Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eve Fisher. Show all posts

08 April 2021

So You Want to Live Free

My latest story, "The Sweet Life" will be published in the July/August edition of AHMM.  It has some relationship to this blog.  

Back – God help us! – 52 years ago, I left home in the middle of the night after one of the most frighteningly violent days of my short life.  I'm not going into the details.  But I truly believed that if I didn't leave that night I wasn't going to be alive much longer.  

I remember that night, but not much of the next couple of weeks.  But eventually I found myself on the road, looking for a haven.  I went to Coronado, then I went up to San Francisco - to join the hippie ranks, of course.  But by then the hippies were all gone (most to Northern California or Oregon, where a lot of them started communes).  Haight Ashbury was still there, but it was mostly hard-core druggies by the time I got there.  I went south, to L.A., and ended up in Hollywood, where I disappeared into street culture for the next couple of years.  

First of all, we need to remember that people have been / gone homeless for millenia.  Back in the Middle Ages, when the wealthy lords figured out that raising sheep on huge acreages was less trouble and more profitable than dealing with farming and farmers, they got rid of their tenants, who mostly fled to the cities or the forests. Every famine, people fled to wherever they thought they might find food. (Joseph's brothers to Egypt.) After every war, from the Crusades to Afghanistan / Iraq, some soldiers have returned damaged and hopeless and drifted, again, to the wilderness, whether cities or forest or desert.

What's changed is that today it's harder to be left alone than it was even 50 years ago.  You used to be  able to sleep in certain parks, under overpasses, derelict buildings, vacant lots, and the occasional free church.  You could even find a cheap place to rent every once in a while, and set up a makeshift commune.  But today… much harder.  The cities don't want the homeless, and they now have sufficient laws and police to harass, evict, move on, and/or jail people who live on the streets, in tents, on the ground, or in RVs.  See my 2014 blog, The Surplus Population.  Still frighteningly accurate.  And as for affordable housing anywhere?  Ha!  And good luck on finding a wilderness to disappear into.  

But the lifestyle itself hasn't changed.  

(1) Nobody becomes homeless by choice.  There's a story behind every homeless person.  S/he lost their job, their lifestyle, their mind, their health, their home, their family...  Something put them there, and I never met anyone who chose it willingly because it was a fun, free way to live.  What that something was is important to know if you ever want to get them off the streets.  Not everyone wants to go home.  I know I never once thought about going home, no matter how weird things got, because at least when someone did something awful / violent to me, it wasn't someone claiming to love me.  

(2) Over time, you get used to it.  The first requirement of life on the streets is to develop good radar for who dangerous and who isn't.  You will make mistakes.  Second is to find the infrastructure you need to stay alive:  usable restrooms, restaurants, churches, charitable organizations, etc.  Third is to learn the rhythms of the people around you, the police on the beat, the businesses, and how to work with them.

(3) Over time, you get used to it.  Street life is a whole lot of time to kill in between moments of great urgency, and sometimes great danger.  How do you spend that time?  Sleeping, when possible.  Talking constantly.  Looking around for anything that can be sold, spent, or used.  More talking.  Looking for food.  Lot of smoking.  (Smoking used to be cheaper than eating, and in the 60s and 70s even people who would never dream of handing out money would give you a cigarette.)  More talking.  The result of all that talking is some of the most unbelievable plots, plans, schemes, conspiracy theories and stories ever heard - believed.  Sometimes I think QAnon is simply channeling street people.  

(4a) You try to get used to it.  It's a strange mix of people on the streets.  Most of them are perfectly harmless; they're just unsightly.  But there are also the mentally ill - mostly harmless, despite talking to the air, which used to look a lot stranger before cell phones. But you can't ever tell if they would lose it.  Even worse are the predators, who specifically prey on their fellow travelers, often by pretending to be their friend.  Think Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy.  And at least he wasn't violent. 

(4b) There's also a strange mix of people who try to help people on the streets.  Many of them mean well:  those who come with food and water, those who offer rides to church or 12-Step meetings, those who provide medical care (we didn't have that in my day), and those who really are doing everything they can to get people off the street and into a stable life.  But there are also predators - the johns, picking up the young girls for some quick cheap sex; the cult leaders, looking for more recruits; the employers, looking for cheap labor; and the killers. 

(5) Over time, some people get more than used to it.  They turn feral - the life of the streets is the only one they can bear.  A life with a bare minimum of comfort / amenities, but a strange freedom.  If you can stand it.  Your time is your own.  You can say pretty much anything you want.  You can go anywhere your legs can take you.  You are not beholden to anyone.  There is no future, but there is certainly a present.  

I'm not romanticizing it like some people have (read John Steinbeck's Cannery Row for that).  It's hard.  It takes a hell of a lot of energy, just to stay alive every day. The life expectancy of a homeless person is very low.  And, as I said, there is no future, other than the ones cooked up in all those endless hours of talking.  The young street urchins waxing hopeful about being discovered and being the next singing sensation, model, actor, etc. (remember, I was in Hollywood).  The older guys talking about moving to the wilderness - Alaska, Rocky Mountains, wherever.  I never knew anyone who got any of those dreams.  Where they were was where they were.  

Me, all I wanted was to stay alive until I was old enough to go legal, and then come in off the streets and get a job and an apartment of my own.  I was lucky - through the grace of God, I did.  (BTW, doing that presented a whole new set of challenges.)  But - also through the grace of God – I've never forgotten. Everything I learned on the streets has come in handy in the rest of my life.

PS: Update on Allan. March 22nd, I took him to the doctor because he was having trouble breathing; they tested his oxygen levels, which were in the 70s, so it was off to the ER. He stayed in the hospital till 6 PM on Wednesday. Long story short: he has severe emphysema, will be on 24/7 oxygen for the foreseeable future, and has many upcoming doctor's visits, tests, etc., ahead of him. BUT he’s home.

Oh, and we've named his 24/7 oxygen concentrator "George".

25 March 2021

The Movie was Better

It is a universal truth that a novel is always better than any movie made of it.  Except when it isn't.  These are rare.  There is an endless list of bad movies made of excellent books, from every freaking version of Anna Karenina, War and Peace, and other classics.  I would include The Great Gatsby, but I liked the original - I thought Redford was as opaque as Gatsby should be, Bruce Dern sufficiently rough, etc. - the only problem, as always, was Daisy.  It's my belief that the only way to make a "perfect" Gatsby would be to pull a Bunuel and have two different actresses play Daisy:  one actress for every time we see Daisy through Gatsby's eyes (romantic, beautiful, etc.) and another actress for the real, shallow Daisy everyone else knows. 

But there are a few movies that are equal to if not better than their source material.  My list:

  • The African Queen - novel by E. M. Forster, movie directed by John Huston and starring, of course, Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.  
  • Speaking of Bogart, there's Casablanca - has anybody ever actually read the play, Everybody Comes to Rick's?  
  • The Third Man - Graham Greene wrote the novella at the same time he wrote the screenplay, but just keep watching the movie, okay? 
  • Lonesome Dove - I infinitely prefer the miniseries, with Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones, to the book.  But, to tell you a deep dark secret, I think a lot of Larry McMurtry's books make better movies than the books themselves.  Including The Last Picture Show.
  • In an opinion that could get me banned from Australia, I think the miniseries Cloudstreet is better than the book.  
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock.  Trust me.  
  • Miss Marple, as played by Joan Hickson, in Nemesis is fantastic, and the script as a whole is as close to a perfect transmutation from the page as I've ever seen.  
  • Any movie version of Ivanhoe.
  • 2001:  A Space Odyssey - pretty good sci-fi novel, iconic movie.

So, what are some of your choices?

BTW:  I would have done more of these, but my husband had a medical emergency and I've spent the last 3 days at the hospital with him.  He's back home now, for good hopefully, so… sort of back to normal.

11 March 2021

Notes from the Culture Wars: Heartland Edition

1 - Nomadland

Of course I watched Nomadland on Hulu.  Beautiful, and yes, I've been everywhere in South Dakota that they filmed. My favorite park is the Badlands and always has been. (But, while Wall Drug has the best maple donuts in the country, it is never, ever, ever that empty of people.)


At the same time, I found the movie depressing, and not just because of the economic fact that there are lots of people who cannot earn enough working full time to live on, nor have enough retirement from working full time to live on. I already knew that. There are people who work full time in every major city in America who can't afford an apartment. It is a scandal, a shame, a horror, and something should damn well be done about it.

But you know, the battening of the rich upon the poor has been going on for millenia. What really bothered me was the social isolation.  Everyone wandering around on their own, meeting at the various job sites around the country, gathering at the places out in the desert, etc., where they can live off the grid, but separate mentally, separate emotionally, separate financially.  A fierce independence and determination to not be "beholden" in any way.  A toxic independence, in my book.

Now I'm not talking about the people who love travel, and are in perfect health. And perhaps that was Fran.  But most people would like to settle down and stay put, especially as they get old and creaky.  And the only way you do that is by banding together. That's how the poor have survived the predation of the rich for millenia. That's how I survived 2 years on the streets of L.A. That's how the peasants survived Calvera's constant depredations in The Magnificent Seven.  That's how [almost] everyone lived through The Grapes of Wrath, Cross Creek, and the entire Jim Crow South.

