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Bumper Sticker: Stop Freaking Out About Ebola

Over the last week, we’ve discussed the irrational exaggerations of the danger that Ebola poses to people in the United States. There is no Ebola outbreak in America.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a health emergency. There is. There’s a mental health emergency that is leading many Americans to support extreme policies that will unnecessarily restrict freedom while bringing about almost no public health benefit. The Ebola panic is not healthy for America.

That’s why we’ve made this bumper sticker, which spreads the word of calm in the face of hype: Stop Freaking Out About Ebola: There Is No Outbreak Here.

stop freaking out about ebola bumper sticker

Hankering for Yahoo Pyramids? Find the Kobash solution

Every now and then, when the world’s a bit much to take, some people take to church. Some people meditate. Some people chant. I play cards. There’s something about the rhythm of a game of solitaire that wonderfully clears the mind of whatever came before it. When I put down those cards, I’m ready to return to my troubles with a fresh mind.

A free online solitaire card game that used to suit my purposes was Yahoo’s Pyramids, on the Yahoo Games platform. I can’t link to that game anymore, because Yahoo Games has been redesigned. Links to games are interspersed with sneaky fake games that turn out to be advertisements. The new Yahoo games are filled with requests to make in-app purposes. The real game at Yahoo Games is called SuckerFarm — and it turns out you’re the vegetable they want to cultivate.

When all these new sleazy games were added to Yahoo Games, the old Yahoo Pyramids card game was tossed out. I was a bit bummed out until I came across the website of Brian Kobashikawa, who like me got hooked on the Pyramids card game when Yahoo hosted it. “Kobash” has programmed and released his own Pyramids solitaire game. His game plays just like the old Yahoo version, and just like the old version it’s free. I can’t find any evidence of spammy tricksiness on Kobash’s website, either. If you’re looking for a brief mind-wiping distraction from the cares of the world, give Kobash’s Pyramids a try.

The Fall Of Frig

It’s Friday, and that means that… oh, hell, it’s Friday, so who knows what anything means at this point? The work week has driven out most of any sense of direction that we started with on Monday morning.

frig goddess According to an article by Ethan Doyle White, in a recent issue of the journal Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural, even the basis of the very name Friday is in question. The traditional belief has been that Friday is Frig’s day, named in honor of Frig, the Norse divinity of female fertility.

Re-examining the evidence, White concludes that “Far less can be said about Frig with any certainty than has been previously supposed, suggesting that a case can even be made that she had never existed as a deity in Anglo-Saxon England at all.” Thus, the name Friday could have come from practically anything at all.

If Friday is not Fri’s Day, what is it? I propose that we embrace the mystery, and the inherent mistiness of Friday. Let us recognize Friday as What The Hell Day.

On the Roadside, Changing Times


Even out of full context, this sign by the side of the road in rural inland Maine is historically striking to me.  In full context, the shift it represents is even more striking:


Malaria Strikes The USA! Stop All Flights From Asia!

Earlier today, in order to justify a ban on flights from west Africa in order to respond to a tiny number of Ebola cases in the United States, an Irregular Times reader using the pseudonym “Mr. Conservative” wrote that, “I guess one death is insignifigant for you Mr Liberal. But for me one death, two near deaths and half a dozen more people infected is too much.”

Does Mr. Conservative really have sound Public health policy in mind, or is he just freaking out? Let us consider how he would react to the spread of another deadly disease.

The number of cases of malaria in the U.S. recently surged to a 40-year high of 1,925 cases. Five Americans died of the disease.

Malaria is common in many parts of Asia. Malaria is spread by mosquitoes, and a lot of Americans get bitten by mosquitoes. Danger! Panic!

If Mr. Conservative was telling the truth when he said that even one death of an American from a disease would be too much, and requires a travel ban, then he must favor a ban on all flights from Asia. After all, there were not just one, but five deaths from malaria.

Do you think Mr. Conservative is going to call for such a ban?

I’m not holding my breath, and it isn’t because I have a respirator on to protect myself from airborne Ebola.

Ebola the panic virus

Humble Ancestors?

vetulicolianIf I asked you to think of an ancient relative of a human ancestor you probably would not picture something like the vetulicolians.

The vetulicolians had the basic body plan that you see here: A kind of segmented area attached to a flatter area to which had a kind of stiff rod running down the middle of it. They were probably not direct ancestors to the animals that became fish that became amphibians that became reptiles that became mammals that became primates. They were close relatives to those animals, however, according to new work by a team of Australian researchers. That stiff rod looks awfully like a notochord placing the animal within the line of chordates, a group to which we belong.

It is striking to consider that animals such as these are related to us in someway, family members, though distant. We are tempted to think of ourselves as highly evolved creatures and these vetulicolians as lonely and humble. However, though these animals preceded us in terms of time, they also preceded us in terms of success. They wereamong the most common animals of their time, not humble, but actually very successful. They are a reminder that success comes in many forms and that innovation is not everything.

For a Grieving Child I Love: Love, Aubrey

A few months ago, my wife was diagnosed with a deadly cancer that will kill her sooner or (a bit) later and is causing a lot of pain along the way. I’m not only married; I have school-aged children, too. While I keep one eye on my wife I keep another on my children. They’ve got open eyes, and they’re not blind. How they react to the news of their mother’s mortality isn’t as simple as a “boo-hoo” and is not resolved with a Hallmark cliche or the cloying “God loves you.” I can’t summarize the emotional journey my kids are making in a word or a sentence or paragraph or page. They’re thinking and feeling so much, and most of it is not in a literal or direct way about their mother. I don’t know what happens next as they wade through grief, and I’ve been told no one knows because it’s different for every soul. So how do I prepare them? How do I strengthen them? How do I protect them?

