Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Petfinder Christmas Post for Sue

If Blogspot will cooperate, I'd like to do a Petfinder post in honor of "Sue," the dog whose human brought me into town today. Sue was a shelter dog rescued from an abusive human. Her holiday wishes came true as she found friendlier people among whom to live. 

I commented that this shy but friendly black-and-tan, long-nosed dog "looked fine." Her human's aging ears interpreted this as "what kind?" and explained that nobody knows Sue's actual pedigree. This is typical of shelter dogs. Petfinder will index their pages according to either their ancestry, if known, or their overall look. You see pictures that don't look like the officially approved type for a breed on the breed picture page, and pictures that look like classic specimens of one breed but turn out to belong to some other breed, and all kinds of shelter staff guesswork taking place. On Petfinder Sue would have been listed as a Black & Tan Coon Hound because she has short hair in that color pattern, a long and lean build, a long nose, and floppy ears. 

Her human gave her five stars. Shelter animals usually have some problems, at least for a few weeks while they recover from the shelter experience. Sue's only obvious problem is that she shivers visibly when approached by people she doesn't know well. Otherwise? "She goes out behind the barn all by herself. I don't even have to scoop!" She doesn't bark unnecessarily, doesn't mess up humans' things, stays where she's told to stay. She was trained brutally but she learned good manners. Sometimes shelter animals are like that.

So here, in time for Christmas, are some more Black & Tan Coon Hounds. Not sure I'd recommend trying to adopt a large dog in the same week you've first met, but you can meet them and their shelter-mates over the holidays...click on the picture to find out how to meet them. 

Some shelters specifically say, and more probably should, that they're not willing to ship these large dogs around the country. It's too much of a hassle for the humans and risk for the dogs. The point of Petfinder is that you'll be able to find, probably next week if not this week, a similar-looking dog in your own part of the country. These blog posts are put together for eye appeal,which does help animals find homes. I pick the cutest picture on the pages I open at the moment I open them. If you actually visit the shelter, a dog who photographed less well may appeal to you even more than the one chosen here!

Zipcode 10101: Ben from New Jersey 

Despite the grey muzzle, Ben is thought to be a young dog. He was found at a campground, apparently lost or abandoned. He likes humans and female dogs. He weighs about fifty pounds and will need a good deal of food, exercise, and attention. Coon hounds are easy to keep, and despite their thin coats they thrive outdoors with a simple shelter (traditionally the crawl space under the porch) in typical Middle Atlantic weather. They tend to be healthy. Ben's listed adoption fee is steep but includes all his vaccinations and neutering. 

Zipcode 20202: Belle from West Virginia via Washington, D.C. 

Belle was rescued from a situation that sounds similar to Sue's. Only ten months old, she already weighs 47 pounds and will probably weigh more before putting on any surplus weight. I would definitely haggle over the price since the shelter doesn't guarantee a clear bill of health or complete vaccinations. 

Zipcode 30303: Angelina from Georgia 

Just a puppy...one of a litter of eight puppies a female stray was found rearing in an alley, while living on what she could scrounge there. The puppies were named in honor of saints. They are thought to be beagle and Black & Tan crossbreeds, but shelter staff project that they're likely to reach the larger breed's size. You could adopt two and try to haggle down from the asking price, which is just ridiculous for pups, however lovable they're likely to be. 

Bonus for Local Readers: Sir Francis Bacon from Johnson City 

Little is known about Sir Francis Bacon beyond his general type and favorite snack. 

Morgan Griffith's Christmas Post

From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA-9):


White Christmas

The Christmas season is one of beloved traditions. From music we sing and hear to the menu of dishes we customarily enjoy for a Christmas feast to the decorations we hang around the house, the holiday is a time to return to the things that make the season special.

One song may be more familiar than most. “White Christmas” is not just a Christmas song; the version sung by Bing Crosby is considered to be the best-selling single of all time.

I'm dreaming of a white ChristmasJust like the ones I used to knowWhere the treetops glisten and children listenTo hear sleigh bells in the snow

I'm dreaming of a white ChristmasWith every Christmas card I writeMay your days be merry and brightAnd may all your Christmases be white

I'm dreaming of a white ChristmasJust like the ones I used to knowWhere the treetops glisten and children listenTo hear sleigh bells in the snow

I'm dreaming of a white ChristmasWith every Christmas card I writeMay your days be merry and brightAnd may all your Christmases be white

“White Christmas” earned its place in music history and its regular spot in the rotation of Christmas music through talented writing, good timing for its melancholy mood, and memorable use in film.

The talent behind the music and lyrics was Irving Berlin, one of the great songwriters of all time and a true only-in-America success story. He was born Israel Beilin in the Russian Empire of the late nineteenth century and emigrated with his family to the United States in 1893. He picked up his musical talents growing up in New York, and when the sheet music of his first published tune in 1907 misnamed him as “I. Berlin,” he became Irving Berlin going forward.

His musical output varied from popular music (“Alexander’s Ragtime Band” was his first major hit) to patriotic tunes (“God Bless America,” which has become an unofficial national anthem of sorts) to musicals (This is the Army was a hit on Broadway and later as a movie featuring Ronald Reagan), even to campaign jingles (“I Like Ike” rallied voters for Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential victories).

But it was of “White Christmas” that Berlin supposedly bragged to his secretary that not only was it the greatest song he wrote, but that it was the greatest song anybody had ever written.

The song was first sung by Bing Crosby on the radio on Christmas Day 1941, soon after the United States entered World War II. Its wistful lyrics would speak to the millions of Americans who would soon find themselves engaged in the war effort far from home.

That war backdrop also influenced the eventual film version of “White Christmas,” released in 1954 and starring Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. It was not the first film to feature the song, but it became a classic of the season.

Crosby and Kaye play veterans who find their former general running a struggling hotel in Vermont during an unusually warm winter. On Christmas Eve, they stage a show to cheer up the general with all the men of their old unit, and as snow finally falls, they sing the title song.

One of my favorite memories related to the theme of the song is from when I was young. The weatherman called for flurries on Christmas Day. I woke up on Christmas morning and the flurries looked heavy. By mid-morning, the ground was covered. At 6pm, I measured the snow in my backyard in Salem and the “flurries” reached twelve inches of snow.

