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The Chemicals I’m Not Balancing

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Department Of Sometimes I Just Can’t Help Myself

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

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

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

 

 

facepalm

 

 

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Department Of I Love Learning New Things

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

 

 

flank

 

 

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

 

 

How intriguing. Do tell us more.

How intriguing. Do tell us more.

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Get on with it, please.

Get on with it, please.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

There is no New Thing #4.

 

rejoicing

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Department Of Kids Say The Darndest Things

Background info to apropos to this Department:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

They are the folks.

They are the folks.

 

 

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Department Of All Things Must Pass

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

VanBumperStickersArgus

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

vannoteJPG

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Not Exactly Late Breaking News

 

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

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

Please, someone bring me the smelling salts.

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

Blueberry-loving Belle

Blueberry-loving Belle

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

*   *   *

Department Of Signs Of The Times

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

 

 

suck

 

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

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

 

*   *   *

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

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

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

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

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

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

 The Bush I’m Not Beating Around

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Happy Day-After Darwin Day

Darwinday

It’s not too late to celebrate it, if you missed it or forgot.

There are several organizations that wish to make International Darwin Day an internationally recognized holiday, in order to inspire people:

“…throughout the globe to reflect and act on the principles of intellectual bravery, perpetual curiosity, scientific thinking, and hunger for truth as embodied in Charles Darwin.”

So, there’s that.

Closer to home, you could be inspired to keep up the fight for truth, justice, and the rational way, or follow my example – when in doubt on how to commemorate something, make a special meal. [1]

Oh, joy, another celebratory dinner.

Oh, joy, another celebratory dinner.

Last night I made a Darwin Day primordial fish soup. I made a rich fish stock as a base, for which I must thank the always-helpful New Seasons Market fishmongers, who ventured into the big freezers to fetch me some halibut bones. On to the second stock [2], which I pureed, then added cubed cooked celeriac (aka celery root) and steamed green beans and chunks of cooked fish.

Most any mild, white-fleshed fish would work well with this recipe. Considering that many of Darwin’s contemporaries variously feared for or threatened the fate of his “immortal soul,” I thought a filet of Dover sole would be appropriate.

Hint for a really amazing fish soup: cook the fish separately and add it to the soup just before serving. I cut the filet into smaller pieces and poached them in olive oil. I forget where I got that tip – Julia Child?  Jacques Pepin? Lady GaGa? – but it was easy, decadent, and delicious.

♫ Can't read my, Can't read my, no he can't read my poach-fish face...♫

♫ Can’t read my, Can’t read my, no he can’t read my poach-fish face…♫

*   *   *

Another commemoration, of sorts.

Wednesday marked the 6th anniversary of my father’s death. Chet Parnell would have liked the fish soup.  This picture of us was taken at Christmas, 1975.

 

ChetandRobbieDoll1975

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Attention, Old Persons and Sports People

I recently purchased a foot acupressure mat, which came with several roller tubes and other foot massage devices. I have treated myself to professional foot massages on several occasions, and would like to be able to do something similar at home.

Not for a moment do I believe the woo about how pressing on certain “energy points” on the sole of my foot will “free a blockage,” stimulate a vital organ, restore “total health,” or effect any of the other silly claims made by the mat’s makers. It’s just that an acupressure or reflexology-based foot massage Feels. So. Good.

Extra feel-good bonus: the mat, manufactured in India or SW Asia, comes with two delightfully stilted, isn’t-it-amazing!-lost-in-translation, English language instruction sheets which, for entertainment reasons, I can’t bear to recycle right now:

Ideal for * House Wives * Office Executives * Old Persons * Sports People
Computerised foot shape…helps you to place your feet in correct direction (not in haphazard manner)
Mat is made up from very tough, long lasting, virgin material [3] to avoid back supporting board which is disturbing factor for energy flow.

I’m sure a good giggle stimulated my energy meridians far more than the mat’s Micro Point charger! and New Computerised design! could ever do.

biomat

*   *   *

Department of This Explains A Lot

I was listening to a Fresh Air interview with author Jennifer Senior, whose book — All Joy and No Fun explores some paradoxes of modern parenting. In response to a question about the neurological underpinnings of teens’ and young adults’ foolish risk-taking and other exasperating behaviors, the author shared some intriguing information about the latest science behind what we call the adolescent or teenage brain – which actually goes past the teen years, until around age twenty-five :

“…the adolescent brain is this really interesting thing. First of all, the prefrontal cortex is not quite done developing. And the prefrontal cortex is what is responsible for kind of rational decision-making and planning and impulse control. So there’s a reason that teenage kids take dumb risks. You know, the mechanism that actually should be functioning as their brake pedal is not fully developed. It’s a rather weak brake.

