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Did you actually read it?

This one is short.

I understand the urge to troll one’s political opposites. Truly, I do. I also understand the angst of those who feel all they hold dear is at risk. With all that said, I have to emphasize an important point.

Regardless of where you stand on the subject of Donald Trump’s impeachment and subsequent Senate trial understand this: Nowhere does the Constitution of the United States of America even hint that an acquittal by the Senate somehow “cancels” a sitting president’s first term and entitles him to two more terms. It does not say it. It does not suggest it. It does imply it. If you say it does, you are either a liar or an idiot. Take your pick.

Corona virus…aieee!

I am a registered nurse. I know I am because after I

  1. paid the state some money, and
  2. took the test for licensure

the state sent me a license and a nice form letter informing I had passed and was thereby a RN. I have focused for the most part on two areas, psychiatric nursing and perioperative nursing. OR nurses are really big on avoiding infection, both for their patients and for themselves. With that in mind, I shall now share with you the super secret, normally-shared-only-with-a-select-few things you can do to best increase your odds of not “catching” the dread corona virus.

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Be where it ain’t. This means that if your dear Aunt Marge is having her 70th birthday celebration, but Uncle Herbert has been diagnosed with corona virus, I recommend you not go.
  3. Wash your hands
  4. If you are around people who are infected, or who you think might be infected, buy some nitrile gloves and N95 masks. Where them when around those folks.
  5. Wash your hands and don’t touch your face. If you’re one of those people who goes, uh, “digging for gold” in the recesses of your nose, stop. It’s a nasty habit, anyway, and now you have a reason to not do that anymore.
  6. Wash your hands.
  7. Wash your hands.
  8. Wash your hands.
  9. Wash your hands.
  10. Wash your hands.

That’s it. Anyone care to guess what the single most effective thing is that you can do to reduce the risk of infection?

Thoughts on…stuff

Depression

I have mentioned before that I am dealing with depression. That doesn’t make me special. Maybe that was part of the problem. I am both a registered nurse and a retired Navy officer. Both of those professions come with expectations, not only of others, but more importantly of oneself. Nurses, for instance, don’t get sick. Navy officers can deal with anything. Neither of those are true, although they are both driven by at least one similar philosophy. To wit, that there are relatively few people actually qualified to successfully take on the responsibility of being a (insert either of the two). Further, that the profession demands a degree of excellence and a degree of commitment of which most people are not capable and to which they can never even hope to aspire. Now, there is some truth to both of those. Most people will not be nurses and most are not even inclined to try. Likewise, most people will not be Navy officers or senior enlisted Navy personnel (I’ve not met many people I think would have made good chiefs. They just aren’t that common). Most people, in fact, will never be in the military. The upside of this is that those who wind up in one of these two (or similar) professions, and who are successful in them, are willing to push themselves to meet the expectations of their profession. The downside is that there is a tendency, when something is causing problems or “issues,” to view asking for help or assistance as a sign of weakness. Weakness, when one is in a profession that views itself (sometimes rightfully so) as special or as requiring more than most people can or will give, is the kiss of death. More than one person has made allusions to sharks and “blood in the water.” And maybe that’s how it has to be. In some ways, it is the professional expectation that helps us keep going when all we really want to do is quit, even if quitting consists of no more than lying down and sleeping for more than 45 minutes or so at a time for days on end (I’ll be the first to admit that once I’ve been awake for much over about 50 hours, I get more than a little, uh, “goofy”). The downside, though, is that we also tend to ignore our own warning signs.

It has been said there is a stigma attached to mental illness and that is true. I have counseled a lot of people to get the help they need regardless of the stigma because otherwise things were simply not going to get better. “Take the meds,” I said, “because without them the chances of things getting better, especially in the long term, are so much lower.” Fortunately, many of those people followed my advice. Sadly, a few did not. Which brings me to some words spoken long ago by One far wiser than I. “Physician, heal thyself” (it really has nothing to do with physicians). Yeah. Fine. Be that way. Several months ago I finally broke down and went to see a mental health professional, because all the things I was trying (and had been trying for perhaps 20 years or so, including the very popular “tough it out” approach) just weren’t working. Thus, “major depressive disorder.” Yay, me. “Let’s try Effexor XR.” Well, crap. I am, I have discovered, an even worse patient than I thought. I have also discovered something else. Effexor XR is my friend. It’s not a magic pill. It doesn’t erase bad habits that developed over two or more decades. What it (and other anti-depressants) can do, is help someone be able to make decisions about what they’re going to do, unburdened by the cloud of depression and all the dysfunctional behaviors that can go with it.

TL;DR version: If you have been diagnosed with depression, take the pills!

Politics

I am an equal opportunity abuser of politicians. They are, regardless of where they fall upon the American political spectrum (we have an odd definition of “right” and “left”) a vile, parasitic species of subhuman who can be trusted only to subvert the will of the electorate whenever they can. Their pursuit is not money but power and they will do anything they can to hold on to it once they have it. If you are a Democrat/Republican/Socialist/Green party person, then yes, I am talking about your candidates and current office holders.

