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Archive for October, 2021

Happy Monday! This morning I was browsing the news online when I came across this article: “A Home Built for the Next Pandemic,” by Tressie Cottom. Future homes will be built differently, like Tomorrow Land.

The overriding consensus is that the pandemic has revealed that many consumers view the pandemic not as a one-off, but as a harbinger: They will need to work from home in the future. Not all workers have the luxury of working from home, of course. But for knowledge workers, the ability to participate in the economy will be conditioned upon their ability to be productive while working from their own houses. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/15/opinion/covid-home-concept.html?smid=tw-nytopinion&smtyp=cur

Cue single mom working from home while trying to manage home schooling for her children.

In a nutshell, Cottom points out that these new Covid Concept builders are harkening back to the early paternalistic Twentieth Century, and handing out the task of cooking and childrearing and schooling in these post-feminist years to guess who – the WOMEN. A kitchen sits right in the middle of the home with her office adjacent, there’s a remote learning room for homeschoolers. And all I ever wanted was a Mud Room!

Grandma Ada had an office right outside her kitchen. She even had a greenhouse next to the garage! But remember that was the 1960s.

Today Bob and I are still in this ridiculous real estate market, and every night I’m watching Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood’s prescient dystopian nightmare about a society that slowly slips into a religious autocracy. Sometimes I wonder why I’m tuned into Gilead, a fictional Christian American country, NOW? The book has always been a top 5 for me, but a film is no longer escapist fantasy when it flirts with real life.

In Texas, women have lost their human rights, and I’m sure most southern states will follow. SCOTUS is at a tipping point.

June aka “Offred” is the Handmaid, and it is her duty to bear a child for the commander of the household. Therefore she lives a vivid inner life with lots of close-ups, and once a month she is raped in a ritualized way. I know, it’s more, much more than that with plenty of sub-plots, and snow. Women collectively named “Martha” man each kitchen, apparently men are not chefs in this world; the Marthas trade spices like nuclear secrets.

Speaking of secrets, I love how Zillow democratized real estate, still in Nashville it helps to have an agent. What should an empty nest house look like, how big a kitchen do we really need? Do I still need a room of my own? Bob thinks my notifications are driving me bonkers and he might be right!

Atwood’s feminist masterpiece is keeping me up nights. She named the commander’s wife Serena Joy! Shakespeare couldn’t have done it better. Serena is the head of the household; she is smart, too smart. We see her working on seedlings in a greenhouse, while June stays in her spartan bedroom. But then, she and June begin working together, drafting better policies for the women of Gilead. When the commander returns home after a prolonged hospital stay, Serena appears in his huge wood-paneled office to welcome him home. He beckons her to him with his outstretched hand,…

… and leads Serena Joy right out the door of his office, shutting her forever outside his power and influence.

It’s against my better nature to think negatively, to believe that our post-pandemic life will seem smaller, diminished. Ada would have told me, “We’re all in transition.” The reality is we’re not getting any younger. The “sell by” date on our knees is the same. But I’m determined to have a bigger office!

Ada teaching me to make matzoh balls in my SLUTS tee
“Southern Ladies Under Tremendous Stress”

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In Norway yesterday, a guy picked up a high-powered bow and arrow and started shooting people inside a supermarket. Four women and one man were killed, several more were injured.

In England today, David Amess, a conservative Parliament member, was stabbed several times by one of his constituents in a church. The world news media would like to look for a reason, what prompted these men to run amok?

Just imagine if they had access to assault rifles for a minute.

Because in my humble opinion, and I’ve said this before, GUNS are a uniquely American problem. Crazy isn’t at all unique – the percentage of people who hear voices telling them to do harm is most likely similar across the planet. Most people, when they are fired from a job, quietly pack their belongings in a box and stroll out the door. A very small percentage might think to walk back in with a weapon… and an even smaller number might do just that, if they owned or could easily steal a gun. And in America, gun sales are booming!

Just this year, two Kindergarteners in Florida found a loaded handgun in their back packs!

“The 26-year-old mother had placed the case and loaded handgun in her son’s backpack while cleaningouther car the night before, she told police, but then forgot to remove it before he went to school. Now, Carroll faces a second-degree misdemeanor charge for allegedly failing to store the weapon in a secured locked box, allowing a minor access to the firearm, court records state.She is also facing a second charge for missing an October court appearance.

