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The Rovers I’m Not Naming

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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.  [1]  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?

Spirit; Opportunity; Curiosity; Pathfinder; Perseverance

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 WOW events. 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:

Diligence

Reliability

Punctuality

Maturity

Tolerance

Composure

Sufficiently Caffeinated

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?) .  [2]   All that considered, the more common entries include

*  Smart phones
*  Online banking
*  3-d printing
*  CRISPR  gene editor
*  The contraceptive patch
*  Augmented reality
*  Blockchain platforms
*  High density battery packs
*  Online streaming

After scanning the fifth such list, I noted a glaring omission common to all of them:

Where was the inclusion of Poo-Pourri ?!?!?!?     [3]

Not only it is a great product, the makers of Poo-Pourri are responsible for arguably The. Funniest. Product. Commercial. Ever.   [4]   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,   [5]  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.  [6]

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.”   [7]

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:

  1. pushing them in front of a bus
  2. running them over with a bus
  3. dropping a bus on top of them as they stand at a bus stop
  4. lacing their morning coffee with arsenic
  5. 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 )

 

*   *   *

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.

 

*   *   *

 

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!

*   *   *

 

[1] 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….

[2] Foer example, the contraceptive patch was first available to the public in 2002 but had been in development and testing long before then.

[3] Aka, “The before-you-go toilet spray.”

[4] Yes, of course, that’s in my opinion. This is my blog; whose opinion were you expecting?

[5] Solving the world’s air pollution problems might be too ambitious for junior high, I reckoned.

[6] 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?

[7] As in, wrinkled skin.

The NDR I’m Not Signing

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Department Of Things That Will – Or Should – Blow Your Mind

Did you know that the post-slavery, Jim Crow Law society of the USA served as a model for the Nazis’ system of establishing “racial/Aryan purity”?

“It turned out that German eugenicists were in continuing dialogue with American eugenicists. Books by American eugenicists were big sellers in Germany in the years leading up to the Third Reich….of course, the Nazis needed no one to teach them how to hate. But what they did was they sent researchers to study America’s Jim Crow laws. They actually sent researchers to America to study how Americans had subjugated African Americans, what would be considered the subordinated caste. And they actually debated and consulted American law as they were devising the Nuremberg Laws. ”    [1]

( “It’s More Than Racism: Isabel Wilkerson Explains America’s ‘Caste’ System,”
Fresh Air, 8-4-20 )

 

“Captain, you’re shitting me, I mean, fascinating….”

 

In her recent Fresh Air interview with host Terry Gross, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson spoke about discovering, while researching her latest book, that Nazi Germany modeled their system of codified racism in part on (what Wilkerson calls) America’s racial caste system.  Wilkerson suggests that we look at America as having created a caste system (as opposed to using the overused and often misapplied blanket term of “racism”) to keep down African Americans.

T. GROSS:
In the comparisons that you make between the Nazi regime and the caste system in America, you describe…what qualified in each country as being white…. Would you compare the two countries in defining that?

WILKERSON:
Well, that was a source of tremendous debate, I came to discover. I had no idea how they (the Nazis) had arrived at their delineation of people. And they sent people to study the United States and how it had defined and codified, categorized and subjugated African Americans and delineated who could be what in the United States. They also studied the marriage laws – intermarriage laws. And in doing so, they debated as to who should qualify to be considered Aryan in Germany at that time.
And in studying the United States, they were stunned to have discovered the one-drop rule that was the common distinction in the United States for determining whether a person could be identified as Black…. That idea of the one-drop rule – that was viewed as too extreme to them.

T. GROSS (incredulously):
Too extreme to the Nazis?

WILKERSON:
Stunning to hear that…stunning to see that, stunning to discover that. The Nazis, in trying to create their own caste system…went to great lengths to really think hard about who should qualify as Aryan because they felt that they wanted to include as many people as they possibly could, ironically enough.
In trying to define who could qualify to be Aryan, the Nazis were more concerned about making sure that those who had Aryan blood would be protected…. They actually had greater latitude in defining who could be Aryan and who would qualify as Jewish than the United States had determined with who could be African American or who could be white.

 

 

Too extreme to the Nazis?

Terry Gross’s reaction keeps coming back to moiself

Once again, historical scholars and journalists are doing fascinating research, bringing to the forefront information and historical documentation, via sources and materials readily available, that we Americans are just not taught in school – or anywhere else.

Another intriguing quote from the interview is from when Gross and Wilkerson were discussing the fact that “the idea of being white is an American innovation.”

T. GROSS:
You were talking to a Nigerian-born playwright, and that playwright told you there are no Black people in Africa…. Africans aren’t Black.
What did they mean?

To find out what that playwright meant, and how Wilkerson came to believe that “caste” is a more accurate description of Black people’s experience in the USA than racism, listen to the interview (or get the transcript here).

*   *   *

Department Of How’s This For A Life Strategy?

*  Live your life so that you never have a reason to request even one non-disclosure agreement, from anyone, ever. *  

For decades, (He Who Shall Not Be Named In This Space ) has relied on broadly worded nondisclosure agreements as a powerful weapon against anyone who would say something critical of him. Among those who have signed agreements are a porn star, two ex-wives, contestants on “The Apprentice,” campaign workers and business associates….