They also tend to sort of overestimate the reward that they will get from taking risks, which is interesting to me. Their brains are just awash in dopamine, which is the feel-good hormone, so they feel everything very, very, very intensely – and that’s everything from crushes to, you know, rejection. It’s the good and the bad. So it’s a real adventure having them in the house. What’s so interesting is that it now looks like the prefrontal cortex keeps developing, right into your mid-20s. So the only kind of group of people who seemed to figure this out before neuroscientists was car insurance companies. They actually knew; you do not give a car to anyone under the age 25.

So.  Ahem.

Last week Belle did the ET thing and phoned home.  Fortunately (for her), MH answered, and thus had the unenviable task of passing along the news to me that Belle had fractured a metacarpal bone in her right hand. [4]  After an hours-long study session at the library, she’d finished her chemistry and calculus assignments and moved on to homework for another class. Frustrated by what she perceived to be the idiocy of a four-page instruction handout for a one page assignment, our lovely and talented daughter, valedictorian of her high school graduation class, now a college biochemistry major mathematics minor student, walked outside and punched a wall.

REALLY

Really.

A fucking BRICK wall.

wall

*   *   *

Department of Creepy Coincidence

Last week I came across a New York Times article on Jeb Bush, Evangelicals and the Pandering Question, about the challenges the aspiring Republican presidential nominee will face in courting the religious right wing of his party. The previous day I had highlighted [5] this passage from The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought.

For Ingersoll, the primary danger of entanglement between religion and politics was that invoking divine authority would simply shut down discussion on controversial issues. The requirement that politicians be religious, or at least appear to be religious, ruled out a significant group of independent thinkers from office. Ingersoll decried the public religiosity required of politicians in a statement that is just as applicable today as it was then:

…it is almost impossible for an independent man to success in a political career. Candidates are forced to pretend that they are Catholics with Protestant proclivities, or Christians with liberal tendencies …or that although not members of any church, their wives are…. The result of all this is that we reward hypocrisy and elect men entirely destitute of real principle, and this will never change until the people become grand enough to do their own thinking.”

Do yourself a brain favor and get to know Robert G. Ingersoll, the 19th century attorney, Civil War veteran, abolitionist, Freethinker, orator, civil and women’s rights pioneer — one of the greatest Americans most Americans have never heard of. [6]

 

Ingersoll

*   *   *

While We’re Sort of on the Subject

Please, To Whomever May Be Listening on the Republican Side of Things [7] :

No Jeb Bush!  No more of the Bush family; no Bush of any kind or age or gender or…anything.  No no no no no.

Oh, this is disappointing.

Oh, this is disappointing.

*   *   *

Department of Please Don’t Let Al Sharpton Know About This

Yet another fascinating thing about moiself:

– I am a white supremacist when it comes to popcorn.

Don't even ask, of course, I choose the one on the left.

Of course I choose the one on the left!

*   *   *

“In the fight between you and the world, back the world.”
( Frank Zappa quoting Franz Kafka )

“In the fight between you and the wall, bet on the wall.”
( Robyn Parnell quoting Robyn Parnell )

*   *   *

May you always fight the good fight – or, failing that, at least may you bet on the winning side – and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

 

[1] Why isn’t there a footnote yet?

[2] Diced onion, green & red bell pepper, celery & carrot sautéed in EVOO; then add fish stock and spices (a pinch of saffron & ground white pepper, tomato paste, dried dill week, bay leaf,  parsley sprigs) & simmer for 25 m.

[3] It’s plastic. Virgin plastic.

[4] Yep, the one she writes with. You take a swing at something, you lead with your dominant hand.

[5] There should be more interesting footnotes here, or somewhere in this post. Sorry.

[6] And for the same reason Ingersoll had to champion the memory of Thomas Paine – both men were open and articulate promoters and defenders of Freethought and critics of religion, and thus not favorites of the history textbook writers.

[7] Yeah, I know, I might as well be talking to – or punching – a brick wall.