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The Question I’m Not Understanding

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Department Of Memories Apropos Of Nothing,
Which Nevertheless Arise In The Middle Of The Night

Dateline: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, when I worked in an OB/GYN practice near Stanford Hospital.

Moiself  had been with the practice about four months, and had begun to be familiar with the regular patients and would often know, without having to look at their chart, what they were in for (when they had an appointment) or what they were calling for.

We had a patient from Persia – i.e. Iran  [1] – who had been trying to get pregnant, without success, for almost a year, and she and her husband had begun the initial rounds of fertility testing. One morning we received a phone call from the husband. The office manager answered the call and handed it off to moiself, since I was the health educator/medical assistant. The man’s English was very heavily-accented; I had to ask him three times to repeat his name. The office manager recognized the name when I spoke it aloud – Mr. Mizrahi, what may I help you with? Excuse me, what was that?  She listened to the brief conversation with increasing shock and disbelief and waved her arms to get my attention as I walked toward the massive Wall of Charts ®, searching for the wife’s records. The office manager had surmised what Mr. Mizrahi was calling about; she banged her forehead against her desk when she heard me say, to a man who was asking for the results of his semen analysis,

“Come again?”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Deja Vu All Over Again

Every morning at breakfast I do a cryptogram puzzle   [2]  from my Cryptogram-A-Day Book. This particular book of cryptograms consists of thoughts from philosophers, scientists, and other “great thinkers,” and proverbs and adages and sayings from the fables of Aesop to the koans of Zen Buddhism.  Twice within four days, my first thought, upon solving the respective quotes for August 4 and August 8, was, “Gee, I wonder why this one reminds me of #45?   [3]

“The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none.”
Thomas Carlyle

“Wise men talk because they have something to say;
fools talk because they have to say something.”
Plato

*   *   *

Department Of Things That Make Me Sad

“New technologies – robots, software, artificial intelligence – have already destroyed more than 4 million US jobs, and in the next 5-10 years, they will eliminate millions more. A third of all American workers are at risk of permanent unemployment. And this time, the jobs will not come back.”
(Andrew Yang, former lawyer and internet/healthcare/education entrepreneur, philanthropist, founder of Venture For America, and Democratic presidential candidate)

Check out, if you haven’t already, the Andrew Yang For President website.  Specifically, check out the menu heading for his policies.  Yang has the most detailed proposals on the widest variety of issues that I’ve ever seen from any (would-be) public servant, from reducing student loan burden to campaign finance reform to modernizing military spending to “reverse boot camp” for returning GIs to border security and immigration reform…so many, that they are divided into topical groups:

* Economy/Jobs & Labor

* Civil Rights/Criminal Justice

* Democracy/Governance

* Healthcare

* Environment

* Education

* Family/Social Cohesion

* Foreign Policy

* Immigration

* Miscellaneous/Fun    [4]

Unlike so many other candidates (and this is, I’m sure, directly related to his background in business and education and NOT politics), Yang just doesn’t have call out problems, he offers solutions, which he backs with evidence.

I first heard of Yang in January, when he was interviewed on the Freakonomics podcast “Why Is This Man Running For President?” (#362, 1-9-19).  He reminds me of a Paul Revere figure, riding through the streets and calling out to us…essentially alone…because no one else sees that The British Are Coming – in this case, “The British” are, among other issues, the impending crisis re jobs lost to AI/robots and automation. Yang’s clear-headed reasoning and innovative (yet common sense, when you think about it) proposals got me to change my mind on the UBI (Universal Basic Income) concept – a concept that is so misunderstood and therefore unlikely to fly with the Average Joe ®  [5]   that Yang himself tacitly acknowledges this by calling his proposal the “Freedom Dividend.”

So, whence the department of things that make me sad? Because I know what’ll likely happen. When people from outside the Republican-Democrat duopoly , people with valuable experience, clear thinking, fresh ideas re complicated dilemmas, and no history of entangled agendas analyze our questions and offer feasible answers, we tend to dismiss them as dreamers and their ideas as impractical.  We say we want people who’ll tell us the truth and find bold yet workable solutions, but it seems most of us really can’t handle it.

