Thursday, December 29, 2011

Humble Me O Lord

For those who don't know, "Humble Me O Lord" is a song...but it fits in with my philosophical thought for the day.

As discussed earlier on this blog, the words "humble/servile/gentle/noble" belong to the old European feudal system and describe ways people from different classes were expected to behave. None of the feudal class definitions really works for Americans. None of them should work for Americans. Therefore, although I'll accept the twentieth century's shift from using "tender" to using "gentle" to describe the way one touches tender, wounded flesh, I don't think "humble," "servile," or "noble" are the best words to describe anything any American does.

That said, I turned to some end-of-year reflections. Where has this year gone, and what have I done with it? Not much. What have I done with the last seven years? Not much. I don't want to see the word "depressed" in comments, since I inherited that cheerful Irish gene, but these have been locust years, financially, professionally, socially.

My immediate family always used to check in and describe our days outside of home to each other, and we adopted a catch phrase from Dr. Seuss: "Not a thing went right that day." Well, viewed in retrospect, in terms of accomplishments, not a thing went right those seven years.

I am, believe it or not, a person who has occasionally done things right. Up to the year 2005 my life story was full of accomplishments. Employed since age 17, published writer at 18, honors student, started business (while physically unfit for regular job) at 21, foster mother (of a teenager) at 22; many professional successes included writing a textbook, writing and reading several audiotapes in a valuable series, and editing a reference book that's gone into reprints, but most rewarding was helping my eventual husband go from bankruptcy to wealth. Then he died, his (illegal alien, scam artist, suspected serial murderer) ex escaped with the money, and nothing I've done since then has worked.

This is not because I'm doing anything differently than I did during my successful years. Nothing I'm aware of, and nothing anyone else is aware of either. Of course there are lots of people who don't agree with the whole idea of (pick one or more) being Christian, being Green, being fiscally conservative, being a feminist, being a self-accepting introvert, being a writer, being an independent professional writer who lives on an organic farm with free-range cats. Then, if and whenever they reach a consensus on whether I'm too liberal or too conservative, there are the people who don't agree with me politically. (Yes, I do have a consistent political identity; it's just not attached to any twentieth-century party label.) But we can't blame the Locust Years on any of those things, because I was just as much all of those things during my good years too.

So then there are the people, who think they are Christians, who say, "Maybe God is trying to help you to 'be humble.'" Whatever that means to them. I have no idea. I don't think they have a clear idea, either. But I would like to share some thoughts about how we can help people to do the things that seem to be vaguely associated with the vague, subjective concept of "humility as a Christian virtue."

Bear in mind here that the only good, solid, workable definition of this idea I've ever heard or read was C.S. Lewis's concept of the "truly humble" man who would not remind anyone of Charles Dickens' con artist Uriah Heep, but would impress you as "a cheerful fellow who was really interested in what you had to say to him." In my dialect "fellow" most often refers to a male person who, though young or younger than you are, seems more mature and respectable than a "guy," but nevertheless I think I can picture the kind of person Lewis had in mind.

The gender-neutral adjective I tend to use for that kind of person is "gracious." This is the wo/man who's not preoccupied with defending his/her ego, who is actually trying to make someone else comfortable. Introverts do that better than anyone else does...when we, ourselves, feel comfortable.

It is not possible to act graciously while you are in any doubt that the other person respects you. You can either play along with their low estimate of you, which does not serve either your Highest Good or theirs, or else reject and defy their judgment of you, which is a little better than accepting it, for you and for them, but doesn't leave much room for real graciousness. You can fit into a stereotyped definition like Don Marquis's "always a lady in spite of" people's hostility; you can, like Florence King, act polite while feeling, and after a certain age admitting you feel, frankly hostile and contemptuous toward other people. This social persona has served many Southerners well--it's the way we're traditionally supposed to behave toward Northerners. I learned it from my father at a very early age, and it works well for me. Gracious, however, it's not.

I don't enjoy the feelings of dislike or contempt for other people. Introverts are often accused of having these feelings toward people in general, but we don't; creative solitude is a positive pleasure. What I naturally feel toward people in general is nothing at all. They exist; that's not a source of emotional feeling. Good will is a spiritual practice, not an emotion.

Christians are often exhorted to try to practice good will as it were in a vacuum, regardless of how other people react to us. We can always try that. There's no harm in trying. However, one of the many teachings of Jesus that tends to be ignored by most so-called Christian teachers today is, "Cast not your pearls before swine." If people are themselves too mean, hateful, spiteful, bigoted, and obnoxious to respond to acts of good will, then our acts of good will must inevitably become emotionally detached, condescending, somewhat arrogant...and distinctly not gracious. I'm talking about a vague emotional quality that we don't even perceive through our conscious senses, but I'm sure you know what I mean.

I suspect that a lot of introverts don't behave more graciously than they do because they've encountered hostile reactions in the past. I remember reminding myself, "They're older than you, they were here first, this is their office/church/town not yours," so many times that now I forget to remind myself when I'm the oldest person, the one with most seniority, or even the hostess.

Of course, right now, after each of the last seven years has brought more losses and fewer gains than the one before, I'm running on fumes when it comes to social or professional energy. When people in a small town know that you're not in the "trash and welfare cheat" class, and you're penniless, your social life becomes very unrewarding. In my part of the world, polite people try to pretend you're not there--you make them feel guilty, or afraid that your bad luck might be contagious. Trashy people, who really are filled with hate, feel more confident in displaying their nastiness to you. It's not a situation anyone would voluntarily get into. I have no safe place to reveal my pearls; all I ever meet these days, in real life, are "swine."

I can still practice good will as a discipline. I can't experience myself as gracious in real-world interactions with other people. I can't feel pleasure in anyone else's company. I feel hypersensitive to insults; when some web designer wants to show off some innovative idea that only works properly on the latest model computers, I rationally know that this is just the tiresome way many web designers habitually behave, but I feel personally insulted. I have wonderful memories of time spent with other people who were definitely not looking for an opening for a verbal jab or slap, but were in fact enjoying my company, appreciating my contribution, even working synergistically with me as a team...and that was long ago. The people with whom I interact in real life, currently, are constantly finding ways to let me know that they live in a dog-eat-dog world in which they'd prefer that I were dead and out of their way. I don't feel love and good will for people like that. I feel for them, emotionally, exactly what they feel for me. If I don't act out everything I feel in as blatant and obnoxious ways as they do, that's because I'm a more mature and enlightened person--note the dislike and contempt!

I would like to believe that God can make me gracious. I'm sure the people who utter the little digs about "being humble" would like it if I could be gracious.

So I recommend that they pray fervently that God will make it possible for me to be gracious again. Of course, if they want to get more specific than that, the words and mental pictures they need to use should involve my experiencing more success, more money, and more prestige.

Humble me, O Lord. Make me wealthy, so that I can share with others. Make me admired and sought after, so that I can be kind to others. Make me overprivileged, so that I can be gracious.

Michele and Marcus Bachmann Talk to James Dobson

The Bachmanns talk about some of their most controversial work and ideas here:

Here, while I'm testing the system, is a link you should be able to use to buy Michele Bachmann's book:

Belated Christmas E-Mail

This one's too good (in any season) not to share:
"Christmas Day, and the whole Holiday Season, is a time when many people sing songs about "peace on Earth, good will to men."
Even for the non-religious, this ideal of Christmas can warm the heart.
But the feeling quickly passes... often as soon as we turn on the news or go on the Internet.
The ill will starts to flow, against...
Democrats or Republicans
Muslims or Christians or atheists
Persons who live "alternative" lifestyles or persons who uphold "traditional" values
Whoever we are, and whatever our values, we often feel under attack. We believe that OTHER PEOPLE - inside and outside our country -- want to undermine our values or way of life.
But there's one common element. No matter what "side" we are on, we usually tend to think as AMERICANS. We ask questions like...
What is America coming to?
Has America lost its way?
Is such-and-such good for America?
It is natural to think this way. After all, we are Americans. This is our home. Of course we have an interest in our home.
But, we are human beings first.
When we think of "peace on Earth, good will to men," does this mean peace for just some parts of the planet, or all of it? Is it good will to some people, or to all?
Are poverty and unemployment important only when Americans suffer?
Is war tragic only when Americans suffer?
Do your rights come from your American citizenship, or are they inherent in your humanity -- in the humanity of all persons on the planet?
Is the use of violence and coercion the path to peace and good will?
Isn't it possible that the people you resent and fear the most, might also have reasons to resent and fear YOU?
And if resentment and manipulation causes trouble in personal relationships, should we give our consent to States to routinely use coercion and violence?
It seems healthy that we do more than sing about "peace on earth, good will to men." Perhaps, we should actually give real thought to why we have not yet reached this ideal.
We hope you find these questions helpful.
Merry Christmas to you and yours!
The Downsize DC Team"
They invited everyone to reprint this "as long as attribution and action links are included." I'm trying. (The host site is trying to force everybody to download new browsers, and messing up all the formatting.) Here are the attribution and action links:, Inc. & Downsize DC Foundation. SUPPORT the "Educate the Powerful System".

Forbes: Obamacare Will Make Health Care Worse

I thought of some reasons why Obamacare (or Romneycare) would make health care worse, two or three years ago, and published a few articles about them on Yahoo. Glenn Beck's team researched many additional reasons why Obamacare/Romneycare would make health care worse, and published detailed discussions in the book Broke. Laura Ingraham and her team researched even more reasons why Obamacare/Romneycare would make health care worse, and published their serious discussion, broken up with satirical comedy breaks, in the book The Obama Diaries.

(This is a test of Amazon's system, and whether the public access computer system is causing errors with Amazon buttons as well as Paypal buttons. Here is the official Amazon link to Broke, as pasted from the Amazon Associates page:

And here's one for The Obama Diaries:

Now, fresh from today's e-mail, comes a link that's not from a blogger or a TV personality, but from the magazine most trusted by people who are seriously into money...

How many more ways do we need to hear it said? The way to help people pay their medical expenses is not to force people who are morally opposed to gambling to buy into a massive gambling scheme.

(Note: When I open this page from the main blog site, I see pretty pictures of the book jackets that link to Amazon. This is nice. However, if you click on the pictures, you're not buying the books through the "Book You Can Buy From Me" system and ensuring that Glenn Beck or Laura Ingraham, both of whom are definitely still alive, get their 10% of the price of their books. If you want to do that, click here. Patience, friends...eventually it will all come together.)

Inspirational Poem: Generosity

A thought for the day...

E-Mail Hackers

Yes, even if you've been prudent enough to adopt a screen name that bears no relation to your legal name, list a public computer center as the sole address for your screen name, and just say no to using credit cards online, there are people nasty enough to steal your e-mail address...and use it to try to get money out of your friends and relatives in your name.

Here's an official notice for the benefit of all my friends and relatives: I, the writer known to cyberspace as Priscilla King, have never used e-mails to ask anyone for money, and don't intend to do so. I have linked things I've written only to online businesses and charities that I believe to be legitimately providing some sort of product or service in exchange for money they collect. This web site is a legitimate online business, or is intended to grow into one; if links or buttons haven't worked for you, that's because I'm a writer not a web designer--I intend them to work, and I intend to deliver something in exchange for your money.

