Tuesday, December 31, 2019


In my undergrad years in biology class I cut up my share ofI planaria, the little worms just big enough to see and slice.  They're cross-eyed, evidently, which makes them more interesting.  Even almost cute.  I did not know that they could not only regrow a head, but without losing their memory which we have assumed were housed in heads!  If that memory was in their heads, how can tails which can grow a new head also save their memories.

McConnell, a scientist, became interested in Holgr HydĂ©n’s work and scrambled to test for a speculative molecule that he called “memory RNA” by grafting portions of trained planaria onto the bodies of untrained planaria.  His aim was to transfer RNA from one worm to another but, encountering difficulty getting the grafts to stick, he turned to a “more spectacular type of tissue transfer, that of ‘cannibalistic ingestion.’  Acting directly, he ground up trained planaria and fed them to the other untrained worms.  It worked on the worms, but we feel sure it won't work on people. What will?

This article link describes the above plus more.  The point is that somehow the tissue of cells is the locus of memory, linked to sensory information as a filing system.  A taste, a sound, a turn of the ankle, and memory comes flooding.

Experiments on sea slugs seemed to prove that the storage of the memories was not in the cell proper, but in the synapses between cells.  If the synapses, the connections, were removed, the memories  were also gone.  Hmmm.

What other possibilities exist?  
"Most of an organism’s adaptability comes from supple epigenetic mechanisms, processes that regulate gene expression in response to environmental cues or pressures, which sometimes involve RNA. If DNA is printed sheet music, RNA-induced epigenetic mechanisms are like improvisational cuts and arrangements that might conduct learning and memory."  This is a very nice quote from the linked article.

Scientists had strong evidence that RNA was the memory-transferring agent.  Glanzman, another scientist, "now believes that synapses are necessary for the activation of a memory, but that the memory is encoded in the nucleus of the neuron through epigenetic changes. “It’s like a pianist without hands,” Glanzman says. “He may know how to play Chopin, but he’d need hands to exercise the memory.”"  This is a slightly more gruesome quote.  But "parts is parts" and code is code.  If it's molecular, it's only small rather than different.

The next piece of the article is about Douglas Blackiston, an Allen Discovery Center scientist at Tufts University, who is studying the story of butterfly metamorphoais, not in terms of their parts but in sensory info transfer.  “The remodeling is catastrophic,” Blackiston says. “After all, we’re moving from a crawling machine to a flying machine. Not only the body but the entire brain has to be rewired.”

"It’s hard to study exactly what goes on during pupation in vivo, but there’s a subset of caterpillar neurons that may persist in what are called “mushroom bodies,” a pair of structures involved in olfaction that many insects have located near their antennae."  I'm assuming these either "are" or "are like" the "Imaginal discs"  I've been talking about.  They are more like body parts, which is a little different from memory.

“It’s not soup,” Blackiston says. “Well, maybe it’s soup, but it’s chunky. There’s near complete pruning of neurons during pupation, and the few neurons that remain become disconnected from other neurons, dissolving the synaptic connections between them in the process, until they reconnect with other neurons during the remodeling into the butterfly brain." . . . Blackiston suspects it was stored in the subset of neurons located in the mushroom bodies, the only known carryover material from the caterpillar to the butterfly.

(Marco Altamirano,  the author of this essay is also the author of Time, Technology, and Environment: An Essay on the Philosophy of Nature. Follow him on Twitter @marcosien.)

Now I have my first valuable clue to the origin of what Maslow calls "a peak experience" and theologians call an epiphany or theophany.  An experience of sufficient sensory impact will create memory of more than usual vividness.  A cathedral or sweat lodge will provide an impressive context.  Meeting a tiger or being in a falling elevator will be memorable, viscerally sensory.   An awesome scene like a storm traveling a mountain valley or sunset seen from a heaving beach can have the right impact.  Life-threatening experiences or sharing skillful performance or even the negatives of slow and gruesome death can mean people will share the moment as holy.  Something intimately moving like holding an infant can be intensely memorable.

It is not until afterwards that rational systems are brought into play and interpret what happened.  Even handling poisonous snakes or walking on red hot coals can be given defined supernatural significance if the theology is powerful enough.  But the experience itself has value.  Think of Jane Goodall's example of a chimp bemused by a waterfall, sitting quietly, surrendering to the sight. Chimps just don't claim it's a manifestation of Jesus.

