It is understandable (although abhorrent) to moiself , to see how someone raised in those kinds of intellectual thought-silos can misunderstand and misuse words and concepts like freedom and choice. And if you would seriously attempt to engage moiselfabout whether or not, say, most Muslim women are free to wear or not wear the hijab, I’m not even sure we could have a conversation lest we first get out our dictionaries (would you even be allowed to look at all available dictionaries, or would there be one you would be steered toward?) to first establish the vital, common references at issue: namely, the definitions of the words freedom and choice.
* * *
Department Of The Take Away Of The Week…Month…Year
This excerpt from the Clear + Vivid podcast applies not only to trying to understand and communicate with someone in a fundamentalist religious life, but also to bridging our current/fractured political divide. The journalists were speaking about the main challenges they faced in doing their interviews – which are also the challenges when entering into a dialogue with anyone:
How do you balance empathy and accountability?
“…In order to have a conversation with someone, especially someone who you want to come to some kind of understanding with, if you can’t start on the solid ground of accepting the most basic facts with one another then…it’s really hard to get to that point.
How do you listen to somebody, and understand why they believe what they believe, but hold them accountable to facts, hold them accountable to maybe what they’ve done, or to what their beliefs are and the impact of their beliefs – how do we do that?…
What role does forgiveness play; what role does justice play? How do we do that in America?
We can tend to go from one extreme to the other, and tend to say, “Oh let’s just empathize,” and not admit the injustices that have happened, or “Let’s only talk about justice,” and not the repair that needs to be done. “
I don’t know about y’all, but I was reminded of a certain issue our country needs to deal with….
* * *
Department Of The Question That Might Take You Years To Answer
At the end of every Clear + Vivid podcast, host Alda asks the guest(s) “Seven quick questions,” all of which relate, on some level, to the subject of interpersonal communication. Question #3 is,
“What is the strangest question anyone has asked you?”
One of the journalists, herself an ExMo (mainstream, not fundy) chose a question she was asked when she was in college, while she was leaving Mormonism. It was not the typical question people considering leaving their religion in general and Mormonism in particular might expect to field (“Why do you believe what you believe?” or “Do you believe in the Prophet“). Rather, this person asked her a question that has “stuck with’ her, one she is still working out. It was a question I think is relevant for everyone, whether or not we believe in any kind of patriarchal or hierarchical worldview,  or structure, or monarchies….
This one query, composed of a mere eight words, packs a novel’s worth of existential introspection potential:
Why do you believe in leaders at all?
* * *
Department Of The Last Three Stanzas I Can’t Stop Thinking About
I’d like to think that someone will read them at my wake, even if I’m not sure that moiself is worthy of such stirring imagery. The stanzas are from a Syrian-American poet, Mohja Kahf, whose collection of poetry (Emails from Scheherazade )  was recommended by journalist, teacher, and fellow blogger George Rede. Check out Rede’s blog here. It’s always thought-provoking, personal, and finely written (and as compared to mine, free of those juvenile fart-jokes which far too often sneak past my editor  ).
The stanzas to which I refer are the closing verses of Kahf’s The Marvelous Women
Come with me, come with poetry
Jump on this wild chariot, hurry–
Help me with these wayward snorting horses
Together we will pull across the sky
the sun that will make the earth radiant—
or burn in its terrible brilliance, and that is a good way to die.
* * *
Puns For The Day – Monarchist’s Edition
My dentist told me that I am a royal descendant. I get my crown next week.
If Harry decided to take up painting now that he’s stepped back from the royal family, he would be the artist formerly known as Prince.
* * *
May you never be deemed worthy of an Oprah interview; May you know that if you burn in life’s terrible brilliance, that is a good way to die; May you learn to balance empathy with accountability; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Apologies to the popular and ground-breaking children’s entertainment of the early 1970s, Free To Be You And Me, by “Marlo Thomas and Friends.” The book and record series (and later, tv specials) were an effort to counteract the gender stereotypes in the children’s books of the times.
Hijab is both a specific and broad-spectrum term, referring to both a particular style of covering and the general principal or religious code behind wearing it.
 Of course this is not exclusive to Mormons – many non-Catholic Christians kiddies first heard that phrase (that we were not part of “The One True Church”) from their Catholics friends or neighbors, and 99.99% of religions proclaim exclusivity of some kind as to why they are the only, or the only “right’ way, to find ___ (god; the afterlife, truth, nirvana, your car keys….).