The e-mail address that should display at the top of the page ( will never legitimately generate any unsolicited e-mails asking you for money either. It's there for you to use if you want to send a personal comment about something on this site (without posting a comment for everyone else to read), especially if you have trouble using a "buy this book" or "support this site" button or following a link to some other web page. It's also there for you to send us a complaint immediately should you receive any unsolicited requests for money in any of our names. You should only ever receive instructions on how to send money to Priscilla King, Gena Greene, Grandma Bonnie Peters, or anyone else who may advertise on this blog, after sending an e-mail to Saloli about difficulties in purchasing products or supporting this blog while on this page.

It's not impossible that anyone involved with this web site may someday need money urgently; however, if any of us needs to borrow money from anyone we know personally, you will hear our real voices on the phone, if not see our real faces in front of you. And we will NOT ask you to disclose any personal or financial information on the Internet. We positively recommend that you not disclose personal or financial information on the Internet.

If you do receive e-mail from a screen name similar to ours, asking you to send money (even to one of us) when you have not notified us that you're trying to send money, here's an article that explains what you can do about this cybercrime:

Monsanto Chemicals Breed Superbugs On Schedule

Here's the Bloomberg report on how and why Monsanto's genetically modified corn is breeding "super"-resistant rootworms:

Here's the Mother Jones follow-up story. (Beware...although this magazine used to have some claims to oppose commercialism, its web site is infested with commercial pop-ups and nuisance widgets.)

Here's another blog story that also discusses "super-weeds":

Nevertheless, according to Mike Ludwig, the Environmental Protection Agency is actively colluding with Monsanto and other corporations to get more of these "Frankenfood" plants into our food system:

Here's where Jeffrey Smith pulls these stories, and other related stories, together:

I suspect that most people who read this blog don't like Congressman Dennis isn't it too bad that he's the one who's proposed to ban the nasty "Frankenfoods" from open-air cultivation? Conservatives, who by definition don't like unnecessary changes and interference, should have opposed these unwelcome changes and forms of interference with our food supply years ago.

Payroll Tax Cuts? Debt Increases?

As you know, Gentle Readers, I subscribe to news e-mails from both political parties. In today's e-mail, people at asked what readers think about the proposed payroll tax cut. Who doesn't love a payroll tax cut? Well...considering the rest of the story...

There are two ways the United States can cut taxes: (1) slash spending to ribbons, demolishing many services and benefits to which people have become accustomed; or (2) increase our current debt and make the eventual payback period even more traumatic a few years down the road.

I would love to report that our President and Congress are acting like men--or like women--as distinct from four-year-old children, biting the bullet (or the debt) today, slashing spending in order to bring us this payroll tax cut. (And I'm impartial on this issue, because I'm not on anybody's payroll and have not enjoyed a taxable income this year.) But that's not what's happening.

There are probably budget cuts that could be made, that would reduce our debt rather than increasing it and still allow for a payroll tax cut. They're not being made.

Some of us may soon be voting in the primaries, and I urge you to vote with your heads not your "feelings." Support candidates who are serious about facing up to our debt...even if their domestic policies seem radical or coldhearted to you. If those of us who are U.S. citizens reclaim our right to be charitable in private, personal ways, we can still afford to be a warm'n'friendly nation. If we continue to vote for self-indulgence on every possible level, things are going to get much colder, very fast.

Is Ron Paul Prejudiced?

I think a case could be made that it's my generation, and the younger generation, who are intolerant of our elders and their culture that we label every oldfashioned word or gesture as evidence of bigotry.

The first comment at the bottom of this long article is the best one. The former RP staffer has since struck out on his own and gone into competition with Ron Paul. He's not lying and calling his former mentor a bigot, just criticizing Ron Paul at a time when other competitors are eager to use every grain of "dirt" that can be dug up.

I like Ron Paul's domestic policy. I have some doubts about his foreign policy; and, in view of his willingness to offend huge blocs of voters, I wonder whether he really wants to be President so much as he wants to shift the balance of our political dialogue, reminding us that today's "centrist" position is not in fact the same as yesterday's "leftist" position. I would like to vote for him for President...but that's not entirely up to me, just as setting U.S. foreign policy would not be entirely up to Dr. Paul if he became President.

Whatever the rest of the country decides, I really must object to the claim that Ron Paul's statements express bigotry. Candidates Paul and Bachmann, like Vice-President Biden, have often expressed their age, just as the rest of us will inevitably start to do. There's nothing wrong with any age. There's nothing wrong with having been born and grown up in whatever years you were. We all need to cultivate enough sense of history to recognize the ways previous generations actually express good will or the lack of it. So far I've seen no statement by Ron Paul that expressed any lack of good will.

Oklahoma City Bombing Story Isn't Over

You hoped the story of the Oklahoma City bombing ended when Timothy McVeigh, who wanted to die and hoped to be considered a martyr, was executed shortly after the turn of the century. So did I. However, this bereaved family say it's not over...and think people who are currently alive and active in our government are involved.

Warning: the story, which seems hastily written and assumes that you remember the bombing and McVeigh stories, comes at the bottom of a long series of pictures and videos, some of which are gruesome (close-ups of wounds on a dead body).

The Communist Party Still Exists

It surprises me, too, that there's still a Communist Party in the United States. Anyway, here's what they have to say about recent news stories...

Discrimination Against Virginia?

Please spread the's not okay for Boeing or other corporations to discriminate against states that respect workers' individual rights...especially including Virginia.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Grayzel Bars Dogs at the Cat Sanctuary

Maybe someone else refused a Christmas present. Maybe someone thought it would be clever to surprise me with a Christmas present. Maybe the human who'd wanted him died, and the survivors thought the Cat Sanctuary was the only alternative to a shelter. Maybe somebody was too mean to keep puppies and too lazy to have Mama Dog spayed.

All I know is that when I came in from work on Christmas Eve, my cats were all in hiding, and the cutest puppy I've ever seen was hiding under my front porch. He was smaller than the cats, hungry, shivering, and too scared to come out even when I called and offered him food.

Well, all I had to offer was cat food, which probably didn't smell very appetizing to this puppy. From the way he finally nibbled at some dry cat food the next day, I suspect that he'd never tried to eat kibble before. He ate like a six-week-old kitten who's started learning to slurp up wet food, but is really more comfortable sucking than crunching.

What breed is he most likely to resemble? It's too soon to tell; puppies this young often look completely different from adults of the same breed. German Shepherds, Alsatians, and similar dogs who will grow up to be big and wolfish, with pointy ears and short coarse fur, start out as little fluffballs with floppy ears and long soft fur. At the moment the puppy looks like a very thick-bodied, large-pawed, fluffy black coon hound with a tan patch on his head...sort of like the little guy on the left in this photo. Because of his immaturity I'm guessing that he's a very young specimen of a large type of dog, rather than an adoptable-age puppy who will grow up to be a medium or small dog. Dogs who are dumped out in strange neighborhoods like this are usually mixed breeds.

Anybody who has any sympathy for dogs at all would love this puppy. Unfortunately, my cat Grayzel has no sympathy for dogs. She thinks dogs are horrible creatures whose idea of fun is to bully and torment decent law-abiding people. (During her first pregnancy, Grayzel lost one premature kitten as a result of her exertions when a neighbor let his dogs out to "play.")

Grayzel said to me, "Either that creature goes, or I go." Oh all right, for all you literalists out there, that's my translation of behavior that consisted of hiding in the barn loft, refusing to come when called, refusing to let me touch her, and eating only a bare minimum of food once a day before bolting back to the barn loft. Her Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were anything but merry.

Bisquit and Candice were less intimidated by the puppy, but they made it clear that they didn't like it either.

I wasn't prepared to keep a puppy as young as this one, either. Where was I going to get the right kind of food for him? Where was I going to keep him? He's currently too young and vulnerable, and will soon be too big, to be a free-range pet; the cage I call "Cat Jail" doesn't offer a lot of protection from the weather; keeping a young untrained puppy in the house is out of the question, and so is keeping any dog tied up all the time until it becomes a hostile "bandog." Training a puppy takes more time and energy than I could promise to have, even for the cutest puppy I've ever seen.

Christmas Day was fairly mild, so the puppy spent the day in Cat Jail. Boxing Day was chillier. Because Christmas had fallen on Sunday, everybody seemed to want to spend Boxing Day with visiting relatives. The public phones I usually use were inside buildings that were closed for the day. The people who I thought might be qualified to offer a foster home to the puppy weren't taking phone calls when I finally borrowed a cell phone from a familiar stranger and made three local calls.

I'm not proud of this, but I want people to know the hazards of abandoning dogs at the Cat Sanctuary. I walked nine miles with this puppy in my arms. I let him walk on a lead on grassy patches, for all of five non-consecutive blocks...and it was the first time the little guy had ever walked on grass, and the coarse crabgrass and gravels lacerated his soft paws. I ended up tying him to the stair rail under the deck in the back yard of someone I trusted to be kind to him, while the person wasn't home. I was taking it on faith that this person would be home in another hour.

I would like to report tonight that the puppy is safe, warm, fed, watered, loved, and available for adoption, but so far I've not been able to talk to the kind person.

Readers, please don't bring us any more dogs.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ten Ugly Little Animals Who Belong in the Garden

[This one really should have been published on Yahoo, but my online time was very limited...somehow it got lost in the stack of manuscripts.]

“Green” is the hottest advertising term these days. Everybody seems to want to “green up” their home and garden. However, a recent request for suggestions on “Green” ways to kill honeybees shows that not all of us are familiar with the fundamentals of Green gardening.

You don’t want to kill honeybees. Not ever. Our North American ecology is hopelessly dependent on them. Besides, their social, intelligent habits makes it easy to move honeybees wherever you want them to go. Bees are our friends. They have no place on this Top Ten list of small animals that may look ugly, but are worth having in your garden:

Ugly Animal Friend #1: Spiders. In North America only two species, neither of which is common anywhere and neither of which hangs out in gardens, are venomous enough that their bite is anything to worry about. Our other spiders may or may not nip harmlessly if threatened. They eat insects.If they crawl on you or move into your home, they’re probably trying to protect you. Flip them off your clothes or carry them out of your house, saying “Thank you.”

Ugly Animal Friend #2: Cicadas. The cicada family is divided into two main groups: annual cicadas, which live about a year, emerge in late summer, and are bigger than tree frogs; and periodical cicadas, which may spend as many as seventeen years underground before emerging in early summer, and are almost as big as tree frogs. Adult cicadas live just long enough to make baby cicadas, or grubs. They don’t bite, and do only slight, superficial, cosmetic damage to shrubs and trees. Greenies put them out of houses and offices, because they’re messy when crushed.

