TT: GD and CV

The number of significant, new blurbs and quotations on these “Tuesday Topics” is decreasing, but that trend does not mean that this series is dying a natural death just yet.  Today, the two categories are gender issues and Covid.  To lead off, from the Cancel-Crazy, “Grow a Spine” department, comes some news from the West Coast.  The L.A. Dodgers have recently committed sequential stupidity, ending up more stupid than they began.  If this weren’t so serious and ridiculous, it would be entertaining.

(1) There is a Pride night at Dodger Stadium.  (2) The Dodgers countenanced the Sisters of 9,270 Dodger Images, Stock Photos & Vectors | ShutterstockPerpetual Indulgence, inviting them to the event and even tagging them to receive a community service award.  Seriously?  In what universe is this kind of stuff seen as service?  Some would say that (3) bending to pressure from morally upright people and dis-inviting the group was weak.  I would quickly add that (4) bending again to pressure from LGBTQ organizations and the drag group, re-inviting the “Sisters” showed very little spinal column, and a lot of nerve.

Surely the exclusion of one over-the-top, counter-cultural group would not have compromised the Dodgers’ commitment to Pride Night, which is unnecessary and offensive to so many in the first place.  The Los Angeles LGBT Center pulled out of Pride Night over the dis-inviting of the “Sisters,” but simple math ought to tell the Dodgers that they pandered to the wrong side.  Actually, sides didn’t even need to be considered here.  It’s a matter of respectful, courteous behavior—toward which the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence stand in perpetual mockery.  (I won’t dignify this group [which seems to be, not incidentally, pretty much the definition of a “hate group”] by providing details in this space.)  The once-proud Dodgers have shown unbelievable stupidity here with their tip of the hat to “pride” here.

Addendum:  Now comes the news that Christian pitcher Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers have planned a Christian Faith event.  OK, that’s nice, but, as someone else said, “Nice try.  Too late.”  One offense causes another, which leads to another, and another . . . on and on the madness goes, because the whole human lot has lost its collective mind.

Dear Dad, I’m so sorry your Dodgers went guano-crazy.  (I wonder what Reese or Roe or Robinson or Rickey would have done.)  Dear Catholic friends, even those of us who don’t accept many of your tenets stand with you in this.  Dear Dodgers who avow Christ, I’m so sorry you have to deal with this.  I hope you will be allowed the dignity of being absent from the field during such perverse, disrespectful festivities.  It will be a dysphoric intrusion into what ought to be simply a night of baseball. 

Dear God, forgive us all, for we know not what we do as a culture.  Restore our sanity, and in the meantime, show us how to live at peace.

Gender/Gender Dysphoria

The Daily Wire reported on 5/27/23 that Procter & Gamble,¹ through its Always product line of feminine hygiene products, has started referring to product users as “people with female sex organs” (as opposed to “girls” and “women”).  Companies need to stop caving in to the predatory demands of insane, and insanely vocal, minorities who don’t have their facts straight and don’t manifest respect toward others.  On that same day, the Morning Wire Saturday Extra report was released, providing additional news in this arena.

Here are four excerpts on gender dysphoria:

“Astor relies on the euphemism ‘transition care’ when she means ‘chemical and surgical sex change services.’  This is neither medically necessary nor lifesaving, but rather elective, cosmetic, and experimental.”  – Detransitioner Chloe Cole, in reference to a “hit piece” by NY Times reporter Maggie Astor, “We’re Not Going Away,” Reality’s Last Stand substack, 5/17/23

“Because the culture war was getting boring:  The LGBTQ advisory group of Massachusetts is recommending that the commonwealth expand child abuse laws to include “the withholding of gender-affirming care for LGBTQ youth.” . . .   Tasking child protective services with taking children away if they’re not immediately put on hormone therapy will surely calm the conversation around this. ”  – Nellie Bowles, TGIF 5/19/23,   

“The madness masquerading as care and kindness is something we have to protect our children from.”  – Heather Heying, Dark Horse Podcast, 5/20/23

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that consistent with the APA definition of evidence-based practice (APA, 2005), the APA affirms that scientific evidence and clinical experience indicate that GICE put individuals at significant risk of harm;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the APA opposes GICE because such efforts put individuals at significant risk of harm and encourages individuals, families, health professionals, and organizations to avoid GICE;  

Excerpted from the American Psychological Association Resolution on GICE (Gender Identity Change Efforts), Feb. 2021

I believe that so-called gender-affirming care, when it surfaces as puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones administered to minors, is rightly considered abuse, not medical care.

Prescribing or allowing cross-sex hormones or mutilating surgeries—especially, but not only, in the case of a minor—is destructive and harmful.  Any medical practitioner who does such things ought by all rights to be tried as a criminal.  Cross-sex “therapies” do not heal, and that fact counters the very concept of therapy.  Such treatments violate basic morality and civility, the Hippocratic Oath, and International Law.  The very notion of “transgender rights” is a fallacy.  The problem is, some justices, national executives, and medical groups (JohnsHopkins, AMA, etc.) have their heads on upside down.  May more medical practitioners have the courage to oppose them.  Physicians must not wash their hands by saying, “Well, this person’s beliefs are not mine, but I have to treat her.”  On the contrary, a physician ought to say, with all calm confidence:  “I will never mutilate your body or give you drugs that would alter your perceived sex.  It’s doesn’t even matter what I believe.  Doing such a thing would violate common sense, biology, and the solid tenets of medical practice.”

God, intervene quickly and decisively.  I am begging You, on behalf of the world.