If people are brought together in safety and presented with this sort of experience, it can become "liminal" and allow a freedom in unity that allows people to escape conventionality.  It will feel transcendent and empowering.  People will feel close to each other.   Some will call this sacred.  It has nothing to do with what we normally call "religion."

This line of thought also reinforces the contention of myself and many others that science and philosophy thinkers are being so robotically rigorous in their thinking, that they have eliminated much crucial information about the body  which is also full of thought.  So much energy has gone into the pursuit of mathematical escape from emotion that the real cellular operation of tiny code intelligence has been missed.

This insight lends new principles when designing a worship service that is meant to be memorable. It means understanding the participants and what sensory material -- music, words, imagery, memories, smells, and so on -- are likely to affect the people, using all the rules of art in terms of timing, rhythm, surprise, reassurance, and so on.  This is how one calls the holy.

Monday, December 30, 2019


A few decades ago, thought was preoccupied with "structure" of everything.  Then in the inevitable reversal development, everything went to "deconstruction" with the idea that structure was a kind of domination and that by deconstruction, one could discover covert meanings.  I first came across the idea of structure, esp in language, when I became adept at diagramming sentences in the 7th grade.   Then I learned about semantics in college.  Decades later I was writing and discovering that deconstruction wasn't always a source of meaning, but the lack of construction could mean something.

Recently, the word structure is replaced by "architecture" which sounds much more elite and complex.  I recently discovered that people talk about "the architecture of the cell," and what we know now destroys the popular idea of a cell as a kind of water-balloon.  Water and a membrane are basics, for sure, but there turns out to be a lot of hustle and production in that cell.

The first necessity for cell-based life (which is ALL of the life we know of) is water.  Luckily this is a very watery planet.  Water is necessary because the molecular patterns that form the shifting dynamics of life are only possible in solutions, "solute" versions of the chemistry of solids.

The second necessity for a cell is the first binary: a membrane separating the solutions of the internal processes from the general water outside where it floats.  Life begins with difference.

The third necessity is energy, which powers the processes and comes from difference.

"Although membranes are valuable as a way to segregate the watery interior of the cell from its environment, or to segregate intracellular events from one another, they have other important functions, including energy storage. Because membranes separate watery compartments from one another, if an ion or a molecule dissolved in water is moved through a membrane into a new cellular compartment, it will not be able to diffuse freely out of the compartment into which it was moved. It takes energy to move the molecule, but once moved, the molecule stores that energy by virtue of its entrapment. Formally, this storage of energy is just like the storage of energy in a battery. Therefore, membranes not only delineate compartments, but also serve as active participants in the cell’s dynamism."

Membranes are not just passive barriers, but have layers and characteristics according to the nature of the cell.  Some membranes are double.  All have "ports of entry" that allow some things in, but not others.

"The passage of water-soluble molecules through membranes is carried out by protein transporters that are embedded in the membrane. Also, cells send information to one another by releasing signaling molecules. The outer membranes of cells have proteins, known appropriately as receptors, that bind the circulating signaling molecules."

Inside the main cell are assorted "organelles" that are also "bagged" in membranes.

"Most organelles are surrounded by a single phospholipid membrane, but several, including the nucleus, are enclosed by two membranes. Each type of organelle plays a unique role in the growth and metabolism of the cell, and each contains a collection of specific enzymes that catalyze requisite chemical reactions. "  

They include:

Cytosol which is the general cytoplasm of the cell.
The nucleus that defines the cells of the eukaryotids. (Ours.)
Mitochondria that manages energy and has its own DNA.
Rough and smooth endoplasmic reticula, a network of membranes in which glycoproteins and lipids are synthesized.
Golgi vesicles that organize membranes
Peroxisomes that degrade fatty acids and amino acids.
Lysosomes that do the same for general debris.

"The cytosol of eukaryotic cells contains an array of fibrous proteins collectively called the cytoskeleton  . . . The cytoskeleton gives the cell strength and rigidity, thereby helping to maintain cell shape. Cytoskeletal fibers also control movement of structures within the cell; for example, some cytoskeletal fibers connect to organelles or provide tracks along which organelles move."

"The endoplasmic reticulum is a type of organelle found in eukaryotic cells that forms an interconnected network of flattened, membrane-enclosed sacs or tube-like structures known as cisternae. The membranes of the ER are continuous with the outer nuclear membrane.  They play a vital role in the formation of the skeletal framework. They play a vital role in the synthesis of proteins, lipids, glycogen and other steroids like cholesterol, progesterone, testosterone, etc."