 Head and body coverings for Muslim females vary according to country and culture, in some cases being required by law. Meanwhile, some modern Muslims believe that the Qur’an itself does not mandate that women wear any form of hijab.
 After reading that poem, I bought the book…and so should you. Please always remember to support the author if you read something you enjoy – she receives no financial compensation from her work being shared on the internet.
Department Of This Is Why I’m Not In Charge Of Such Things
Dateline: Thursday (yesterday), 2-18-21, 12 noonish; watching coverage of the Perseverance rover landing on Mars.  There was plenty of time to consider the ground-breaking implications of space exploration for humanity while all the TV talking heads filled the time until the actual landing. Thus, I got to wondering: what is it about the names of these planetary probes – who gets to choose them, and what are the guidelines?
It seems NASA’s Mars program is partial to names denoting desirable/adventurous personality traits. The launch and landing stages of the probes are certainly WOWevents. But I’m thinking of the decades of the less glamorous work behind the scenes to get these devices to those stages. What about honoring the less flashy but essential characteristics necessary for progress and harmony, when you’re working for years with a team of people, sometimes under stressful circumstances?
I humbly submit my nominations for the names of future Mars (or, Jupiter or…?) rovers:
Respectful Personal Hygiene
Introducing NASA’s next Mars Rover, “Fiscal Responsibility”
* * *
Department Of More Lists
I overheard a conversation in a grocery store between two employees, something about “…best inventions of the century.” We’re only one fift into the 21st century, but of course (as moiself discovered when I returned home and Googled the concept) individuals, news organizations and other companies have already started compiling lists.
Most of them overlap; “best” is of course a subjective rating; some of the entries, it could be argued, span both centuries (do you count an invention as being of this century on the date it became available to the public/was put into use, or the date when someone first started working on it?) .  All that considered, the more common entries include
Not only it is a great product, the makers of Poo-Pourri are responsible for arguably The. Funniest. Product. Commercial. Ever.  If you have never seen this commercial, then you obviously have a more fulfilling and important life than I do need to inform yourself as to this cultural milestone of marketing:
* * *
Department of Bill Gates Please Save The World
“Gates isn’t just looking to cut future carbon emissions, he is also investing in direct air capture, an experimental process to remove existing CO2 from the atmosphere. Some companies are now using these giant fans to capture CO2 directly out of the air, Gates has become one of the world’s largest funders of this kind of technology.” ( “Bill Gates: How the world can avoid a climate disaster,” 60 Minutes 2-15-21 )
Three times in the past three weeks I’ve encountered the term direct air capture, used in relation to our global warming crisis. Each time, the part of my heart that is still 12-years-old jumps for joy.
Direct air capture (as per Wikipedia): Direct air capture (DAC) is a process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the ambient air (as opposed to capturing from point sources, such as a cement factory or biomass power plant) and generating a concentrated stream of CO 2 for sequestration or utilization or production of carbon-neutral fuel and windgas. ….DAC was suggested in 1999 and is still in development….
Actually, a form of DAC was suggested by moiself, over two decades earlier than 1999. I, like, invented DAC. In your dreams, you may say. Well, literally, yes.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Southern California, early 1970s) we had smog alerts several times during my 7th grade year, when the air quality got so bad it hurt to breathe, and PE classes were cancelled.
You’re not supposed to “see” the air, right?
During that PE downtime I would think about why we weren’t doing our 800 yard run trials. Air pollution – not only do we have to stop adding to it, we need to get that existing gunk out of the air. What about some kind of sieve or filter – which work for liquids, so why not tweak the concept to strain the air? I would dream about it at night; I had dreams about enormous fan-type devices which would suck in air, filtering out the pollutants and spewing out clean air while compressing the particulate matter into bricks and other building materials which could be used for housing, road surfaces, bridges….
Yes, dreams, as in plural. It was weighing heavily upon my mind. For a period of several weeks I thought about it a lot, even confiding in my math teacher after class one day. I asked him if he knew some science teachers, maybe in high school,  with whom I could talk to about my idea. He laughed at me – not cruelly, but certainly patronizingly, and said that I had no concept about the complicated technology which would have to be involved – which would have to be invented – for such an undertaking. 
My school stopped having smog alerts and I stopped having those dreams. Moiself looks forward to not having to dream about such things, ever again, in the very near future.
How complicated could such an invention be?
* * *
The Commercial I’m Not Filming
Yours truly came across the following ad recently.
Imnagine that, an ad for yet another product or regimen to stop/reverse “the aging process.” 