The creation, either de jure or de facto, of trans “sanctuary states” (e.g., Minnesota, California, Colorado, and Washington) is an abhorrent, groundbreaking development in the U.S.A.  What is a “sanctuary state”?  That is a state that opens the door for minors to seek a new kind of asylum:  protection from parents who were trying to protect the minors from destructive behavior.  If a mom tries to keep her daughter from cutting her wrists or overdosing on methamphetamine, we affirm that.  Why would the same mom be castigated and stripped of her parental rights by a crazy state that says,

Give me your emotionally unstable, your struggling, your social-app-addicted . . . give me all your children who think, because of the craziness all around them, that they were “born in the wrong body.” We will help them mutilate their bodies and give them free access to drug therapies that will assure that they require medical and psychological treatment for the rest of their lives.

Readers, I earnestly suggest that gender-related issues are a larger concern than any other issue that you might consider a “moral” one.  This far exceeds the blight of rampant abortion,² for instance.  I might get in trouble for saying this, but I think it just might exceed the Nazi Holocaust in terms of far-reaching impact on global, human existence.  If there were a reason to become politically active, and not just socially or relational “leaven” in one’s community, gender-related issues constitute that reason.


Just when I thought Covid comments were drying up and being washed away, I’ve read of the following during the last couple of weeks:

  • Dr. Fauci’s sometimes-shadowy, sometimes-false influence on public policy
  • The need for reparations to employees who were fired over refusal to take a Covid shot  [There has been at least one settlement (Barrington schools in Rhode Island) in which back pay and the right to be reinstated were granted.]
  • Public health experts (MPH-types) who, during the summer of 2022, spread false and/or exaggerated, fearful information about Monkeypox/MPox, especially with regard to its danger to children  [This disinformation seems so very connected to the disinformation that was (and is still being) spread about Covid, such as the once-supposed effectiveness of masks, physical distance, shots, and other medicines.]

I include the indirectly related passage below in order to show how at least one reputable, credentialed scientist has come to distrust the government/pharmaceutical cartel.  Pfizer³ is, of course, one of the 2-3 leading producers of a Covid-related serum, and they are apparently being given nearly-carte-blanche again with another drug, despite production-halting red flags with a similar vaccine.  -bc

The FDA uses the colloquial, rather than technical, definition for “effectiveness” in the first question. If you are used to the technical terms, just think “efficacy.” 

Before we talk about safety and efficacy, I’d like to share a moment from the meeting that left me dispirited. At the end of the meeting there are two hours set aside for the committee to discuss and vote on the questions. They end up going around and having each committee member give their thoughts with respect to efficacy and safety. Once this is complete, the committee votes. As the vote was about to happen, Peter Marks, M.D., PhD, the director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) at the FDA, turned his camera on and contributed for the first time that day. 

One might hope such a powerful figure in the FDA might talk about the importance of such a vote, of course without trying to influence it. He might thank the committee, the sponsor, and his colleagues at the FDA for their work to get to the end of an arduous process. If you watch from 7:55:00, you can see that instead he interjected to request that Pfizer be allowed the last word prior to a vote. 

The optics were unseemly, prompting a visceral reaction in my gut. I was literally nauseated by this genuflection to Pfizer. 

Their representative went on to make unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of their product. He also made light of the outstanding safety concerns and was more than happy to kick the can down the road to “post-approval pharmacovigilance.”  – Vinay Prasad, “Pfizer’s Maternal RSV Vaccine Clears FDA Advisory Committee,” 5/21/23

¹ P&G once set up a special toll-free number to deal with the deluge of complaints over its alleged Satanic connection (or something along those lines).  That, I’m pretty sure was proven to be a hoax.  This “attack on women and girls” is not.

² Personally, I see some gray in the abortion arena.  Overall, though, I think the extent to which abortion is performed and defended is far too great, indicating deeper, root issues in sexual morality and basic responsible behavior.

³ I understand that Pfizer is a leading producer of cross-sex hormone therapy drugs.

On the “training” of “human” “resources”

[See footnotes for explanation of my use of quotation marks in the title.]

An old saying about sermons goes something like this:  “I don’t remember a single sermon, but I don’t think I would have survived if I hadn’t been fed a diet of good sermons for 40 years.”  Perhaps there’s some truth in that, but not so much with corporate “training.”

Occasionally, workplace online training courses arise that provide relatively important material temporarily, but I am hard-pressed to identify a single retained bit from any of the courses I’ve taken because of an employer’s program.  Some courses seem to be repeated annually, and some are replete with the obvious, for the sole purpose of saying we told people stuff—checking corporate “boxes,” as it were.  I got 100% on course test one day, but there wasn’t a single thing bit that I needed to hear.  In another instance with a different employer, I actually noted a couple of important facts, but nothing that was “taught” would change the behavior of anyone except a sociopath; the material served to propagate fear.  I would opine that many courses exist more for the sake of institutional liability management than for actual learning.  Some courses are either full of saccharine or preservatives . . . or something other than fruits and vegetables and proteins.  Where is the nutrition—the substantial, actually helpful learning and experience?

Certain cartoon-based training courses propagated by CalTech/Integris are brief, instructive, and mildly entertaining, but for me, the gravity of the situations they address isn’t well matched to the format.  Another source offered a training course about such things as professional etiquette in the workplace, professional appearance, professional communication, collaboration, professional standards, and professional disagreement.  (I’m going to retch if I read or hear the word “professional” one more time.)  Some of us are old enough to be the parents of the “professionals” who record this stuff or set the requirements, and we’re asked to receive it as though it’s authoritative.  [I had to turn “rant mode” off while I deleted the rest of that paragraph and the next one.]

Perhaps an H/R Director has been given “professional goals” by his boss, and one of them is to implement training for the work force.  Are there things that need to be addressed?  Sure, but is the answer really a “training” course that costs money and is required indiscriminately of the whole workforce?  Did anyone consider the real effect (or, likely, the lack of it)?  Why not just talk with the two or three people who might need the material?