For millions, the song and the film have become an integral part of the holiday season, a product of a particular time and place that can resonate with anybody. In that way, it is like the fundamental meaning of Christmas – the birth of one child in the unusual setting of a manger, yet who offers to all hope and redemption.

Whether this year’s Christmas is white or not, I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405, my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671, or my Washington office at 202-225-3861. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also, on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Book Review: Upon Destiny's Song

Title: Upon Destiny’s Song

Author: Mike Ericksen

Date: 2013

Publisher: Empath

ISBN: 978-0-9883604-3-3

Length: 375 e-pages

Illustrations: black-and-white reproductions of old photographs

Quote: “Thousands of similar Mormon pioneers, un-noted and unsung, quietly slipped into the amalgam that became our modern world. In grateful memory to all of them and especially to my own ancestors, I have chosen to recall this history and to put their unsung stories, to the best of my ability, to life and to song.”

Many of the first European immigrants to North America were “heretical” Christians. Disagreement with the organized churches in which they’d grown up, however slight, made them feel unwelcome if they went to church and subjected them to legal penalties if they stayed home. They looked for new places to organize churches of their own, some of which were equally oppressive to new dissenters. The Revolution and the novelty of forming an independent nation distracted a generation from the minutiae of their faith in the late eighteenth century. In the early nineteenth century, a “Great Revival” of renewed dedication to religious faith, often characterized by fanatical adherence to picky little rules, swept over the continent. Two substantial, though unconnected, new schools of Christian thought formed in the 1840s, when religiosity had been whipped into a real froth by William Miller’s reported discovery that the Bible foretold that our world would end in 1844. Protestants who agreed with Miller up to the point of the world ending in 1844 either became influential in their denominations (some denominations that had not preached a literal Second Advent in 1830 have preached that doctrine since 1840) or formed a new denomination, led by Bible students from Baptist and Methodist churches, called Seventh-Day Adventists. Many Christians who disagreed with Miller followed a new “prophet,” Joseph Smith, whose new vision led him to write—he said, transcribe—a new book, the Book of Mormon, which his followers added to the Bible. They called themselves the Latter-Day Saints but have usually been called by the shorter name, Mormons.

Disambiguation has remained an important task for anyone talking about these two religious groups. The S.D.A. are well inside the Protestant tradition; the L.D.S. regard themselves as a fourth branch of Christianity, distinct from Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Christians. They were reviled and persecuted for this perceived arrogance, and even more when desperation motivated church leaders to sanction polygamous marriages. Their persecution consisted in fact of being told to leave one place after another. They feared, as they packed up and moved, that eventually other Christians would come after them with swords and guns. Their tradition still includes a fair amount of melodrama based on those understandable fears.

From the early hard times of the church come the events novelized as Upon Destiny’s Song. Ericksen wasn’t always, he tells us, as fascinated by genealogy as some Mormons are. (In fact this church’s contributions to the specifics of American history have been vast; if your genealogy has not yet been printed in a book and you want to start compiling that book, you’ll probably be referred to the Mormons for leads on your departed ancestors.) What he knew about his ancestors was that they came from Denmark and they’d been dead a long time. Then as a young musician he got involved in writing songs for an historical pageant about events in which his ancestors had participated. Trying to imagine a great-great-grandfather who died on the way to Utah and the daughter who became Erickson’s great-grandmother, he soon found himself composing a whole musical about their story.

It was a real Western story—one of many. Denmark was not a terribly poor country and Ole Madsen was not a terribly poor man. Ane Marie, whose name was originally Olesdatter but who was told that in the United States it had to be Madsen, didn’t have time for much adolescent rebellion against Papa and his adoption of a new religion; when they came to North America her energy was taken up by getting the rest of the family across the Rocky Mountains, in winter.

The historical fact is that many Mormons were persuaded to cross the Rockies pushing and pulling “hand carts” instead of covered wagons. The carts were cheaper, and tended to fall apart along the way. People left Iowa or Nebraska singing some version or other of songs like “Walk Along with Your Hand Cart.” If lucky they stumbled into Utah with the boots on their feet, the coats and blankets on their backs, and not much else—usually without the carts, which had contained changes of clothes, the provisions they’d eaten along the way, and one or two of each person’s most prized possessions, often Bibles or other books, family pictures or letters, and similar souvenirs. Some families remembered what their ancestors had tried to bring to Utah and lost. For Marie Madsen it was a songbook; Papa had brought the Bible.

If you’re drawn to stories of “How the West Was Won,” less by shoot-outs than by hard work, the survival of the fittest and the loss of the majority, you’ll probably like Upon Destiny’s Song.

Two things some readers might not like:

1. Though novelized in the sense that conversation and characterization have been added to the story, Marie’s story is told as it happened, not reshaped for Hollywood. In fact her big adventure may have been complicated by, or may have delayed, puberty—her great-grandson didn’t ask—and she had time to recover from it before she met her husband. When her adventure story ends we know that she’s going to be married and become a great-grandmother; that happens “offstage.”

2.  The historical facts of the story are an intense read.

If you walk for exercise it can be easy to underestimate the hardships of the “trail” stories in American history. A healthy adult can walk thirty miles in a day. Within the twelve hours before they shut down the fundraising marathons and carry the stragglers in, most of us could cover 27 miles. Then we could spend the next day mostly in bed, in our climate-controlled homes, sipping cool refreshing drinks and feeling pleased with ourselves. The long “trail” travels of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were very different. People didn’t have to go thirty miles every day; they could adjust the pace to allow children and small animals to keep up, but then they’d still be hiking when the heat of summer or the chill of winter or the plagues of vermin complicated things. All true stories of these travels, even the success stories like Lewis and Clark’s, are far outside anybody’s comfort zone.