At one point in the movie a few people mentioned that they couldn't actually live on their retirement (me, too).  And the obvious answer is - live together!  Whether you want to call it a boarding house, a commune, or a house sharing, a bunch of people can rent (or even buy) a place and all have their own room, share the facilities, the rent, the chores and the expenses of life a lot easier than one lone widow /widower can do it all themselves.  Dickens is full of boarding houses.  In It's a Wonderful Life, after George has wished himself out of existence, he finds a world where his mother is running a boarding house.  I've lived in 2 communes in my day, one in L.A. and the other in Atlanta.  I still think it's a damn good way to live.  And I know I'd prefer it any day than living in Nomadland.  

2 - State of South Dakota v. AG Jason Ravnsborg

On February 23, Governor Kristi Noem released videos of Ravnsborg's two interviews with law enforcement late Tuesday. I think the highlight that sickened entire state was this:

An investigator asks Ravnsborg how he retrieved his insurance card, which was in the glovebox. Ravnsborg describes leaning in from the driver seat, trying to avoid glass in the passenger seat. He denies seeing a pair of glasses. “They’re Joe’s glasses,” an investigator says. “So that means his face came through your windshield.”  (Argus Leader)

And he repeated - again - “I never saw him.  I never saw him.”  

Anyway, the Governor and practically the entire state is calling on Ravnsborg to resign, and the SD Legislature said they'd impeach him.  But then the legislature decided to postpone any impeachment proceedings until after Ravnsborg goes to court over his 3 misdemeanor charges.  Gov. Noem - who obviously wants Ravnsborg GONE - weighed in today, saying they don't need a special session for it, and don't have to wait.  (Argus Leader)  Obviously Gov. Noem wants him gone - the only speculation is why.  What surprises me is that Ravnsborg hasn't grasped yet that if he is impeached he'll lose his law license.  We'll see what happens.  

3 - South Dakota Legislature, Where Bad Bills Never Die

Every legislature has its quirks. We have a little feature called "smoke out", which allows legislators to force committees to deliver failed bills to the chamber floor if they can secure the support of 1/3 of the chamber’s members.  And of course it's just been used for three of the damnedest bills:

HB 1212, which says, in part, “A person who unlawfully enters or attempts to enter a person’s dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.” So much for innocent until proven guilty.  It's also, basically, a "stand your ground" law, because if you think they're doing something unlawful - you can shoot them and claim immunity.  NOW ON THE GOVERNOR'S DESK FOR SIGNATURE!!!

HB 1075, which says “Any federal statute, federal regulation, or executive order of the President of the United States, and any order of a federal or state court is null, void, and unenforceable in this state if the purpose or intent is to impose or enforce, against a resident of this state, an extreme risk protection order, including such an ex parte order, under which the resident, in order to reduce the risk of physical harm to himself, herself, or another, is: (1) Required to surrender any firearms or ammunition in his or her possession; or (2) Prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm or ammunition.”  Because God knows that owning a gun matters more than the health and safety of anyone around the person, even if they are so freaking dangerous the whole town avoids them and a judge has declared them a threat to themselves and others.  This one FAILED, thank God.

HB 1217 which seeks to ban transgender girls from participating in high school sports, and would require student athletes to fill out a form each year, proving biological sex from a birth certificate.  NOT ONLY PASSED BUT SIGNED BY THE GOVERNOR, SO...

4 - Speaking of the Transgender Culture Wars, Here's My Take:

As many of you know, I once worked for Medical Genetics at Emory University, where, among other tests, we did sex tests on newborns. One of my regular jobs was to sort out the chromosomes (from a photo taken on an electron microscope) to determine what the sex of a baby or child was, because the physical genitalia were anything from unclear to deformed to nonexistent. 

IMPORTANT NOTE:  One out of every thousand children is born with "indeterminate genitalia". 
The doctors, nurses, and parents literally could not tell, looking at the baby/child, what sex it was. In the past - and apparently it still happens today - they would simply assign "sex" according to their own preference - and a lot of times they were wrong:

Two examples of wrong assignment are Mokgadi Caster Semenya, a South African runner, who was assigned female at birth (b. 1991), but has either XXY or XY chromosomes, and Foekje Dillema (1926-2007), a Dutch runner, who was assigned female at birth, but after her death was determined to be a "mosaic", or a "46XX/46XY woman."  Both were raised as girls.  So which, my dear culture warriors, should everyone go by - what was/is on her birth certificate, or the genetics?  Or is it her own damn business?

SECOND IMPORTANT NOTE:  Conservatives (?) keep trying to say that sex chromosome abnormalities are very rare.  WRONG.  Actually, sex chromosome abnormalities are the most common there are because they are rarely lethal (unlike many other chromosomal abnormalities).  And the variations of genetic results can range from the normal XX or XY to XXX, XYY, XXY, as well as mosaics, and many many more. Nature is not "always right" or "always perfect".

For example: "Klinefelter syndrome has been reported to be between 1 in 500 and 1 in 1000 male births." (That's XXY or XXXY or a mosaic.) "In severe cases, they have relatively high-pitched voices, asexual to feminine body contours as well as breast enlargement, and comparatively little facial and body hair. They are sterile or nearly so, and their testes and prostate gland are small. As a result, they produce relatively small amounts of testosterone. The feminizing effects of this hormonal imbalance can be significantly diminished if Klinefelter syndrome boys are regularly given testosterone from the age of puberty on." These are very apt to be confused as girls at birth, unless sex tested, which may or may not happen. And they may very well "feel" that they are girls.  And without a lot of testosterone, they will be girls.  (Palomar Article)

And then there's the Guevedoces, a classic study which I read for the first time back on the job at Emory, about a community in the Dominican Republic, where some males are born looking like girls, are raised as girls, and only grow penises at puberty, at which time they become male.  Yes, you read that right.

"When you are conceived you normally have a pair of X chromosomes if you are to become a girl and a set of XY chromosomes if you are destined to be male. For the first weeks of life in womb you are neither, though in both sexes nipples start to grow.
Then, around eight weeks after conception, the sex hormones kick in. If you're genetically male the Y chromosome instructs your gonads to become testicles and sends testosterone to a structure called the tubercle, where it is converted into a more potent hormone called dihydro-testosterone This in turn transforms the tubercle into a penis. If you're female and you don't make dihydro-testosterone then your tubercle becomes a clitoris.
When Imperato-McGinley investigated the Guevedoces she discovered the reason they don't have male genitalia when they are born is because they are deficient in an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase, which normally converts testosterone into dihydro-testosterone.
This deficiency seems to be a genetic condition, quite common in this part of the Dominican Republic, but vanishingly rare elsewhere. So the boys, despite having an XY chromosome, appear female when they are born. At puberty, like other boys, they get a second surge of testosterone. This time the body does respond and they sprout muscles, testes and a penis."

BTW - it doesn't just happen in the Dominican Republic; it's also been found in Papua New Guinea and Turkey.  And probably elsewhere, just not reported.  Or believed.  

25 February 2021

The Greatest Historical Mystery of all Time

A while back I read, among other things, a review of Roberto Calasso's La Folie Baudelaire(1)

"Calasso's book can be seen as a series of spirited improvisations on the theme expressed in Walter Benjamin's essays on Baudelaire: that the poet, though he remained resolutely in the Romantic tradition, was the first to express the dark new reality of what Benjamin called 'the permanent catastrophe of life after the Industrial Revolution.'"

To which my response was: "Maybe, but Genesis is the first work to express the dark new reality of 'permanent catastrophe' of life after the Agricultural Revolution."  

I've suspected for a long time that most of the very ancient myths, including Genesis 2-3 and Gilgamesh, are all really about the the Agricultural Revolution. It actually is one of the great historical mysteries, if not the greatest:  how humanity went from wandering the earth to settling down, from hunter-gatherer to farmer. Because there was nothing inevitable - or even logical - about it. Humans were hunter-gatherers for 90% of human history. Agriculture is only a blip of time, and the urbanized world we live in - with only 1.3% of the US population actually working in agriculture, and only 26.7% world-wide - is barely 100 years old.  

So how did it happen?

MY NOTE:  That's what myths are for, to explain mysteries that no one can explain.  How we got here.  Why we're doing the things we're doing here and now - because we have no idea what the hell happened.  Especially when you realize that you're stuck.  You can't go back.  

So, here's the thing:  Paleolithic and Neolithic hunter-gatherer societies were complex, advanced societies.  They had fire, dogs, tools, woven containers, clothing, religion, art, music, dance, and stories.  They invented rafts, nets, and skis (the oldest skis still in existence date back to 6,000 BC from Russia).  They buried their dead. They had some concept of religious ritual.  They built sanctuaries and raised monoliths, megaliths, astronomical calendars, and passage tombs in abundance.  Look up Gobekli Tepe, Warren Field, Newgrange, etc.  

They had phenomenal memories.  (As I always told my students, oral cultures aren't and weren't stupid.)  Whole genealogies, records of journeys, oral maps, oral encyclopedias of where the plants and animals were, what herbs you used for medicine, what parts of trees and animals were best for what function and endless  - they had it all in their heads, and passed it all down, generation to generation, to [almost] the present day.  