Moiself fantasized about shooting a commercial for *my* secret tips to stop the aging process. Seven seems an excessive number, so I’ll cut it down to five. The commercial will open with scenes of people sending me money for my secret/sure-fire tips to stop the you-know-what process, followed by scenes of my anti-aging goon squad who show up at said people’s houses or surprise them on the streets, and stop their aging process via:
pushing them in front of a bus
running them over with a bus
dropping a bus on top of them as they stand at a bus stop
lacing their morning coffee with arsenic
slipping a sedative in their dinner wine and setting fire to their house while they sleep
The final scene shows friends at the deceased’s open casket funeral, murmuring enviously to one another, “She doesn’t look a day older than yesterday.”
“Did you see her – she’s actually dead!” “Yes, but at least she’s not getting any more wrinkles.”
* * *
“One of the things that Teller and I are obsessed with, one of the reasons that we’re in magic, is the difference between fantasy and reality.” (Penn Jillette, of the magic duo Penn and Teller)
“It isn’t automatic that if you learn magic you’ll become a skeptic of the supernatural,” said D.J. Grothe, president of the Virginia-based James Randi Educational Foundation, which debunks supernatural claims and was founded by Randi. “But knowing magic does give you a leg up on how the mind works and how easy it is to be deceived. And from there, skepticism can be a fortunate result.” (“Magicians say their craft makes them see faith as just hocus-pocus,” The Christian Century, 10-27-11 )
I have long been drawn to the philosophy of modern-day magicians, even though the what-they-do part – the actual “magic” – doesn’t particularly hold my interest. It has been years since I’ve been to a magic show, and although I avoid Las Vegas like the proverbial plague (I think moiself is allergic to neon), if I were there, The Penn and Teller show is the one show I’d try to get tickets to.
Well, that and a show featuring Amazonian-stature women dressed as roosters. Because, you know, culture.
What interests me is (something which magicians themselves have pointed out) the similarity of “tricks” used by magicians and politicians and religions. Magic acts, religious leaders and texts, and extreme political ideologies are similar in that they employ physical and psychological methods to fool people into believing something that they otherwise would have/should have known is patently untrue ( The man did not pull a quarter from your nose…but gosh darn it, it sure looked like he did). Ultimately, magicians and demagogues and priests don’t have to fool people, because by using a combination of visual, oral, and intellectual illusions, they get people to fool themselves.
I recently tuned into my favorite podcast on communication and science, Clear + Vivid , and was pleased to hear that C+V host Alan Alda’s guest was Penn Jillette (aka “the talking half “of Penn and Teller). In Magic, Tricks, and Us, Penn explored this question:
When we see a magic trick, is the magician fooling us,
or are we fooling ourselves?
Jillette’s thesis is that “magic tricks” are a test of how we process reality:
“If you’re lying to somebody, they’ll catch you. But if you get someone to lie to themselves, you’ve got ’em. And that is what we’re (magicians) always trying to do: get people to make assumptions…because they’ll put up a wall around me, but if I can come around the edge, we can fool ’em that way.
He talks about illusions v. tricks, and how he prefers the latter:
“Tricks are ideas that you get someone to…to lie to themselves. Because the trick, instantly, deals with one of the most important subjects we can deal with, which is how we establish what’s real; how we agree on a reality. For me, doing magic is a playful epistemological experience. We are playing around, in a safe zone, with how we establish what’s true. We’ve seen what happens when truth is played with on a real stage, in the real world…and it’s horrific. If you come to see a Penn & Teller show and you say, if these two guys can make me think something that’s patently not true, what can people with a real budget, and a lack of morals, do?”
Penn, an atheist and advocate science and of reality-based thinking, briefly addressed criticism that atheists don’t accept or appreciate “mystery” in the world.
“Atheists are often accused of ‘not accepting the mystery,’ and it’s exactly the opposite. Atheists are very happy going, ‘Hmm, I don’t know.’
Reality-based thinking is actually more in love with mystery than magical thinking. When scientists said, ‘I don’t know,’ they had more love of the mystery than someone who said, ‘I do know, and it’s god.’
The three most important words of the scientific method are, ‘I don’t know.’ Those were not said until 500 years ago. Priests and rulers and kings, they always knew. Scientists came along and went, ‘I don’t know.’ Those three words are to me the scientific method.”