The Mormons who left Iowa and Nebraska singing, with cheerful sarcasm, that “some must push and some must pull, as we go merrily up the hills” with their hand carts, stumbled into Utah with the words “keep moving or die” on endless loops in their minds. Marie walked past where the Donner Party had camped. Her own party were motivated not to eat one another’s frozen bodies because, cold as it was, dysentery managed to attack them. People saw that their fingers and toes had frozen, knew these extremities would only fall off, and gnawed on their own dead fingers. Supply wagons came out from Utah to feed the hand cart contingent and carry the weakest on to Salt Lake City, and found many too weak to keep food down or to survive the ride back to town; people were motivated to keep walking, if they could, rather than ride in a pile of people dying of dysentery in a supply wagon.

Exactly how Marie Madsen came to Utah, Ericksen admits, has been lost to history. For Mormon pageant purposes he has her collapsing gratefully among Brigham Young’s household, about which enough facts were recorded to allow a reasonably accurate reenactment. Maybe she did stay with Brigham Young’s family, Ericksen says in an afternote—some of the hand cart contingent really did—and maybe she didn’t. The survivors from the hand cart parties straggled into Salt Lake City by ones, twos, and threes and were fed and warmed wherever people had spare beds. And though they were treated as “brethren” for the rest of the winter, they were expected to pay those who had taken them in, when they went back to work. (Mormons have been known to argue that women shouldn’t have to work outside the home, because Mormon communities depended on women’s work from home. Ericksen portrays Mrs. Young carrying her crocheting as she goes to meet guests; as a guest or foster daughter in such a family Marie would have been sewing or knitting or whatever-she-did-ing as soon as her frostbitten hands could hold a needle. That was where all those Victorian layers of clothes came from. Mormon women were not told that their duty was to be ornamental.)  

From research, too, come the tidbits of Danish lore and language. (Readers are unlikely to forget what becomes of Marie’s songbook. She did not bring it to Utah and it down to her descendants.) I like them, though; since early childhood I’ve always found the easiest way to learn vocabulary words to be finding the words used and explained in a story, and so no doubt will young readers who may want to learn Danish as part of their family heritage.

The historical fact that the whole party were Victorian church members keeps the story wholesome. The hardships and deaths keep it from seeming like a children’s story, but there’s no sex (sometimes Marie hears of someone getting married or having a baby) and no real violence. Danish audiences who didn’t find a speaker credible, we’re told, liked to throw rotten food at him. Frantic Mormons, screaming at loved ones to “keep moving or die,” might hit them. Nobody intends to do anyone any real harm. Nevertheless, perhaps because there are no disposable characters brought into the story just for other characters to murder, I felt more horror of the effects of violent weather (which was real) than I usually feel of the effects of violent characters (who are usually fictional).

If you buy the book, rather than getting a free review copy, you should get a recorded album of several new songs inspired by Ole, Marie, and Marie’s mother Ane. (I’d prefer an album of the old songs they actually sang; my obsession is not necessarily yours.) Additional supplemental material includes discussion questions, and some short stories about other events in the Madsen family history outside the time span of the main novel.

Ericksen tells us that Mormons consider genealogy very important, and people used to scold him for not completing his family’s records. I can relate to the unenlightened, uninterested younger Ericksen at the beginning of the story. I had three grandparents whose genealogy was considered noteworthy enough that I grew up with the books that have been written about them, from simple lists of who married and gave birth to whom, to biographies and even fiction about some individual ancestors. The fourth one, well, came from Tennessee and married “up.” Her father was White; her mother was “an Indian,” not positively identifiable as Cherokee. In Virginia their marriage was legal because people like that great-grandmother had been ruled legally White. There they chose to let matters rest and there I’ve always felt inclined to let any other secrets they had rest in peace, along with them. And if the other three grandparents’ genealogy hadn’t been published I would probably have let their stories die, too.

Which would have been a pity. They were interesting people. Their stories are scattered about this web site. I won’t bother retyping those stories here but will merely say that most people who look up their ancestors’ stories find some lively ones. Everybody eventually comes to an ancestor or two who need to be...well, more than ten generations past, because I still think common sense and decency entered the family line when the Earl’s grandson came to the Carolina coast, probably from his Italian mother’s side because they certainly didn’t come from his English...anyway, completely decomposed before one cares to claim any relation to them. Everybody also comes to some ancestors who may have been obscure or even poor, but who are remembered for something that was interesting and even heroic, like crossing the Rocky Mountains with a hand cart.

The world is a little bit richer because Ericksen took the trouble to find out what Ane Marie and her father were like. It may be richer for the stories of your ancestors, too. 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Morgan Griffith on Vaccine Mandate

From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA-9), with this Official Editorial Comment: My man!
Griffith, Energy & Commerce Republicans Lead Resolution to Stop Biden’s Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers
Thursday, December 9, 2021 – Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Republican members of the Energy and Commerce Committee released the following statements about Congressman Jeff Duncan’s (R-SC) resolution  under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that will halt President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for Medicare and Medicaid providers. 

“Health care workers have borne a great deal during the coronavirus pandemic. The Biden Administration’s decision to impose vaccine mandates places even more upon their shoulders,” said Griffith. “This imposition by the Federal Government adds to the challenges already faced by health care providers, especially in rural areas, and will undermine recruitment and retention of workers. This misguided and overreaching mandate should not be allowed to stand.” 

“In September, more than half a million health care and social assistance workers left their jobs. We’ve heard from providers from across the country  who told us that workforce shortages, burnout, turnover, and recruitment challenges are deeply hurting patient care. President Biden’s vaccine mandate will make these problems worse,” said E&C Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Health Subcommittee Republican Leader Brett Guthrie. “To protect patient care and people’s jobs, every Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee is leading to stop President Biden’s vaccine mandate on our health care workers. They’ve served as our frontline heroes during this pandemic. They deserve our gratitude —not mandates that force them to make a choice to comply with the government or lose their livelihoods altogether.” 

“We are concerned that if the Biden Administration moves forward with their vaccine mandate for medical personnel, the resulting staff shortages could actually cost lives instead of saving them,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan. “I initially brought up this concern in September in a letter to President Biden, but it is evident the Biden Administration has not considered the practicality, efficacy, and morality of a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for staff within all Medicare and Medicaid-certified facilities.” 