They lived well.  They ate just as many plants as animals, and in some cases and definitely in some seasons, more more.  They returned again and again to sites where specific plants (roots, tubers, nuts, berries, and even grains) grew.  And they often either made sure to leave a certain number of those plants intact (roots in the ground, seeds above ground) and even replanted some things. (Ginseng hunters in China were known to do the same thing.)

It was a fairly egalitarian society: there was a leader, and/or a master of the hunt, but when the hunting and gathering was done, all the food was shared out equally among the tribe. Enlightened self-interest was and is the norm for pre-industrial societies. Radical hospitality was and is mandatory - if a stranger shows up, take him in, feed him, treat him well, because some day it will be your turn.  

It was also a fairly non-materialistic society, in terms of stockpiling stuff.  It had to be, because you can't carry a lot of stuff with you as a hunter-gatherer. 

It was also a surprisingly leisured society.  Hunter/gatherers only spent about 4-6 hours a day hunting for food, and the rest of their time cooking, eating, making tools, decorating themselves, sleeping, talking, etc.(2)   

The main drawbacks were high infant mortality, as well as the occasional death from accident, injury, and murder (yes, people killed each other then as now - see my 2015 blog post, Death Comes at the Beginning).  And, of course, they were extremely vulnerable to natural disasters.  All that kept the population very low. At one point there might have been only 125,000 humans on the planet.  

And then came agriculture and animal husbandry, and everything changed.

By the time of this ancient Egyptian painting, world population is estimated to have increased to 5-10 million people.  The Neolithic Revolution fed a lot more people than hunter-gathering, increasing the population in ways hunter-gathering couldn't.  But it had its downsides as well: 

Disease: hunter-gatherers had much lower disease rates (lice, worms) vs. farmers (measles is rinderpest in cattle; TB and smallpox come from cattle; an excellent source of tetanus is horse manure; rabies, obviously; flu from birds or pigs).  There's also overcrowding; a hunter-gatherer tribe was close, but there weren't 300-3,000 of them packed into stacked dwellings in a small walled town.  

Insecurity:  If your crops fail - well, folks are going to starve to death.  There are too many people to go back to hunting and gathering.  (Especially today.  I hear people say, well, I'm going to go off the grid, up in the wilderness - to which my response is, what wilderness?  Also, just because you've watched Alaska The Last Frontier doesn't mean you know how to survive.)  

Possession / Greed / hoarding.  I grew this, so it's mine:  this is my land, my house, my crops, my animals, my family, etc.  Lock the door, bar the windows.  Apparently, the first use of writing was to record my land, my house, my crops, my animals.  Count 'em up and keep track of what's whose.

Kings, priests, armies, bureaucracy, and war all come with agriculture. Which leads back to the great puzzle of how they learned how to do all of this.  

And we have no records.  All the written records we have come after kings, priests, scribes, armies, bureaucracy, and agriculture are already in place - and practically irreversible.  

So, what happened?

Well, to figure that out, you have to take old myths seriously, but not necessarily how time has made people take them seriously.  Most myths have been transformed over time into what we call fairy-tales, folk-tales, religious texts, or epics.  This makes analyzing them hard.  Some people will even call it blasphemous, if you're analyzing their religious text. But there are certain universals.  There's a blind king in almost every ancient culture, from Oedipus to the Mahabharata.  There's a Cinderella story in Europe, the Middle East, and China.  And battling brothers is the basis of so many epics, so many founding fathers, so many wars - of course, that could simply be human nature.  And the Flood shows up everywhere.  So.  I firmly believe that there was, somewhere, some time, way back in time, a blind king, a Cinderella, and a terrifying flood, all so memorable that each story got carried from place to place and passed on down the ages.  

Which brings me back to Genesis 2-3.  A garden, in which every tree and plant is provided that's good for food.  And a great river flowing through it, with every beast and bird living on its banks.  And human(s) naming those beasts and birds.  There's a sense of infinite nostalgia, for a time when humans were one with their environment, where humans walked on the earth, knowing every tree, bush, plant, and flower, every animal, fish, and bird, and what each and every one of them was for. 

And then comes the serpent, “more subtil than any beast of the field” – and starts talking to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”  “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Now there's been a lot of water under that bridge, as to what kind of fruit, and what the real sin was - most theologians agree that it was a combination of pride and greed, basically disobedience to God. The Epic of Gilgamesh calls it a betrayal of nature (3).  And I agree. Because what really happened during the Neolithic Revolution was a turning away from a life that was based entirely on the existing seasons and habits of nature. Trusting, every morning, that nature would indeed provide food. All humans had to do was go and look for it. 

But discontent came, and the hissing voice - whether of a serpent or in someone's own head (4) - saying, "Aren't you tired of wandering all over the place and never knowing what you'll find? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to eat berries whenever you want, to store up enough food so that you don't have to be out in bad weather?  When winter comes, you'll be sitting tight in a nice warm place with all the food and more that you need? You can provide for yourselves. You can control nature, instead of it controlling you. You will be safe."

And they fell for it. Ever since, it's been a lot of hard work and (until very modern times) extremely little leisure.

NOTE:  There's a hint that God didn't appreciate it:  Genesis also has Cain and Abel, offering their produce to God - Cain gave vegetables, Abel gave a lamb, and God preferred the meat.  So Cain got jealous and killed Abel.

Another reason why I think this interpretation of Genesis might be the right one is that it came from one of the oldest known civilizations on the planet: Sumer. Remember, Abraham was Sumerian, he came from Ur, and he brought his folk-lore with him. And many of the stories in early Genesis are also from Sumer (the Flood, for one thing). Sumer, "the cradle of civilization" "the fertile crescent", one of the places where agriculture began the earliest, so that by the time of Abraham, there would have already been a couple of thousand years of farming.  That makes Sumer a very logical place for farmers to remember, longingly, of a time without kings, bureaucrats, armies, or war. A time when food was everywhere for the taking, and all humans had to do was wander through the earth like a giant garden. And wonder what had happened, why they had been cursed: and what a specific curse! 

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”

The life of a pre-industrial farmer, and that's a curse, not a blessing.

(1) Primarily because he's the author of The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, and Ka, two very interesting works on mythology, among other things.

(2) See Jared Diamond's The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race.  BTW, I love central air/heating, antibiotics, anesthetics, gas stoves and screened windows. But I can wax nostalgic like anyone else...

(3) One last note:  The Sumerian epic Gilgamesh is even more obvious about one of the last meetings between the settler and the wanderer.  King Gilgamesh befriends the wild man Enkidu - "Abundantly hairy and primitive, he lives roaming with the herds and grazing and drinking from rivers with the beasts. One day a hunter watches Enkidu destroying the traps he has prepared for the animals. The hunter informs his father, who sends him to Uruk to ask Gilgamesh for help. The king sends Shamhat, a prostitute, who seduces Enkidu. After two weeks with her, he becomes human, intelligent and understanding words, however the beasts flee when they see him."  (Wikipedia)  Later, Enkidu helps Gilgamesh kill the giant Humbaba, guardian of the Cedar Forest, where the gods lived (and where they plan to cut the trees down). But before that happens, Humbaba accuses Enkidu of betraying the beasts of the wild and, by implication, all of nature by becoming "civilized".

(4)This is why one should always beware of listening too loudly to the voices in one's own head.

11 February 2021

Notes from the Wild West

First up, I noticed that there's a new Axes and Ales place opened up on 57th Street in Sioux Falls.  A long pandemic, a bitterly cold February, and a lot of booze.  As long as they wear masks, what could possibly go wrong?  

Second:  No determination yet in what charges (if any) AG Jason Ravnsborg is going to face for hitting and killing Jason Boever on that dark September 12th night.  

"Beadle County State's Attorney Michael Moore were also assisting Sovell. Both Vargo and Moore confirmed Friday that they continue to assist in the investigation. Moore said Friday that it's not unusual for accident investigations such as the one involving Ravnsborg taking as long as a year to complete. In the Ravnsborg case, prosecutors are still waiting on biological evidence and cell phone data. "From my experience dealing with a case where you're looking at possible criminal charges, it takes awhile to make sure you have all your information before you make a decision," Moore said. "You don't want to make a decision when there's still relevant information that we don't have. That's why it takes awhile."  (Argus Leader)

[Ahem]  There's a lot of South Dakotans (and other US citizens) who have found themselves in jail the very same night of the accident, but...  We all know what's really going on here, and a whole lot of South Dakotans are well and truly pissed off by it.

Including our Governor.  Kristi Noem has finally spoken out against something other than Amendment A (in which we, the people, of South Dakota legalized marijuana), and said “I share South Dakotans frustration about the amount of time this has taken,” Noem told Black Hills Fox News Wednesday. “To have more than 100 days go by without resolution on this is a disservice to the victim’s family.”  (KEVN News)  

Meanwhile, our Governor is apparently worshipped from afar by followers on Twitter and Facebook over her stalwart anti-lockdown, anti-mask position regarding COVID-19:  "I believe in our freedoms and liberties... I'll continue to trust South Dakotans to make the right choices for themselves and their loved ones."   

BTW, it's not working out that great.  We're 2nd in the country for per capita COVID-19 cases - 1 out of every 8, folks! And 6th for per capita COVID-19 deaths - 1 out of every 494.  In other words, for all you tourists that have been here, are here, and planning to come here - we're a great place to party (everything's open!) but be warned, most people are packing, and I'm not talking just about guns.  