Aside:  One bit of training propaganda actually suggested a “New Golden Rule.”  No explicit reference is made to Jesus or the so-called “Golden Rule” from the gospels, but that association is broadly known, so I don’t think there’s any question the the New one is intended to supplant the Old one, which has actually been recognized in a number of world religions and dates at least to Confucian times, several hundred years before Jesus.

Old Golden Rule

Matthew has the “Golden Rule” recorded as having been proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 7:12).  This word is described as the second great (or second greatest) commandment.  The common English phrasing is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." 

New Golden Rule

The proposed revision from the training course is this:  Treat others the way they would like to be treated.  If you’re confused about what that means, ask them.

On the surface, there would seem to be a negligible difference between the new, proposed “rule” and the older, well-known one.  Quite to the contrary, though.  The difference is subtle but significant.  This new statement opens the door to such nonsense as considering an individual human to be a cranberry, or a capybara, or a plurality—referring to her by a plural pronoun if she says that is her preference.

I once worked temporarily in an H/R department,ˆ and it was a pretty good one, as far as I knew, but the world has degenerated and devolved since then.  These days, all H/R machines should take care to be human with their humans.  If Brian Casey is just a “resource,” I suppose he doesn’t have a voice.  Actually, I‘m a person, and so are all the others.  We ought to return to the old word “personnel.”  A human male is a human male.  A human female is a human female.  And neither is a “resource” to be accessed, utilized,or maximized.  The term “human resources” reduces humans to something less than they are.  It’s dehumanizing.

Corporate training can also seem dehumanizing.  It is ubiquitous and seemingly rarely helpful or significant.  It’s mostly just something to do in order to check boxes, so companies can presumably avoid liability when our litigious society springs into action and threatens the bottom line.  I’ll stop here. 

Addendum:  When I typed that last line, it was because I had to complete an online training course.  Now it’s a month later, and I’m editing and posting this piece.  I’m happy to report that I’ll be in an online teaching-learning session tonight that will make a difference!  This will be an exegetical analysis of the Greek of Romans 13.  I imagine something I hear will challenge a preconceived idea, and something else might serve to bolster a position I hold.  I will choose to learn.  I will have the opportunity to interact.  Doubtless, I will be instructed with something meaningful.  Doubtless, I will have thoughts that extend into real life.  Doubtless, this human will be grateful for this training from the IABC.

[FN] There are distinct reasons for the three sets of quotation marks:

(1)  I don’t think it’s really “training” if there is no appreciable change in the education level or preparedness.

(2)  We’re subhuman, i.e., not really “human,” if we’re treated as though we have no brains or standards, i.e., if it is assumed that we “need” something that we don’t really need.

(3)  Humans are people, not resources, despite how we are collectively thought of.

ˆ I remember most of their names, and that’s probably a tribute to their genuineness and character, and also to my then-better memory.  Bob Yori was the VP, supported by Joyce Ackerman.  Linda Gordon worked with hiring/new positions.  Karin Faulhaber and Ruth Markowski were in benefits.

Places and spaces (2 of 3)

In this second in a three-part series (see the first here), I will share a few anecdotes about structures other than church buildings, continuing an abbreviated travelog through special places related to worship and personal inspiration.  First, I want to mention significant a couple of home items that relate to what I now term a house church ethos.

During the middle and late 1990s, my own home was used frequently as the place for Sunday evening teen devotionals.  There were planned thoughts (typically the paid youth minister’s) and singing (typically started and spurred by me, mostly spontaneously, often using a song book I’d prepared for the youth).  Chain prayers were sometimes mixed and sometimes separate by gender.  And of course food.  A home seems to warm up the activities, and I loved that kind of hosting.  Later, during two different phases (roughly 2010-2013 and 2017-2018), my residence was the place for Bible-study-based home groups.  The people attended traditional churches on Sunday mornings and came to our home in the evenings.  I made a distinct effort to learn more about these friends’ other “spiritual homes” by visiting their more established church houses.  In one case, it was two states away, and it was a fine experience.  More recently, I went to a place purely out a sense of responsibility to a new friend, trying to figure out why such a thoughtful, learned person would regularly darken the door of the particular building.  That was the last time I tried such a thing.  I have continued to visit at three local churches where friends attend, but I feel out of place at two of them and spiritually constrained and uncomfortable at all of them.  They have not been “home” to me, and the spiritual impact and growth have been slim to nonexistent.  Now, on to the better stuff.

My spiritual youth was wonderfully punctuated—nay, supported and enriched—by times at Camp Manatawny, near Douglassville, Pennsylvania.  Cabins and campfires were spots for small-group devotionals, and the Rec Hall was used less for recreation than for worship, Bible memory work, and various gatherings.  Nearly 100 campers and staff would sometimes be packed into that building, and it was sometimes pretty hot and sweaty, but the hymn sings raised the roof, eclipsing any claustrophobic discomfort (although perhaps that is part of the reason some kids would sit in the open windows).  I recall “The Spacious Firmament” and “Jesus Is Lord” and “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “May I Call You Father?”—and the general feeling of being spiritually and relationally enlivend.  The Rec Hall at Manatawny was a wonderful place.

Around the time that building’s roof collapsed under the weight of snow, the new Garrett Hall was being constructed, and the gatherings in that building carried on the rich tradition.  I led hymn sings in Garrett Hall at Sr. High II Week during four summers from 1998-2001—daily, just before dinner.  I put my all into it, and I believe those experiences made a short-term difference in lives.