I’m beginning to figure out that I can’t protect my children. They are inevitably going to be hurt in staggering ways, and they will have to find their legs and stagger on to somewhere and something else. It won’t be easy. It will be slow. All I can do is love them, not fix it. All they can do is survive, not be fixed.

In the midst of all this, I am so glad that a friend of my 10 year old daughter gave her the book Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur. I’m so glad my daughter asked me to read it to her at bedtime. Aubrey, the main character of the book, is 11 years old when her father and sister are killed in a car accident. Aubrey’s mother, depressed and delusional with guilt, abandons Aubrey, who must live with her grandmother and figure out what to do next. This quandary is not philosophical or religious or otherwise grand in scope for Aubrey as the book unfolds. Aubrey’s choices are as simple yet as difficult as “how do I breathe now?” or “will I stay in bed?” or “will I eat today” or, later, what do I say to people, to adults, to other children?

Aubrey’s outward slog is alternated with an inner monologue in which she writes letters to her dead father, her dead sister, her absent mother, and even her sister’s imaginary friends. Aubrey learns to find and write the truth — you are gone, you are dead, you will not grow up like I will, you chose to leave me — at the same time she faces the harsh reality that there may be no miraculous third act. Her mother will not be who she was. She will not get a replacement wonder daddy. She will have to be old before her time and move on with broken parts.

This book is not an after school special with a message and a happy ending. It’s alternately ambiguous and direct, accepting and naming pains that don’t tie up neatly with a pretty bow. For my daughter, that’s good, because nothing she is facing in her life now ties up with a pretty bow, either. Love, Aubrey doesn’t promise her what she can’t have. It gives her and every grieving child of her tender age a more real and important gift: the knowledge that in all this, she is not the only one.

Elm Tree Dreams Die Quietly

1930 — The parasitic fungus Ophiostoma appears in Cleveland, Ohio and begins attacking American elm trees.

1950s to 1980s — 40 million elm trees die across the United States.

1970s — Start of government-university-community cooperative efforts to identify and propagate resistant elm trees.

1999 — Maine State Legislature creates Elm Tree Restoration Fund. 12 ME Rev Stat ยง 8702-A:

“1. Establishment of fund. The Elm Tree Restoration Fund, referred to in this section as the “fund,” is established as a nonlapsing fund under the jurisdiction of the bureau to promote the restoration of disease-resistant cultivars of American elm in the municipalities of the State. The bureau may apply for and accept any appropriation, grant, gift or service made available from any public or private sources consistent with the purpose of this section and shall deposit any such money into the fund.

“2. Use of the fund. Through a community forestry program pursuant to section 8002, subsection 1, paragraph B, the bureau shall develop a process for municipalities to submit proposals and establish criteria for reviewing proposals and awarding grants from the fund. The grants must be used for the planting and maintenance of disease-resistant cultivars of American elm and must match on a one-to-one basis funds raised by a municipality.”

1999 to 2013 — The Elm Tree Restoration Fund exists in name but has no funds.

2013 — Maine State Senator Troy Jackson introduces LD 283, a bill to eliminate the Elm Tree Restoration Fund. In remarks to the Maine State Legislature Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Senator Jackson declares that “I believe it is best to take something that has no money and no use and get it off our plates so that we can move on to more pressing matters.”

2013 — LD 283 is passed without a roll call vote in the Maine House and Maine Senate. LD 283 becomes law without the signature of the Governor. No newspapers note the decision. The Elm Tree Restoration Fund dies quietly.

Researchers Find Chemicals In The Air!

chemicals in the air

Alert! Researchers have found chemicals in the air: oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water…

Second Annual Impeach Obama Week Set To Fizzle

Next week is the second annual National Impeach Obama Week. Somehow, I had missed the first one.

How successful is National Impeach Obama Week likely to be? There are no scheduled protests in favor of impeachment in Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, or Wyoming. There are plenty of other states in which no impeachment protests are scheduled. I note these, however, because they are red states where the sentiment in favor of impeachment might be expected to be high. If impeachment protests are not happening even in the states, it seems almost impossible for an impeachment of the president to gain traction nationally.

Where protests are taking place, the sentiment behind them is often not very enthusiastic. Take, for example, the only protest taking place in Arizona. People are being asked to gather for an impeachment protest at the Courthouse Gazebo in Prescott, but are told, “Nothing formal. Just a casual meeting of like-minded people. Bring a sign (optional). Invite your friends.”

Come and sit a spell… Impeach Obama… shrug… would you like some lemonade?… Time to go wash my hair…

Animal Rights Protests This Weekend

I had no idea, but apparently this week is Primate Liberation Week. This Saturday will see a protest in San Francisco against the airline DHL, which is accused of transporting primates from Asia to laboratories in the United States where they will be subjected to experimentation.

In Johnson City, Tennessee, Boston, Massachusetts, and Peoria, Illinois, there will be a protests against surfaces on the same day.

I am not sure how I feel about these protests. I would like to hear your thoughts.