Anyway, there's a change in the political weather now that we passed Amendment A (legalizing marijuana both for medical and recreational purposes) and also another Initiative that legalized medical marijuana. Both measures passed by a landslide, and so now Noem is using our taxpayer $$$ to try to get the South Dakota court system to find them unconstitutional.  So far, a judge out of Hughes County has found Amendment A unconstitutional.  And Noem says (all on her own) that it's going to take an extra year to set up medical marijuana, so there.  

And a lot of South Dakotans are well and truly pissed off by that.  Including people who loved her pandemic lack of response.  (It didn't help that she spent the pre-election season gone for 2-3 months, campaigning for Trump.  And she's still gone most of the time, fundraising for her future campaigns.)  The basic argument is simple:  So, Kristi, you trust us to make the right choices for ourselves and our loved ones in a life-threatening pandemic, but you don't trust us to make the right choices about anything else?  (ARGUS)  

Prediction:  Based on the industrial hemp flap, which she opposed both before and after it passed, saying at the time, “I remain opposed to industrial hemp in South Dakota because of the impact it will have on public safety and law enforcement’s ability to enforce drug laws.” ( ????  Really?  Works in almost ever other state in the country. )  Anyway, the legislature couldn't quite get the votes to override her veto.  So it came up the next year, and passed again, and this time she didn't veto it.  I can guarantee that striking down Amendment A will be challenged in court, and if the challenge is lost, then it will be back on the ballot in November in a cleaner, simpler form.  And eventually, Kristi will give up and let us have our childish way.  

But let's move on from doom and gloom to more exciting things.  Another mother in the freezer story!  This one from Japan:  
Japanese woman hid mother's body in freezer for 10 years over fear of being evicted
                (The Guardian)
Hey, it was Mom's name on the lease, and we all know that real estate is tight in Tokyo.  

Did you know that in South Dakota, you can join in mashed potato wrestling? Clark, South Dakota celebrates its main crop with Potato Days and boasts potato decorating contests, recipe competitions, and yes -- mashed potato wrestling.  Read more here at the Clark Chamber of Commerce: 

For those of you who don't know, SD is full of corn, from the Corn Palace, to the endless fields.  But back in August, 2020, a lone cornstalk in Sioux Falls made news - and not just here. It came up through a crack in the concrete at the intersection of 57th Street and Minnesota Avenue on Sioux Falls’ south side.

Dubbed the 57th Street Corn [a/k/a Cornelia] complete with its own Twitter accounts during its brief lifespan, the plant was a symbol of resiliency and hope as the pandemic rages on, Mayor Paul TenHaken said." And then some a-- pulled it up. What followed was sadness, protests, hopes that humanity is on its way out, and t-shirts. (See Argus Leader)

But fear not!  Cornelia was rescued and replanted in front of City Hall.  As for what happened next - I have no idea. Corn that is born of seed hath but a short time to live. Still, it was fun while it lasted. 

Tales from SD from Not Always Right :

Story #1:

I live in one of few states not under full quarantine yet. Many restaurants are closed except for drive-thru, including ours. A coworker of mine is taking orders through drive-thru.

Customer: “Do you read the Bible, [Coworker]?
Coworker: “No, I’m not religious.”
The customer starts ranting.
Customer: “This disease is a punishment from God! Repent while you still have time!”

She simply took his order and then he went to the next window asking the same question, again ranting when given the same answer. A few minutes later, the same customer went through the drive-thru again, this time blowing a trumpet. We still don’t know what the deal was but everyone was talking about “trumpet guy” by the end of the day.

Story #2:

(The defendant has been found guilty of public urination. After a police officer was requested to make him leave an event at the local community center, [Defendant] insisted on taking a long piss out of his wheelchair in the community center parking lot, all captured for posterity on the officer’s body camera. This is his fourth arrest — and conviction — on misdemeanor offenses in the last six months. [Defendant] is representing himself.)

Judge: “Ready for sentencing? Does the State have any recommendations?”

State’s Attorney: “Well, Your Honor, [Defendant] is a frequent flyer in the criminal justice system. Over the years, he’s been found guilty of…”

(The list the State’s Attorney reads from has 48 convictions that range from public drunkenness to felony possession and ingestion of controlled substances, with forays into disorderly conduct, various levels of theft, violation of a protection order, simple assault/domestic abuse, and driving while intoxicated.)

State’s Attorney: “…recommend [maximum jail time for the crime].”

Judge: “Do you have anything you’d like to say, [Defendant]?”

Defendant: “People can change, Judge.”

MY NOTE:  I swear we had that defendant in court up in Madison.  He might have been the one who showed up drunk and looked like he was going to puke all over the judge's bench...  As the attorneys backed off in perfect V-formation...

Happy February!

28 January 2021

The Call of the Wild

by Eve Fisher

I was sorting through some fairly old emails and came across an exchange that I want to share today.  But to appreciate it, some backstory:

Back in 1992, a young man named Chris McCandless died in an abandoned bus in Alaska.  His body wasn't found for some time.  Apparently he had starved to death, although have been disputes about that.  McCandless, for a while, became a kind of folk hero - a young man who left his family and went roaming around the country, ending up in Alaska, in an attempt to find an authentic life and to test himself against the wilderness. The last person to see him alive, a local electrician named Jim Gallien, gave him a ride to Fairbanks, and later said he had been seriously concerned about the safety of McCandless (going by the name "Alex") because the young man had a light pack, minimal equipment, meager rations, and obvious lack of experience. He offered to help McCandless with equipment and supplies, but McCandless refused. 

NOTE:  This does not surprise me in the least. When young men go out to prove themselves against the wilderness, the more hardship = better proof. The fact that the wilderness is practically littered with the bodies of young adventurers is irrelevant because, of course, it isn't going to happen to them.

Outdoor author Jon Krakauer wrote Into the Wild, which made McCandless internationally famous.  I was one of the millions who read it.  Up here in South Dakota it was hugely popular because many people remembered McCandless from his time working in Carthage, SD.  He would come into Madison to drink a few beers upon occasion, and read at the library.  

Krakauer decided that McCandless might have starved to death one of two ways:

Rabbit starvation - where the person depends too much on lean game and not much of it, because that's all they can find.  No carbs, no fats will kill you.

Poisoning by wild plant seeds - apparently the seeds of the wild potato are poisonous, and can paralyze and kill you.  Remember that if you ever go harvesting in the wild.  

In the aftermath of the article in Outside and then the book, the opinion range of McCandless was wide:

Alaskan Park Ranger Peter Christian wrote:

When you consider McCandless from my perspective, you quickly see that what he did wasn't even particularly daring, just stupid, tragic, and inconsiderate. First off, he spent very little time learning how to actually live in the wild. He arrived at the Stampede Trail without even a map of the area. If he [had] had a good map he could have walked out of his predicament [...] Essentially, Chris McCandless committed suicide.[42]

Ken Ilgunas, also an Alaskan Park Ranger and the author of The McCandless Mecca,[43] writes:

Before I go any further, I should say that Pete is a really good guy [...] But with that said, I think Pete is very, very wrong. [...] Because I am in the unique position as both an Alaskan park ranger [...] I feel I can speak with some authority on the subject. [...] McCandless, of course, did not commit suicide. He starved to death, accidentally poisoned himself, or a combination of the two.[44]

Sherry Simpson, writing in the Anchorage Press, described her trip to the bus with a friend, and their reaction upon reading the comments that tourists had left lauding McCandless as an insightful, Thoreau-like figure:

Among my friends and acquaintances, the story of Christopher McCandless makes great after-dinner conversation. Much of the time I agree with the "he had a death wish" camp because I don't know how else to reconcile what we know of his ordeal. Now and then I venture into the "what a dumbshit" territory, tempered by brief alliances with the "he was just another romantic boy on an all-American quest" partisans. Mostly I'm puzzled by the way he's emerged as a hero.[45]
- (All of the above from Wikipedia)

Many years later, in 2007, two movies came out about McCandless.  The first, and most famous, is Sean Penn's Into the Wild, which follows Krakauer's book pretty closely.  The second is Ron Lamothe's documentary The Call of the Wild.  Lamothe came up with some new information:

(1) Later findings that contradict Krakauer's book and Penn's film that McCandless was not poisoned by wild potato seeds as Krakauer had suspected, and that such poisoning had been disproved by toxicology reports.

(2) Also, Lamothe suspected that McCandless had an arm or shoulder injury not shown in the famous self-portrait photo by the bus, in which McCandless' shirt sleeve has the appearance of being empty. Lamothe believes, based on McCandless' S.O.S. note, that McCandless had injured his arm or dislocated his shoulder, which prevented his escape and his food gathering.