“As I traveled across my district this year, I heard from health care professionals in numerous hospitals about their concerns with being short-staffed. The federal vaccine mandate has only exacerbated these labor shortages within hospitals, let alone the rest of the national workforce,” said Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH). “Over the last year and a half, our healthcare workers were praised as heroes, but now, they are being labeled as villains. We must continue to support our healthcare workers, not enforce mandates that would get between doctors and their patients. I have continually encouraged my constituents to speak with their doctors as they decide what is best for themselves and their families; however, Biden’s top-down approach of vaccine mandates is an immense government overreach.”

“This vaccine mandate for healthcare workers is one of the most egregious  government overreaches we’ve ever seen. It is unconscionable that an agency of unelected bureaucrats would force our frontline workers to choose between their jobs and either a vaccine or a burdensome and complicated testing regimen,” said Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL). “Fortunately, Congress can counter this kind of misuse of agency authority with a Congressional Review Act resolution. President Biden’s unconstitutional mandate must be stopped.” 

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have received thousands of messages from constituents fearing potential infringements on their personal rights due to government-imposed mandates. I’ve also heard from health care workers across my district who are being forced to choose between their job and a vaccine,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ). “I’m proud to stand with my House Energy and Commerce Committee colleagues against this government overreach and exercise our Congressional authority to review actions taken by federal agencies.” 

“Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate is not only flagrantly unconstitutional, 

it presents a direct threat to our health care system,” Crenshaw (R-TX). “Providers are terrified that they’ll have to either follow Biden’s dictates or lose their jobs, and this is exacerbating provider shortages across the country. This puts patient care at risk and it’s why we’re standing up against this administration’s unconstitutional mandate on America’s health care workers.” 

Note: Energy and Commerce Republicans introduced this resolution today with every member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) introduced a companion resolution in the Senate. 

CLICK HERE to read the resolution. 

CLICK HERE to read how vaccine mandates are hurting patient care.

CLICK HERE to read more from Fox News: Biden's CMS vaccine mandate faces strong opposition from over 150 Republicans.


Blog Housekeeping: Random Corrections

A few things I've had time to notice while offline, in alphabetical order:

(1) "Honey" 

What you need to know: "Honey" is a hateword. Some other things couples call each other on television are still endearments or just private pet names when used between couples, but it's very rude to use them as substitutes for "Miss," "Ma'am," or "Madame" as general ways to "call" women. 

Here's a tip: "calling" people anything, including their own names, is annoying when the people are already present and talking to you. It makes the person doing it sound hysterical; it makes the person hearing it want to snap "I'm right over here. What's the matter with you?" In a social conversation, you can replace "calling" with eye contact. If you're being paid by the hour and the customer is politely excusing you from any felt need to chatter by withholding eye contact, you can replace it with "Thank you, Sir/Ma'am." You're welcome. 

Here's another tip: If you're being paid by the hour, don't say "honey." Not at all. Not ever. If you work in a restaurant that serves it with pancakes, say "bee product." It's so toxic these days that I don't know anyone who actually eats bee digest, but just as you'd say "female dog" or "mother cat" because you wouldn't want to say "bitch" or "pussy" in front of women in public, you say "bee product" if you have to mention that.

"Honey" means a lot of things, most of them bad. As a term of non-endearment it traces back to slave usage, and is still considered lower-class Southern, which is enough of a reason not to use it. (In slave and lower-class Southern dialect, because it already had mixed connotations, the word basically meant "child, as it might be the boss's child, or family member, to whom I don't want to say anything worse but who is annoying the daylights out of me at this moment.") 

"Honey" is one word that seems always to have looked and sounded pretty much the same. Anglo-Saxon sources contain hunig in its most literal sense of the syrupy semiliquid bees regurgitate after ingesting flower nectar. Before glyphosate it was possible to consider bee digest as food for humans; today, because bees get so much nectar from sprayed wildflowers, bee digest should be regarded as toxic waste. 

Because it literally means a body secretion, "honey" has a long tradition of being used as euphemistic slang for other body secretions. Someone challenged me on saying that it's used as a synonym for the S-word. I've not found a source that specified that. It's used to mean the contents of an outhouse generally. It's used to mean, specifically, the ones that don't have more common vulgar names of their own, the ones also called "juices" and sometimes various four-letter words derived from "juices," the ones that smell "f***y" (I'm pretty sure that word is specifically programmed into this site's contract).

This is what makes "honey" one of those endearingly raunchy things bedmates are supposed to think it's so exciting to call each other, like "poopsie" and "stinker." I never thought raunchy things were very endearing. As far as I'm concerned, Honey's bedmate's pet name is "Ex" or "Dumpee."

I've found several sources for "honey-dipper" meaning "outhouse cleaner," but others, like Jack Douglas, didn't go into the details. Douglas often used rude words but he had some comedic sense of how to use them sparingly so they retained their rhetorical value, which too many current comedians don't have.

I've found abundant evidence that some parents do terrible things to their children. Names actually given to people include not only Honey, but Bitsy, Pussy, Puppie, Whoopie, Hussy, Hoyden, Caress, Desire, and worse. (I'm not sure about "Chick"; as a man's name it's considered a short form of Charles, and I've only ever heard it as slang for "any girl or young woman," with no specifically offensive meaning, but from the way some women react to it it may have an offensive meaning somewhere.) "Anal" and "Shitsu" are found in countries where English is not an official language, so they probably don't count. UrbanDictionary.com lists "Honey" as a given name for a girl and tries to give it a connotation of goodheartedness, but this listing gets a lot of "dislike" votes, probably indicating that nobody in any city has heard it actually used that way. I certainly have not. I've heard "a honey" or "a honeypot" used to mean "a good-looking slut" or "a garment or outfit that will look flattering but slutty if worn."  

I have found a more recent source for "honey" as a term of hate for women as such: Laura Schlessinger uses "Honey" with a capital H, in quoted sentences, to indicate something half of a couple would say to the other half, but she uses "the honey," with a small H, to indicate a married man's other woman. Laura Schlessinger addresses a very low reading level and uses only widely understood slang so I'd guess that this usage is recognized around the English-speaking world, although when people I know talk about "other women" they say either "the other woman" or an unambiguously unacceptable word.