"The concept that genes are like “beads” strung on a long “string,” the chromosome, was proposed early in the 1900s based on genetic work with the fruit fly Drosophila. The early Drosophila workers could position, or map, the genes responsible for various mutant traits on a chromosome, even though they did not yet know that genes were segments of DNA or that the function of a gene was due to a protein whose sequence was encoded by that gene!"

At this level we stop doing mini-anatomy and are verging on organic chemistry.  This is where much of the most interesting research is happening, but the names of the entities are unfamiliar to most of us.  Cancer research, diseases that circulate in the blood, energy malfunctions, prions, and so on are hard to perceive, much less analyze for their action in the body.  Often we're looking at consequences instead of causes.  Our diagrams of teeny-tiny entities masquerade as portraits, but are as unreal as imagining an atom as circling ping-pong balls.  It's easy to shrug off this stuff as irrelevant until one suffers from the malfunction of one of them, as in diabetes.

Organs arise from these organelles in cells, so that each has a shrink wrap silvery cover that acts as a boundary.  Evidently the pouches of imaginal disks have something to do with them turning out to be sizes that fit the spaces and fit together properly.  But imaginal disks are still mysterious.  They aren't cells, though some say they are like stem cells, they don't seem to be organelles, and they are far too small to be organs but seem able to control them, even define them.

We know that molecules are interconnected elements arranged in certain patterns but we also know that atoms are mostly energized whirling space on an impossibly small scale.  So it is the structure, the architecture, that makes them palpable, detectable, vital.

Sunday, December 29, 2019


At one point in history, when "professionals" meant only lawyers, clergy, and doctors, no one was thought competent to judge them except themselves and therefore they were expected to watch and govern themselves.  As professions crumbled under the barrage of a culture interested only in money, predatory capitalism, their self-governance became inoperative.  There were too many financial reasons to cover up, deny, and evade, let alone be less than vigilant gate-keepers.

At the same time, speaking of "professionals" of things like operating heavy equipment, meant that these workmen became invested in proof of competence via certification.  Think of what this would mean in terms of running for political office!  How many politicians could pass such a test. (I do NOT mean IQ, which only tests the ability to pass a paper IQ test.)

"What does Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) mean? A certificate of professional competence is a certificate required by all heavy vehicle operators and drivers over and above their drivers' or operators' licences. This ruling also applies to freelance operators employed by businesses."

"Certification is all about credentials. It’s what some people might consider “formal” education. Professionals who are certified in their area of specialty complete a course of study, pass a written examination, and must continue taking professional development courses throughout their careers.. . . these credentials do matter. In essence, having a credential represents a commitment on the part of the professional. It shows that they have set a goal for themselves and followed through to achieve it. The third-party stamp of approval validates the knowledge and professionalism they gained in the process.

Competency, on the other hand, has nothing to do with professional or formal education. Instead, it refers to the skill and knowledge needed to successfully complete a task.

Why is certified competency welcomed by heavy industry but shunned by today's professionals who undercut continued training and brush off ethical standards?  Professions were once considered humanistic but now they are seen as technical, which means to many that they are without ethics.

Montana is known as a state that deliberately keeps its oversight of doctors lenient because this makes it more attractive to doctors in spite of harsh weather and small cities.  Defining this in numbers and specifics would be politically dangerous.  People who have the resources and are aware of local limitations go to the big medical centers like Mayo.  I could give you examples if it weren't dangerous in a world of lawsuits.  Indian reservations are doubly vulnerable because the shocking debts of new doctors can be reduced by working on a rez and there is even less oversight, even more need.

At the time ('78) I was thinking about UU seminary, The Rev. David Pohl  was responsible for advising people like me and he was willing to talk about how difficult it was   He said that the MMPI paper test was one filter they used.  The version I took was the old-fashioned one.  I don't know whether the new version is used by the UUA.  "Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 Restructured Form (MMPI-2-RF), published in 2008, is a 338–item self-report measure linked conceptually and empirically to modern theories and models of psychopathology and personality."  Many contexts find it useful, not just ministry.  It's online.
I expect a person might buy a copy and work through it, but might need someone with training to interpret the results.  There's no chance Trump could focus enough to take it.  It's not a pass/fail test but a way to describe the whole person.