(3) McCandless did not burn up all his documents and cash, because they were all in a hidden pocket in McCandless' backpack.[1]

Now here's where I come in.  I watched that documentary, and the main thing that struck me was that the backpack had been discovered - and kept (!) - by a man named Will Forsberg.  And - instead of turning them over to the Alaska police or the McCandless family or even show them to Jon Krakauer - he kept them until Mr. Lamothe showed up.  This instantly made me think - what gives?  Lamothe and Forsberg claimed that the State Troopers missed seeing the backpack, but I don't believe it.  Especially when Forsberg also said that he believed that McCandless was the man who vandalized his cabin.  Having that kind of mind, I thought, well, if that's so, taking McCandless' backpack might have been a form of payback.  And, how do I put this delicately? - what if McCandless was not dead yet when he took it?  And McCandless' shoulder got injured?  (See Trouble Magnet)  

I actually wrote to Mr. Lamothe about all of this, and he replied that Forsberg tried to get a reliable address for the McCandlesses, but never did; that he didn't find the wallet in the backpack until years after he grabbed the backpack; that grabbing the backpack was "following longtime Alaskan backcountry tradition"; and he thought my theory was "highly implausible".

Being stubborn, I wrote back, 

Thank you so much for your response. I'm sure that my "modest proposal" does sound highly implausible except to people like me - I have to warn you I've worked in the judicial system for years, and I have, sadly, learned that little is as implausible as it sounds.
While I understand longtime Alaskan backcountry tradition (it's the same in any wilderness setting, really, i.e., finders keepers, under infinitely nobler names), my mind still boggles at two points:
(1) that the state troopers missed the backpack when they arrived on the scene. When there's a dead body involved, 99.999% of the time the officials take with them anything that might even be remotely related to it; and
(2) once Forsberg realized that it must have been McCandless' backpack, he didn't turn it over to the state police. After all, the story broke fairly quickly, and even before Krakauer's book, the search for identification was publicized. (Of course, I do know some back-country types up here that would refuse to turn over anything to any law enforcement types, no matter how important - just on principle; and other aspects of that type of mentality, which I know fairly well, is, in turn, what led me to the highly implausible theorizations.)
Nor do I, frankly, believe it took him years to find the wallet in its secret pocket, which didn't look that secret on camera. (Besides, the first thing you do with a new piece of gear is check it out pretty thoroughly, from curiosity alone...)

The whole thing is pretty interesting. I do believe Chris McCandless starved to death, and, in the long run, it probably doesn't matter whether he had an injury or not. Contrary to the fervent belief of many a dreaming young man in search of glory, nature doesn't give a s*** about your purity or your aspirations, only if you've got the knowledge, ability, skills, and sheer determination to survive. And even then she'll kill you if you're not extremely lucky.

So what do you think?  How implausible is it?  

14 January 2021

The Real Key to Blackmail and Scams

Scammers never die. Months ago, a friend got the following message (I have deleted the password and the link to send the bitcoin):
𝙸'πš– πšŠπš πšŠπš›πšŽ __________ πš’πšœ πš’πš˜πšžπš› πš™πšŠπšœπšœ πš πš˜πš›πš.𝙸 πš—πšŽπšŽπš πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšπšžπš•πš• πšŠπšπšπšŽπš—πšπš’πš˜πš— πšπš˜πš› πšπš‘πšŽ πšπš‘πšŽ πš—πšŽπš‘πš 𝟸𝟺 πš‘πš˜πšžπš›πšœ, πš˜πš› 𝙸 πš–πšŠπš’ πš–πšŠπš”πšŽ πšœπšžπš›πšŽ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πšπš‘πšŠπš 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πš•πš’πšŸπšŽ 𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚘𝚏 πšŽπš–πš‹πšŠπš›πš›πšŠπšœπšœπš–πšŽπš—πš πšπš˜πš› πšπš‘πšŽ πš›πšŽπšœπš 𝚘𝚏 πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšŽπš‘πš’πšœπšπšŽπš—πšŒπšŽ.

π™·πšŽπš•πš•πš˜, 𝚒𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘 πš—πš˜πš πš”πš—πš˜πš  πš–πšŽ πš™πšŽπš›πšœπš˜πš—πšŠπš•πš•πš’. π™·πš˜πš πšŽπšŸπšŽπš› 𝙸 πš”πš—πš˜πš  πš™πš›πšŽπšπšπš’ πš–πšžπšŒπš‘ πšŽπšŸπšŽπš›πš’πšπš‘πš’πš—πš πšŠπš‹πš˜πšžπš 𝚒𝚘𝚞. πšˆπš˜πšžπš› πšπš‹ πšŒπš˜πš—πšπšŠπšŒπš πš•πš’πšœπš, πš–πš˜πš‹πš’πš•πšŽ πš™πš‘πš˜πš—πšŽ πšŒπš˜πš—πšπšŠπšŒπšπšœ πšŠπš•πš˜πš—πš πš πš’πšπš‘ πšŠπš•πš• πšπš‘πšŽ πš˜πš—πš•πš’πš—πšŽ πšŠπšŒπšπš’πšŸπš’πšπš’ πš˜πš— πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšŒπš˜πš–πš™πšžπšπšŽπš› πšπš›πš˜πš– πš™πš›πšŽπšŸπš’πš˜πšžπšœ 𝟷𝟸𝟽 𝚍𝚊𝚒𝚜.

πš†πš‘πš’πšŒπš‘ πš’πš—πšŒπš•πšžπšπšŽπšœ, πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšœπšŽπš•πš πš™πš•πšŽπšŠπšœπšžπš›πšŽ πšŸπš’πšπšŽπš˜ 𝚏𝚘𝚘𝚝𝚊𝚐𝚎, πš πš‘πš’πšŒπš‘ πš‹πš›πš’πš—πšπšœ πš–πšŽ 𝚝𝚘 πšπš‘πšŽ πš–πšŠπš’πš— πš›πšŽπšŠπšœπš˜πš— πš πš‘πš’ 𝙸 'πš– πš πš›πš’πšπš’πš—πš πšπš‘πš’πšœ πšœπš™πšŽπšŒπš’πšπš’πšŒ 𝚎-πš–πšŠπš’πš• 𝚝𝚘 𝚒𝚘𝚞.

πš†πšŽπš•πš• πšπš‘πšŽ πš•πšŠπšœπš πšπš’πš–πšŽ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πšŸπš’πšœπš’πšπšŽπš πšπš‘πšŽ πšœπšŽπš‘πšžπšŠπš•πš•πš’ πšπš›πšŠπš™πš‘πš’πšŒ πš πšŽπš‹πš™πšŠπšπšŽπšœ, πš–πš’ πš–πšŠπš•πš πšŠπš›πšŽ πšŽπš—πšπšŽπš πšžπš™ πš‹πšŽπš’πš—πš πšŠπšŒπšπš’πšŸπšŠπšπšŽπš πš’πš— πš’πš˜πšžπš› πš™πšŽπš›πšœπš˜πš—πšŠπš• πšŒπš˜πš–πš™πšžπšπšŽπš› πš πš‘πš’πšŒπš‘ πšŽπš—πšπšŽπš πšžπš™ πš•πš˜πšπšπš’πš—πš 𝚊 πš‹πšŽπšŠπšžπšπš’πšπšžπš• πšŸπš’πšπšŽπš˜ πšŒπš•πš’πš™ 𝚘𝚏 πš’πš˜πšžπš› πš–πšŠπšœπšπšžπš›πš‹πšŠπšπš’πš˜πš— πš™πš•πšŠπš’ πš‹πš’ πšŠπšŒπšπš’πšŸπšŠπšπš’πš—πš πš’πš˜πšžπš› πš πšŽπš‹πšŒπšŠπš–.
(𝚒𝚘𝚞 𝚐𝚘𝚝 𝚊 πš’πš—πšŒπš›πšŽπšπš’πš‹πš•πš’ 𝚘𝚍𝚍 𝚝𝚊𝚜𝚝𝚎 πš‹πšπš  πš‘πšŠπš‘πšŠ)

𝙸 πš˜πš πš— πšπš‘πšŽ πšŽπš—πšπš’πš›πšŽ πš›πšŽπšŒπš˜πš›πšπš’πš—πš. π™Έπš 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πšπš‘πš’πš—πš” 𝙸 'πš– πš–πšŽπšœπšœπš’πš—πš πšŠπš›πš˜πšžπš—πš, πšœπš’πš–πš™πš•πš’ πš›πšŽπš™πš•πš’ πš™πš›πš˜πš˜πš πšŠπš—πš 𝙸 πš πš’πš•πš• πš‹πšŽ πšπš˜πš›πš πšŠπš›πšπš’πš—πš πšπš‘πšŽ πš™πšŠπš›πšπš’πšŒπšžπš•πšŠπš› πš›πšŽπšŒπš˜πš›πšπš’πš—πš πš›πšŠπš—πšπš˜πš–πš•πš’ 𝚝𝚘 𝟾 πš™πšŽπš˜πš™πš•πšŽ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πš›πšŽπšŒπš˜πšπš—πš’πš£πšŽ.

π™Έπš πšŒπš˜πšžπš•πš πšŽπš—πš πšžπš™ πš‹πšŽπš’πš—πš πš’πš˜πšžπš› πšπš›πš’πšŽπš—πšπšœ, 𝚌𝚘 πš πš˜πš›πš”πšŽπš›πšœ, πš‹πš˜πšœπšœ, πš™πšŠπš›πšŽπš—πšπšœ (𝙸 πšπš˜πš—'𝚝 πš”πš—πš˜πš ! π™Όπš’ πšœπš’πšœπšπšŽπš– πš πš’πš•πš• πš›πšŠπš—πšπš˜πš–πš•πš’ πšœπšŽπš•πšŽπšŒπš πšπš‘πšŽ πšŒπš˜πš—πšπšŠπšŒπšπšœ).