Grandma Bonnie Peters used to use "honey" to mean bee digest, and she used to enjoy and recommend it as a food. She was allergic to beets and to generic white sugar, much of which is extracted from beets; she was not allergic to pure cane sugar, but since people in our town used to keep bees, she used to cook with bee digest. This was probably the biggest correction she made in her active career. 

Employers may need to stand over their lower-class employees to force them to practice: If you are an employee and you "call" a customer at all, you say "Ma'am" or "Sir." I have heard of an exercise where people who needed help with proper terms of address were led around "The Quad" and shoved into things by people who would say "I beg your pardon, Mr. Tree" or "Mrs. Bench," to which the trainee would reply "I beg your pardon, Sir" or "Ma'am," or be shoved again, harder. Some local employees may need that, too. 

(2) Links

For no obvious reason owners of skanky-looking sites, often involving gambling, have been buying up web addresses that were linked in older blog posts, including mine. I will be monitoring for misleading links as time permits. 

(3) Measles

How many related virus are there that produce varying levels of fever, eye inflammation, mild skin rashes, general weariness and malaise, and occasionally positive pain or nausea? When I was growing up I heard that there were "three kinds of measles." Elsewhere, later, I've heard that there were four or five. The names I learned were three-day measles, one-week measles, and three-week measles. My understanding is that three-week measles is the one still called "measles" in the name of "measles, mumps, and rubella shots" and one of the milder virus is the one called "rubella." 

A few years ago, I mentioned that something measly was going around in Gate City. It was not a cold; it was not conjunctivitis. It featured fevers and reddish patches on the face as well as eye inflammation. People were calling it measles. It was definitely not three-week measles, though for one child to whom I'm partial it led into some sort of chronic fatigue syndrome. Either everyone else who had it was already immune, or it was the three-day kind. 

Anyway, someone bustled up to me and said "It was not measles." Well, it was and it wasn't, depending on what you understand "measles" to mean. Which brings us to 

(4) Vaccines 

The coronavirus vaccines that came out last spring were new and experimental. Some batches were harmful. Those batches were removed from the market and reports of bad reactions are slowing down. If you have a COVID vaccine today it'll be something that's been tested and proven effective against the original COVID-19.

Neither the vaccine nor natural immunity obtained by exposure to the coronavirus that raged across Virginia last year is effective against the coronavirus that's circulating in Virginia now. Informants who are nurses continue to say that young people (in this case "young" includes up to age 75, if previously healthy) who are hospitalized with Delta COVID are the ones who've had two or more "shots" of vaccine. So which vaccines, I asked, and is there any correlation with the batches that were blamed for the bad reactions? There's no observed pattern. Very few "young" people are hospitalized with Delta COVID. Probably most of the people, including active seniors, who have it don't notice it. People who do notice it describe it as a mild chest cold.

This web site stands by its position that people living on the East Coast, exposed to Delta COVID, should avoid travelling inland. There is some chance that vaccines against the original virus, which is still raging over the Great Plains, will protect some vulnerable people from that. Let's keep this Delta stuff to ourselves. Only in the coastal States is it true that people who are going to die from coronavirus have already died.

Masks are not required by law, but are back in style. Wal-Mart sold off its original supply at half price. They'd do well to order a fresh batch. Those who want to keep laundering and reusing old ones are reminded that masks are small enough to get entangled in the works of a washing machine, like nylons. I pin mine into a pillowcase.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Book Review (With Value-Adding Update!): Tales of Tucson

Title: Tales of Tucson

Author: Anthony Randall

Date: 2021

Publisher: Koala T Publishing

Length: So far it’s an e-book; my copy prints to 125 pages in Word

Quote: “Fifteen hundred dollars was a cheap price to pay for a vindictive little poke at your enemy and besides it wasn’t Saul’s money he was paying with—it was never Saul’s money that he squandered.”

Well drat, blast, and bother...This is, as advertised, a laugh-out-loud comic novel that sold well in the UK and might do well in the US.

But it contains adult content. Definitely R-rated content, if not X. The characters can hardly open their mouths without uttering a formerly unprintable word and nothing is hidden from the young about what Bright Young Things such as we were used to get up to in the 1980s. 

Actually the incidence of “parties” featuring sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll sounds exaggerated and the consequences of such revels underplayed, but then again the main characters are rockers trying to launch a hopeless-sounding band, so who knows. The incidence of “jobs” where about all we did was hang out and socialize is not exaggerated. The economy was booming, we had little but youthful charm to offer anyway, and a lot of freshman-class baby-boomers really were paid to hang around workplaces looking cute.

Aunts are not always averse to that kind of thing. Most aunts did some of it at some point. Many aunts are happily married to the men with whom we did it; this is how sisterless men become uncles and some of our nieces and nephews acquire cousins.

But aunts are not supposed to recommend books with explicit sex, and this book has a good half-dozen explicit scenes in which procreative acts take place in the absence of committed monogamous relationships. And, additional trigger warnings: lots of drinking, lots of drugs, no hangovers or addictions.

Sort of a male equivalent to Eat Pray Love, this is the story of a nice, quiet, clean-living young Englishman whose girlfriend, obviously an extrovert, decided he was too quiet and clean. So, having a married sister in Tucson, he headed for warmer, drier fields and a life his ex would envy. Throughout the book he muddles through the life of a rock star, bemused but not too bewildered to make a decent show in a crisis. He even appreciates the scenery. 

(At one point he admits doing something "like Arthur." I thought "Dent, who else?" but have been reminded...just before my movie-watching-and-snogging years began, there was also a movie called Arthur. Randall recommends the movie.)