~ ~ ~

George S. Benson Auditorium – Harding University History ...At Harding University, the Benson Auditorium provided daily hymn singing opportunities in chapel.  I participated wholeheartedly, and I  was privilege to lead the gathered body of nearly 3,000 people approximately once per semester.  The so-called “lily pool devos” were no longer held at the lily pool, and I only attended one or two:  most of the singing was material that was not inspiring or compelling to me, so I felt out of place.  On the other hand, choral music was as important as instrumental music during that period of life, and I had a daily chorus rehearsal in the “Recording Studio” (which was really a well-built recital hall that would comfortably seat 75 or so, with built-in carpeted risers, a small stage, some good mics, and a control booth).  There were many times of inspiration and worshipful music-making there, including during my grandparents’ 50th anniversary celebration and a later family reunion recording session.  I can still experience some of this through recordings.

~ ~ ~

At Houghton College, where I was on faculty for five and a half years before deciding to move on, there were also some good times of worship and inspiration in the chapel.  Early on in my time there, the inspiration came perhaps more from the general feeling of being with hundreds of strongly believing people than from specific content, but there was some good content nonetheless.  Some of the best times for me came during the few times in which I had arranged music for the orchestra or for brass or mixed chamber groups.  Two significant arrangements for the orchestra to accompany Getty worship music were almost cathartic for me, and others appreciated them, too.  I doubt anyone could have been as thrilled as I was.  My spirit was enlivened and actualized in conceiving of those arrangements, writing them, rehearsing them, and using them in the chapel worship assembly.  I can still hear the strings’ energetic bowstrokes and feel the intensity of the rhythmic drive in “Across the Lands” and can be drawn by the musical build-up and dramatic “pushes and pulls” in “In Christ Alone.”  I just looked up these files on my computer, and I found that I prepended a rather extensive fanfare to the latter.  It’s a little overdone, so I didn’t choose that excerpt to display below, but the whole arrangement, which includes composed elements, gives evidence of my enthusiasm at the time.

~ ~ ~

After a particularly bad Sunday worship time “in church” in Delaware, Judy, a dear family friend and worship colleague, told me that nothing could keep her from worshipping.  That would have been a quarter-century ago, and Judy was right.  She was an inspiration as a worshipper.  I can still see her face and hear her mellifluous alto as she sang to her Lord.  At this point in life, I would take half the inspiration of half of just one of the good occasions at Camp Manatawny or Harding or the Cedars Church.  I have experienced almost no such worship, no such spiritual esprit de corps, in a decade.  But Judy’s words echo through the years, reminding me that I should worship not because I feel good, or because it ends up making me feel good, but because God is.

In the third, final installment in this series, I’ll relay some thoughts about personal devotional spaces, mostly apart from buildings per se.

May 23, 2023

Life is getting in the way of a more extensive tribute to my mom, Bettye May (Ritchie) Casey, on her birthday.  This is the first one she’s not here on earth to celebrate, so I wanted to share just a bit more about her, following some words and pictures that appeared on this blog on Mother’s Day.

Not many would know that Mom volunteered at the duPont-related Hagley Museum.  At first, she baked cookies for tourists through in the Gibbons House, which was once the home of the yard foreman.  She also was a docent-of-sorts in the restored schoolhouse that had been used for millworkers’ children during earlier centuries.  See the bottom of this page that displays some of the activities my mom engaged in for several years.  She enjoyed and took pride in her volunteer work at Hagley, which was and is an interesting, popular tourist destination.

Many would know that Mom found an important niche in teaching ladies’ Bible classes, both at Cedars in Delaware and at College Church in Searcy.  She was not known as a teacher of children’s classes; however, as a young mother, she taught young children on occasion.  She did devote herself to her young children and grandchildren in other important ways—particularly when they were very young.  She modeled worship in the assembly, and she prioritized leading children in the ways of worship.  She once wrote a short paper on that topic, which I reprinted in my book on worship.

Here is Mom with my young son at the piano, ca. 2010:

And then again at a piano, in February 2022—this time, at the nursing home where she would die four months later.  My son is watching attentively, respectfully, knowing that his grandmother is not well.  At that time, she was playing (and struggling a bit with) her own music for the song “In Silence.”

Mom, your piano is now in fairly good, truly grateful hands:  mine and Jedd’s.  You yourself are in far, far better hands.  We miss you.  Thank you for your example in devoting yourself to family, to music, and to God.

Precision in conducting

Instrumental conducting truisms include these:

When you want to speed up, decrease the size of your beat pattern (in addition to increasing the tempo).  Narrowing the vertical and horizontal dimensions of your “window”—the area in which your baton moves—will tend to aid the musicians’ precision as they perceive the accelerating tempo.

For the conductor, staccato and light styles are best served by the use of fingers and wrist, as opposed to the elbow, shoulders, and other hinges and joints in the body.  The lighter the music, the more the conducting movement should be concentrated out toward the baton, not in toward the center of the body.

There is such a thing as visual noise; a noisy baton and baton hand will tend to contribute to a lack of clarity and therefore will also detract from an ensemble’s rhythmic precision (also referred to as rhythmic alignment).  Since this truth is not well understood, and since it is commonly ignored in actual practice, it is probably not aptly called a “truism.”  Examples of visual noise include excess motion in the shoulders and forearms and the glare from a watch or other jewelry; these can hamper the ensemble and therefore detract from the desired musical effect.  Even the pinky finger shown in this image can become a distracting, competing “mini-baton,” as it were—creating subconscious, visual confusion.

Persistent division¹ of the beat within a beat pattern—also a type of visual noise—is categorically unhelpful.  Showing the “and” after every beat might feel good, but it is too much visual information and is a detriment to rhythmic precision.