πš†πš˜πšžπš•πš 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πš‹πšŽ πšŠπš‹πš•πšŽ 𝚝𝚘 𝚐𝚊𝚣𝚎 πš’πš—πšπš˜ πšŠπš—πš’πš˜πš—πšŽ'𝚜 𝚎𝚒𝚎𝚜 πšŠπšπšŠπš’πš— πšŠπšπšπšŽπš› πš’πš? 𝙸 πššπšžπšŽπšœπšπš’πš˜πš— πš’πš…

π™±πšžπš, πš’πš 𝚍𝚘𝚎𝚜 πš—πš˜πš πš‘πšŠπšŸπšŽ 𝚝𝚘 πš‹πšŽ πšπš‘πšŠπš πš›πš˜πšžπšπšŽ.

𝙸'πš– πšπš˜πš’πš—πš 𝚝𝚘 πš–πšŠπš”πšŽ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 𝚊 𝟷 πšπš’πš–πšŽ, πš—πš˜ πš—πšŽπšπš˜πšπš’πšŠπš‹πš•πšŽ πš˜πšπšπšŽπš›.

π™Ώπšžπš›πšŒπš‘πšŠπšœπšŽ $ 𝟸𝟢𝟢𝟢 πš’πš— πš‹πš’πšπšŒπš˜πš’πš— πšŠπš—πš πšœπšŽπš—πš πšπš‘πšŽπš– 𝚝𝚘 πšπš‘πšŽ πšπš˜πš πš— πš‹πšŽπš•πš˜πš  πšŠπšπšπš›πšŽπšœπšœ:

[𝚌𝚊𝚜𝚎-πšœπšŽπš—πšœπš’πšπš’πšŸπšŽ 𝚜𝚘 πšŒπš˜πš™πš’ πšŠπš—πš πš™πšŠπšœπšπšŽ πš’πš, πšŠπš—πš πš›πšŽπš–πš˜πšŸπšŽ * πšπš›πš˜πš– πš’πš]

(π™Έπš 𝚒𝚘𝚞 𝚍𝚘 πš—πš˜πš πš”πš—πš˜πš  πš‘πš˜πš , πšπš˜πš˜πšπš•πšŽ πš‘πš˜πš  𝚝𝚘 πšŠπšŒπššπšžπš’πš›πšŽ πš‹πš’πšπšŒπš˜πš’πš—. π™³πš˜ πš—πš˜πš 𝚠𝚊𝚜𝚝𝚎 πš–πš’ πš™πš›πšŽπšŒπš’πš˜πšžπšœ πšπš’πš–πšŽ)

π™Έπš 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πšœπšŽπš—πš 𝚘𝚞𝚝 πšπš‘πš’πšœ πš™πšŠπš›πšπš’πšŒπšžπš•πšŠπš› 'πšπš˜πš—πšŠπšπš’πš˜πš—' (πš•πšŽπš 𝚞𝚜 πšŒπšŠπš•πš• πš’πš πšπš‘πšŠπš?). π™°πšπšπšŽπš› πšπš‘πšŠπš, 𝙸 πš πš’πš•πš• 𝚐𝚘 𝚊𝚠𝚊𝚒 πšπš˜πš› 𝚐𝚘𝚘𝚍 πšŠπš—πš πš—πšŽπšŸπšŽπš› πš–πšŠπš”πšŽ πšŒπš˜πš—πšπšŠπšŒπš πš πš’πšπš‘ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πšŠπšπšŠπš’πš—. 𝙸 πš πš’πš•πš• πš›πšŽπš–πš˜πšŸπšŽ πšŽπšŸπšŽπš›πš’πšπš‘πš’πš—πš 𝙸 πš‘πšŠπšŸπšŽ 𝚐𝚘𝚝 πš’πš— πš›πšŽπš•πšŠπšπš’πš˜πš— 𝚝𝚘 𝚒𝚘𝚞. 𝚈𝚘𝚞 πš–πšŠπš’ πšŸπšŽπš›πš’ πš πšŽπš•πš• πš”πšŽπšŽπš™ πš˜πš— πš•πš’πšŸπš’πš—πš πš’πš˜πšžπš› πš—πš˜πš›πš–πšŠπš• 𝚍𝚊𝚒 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚊𝚒 πš•πš’πšπšŽπšœπšπš’πš•πšŽ πš πš’πšπš‘ πšŠπš‹πšœπš˜πš•πšžπšπšŽπš•πš’ πš—πš˜ πšπšŽπšŠπš›.

𝚈𝚘𝚞'𝚟𝚎 𝚐𝚘𝚝 𝟸𝟺 πš‘πš˜πšžπš›πšœ πš’πš— πš˜πš›πšπšŽπš› 𝚝𝚘 𝚍𝚘 𝚜𝚘. πšˆπš˜πšžπš› πšπš’πš–πšŽ πšœπšπšŠπš›πšπšœ 𝚘𝚏𝚏 𝚊𝚜 πššπšžπš’πšŒπš”πš•πš’ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 πš›πšŽπšŠπš πšπš‘πš›πš˜πšžπšπš‘ πšπš‘πš’πšœ 𝚎-πš–πšŠπš’πš•. 𝙸 πš‘πšŠπšŸπšŽ 𝚐𝚘𝚝 πšŠπš— πš˜πš—πšŽ 𝚘𝚏 𝚊 πš”πš’πš—πš 𝚌𝚘𝚍𝚎 πšπš‘πšŠπš πš πš’πš•πš• πš’πš—πšπš˜πš›πš– πš–πšŽ πš˜πš—πšŒπšŽ 𝚒𝚘𝚞 𝚜𝚎𝚎 πšπš‘πš’πšœ πšŽπš–πšŠπš’πš• πšπš‘πšŽπš›πšŽπšπš˜πš›πšŽ πšπš˜πš—'𝚝 πšπš›πš’ 𝚝𝚘 πš™πš•πšŠπš’ πšœπš–πšŠπš›πš.

First of all, my friend is 78 years old and knew that she had never done any of this. Secondly, she is not the kind of person who would give in to blackmail, even if she had. I said when she shared it, "Ooooh, I can hardly wait for the pictures!" So we had a good laugh, she ignored it, and no pictures have yet been received.

I've never gotten one of these, but I have gotten messages and e-mails saying, "Is this you in this video?" With a funky internet address to click. I am not enough of a fool to click on them (even if the name they're using apparently is someone I know), because I haven't been out in public for what seems like years, and actually, I don't care. I have gotten over the need to look at myself beyond keeping myself clean and neat. As the Duke of Wellington said, "Publish and be damned."

Blackmail only works if the victim cares.

The Nigerian Prince scam was always one of my favorites, and I kind of miss the e-mails. The blatant misspellings, the extreme amount of money promised, and all for a limited deal, because they heard that I was a kind, loving person who would understand… Little do they know.

bitcoin cryptocurrency
bitcoin cryptocurrency
Back before the internet ruled the world, my husband answered a call that was a live person, who started off saying, "Do you want to be a millionaire?" Allan, bless him, instantly answered, "No," and hung up.


Ponzi schemes.

I mean, you know it's too good to be true, but maybe this time for you…

From Somerset Maugham's The Round Dozen, whose central character is an eleven-time bigamist who took all his wives' savings before leaving for the next:

"But there is one thing I should like you to tell me," I said. "I shouldn't like you to think me cynical, but I had a notion that women on the whole take the maxim, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive,' as applicable exclusively to our sex. How did you persuade these respectable, and no doubt thrifty, women to entrust you so confidently with all their savings?"

An amused smile spread over his undistinguished features.

"Well, sir, you know what Shakespeare said about ambition o'erleaping itself. That's the explanation. Tell a woman you'll double her capital in six months if she'll give it you to handle and she won't be able to give you the money quick enough. Greed, that's what it is. Just greed."

Scams generally only work if the mark is greedy. And/or needy.

That's why people fall for cons (generally on-line) who swear they love them with all their hearts and would do anything for them and they're going to be so wonderful together and meantime they need just a little money to:
  • pay for a plane ticket or other travel expenses.
  • pay for surgery or other medical expenses.
  • pay customs fees to retrieve something.
  • pay off gambling debts.
  • pay for a visa or other official travel documents. (FTC)
They must write some sweet texts / emails, because they get sent money. Lots of it.

And think about the endless fundraising that various televangelists do, from Reverend Ike of Atlanta ("Send me your money today") to Joel Osteen with his megachurch (not open during hurricanes) to Ken Copeland, Pat Robertson, and the late, great Oral Roberts. I'll never forget when Oral Roberts announced that God had told him he had to raise a million dollars by next week or He would "take him" - I turned to Allan and said, "I want an autopsy."

bitcoin cryptocurrency
BTW, get on a politician's list for fundraising and you may never get off of it - even if they're no longer in office. After all, a certain soon to be ex-president has had a massive on-line campaign going for years to finance his… well, you tell me. People give and give and give to the guy who says we just need $500 more, even though they know they're clearing out their life's savings.