In the eighties some of us could use the office as the place to do personal chores, errands, reading, knitting, shopping, phone-calling, letter-writing, long lunches and/or snack-grazing, and also work on novels or songs or software packages or other creative outlets, and generally prepare for evenings out (or evenings at home with the family), and still get and keep a job . Anyone could spare a few hours of office time to crank out enough actual work to satisfy, even impress, a normal 1980s employer. Well, in the US, anyway. In the UK the job situation was reported to be very different so it’s hard to blame Brits like Tom, the protagonist of Tales of Tucson, for rubbing it in and exaggerating his memories of “work” in the US for his ex’s benefit. Most employers did expect most employees to stay sober and keep our clothes, at least the button-down shirts and unnecessarily warming hosiery, in place during business hours. Padded-shoulder jackets and stiff 1980s shoes could, however, be left on and under the swivel chair most of the time, even in most of “conservatively dressed” Washington. I could believe that, further south, property maintenance staff might have gone to work in shorts.

Another running, perhaps overrunning, exaggerated joke is inland Americans’ abject fascination with any foreigner (“Golly, I’ve never seen anyone like you before”). The use of rude words does vary from place to place (in Tales of Tucson the Brits use the F-word to refer to everything but what it literally means, which usually gets half a page of detailed description) and an unexpected vulgarity can raise a laugh but, in real life, the audible “tone” of exotic swearing does convey that it’s meant to express hostility. If US listeners can be deceived by a UK intonation, so perhaps can UK visitors be deceived by US hosts’ willingness to smooth over offenses and soothe bad tempers—not without judging the bad-tempered person, of course. On the East Coast most of us may have understood “bollix” to mean “make a mess” rather than, y’know, that, but the familiar word for that was close enough that we could guess what the British meant.

Are American women really undone by any male voice with a British accent? Not the ones I’ve observed. Personally I think some men have more appealing voices and accents than others and the “’Ave a good night?”—“Corr, mate” accents of Tom and his roommate aren’t on my Top Ten list, but it’s more about what they say, and what they do while saying it...what’s a misplaced H when people love each other? We do notice an unusual accent, usually ask where it came from. Some of us may be so distracted by the resulting conversation that we forget to add the price of a tank of gas to the price of a snack, though probably not the ones who keep jobs in convenience stores very long. But I’ve not personally seen any woman, even in a small town, act so overwhelmed by an appealing voice while sober as the drinkers and druggies in Tales of Tucson seem to be. That has got to be the substance abuse.

Of course, as Andrea Dworkin so pungently put it, we don’t necessarily want to be overwhelmed. Of course in the 1980s, and apparently still today, men managed to miss the point: if we took off anything beyond overcoats or shoes on the first date, it was because we’d planned to, which meant that whatever erotic acts took place were all about our hormones and indicated no special attraction and probably no respect for the man involved. There were women who fantasized about going to a party and amusing themselves, in senses beyond conversation or dancing, with half a dozen different guys and leaving with a different one than they came in with; such fantasies were mostly fuelled by vindictive thoughts but everyone had heard of someone who claimed she’d actually done it. (I had one very “liberated” housemate of whom I could have believed it, but that was not among the things she said she’d done.) But that, like the male “playboy” routines, always had that “It’s all about me and my hormones and my pleasures” vibe. Tom and friends don’t seem to notice when they’re being used with a certain degree of contempt. If those guys had actually called the gals they said they were going to call, it would likely have been, “Have we met? Oh right, I remember you, James wasn’t it, or Todd? Oh right, of course, you were Tom and the good-looking one was Seamus. Oh well, whatever. But listen, Tom, Friday night was nothing, y’know what I did with a couple dudes I met Saturday night?”

Nice quiet people who fall in love easily should stay sober on dates. A happily-ever-after relationship that begins with premarital baby-making is the sort of male fantasy in which I can suspend disbelief only in science fiction, where one can postulate sex robots. Tom might learn something from the way his longest-running relationship in Tucson involves Holly, who more or less forces him to begin as “just friends,” but the lesson seems to be lost in the hormones.

As a story, Tales of Tucson may disappoint readers who expect it to form a conventional novel with a plot. Randall gives it some suspense: will Tom’s primary employer get into major trouble, as foreshadowed in the opening scene quoted above? Will that trouble have anything to do with his employment of improperly documented foreigners, e.g. Tom and Seamus? Will he continue to employ Tom and Seamus? If not, will Tom be forced to have some sort of sex with a fat old woman who, his bandmates think, lusts after his body? If he does, will this motivate her to give the band their big financial break (and, if so, are they good enough to benefit from it?), or to have Tom deported? None of these questions is answered by the end of the book. This is a book with a lot more pot than plot, and the witticisms (and marijuana joints) keep rolling up to the final “To Be Continued.” Expect to want the next volume at the end.

It’s possible, though, that you enjoyed the 1980s (soberly) enough to appreciate a slightly rose-tinted nostalgia trip to the fine long summer days of your twenties, or thirties or forties. The frustrations that now seem funny; the difficulty of keeping a band together long enough to attract a fan base to a distinctive sound, of continuing to offer your reggae-inspired songs after your authentic Jamaican influence quits the group, of fulfilling a contract to perform for a group when your Christian influence refuses to endorse the group’s activities and, after praying about it, decides he can’t endorse your activities either, of playing any kind of rock when your drummer gets into or out of college...and that sneaking suspicion that, at its very best, your band may not be all that great and the person who called you “the next Beatles” has lost per credibility by saying that. The jobs people offer the young, and the fact that you did them. The hormone surges, and the inevitable discovery that, whatever you did, they would eventually satisfy themselves, and the discovery that hormones also make a landscape look more lovely, and make food taste better, and make it easy and satisfactory to jam with any half-competent musician anywhere. The way Tom and Seamus are always eating the best dish of something or other they’ve ever had and enjoying something more than they’ve ever enjoyed it before, because when we’re young and eupeptic all the good experiences in life do just keep getting better and better. If that’s what you’d like to be reminded of, while laughing at the way memories tend to exaggerate themselves, then Tales of Tucson is for you.

There’s a salutary hint of self-parody in the exaggerations, too. Tom and Seamus tell themselves all the women they flop into bed with, except “Call me Sunshine,” are pretty and nice. Are they really? Did we tell ourselves everyone we were dating was desirable? Were they really? What about those employers whose expectations were so low that they were planning to continue to employ us, while being pleasantly surprised if we painted over the rude words we painted on the walls? How well did we really do the painting job? What sort of influence would it have been on the music industry if our bands had stayed together and been “the next Beatles”? In the 1980s it was obligatory to describe our job experience with a certain amount of “marketing” spin—but how much spin did our experience need? It can be useful to meditate on the effects both the hormones of youth and the nostalgia of age have had on our memories.