Probably depending on the local population density, some Greenies enjoy listening to the loud rasping sounds male cicadas make to advertise themselves to female cicadas, and others enjoy reflecting on the fact that few cicadas live even seven days after emerging from the ground. If you have a dense population of periodical cicadas, you might also want to advance the cause of science by noticing differences in their noises and preferred mating positions. In Virginia and Maryland, home of the infamous “Brood X” of seventeen-year cicadas, scientists now think there are three separate species that happen to share the same habitat and life cycle.

Despite the folklore that cicadas advertise themselves as being the biblical plague of locusts from Egypt when one call “Egypt, Egypt” and another kind call “Pharaoh, Pharaoh,” the “locusts” that devour every green thing in an area are common grasshoppers whose look and habit have changed due to overcrowding.

Ugly Animal Friend #3: Ichneumon wasps (also called ichneumon flies). These look like overgrown paper wasps, except for having “tails” that are longer than the insect itself. The tails are not stingers. They are ovipositors, or egg-placers. They are sharp, and can place eggs deep inside rotten wood, but the wasps prefer to puncture bagworm bags and parasitize other hard-shelled insects that have few other predators. Ichneumon wasps are solitary and non-aggressive.

Ugly Animal Friend #4. Silk moth caterpillars. Native silk moths, as distinct from Asian silkworm moths, are large, showy, mostly night-flying insects characterized by either having no mouths or having only vestigial mouth parts; they don’t eat, but live on the fat stored up in their chunky, furry little bodies. As moths they usually live only one night, but some species can potentially survive up to a week. If luckier than most of their kind, the moths will have time to mate once before they die. Although they seem to make the most of this short pleasure (Paul Villard reported that, if not disturbed, silk moth couples may cuddle all day), each pair produces relatively few eggs, which the mother usually disperses as widely as possible.

Typically the eggs hatch into caterpillars in spring, and the caterpillars spend part or all of the summer growing big, fat, and ugly. Many silk moth caterpillars will eventually be three inches long and so fat they roll from side to side when they walk. Most silk moth caterpillars have green or brown skin with an assortment of warts, horns, and bristles that allow scientists to identify the species.

Although most silk moth caterpillars don’t eat the annual plants in the vegetable garden, most do eat the leaves of ornamental shrubs and trees. However, some ornmental plants actually bloom better next year after being partly stripped by caterpillars.

Two kinds of silk moth caterpillars are truly obnoxious: Io moth larvae, which are green and live on ailanthus trees, and buck moth larvae (also known as stinging worms), which come in a wide range of colors, start their lives in oak trees, and may eat fruit tree leaves in the last week or so of their lives as caterpillars. Their bristles are actually poison tubes. Every bristle on every caterpillar is about as toxic as a bee or wasp sting, so if you inadvertently touch these pests, you can expect to feel about as bad as you would after being stung by a whole colony of bees or wasps.

Some other silk moth caterpillars look even nastier than these two, but that’s only camouflage to discourage predators. The bristles don’t contain venom. North America’s biggest example (in more ways than one) is the massive Regal Silk Moth, Citheronia regalis. Its larvae are commonly known as Hickory Horned Devils. They usually grow five inches long, sometimes six, before turning into moths. You’d definitely feel a pinch if one nipped you with its jaws, and Villard claimed that the stiff, spiky bristles gave him a rash, but most people who’ve handled these creatures say they’re harmless. In addition to hickory leaves they have been known to nibble on some crops, notably cotton plants. Nevertheless, the big, showy, fragile moths don’t overpopulate their living area, so as a species they’re harmless.

Ugly Animal Friend #5: Monarch butterfly caterpillars. Based on descriptions of “large, hairless caterpillars with black, green, and yellow stripes, and horns” people have confused these creatures with swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, which can become a pest on carrot, dill, and anise plants. Baby monarch butterflies aren’t pretty, but they eat only milkweed and can never become pests. They don’t bite or sting. Avoid crushing them, which might be messy, and they’ll give you no trouble at all.

Ugly Animal Friend #6: Junebugs, a.k.a. June beetles or May beetles. (British “May bugs” are a different insect.) These small, brown, hard-shelled insects fly at night, are attracted to light, and may buzz around porch lights or windows. They’re not much to look at, but neither do they do any particular harm.

Ugly Animal Friend #7: Mantids. I personally think mantids are attractive, as insects go. As insects go, they’re also intelligent; people have kept them as pets and trained them to walk about on leashes and take bits of ground meat from spoons. They’re on this list because some people think they look “scary” rather than pretty.

Mantids’ habits are not exactly appealing. They grab and eat any other insect that moves within range. Many female mantids literally bite their mates’ heads off, while mating, but this is pardonable; male mantids can mate just as effectively without their heads, and wouldn’t live long afterward anyway. Both male and female mantids also hatch out of egg clusters in ravenous little swarms, in which the stronger siblings eat as many of the slower-moving siblings as they can catch, which is less pardonable. Apart from that, however, their gluttony makes mantids very useful in a garden. Mantids don’t bite warm-blooded animals, but devour pest and nuisance insects.

Ugly Animal Friend #8: Earthworms. There are different species and even different genera of earthworms. All of them are basically tubes of muscle that take in soil at one end and cast it out the other, aerating and improving the soil as they go. You don’t have to build a bin for indoor earthworms to help turn vegetable scraps into compost (the worms won’t actually eat the vegetable scraps until they are compost), to be “Green,” but you can; the worms want to stay in the soil and, if they do get out, can’t bite or sting or even scratch. Large fish and almost all birds will happily control the population density, if you choose to raise earthworms.

Ugly Animal Friend #9: Woodlice, a.k.a. pill bugs (some can roll up in a ball, some can’t). These little parts of nature’s recycling process are often found on the undersides of damp, rotting wood. If the wood happens to be part of your house, shed, or garden furniture, or if you plan to use it to build something, you will want to discourage woodlice by taking steps to reduce the dampness and decay. There’s no need to do anything about the woodlice themselves. They have their place in the world, and stick to it. It’s the damp and mold that damage wood; woodlice can only eat what’s already damaged beyond repair.

Ugly Animal Friend #10: Bumblebees. These small, fat, ground-nesting bees have very little direct impact on human lives, good or bad, but they pollinate many useful wild plants. Some bumblebees have stings that humans can feel; most of the bumblebees who could sting humans never do.

Bumblebees are not to be confused with carpenter bees, which are similar in shape and color, but much larger. Carpenter bees are basically solitary, although several individuals may use the same tree or building. They eat and nest in unfinished wood. They seldom really damage buildings, but may invite further damage by antsand termites; so, although they pollinate wildflowers,they’re also a nuisance. Male carpenter bees don’t sting. Females do. Both sexes will bite in self-defense. “Greenies” are more concerned about painting and varnishing wood to discourage carpenter bees than we are about killing carpenter bees, although many “Greenies” will crush a carpenter bee when the opportunity appears.

Book Promotion: Veeps

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: Veeps: Profiles in Insignificance

Author: Bill Kelter with Wayne Shellabarger

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions

Date: 2008

ISBN: 1603090037

Length: 296 pages

If you don't like Joe Biden, consider the company he's joined...

These fun facts are taken from Veeps: Profiles in Insignificance, a new collection of fun facts collected by Bill Kelter and Wayne Shellabarger. The book contains two to six pages of fun facts about each of our first forty-six Vice-Presidents; this article contains just one fact each, plus bonus chapters about a few memorable vice-presidential candidates.

1. John Adams: Despite a distinguished career before and after his term as George Washington’s vice-president, during those years he was remembered mainly for proposing fancy titles for the President. Adams was plump, and another senator proposed giving him the appellation “His Rotundity.”

2. Thomas Jefferson: Became vice-president by finishing in second place to John Adams. His achievement during this time was A Manual of Parliamentary Practice, the official book of Senate etiquette.

3. Aaron Burr: When this lifelong malcontent and sore loser lost hope of becoming President in his own right, he was charged with treason, and acquitted, but he fled the United States avoid creditors.

4. George Clinton: Jefferson’s second vice-president, and James Madison’s first one, died in office. How he was ever nominated or elected was unclear. He was described as “old, feeble & altogether uncapable of the duty of presiding in the Senate.”

5. Elbridge Gerry: As governor, he did not personally redraw the voting district map of Massachusetts to create the original “gerrymander.” His supporters did that. As vice-president, he was the second vice-president to die of old age during the Madison Administration.

6. Daniel Tompkins: Monroe’s vice-president was young enough to survive his term, but drank so heavily that he didn’t survive it long. He died “old” just short of age 51.

7. John C. Calhoun: The presidential election seemed to be a four-way race between William Crawford, Henry Clay, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson. Calhoun offered his support to both Adams and Jackson, in hopes that an electoral college run-off would allow him to finish ahead of both. Incredible in this day of party politics, Calhoun never got close to a majority of the presidential vote and was obliged to serve as vice-president to both of the successful contenders, in turn. (He is remembered for worse things than that. He was one of the tiny minority of American politicians who actually claimed to favor slavery.)

8. Martin Van Buren: As President he was remembered for “heartless injustice” toward the Cherokee Nation. As Vice-President he was remembered for shameless sycophancy, beginning when he befriended a profoundly unpopular woman, who was married to someone else.

9. Richard Johnson: President Van Buren was a small, plump, fussy man. Thinking the White House needed to retain some macho element, Andrew Jackson proposed a running mate for “Little Van” whose vulgarity went far beyond the usual definition of “redneck.” It wasn’t that his marriage to African-American slave Julia Chinn lacked legal recognition, so much as that, when Ms. Chinn died of cholera, Johnson ordered another slave woman to become his new common-law wife. When this woman maintained that she preferred her existing common-law husband, Johnson sold her down the river and bedded down with a third slave. To be fair, Johnson, a liquor seller, was probably drunk during at least some of these brutalities.

10. John Tyler: When notified that William Henry Harrison had died, making Tyler the first Vice-President actually to inherit the presidency, John Tyler was found on his hands and knees, playing marbles with his children.

11. George Dallas: Other places were named for Polk’s Vice-President, but historians suspect that the city in Texas may have been named for some other member of his family. George hadn’t even been elected to the Senate when Dallas, Texas, was founded and named.

12. Millard Fillmore: Reading the menu of Zachary Taylor’s final, fatal meal (iced milk, pickles, and cherries) has always seemed sufficient, to most people, to explain why Zachary Taylor died and allowed Fillmore to become our second accidental President. Conspiracy theorists continue to suspect that Fillmore added something nastier to the menu.

13. William King: Franklin Pierce’s Vice-President was definitely known to his contemporaries as “gay.” They meant that the 60-something Vice President clung to older, showier fashions than the rest of American manhood had adopted, but King did live with James Buchanan for several years.

14. John Breckinridge: As a younger, more attractive man of unquestioned heterosexuality, Breckinridge might have been remembered mainly for having been continuously and conspicuously snubbed by President Buchanan. Later, however, he joined the Confederacy and had to flee to Cuba.

15. Hannibal Hamlin: Lincoln’s first Vice-President wanted to serve in the Civil War but, having no particular skills or qualifications, spent his tour of duty mostly cooking for the Maine Coast Guard.