Most cult members are extremely needy – whether it's for community, love, discipline, punishment, a cult can provide everything the victim needs. For a very long time. And even when the rewards decline to nothing, the true cult member still stays, because they can't imagine leaving anymore. They've sacrificed everything - they can't go back now.

Jerry Seinfeld once said – and you can see it on Comedians in Cars with George Wallace – in a casino, in front of the audience, "When I make money at something, I keep doing it. When I start losing money at something, I quit doing it." And proceeded to explain to them all how they were supporting the luxurious casino with their money, i.e., by losing. Which was absolutely true. And yet they all laughed…

Basically, the key is all in the victim. Cons and blackmailers have to figure out who will pony up the money, and why. And they are very good at it.

And that, my friends, is the explanation. If you know your weakness, you can beat the blackmailer and the scammer. But if they know your weakness and you don't - well, you're screwed.

* So are casinos and advertisers. There's a reason all the casinos went to video lottery – it's designed to be addictive. See Here And why cigarettes were designed the way they are.

31 December 2020

We Hate to See You Go

I'm willing to bet that there will be songs written and sung about 2020, but none of them will be as sweet as this one by John Mayall (backed by Eric Clapton):

Still, I'm sure that when 2020 showed up, clean and neat as a newborn baby on January 1st, it had no idea what kind of Frankenstein's monster it was going to turn into.  If we had, we'd have showed up with torches and pitchforks on January 21st…

Now I never make New Year's resolutions (never make promises in the dark of the moon…) but I do look back and say what the hell was that?  The nicest way I can put it is that this year, as the old-timers of my youth would say, was "sent to try us", and it certainly showed everyone what they were made of. I learned that I still know how to wait, which keeps on being handy, year after year - and this year more than any other.  I also learned I can be a total news junkie, and that is not a good thing.


To all the health care workers and front line workers, whoever and wherever you are and were – you knocked it out of the park!  You're still knocking it out of the park.  We can never thank you enough.  We can never honor you enough.  And we really need to provide mental health care for the PTSD that is coming once this pandemic is over.  And it wouldn't be a bad idea to forgive / pay for all their student loans as a small thank you.  

Meanwhile, here are the gifts I wish for our country - and the world - for 2021:

(1) Coronavirus vaccines for everybody.  100% everybody.

(2) Resocialization.  From children to adults, we're going to have to get used to being around each other again, not ducking across the street or to another aisle in the store, etc.  It's been a long time.  No one except Allan and myself have been in my house since April.  We haven't gone to a restaurant except to get takeout since March.  In person meetings of any kind ended when winter came in and it was too cold to sit on the socially distanced on the porch.  We're gonna need some help.  And a lot of mental health care and counseling.  Even for those of us who have been fortunate enough to not have lost loved ones, there's a certain level of PTSD that's going to rise like an ocean once we can get around to feeling things again.  

(3) Civility, negotiation, conflict resolution and nonviolence.  Because this has been a year of frightening selfishness, disguised as freedom fighting.  From the "militia" that plotted to kidnap and kill at least one governor over lockdowns, to the (still on-going) threats to election officials for not providing the desired results, constant anti-mask protests and general COVID defiance, it's enough to make even Thomas Paine say it's time for a reboot.  The worst, to me, were the anti-maskers who actually protested health care workers:  

To the protester wearing scrubs: “This is a free country. This is the land of the free. Go to China!” (The Guardian

(4) You can't have a country - or even a family - without rules, respect, and personal sacrifice for the greater good.  We need to relearn that on a national scale.  So, a return to teaching kindness, compassion, and empathy in schools, churches, families, and media is definitely needed.  

BTW, to all the anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, etc., one of the best articles I read was written by Martin Luther in 1527, and reprinted in Christianity TodayWhether One May Flee From A Deadly Plague.  An excerpt:

"Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God."  HERE  (my emphasis added)

(5) Civics classes for all!  We have a great Constitution, and it's amazing how little people apparently know it.  Or how willing some are to make it optional.  (Senator Mike Lee: "Democracy is not the objective." – WRONG)  Teach it in schools, beginning in grade school and repeating the lessons over and over again through college.  Use the texts that immigrants have to study and learn from.  And for the adults in the room, here's the beginning of a refresher course:
  • The Constitution. (HERE)
  • The Declaration of  Independence. (HERE)
  • You could also do worse than read George Washington's Farewell Address. (HERE)
    • That set a high bar for Presidential farewells, didn't it?
  • Frederick Douglass' (What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?)   
(The above is only a start - don't give me crap about who got left off.)

(6) A stake through the heart of racism and the trickle-down theory of economics, which is just another name for the war on the poor (as opposed to the war on poverty), and which is often only another name, yet another cover, for racism.  The trickle-down theory has been thoroughly disproven, time and again, and most recently scientifically.  (Bloomberg)  The truth is, when the rich are given large tax cuts, they're more apt to buy another yacht or stash it off shore for themselves.  But give the poor some money, and they will spend it in their community on food, clothing, rent, etc., which really does create jobs for all.  Give the children of the poor a free, good education, and they will increase the wealth of family, friends, and neighbors.  Give the poor a chance, and the whole world will change, and for the better.  

And now, for something completely different:

Last year, I made Fearless Predictions for 2020.  Most of them - surprise! - did not come true.  But some did: 
  • President Trump will continue to tweet at the same rate most of us breathe.
  • "Xi Jinping will remain President for Life of China. Vladimir Putin will make himself President for Life of Russia. (Russian government resigns) Major pissing contest follows.
  • Brexit will happen. Almost no one, including Brexiters, will like it.
    • Future quote: "It isn't what I expected it to be. I thought everything would be cheaper, we'd have more freedom, and all those foreigners would be gone."
And, still possible: 
Speaking of Brexit, even money that:
  • Scotland will vote for independence.
  • Northern Ireland will vote to join the Republic of Ireland.
  • Scotland will join Northern Ireland and Wales in a Celtexit from Great Britain.
  • Normandy and Brittany will consider joining them. The beginning of the Great Celtexit from Europe will begin. Catalonia will try to join, but will be told to cabrear.
Fake news and deepfakes will receive their own category at the Grammys, Emmys, Tonys, and Oscars. No one will ever know who truly wins.

Wildly improbable, but I still want one:

Woolly mammoths will be cloned, especially the last of the species from St. Paul Island, Alaska, which were pgymies - they stood 5'6".  I wonder how they sounded when they trumpeted?  

"May the best of your past be the worst of your future."


03 December 2020

Lighten the Mood Already

No charges, no grand jury, no nothing in the South Dakota AG Jason Ravnsborg case other than the investigators say he was driving distracted when he hit and killed Mr. Boever. Other than that, crickets. Since November 2. Of course, he is an elector, so maybe they're waiting until after December 14th.

South Dakota's COVID situation is just as bad as you've heard, and probably worse. 82,000 cases, 995 deaths and the population of the state is only 880,000. And Gov. Noem still won't do anything but look good on a horse.

But enough doom and gloom! Here's some of my favorite lighter things in life, so here's something lighter. There will be a [short] quiz at the end.

Exhibit 1: The Big Snit - perhaps my favorite animated feature of all time, outside of Wallace & Grommit.

One of my favorite Oscar moments, Sean Connery & Michael Caine eventually giving an award to Kevin Kline:

And why Kevin Kline won the Oscar: "Apes don't read philosophy." "Yes they do, they just don't understand it!"

Dr. Tongue's Evil House of Wax (from SCTV):

Salvador Dali on What's My Line. 'Nuff said.

Jimmy Stewart's favorite joke:

And my good friend and fellow SleuthSayer, Brian Thornton sent me a copy of his latest book, Suicide Blonde! Folks, it's great: three novellas of historical noir, and the lead off story should have a movie made of it with a Gloria Grahame lookalike as the lead. Maybe both leads. Thanks so much, Brian, and I loved it.

Stay safe, stay well, stay masked!

Which of the above is this a quote from?


19 November 2020

Updates from South Dakota

South Dakota has been in the national news a lot lately, and not just because Governor Kristi Noem has been vigorously defending the reelection of President Donald J. Trump in every venue she can find.  She was very active on Twitter but now she's moved to Parler:  

"It's official, I've joined @parler_app! Find me at @GovernorNoem. We need social media platforms that respect and protect FREE SPEECH. We need a whole lot more respect for Freedom and Personal Responsibilty in this country."

Wait until they hear that she's trying to figure out a way to stop Amendment A - which legalized marijuana in this state - from happening, because "it's just not right for South Dakota".  So much for Freedom and Personal Responsibility, right?  Constitutionally, she can't do anything about it, but I'm not sure she's aware of that.

Meanwhile, I know she doesn't care about the virus.  We are in a fearsome situation up here, complete with long articles in WaPo (here and HERE), USA Today ("The Dakotas are 'as bad as it gets anywhere in the world' for COVID-19"),  Forbes (South Dakota is the most dangerous place to travel in America), dire statistics in the NYTimes, and a Governor and a Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken who refuse - ABSOLUTELY REFUSE - to impose a mask mandate or a shutdown or anything else, because "freedom and personal responsibility."* 

How's that working?  Not so well:

South Dakota total cases – 68,671; 1 out of every 13 people in this state (pop. 880,000) has/has had the virus
South Dakota active cases – 19,240; 1 out of every 46 is currently active for the virus
South Dakota deaths 674 – 1 out of every 1,360 has died

Sioux Falls total cases – 22,440; 1 out of every 10 people in metro Sioux Falls (pop. 230,000) has/has 
had the virus
Sioux Falls active cases – 6,115; 1 out of every 38 is currently active for the virus
Sioux Falls deaths – 185; 1 out of every 1243 has died

And - from Johns Hopkins itself - a 56.4% positivity rate for testing, the 2nd highest in the nation.**

Heck of a job, Kristi & Paul.  Maybe you can start a noir folk duo and sing about Freedom & Incubation around the nation.