Now, in one of the most sweeping efforts by a former associate to undo nondisclosure agreements, the _____ campaign’s former Hispanic outreach director last week filed her latest effort in a class-action suit to void all such campaign contracts. She says they are so broad that they deny individuals their First Amendment right to say anything critical of the president — even as he routinely takes to Twitter to mock and deride his critics.

(The Washington Post, 8-7-20, “t**** long has relied on nondisclosure deals to prevent criticism. That strategy may be unraveling.”)

 

*   *   *

Department Of Nostalgia

Sub Department Of Yet Another Reason To Fear For The Youth Of Today

What with virtual schooling perhaps being the norm at least for a while, combined with the gradual replacement of chalkboards with whiteboards in schools, will an entire generation of children grow up unable to appreciate the metaphor of describing a hideous experience as “…like fingernails on a chalkboard?”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It Can’t Be Scarier Than Letting Them Drive

Y’all heard of the campaign to extend voting rights to 16- and 17-year-olds? 

 

 

Calm down, Grandpa, and think about it.

The goal of vote16usa.org  is
“…to support efforts to lower the voting age on the local level, help start new local campaigns, and elevate the issue’s prominence on a national level.”

This is something moiself  supports.  I hope that you will as well, after researching and considering the issues – like these ones:

Your child must file a return in any of the following situations for tax year 2019:
Unearned income was more than $1,100.
Earned income was more than $12,200.
( from Kids and Taxes, figures for 2019 filing year )

The 16-year-old with an after-school job and a paper route will have to pay income taxes, just as a part- or full-time employed 18-year-old must, if their incomes exceeds a certain amount.  But unlike the 18-year-old, the 16-year-old cannot vote for her political representative to decide tax policy.

Most of us are familiar the statistics behind auto driving:

* Over 37,000 Americans die in automobile crashes per year.
* An additional 3 million are injured or disabled annually.

Driving is quite the responsibility.  Yet, a 16-year-old can get a driver’s license and also, at the DMV, can sign a legally binding consent to be on an organ donor registry.  But he himself cannot vote on how those life-altering policies (the licensing of drivers and organ donation) are implemented, nor can he elect representatives to do so for him.

 

No taxation without representation.  Remember that rallying cry?  [2]  Our political forebears fought an effin’ revolution over issues like that. It seems only fair that, if you can work a job and pay taxes, you should be able to vote.

Because of our culture’s fucked-up misunderstanding of the 2nd amendment  lively debate on issues surrounding firearms, 16- and 17-year-olds have the “right” to attend high schools where they must participate in active shooter drills, but they cannot vote in or out the adults who set national and state firearms policies (they are old enough to be murdered, but not to vote).

Do you remember how, after the Parkland High School shooting, many of the school’s students organized marches, and addressed their adult political representatives:

“Every kid in this country now goes to school wondering if this day might be their last. We live in fear. It doesn’t have to be this way. Change is coming. And it starts now, inspired by and led by the kids who are our hope for the future. Their young voices will be heard.
(Parkland students say, ‘We are going to be the last mass shooting’,
Daily Journal Online)

Do you also remember how many adults, from news pundits to politicians, dissed the students for doing so?  Do you think politicians could so easily ignore those young voices if those same voices had the power to organize and vote them out of office?

 

 

One of the more common arguments older people give against lowering the voting age is their claim that 16- and 17-year-olds aren’t rational or informed enough to be involved in political decision making.

Seriously? What qualifies as “rational” or “informed-*enough,* given our populace? Do you know how many Americans over age 18 watch reality TV shows? At the height of its popularity, Here Comes Honey Boo-boo, arguably the worst reality show ever, drew 2.9 million viewers  (the show ran for two years, and was only cancelled when it was revealed that the mother of the show was dating a registered child sex offender) .  

Many 16- and 17-year-olds are more sensible and better informed on politics and social issues than adults thrice their age.  When I was in high school I ruefully noticed that so many of my peers – in particular, those of us in the journalism group, where being interested in and informed about currents events was both an attraction and a requirement – knew much more about politics and current events than most of our adult family members and even some of our teachers – a frustrating fact which was evidenced when we tried to initiate discussions of said events and the adults openly copped to being unfamiliar with the issues.

From my junior high – high school years, I can recall many a baffling dialogue with my parents, in which I tried to engage them on political issues – not just to express moiself’s  own thoughts; I genuinely wanted to hear their opinions.  I was almost always unable to satisfactorily do so, because they knew few (and sometimes no) specifics of the issues I wanted to discuss, from a local school board election to international criticism of USA policy on Vietnam.   And in some (read: too many) cases, they frankly admitted they just didn’t know and didn’t care… And yet, there were no “rational and informed” poll tests nor requirements they had to pass: by virtue of their age alone, they were able to register to vote and then go to the polls and cast their ballots on issues about which they knew or cared nothing, and/or elect other citizens who would make those decisions for them.