16. Andrew Johnson: Still fighting typhoid fever, Lincoln’s second Vice-President credited whiskey with allowing him to survive the inaugural events. Later, drinking whiskey at a hotel bar definitely helped Johnson escape his intended assassination by a fellow conspirator of John Wilkes Booth’s.

17. Schuyler Colfax: U.S. Grant’s first Vice-President was threatened with impeachment for his involvement with a railroad stock scandal.

18. Henry Wilson: Grant’s second Vice-President was involved in the railroad stock scandal too. (And we’re asked to believe Grant didn’t know.)

19. William Wheeler: Rutherford B. Hayes was elected by the inaugural college despite losing the popular vote. His running mate’s main achievement was being a party member who was not involved with the railroad stock scandal.

20. Chester A. Arthur: He was not charged with conspiracy in the murder of President Garfield because the disappointed office seeker who shot Garfield was blatantly insane.

21. Thomas Hendricks: He had tried, and failed, to run for President for seventeen years before Grover Cleveland accepted him as a running mate. He died just nine months after they were inugurated.

22. Levi Morton: He declined the chance to be Vice-President under James Garfield, then gave up hope of being elected President in his own right and became Vice-President under Benjamin Harrison.

23. Adlai Stevenson: Grover Cleveland’s second Vice-President was the grandfather of the Adlai Stevenson who lost to Dwight David Eisenhower.

24. Gus Hobart: He died less than halfway through William McKinley’s first term. Mrs. Hobart, however, remained a close friend, assistant, and sometimes deputy for the epileptic Ida McKinley.

25. Theodore Roosevelt: Despite his many successes, before and after, as boxer, rancher, writer, scientist, sheriff, police commissioner,governor, Army officer, and later President, TR described himself as “the poorest presiding officer the Senate has ever had.”

26. Charles Fairbanks: Although the city in Alaska was named for him, and he wanted more attention than that, trying to distract public attention from Teddy Roosevelt was a job only TR’s daughter Alice could ever do. Fairbanks was ridiculed for trying.

27. James Sherman: Dying (“old”) less than a week before Election Day, Vice-President Sherman was not replaced on the ticket. Though Taft lost the election anyway, over three million Americans were coerced into voting for the re-election of a dead man.

28. Thomas Marshall: Woodrow Wilson’s Vice-President complained bitterly of not having enough to do. After Wilson’s stroke, some thought Marshall qualified to step up and act as President, but Mrs. Wilson, unable to vote legally, took it out of the country by acting as President instead.

29. Calvin Coolidge: Warren G. Harding’s Vice-President seemed chosen to balance the ticket by not doing anything disgraceful.

30. Charles Dawes: Coolidge’s Vice-President was best known for having composed a tune that later became the top-pop song, “It’s All in the Game.”

31. Charles Curtis: No doubt encouraged by Will Rogers, Herbert Hoover’s Vice-President was the first politician to boast shamelessly about having one Native American great-grandparent.

32. John Garner: FDR’s first Vice-President died just short of age 99.

33. Henry Wallace: FDR’s second Vice-President was most easily discredited for his support of a wacky mystic’s “Great White Brotherhood,” but probably most unpopular because he encouraged farmers to “improve the market” by destroying crops.

34. Harry Truman: Picked to replace Wallace because FDR’s death was anticipated and nobody wanted Wallace as President, Truman’s position on World War II was actually similar to Pat Buchanan’s: “If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible.”

35. Alben Barkley: He became our first official “Veep” when he said that “Vice-President of the United States” was too long a title. The circumstances of his death were also memorable...enough that your parents or grandparents probably remember the story.

36. Richard Nixon: Believe it or not, he was young once, and what he did was serve as Vice-President under Eisenhower. When asked to describe the contributions Nixon had made to the Eisenhower Administration, thus boosting Nixon’s own campaign, Eisenhower said, “Give me a week, I might think of one.”

37. Lyndon Baines Johnson: His election to the Senate hinged on the mysterious last-minute appearance of precisely the 200 votes he had said he needed. A supporter doubted that these votes were fraudulent, on the grounds that LBJ “was much more devious than that.”

38. Hubert Humphrey: Though not necessarily in either Bill Clinton’s or Richard Nixon’s class when it came to tackiness, LBJ was no gentleman either, and liked to demonstrate his tackiness toward his Vice-President. He once ordered Humphrey, a short man, to put on large-sized cowboy gear and try to ride a large, nervous horse...on camera.

39. Spiro Agnew: He edged out Governors Reagan and Rockefeller, Mayor Lindsay, and Senator Howard Baker, for the vice-presidential nomination, because Nixon openly required a running mate who could be considered life insurance.

40. Gerald Ford: The other thing he had in common with Agnew was that both of them hit spectators with the ball while playing golf.

41. Nelson Rockefeller: Although serious right-wing conspiracy theorists claimed that he’d set both Agnew and Nixon up in order to have a chance at becoming Vice-President, Governor Rockefeller had turned down two chances to be nominated before he finally agreed to be Vice-President.

42. Walter Mondale: Kelter and Shellabarger characterize him as “benign, boring, unglam­orous.” He hadn’t always been benign or boring, though. He had once proposed legislation that, if not soundly defeated, would have made day care mandatory for all toddlers at least after age two; the avowed purpose of this lunacy was to keep young children from being influenced by conservative parents.

43. George Bush: Despite his blond complexion and high voice, he was taller than Ronald Reagan, worked out harder, had a more heroic war record, and had worked for the CIA when Reagan was an actor and a young governor...but there was that silver foot in his mouth. Among other things he once told reporters and TV audiences that he and Reagan had had “”

44. J. Danforth Quayle: When suspected of participation in a golf-and-adultery spree, he was defended by his loyal wife thusly: “Anyone who knows Dan Quayle knows that he would rather play golf than have sex, any day.”

45. Albert Gore: Despite his adoption of a working-class accent and vague claims to have once worked on a farm in Tennessee, Gore was arguably a more “dynastic” candidate than W Bush. His father had been a senator before George Bush went into politics.

46. Richard Cheney: Why Kelter and Shellabarger assert that “his icy, silent glares and his snarling denunciations” exuded a “palpable, if unfounded, sense that he has either killed men with his bare hands or hired shadowy others to do it” is unclear to me; I always thought this Vice-President looked like a generic hypertensive geriatric patient. Let’s just say that those of us who didn’t hate him thought he was too old and ill to last eight years in office, but somehow he did.

This one's not a book review, but it is a book promotion. If you've enjoyed these fun facts, you'll want to buy a copy of Veeps and read the rest of the collection. You can buy it from me, to support this site and earn a chance to add a book to our Online Bookstore, for the standard price: $5 for the book, $5 covers shipping if you don't buy it in real life, and out of this price will come a $1 royalty payment to Bill Kelter. Click here if you want to make sure Kelter gets his share of the secondhand sale price.

Ten Things Not to Say to People in Financial Need

[Believe it or not, I wrote this article for Yahoo, and never found the time to publish it, during a time when I was not in extreme financial need. Now I am. It's still true. I was tempted to classify this article as "safety," because saying these things can make someone who has less than you have very angry...but I classified it as "verbal self-defense."]

1. “Money is part of this mortal, material life. As Christians we are only concerned about the soul...”

Really? Jesus never said anything like that! He spoke of resurrection and judgment, off in a future that was probably less vague and better known to Him than it could be to any of us...but He never lost contact with present reality. For mortal Christians to try to be holier than Jesus was would clearly be insanity. For the purposes of this article, it is sufficient to note that some Christians’ reactions to our brethren in material need are insane, and leave them there.

2. “Count your blessings! Be content with what you have!”

There is some remote possibility that this may be semi-valid, when it is spoken in the United States of America. During the twentieth century the citizens of the United States enjoyed a level of prosperity beyond anything most of the kings of the earth could have imagined. We reached a condition where our welfare class could be recognized by their high incidence of what used to be known as the diseases of the extremely rich. What we experience as hardship and poverty is often what much of the world would still perceive as luxury and wealth.

However, people seldom discuss their financial needs unless they believe they are talking to someone who has more money than they have, and who can give or lend them money, or at least offer them a job or some useful advice. If the person to whom you are talking suspects that you would not be overjoyed to have exactly what s/he has, then telling that person to be content with what s/he has amounts to advertising that you are a hypocrite.

3. “Some people have even less than you have, so be happy!”

Unless you are actively dividing all your material resources with those people who have even less than your needy neighbor has, this is another way of advertising that you are a hypocrite.

4. “Hardships make us stronger.”

This is an outright lie. While some exceptional people have claimed that the hardships they have overcome have made them stronger, anyone involved with any kind of social work quickly observes that the general rule is that hardships make people weaker.

5. “At least you have [your health, your family, a roof over your head, whatever].”

This is cold comfort...especially cold if the person’s concern is that lack of money will cause him or her to lose the other things.

6. “The Bible tells us to rejoice and thank God for EVERYthing!”

There are Bible verses that tell people to rejoice, and Bible verses that tell people to mourn. These Bible verses were always addressed to people who either were, or were being warned that they were about to be, in situations that made these emotional responses reasonable. There is no Positive Thinking about the Bible.

7. “God wants you to learn from this experience.”

Even if you know for sure that someone has become poor by spending all of her or his money on gambling or some other unsanctified addiction, don’t you think it’s a bit presumptuous for you, sinner that you are, to tell other people what God wants them to learn? Don’t you think God is capable of showing them that? If you want to try to be part of someone’s learning experience, at least have the courage to speak for yourself. Saying “I won’t help you get any more money until you’ve entered a drug rehabilitation program” actually sounds more humble than trying to tell people what God intends for them.

8. “You could save money by giving up [smoking, TV, your car, whatever].”

Always, the person who’s living on a smaller income is the one to tell the person who’s living on a larger income how to save money. If you are in fact living so graciously on $500 a month that your idiot brother-in-law has the nerve to ask you to help him meet expenses he can’t meet on $1500 a month, then by all means offer him the benefit of your Creative Tightwad advice. But, again, chances are that the person who has revealed his or her financial need is the one scraping by on the much smaller income, so try not to sound more of a fool than you can help. If you had to live on $500 a month, and had just learned to live with the idea that going to live concerts and eating in nice restaurants are not part of your life, you might find yourself watching TV and eating take-out junkfood too.

9. “Don’t worry! Be happy! Live in the moment! You ate today, didn’t you? Maybe you’ll find a job tomorrow!”

What the needy neighbor hears you saying, loud and clear, is “I couldn’t care less about you. I’m not going to help you in any way.” You have every human right to say that, and you might as well say it in a straightforward manner...either way, your relationship with this person is dead.

10. “Just let go and let God. Be like the little sparrows, and trust God for your daily bread.”