Putting all the above together:  in a faster passage that’s marked by light notes and/or syncopations and/or other metric/rhythmic challenges, the conductor should make it easy for the musicians to focus on one thing, that is, the tip of the baton, as it indicates metric pulses.  He should focus movements in the wrist, show only the beats (not the offbeats), and avoid visual distractions.

Case in point:  in a recent ensemble experience, I found it difficult to play some of my parts well.  Probably 85% of the issue resided in my own limitations. The other 15% was because of the visual noise and lack of precision in the conducting.²  When an ensemble is having difficulty following and staying together in a challenging and/or fast passage, the conductor should look to himself even as he corrects obvious errors in the players’ rhythmic execution.  The face may certainly be expressive, but too much expression becomes visual noise.  If the eyebrows are going up and down, the “and” is seen in the beat pattern, the chin is jutting out rhythmically, the head bobbing, and the body moving back and forth on the podium, and/or if the left hand is persistently mirroring the right, visual noise exists.

Any of those difficulties, while noteworthy, can still fade into the joy of music making and the exhilarating moments shared.  Writing/reading/performing music (and the reading and interpretation of texts,³ too) benefits when one takes care to be precise.

¹ This post is about precision, and I use the precise term “division of beat.”  Most say “subdivision,” that term is redundant and less precise.

²  The 85% ought to be addressed first, but that side of things is a long-term concern and isn’t likely to be materially changed during a single rehearsal sequence or performance.  On the other hand, the conductor’s 15% of the whole may be addressed on the spot, and mitigation of that 15% can certainly make a difference in the performance.

³  Precision can be key in interpreting written language, too.  One should pay attention, for instance, to punctuation, which is, as British author humorist Lynne Truss has asserted, both the cause and the sign of clear thinking.  Stated another way:  if one knows what one wants to say, yet punctuates imperfectly, imprecisely, or not at all, the effectiveness of the written language is compromised.

Particularly in ancient texts, textual elements other than punctuation merit much deeper attention.  It bears mention that the oldest, most authoritative manuscripts of ancient Jewish and Christian texts are not punctuatedWhy?  I suppose linguists and archaeologists would say that the materials of writing (“paper” and “pen”) were not in plenteous supply, and that also relates to the lack of spacing between words.  Some of the goals of modern punctuation were achieved by other means then.  Certain elements, for instance, of Koine Greek text, such as word and tense choice, word order, and structural elements such as chiasms and inclusios, can contribute to clarity.  Known structural elements might be relied on more than the punctuation inserted into modern Greek texts, where there appears to be a conflict between the two.

Drained (and re-filled?)

Garrison Keillor’s trademark opening line was “Well, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, my hometown, out there on the edge of the prairie.”  Well, it actually has not been a quiet week like that here.  Although there are quasi-prairies nearby, it seems that I’m on the edge of a ravine filled with unrest, not close enough to a peaceful prairie vista.

In my little, self-centered world, it’s been a hard week.  Not quiet, and not remote enough from problems near and far.  There’s been more activity and driving and worry and discouragement than most weeks, and that’s saying a lot.  I’ve felt undue and undeserved anxiety at work and at home.  My inward being is drained.

And so, I hurriedly grabbed a New Testament on the way out the door this morning, knowing I was going to be driving on open highways for two or three hours.  Reading as I drive is pretty easy for me, and I took the opportunity to read aloud the first three chapters of Colossians.  I read the conclusion, chapter 4, as I ate dinner.

Colossians is Pauline but not universally thought of as penned by Paul himself.  It does connect—in terms of literature, topics, and a few personages referred to—to Philemon, my favorite letter and the one I know the most about.  I’ve only really studied Colossians on my own once that I remember, and that was more than ten years ago.  Far more attention has been given to 1Corinthians, Philemon, 1Thessalonians, Ephesians, and Philippians.  I’m glad I read Colossians today.  It gives another glimpse into early Christian life, mission, relationship—and the high place of Jesus the Messiah within all of the above.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll turn back to Matthew, where I left off, around chapter 11.  (It’s actually pathetic that I didn’t complete reading that gospel in a couple of days, but at least I’m drawn back to it.)  I have other blogposts drafted, but wanted to post this first, almost in the moment.

TT: Demerits for meritless manipulations

These days, some systems and processes are being manipulated in the service of nonstandard—and in some cases harmful—philosophies.  As a society, we ought to get many demerits for some measures associated with DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), although the DEI ideals at their root are good.  The protocols and penalties for not complying with the letter of the new law make it seem as though people are espousing racism, exclusion, and the generally unfair treatment of people. No worthwhile human being is actually espousing those things, but that must not matter to the manipulators.  While I’m leading with a comedic excerpt, nothing about this is funny.  The brief, second quote below is not really a summary, but it encapsulates one key issue.  And if you doubt the impact, see the comment by the former UPenn medical associate dean.

This just in from the Anachronistic History Rewrite Department . . .

→ Americans to Egyptians:  We are the race scientists here:  In a new Netflix documentary, Cleopatra is portrayed as black, and Egyptian historians and government officials are upset about it.

Well, Egypt, here’s how it went.  American film majors looked at Egypt and saw that it’s on the continent of Africa.  That’s all we need to know!

The trouble is, Africa contains multitudes and Egyptian culture is quite distinct.  (Doesn’t make sense.)  And in fact, Egyptians can be pretty racist.  (Impossible!)  So the Egyptian state media documentary channel, Al Wathaeqya, has vowed to make their own Cleopatra documentary with their own representation of her pigmentation.