I used to advise religions that forbade female clergy, “Either ordain women or stop baptizing them.”  [3]   (For some reason, the various RC popes never took moiself’s  advice on that…or any other matter.).  Fair is fair.  If you’re old enough to pay taxes you’re old enough to vote for those people who make those tax policies.    [4]

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Thoughts That Wake Me Up At 3 AM.

2020: it is the present year, and also the term for normal visual acuity. When we say that someone “…has 2020 vision,” we are complementing that person’s accuracy of perception.

I began the year with optimism: maybe 2020 is the year when the collective WE ® will realize that international problems require international solutions.  How appropriate, moiself  dared to dream, if 2020 turned out to be the year when WE began to get our proverbial shit together!?

Now I despair that 2020 will be the year when we ultimately lost our sight.

The viral pandemic and the resulting medical economic and political upheaval have put other pressing issues on the back burner.  Speaking of burning, the most crucial of those issues is that we are burning the planet up – we are setting our own house on fire. Aside from our nation’s own pathetic excuse of non-leadership on this issue,  I don’t see any other international leader with the standing and influence (or, seemingly, the desire) to take point on this issue.

This is why leadership is so important — why leadership is a thing in the first place.  Because there are 7.7 fucking BILLION of us, and moiself  and my friends trying to “do our part” by never buying another plastic bag (“refuse, reuse, reduce, recycle, and other ways to reduce your carbon footprint”) may help save a sea turtle or two but it’s not gonna hack it in the long run.

It’s just too damn depressing. I need a baby sloth moment.

 

“Oh sure, you wanna talk about burning up? I live in a tropical jungle and y’all put me in flannel pajamas?”

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Phone Knows Me Too Well

Here is how my smart(ass) phone, at 3 am, translated my dictation of “Department Of Thoughts That Wake Me Up At 3 AM.”

“Department of farts that wake me up at 3 AM.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of You Can Pee In The Yard, But Don’t You Dare Enjoy It

Our across-the-street beach neighbor, JK and his wife CK,  [5]    live next to a house which is almost always rented out. This (edited) email from JK was in response to my giving him a “heads up” that my son K and his friends would be staying at our place last weekend:

You might have noticed the group of 11 staying at the rent house next door (rated for 8 occupancy)… black SUV and black pickup truck… the SUV arrived before the pickup truck guy (who had the key) arrived to open the house. The three (SUV) women tried the front door, to no avail, went around back, which started our dogs barking. I went out to the deck to see why the dogs were barking so viciously and got there just in time to see a woman hook her thumb into the back waistband of her yoga pants, pull them down and squat in the backyard between the fern and the picnic table. After a few seconds, presumably emptying her bladder, she stood up and pulled her yoga pants back up. It was obvious that she neglected to put her panties on that morning… yes, commando yoga pants. The three women got back in the SUV and headed south.

Upon hearing this story,  CK reported the event to the rental agency and the Manzanita Police. The black pickup truck arrived about 15 m after the SUV left;  the guy couldn’t figure out how to work the house key, and made the dogs bark again. He got on his phone and shortly drove off in the same direction as the SUV. When officer M arrived, he and I had a nice discussion about these events, and he agreed with my suspicion that the gals were just early, had to go NOW, and then decided to go to the beach. He also informed me that, according to Oregon law, peeing in the yard is not illegal but trespassing is. If the woman was part of the group renting the house, she’s entitled to do so (pee in the yard). As long as she’s not touching herself for pleasure.

My response to JK:
Thank you – this is hilarious.  As long as it’s not happening next door to us.  Hey, good to know that, in Oregon, I can drop trou to pee, but not “pleasure” myself.  Does this law also extend to men?

JK:
Yes the law applies equally to both/all genders.  If you are on property that you do not own, you must have permission to be on the property.
The Oregon code states that a person has “… a reasonable expectation of privacy …” in a number of places including “… residences, yards of residences, …” and it makes no distinction between front or back yards. Exceptions are included for touching one’s privates for pleasure and “… causing arousal in others …”

You are correct to notice that this picture in no way relates to the above story…but do you really want a picture of a woman peeing in someone else’s yard?  [6]

 

*   *   *

May you never sign nor request others sign a non-disclosure agreement;
May we all continue to learn the parts of our national history which make us uncomfortable;
May you always have other options than having to pee in the yard;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Excerpt from Wikipedia’s entry: :

 The Nuremberg Laws were antisemitic and racist laws in Nazi Germany…. The two laws were the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour, which forbade marriages and extramarital intercourse between Jews and Germans and the employment of German females under 45 in Jewish households, and the Reich Citizenship Law, which declared that only those of German or related blood were eligible to be Reich citizens. The remainder were classed as state subjects without any citizenship rights.

[2] And by remember I mean, from your American history class…not that you heard it personally.  I mean, moiself knows my readers tend to skew older, but not *that* old.

[3] Or stop cashing their checks.  Now I just want women to stop writing those checks. Imagine what would happen to religious organizations if women stopped giving them time and money? I sometimes do, and I sleep better at night when I do.

[4] If you can’t, then you shouldn’t have to pay income taxes until you’re 18.

[5] Who gave me permission to share this story, in case you were wondering.

[6] And if your answer to that question is “Yes!” then please stop following moiself’s  blog.