What spurs scientific investigation in the first place is recognizing and admitting what we don’t know, followed by harnessing the curiosity and freedom to investigate. We all benefit from the science that springs from admitting what we don’t know about a natural phenomenon, rather than being “given” incomplete, incorrect, or simply nonsensical non-answers (“Allah willed it;” “Jehovah did it,” “Pele/Isis/Jesus sent the plague/rains/tornado/volcanic eruption to punish/reward/bless/remind us….”)
“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.” “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.” ( Richard Feynman, theoretical physicist, professor, and avid bongo player )
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Pun For The Day
Harry Houdini used to use lots of trap doors in his magic act. He’s stopped that now; he was just going through a stage.
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May you appreciate the difference between questions that can’t be answered and answers that can’t be questioned; May you be careful what you wish for when it comes to “the aging process;” May we all realize how truly cool it is that we have another rover on Mars; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 Did you see it? The announcers did a great job of transmitting the NASA/JPL team members’ “Seven Minutes of Terror,” as you think about how butt-frostingly complicated such a mission is, and how many things can go wrong….
 Foer example, the contraceptive patch was first available to the public in 2002 but had been in development and testing long before then.
 Yes, of course, that’s in my opinion. This is my blog; whose opinion were you expecting?
 Solving the world’s air pollution problems might be too ambitious for junior high, I reckoned.
 Neither did he, of course. I often wonder if I’d been a 13-year-old boy instead of a girl, and come to him with the same idea, would he have encouraged me to study engineering and solve that problem?
Department Of I Am Happy/Relieved, But Should Be More Ecstatic-er… As per the Biden-Harris victory. But I’m not. For reasons I shall get into next week….
It is next week. And I can’t avoid the obvious any longer.
Biden-Harris won! Yet, considering how many voted for #45, I can never look at my fellow Americans again – including some of my family and friends – without wondering.
In the week before election day I listened to several podcasts which featured interviews with “reluctant” tRump voters. Most of them made statements indicating they held religious (read: Christian) beliefs; what they all had in common was their discomfort with #45’s temperament, character, handling of the pandemic, fomenting civil unrest, ad nauseum. BUT…#45 “agreed” with them on abortion and they thought that the economy – for themselves – was “better” under his policies.
The idea that because your personal portfolio has increased temporarily (and in the long run, it’s always temporary) means “things are better” for you…I haven’t the words to aptly excoriate the staggering egocentricity and shortsightedness of such thinking.
Calling all #45 supporters,  reluctant and gung-ho: Y’all plan to live more than another year or two? What do you think will happen when the #45 regime’s chickens come home to roost, including record deficits and national debt and global warming exacerbation…
Over four years in office, the Trump administration has dismantled major climate policies and rolled back many more rules governing clean air, water, wildlife and toxic chemicals. (from “The Trump Administration Is Reversing More Than 100 Environmental Rules.” NY Times Nov. 10, 2020 )
Have you no concern for the future – for your children and your fellow citizens, if not for yourself? Can nothing override your sense of the *me-good-now,* of your satisfaction with personal financial gain and the lack of being inconvenienced by having to change personal/global habits to reduce carbon emissions; can nothing deter you from selling out our children’s future to the financial, environmental and social crises that are sure to come?
Forget, for a moment, the future: what about the present? Can you really don enough blinders and earplugs to ignore the political and social calamities besetting your fellow citizens and pretend that these don’t harm, involve, or even concern you?
“Trump has repeatedly been endorsed by white supremacist groups and other far-right extremists, and they’ve looked to him as a source of encouragement.” ( Business Insider, 9-30-20 )
“Former KKK leader endorses Trump for president again… Perhaps the US’s most renowned racial extremist has long supported what he sees as the president’s white nationalist agenda.” (The Independent, News<World<Americas, 7-9-20)
You must be familiar with how political and human rights leaders call for unity and try to appeal to our so-called better natures when the latest incidents of police brutality, sexism and misogyny, and the country’s history of systemic racism are revealed:
“This is not who we are.” “We are better than this.”
You’ve heard those phrases before; you’ll hear them again. You may even believe them. But I’m gonna shove my elbow down the throat of the next person  who says that within earshot of moiself. Because, guess what? This *is*who we are – at least, nearly half of the voting “we.”
At least 73 million of us are not “better than this,” because 73 million Americans were able and willing to set aside, ignore, or explain away the actions, rhetoric and policies of #45 which have fostered an unprecedented rise in displays of hatred, bigotry, and violence.