Oh, and on top of everything else, back on November 10th, "South Dakota health officials acknowledged that they include NICU (intensive care unit beds designed for infants) in their total count of hospital beds available in the state — a key metric that the governor has used to defend her handling of the coronavirus pandemic."  (Rapid City Journal)  In case you don't know, adult human beings, no matter how old and frail, cannot fit into baby pods.  

LATEST NEWS: there's the case of Attorney General, Jason Ravnsborg.  If you remember, he had an accident on a dark night on a rural road and "thought he hit a deer."  Instead, it turned out that he killed a local man, Joseph Boever.  But no one discovered that until the next day, and in the meantime Mr. Ravnsborg had been driven home by the local sheriff, etc., etc., etc.  Well, we finally got an update -  November 2nd, which seems so long ago - and it turns out that the results of the investigation so far are that Ravnsborg was distracted at the time of the crash, and Mr. Boever was holding a light in his hand when he was hit and killed. (NOTE: Deer not only have more legs than humans, they don't carry lights.) But the exact time of 911 call, and the victim's autopsy and toxicology report - and any charges - are still pending. Oh, to be white and hold high office... (Argus Leader)  

And then there's our local neighborhood goings on.  I came home from the grocery store the other day to find a white quad pick-up truck parked in front of a rental house across the street.  Big deal, right?  Except as I inched past (it's a narrow street), I noticed that the window on the passenger side had a small "Police" on it.  And, as I pulled into our driveway, I saw 4 guys get out of the truck, all wearing dark bulky blue sweaters with epaulettes, etc., on them, blue jeans or camo pants, and a very large gun strapped to their thigh.  Well, I was planning on taking a walk, but decided it wasn't the right time.  Instead I went on inside, made a cup of tea, and watched the show from my living room window, which is shielded by a large porch and an even larger tree from outside prying eyes.***  Our boys in blue went from room to room - at one point a woman came scurrying out (in 30 degree weather) wearing sweatpants, t-shirt, and flip-flops to get something out of her car (I'm betting ID) - and started taking stuff in (apparently to search a little deeper, shall we say) and bringing stuff out.  They stuck around for over an hour, and then left.  My personal guess is that they already had someone under arrest back at the station, and were searching for drugs and/or weapons.  (Yes, they found some.)  

Meanwhile, you can't get all your entertainment from a 1919 version of a picture window.  My latest favorite entertainment - besides endlessly looping New Tricks - is Victorian Farm on Acorn (via Amazon Prime) - For one thing, I'm an historian, and the reenactors are historian Ruth Goodman, and archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn.  (I have a couple of Ms. Goodman's books, BTW.  Great stuff.)  Shire horses!  Sheep!  Cooking with coal!  More sheep!  Victorian Christmas!  Pigs and sheep!  Yes, life was hard, but it's absolutely fascinating, and I could have used a lot more than 6 episodes of it.

Speaking of Victorians, I'm rereading my way through my library of great Victorian mysteries:  I've mentioned these before on SleuthSayers, but I'll bring up a couple again, because they're brilliant.  And they're long and complex, which helps in these days of social isolation.  

Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White. Here two young women's identities are stripped from them as one dies and the other is declared dead and sent to a madhouse for life. What happened? Who died? Who lived? How can the truth be proven? Besides an endlessly twisting and turning plot, there are amazing characters: a magnificent heroine in Marion Halcombe, the ultimate Victorian cold-hearted bitch in Mrs. Catherick, and the worst guardian known to man, Frederick Fairlie, who really should have been shot at birth. And then there's Count Fosco, one of my favorite villains in all of history, with a face like Napoleon's and the heft of Nero Wolfe. Watch him as he plays with his little pet white mice and, at the same time, his irascible "friend" Sir Percival Glyde. Meet his completely subservient wife, who spends her days rolling his cigarettes, watching his face, and doing his bidding. He loves sugar water and pastry and plotting, and he never, ever loses his temper or raises his voice. His only weakness? A passionate admiration for Marion. But can that actually stop him? Don't count on it.

In Mrs. Henry Wood's East Lynne, the ostensible main plot - and a true Victorian corker it is! - revolves around Isabel Vane, an Earl's daughter who, unbelievably, is reduced to poverty and marries attorney Archibald Carlisle (SO much beneath her in birth). Mr. Carlisle is such a miracle of common sense, rectitude, honor, and beauty, that I have to admit after a while I get tired of hearing how wonderful he is. It almost makes you cheer when she is eventually unfaithful to him with a former suitor, who seduces her, impregnates her, and abandons her (the "Lady! Wife! Mother!" scene is worth the read in and of itself). Lost - in every sense of the word - and alone, Lady Isabel is believed killed in a railroad accident. However, she is only disfigured beyond recognition (isn't that always the way?), and comes back to be the governess in her old home, to her own children, and to the children of her husband and his new wife, Barbara Hare. That in itself would keep almost any soap opera running for YEARS. But what really fuels this sensation novel is the second plot, about the murder of a local gamekeeper, whose daughter, Aphrodite Hallijohn, was "involved" with multiple suitors, among them the clerk of courts (I can believe that one), a mysterious Captain, and Richard, the brother of the second Mrs. Carlisle. Richard and Barbara are the children of the local Judge, and Judge Hare does his best throughout the novel to find, convict and hang his own son. Barbara's whole goal in life (other than being the perfect wife to Mr. Carlisle) is to clear Richard's name. Each and every character is involved in the solution to this murder, and the shifting identities of various people - at least three people live in disguise for major parts of the novel - are obstacles, keys, and clues to what really happened in that hut so long ago.

Mrs. Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret curled many a person's hair back in the day, especially once it was revealed that what they thought was the secret - a secret that should be solved by anyone of moderate intelligence early on - is not The Secret at all. Let's just say that Lady Audley is a work of art, and perhaps the source material for all suicide blondes. Once again, a spicy Victorian stew of bigamy, mysterious deaths, hidden identities, even more mysterious (and convenient) arson, betrayal, adultery, heartache, and suspense, all served up at (for a Victorian novel) a fairly rapid clip. 

One of the reasons I read so much Victorian fiction, BTW, and especially now, is because the Victorians were really good at writing morally good characters.  As Janice Law said on Tuesday, "Evil is easy in writing, goodness is tough to do, a fact that might drive the philosophical to notions of original sin." But the Victorians - who definitely believed in original sin - mastered the art.  From Miss Matty in Cranford to Ruth in Ruth, Emma in Emma, Felix and Lance Underwood in The Pillars of the House, Daniel Peggotty, Annie Strong, Miss Mowcher, and Wilkins Micawber in David Copperfield, Marion Halcombe and Walter Hartright in The Woman in White - the Victorians were masters of dishing up characters who were morally good yet unique individuals.  (Notice, I have not mentioned any of the sugary sweet heroines - they're as much stereotypes as Snidely Whiplash.)  

Anyway, from more modern times, also in my personal library, are yards of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe - novels, short stories, novellas.  Just take me to the brownstone and drop me off, okay?  I'll take some Eggs Burgundian, a look at Wolfe's library and orchids, a long discussion / debate about literature with Wolfe, and a long chat on almost anything over drinks with Archie.  

Also Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse books (my favorite is The Wench is Dead); our own Janice Law's Francis Bacon series; Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series (personal favorite The Lady from Zagreb); Len Deighton's Harry Palmer novels; and Somerset Maugham's short stories - including  the Ashenden British agent stories.  (Ashenden supposedly influenced Ian Fleming.)  And yards of Agatha Christie.  And Sherlock Holmes.  

Also, non-fiction:  The Death of Woman Wang (how and why a man got away with murder in a poor province in 17th century China), and God's Chinese Son (biography of the founder of the Taiping Rebellion) both by Jonathan Spence; and Memories of Silk and Straw by Junichi Suga, translated by Garry Evans (pre-WW2 small town Japan).  

In case you're wondering, part of the reason I've fallen back heavily on my own library is because the Sioux Falls library hasn't done interlibrary loans since March, and I've read most of what they have.  And I really can't afford tons of new books all the time.  Just a few here and there.  So...  Back to the classics!  

Finally, last Sunday, I gave a sermon based on Hebrews 13:3: "Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." About what I've seen, done, heard - I also talked about AVP and quoted one of our AVP Facilitators - Sly Sam - poems! Sermon begins around 22:50.

Meanwhile, have a Happy Thanksgiving, and stay safe, stay well, stay masked.  

*We finally imposed a mask mandate in Sioux Falls last night - but with no penalty for noncompliance.  

**Worst in the nation as of today is Wyoming, with 90.6% - whatever's going on there, don't go there.

***I am apparently entering the Miss Marple / Miss Silver phase of my life, but then again, I've always been nosy.