The next filter was the requirement for a BA or BS degree from an accredited college and the Graduate Record Exam which is an evaluation of academic skills.  Note the "accredited" qualification.  This step plus grad school makes UU ministry a "learned" version of religious leadership, certified by at least an MDiv degree.  But in theory, a UU congregation can call and certify anyone they consider worthy, even an uneducated person.  This is rarely done and doesn't necessarily transfer from one congregation to the next.  It is the pattern claimed by evangelical wealth-focused groups.

When I first felt the impulse to make this commitment, I paid a clinical psychologist to talk me out of it, since I was aware of having been divorced and working in a job that then was atypical for a woman.  (Animal control.)  The counselor was a woman and Jewish.  She said she had no concept of what a Christian clergy person would be asked to do, what qualities and competencies were needed.  The UUA later asked me to take an interview with another "professional" who turned out to have the same background and mystification.  So this was a niche sort of subdivision of mental health worker, mostly informed by pop movies.  "Shrinks" are often thought to be secular, non-religious because of being "scientific."

But this was also the result of a culture that in the name of tolerance had removed definition and description from religion.  "Religion" and religious leadership were completely undefined, undescribed in order to prevent something like what India just did, which was to impose a religious qualification for citizenship.  it started riots. They "get" the value of secularity.

The next, more serious hurdle was the Ministerial Fellowship Committee.  My own minister was the chair at the time.  This was my Ace Card that took me past all obstacles.  I did pretty well on hurdles, but his recommendation pushed them aside.  Personal influence is at the heart of most of these systems, not just ministry.  The Rev. Alan Deale was sharply aware of the problems of evaluating free and progressive individuals who were sometimes atypical enough to raise questions.  One example was an application he showed me.  It required a photo which my school district had used to judge race which they were forbidden to ask directly, (Even using photos jocularly at hiring meetings to judge how pretty the women were.) An example for qualification judges was that one person intended a "clown" ministry and his photo showed him in full makeup.  As the Fellowship Chair pointed out, the committee was unable to judge whether the makeup was well done, much less what the qualities of a good clown ministry might be.

When I got to seminary -- and I chose the stuffiest old traditional one -- I was startled by drug use, sleeping around. cheating on tests, and so on, but willingly joined a group focused on steady character.  Not all the edgy characters made it into pulpits, but some did.

The problem with professions can be listed this way:
  •   Lack of definition of what exactly the job entails, esp in a specialty.
  •   Pre-existing cultural influence.
  •   Enormous variety in the sorts of candidate -- and also in the sort of congregation or kind of law or medical specialty.  Part of being modern is being a specialist.  The kindly old standard minister has gone the way of the kindly wise old family practitioner and the kindly old town lawyer.
  • Prestige as a pure matter of wealth, nothing to do with learning or wisdom.
How do we get back to the old system?  We don't.  We need formal third-party certification of competence for professions.  Someone should start a business, a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. The trend has  been opposite -- to drop requirements and gatekeeping because it makes money to have students entering.

Saturday, December 28, 2019


One of my fav quotes is the one about caterpillars becoming butterflies by going through a disassembly that takes them down to "molecular soup".  Scientists are trying to do something like that in regard to human perception.  They only mean "conscious" perception because they have a hard time remembering the UN conscious.  If you remind them, they will admit this, but it will throw them off track since they are considering "perception" rather than the unperceived.

The other factor is that thinking about the unconscious presses them towards the idea of another world, which to some people is "religious", a matter of believing in something unbelievable on "real" terms.  Then the scientific subject of consciousness is no longer "secular" a word meant to wall out religion, at least overtly.  We know that early learned religious structure of thought will affect results, usually below consciousness, just as grammar structure does.  One of my "goals" is to rule out "faith" or other hypothetical but unseen factors and stick to the facts of the new research, amazing as it may be.  One of the methods is to cross-disciplines, to ignore traditional boxes.  I'm not alone.

"Donald David Hoffman is an American cognitive psychologist and popular science author. He is a Professor in the Department of Cognitive Sciences at the University of California, Irvine"  He's on YouTube and has written books, as well as being on TED talks.

Let's go back to the caterpillar/butterfly thing:  see it with your own eyes:

Now we have a new word/phrase.  What is an imaginal disk?  "An imaginal disc is a sac-like epithelial structure found inside the larva of insects that undergo metamorphosis. Once the larva turns into a pupa, almost all the larval tissues degenerate and the imaginal discs turn into the external structures of the head, thorax, limbs and genitalia."  One of them somehow preserves memory so that a butterfly can remember what a caterpillar knew.