“Hate crimes have surged nearly 20 percent during the administration of President Donald Trump, according to a new FBI report on hate crime statistics. The report also shows that hate-motivated murders, largely committed by white supremacists, spiked to their highest number in 28 years.” ( “Hate Crimes Under Trump Surged Nearly 20 Percent Says FBI Report,” Newsweek, 11-16-20 )
Here’s news from a small town in my state, a story which probably didn’t get much national coverage during the election hoopla:
At least two Klamath Falls billboards were vandalized with…symbols linked to white supremacists and neo-Nazi beliefs….
Multiple swastikas were painted on the billboards, as well as the numbers “1488.” Those numbers are a common white supremacist symbol referencing a future for white children and an homage to Adolf Hitler…. The timing of these symbols appearing the day after the election cannot be ignored, (Klamath Falls Equity Task Force member Joey Gentry) said, noting her belief that people with racist tendencies have been emboldened by President Donald Trump. (“Swastikas appear on billboards for Democrats, store in Klamath Falls,” Oregonlive.com, 11-5-20)
There are #45 supporters who claim to be horrified by such actions. They protest, “This isn’t us!” and say that they themselves are not racist. Yet they are willing to overlook #45’s dog whistles to white supremacist organizations – hells bells, he doesn’t even bother to use the whistles anymore.
In politician speak, a dog whistle is language that conveys a particular meaning to a group of potential supporters. The targeted group hears the “whistle” because of its shared cultural reference, but others cannot. In 2018, The Washington Post wrote that “perhaps no one has sent more dog whistles than President Trump.” When Trump this year planned a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma – the site of one of the worst acts of racial terror in U.S. history – on the Black holiday of Juneteenth, the media called the rally a “racist dog whistle.” That suggests that white nationalists would view the timing as an overture, while others would miss the date’s racism. Journalists have also referred to Trump calling COVID-19 “the China virus” as a dog whistle…. True dog whistles rely on there being an “outgroup” that can’t hear the politician’s coded message. They are so specifically targeted that there’s no need to deny their coded meaning because no one outside the intended audience even hears them. This is why the term “dog whistle” does not accurately describe Donald Trump’s rhetoric. When Trump talks about “rapists” from Mexico, “shithole countries” in Africa and white supremacists as “very fine people,” the racial connotation isn’t hidden – it is obvious. “This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists,” said Sen. Kamala Harris in a tweet about Trump’s planned Tulsa rally. “[H]e’s throwing them a welcome home party.” (“Trump’s appeals to white anxiety are not ‘dog whistles’ – they’re racism.” The Conversation, 9-18-20 )
It haunts me – the voice of an Otherwise Nice-Sounding Man I heard being interviewed before the election, who said he struggled with his decision. Despite ONSM’s misgiving about the “other stuff,” ONSM chose #45 because ONDM’s stock portfolio had risen.
Other stuff. As in, #45’s history of sexual harassment and bullying, encouraging and abetting racial and social inequity, white supremacy, racism, homophobia, transphobia, & xenophobia; coddling (and imitating) dictators; collusion with Russia & obstruction of Justice, corruption and nepotism and “birtherism’ lies and lies lies and more lies… 
If you’ve a strong stomach, you can view (or download a pdf of) the unfortunately-not-yet-complete, “Listing of Trump’s Atrocities,” compiled via years of diligence of the non-profit publisher, McSweeney’s:
Early in President Trump’s term, McSweeney’s editors began to catalog the head-spinning number of misdeeds coming from his administration. We called this list a collection of Trump’s cruelties, collusions, and crimes, and it felt urgent then to track them, to ensure these horrors — happening almost daily — would not be forgotten. This election year, amid a harrowing global health, civil rights, humanitarian, and economic crisis, we know it’s never been more critical to note these horrors, to remember them, and to do all in our power to reverse them. Various writers have compiled this list during the course of the Trump administration. Their work has been guided by invaluable journalistic resources, including WTFJHT, NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other sources….
Other stuff. That #45 supporter, and millions like him, claim “That is not who we are,” yet vote for someone Who Is Exactly That. And that’s just as bad – no, it’s worse.
The leaders aren’t the problem; they rarely are. Leaders can do nothing without followers, plus those who claim not to be followers, but are Bystanders and Overlookers.
Charles Manson personally killed no one at the Tate-LaBianca murder scenes; he got his followers to butcher those seven people for him. Perhaps you’ve read about the protestations post-WWII from Italians who claimed not to have supported the policies of their Prime minister, Benito Mussolini, and who thus objected to being called fascists? “The concentration camps and mass killings of civilians in Yugoslavia and Greece – those happened outside our borders; we don’t really know about that. And, yeah, we, like, kinda, sorta, maybe knew that here, in our own country, Mussolini suppressed his opponents, dissenters, and social outsiders via physical assaults, imprisonment, economic deprivation, yada yada yada…. But, he made the trains run on time.” 