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Things That Make Me Sad
In Ways That The Word Sad Just Can’t Cut It

August 3, another day, another mass shooting, another long time/treasured friend suffers the death of a child…

Wait, WTF was that?!?!?!

How shamefully easy it is for moiself  to be so matter-of-fact about the former and so distraught by the latter. The mass shooting (excuse me, make that plural) last week barely registered in my mind as I was trying to comprehend the shock and grief of dear, longtime friend SGD, as she and her husband and daughter mourn the unexpected death of their 28 year old son and brother.

 

 

Remember, I told son K and daughter Belle, although I’m usually not a stickler about most Life Things ®, please get this Rule Of Life thing correct: you’re supposed to bury us, not the other way around.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

 Forks Over Knives, edited by Gene Stone.

 Recipes:

* Avocado Dressing
* Cucumber Tomato Salad
* Red Potatoes and Kale 

My ratings, the same for all three: 

 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [7]

*   *   *

 

May  we remember to talk only when we have something to say;
May we not ask for the truth unless we are prepared to deal with it;
May we all, once again and forever, remember to love ’em while we got ’em;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] During that time (mid-late 1980s), due to the volatile US-Iran political relations – or just a strong cultural preference – people from Iran would often refer to themselves as Persian, rather than as Iranian.

[2] A cryptogram in this sense is a word puzzle consisting of a short piece of coded text – substitution cypers, where each letter is replaced by a different letter.

[3] Aka D—– tRump, our Commander in Disbelief Chief.

[4] My favorite category, which includes such topics as “The Penny Makes No Cents” (the reasons, from environmental to practical, to get rid of pennies), “Robo-calling Text Lines” (a one step method to report Robo Callers to the FCC), and “Making Taxes Fun”….

[5] a Joe that is likely to reconsider UBI when he loses his retail/truck driving job to online shopping/self-driving trucks and robots and drones and….

[6] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook 9at least) one recipe from one book.

[7]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin (a character in The Office who would eat anything) would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

The Album I’m Not Reviewing

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Because, although I’m always a critic, I’m not a reviewer.

However, as the name of my blog suggests, I can be a declarative liar.

Untitled-1

In light of her recent dumping by her husband of over 36 years divorce from husband Neil, it’s easy to read themes of melancholy, duplicity and loss into the songs on Pegi Young’s latest album, Lonely In a Crowded Room. Young’s low key, casual, bluesy, r & b country –tinged vocal delivery subtly intensifies the bitterness, heartbreak and yearning behind many of the songs, especially in the zinger of a final track, “Blame It On Me.”  There is also a wicked low-key wit in evidence behind several of her songs, in particular, “In My Dreams” and “Better Livin’ Through Chemicals.”

This is one of those collections that creeps up on you – it gets better with each listen, IMHO. Go ahead, click that purchase button.

*   *   *

In last week’s post I included 15 Little Known If Not Exactly Personal Facts About Moiself, which contained a content alert for name dropping.  The alert was related to two facts, one of which pertains to this post:

(9) I worked for the obstetrician who delivered Neil and Pegi Young’s second child.

This was a long, long time ago in a galaxy far far away, when I was a health educator for a private OB-GYN practice near Stanford Hospital.  My employers were DWB and POM, a husband-wife doctor/nurse practitioner. The practice’s staff prided ourselves on developing close relationships with our patients, and over the months of pregnancy and post partum visits and childbirth education classes and new parent’s support group that met weekly in the office, we got to know and care for the OB patients in a deeper way than was possible with those we saw but once a year for annual exams.

Pegi Young, pregnant with her and her husband Neil’s second child, had been referred to our practice. She was of the nicest, kindest, most  good humored, gracious and warmhearted of our patients. Thus, Pegi became a favorite of the staff because of how she was, not who she was in some people’s eyes – the wife of a famous husband (I loved that my employer, the doctor who delivered the Young’s baby, had no idea who Neil Young was, other than the tall skinny shy guy with the holey jeans who sometimes came to appointments with Pegi).  I remember thinking that, although I knew little about Pegi’s personal life, it must be nice for Pegi to be the “star” in our eyes – as the pregnant patient she had our primary attention – when it was likely her husband who drew all the attention elsewhere.

papparazzi

A few times a month I would treat myself to a break from sack lunches and skip across the street from the practice to The Stanford Barn. The Barn was (surprise!) a big, barn-like structure that housed several businesses, including a restaurant. More than a half a dozen times I’d arrived at the restaurant to see one of our practice’s patients waiting alone to be seated for lunch, either before or after their OB appointment. If the patient saw me, I’d suggest she join me for lunch (sometimes, they beat me to it and extended the invitation). I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the patients outside of the office, and they seemed to relish the chance to talk to someone who was genuinely interested in their home and work lives, and who asked them non-pregnancy related questions.