The incident is at least the second recent case of a Florida child finding a loaded weapon in a backpack. Earlier this week, a Florida father was arrested after his son fatally shot his mother during a Zoom call with her co-workers. Prosecutors said the toddler found the gun inside a “Paw Patrol” backpack at the family’s home in Altamonte Springs.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/10/15/florida-mom-charged-placing-gun-kindergartner-backpack/

OK, you might say well, that’s Florida. But it’s not – it’s two Nashville teenagers being tried as adults for gunning down a musician in East Nashville outside his home. It’s a father shot dead in his car over a road rage incident outside of town. It’s a 16 year old girl killed in South Nashville when she and her cousin found themselves “in a dispute” with several young men. What if they had just thrown a few punches and walked away?

Well, our great Volunteer State is in the news once again. And no, not for arresting children and sending them to jail because they simply watched two kids fighting without intervening. And not for that big hair pastor who died in a small plane crash near Franklin, TN after making millions selling her faith-based-diet-scheme.

Nope. The preeminent gun manufacturer in the world is relocating to Tennessee! Gov Lee must be so proud for bringing new jobs to the area.

“Smith & Wesson, which has been making firearms since before the Civil War, said Thursday it will move its headquarters to Tennessee, after legislators in its home state of Massachusetts proposed gun control laws that the company said could hurt 60 percent of revenue.The decision to relocate from Springfield, Mass., coupled with the closure of some facilities in Connecticut and Missouri, means that more than 750 jobs will be moved to Maryville, Tenn., the company said in a statement to investors. Smith & Wesson has been based in Springfield since 1852.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/10/01/smith-wesson-moving-maryville-tennessee/

We Americans are dying: – we’re dying from gun violence because our Second Amendment said we can. We’re dying from Covid because our First Amendment lets us speak whatever nonsense we want to without repercussion. Because a certain ex-president started out with birther/racist rants, and ended embracing another Big Lie; and dragging nearly half of our republic with him.

Our democracy is dying when the Congress’ January 6 committee cannot or will not enforce a subpoena. Our so-called “freedom” – to threaten school board members, to carry permit-less handguns, to ignore public health warnings, and subpoenas – will be the death of us.

Just a dog in a fenced dog park

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Is it International Mental Health Day or International Coming Out Day? Am I supposed to put my favorite picture of my son or my daughter on Instagram? Wait, Melinda Gates posted her Kindergarten picture with hashtag, #thislittlegirlisme on Twitter because it’s the International Day of the Girl. Can I even find my Kindergarten picture?

Phew, I just remembered it’s Columbus Day! When I was a young camper at Camp St Joseph for Girls, we would occasionally have sing-offs in the dining hall. We didn’t call them “sing-offs” then, it was just a part of our competitive culture – the Irish would belt out a Celtic ballad, and then the Italians would respond with something Romanesque, like “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore!”

Today, statues of Christopher Columbus have started toppling over almost as often as Confederate generals.

If I were of Italian descent would I be OK with this happening? I wonder if it might be akin to stripping away all public notions of St Patrick or John F Kennedy. Hindsight is never kind to conquerors; and so the Italian sailor who spotted the Bahamas at least half a millennium after Leif Eriksson first landed in North America is suffering from historical and moral context.

Out of 170 Columbus monuments scattered across our country, only 40 have been taken down so far. We still have a big parade today in NYC. But did the great explorer “discover” or “invade” North America? We never learned about his treatment of Native Americans in school.

For Mahtowin Munro, an Indigenous rights activist, these symbols represent historical violence. “Celebrating Columbus is intended to erase us and ultimately is celebrating our genocide,” said Munro, who co-leads the United American Indians of New England. ”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/interactive/2021/christopher-columbus-monuments-america-map/?itid=hp-top-table-main

Now I don’t want to sound conservative at all, but after reading that the Charlottesville, VA City Council ordered the removal of the Lewis and Clark statue in a roundabout, I was pissed. I loved that statue, and not just because it had one of the only public renderings of a Native woman. I always knew I was close to the historic downtown mall when I saw it, also that’s when Bob told me that all statues in the South have their backs to the North.

But because the Meriwether Lewis and William Clark guide Sacagawea was depicted in a crouching position at the feet of the two men, Native people said they felt she looked “cowering.” Historians have said her position signified “tracking,” since she was hired along with her husband, carrying her baby, as a guide and translator for the westward expedition. And YES to giving Sacagawea her very own statue!