Impeachment

You may consider this a subset of politics, but it has been enough of an issue for long enough to deserve its own heading. I am not going to talk about whether Donald Trump should or should not have been impeached. Nor am I going to discuss whether he should or should not be convicted in the Senate trial. Instead, I’m going to offer an observation. If

  1. Donald Trump is acquitted (as seems almost certain), and if
  2. Donald Trump is reelected (unseating a sitting president is challenging),

then the real winner will be Mitch McConnell. I mean “real winner” in the sense that he will likely go down in history as one of the most significant, powerful and influential US Senators in history.

Gun control

This one sort of ties into my thoughts on depression. In all my years of struggling with undiagnosed depression (and since I’ve been on an antidepressant) I have never attempted or even contemplated harming myself or others. Please bear that in mind when I note that as regards further efforts at gun control, should one or more such measures be enacted into law, I will not comply.

Barbecue

I decided to include something far more controversial, far more likely to lead to discord and the dissolution of longstanding friendships than any of the above.

I’ve had the pleasure of living in some of the great barbecue regions of the United States. Each of them have some wonderful barbecue. With that said, after due consideration I have come a conclusion as which is the “best.”

Beef brisket: Texas

Pork: Southeastern North Carolina

Let the bloodletting begin!

 

 

 

Experiencing and explaining

Yesterday, I made cassoulet. Sadly, I took no photos, so you’ll have to take my word for it that it was visually appealing – at least until our crowd attacked it. It was also really tasty, filled as it was with yummy. Let’s talk about yummy for a moment and how it relates to the title of this post.

In the late 1800’s, in Paris, the bourgeoisie were finally getting their own great chefs. Even during the extended bloodlettings that were the various French Revolutions, the truly great chefs, including Marie-Antoine Careme, who baked Napoleon’s wedding cake and is credited with inventing French cuisine, worked for the aristocracy. For them, the appearance of food was everything, even if it wasn’t edible (or only barely so). Careme’s dishes, for instance, were often served cold because his sculptures of lard, marzipan, or spun sugar would melt at warmer temperatures. The appearance of decadence was what mattered, even if the “food” was largely (or entirely) inedible. The presence of yummy was not the only, or even perhaps the primary, consideration.

Enter Auguste Escoffier, stage right

Escoffier was a chef for the bourgeoisie. He did three important things. First, he wrote a cookbook, The Guide Culinaire, in which he effectively opined that the purpose of food was to be eaten and enjoyed. Second, he opened what was arguably the most revolutionary restaurant Paris had ever seen (as well as the most expensive). Third, he invented veal stock. Now long considered a fundamental part of classical French cuisine, it’s important to understand that prior to Escoffier, no one cooked with veal stock, simply because it did not exist. People tend to overuse the phrase that something “changed everything,” but in the case of French cuisine, veal stock did just that.

People raved about his restaurant and the food prepared and served there. It tasted like nothing they had ever eaten. Escoffier himself seems to have suggested that the veal stock infused food with something new, something different. A taste that could not be defined as salt, sweet, sour or bitter, or even some combination thereof.

No one, aside from his customers, was convinced. After all, Democritus had declared there were four basic tastes (having added “bitter” to the already recognized three of sour, sweet and salty). Plato was good with that, as was Aristotle. It worked for the philosophers who were the basis of Western civilization, and so it was. Escoffier and this customers could exclaim about the new flavor all they wanted, but it did not matter. Sweet, salt, sour, bitter were the only ones which existed. Four was the counting thereof, and no more.

Enter Kikunae Ikeda, stage left

Halfway around the world, a Japanese man named Kikunae Ikeda noticed something, specifically while eating a classic seaweed soup called dashi. It was good. Really good. More than that, it was good in a way that was not limited by the standard categories of tastes. Whatever could it be?

As it turns out, Ikeda was a chemist, and so he set out to learn exactly what this amazing flavor was. It was glutamic acid, which Ikeda decided to rename “yummy” (technically, he called it “umami,” but I’m writing this so we’re using my lousy translation). This thing which Escoffier was concentrating in his veal stock? Yummy. The thing Ikeda noticed in his bowl of dashi? Yummy. He published his findings in the Journal for the Chemical Society of Tokyo…and no one believed him.

It was almost 100 years later that scientists discovered the human tongue has receptors for, you guessed it, yummy. Umami was real. Escoffier and Ikeda were right.

What does that mean? In this case, it means that what some people had experienced or observed was real. Now, we simply have the science to explain it. That’s ultimately what science does. It explains what is observed or experienced*. It doesn’t change what we experience. It merely provides an explanation (sometimes accurate, sometimes not so accurate, but that’s a separate matter).

We see this in other areas of life, as well. St Paul would write in his first letter to Corinth (and in a specific context) that when he was a child, he thought, spoke and perceived as a child, but that all that changed when he grew up. That observation was not peculiar to him, of course. People have observed that phenomenon seemingly since we have been observing things. It was people like Jean Piaget who set out to develop a theory (one of many) to explain it.