God has chosen to act in this world through God’s living Body, which is the church. If you believe that God intends to supply this person with “daily bread” instead of a secure income, then you must believe you are the means God has appointed to deliver the person’s “daily bread”...and you would do well to reconsider whether God doesn’t want you to offer the person something better than continual dependence on you. Would you want that person to dole out “daily bread” for you, or would you want that person to buy something from you or offer you a job?

How to Share Someone Else's Car

[Companion piece to the previous post. Note to local lurkers: these are things I know I ought to do, not necessarily things I can always afford to do. I'm sharing them because I do know. One day, when this web page starts making money, you will recover all the gas money I owe some of you.]

1. Should you accept a lift from someone you don’t know well? Most people say no. I say maybe. But don’t just step out in traffic and wave, or sit beside the road with your thumb out. In the United States these behaviors have degrading connotations. If you’re willing to accept a lift, walk as briskly as possible.

2. If you’re a woman, understand the game that is most often played in your community. In Virginia, as Florence King observed, there is an underclass of men who hang out on the streets speaking very politely to female passers-by. If you politely answer their greetings or offers of help, their next remark is likely to be obnoxious, since the possibility now exists, in their minds, that you might be a hooker. Whenever prostitution is driven underground, males always have an excuse for hoping that any woman they meet, who is not their teacher, job supervisor, or close relative, might be a prostitute. This is why many Southern Ladies won’t walk ten yards if they can help it. And that is why many Southern Ladies lose their health, their figures, and their charm at such early ages. And that is why I personally spend a lot of time reminding people of both sexes, and all social strata, that they are our streets.

Or, at least, they’re my streets, and if a guy’s offer to help is genuine and neighborly, they can still be his streets too. I think the best cure for streetcorner pests is prison. I carry at least one immediate alternative around at all times. I also have a few hundred relatives who are bigger than I am and, pound for pound, at least equally mean. Nobody ever seems to have any further questions, but yes, there are some tough urban cops who walk around disguised as women who are younger, and appear to be more naïve, than I am.

However, if you are very young, if you are rich or famous, if you are related to someone who is rich or famous, if a relative of yours has recently stood up to street crime, or if you are easily pushed into fear or anger by obnoxious language, I think you should avoid situations that might involve talking to people you don’t know. You can be brave and tough and take back the streets, too...with your posse. One of the fringe benefits of walking around in a group is that you’ll not be offered lifts by people you don’t know well.

3. I just recommended that drivers offer lifts to “familiar strangers” from the neighborhood. For passengers, I recommend more caution. In my part of the world, drivers who are familiar strangers, who sound slurry or look bleary-eyed, are usually factory employees at the end of a long shift. They may be fine human beings, but that does not alter the effect a twelve-hour shift may have on their driving skills.

Of course, you know better than to get into a car with someone who has been drinking or using drugs. You might be busted too.

And, if your motive for accepting a lift has anything to do with getting somewhere on time, beware of vehicles that seem to be held together with clothespins and duct tape. If the wreck breaks down, you’ll have to help push it, change the tire, carry the gas can, etc., and still probably end up walking.

4. Some people like driving. You might ride with someone for years and never hear the words “your turn to drive.” Other car pools may be planning around your ability to drive while they rest. If you’re car-free because you prefer to spend your money on something other than maintaining a car, this is no problem. If you’re car-free because you lack driving skills, let everyone know.

5. If asked to drive, always adjust the front seat and mirrors. Otherwise, leave the car as you find it. Let the owner of the car invite you to eat, drink, smoke, adjust the windows, adjust the temperature, turn the radio on or off, or even talk.

6. The driver’s policy on eating and smoking is not negotiable. Be careful about your personal odor, too. Unprocessed herbs like mint, cloves, and lavender, as pocket sachets, are less likely to nauseate the driver than heavy perfume.

7. If you plan to sleep in the car during a long trip, wear clothes that won’t embarrss people by sliding up or popping open. Wear sandals, and slip them off before resting your feet on the car’s upholstery.

8. One reason why people form car pools is to allow the passengers to drink as much as they like while only the driver stays sober. If you do this, be sure the designated driver is sober. Compensate this person liberally.

9. Another reason why people form car pools is to guarantee emergency help. Being a passenger in a car whose driver suddenly becomes incapacitated is an experience many people live their whole lives without. The rest of us wish we had. If someone who is normally a competent driver suddenly displays symptoms of fainting,narcolepsy, stroke, heart attack,or some strange state of consciousness you can’t identify, you’ll be glad you have a cell phone. It may be possible to persuade the driver to park the car before you call for help and/or take the wheel. If it’s not, throw the emergency brake before you try to grab the wheel; with luck the car will coast to a slow stop.

It’s also possible that the car may become incapacitated, in a way a passenger may understand better than the driver does. I wrecked my much-hated Renault, which was normally hard to handle, because I knew I was ill and felt weak, hadn't noticed anything wrong with the tires, and assumed that if the car had to be oversteered to turn right it would also have to be oversteered to turn left. If any number of conditions on the road or inside the car had been different, I might not be here today. And if I’d been sharing the car with a passenger who had had the experience of driving on a tire that had been cut, that person might have suggested that we change the tire before proceeding down the road, and we might have had a safe if not pleasant trip, too. The “learner’s permit” is an attempt to mandate what common sense ought to tell all beginning drivers: for the first few years, you always want to have a more experienced driver on board.

10. Remember the old bumper sticker, “Gas, Grass, or [another rhyming word]—Nobody Rides Free.” Avoid cars that still display this antique sticker. Do bear the message in mind. Always offer the driver the cost of as many gallons of gas as were consumed while you were in the car. Don’t wait for the driver to ask. If it’s a one-time trip, as it might be to a special event, you don’t have to insist on paying. If it’s an ongoing car pool, you should insist.

In the United States, non-drivers tend to be perceived as poor people, although rising gas prices and concerns about pollution are making the car-free lifestyle trendy for rich people too. Often drivers feel that they shouldn’t ask you for money at first, but then gradually become resentful because you’re getting the same benefit from their vehicle that they are, and they’re paying all the expenses. Rather than lose friends, say up front, within the first week or so, whenever there’s a consensus that you belong to an ongoing car pool: “You’re paying for the maintenance and insurance, so I’d be delighted to buy the gas.”

How to Share Your Car

Readers may want to know my qualifications for writing this article. I have extensive experience as a passenger in car pools, but I also have experience as the driver. Cars driven by me tend to stop, even to pick up strangers, until the seats are full.

I know you’ve been told you should never pick up strangers. I say, much depends on the situation. I’ve picked up strangers all my life, and the worst thing that’s happened was that, while I owned a Renault (French for “junkpile”), passengers used to display nervousness and even nausea when I was wrestling with the gear shift. Carjacking exists, but, as with all violent crimes, the news media can make it sound approximately a million times more common than it is; it happens fewer than a half-dozen times per year, nationwide. And I don’t want to make anyone nervous about regular car pool arrangements, but the fact is that most violent crimes committed these days involve medications used by apparently normal employed people, so someone who’s worked in your building for fifteen years may be more likely to attack you than a stranger is.

So, my first tip: 1. Accept the fact that we do not live in a “safe” world. Some risk-taking behavior, like driving without your seat belt, offers so little benefit that taking the risk is stupid. Other risk-taking behavior, like sharing your car with someone in need, offers enough benefit that not taking the risk is stupid. You are far more likely to be killed in a collision with a drunk driver than to be harmed by anything a passenger in your car is likely to do. You might as well decide to live and die with courage...who knows, the life you save by keeping someone from driving under the influence might be your own.

2. Have a realistic understanding of what you’re doing when you share your car. It’s unlikely that you’re saving the life or even the health of someone you offer a lift across town. If the passenger is incompetent to drive, you’re as likely to be saving your own life as his. If the passenger is competent to walk, you are saving the other person some time. You are also reducing the depletion of fossil fuels, thus slowing the rise of gas prices, and reducing the amount of petrochemical fuel emissions, thus improving your local environment, for yourself. Passengers should say “Thank you” and should offer to help with your gas expenses, but you shouldn't try to make a whole conversation out of it.

3. If you stop for total strangers, use judgment and be careful. As a rule I think we should all have enough courage to offer a lift to a single individual carrying a bag of groceries, a gas can, or a baby along the highway. A group of men standing around what appears to be a stalled car might be a very different situation. Know your community. In some places the police department’s policy is not to waste time trying to help disabled cars (or drivers); in other places the police can and will offer more help than you could. Of course, you should always stop for people you know, including neighbors who are “familiar strangers,” unless you know they prefer to be walking. Calling the police to help a friend or "familiar stranger" is an insult.

4. Don’t have any agenda other than getting everyone safely to the destination agreed upon. In at least one case, a murderer confessed that although he had no criminal intentions when he hitched a ride, he became angry enough to kill the evangelical Christian driver who couldn’t seem to stop trying to “save” him. While most of us don’t commit violent crimes merely because others behave in obnoxious ways, like persisting in talking about things we don’t care to discuss, we do become angry enough to let these behaviors break up social, professional, and car-pool relationships.

As a general rule the driver’s wishes need to prevail. Drivers are certainly entitled to tell passengers not to distract the driver by talking, blocking the view, or moving around in the back seat, while the car is in motion. Drivers are also entitled to ask passengers to talk or sing if that helps the driver stay alert. Drivers who feel an emotional need to “win” arguments by steamrollering others’ opinions may be helped by counselling...but drivers who feel that an argument is becoming emotional enough to be a distraction or health hazard have the right to say so.

5. The owner of the car is entitled to ban smoking. On long trips the owner is, however, morally obligated to stop for cigarette breaks before tobacco addicts start twitching and gagging. And although a car is an efficiently contained smoking area, the owner of the car will sleep better at night if he or she can get enough control of his or her addictions to abstain from smoking while driving with nonsmokers.

6. The owner and driver of the car is (or are) also responsible for setting policies on food, drinks, and gum. These policies can be changed at any time. I used to car-pool with a woman who liked to share an overloaded take-out meal from a local restaurant. One day, after she’d moved to a different neighborhood and become pregnant, I took one of our favorite meals to work, and the smell of the package made her sick. It’s crucial that car pools avoid making the driver too sick to drive.

7. When the ground is wet, passengers will probably be more, not less, comfortable if towels, newspapers, and/or plastic bags are used to protect the seats and floor.

8. There are still a few fossils out there who claim to feel offended when people buckle their seat belts. Let passengers know you’re not one of them. Don’t worry about their decision to use or not use the shoulder belt; the choice between whiplash injuries and broken ribs is up to them. Do insist that they buckle up so that, in case of an accident, they won’t fall on top of you.

9. Some people were taught that it’s “charming” to ask “Don’t you want to stop?” or “Is it too cold for you?” when they are the ones who want to stop, change the heat setting, etc. Others find this behavior confusing and annoying. If you notice that someone else looks uncomfortable, and you are willing to let that person’s needs prevail, I recommend taking a poll. If you want others to meet your needs, there’s nothing “charming” about trying to push someone else into stating your preference, which they don’t necessarily share. You might as well speak plainly. “I need a restroom break.” “I’d like to turn on the heat, if that’s all right with everybody.”