The New York Times piece on the Egyptian people’s indignation cites a historian’s argument that “although evidence of her ancestry and physical attributes are inconclusive, Cleopatra was culturally Black.”  What does it mean to be culturally black, you might ask?  Well, the historian gets into those weeds, namely that Cleopatra was “part of a culture and history that has known oppression and triumph, exploitation and survival.”  There you go, that clears it up.    – Nellie Bowles, TGIF, The Free Press, 5/12/23

“Under the guise of progress, [DEI initiatives are] undermining [institutions’] meritocratic mission.”  – Bari Weiss, 5/3/23

“The requirement on grants comes down to this:  If you don’t agree with this very particular and recently adopted approach to social justice, we won’t fund your art.  Behind the scenes, so many people in the arts world told me just to say the words.

“Every time I spoke to funders, the first conversation was about diversity.  It just felt like, okay, this is how you get funding now.  Honestly, it felt like somebody was holding a gun to my head and saying, ‘Your integrity or your life’s work.’  – Lincoln Jones, American Contemporary Ballet, Los Angeles, “How Ideologues Infiltrated the Arts.”

Our argument is that medical schools are engaging in racial discrimination in service to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  We have filed more than seventy complaints with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which exists in large part to investigate schools that discriminate based on race, color, ethnicity, sex, age, and disability.  Surely the radical activists never expected anyone to turn the administrative state against them, but that’s what we did.  – Stanley Goldfarb, former associate dean of curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, “How America’s Obsession with DEI Is Sabotaging Our Medical Schools,” The Free Press, 5/3/23.

And more on what is real, kind, and right, seen in these excerpts from the gender/sex department.  Some are manipulating, and some are resisting the manipulators.

> Missouri lawmakers approve bills banning gender-affirming care for youth and barring transgender women and girls from participating on female sports teams; Gov. Mike Parson (R) is expected to sign both bills (More)  – 1440 Daily Digest, 5/11/23

The only issue I have with the above is the label “gender-affirming care.”  I assert that medical interventions related to gender dysphoria are the opposite of “care.”  They are harmful to all concerned, and certainly most obviously so to the patient.  It behooves us as a species to reverse course with this language:  the term “gender-affirming care” should be applied to counseling and love and guidance and nurture, not to medical interventions intended to counter the sex of a patient, as observed at birth.  – bc

Two middle school teachers are suing their school district and the California State Board of Education over policies requiring educators to actively hide gender transitions from parents.  Morning Wire podcast 5/3/23

More and more papers are coming out purporting to have debunked the antiquated notion of the sex binary in favor of new “spectrum” or “multimodal” models of sex.  Because “scholarship” on this topic is rooted primarily in passionate political activism instead of the dispassionate pursuit of truth, academic rigor has been thrown out the window and peer review has become little more than a cabal of ideological gatekeepers.  – Colin Wright, “The Sex Binary vs. Sexual Dimorphism,” Reality’s Last Stand 5/3/23

On Mother’s Day 2023

This is the first Mother’s Day that I have no mother on earth, so I mark this day.

Bettye May Ritchie Casey (early to mid 30s)

Although I no longer have Mom to talk to, worry about, or try to help, I do have many pictures and files, some kitchenware and furniture, her piano . . . and some musical abilities, personality traits, and so many more things that tie me to her and help me to remember her.

My mom and I grew closer during the 4½ years after Dad’s death, and there were many cherished moments of closeness and mutual appreciation through the years.  Mom was from another generation, of course, and could aptly be called “one of a kind.”  She held to lofty homemaking, wifely, and motherly ideals that have mostly passed out of favor.  She was a devoted mother to her children and also loved her grandchildren dearly, although that was not always readily apparent because of certain complications.  My sisters have both testified that Mom was a terrific help to them after each of their children was born.  She loved my son dearly, too.

On this Mother’s Day, I am scheduled to play challenging music in an afternoon wind band concert appropriately titled “For Mom,” but the program actually doesn’t feature much literature that most mothers I know would like.  Mom would have loved that I was playing, though.  Before heading off to a church on the way to the concert, I wanted to share a couple of things indicative of my mom’s love.  In the process of digging through, un-filing, and decluttering lots of years of files, records, papers, pictures, etc., it has become even more clear that my mother was (1) an over-labeler (2) who actually didn’t know how to label things at all most of the time!  So many labels contained the word “miscellaneous” or “stuff.”  It’s actually pretty funny.  Her system didn’t work very well, but it’s still enlightning and enriching to find things.

Below I’m sharing two recently uncovered items that relate to her mothering of me.  The first was from my 6th grade year, when I was undergoing what would be the first of two foot surgeries.  Mom documented what happened and even what I said after waking up.  Thanks, mom, for mentioning that I snored!  🙂

The next item was from several years later.  This is the old T-shirt fragment that I carried around inside my horn case.  Why save that, you ask?  Mom must have found it significant.  Actually, both my parents loved my horn playing; they bought me a terrific horn as a high school graduation present, and I still play the same one.  I showed this note to someone else once, and that person assumed the note “(washed twice)” meant that the rag had been washed only twice.  Au contraire.  My mother had some strong clean standards and habits, and she was making a special note that it had been washed twice in succession before storing it away as a memento.

I honor my mother today, mindful of her devoted mothering.

Bettye, Brian, Gerald Casey (high school graduation)
Greta, Bettye, Laura Casey — quite possibly on a Mother’s Day (note the corsage)

Postlude Last year, a friend actually sent me a Mother’s Day remembrance—unusual, yes, but more appropriate and appreciated than might be assumed.  That person later acted in an overbearing and then unstable, untrustworthy manner, which stained the previous gesture(s) very deeply.  Despite the loss of that friendship, I continue to wish her the best in her mothering in a difficult, heart-wrenching situation.  I think of two other mothers I know better—mothers of strong character and God-centered heart—who are, for different reasons, in deep, relational pain with respect to children.  I think of three mothers from our New York small group.  They are are all in relatively good, supportive family situations, with good husbands and two children each, yet I’m sure they have their doubts, struggles, and worries related to health, spirituality, environment, or the world in general.  Then I think of the mothers I know at my workplace.  Some have young babies.  Others have teenagers, a couple of whose struggles I’m aware of.  I know of a grandmother who’s become mother again to the grandchild.