“Why are some elderly people positive and cheerful, regardless of their physical condition and others are just grouchy and bitter” is a question, based on observation/experience, that has perhaps been asked by people for as long as there have been people. Erik Erikson would explain it with his theory of psychosocial development.

Whether we’re talking about food, how people develop intellectually, or how they act at different stages of their lives, we seek to explain what we see with theories. Sometimes, we run into difficulties due to conflicting views, not simply of explanations, but of how we perceive things. Allow me to attempt and explanation.

I play the guitar. That’s what I call it, anyway. Some people disagree (critics are everywhere!). One of the hardest things for me to learn was how, when playing rhythm, to pick a strum pattern. I could look at the music and note the time signature. I could tell you what the numbers meant. In spite of that, much of my playing was wooden. It wasn’t until a guitar player I really admired told me to “stop trying so hard and just let yourself feel the rhythm” that I was able to progress. The same thing was true with chord changes in a song. It was only when I allowed myself to “feel” the music that I suddenly realized I could anticipate not only the need for a chord change, but even what that chord was likely to be. In my case, I had the theory (or at least some of it), but not the feel. Other people struggle from the other direction. They can feel the music (Robert Pirsig’s acquaintance who said “you just have to dig it, man”) but can’t necessarily explain the theory that explains it. Our challenge is to incorporate both into our lives, whether with food, cognitive development, psychosocial development, music, or the vast myriad of other facets of human existence.

Sadly, some people are so afraid of the approach that doesn’t come easily to them that they denigrate it, or even deny that it can produce anything of value. “Artists are frivolous” and “scientists are rigid” are both examples. This fear and subsequent hostility are understandable, I guess, but short-sighted. I didn’t really appreciate music theory and how it can help a musician (or a would-be musician like me), until I let myself “feel” the music. Likewise, I didn’t really understand just how much my family of origin influenced who and what I am until I took the time to study and gain some understanding of family dynamics and systems theory.

Enjoy what you enjoy. Experience what you experience. Don’t fear or avoid the things that can help you understand and explain it.

And every once in a while, eat something yummy.

*During my first college career, I was a hard sciences major, so I understand that science also observes in order to collect the data which is analyzed to draw conclusions and on which to build theories, but I’m speaking broadly here. 

Finally retired tech

I have an admitted soft spot for all the US armed forces. After all, I began my military career in one (USCG) and retired from another (USN)*. Anyway, a good friend of mine from years ago has long proclaimed that the USAF, his service (of which he is justifiably proud, I should note), is more “high tech” than either of the services of us he calls “boat people.” Which means that finding this little gem on The Silicon Greybeard’s blog filled me with no end of childish glee. I include only the briefest of excerpts:

You may have seen this entertaining little story going around the last couple of days, but the Air Force has finally retired 8-inch floppies from the missile launch control system. Those would be the strategic missile launch facilities.

Yep. 8-inch floppies. Not 3.5-inch floppies. Oh, no. The big, if-you’re-not-my-age-you’ve-likely-never-seen-one 8-inchers. You may not understand my gleeful chuckle, unless you both served and really enjoyed the fun that is military sibling rivalry. If not, you missed something special.

“Aim High,” my friend.

*Incidentally, this makes for some odd looks when I go hear a military band and they play their typical medley of service songs, as I stand for both “Semper Paratus” and “Anchors Aweigh.”

Unhinged

That is my official “I spent several years as a psychiatric/mental-health nurse” assessment of Hillary Clinton, based on her recent rant. Jill Stein is a Russian asset? Jill Stein? Really? Great shivering Shiva on a crutch. Oh, and Tulsi Gabbard (for whom I would not vote but for whom I have more than a little respect), is being “groomed” by the Russians? Give me a f***ing break.

If my assessment offends you, then allow me to suggest…never mind.

On a related note, I’m sorry to hear of Gabbard’s impending suicide.

Gifted amateurs vs professionals

Obviously, this is a post about hunting.

As a hunter, I am like almost all humans, a gifted amateur on my very best days. On the other hand, Bambi, Bambi’s mom, his dad, cousins, friends, and yes, Faline, are all professionals. This point that was driven home to me during four days of hunting. The spot in my freezer reserved for venison remains empty. Because I’m an amateur. And deer are professionals. And they won. Again.

Other point of note/point of advice. If your scoped weapons reside in a soft-sided case, do not allow anyone to “help you out” by packing them in your car. Let us not discuss the implications of discovering your crossbow is suddenly and unexpectedly shooting 20 inches low at 50 yards. Why would I allow someone to do that? Because I’m an amateur.

That’s okay, Bambi. Laugh it up. General season (aka “rifle” season) opens November 2. It is my plan to introduce you or a relative to that thing known as “150 grains of .30-30 love” very soon. Or not. Because I’m an amateur.