One day in the restaurant, as I waited for the staff to seat me, in walked Pegi Young. We greeted each other, and for the first time I hesitated in extending the invitation I had so freely extended to our Stanford scientist patient, our Silicon Valley entrepreneur  patient, our self-identified “pilot’s wife” patient, our teacher patient…. You get the picture?

Considering the speed of neuron transmission, the thoughts going through my mind took less than a nanosecond to process, and I’m sure she didn’t notice my hesitation. I didn’t want her to think I was treating her differently than any other person or that I wanted to be around her because she was married to a famous man…but, if I didn’t ask her to join me for lunch I would be treating her differently for just that reason.

Damn the torpedoes; I figured she could just say no. I extended the invitation and she joined me for lunch.

Can you guess which famous-person-by-association touched these French fries?

Can you guess which famous-person-by-association touched these French fries?

We had a pleasant meal (which included really good fries, as I recall) and a nice chat, with me still feeling twinges of awkwardness when I realized certain questions I was about to ask, questions I had asked the other patients, questions that were related to what they told me about their lives and aspects I therefore found unique and interesting, could be taken as me trying to pry into a celebrity’s life.  I didn’t know at the time that Pegi, although not a “celebrity,” was a musician/singer/songwriter in her own right, and had been, years before she’d met her better known musician husband.

Like all the other “patient lunches” I’d had and would go on to have, it was an enjoyable way to spend 45 minutes or so with an acquaintance…and that was that. We didn’t go on to be best buds or anything. She had her baby, [1] we (the office staff) saw her less frequently, I left the practice not long after.  I did continue to think of Ms. Young, occasionally and fondly, and still do, after all these years.

Oh, and Pegi Young’s album? I bought it because it’s really good.

*   *   *

Just In Case You Were Wondering

Neuroscientist David Linden, in a fascinating Fresh Air interview on the science behind the sense of touch, reported this earth-shaking find:  he and colleagues have determined that no matter how sensitive you think your own…uh…parts…are, you cannot read Braille with your genitals.

You know how these things work – when you share a little-known fact like, “It is impossible for a person to lick their own elbow,” people immediately try to lick their elbows.  Seeing as how the majority of us do not have access to Braille materials in our home, Linden advises we not rush out to the nearest ATM to test that particular finding.

ATM

*   *   *

Speaking of Lady and Man Parts (and you know I do)….

Dateline: Thursday morning, at the kitchen table. As I sat down with my avocado tofu scramble, MH read me the photo caption from a New York Times article:

“…. Park Slope, Brooklyn, experienced its second manhole explosion in less than 24 hours.”

“Yikes.” I shivered.  “That’s gotta hurt.

“How’s that?” MH said…or something (whatever he mumbled, it was the perfect set up).

I briefly explained that while I feel sympathy toward anyone with a manhole, I think the guys in Park Slope ought to lay off the chili dogs. [2]

SOLDIER FART

*   *   *

The Dangers of Playing the Game

When you are not feeling particularly good about yourself in terms of future professional prospects among other issues, it’s rather irritating when the day’s Cryptogram word puzzle solution is the I-know-that’s-how-the-world-works-but-it-still-sucks, Aristotle quotation

“(Personal) beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of introduction.”

♫ I feel pretty... ♫

♫ I feel pretty… ♫

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Department of Civic Responsibilities

On Tuesday I responded to a Freedom From Religion Foundation Action alert by sending an email to Mayor Lupe Ramos Watson of Indio, CA, thanking her for deciding to end the Indio City Council’s practice of opening meetings with prayer.