Time and heart would fail if I told of the other town children who show evidence of poor mothering.  I have first- and second-hand knowledge of several, and the positive examples are piteously few.  Oh, the daughters and sons who are not protected, not guided, and apparently not really loved very much!  I know of a couple of downright criminal examples of parenting, and I’m acquainted with some terribly misguided, hateful, demonstrably unstable, and even violent children.  There are so many, and I feel prayerful.

God, have mercy on all of us—mothers and fathers and grandparents—who try to guide precious children to the best of our flawed abilities.

On being “recruited”

What is Recruitment? Definition, Recruitment Process, Best Practices | Cleverism

The notion of recruitment has different faces, notably including the military.  Some companies have recruiters within their employment divisions, too.  Twenty years ago, a student informed me that she wouldn’t be returning to the ensemble the next semester.  She had been “recruited” away from our program into another.

I’m sure I appealed both to her previous commitment and her music scholarship grant as I probed the situation.  I’m equally sure she could sense my disappointment.  (She was quite a talented student, and the loss of her abilities would be significant.)  She was willing to give up her music scholarship in favor of another one.  Her stated reason:  “The volleyball coach recruited me.”  Leaving alone the ethical question of one colleague or program recruiting a student away from another, I speculate that the real reason was probably that this young lady wanted to play volleyball more than she wanted to sing with less talented students.  Still, the fact that “they recruited” her was significant.

As a human being with feelings, I admit that it feels good for our talents to be noticed, and to be asked to participate in something.  This student had been approached with an attractive offer to do something else at which she excelled, and she would naturally feel good about that.

More recently, students in my spheres have been recruited to be in other student groups, to “run tech” in a production, or to do something else that would take them away from a previous commitment.  When considering options, some seem to lean on the rewarding sense of being asked to do something else.  The “recruited” factor becomes their reason—or even their excuse—for taking an action.  If someone else seems to disapprove of a move into the new activity, the answer, whether spoken or not, might be “well, they recruited me.”

Getting recruited doesn’t mean one has to entertain the new offer, though.  The new one might or might not be a 8 Steps for Starting a Recruitment Agency in Indiabetter one.  Recruitment inherently involves some measure of salesmanship, persuasion, and spin.  The salesmanship enterprise often includes dishonesty.  And actually, accepting another offer could indicate disloyalty, poor judgment, fickleness, or another poor character trait.

And then there’s the notion of getting “recruited” out of one marriage to start another relationship.  Enticing someone to consider any sinful choice is wrong.  Something like that happened to me once.  On both sides, the action could have been justified; at the time, though, the “recruitment” felt partly like a proposition of questionable value, and partly like an offer for me to participate in the sin of another person.

Hypothetically now . . . consider that Person B is recruiting Person A to do something other what A was doing in the first place.  I see several possibilities as the recruitee considers options:

  1. Activity A might be the better one, so Person A should ignore the recruitment.
  2. Activity B might be the better one, so Person A would naturally look favorably on the recruitment (but should consider all ramifications).
  3. Either Activity A or Activity B (or both) could be wrong or harmful, so any choice should be clear.
  4. Activities A and B could be equally valid and right, and Person A could choose either, but he should consider . . .
    • . . . his first commitment, staying true to his word, unless there is no negative impact to Activity A if he were to cease it.
    • . . . the overall impact on his commitments and activities, in the aggregate

Connecting those thoughts now to a different kind of recruitment, I turn to a known account in the Matthew-gospel:

18 As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon (called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishermen). 19 He said to them, “Follow me, and I will turn you into fishers of people!” 20 They left their nets immediately and followed him. 21 Going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John, in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Then he called them. 22 They immediately left the boat and their father and followed him.  – Matt 4:18-22, NET Bible

That is still a stunning depiction of having been recruited—and leaving one activity for another.

I too have been recruited.  Not in the same way as Simon and Andrew and the others . . . but I have been recruited.  And the thing to which I have been called is eminently valuable.  And the choice is clear.

TT: Special May 11 edition

On this significant day in U.S. history, pandemic-related Title 42 expires.  This expiration will unleash events in several areas of public life; many seem to be focused on the border/immigration issues, and that is appropriate.

The following pandemic-related remarks are to be delivered to the U.S. Congress today by a highly credentialed MD:

“Nothing speaks more to the intellectual dishonesty of public health leaders than their complete dismissal of natural immunity.

“Since the Athenian plague of 430 B.C. it has been known that prior infection is protective against severe disease. Natural immunity works for nearly every other virus.  . . .  Oddly, public health oligarchs hypothesized that COVID-19 would break the rule. They got it terribly wrong. . . .

“. . .The evidence was there all along. But health officials never talked about it.

“Instead they made ignoring natural immunity a political badge. They dismissed it by dangling uncertainty about it, saying we don’t know how long it lasts. They bizarrely assumed that vaccinated immunity was durable and natural immunity was not. They got it backwards. . . .

“. . . Today’s nursing shortage was exacerbated by the mass exodus of nurses that had natural immunity and chose not get the full vaccine series.  . . .

“Many Americans fired from their jobs had antibodies that neutralize the virus, but there were antibodies that the government did not recognize. Hospitals dealing with worsening nursing staff shortages (that continue to this day), were forced to hire traveling nurses for double or triple the cost—a cost passed on to everyday Americans in the form of higher medical bills. 