“This is not who we are.”
It sucks, massively, to realize the contrary.
And so my thoughts still go to dark places, dragged down by the reality of the complicity of millions of my citizens, plus this HOLY CRAP realization:
Joe and Kamala are stand-up, intelligent, competent, compassionate people, but yikes – look at how many problems they have to fix. What looms largest, exacerbated by #45, are the worldwide effects of global warming. Biden and Harris accept the obvious, hard truths laid out by science, but without a change in the hearts and minds of Republicans in congress, will we have a repeat of the Obama years, when Republicans’ only policy mandate was to counter everything he tried to do? Will they continue to stamp their metaphorical toddlers’ feet and tantrum their way through Biden’s term: “NO, I WON’T WONT WONT WONT PLAY WITH YOU AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME.”
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Department Of Fun With Misreading Science
Dateline: 11/14, listening to Clear + Vivid podcast, episode Life on Venus? From the podcast’s website, this episode’s description:
She studies what may be the most disgusting molecule known to humankind. And that’s made Clara Sousa-Silva a key member of the team that may have detected life in the clouds of Venus. Her foul (and lethal) molecule has been discovered in those clouds – and the only current explanation for its presence is that it is being made by living organisms.
Podcast Host Alan Alda was asking guest Clara Sousa-Silva (quantum astrochemist  ) about how astronomy professor Jane Greeves contacted Sousa-Silva regarding a phenomenon of interest to both of them:
Alda: “And what prompted her (Greeves) to look for phosphine on Venus?”
Sousa-Silva: “It was a paper that we’d both read that mentioned phosphine association with penguin feces. So it seems like the intestines and excrements of penguins have… a rich, complex anerobic world that is producing phosphine, and there was an article released saying we’ve found phosphine above these places where there’s a lot of penguin poop and I had found that paper and read through every peer-reviewed paper that mentioned phosphine, and I’d collected this body of evidence as phosphine as a bio signature for anaerobic worlds… “
Y’all know what this means –
PENGUINS FOUND ORBITING VENUS ! !
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Department Of 7:45 am Observations While Walking Through The Neighborhood
I see the silhouette in the skies above me, that of a great blue heron flying on to its next destination, whether that be a nearby creek or someone’s backyard koi pond. The bird’s distinctive “fuselage” reminds me of a 747, at least in comparison to two other birds, one dove and one crow, occupying different flight paths below the heron.
Its good to use your imagination.
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Department Of The Standup Routine I’m Not Practicing
Dateline; last Friday. Apropos of nothing (that moiself was aware of), a few minutes after finishing breakfast, I got this flash vision of moiself practicing for a stand-up comedy routine, taking on the persona of a somewhat oblivious and bemused parent. Here was my opening (or closing…or both, depending on how well it would be received) joke:
“The kids these days, with all of their gender-this and sexual-that labels! Most of it goes right over my head.
The other day I caught my teenage son masturbating with a cast iron skillet. Is that what they mean by, ‘pansexual’?”
Yes, I thought that one up all by moiself. I want applause, dammit.
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Pun For The Day
Parallel lines have so much in common; it’s a shame they’ll never meet.
I thought I made it clear – no more math nerd puns!
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Department Of Possibly The Most Useless Question Posed To A Sentient Being…Ever
The following email, with this provocative tempting totally bat shit ridiculous thought-provoking come-on, somehow made it past my spam filter:
“Need eyelash extensions for the holidays?”
Honey, do you think *I* need eyelash extensions?
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May you never be a Bystander, nor an Overlooker; May you realize that you never “need” eyelash extensions, for any occasion; May we all strive to be better than this; …and may the hijinks ensue.
 Except that, he didn’t. Like many dictators, Mussolini “…liked to take credit for everything that went right in Italy, even when it didn’t go that well at all. He was particularly fond of saying he was responsible for successful, large-scale public works projects, such as the railroad system.” (Did Mussolini Really Keep the Trains Running on Time? history.howstuffworks.com )
Active, reliable, sarcastic, affectionate, bipedal, cynical optimist, writer, freethinker, parent, spouse and friend, I am generous with my handy supply of ADA-approved spearmint gum and sometimes refrain from humming in public.