10. Personally I don’t think drivers should ask passengers for gas money. Unless you drove miles out of your way, you’re not spending more money on gas because they are in the car. You’re getting the benefit of reducing pollution and using the express lanes reserved for fully packed vehicles.

Does this mean that passengers should freeload forever? Of course not. The idea of a car pool is that either everyone takes turns using their cars, at their own expense, or else non-drivers contribute an equal amount to the total cost of transportation for the group. Passengers should offer.

If a full-time passenger in your car pool never pays for gas, first make sure nobody has sabotaged the person’s normal instinct to offer a contribution. Someone who has been told, “Oh, don’t worry about paying until you’re settled in, making money, etc.,” may still be feeling unsettled after six months, or may not have any realistic hope of making as much money as the speaker was making during the next ten years—or ever. If you have said this kind of thing, you my need to plan an embarrassing clarification. “Well, you’ve been in town for three months you think X per week is your fair share of the gas money?”

A popular bumper sticker from the 1970s said, “Gas, Grass, or [another rhyming word]—Nobody Rides Free!” If your business does not involve raising donkeys, a more appropriate way to encourage passengers to pay up might be to promote the work of deserving writers. E-mail articles like this one to all car pool members who have e-mail. Print these articles and share them with everyone else.

Should You Answer Questions About Your Emotional Health?

[Yet another article that was written for Yahoo and never published there. This one was provoked by a letter to Dear Abby; I answered it as someone who's advertised jobs, rooms for rent, etc., in newspapers without asking about people's emotional health, and come to realize that perhaps it would have been wise to ask.]

Psychological counsellors often advise people to tell everyone about their experience with psychotherapy. No points for guessing that when “normal neurotic” types who have friends, jobs, and families tell everyone that we’ve consulted counsellors, we help relieve the stigma associated with any kind of “emotional problems.” No points for guessing that the manufacturers of psychiatric medications would like to see more word-of-mouth advertising for their products, too.

So, it’s not surprising that someone who asked a popular advice columnist this question received the cheerful, almost flippant advice, “Tell them everybody has emotional baggage!”

The trouble here is that this columnist seems unfamiliar with questionnaires that demand yes/no or numeric answers. Even if you want to advertise the kind of psychological help you have received, a computer questionnaire won’t give you room to do so.

Some questionnaire items may be specific. “Have you consulted (a) a psychological counsellor, (b) a psychiatric social worker, (c) a psychiatrist? (a) within the past year, (b) within the past five years, (c) ever? Have you used antidepressants...” and so on. If you are sincerely seeking a job, apartment, or personal relationship, you must answer these questions truthfully. Others will know you were asked these questions and will not look favorably on a deceitful answer.

However, as described in the advice column, the questionnaire may ask something more vague like “Are you emotionally healthy and mentally stable?” Such vague questions deliberately leave room for deliberate misinterpretation.

What someone asking this question wants to know is whether you are (a) delusional, or (b) violent, or (c) using mood-altering medications that might cause you to become delusional and/or violent.

If you were clinically depressed in the past, but aren’t now, you could legitimately “just say no” to a question like this. Depression has been described as the common cold of psychology. If you had a cold last winter, but don’t have one now, you could honestly describe yourself as physically healthy. Likewise, if you were depressed last year, but are not in a hospital or taking medication now, you can honestly describe yourself as emotionally healthy.

If you're feeling "down," but not suicidal, while filling out the questionnaire...that's normal. Most people find the kind of jobs that require people to fill out forms, and the "prospective matches" who've lied about their eligibility for online dating purposes, somewhat depressing.

Of course, if you’ve been depressed in the past, there’s a chance that you might become depressed in the future and disappoint your prospective employer, landlord, dates, etc. However, if you have not been depressed in the past, there’s still a chance that you might become depressed in the future and disappoint those people. In fact, the chance that anyone might become psychotic at some time in the future is about as great as the chance that anyone might develop diabetes or kidney stones or Parkinson’s Disease at some time in the future. Life is not always perfectly predictable. People who review questionnaires know that; or, if they don’t, they should.

So, although one should never tell outright lies, even on a computer questionnaire, it’s ethical to interpret a vague question in an optimistic way. If you think people need to know that, although you’ve never been clinically depressed, you reserve the right to let a few tears fall into the computer when you have to process data from a company with which your late lamented grandfather used to do business, you can always explain those details during the live interview.

Christians: How to Abstain from Questionable Worldly Amusements

[This is another piece that was written for Yahoo but never made it into the online publication queue there. It grew out of my Seventh-Day Adventist memories, from a time when the church was trying to purge itself of old, elaborate rules about how believers ought to abstain from various "questionable worldly amusements." Granted, the list of abstinences seemed to be different for every different congregation, and some people claimed to have been offended, in the past, by expectations that they abstain from things they had never been asked to renounce. What I saw more of was people being offended, in the then-present, by expectations that they'd want to go back to doing things they'd stopped doing long ago, for good reasons, or never wanted to do in the first place.]

For those who think they need a rule about giving up questionable worldly amusements, I propose a rule of multiple choice. Everyone should be able to say no to at least some of these 45 things that capitalists are trying to sell us, for their benefit not ours. (Note that some things I personally do buy and use are on this list, along with things I conscientiously abstain from using.)

1. Gas-burning vehicles.

2. Television.

3. Credit cards.

4. Cell phones.

5. Ipods, CD and DVD players, whatever other electronic entertainment junk is being marketed this year.

6. Microwave ovens.

7. Dysfunctional shoes.

8. Nylon stockings, nylon underwear, any other form of plastic intended to be worn in direct contact with the body.

9. Lawn mowers, weed-eaters, leaf blowers, and the whole concept of having a lawn. Grassland that is not being sustained by and for the needs of grass-eating animals needs to develop into native plants other than grass.

10. Life insurance. (The alternative is to save your own money for whatever you want to have done with your mortal remains.)

11. Alcoholic beverages.

12. Junk food...whatever that means toyou.

13. Commercial beef, because the industry has not formally apologized yet for trying to infringe on Oprah Winfrey’s freedom of speech.

14. Makeup, because it’s an expense you can do without, or because even the products marketed as “cruelty-free” are being made by corporations that continue testing new products on little bunny rabbits.

15. Battery-operated toys.

16. Carpets.

17. Genetically modified food.

18. Poisonous “pesticides.” (Natural pesticides, like tobacco, tannin, borax, pyrethrum, juglone, ammonia, vinegar, and boiling water, can be used to kill really obnoxious weeds, bugs, and fungi in a mindful way.)

19. Foods imported from countries that tolerate procedures banned by our own F.D.A., like spraying crops with DDT or selling rabbit (or worse) meat as chicken.

20. Domestic air travel.

21. Medical treatments you believe to be ethically dubious...abortions, transplants, transfusions, vaccinations, excessive use of “pain medication,” or whatever.

22. Doctors and hospitals that perform ethically dubious procedures.

23. Hospitals that admit patients in the absence of a friend, relative, or patients’ rights advocate present to ensure that the patient receives only appropriate treatment to which the patient has given informed consent. (In practice, honest mistakes are far more common thn real patient abuse...but, when nobody but the patient, who may be unconscious, is there to supervise hospital staff, anything can happen.)

24. Neighborhoods or “communities” that have restrictive rules about how houses can be landscaped and decorated, whether legitimate businesses can be carrried on within a home, etc.

25. Products manufactured or marketed by corporations whose other work you deplore.

26. Fur coats. (As far as my generation are concerned, that look died years ago. I’m dismayed that Eastern European immigrants are even trying to bring it back.)

27. Encouraging rats by failing to keep either a cat or a rat terrier.

28. Petrochemical perfumes (as found in cheap cologne, commercial deodorant, and also in some hygiene products).

29. Public elementary schools.

30. Going back to work while children are young enough to need “day care.”

31. Games played with cards and dice.

32. Electronic games.

33. Movies and videos.

34. Stage plays.

35. Colorful slick-paper magazines (because they don’t recycle well and release cyanide when burned)...that said, I love that my collection of Knitter's magazines shows knitted projects so clearly and resists mold infection so well!

36. “Uncensored” city news magazines that advertise “underground” enterprises, such as prostitution, from which you want to withhold all support. (I love the Washington City Paper, too...but I know Christians who won't read it, no matter how good the lead article may be.)

37. Any novels, because you believe that reading other people’s fantasies is a waste of time.

38. Cheap “genre” novels, because you believe reading stories whose ends you can predict is a waste of time.

39. Sexually explicit novels.

40. Badly written novels.

41. Watching sports.

42. Playing sports.

43. Keeping score while playing sports.

44. Businesses that practice discrimination...whether directly, as when Dick Gregory was allegedly told, “We don’t serve Black people,” and snapped back, “Good, I don’t eat them,” or indirectly, as when they ignore the actual concerns of women in the community but scream about their support for abortion or for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

45. Whatever other waste of your time and money you personally find most counterproductive or philosophically offensive. This list may be exhausting but it doesn’t even try to be exhaustive.

Christmas Wish List for the Cat Sanctuary: Are We Green Yet?

This list of the "Top 15 Features that Make a House Green" definitely does not describe the Cat Sanctuary's existing headquarters, a.k.a. my home. Although I have a non-electric washing machine, due to climate change I'm still dependent on electric drying machines to keep freshly washed clothes clean long enough to get them into the closet. Although there's a wood stove in the kitchen, in order to accommodate a computer in the office room I have to run a hot-air fan...and most of that expensive hot air goes straight out through the still cyclone-damaged the roof.

Readers, Google recommends that you support Blogspot blogs with a suggested contribution of $5, which is what you'd pay for most printed magazines. In order to start seeing more of other people's actual work here, and fewer links, you're welcome to contribute more. If the Google button at the top of this page doesn't work, click here to make a contribution through e-mail (we promise, no unsolicited fundraising e-mails).

According to statistics collected by the National Association of Home Builders and reported in the Kingsport Times-News, “green” is a fast-growing trend. While only about 2% of new houses built as lately as 2006 had these features, it’s estimated that almost half the new houses built in 2010 will have them. Here are the 15 most popular “green” trends:

1. In roofs: More durable materials with steel, fiber cement, asphalt shingles, slate or concrete tiles, and standing-seam metal roofing. The longer the roof lasts between repairs or replacements, the less material has to be replaced throughout the house, and the “greener” the house is. Look for lighter-colored shingles that reflect heat upward in warm climates, dark roofs that soak up sunshine in cold climates. I'm dreaming of a white roof.

2. In windows: New materials like “low-E” glass are supposed to reduce heat exchange, keeping climate-controlled air inside. My window panes are older than my mother is.

3. Outside walls: Vinyl and fiber-cement sidings are expected to resist weather longer than wood siding. The Cat Sanctuary has wood siding.

4. Insulation: “Green” houses come with plenty of it, to reduce the workload on heating and cooling systems. The Cat Sanctuary does have insulated walls, but when a roof springs a large leak, fiberglass insulation doesn't last very long...and while it's good news that the cats have been able to keep mice from nesting in the insulation under the floors, the downside is that they've pulled down most of the insulation.