If there is such a thing as "imaginal discs" in humans, what would they be?  This is a list of clue articles:  https://www.cell.com/current-biology/comments/S0960-9822(10)00291-5#secd15506082e134  One idea is that they are like stem cells.

Here's a link to an audio discussion.

This is one single example.

Map of the imaginal discs in a bug.

Here's the entertaining Ted Talk.

If you're not a bug, what do you care?

You know that terrible old film about becoming a fly or the Kafka story about becoming a cockroach?  They're crazy, untrue, just metaphors, but also "body-related transdiagnosis factors."  That is, they give us clues to being mentally off-center, clues to what's "bugging you."

This is the self-description of the article above.
"Our main result is the identification of a distinct “Body” factor, alongside the previously identified Internalizing and Externalizing factors. We also report relevant cross-disorder associations, especially between body-related psychopathology and trait anger, as well as substantial sex and age differences in observed and latent means. The findings expand the meta-structure of psychopathology, with implications for empirical and clinical practice, and demonstrate shared mechanisms underlying attitudes towards nutrition, self-image, sexuality and anger, with gender- and age-specific features."

"Trait anger" is a new term for me, but what it refers to, esp when mixed with sexuality, everywhere and comes up as a problem over and over.  It's often considered "evil."  (A bug is not evil but it might be a weevil.  Jokes.)  This study is highly technical and more of a map towards further study than a definitive arrival at a conclusion.  

Pouches of imaginal discs as seen in dissection.

I still want to know what a pouch of imaginal discs could look like, what it is.  Is it like a precipitating crystal that causes a cascade of consequences?  Is it like a metaphor that becomes a story?  Is it the idea that causes someone to write a book?  Is it the burning obsession, a question that won't let go and that dictates a lifelong quest?  What's in your molecular soup, simmering along, persisting through all metamorphsis?

Friday, December 27, 2019


kinds of attachment

We know that most of each of our separate identities is subconscious and "animal" which we have rejected as "animal," meaning lower and simply to be denied.  But "desire" in the sense of "lust" is one of our most driving aimpulses because it is linked to survival.  If it were not so overwhelming and persistent, we wouldn't be here.  And yet sex drive is not equally distributed, so that some have too much and some have too little, some are able to rechannel and shape it while others are not.  Nothing else is so interwoven with culture except food, shelter, and power.  In many places women, children. aged, disabled and lesser powered people will not survive except through attachment to more powerful people, usually men, often "entitled" people. 

I've been deeply impressed by the Porges/Bowlby/Winnicott accounts of the formation of an individual human through interaction between mother and child and the continual morphing of development through experience, usually toward growth.  Originating biologically in the origin of a new human being, parasitic on and internal to an adult, survival can depend on the continuing relationships of life, which are closely related to family, organizations, work, and other structuring in society.

I've insisted that "love" is used so indiscriminately that it refers to everything from dessert to deep human involvement.  The word is emptied by sentimentality that requires gifts and declarations of fondness that are really bondage.  Instead I use the word "attachment".

But what does "attachment" refer to.  There seem to be many kinds of attachment, which is at heart the magnetism that is in relationship, causing some people to attach to others for a host of reasons and in many ways.  In one guise --  an "incarnation" -- the biological dimension is dominant and driving, originating in the body as much as a cat in heat.  In another it may be faint, if present at all, the energy diverted.  We say the reason for variation is "hormones" and they probably do have a lot to do with it.  But hormones may be reacting to causes outside the body, like climate, light level, art forms, unseen memories, or danger.  

I thought I'd take time to make a list.  It's hardly complete.  Some may be wrong.  The opposite "attachment" is DEtachment, no relationship.  Those who declare the planet "loves us" and so on are talking about something else.  The universe, the sun and planets,however anthropomorphized do not love humans, are neither good nor evil.  They are simply there, indifferent.  If we attach to them, they do not attach to us.

1.  "Limerence" is a term that refers to the kind of attachment that is being in love in a classical romantic sense, a near derangement and euphoric obsession with another person.  "Twitterpated", besotted, infatuated.  Before orgasms became the ultimate bliss (momentary) the idea of this emotional valence was considered the ultimate, esp for women.