“We need to respect all beliefs and absence of beliefs,” Mayor Ramos Watson said, explaining her decision (as reported in The Desert Sun).

My email:

Thank you, Mayor Ramos Watson, for your decision to keep the government neutral on matters of religion by stopping the practice of opening city council meetings with prayer.

It’s a bit odd that I feel compelled to thank a public servant for doing what should be par for the course – upholding Constitutional principles and standing up for the rights of all of her constituents. However, these days it seems your sensible understanding of the issue is, unfortunately, not held by all of your peers.

One wee/small nit to pick – or rather, something to consider – re your thoughtful statement as quoted in The Desert Sun, “We need to respect all beliefs and absence of beliefs.”  We who are religion-free – we agnostics, atheists, freethinkers, Humanists, Brights – are not absent of beliefs or principles.  We have many, many beliefs. The difference is, our beliefs are based on reason and the natural world, not supernaturalism.

Again, I thank you for doing the right thing, wish you all the best, and am, Sincerely yours,

When was the last time you praised a politician for doing the right thing? [3] I know for moiself, when it comes to civic affairs it’s so much easier – and, let’s face it, sometimes fun – to carp than to encourage, and I’m trying to change that.

thanks

*   *   *

Hold Your Applause

On Tuesday I woke up at 3 am with the following question on my mind: [4]

If the Director of the NSA has to leave a presidential briefing to take a pee,
does that constitute a security leak?

*   *   *

Department of this Explains A Few Things

Because my mother generally does better recalling the past than living in the present, during my weekly phone calls with her I try to follow the wise counsel found in Compassionate Communication With the Memory Impaired, and ask her to repeat stories of her childhood.

I cannot recall the prompt – something stormy weather-related – that made me ask my mother to tell me about the one time she and her family experienced a tornado in Cass Lake, Minnesota. I’d heard her tell the story several times before; during our last phone call, she provided more details.

Cass Lake was well north of Tornado Alley, and, according to my mother, rarely did the small town experience severe thunder or windstorms, and never tornadoes.  Still, a tornado warning came one day in the summer when my she and her parents were staying at their family’s small cabin at nearby Wolf Lake.

The tornado mostly spared the town, but the storm that hatched it packed some mighty winds. While her father went outside to batten down the hatches, [5] my mother’s mother (whom my siblings and I referred to as our “Bapa”), clutched her youngest daughter, my mother, and repeated, over and over, that her greatest fear was about to come true: the cabin would be picked up by the tornado “…we’ll all be dumped into the lake!”

“She said what?” I was aghast.  “Mom, that’s terrible! Bapa was a bad mother.”

My mother laughed at the epithet.

“I’m serious – that was a bad mother thing to do.”

My mother did not dispute my assessment. She noted that she hadn’t been all that concerned about the storm (in fact, she’d found it rather exciting) until her mother panicked.  “She was terrified; she was so scared.”

“Which means that you were, too, right?  She made you scared, too?”

“Mmm hmm.”

“Parents are supposed to make light of the situation, or joke or do something, anything, to keep their children calm and make them feel safe. It doesn’t matter how scared the adults are; it’s their job to hold it together, for their kids.  I am so sorry your mother didn’t do that, for you.”

“No,” my mother said.  “She didn’t.”

*   *   *

Because it’s four days after Groundhog’s Day and four months until the summer solstice, let’s pretend it’s time to Shake Your Groove Thing ® and Get Down With Your Bad Self. © If you are of A Certain Age and can remember the television dance show that featured this song, you are a better Boomer than I.

*   *   *

May you do the right thing come political meetings or tornadoes, and find time for a little groove-thang-shaking, and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

 

[1] Which had one of the cutest, most powerful smiles I had ever seen in a baby. I mean, that kid would laser you a grin.

[2] Yeah, I know, fart jokes. Like the Dylan song says, may you stay Forever Young.

[3] No cracks about how it might take a few years to think of such a praise-worthy instance.

[4] This existential moment brought to you by my Nocturnal Brain calls, also mentioned in last week’s post. Hakuna Fritatta, anyone?

[5] Or whatever you do in Minnesota when you get a tornado warning. Stock up on Jell-o-casseroles?