5. Window placement: Traditional houses were often planned to have the same size and number of windows on the north and south sides, to look visually balanced. “Green” houses typically have big windows on the south side and small windows on the north side...except in very warm climates. This is one Green feature we've always enjoyed.

6. Doors: “Green” houses have “covered entries,” if not actual porches. Well...the Cat Sanctuary does have porches, but they're not enclosed and don't form a climate-control buffer zone.

7. Water heaters: Trendy homeowners are opting for “tankless heaters.” When these new gadgets are working, water passes over a heating element just behind the faucet, delivering all the hot water you need without using energy to keep water hot when nobody’s using it. The initial cost is steep, but if your family plan to keep the house for many years, tankless heaters are guaranteed to pay for themselves. My water heater was zapped during April's cyclone.

8. Foundations: Ample insulation, just as in walls, and careful attention to drainage, as discussed in connection with roofs, make a house “Green.” If you're not a contractor, you don't want to know how the Cat Sanctuary scores on this one.

9. Floors: Hardwood and linoleum are the “Greenest” options. (And the most sanitary.) However, the National Association of Home Builders counted carpets classified as “low volatile organic compounds” as a “Green” alternative too. Most rooms in the Cat Sanctuary do have good-quality linoleum.

10. Prefabricated components: Pre-cut trusses and pre-hung doors can reduce the amount of wood cut (and usually wasted) at a construction site.

11. Large appliances: “Green” buyers look for the “Energy Star.” Front-loading washers are “in” because they typically use less water and electricity than top-loaders. The industry standard for energy-efficiency in refrigerators is said to have tripled in the last thirty years. Since the cyclone, the Cat Sanctuary hasn't had enough safe access to electricity to power any large appliances anyway.

12. Decks and fences: Recycled plastic is the “Green” alternative to wood. “Green” buyers don’t want a deck that will biodegrade quickly. Currently the Cat Sanctuary doesn't have fences. If we ever expand to be able to keep other animals, we'll need some.

13. New-style toilets: They’re being built to get more use out of less water every year. Ah-ha! We have a Sun-Mar composting toilet! Unfortunately, it runs on electricity, which comes through wires that run through the attic, which aren't safe for actual use yet. There are two good Green ways to dispose of solid human and animal body wastes...good for the earth, anyway. You probably don't want to know how to deal with this problem if you're not blessed with free-range possums. Luckily, although the cat Mackerel ran them off for years, we have finally been blessed again...

14. Wood: The trendy new alternative to plywood or chipboard is “oriented strand board.” It’s more durable than chipboard, requires less mature trees than plywood, and is being used as the base for 75% of new walls and roofs. We will be needing some of this stuff.

15. Landscaping: “Green” buyers would rather work with native plants than use chemical fertilizers and pesticides to cultivate imported species. Bermuda-grass lawns aren’t “Green.” Plants that may have been considered weeds in the past, like clover, are more fashionable choices. (No need to yank out all the Bermuda grass if your house came with it; just mow around a little more clover each year.) “Green” buyers also plant or replant trees in strategic places: evergreens for privacy, deciduous trees to shade those big south-facing windows. This is one other Green criterion on which the Cat Sanctuary scores high.

This Baby is 22 Weeks Premature

Click here to see the pictures, including one taken shortly after baby Melinda was born...or, as doctors would have put it even ten years ago, spontaneously aborted. If you scroll down, there's a photo of this child as a tiny blob of glup.

The odds are still against a fetus born more than 12 weeks before term surviving long enough to become a school-aged child, but where there's life, there's hope.

Does the President Take Responsibility for the Economy?

Becket Adams thinks President Obama "passes the buck" in this video interview:

Give the devil his due...I will say that our President takes this tough question more gracefully than Mitt Romney took tough questions from a homosexual Vietnam veteran at a recent meet-and-greet.

Do Introverts Need a Liberation Movement?

[This was written a few years ago as an AC article, but never actually offered to AC, because my online time was even more limited then than it is now.]

There’s no question that an introverted personality is shaped by healthy hereditary traits. Whether the complete twentieth-century “nerd” stereotype is produced by the effects of a sex-linked “math gene” (or genetic combination) or not, at least two unisex physical traits have been associated with introversion.

1. Quiet “LBS” introverts, whose official web site is here: People who are easily recognized as introverts have longer than average brain stems; their brains also seem to activate more different circuits when they think about an idea than the average brain does, and so, not surprisingly, they tend to talk, act, and react slowly.

2. Highly Sensory-Perceptive “HSP” introverts, whose official web site is here: People who have an “artistic temperament” and may be perceived as “too sensitive” have a built-in tendency to produce more adrenalin than the average person does, and may also have been born with more nerve cells than the average person has. These people may be charismatic speakers, actors, and social leaders, so they’re not always easily recognized as introverts, even among themselves. However, they feel physically tired and “drained” after spending time with other people. Although people who stay active and healthy into their nineties are usually HSPs who have been able to give themselves adequate solitude, HSPs who don’t spend enough time alone often become ill.

It’s estimated that 20 to 30 percent of humankind possess each of these traits, and many people have one trait but not the other, so introverts can’t really be as much of a minority group as we are often made to feel. One explanation for the fact that only about 30% of the U.S. population consider themselves introverts may be that twentieth-century U.S. culture celebrated extroversion and denigrated introversion.

Carl Jung, who first studied and named these personality patterns, believed that the majority of people have a mix of introverted and extroverted traits that can, to some extent, balance each other. It’s possible for someone who has both the HSP and LBS traits also to have a sense of humor, a tendency to feel cheerful, and at least some tolerance for a “leadership” or “center stage” position. When this happened in the twentieth century, older people who should have known better used to tell this person, “You’re not really an introvert, or at least you don’t have to be one.” In fact, this combination of traits would allow the person to “pass” for an extrovert for hours or days at a time...but strain and frustration would eventually set in, because this person’s natural, predominant personality would be introverted.

(Fair disclosure: I know how this dynamic used to operate from personal experience. Fortunately the HSPs in my family helped me avoid some of the depression, frustration, hostility, alcoholism, multiple divorces, abuse of substances, abuse of people, and suicidal tendencies, that plagued so many twentieth-century Americans who thought that they could become or pass for extroverts if they tried.)

Most human societies, other than the twentieth-century European and Euro-American corporate subculture, have valued both of the introvert traits for obvious reasons (discussed at the web sites cited above). However, the corporate subculture actively discriminates against introverts. Regardless of what companies may say about rewarding qualities at which introverts excel, like efficiency, timeliness, frugality, creativity, and focus, many corporate employers are only willing to recognize those traits when they are developed, to a much more limited degree, by extroverted job seekers.

Suppose you want to get the benefit of five people’s different qualifications before launching a project. Each of the five people who have the highest qualifications available lives in a different neighborhood, or even a different city or state. Each agrees, however, to take the project home, consider it in the light of their specialties, and contribute their input. Once a week for three weeks everyone will meet, talk or e-mail or conference-call, and perfect the project.

As an ordinary person with a normal sense of logic, you think this is wonderful. Each person will give the project the amount of attention they think it needs, and deserves, in order to be identified with their professional reputations. You don’t have to worry about the time, expense, or hazards of commuting to one place each day, nor do you have to pay the expense of maintaining that place. You can save a lot of money by hiring five qualified people who have demonstrated the discipline and concentration it takes to do this project at home.

When it really counts—typically when the project involves engineering, construction, computer systems, and/or military defense—this is what our biggest corporations, including our government, do too. However, most of the time, most of our existing corporations will avoid this approach to the project at any cost.

Why pay five people to get a job done in three weeks when there’s any possibility that someone might be made to pay twenty people to get the job done over three months? Why miss the chance to engage in “team building,” share lots of “face time,” have lots of “morale boosting” activities, and possibly even get to watch an office romance (even if everyone in the office is already married to someone outside the company—extroverts aren’t good at monogamy). Everyone needs to commute to an office, develop an elaborate “chain of command,” work to a schedule that builds in plenty of time for idle chatter, “dress up” in overpriced clothes nobody actually enjoys wearing, form relationships with the other people on the job...

Obviously, if this approach to the project appeals to you, you are an extrovert. And you certainly don’t want any introverts in the office, where their very existence would constantly remind you that you’re wasting a lot of the company’s time and the customers’ money. So, when a “human resources manager” with an M.B.A. rather than a B.A. starts hiring people, if there’s any way to get by with it, that manager won’t even look at any applications from introverts. That manager wants to hire only “cheerful, outgoing ‘people persons’ who will boost our morale.”

Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bait and Switch documents how this discrimination operates. In order to expose dysfunctional corporate policies, Ehrenreich attempted to get a corporate job. In order to do this without identifying herself as a journalist writing an exposé, however, she had to use a blurry résumé that may have been discarded by some corporations because of its blurriness alone. Although the plan had allowed for the possibility that she would be hired and could write about ways corporations exploit the white-collar worker, in fact the whole book describes a prolonged, unpaid job-hunting process.

Predictably a lively, sarcastic, entertaining read, the book reveals more to younger readers than Ehrenreich is aware of. Although she had to blur her age for job-hunting purposes, Ehrenreich was in fact over sixty years old. Although it takes an introvert’s “ear for words” to write as well as Ehrenreich does, Ehrenreich has, like most successful older adults, developed social and intellectual skills that balance her personality. Like many HSPs, she’s also aware of the circumstances that make true/false questions such as “I like to relax at home on weekends” seem to demand specific, quantifying answers in order to make sense. “Well...some weekends I like to stay home, and some weekends I like to go out. It depends on what cultural activities are being offered, at what price, and on whether spending the weekend at home with my grandchildren is an option, and on what kind of travel-club deals I’ve been offered lately, and on the weather...”

Ehrenreich admits to having answered several questions at random, feeling that the questions didn’t make sense, and been misidentified as an extrovert. Nobody even tried to conceal from Ehrenreich that the hypothetical possession of hereditary traits (which she does not in fact possess) would be an advantage in job hunting. Not surprisingly, given the insensitivity of the average extrovert’s perceptions, the job coaches and agents who tried to assess Ehrenreich’s mature, complex personality accepted her as a fellow extrovert and sent her out to interview for a lot of jobs for which she was unlikely to be the best qualified candidate. Not surprisingly, when the interviewers looking for a thoughtless, chattery extrovert actually met Ehrenreich, nobody ever called her back for a second interview.

What happens when people whose introverted temperaments and talents are unmistakable apply for this kind of job? Nothing very encouraging. Why is it clear evidence of discrimination when those of us who are also female are told that we should “be smart enough to hide our intelligence” in order to get dates (which isn't true), but acceptable when introverts of both sexes are told the same thing on the job (where it is true)?

Success in most careers depends on some combination of talent, determination, and lucky breaks. HSP introverts typically think they have enough energy to get them through; some are right, some are wrong. LBS introverts typically think they need to “accept” their apparent mediocrity, unpopularity, unattractiveness, etc., when in fact they score higher on most counts than the extroverts who benefit from this blatant hiring preference.