2.  "Open" love is a modern idea about attraction that is in the moment and doesn't exclude others.  Results vary.

3.  Habituation.  Couples persist because that's what they're used to doing.

4.  Essential physiological/biological, like the idea of pheromones that signal animals and insects.

5.  Parental or quasi-parental.  The impulse to help, to shelter, to protect, and to support growth.

6.  Shared interests or emotions.  Both people are interested some third thing.  

7.  Religious.  This may be declared as a feature of belonging to a religious position.  Part of anthropomorphism is declaring that a mythic figure "loves" humans who "believe."

8.  Painful.  Sharing physical or mental pain can bring people together, either when both are hurting or when one is hurting and the other is trying to heal. 

9.  Affinity: belonging to an organization like Elks or Boy Scouts.

10.  Small things:  taste in food, sense of humour, comfortable room temps

11.  Patterns, expectations, templates, culture scripts

12.  Echoes from the past, being reminded

13.  Crushes, focusing emotion on an imagined aspect of someone, possibly a celebrity.

14.  Ambition: the effort to achieve which might be admirable like discovering a cure or dubious like "House of Cards."

15,  Repetition compulsion: a deep mistake addressed with unconscious reliviing, like a bad experience with a drunk or narcissist that one hopes to handle better.  It might be unconscious.

16.  Loneliness.

17  Pity.

18.  "Maternal" impulse or son/daughter impulse towards a parent.

19.  Sensory triggers:  music, smell, skin sensation.

20.  Sympathetic dialogue or challenge even via print in letters or email 

21.  Negative emotions are still attachments.  Jealousy to protect an attachment.  Hatred, maybe with good reason. Competition or other obsessions.  Think of the abused marriage partner who isn't willing to leave.

One formulation of a successful attachment is being enough alike to understand each other, but enough different to be interesting.

Any of the dozen sex identity/gender variations or the hundreds of age levels could multiply this.  Add place, add point in time, add politics,  and you've got a powerful novel.  We are all interested in how attachment works whether Hallmark has a card for that or not.

Thursday, December 26, 2019


The artist I admire so much and used on my Christmas post is Lucy Campbell.  She's Scots.  Here is her website link:  http://www.lupiart.com/2018/11/22/the-geography-of-your-destiny   She sells on Etsy.


Among animals other than humans, sex is determined by fertility.  That is, an animal capable of gestating a new creature internally is female and an animal capable of causing a female to begin a new creature is male.  Creating a new animal is very complex but unseen, so many beginnings fail along the way -- in the case of humans, maybe as much as 50% when we learned to see what was happening.  Birth is sacralized by Christians.

There are always animals who for one reason or another neither conceive nor fertilize.  In fact, we create these null animals one way or another -- usually surgically.  But there are always animals that look like females or males, who can't perform.  Their uses and place among their species are complex. Human names for them abound.  When I googled for a list, only dogs and cats came up because those are the animals techies know.  But livestock people know steers, freemartins, wethers, and "supper."  For someone who raises animals for profit, fertility counts and defines male v. female.

Fertility is also the preoccupation for those who pass entitlement to power and privilege down the generations.  Wives who can't produce a healthy heir can be discarded or even killed.  Husbands who are sterile or contribute bad DNA are discredited or simply denied.  These very basic considerations are overturned by modern effective contraception and the ability to trace DNA to parents.

In our modern times when sexual pleasure is more important than anything else except wealth, and there is active opposition to any particular family being automatically entitled -- or so we pretend -- sex categories are defined by who is desired, same or opposite.

Who is desired is dictated by advertising, which means it is product or procedure based.  Desire cannot be seen by looking at someone -- not like birds displaying -- except in ways usually hidden by clothes.  It is felt.  All sorts of things are assumed about it.  Fertility is irrelevant.  Physical aspects such as genitals are forced into two categories even though how the baby is born looking may not really fit either category by appearance and what is internal is not considered .  Now we are able to determine chromosomal indications (X for female and Y for male) which confuses the picture even more.

Looks may not match the binary one "feels" to be?  Also, there is major variation in intensity, mode of sensory response, change over time and experience, and how one fits into society.  Let alone opportunity.  Cultures press people different ways, which we call "gender roles," so that in one group one's sex counts for status and power, but another one ignores all that.  Then there is the temperamental ability to complete birth by protecting and teaching the child.  Some are better suited than others.  Some males are very good at it and some females are not.  A condition called post-partum depression, which is the functioning of the female body according to hormonal conditions triggered by birth, can be akin to madness.  Some cats going into winter will give birth but kill the kittens right away, because unless they are pets, they are unlikely to survive anyway and the mother cat will need all her resources to survive herself.