It just depends on what perspectacles you happen to be wearing. Should we take down every statue of a president who owned slaves? Should we the people demolish someone’s good work because maybe they had a mistress? Would FDR have liked seeing himself depicted in a wheelchair, probably not. Does your religious iconography need to be all over our money?

The answer is sometimes we can go too far.

Pizza of the week with Bob’s eggplant and pablano peppers

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Facebook.

I had just posted my last essay “That’s HOT” when it went down this week. Only one “like” and no comments? I kept trying to refresh, and wondered for a second, “Could I have said something that violated their rules and regs?” What rules and regulations? So I posted a plea on Twitter – “Was Facebook HACKED?”

A woman I wasn’t following answered with some information about a guy who could help me get back into Facebook. I didn’t go there, because I don’t click on stuff like that from someone I don’t know; luckily, because Twitter took her Tweet down later.

Now I started to wonder if it really was all about ME?! We humans are so self-centered. I had to reread my post. Then phew, it wasn’t just me because Lo and Behold this popped up on Twitter:

“Not only #Facebook ‘s 3 Social Media platforms are down.. Even #Facebook Inc ‘s internal company servers are down.”

I have to confess I didn’t miss Facebook. Not one iota. So I asked myself why do I even check in and start scrolling down its pages?

  • To see and respond to comments on this WordPress blog
  • To read a lovely plethora of best birthday wishes
  • To like pictures of friends’ and relatives’ children
  • To love pictures of friends’ and relatives’ animals
  • To occasionally watch a cute Corgi video
  • To post increasingly sad and sardonic political news

I remember the Rocker telling me almost 15 years ago that Facebook was so over; he immediately captured my image in a straw hat and signed me up for Instagram. But over the past few years I’ve grown tired of shouting into my own echo chamber. I’ve unfriended bullying right wing people. I never click on a Facebook ad, although I’ve been known to regularly do this on Instagram… a platform now owned by Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook.

And I’ve been listening to smart people talk about algorithms. How each thumbs up “Like” we click on helps Facebook computers funnel more of the same content into our news feed, amplifying our own thoughts and desires. I began to understand how misinformation breeds and grows into division.

I always thought the Facebook platform was a solipsistic waste of time, but now I’ve come to believe it is much worse. And the phrase that knocked me over the edge, that stayed lodged in my brain like an ear worm was that these algorithms are, “commodifying our attention.” In other words, Marky Mark Z is selling our information and our time to the highest bidder.

And let’s face it, we Boomers don’t have a helluva a lotta time left! Yes, Facebook helped connect the Arab Spring but it also helped connect the Proud Boys. It helps you plan a high school reunion, but it also reminds you of recent memories when we weren’t all wearing masks. It hits the highs and lows of this human experience on its screen, but I’ve decided I want more highs and lows “In Real Life.”

I don’t need any extra aggravation, thank you very much. A temporary fix for your Facebook news feed can be found here:

“Facebook is now making these “Favorites” and “Recent” filters much more prominent, putting them right at the top of the News Feed as separate tabs that users can switch between.” 

https://www.theverge.com/2021/3/31/22359782/facebook-news-feed-turn-off-algorithmic-ranking-favorites-most-recent-filter-bar

Finally, I’m about to break up with Facebook. I’ve grown tired of looking at myself in its mirror. Please don’t hate me.

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Congratulations to this year’s Nobel Prize winners in Medicine for their work on sensory awareness.

In a year dominated by a worldwide pandemic, where the one and only thing I wanted was to hug my grandchildren again, we now know how our neurotransmitters relay the touch of a loved one to our brains! Ironic, don’t you think.

“David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, from the US, share the 2021 prize in Medicine or Physiology for their work on sensing touch and temperature…. (the latter’s) experiments led to the discovery of a different type of receptor that was activated in response to mechanical force or touch. When you walk along a beach and feel the sand under your feet – it is these receptors that are sending signals to the brain.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-58787438

While Patapoutian was discovering a touch receptor that factors into our body’s ability to sense it’s time to urinate among other things, Julius was working on sensing the burning heat of a chili pepper. The hot culprit is the chemical capsaicin.

Last week I tried out a new recipe for Mexican street corn. I happened to have a pablano chili pepper which is probably the most mild pepper around. I like to chop one into my turkey vegetable chili, but this time I roasted the pepper before adding it to the corn – and I didn’t take the skin off. Even without the seeds, this almost bland chili transformed itself, adding quite a lot of heat. Bob loved it.