How militant about this do we need to be? Some LBS introverts seem willing to accept the idea that they can and should “be more outgoing” if hired for reasonably low-key jobs. To HSPs who’ve become aware of the extent to which we’ve been discriminated against on account of an hereditary trait, however, the idea of trying to “be more outgoing” seems comparable to trying to “be less female” or “become Japanese.” Trying to “be” something we simply are not seems, at best, equally insulting to ourselves and our ancestors, and to whatever group we might be advised to try to copy.

Is it possible for introverts, having learned to respect ourselves in spite of discrimination, to like extroverts? Evidently some of us do. I don’t. Well, I perceive a continuum between the “normal” or “balanced” personality that can work alone or in a group, the moderately extroverted people who blaze their own trails through life but look back to check on their followers now and then, and the extreme extroverts who can’t stop chattering, calling attention to themselves,and letting the presence of other people distract them from whatever they’ve undertaken to do. Moderate, task-oriented extroverts I can respect. More severely extroverted personalities are a nuisance; I think their unfortunate condition should be recognized as a disability that disqualifies them for any responsible position.

A really militant movement seems incongruous with the basic idea of being introverts, although some HSP introverts can be vocal, charismatic, and aggressive as long as we have adequate quiet time. In any case, the 1960s are over. We can leave the traffic-blocking marches, brick-throwing, "occupying," and similar aggressive demonstrations to movements that appeal to less mature mentalities. A calmer movement toward more self-acceptance, consciousness of kind, and solidarity with other introverts would be more appropriate to the message we have to share with the world.

Where would we begin? Perhaps by reading books by Marti Olsen Laney, Elaine Aron, or both. These books will help some of us identify which type of introversion we’ve inherited. They’ll also help us identify which of the people we know are fellow introverts, which are genuinely unfriendly, and which are shy. Shyness is a different trait than introversion. A positive preference for quiet and solitude can be identified in new babies; fear of strangers appears as a learned behavior in toddlers, and shyness, or fear of one’s own inadequacy, usually appears as a learned behavior in adolescents. Adults who really feel shy, as distinct from being labelled shy because they are quiet, are usually extroverts. HSPs who enjoy creative solitude usually aren’t shy about sharing our creations when we’ve worked them out, and LBS introverts typically seem shy only while slowly processing their long deep thoughts about new ideas. After about age twenty, people who suffer from shyness are likely to be extroverts who have been bullied, abused, or intimidated out of expressing their real feelings.

Most of us already know how to avoid hostile people. Some of us, however, need to practice the arts and skills of setting shy people at ease. Most importantly we can learn to affirm one another. Even if we’ve made frantic efforts to become, or pass for, extroverts many of us may have noticed how delightful the company of a self-accepting introvert feels. Once we’ve made a few friends of our own kind, we can become self-accepting introverts and pass the bliss on to others.

Should introverts ever choose extroverts as partners, in business or in marriage? Actually, each human being is a different mix of genes; some of us inherited extroverted traits along with introverted traits. Moderately extroverted people can become good, strong, patient leaders, if they resist the urge to become dictators, in our homes and businesses. Nevertheless, my feeling is that anyone who is generally recognized as “outgoing, a natural salesman, a great cheerleader, the life of the party,” etc. is a bad risk for anything at all. Generally these people’s attention deficiencies keep their mental age low enough that I don’t think they ever become real adults.

In general, I think we should also start saying no to the harmful pressures extroverts tend to exert. NO, a noisier party is not a better party. NO, we don’t want our conversations interrupted by pushy, annoying waiters or “hostesses,” while travelling or dining or doing anything else. NO, we don’t feel more loyalty toward a company or motivation to do a job after being dragged through pointless, stupid “team-building” time-wasters. NO, we don’t want to “be more outgoing” ourselves. NO, we don’t even like for others to “be outgoing” toward us. By and large we are not haters, but we don’t have to like mindless greetings that don’t lead to conversation, empty chatter that doesn’t communicate anything new or important, or displays of friendship from people who would not in fact divide their last piece of bread with us if we were shipwrecked together.

We can start affirming ourselves even in middle school, whenever some kids decide that they’re a “popular crowd.” Are they “popular”? Are they really? Do we like these people? Studies show that middle-school “popularity” is usually a function of parental indulgence. Everybody wants to play with the kid who has the coolest toys, sit beside the kid who brings the extra desserts, go to the parties that are held at overpriced amusement parks. Being “popular” in middle school usually helps people develop the precocious social skills that impress others in high school...but, do we let ourselves be impressed by social skills, or do we look for friends who actually share our interests?

Do we need a political movement? If there is ever such a thing as a political movement that genuinely reflects the wishes of introverts, it will be very different from almost all the political movements in history, except, arguably, the American Revolution. Introverts are, by nature, likely to agree with much of what Jonah Goldberg observed in Liberal Fascism. The idea of a totalitarian system run by introverts, presumably a monarchy, may have some appeal to introverts (at least as a casual fantasy about identifying all the noisy, obnoxious extroverts and banishing them from the civilized world) but it is fundamentally opposed to our temperament. Although Woodrow Wilson, Adolf Hitler, Ruhollah Khomeini, and more recently the Taliban’s Mullah Omar, suffered and died in attempts to become extroverted totalitarians, usually introverts’ natural instinct is to offer others the respect and courtesy we want them to show us...i.e. leave them alone.

Have we been accustomed to the labels of “liberal” or “conservative”? Which label is most inherently congenial to introverts may depend on which country we live in. The idea of an egalitarian democracy, where government exists primarily to protect the rights of the individual, was always recognized as “liberal” in Europe; it can be considered “conservative” for the United States, as Friedrich Hayek observed, because it was the founding principle of our country; in Israel and the Arab countries it might even be considered “nostalgic” or “traditional,” since it is celebrated in the oldest written literature those countries produced, but has not been practiced in those countries recently. However, although the ideal of a modest, efficient, non-intrusive, democratic government is upheld by some conservatives and Republicans in the United States, it can hardly be confused with the politics of neo-conservative leaders like George W. Bush or John McCain.

As Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman observed, televised political campaigns guarantee that the party prepared to spend the most money to promote the best showmanship will win. As these writers came along too soon to observe, government by the most appealing TV personalities is effectively guaranteed not to be government of, by, or for introverts, many of whom don’t even enjoy watching television.

However, if the contemporary Republican Party fails to represent introverts, the current left wing serves us even worse. In a right-wing book called Women Who Make the World Worse, the “liberal” “expert” psychologist Sandra Scarr is quoted as expressing contempt for people who received adequate maternal attention in childhood and don’t go around demanding attention from everyone else in the world. “Shyness and exclusive maternal attachment...seem dysfunctional. New treat­ments will be developed for children with exclusive maternal attach­ments.”

Because introverts tend to be gentle people, it may be necessary to point out that introverted children need for us to develop “new treatments” for the likes of Ms. Scarr that will last longer than duct tape. Consider the way the brand-new label of “Asperger’s Syndrome” now seems to be pasted on any little boy who’s not been tagged “hyperactive”...and whose parents are too busy, too poor, or too stressed to protest vigorously. Boys who learn to read at six have always been in a minority; it’s normal for girls to start reading at six, but boys typically start reading at eight or ten. Groups of boys tend to fight, so if an early-reading boy’s eyes develop ahead of the rest of him, he is likely to be bullied, and if he matures quickly in most ways, he is likely to be accused of bullying others (even if he can resist the temptation to do that). If boys want to be protected, and parents want to protect them, from this inevitable tendency at school, home schooling is probably the most efficient way.

If they attend public schools, intelligent little boys, even if not conspicuously introverted at home, learn to keep a low profile. Since one of the worst effects of the Americans with Disabilities Act has been secondary legislation that actually pays schools more for having more students with “disabilities,” almost overnight children who used to qualify for special coaching in “leadership skills” have been reclassified as fitting onto a “spectrum” alongside people with extreme, incurable brain damage. I am not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with recognizing that genuinely autistic people, who may or may not be able to cultivate some special talent that uses whatever working synapses they have, are part of humankind and fit onto a “spectrum” that includes each and every one of us. I am suggesting that deliberate confusion between the sensitivity of gifted children and the hypersensitivity of people with brain damage is not supported by the facts, but fits alarmingly well into a discriminatory political agenda.

Although HSP introversion is a physical trait, loosely linked to more visible physical traits like height and complexion, it is not the property of any single ethnic group. Its appearance in the “gifted” minority of all races has done much to break down race prejudice. The presence of a “gifted” minority of HSPs has also acquired special cultural meaning for certain ethnic groups; for example, perceptivity is one of the criteria that determine a person’s role in the Cherokee Nation, and traditionally community leaders (as distinct from leaders of war parties) were required to be HSPs. In contemporary U.S. culture, the case might easily be made that discriminating against HSPs is a form of oldfashioned racial discrimination that penalizes groups that have traditionally prized the HSP trait. However, although this argument might be expedient, a truer statement of the case would be that discrimination against HSPs is the precise modern equivalent of race or gender discrimination, since it penalizes individuals for having a healthy hereditary trait.

Rather than allowing HSP children to be “diagnosed” as fitting onto some hypothetical “autistic spectrum,” we should perhaps demand “sensitivity training” in which non-HSP teachers and social workers spend time crafting elaborate apologies for the “unconscious racism” they have acquired by being born into a temporarily overprivileged group defined by an inherited trait, or the lack of one. We have no more right to oppose the existence of circuses, or flashy low-content magazines, or stupid TV shows, than we would have to oppose the existence of social clubs that celebrate a specific ethnic heritage. We can, however, raise public awareness of the fact that subjecting HSP children to school programs designed for non-HSPs is as discriminatory as subjecting non-White children to school programs that continually and exclusively celebrate “Our Anglo-Saxon Heritage.”

Similar training can also be made available to corporations. We might consider boycotting corporations that are big enough to have more than one vice-president, if one of those vice-presidents is not unmistakably HSP. Many of us have already identified small independent businesses (especially bookstores, theatres, and craft supply stores) that clearly reflect their owners’ temperamental incompatibility with corporate chains; we could profitably identify, support, and even form, more of them. Most of us tend to avoid restaurants painted orange, products advertised by annoying commercials, and stores that pipe in loud music or tiresome ad messages; we could do more to let merchants know that providing quiet, orderly, low-key shopping environments will pay.

What role will LBS introverts have in this movement? Although it’s possible for people to have both HSP and LBS traits (I test positive for both), my observation has been that the HSP trait is more conspicuous; we experience ourselves more as HSP than as LBS introverts. People who identify themselves primarily as LBS introverts probably aren’t HSP. Though not more shy than HSPs, perhaps more intelligent than many HSPs, and equally subject to discrimination, they are likely to become followers in the movement, and probably won’t follow unless care is taken to solicit their input. So I’m asking. What would "real," conspicuous introverts want from a liberation movement?