Before modern medicine, many women lost their babies or died in childbirth.  Nutrition, medicines, housing, must be present no matter the complex physical functions that happen at the cellular level, hormones in circulating blood, organs that can cope and so on -- let alone disease.  In my family, in my generation and those just before mine, the many birth deaths, esp of the mother, were only covertly recognized.  A cousin who lost a first infant was the most secretive.  My grandmother lost her first child and her sister died when birthing a second child who also died. I have never even a hint about abortions.

Family on my father's side lived on the American prairie but was from the genetically Scots-Irish population.  The Great Plains is a water-conserving place where one tried not to drink a lot of water unless working.  The second was wet, islands always damp.  Though no one has ever researched this that I know of, bodies must have learned to conserve water on the prairie while discarding excess water on the other.  The upshot is not obvious in childbirth but is highly relevant in excretion which requires lots of water to pass through the body.

To be blunt we tended to be constipated because adequate water is necessary to form and eject fiber.  As a child this was a terrible problem for me and the remedy, enemas, were -- in the hands of my brisk, farm-raised mother, equivalent to rape while she scolded, "Just relax."  If this battle were avoided, I spent time struggling painfully,  Then my mother would say, "It will hurt a lot more if you have a baby!  You'll find out!"

As a becoming-fertile female, I made two resolutions: I would not entertain a relationship with any male who was fertile nor one who didn't have an income.  I desired but I deflected.  My gender identification didn't fit my society.

Being female meant a lot of strategy and equipment.  I was warned off internal menstruation blood control and taught to hide any evidence of a pad in my panties.  An elastic belt held the pad close. The ends were gripped by a little metal buckle.  It all had to be explained in the beginning.  I never had cramps beyond passing discomfort.  My mother had been one of four sisters on a farm before the invention of commercial pads, so they made their own from rags.  When all the females were "of age" and tending to share timing, they boiled the rags in a big pot over an outside fire.  Decency was next to secrecy. 

As a teen in the Fifties, I enjoyed more frivolous female things like the invention of liquid mascara so as to escape the unsanitary little red slide box of cake mascara with its little brush one spat on to get it to pick up color.  Garter belts were necessary as soon as one wore "nylons" which was almost impossible during the war and a continuing major expense.  I vividly remember the revelation of pantyhose.  I wore crinolines and dipped them in strong sugar water as a kind of starch, but it made them sticky if they got wet.  

"Torsolettes" were a boned version of a corset that combined with a garter belt.  They hooked up the front and were rather painful, but nothing like the Playtex girdles meant to keep one's stomach flat.  They were latex (hence the name) and zipped but were still nearly impossible to pull on.  The idea was to look virginal.  My mother's underwear drawer smelled of latex and when I was in a sexual relationship, so did my sculptor husband who made molds of latex.  I mentioned this to a female friend and she became very angry and emotional.  How Freudian.

So my gender role is complex, nearly secret, and has no name.  I dressed "like a man" sometimes and a woman others.  I don't care which side the buttons of my shirt are on.  On grand occasions I tend toward glamour that is almost campy.  I've been able to do brave physical things and tender nurturing things so long as the infants are not my species.  In the more recent past years I've discovered female authors who identify as boys in their books, like Mary Renault or Patricia Neal Warren.  Boys can do things and take risks without fear of pregnancy.
How does one name a female body that desires freedom, which means no babies?  There are plenty of places in society for them, but they are somewhat covert.  They interfere with production and merchandizing of the sexy gendered kind.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019


Christmas quips are merely Tweets, some standalone and some attached to other posts.  A few years ago I might have made a little book of them and called them "micro-novels."  This year I just gathered them off my Twitter account.

I blog. 
None of my relatives will read it. 
They say they don't have time. 
They say it is "such an ugly word." 
It is published. 
More people read it than copies of my book has had printed. 
I make no money from writing. 
I love it. 
It makes my day. 
It makes my life.

I'm post-Christian. I have an MA and MDiv from the University of Chicago and am a terrible snob about it. I was a minister for a decade in the UUA context.  I am VERY proud of the Christian Century. They've got guts.