I know, you’re probably thinking “Big Deal.” So science is again just telling us what we already know – it hurts to slip and fall on the deck and never order Nashville’s hot chicken. But we didn’t actually know what these touch and heat receptors were, connected to our brains, and now that they have been identified there are profound implications.

Like treating chronic pain, for example.

Every now and then my foster mother Nell would yell, “You’re a pain in the neck!” Of course, I was usually doing something she disapproved of, but today it seems like a prophesy. My doctor recently told me I have severe cervical arthritis. Not to brag, or become one of those seniors who harps on their infirmities, sometimes I would like to have someone shoot a large needle of novacaine in my trapezius.

But what if my neck didn’t send a shot of pain to my brain whenever I move it a certain way? What if, as we age, and as we shrink, and our spinal cartilage collapses, our brain still thinks we’re 35? Or maybe 50!

The broad implications of treating addiction in the future are exciting. Less suffering in the world is a good thing. I may even start cooking with jalapeno peppers! Depending on the outcome of the two bills hovering around Congress, and the start of a new SCOTUS season filled with challenges to Roe and guns, this scientific breakthrough – about touch and heat – should give us hope for a better future.

Mexican street corn

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Anyone else trying to figure out why the Democrats are fighting among themselves?

Is it just two recalcitrant Senators – the gentleman from West Virginia and the gentlelady from Arizona, or is it a deeper flaw in our system of government? Ms Sinema refused to raise the minimum wage to $15, and didn’t mind letting the filibuster stand, to the chagrin of voting rights activists. She seems less a centrist and more a self-serving obstructionist.

While we released the Love Bug’s butterflies last week, I was hopeful President Biden’s Build Back Better plan along with the Reconciliation Bill would sail through the Senate. Call me a cockeyed optimist. Sure none of the Republicans want our government to work, but just maybe, maybe we could get universal pre-K, ’cause who doesn’t love toddlers? Plus, data shows an inverse relationship with early childhood education and prison… but Mr Manchin is afraid we could become an “entitlement country.”

In fact, most European countries are happy to provide certain safety nets for the poor, along with all their citizens. New parents in most European countries receive paid leave from six months to a year, and then have state-funded daycare provided for their children. Some countries increase the number of paid months as the number of babies are born in a family. But maybe the GOP wants women to stay at home, barefoot and pregnant, and deliver children for adoption if they cannot afford to care for them.

“Does the flap of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?”

Maybe the Texas heartbeat bill started off in Brazil; I feel like I’m living in one big butterfly blizzard!

The first thing to understand is that “The Butterfly Effect” is just a metaphor for a field of mathematics called Chaos Theory.  Chaos Theory is, in effect, the science of surprises, the nonlinear and the unpredictable. The theory teaches anyone who learns it that we should come to expect the unexpected.

https://interestingengineering.com/what-exactly-is-the-butterfly-effect

After flying sideways on our deck last week, I’ve come to expect the unexpected. Maybe it was my first Year of Living Dangerously, but I always operate under the assumption that life is full of surprises; that man plans and God laughs. A recently reunited fraternal cousin mentioned how great it would have been if we’d grown up together in Scranton, in one big happy family.

If my father hadn’t developed a glioblastoma and the Flapper’s car hadn’t collided with a drunk driver… We were lucky that FDR had passed a bill for aid to dependent children, since the Flapper had six. That was 1949. Our social welfare system is in desperate need of repair today.

When we dig deeper into the reasons certain red states are afraid of a tiny slip into socialism, of an increase in taxes, of the awful ‘redistribution of wealth,’ while other democracies around the world have embraced universal health care, free college and paid family leave for instance, we find a disturbing insight according to the Brookings Institution:

“…we discuss reciprocal altruism as a possible behavioral explanation for redistribution. Reciprocal altruism implies that voters will dislike giving money to the poor if, as in the United States, the poor are perceived as lazy. In contrast, Europeans overwhelmingly believe that the poor are poor because they have been unfortunate. Racial discord plays a critical role in determining beliefs about the poor…”

https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2001/06/2001b_bpea_alesina.pdf

Well, I’m certainly NOT surprised that our national wound of slavery factors into this fight. Good luck Madame Speaker, wear a butterfly pin today in the halls of Congress.

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