As for the smut: When I read it I was a little old lady in quarantine for Delta COVID, 100% lustproof, and instead of being tempted to the Deadly Sin I just laughed out loud. This was not the way real Eighties dates went, at least on the East Coast. This was the way older people told us real dates had gone in the Sixties. We were exploring all the alternatives to the pleasures that could transmit HIV. But I could imagine someone who was single then, who is married now, who wants to share memories of The Way We Weren’t, having a lot of fun with this book.

So I think this X-rated story has redeeming social value for most readers who remember the 1980s. The self-obsessed young are probably protected from it by their self-obsession; they’d rather read some piece of p.c. angst inspired by The Hunger Games. Tales of Tucson should be enjoyed, on multiple levels, by people who were young in the Eighties. For us it’s a good read.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Morgan Griffith on Rising Prices

It's not only the gas, actually. Prices are just being raised...a bad idea for industries that have been hurt by the coronavirus panic, because hello, duh, customers' budgets were hurt too. There were some people who didn't really need last year's handouts, viewed them as "pennies from Heaven," and splashed them madly about the way they did the Obama stimulus checks. Those days are gone to come no more. I was in a grocery store that's known for fair prices, earlier this week. I looked at something I always buy, saw that the price had risen by 40% since last week, and decided I'll be buying something else for the duration. 

Anyway, from U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith, R-VA-9:


November 17, 2021 - Gas prices are soaring, due in part to Biden Administration policies that make energy more expensive and more difficult to produce in the United States.

Some of President Biden’s earliest actions sent a signal that energy production was not welcome in the United States. On his first day in office, he cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline. Days later, he ordered a pause to new oil and gas leases on federal lands.

Even as gas prices have surged, the Administration continues to pursue actions that would hurt energy markets. They are threatening to shut down Line 5 from Canada to Wisconsin and in their big government reconciliation bill want to tax natural gas and further obstruct domestic production.

After undercutting domestic energy production, President Biden throws up his hands when asked to encourage domestic production. Instead, the Administration has called on Russia and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to increase oil supplies.

The White House Press Secretary waves away the pain at the pump and says higher gas prices should encourage development of their pet fuel sources. That’s an unacceptable answer for Ninth District residents who have to dig deeper into their wallets to fill up their vehicles.

Last week, I sent a letter to the Democrat leadership of the Energy and Commerce Committee requesting an oversight hearing on the Administration’s handling of high energy costs. I’m working to overturn Biden Administration policies that undercut American energy production and encouraging a return to energy dominance, when America led the way in safe, responsible, affordable energy production.


Thursday, November 11, 2021

Morgan Griffith Calls Out Handout Scheme (With Status Update)

Y'know, I just spent the last $100 of my COVID panic handouts...Friday afternoon. On Sunday a person for whom I was supposed to have been doing an odd job, in the real world, backed out due to unexplained illness. Having denied that person had COVID last year, and having had acute complications develop, the person now has this year's version of COVID. (Fully vaccinated? I didn't ask.) On Monday person reported that per temperature hadn't shot up and person hadn't collapsed, but person had gone to the hospital and been ordered into quarantine for two weeks. Open-air markets are still decimated, a lot of people are still afraid to reopen their stores and restaurants or shop in the ones that are open, now a good friend and client is ill, and I just spent one of my last two one-dollar bills till payday to come in and...well, actually, receiving job-related e-mail was the idea. I certainly didn't spend a dollar just to buy an oversized cup of pre-chilled Coca-Cola. But what can you do, when the only places where phones or computers connect to anything, whatever network you or your friends have paid for, are still downtown restaurants. Sitting in a downtown restaurant and not even sipping a drink is sooo tacky.

So tacky that as I sat down, waiting for somebody to finish sipping per drink and checking for phone messages, that person felt moved to show Niceness by buying me a drink (naturally choosing a flavor that I'd be likely to drink if I'd had no access to any other liquid for 48 hours) and a sandwich (but it was too early in the morning to hold on to the sandwich for the cats). Icky. I could so easily have been sick on the floor. Attention people who want to be "nice" or "kind": Before spending your money on any unsolicited purchase for someone you don't know well, ASK the person what person can use. Do not buy sandwiches for celiacs. Do not buy beer for alcoholics, do not buy milkshakes for lactose-intolerant people, do not buy meat for vegans; in short, do not buy food for other people until you know what they want, and if it's not on the one-dollar menu, y'know, ce sont les breaks. If you're so timid you can't get the words "Excuse me, please, may I buy you a drink?" out of your mouth, you could just put some cash on the table and run. Though I wouldn't have parked the laptop on the table if I hadn't intended to buy my own drink, as soon as the person finished what person was doing and left the table from which I watch for my ride home.

Another wonderful virus panic day in the Fightin' Ninth District. Well calculated for this e-mail from U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith, R-VA-9 (further comments below):

Wall Street Journal recently reported that the Biden Administration was considering paying $450,000 each to illegal immigrants affected by the Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance policy. Families could receive close to $1 million, and the total cost to taxpayers could total more than $1 billion. 

 On November 3, President Biden said of the payments, “That’s not gonna happen.” 

 The next day, his staff said he was “perfectly comfortable” with the payments. 

 I believe American taxpayers should not be on the hook for such outrageous sums to individuals who broke our immigration laws. That’s why I cosponsored a resolution from Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) condemning these payouts. 

Additionally, I joined colleagues in sending letters to Biden Administration officials urging them to halt the policy. 

 I will continue to advocate for the rule of law and oppose hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars going to payouts for illegal immigrants. 


Now: Legitimate, law-abiding, natural-born citizens of these United States are still feeling penniless and desperate. I'm one; I know some others. And what we want, dear Members of Congress one and all, is not another round of handout checks. We. Want. Paid. Jobs. Never mind about "career tracks" and such twentieth-century notions, but we do want to get paid for what we're able to do, while we're able to do it. 