In regard to Matt Shea's desire to "kill all males who don't agree" with him, my tomcats are in favor. I notice that the treatment of noncompliant or over-needy boys comes close to killing all of them in our society right now.

When I came to this rez to teach in '61, 
my students had grandmothers 
who had escaped the Baker Massacre. 
Now those same students are great-grandparents. 
Those early students' children 
were the first Headstart generation. 
Now they are PhD's.

Umair convincingly redefines fascism as the automatic default when human government breaks down. I think he's right. And I think it is because it is the default organization of mammals without empathy.  (They all "attach".)  Chicken yards, zebra herds, sea lions -- all attach without empathy  Reptiles don't. We call attachment "love" if it includes empathy. Elephants can love. Reptiles cannot.

Plants changed the atmosphere to high oxygen, 
which made land creatures possible, 
but it kept the planet on the edge of bursting into flames, esp. Australia. 
The people holding cups of water 
while koalas drink 
are doing their best 
to compensate with compassion.

I'm post-Christian. I have an MA and MDiv from the University of Chicago and am a terrible snob about it. I was a minister for a decade in the UUA context.  I am VERY proud of the Christian Century. They've got guts.

"THE TWO POPES" The gorgeous film, refulgent with Italian sunlight, presents two unique people with crushing responsibility but human understanding of what is called "God." It's long and sophisticated but vital.

People who talk about there being no "liberal media" are not recognizing that the People's Media is email, not on anyone's owned platform, unmeasurable, and not captured by Trump. Deadly -- if warily -- critical.

Even as we tweet in this moment, the solstice is tipping the planet towards Spring. The days are soon getting longer. Get ready for the Groundhog. Howl for it!

Between one demographic based on race and another is no thin line. Always it is a No Man's Land (or woman either) that may include more people in the middle than on either side. They're the ones who get hurt, but they mix anyway.

A lot is happening.  We just have a really hard time believing it.

A major consequence of our social media -- an extension of advertizing -- that we live in a Performance Society. Not just the politicians, but everyday. At the PO I just smiled and held the door for someone I don't know. It was a performance.

Half a moon, half a moon,
Half a moon only.
What have you lost
To become so lonely?

People have the most intractable and unreasonable ideas. They look for magic, some marker for success, when it's always unique and sometimes unexpected. But always socioeconomic.

When a president is impeached and ordered to leave office, he doesn't really leave office.  His office leaves him.  There is nothing he can do about it.  His physical self is irrelevant.

Institutions are political. The media does a bad job of describing the same generational gaps and education gaps inside denominations and "Religions." Prob'ly time to end religious privileging that was invented in medieval times.'

For a long time I saved a Russian news item about a drunk who crawled into a bear den and slept with the bear until he sobered up and left.  Carefully.

So if I'm understanding experts, Putin has realized that the days of oil are limited and will drain away Russian wealth, but that long cold winters are excellent for keyboard hacking and energy grid capture all around the planet. Trump doesn't even "get" cell phones.

Rez dogs respond to the larger culture. Used to be a lot of pit bull in them.  Now it's Australian blue heeler.which is a good thing.

This is all about the paraphernalia of institutionalized religion -- meaning through the lens of culture -- and has nothing to do with the sense of the sacred or even with the holy itself, whatever that is.

The ragged old blanket over the sky has a florescent shock-pink satin binding.

Montana had only ONE Medicare choice last year, Humana. Neverthless, I was buried in mailings and phone calls. They have nothing to do but invent variations and requirements and there are many of them. I'm just one old lady.

Suddenly a woman nearly seven feet tall burst through the cafe door and with a revolver of some kind and with incredible accuracy, she shot the complaining dude's ears off. One ear ended up in my soup. "Well," she said, "He's the one who taught me how to shoot."

Culture IS access to resources and vice versa. But as DRK used to quote, "the reason poor people are different is because they don't have the money they need."

Trump's decline is so obvious that it's not just a character defect anymore, but it's like people are terrified to say anything about it, as though they might be accused of making fun of someone, like a reporter with cerebral palsy.

Didn't get the name of this artist, but they are wonderful.

When a caterpillar converts to being a butterfly, it does not simply swap one part for another, but reduces as a whole to molecular soup. Then those molecules reconfigure in a whole new architecture so they have wings and can fly.  We are now socially in the molecular soup.  What is the new architecture?