I officially achieved "senior citizenship" a while ago, and though I'll take any discounts any clever storekeepers care to offer on their massively overpriced merchandise, I am now in a position to say this, now that it affects me rather than the parents of anyone I know. (Now that very very few people I know have parents, and if we do this proposal would not affect them.) I say we need to save Social Security now. The way to save it is to save it for those who are no longer able to get up and walk to a store, or office, or restaurant, or the Friday Market, or around the streets picking up cans. Save the pensions for those who truly are disabled. Get the rest of us back to work on whatever one-year-or-however-long-we-have gigs we can still do, paying taxes. 

We do not want to be officially pronounced "useless needers." We do not want to be overseen by people who floundered through at the bottoms of easy classes. We do not want to trade our homes, where we remember where things are, for miserable little flats in vermin-filled slum buildings. We do not want a thread nor a shoelatchet from the Welfare State. All we want is to go on earning our livings in peace.

And let the immigrants know, please and thank you, that however much we may like them as people, even welcome them as visitors, there is no room for more permanent immigrants in our economy. Such jobs as are available need to be done by people who were born here. If you were born somewhere else and you have a dream, go home and make your own native country great. 

Book Review: Middle School Shapeshifters

Title: Middle School Shape Shifters

(I don't get a commission on this e-book, but you can see the jacket image here, anyway.)

Author: Luke Loaghan

Date: 2013

Publisher: Luke Loaghan

ISBN: none

Length: 237 e-pages

Quote: “[S]hape shifting existed in the mythology of every culture, in every part of the world.”

Whether or not the stories were seriously believed, people have always made up stories about what might happen if a human could become another animal—at the person’s own will, or at someone else’s. Some of the stories may have been simple metaphors: when a real man pursued by enemies “became a deer,” what the storyteller meant was that he used his abilities to run and hide rather than fight. Some may have described early efforts to expand people’s real or perceived abilities: some people who put on animal skins wanted to be perceived as putting on the animal’s abilities. Some were serious parts of shamanic and pantheistic religions. Shape shifting was seen as an attribute of good spirits and evil spirits, given to humans as a gift or as a punishment.

In Middle School Shape Shifters, Luke Loaghan spins a plausible story of how shape shifting might work in a modern city. The main character, Breccan, slips in and out of any form so easily that he’s apt to transform in his sleep. A friend, Sabel, and her sister and cousins can become jaguars. Other people they meet at gatherings can become trees or flocks of birds. The main characters’ parents can’t change shapes, but accept that their children can.

Fantasy novels are supposed to include conflicts of Good versus Evil, so Breccan and his friends have enemies. Some of these enemies have limited shape shifting abilities too, granted them by their “dark master,” a dismal demon who answers to the name of Breinsgorth. Mostly they seem to transform into legendary humanoid monsters but the “wendigos” don’t even get a chance to enchant any followers of their paths, nor does the man-eater get to eat a man, before the kids assume predatory animal forms and chomp their monster forms.

Middle School Shape Shifters is the beginning of a series. A friend’s dreams warn Breccan that he’s going to use his powers to fight off three attackers. Even before the third attack readers can see the plot of Book Two starting to take shape.

The problem with self-publishing is supposed to be that, while working so hard to say what they have to say, writers tend to overlook boring little details and so they release books full of typographical errors. That’s what’s not to like about Middle School Shape Shifters. Nothing major is wrong with it. “Shape shifting” can be written as two words or as one; in this e-book it’s written both ways. There are inconsistencies in formatting, spelling, punctuation—the sort of thing that does not interfere with our reading friends’ blogs or letters, but that causes teachers not to recommend a book to students. Not many adult men are named in the book, but two important ones have the same given name, Robert, and a third one has a similar name, Roblane; in fiction characters with similar names are supposed to be connected in some special way but no such connection is explained in this book. (Maybe the explanation will appear in another volume in the series.) For me the combination of copy-editing experience and reading the e-book on the screen kept me wanting to change the little irregularities in what looked like a manuscript, but no, it’s the published book.

What you’ll like is that it’s easy to read Middle School Shape Shifters, easy to follow the story, easy to relate to the good characters and even to understand the bad ones. The evil principle appears in this book as Breinsgorth, operating through a group of otherwise unconnected people he’s drawn into a secret society, the Black Heart and Dagger. Within this group a woman called Lucinda is far from the nastiest character, but the one who is motivated first by self-pity and envy, then by fear of Breinsgorth and the others, to attack the main characters. The shape shifters are her primary target; when Lucinda wants to move beyond petty harassment like making faucets leak, her first fumbling efforts to do evil only give the shape shifters innocent victims to rescue. We see a man from the group reaching out to a shape shifter’s friend who feels left out of the shape shifters’ adventures. We can imagine that a bully Breccan has had to deal with in animal form will be even easier for the Black Heart and Dagger to recruit. We can expect that those characters will give the shape shifters more of a challenge, generating more adventures for the next book or books...but so far there's not another book in the series. 

If you liked Harry Potter…well, Middle School Shape Shifters is very different from Harry Potter. That could be a reason why some Harry Potter fans would like the Shape Shifters. It’s a completely different plot, set in a different country. The culture is different; the Shape Shifters go to a day school while living at home, and even in grade seven Breccan and Jackson are aware of being especially attracted to Serenity and Sabel, respectively. There is a similar mix of fantasy adventures with ordinary middle-class suburban life. (There’s also a similar insistence on ethnic diversity in casting; we’re not told that Jackson is Black, but it's easy to imagine him that way because, if he’s Black, then Sabel, Sanjay, Breccan, Jackson, and Serenity would represent the five traditional color-types of humans.) Though J.K. Rowling had the benefit of professional editing and Luke Loaghan doesn’t seem to have had that, each story satisfies the fantasy-reading brain in much the same way.

I recommend that the writer known as Luke Loaghan consider either issuing a revised edition of Middle School Shape Shifters with professional editing, or publishing volume two with professional editing, to break down teachers' prejudice against the book. And I recommend that fans of middle school fantasy and teen adventure-romance Kindle-fiction read this book; it's a fresh concept and a lively story.
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