“After many downstream effects of ignoring natural immunity and struggling to implement vaccine mandates, finally in early 2022, Dr. Fauci along with Biden administration officials considered if they should give vaccine credit for natural immunity. So they called 4 friends of theirs—loyal friends in the scientific community who were supportive of Biden’s vaccine mandate and other Covid restrictions.  On that famous call, Fauci & Biden administration officials put the matter to a vote. The vote was 2-2. As a result—the Biden administration chose to continue to ignore natural immunity. Some privately told me that the public was too stupid to understand natural immunity. But the American people are not stupid, they are forgiving if you are honest. . . .

“It’s time we restore public health integrity by using evidence and scientific objectivity, not political badges and censorship in debating public health policy. Public health officials lied to us and destroyed the careers of millions of Americans as a result. They also damaged centuries of public trust in the medical profession. Americans who were wrongly fired should be re-hired with backpay as some locals have already done, and children who had natural immunity and then were forced to get the vaccine and developed heart injury from the vaccine deserve an apology.  – Marty Makary, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins, remarks to be delivered to Congress on 5/11/23

Now a bit from me.

Post-pandemic-emergency stardate 5/2/23, 4:40 p.m. CDT.  I actually just heard a public health official from NPR state that COVID is a “preventable disease.”  I am speechless.  (Well, obviously not wordless.)  Surely every sane person now knows how ridiculous that statement is, now a couple years in from the vaccine availability.  The person’s statement was in the context of the lifting of the federal emergency 5/11 (by my reckoning at least a year too late), and the lifting of vaccine requirements in even the most restrictive states.

Is it not commonly known that Dr. Rochelle Walensky of the CDC got Covid very shortly after a vaccine booster?  Good grief.  I’m willing to grant that symptoms might be reduced in some who had the vaccine, but that’s about it.  Pretty much everyone has had Covid or will get it, vaccine or not.  It never was a preventable disease, and the mitigation measures, including face and wind-instrument prophylactics and distancing, have proven as ineffective as they were ill-conceived.

And now, all the remaining bits I’d collected about the pandemic.  Still trying to engage in a diminuendo about this, but the ramifications of it all are enduring.

Covid is finally over:  The Biden-Harris administration announced on Monday that they plan to end the Covid vaccine requirement for federal workers as well as international travelers.  The original idea behind the policy was that the unvaccinated would spread Covid, while the vaxxed wouldn’t.  (Recall that Fauci said the fully vaccinated become “dead ends” for the virus.)  Well, it’s only been a few short months (correction: two years) that we’ve known this is not quite true.  And given that we’re all super-spreaders, vaxxed or not, the administration is finally giving up.  – Nellie Bowles, “TGIF” 5/5/23, The Free Press  

[Ed. notes:  I don’t know just how far into the author’s cheek her tongue went with the use of the term “super-spreader” here, but I think that term was originally one of several word-bytes created to instill fear into people.  Now that I think about it, I don’t recall that the term was used with reference to a person.  Wasn’t it more about mass gatherings?  The bottom line is that we have all either gotten Covid or will get it, and “slowing the spread” was an only briefly, regionally applicable ideal.

The next question—and I believe this has already come up in a few states—is how to compensate workers who lost their jobs because they wouldn’t take a shot they believed was dangerous.  If we just resolved never to force medications on anyone, ever again, wouldn’t that be a shot in the arm for the country?  -bc]

A new English study by Nafilyan et al published in Nature Communications has revived a heated debate about what we do and don’t know about cardiac adverse events following mRNA vaccination — specifically about how often they are fatal.  With some countries, such as the US, continuing to recommend mRNA vaccine boosters for very low risk populations, this remains a highly relevant topic and will likely continue to be for years as people look back on what we knew when about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

. . .
There are a limited number of people who continue to insist post-vaccination myocarditis is “mild.”  I do think we have some evidence from the Nordic countries that post vaccination myocarditis may on average be milder than classic myocarditis (though important questions about the study are yet to be answered), but that does not mean it is always mild, nor does it mean you want your own child to get it. . . .  And most of these young people had no underlying health conditions and thus faced exceptionally low risks from COVID-19 to begin with.  – Tracy Beth Hoeg, PhD, “New Study Looks at Vaccine-Associated Cardiac Deaths in Young People,” 4/15/23

Out of Africa

“(Get me) out of Africa!”

That was the mock title of the video produced by the 1986 Eldoret, Kenya mission team.  The movie Out of Africa was fairly new at the time, and they were trying to parody that title, having some fun while sending a video report back to the States.  The phrase is also reflective of how I felt while I was visiting that summer.  Get me out!  Don’t get me wrong.  It was groundbreaking and game-changing for me, and I would not trade the experience for anything.  Yet it was exhausting in at least three respects:  the bumpy roads, the sonic overload from a language I could understand very little of, and the sense that I would never again be free of dirt.  I wanted out of Africa after being there nearly a month.

But again, East Africa was an amazing, amazing experience.  I still remember that the Kalenjin language was a subset of Kipsigis, basically.  I also remember that “boiboiyet” means “joy,” and that the word is kind of onomatopoetic.  I remember the words for “Savior” and “Lord.”  I can still feel the exhausted sweat when climbing to Toror, the village to which I ascended one day, only to learn that the (topless) woman had never seen a white man before.  The word “toror,” by the way, means “high” or “heights,” and it was also used metaphorically in a song to ascribe a high spiritual place to God.  I remember the Maasai Mara Game Reserve and the flamingos on Lake Nyaru . . . but mostly, I remember the beautiful, warm, joyful, newly believing Christian people.  Two of them are now Facebook friends, but that slight connection pales in comparison to the lasting impact they had on me in 1986.

Now, another thing has recently surfaced from “out of Africa” in my personal “archaeological” work.  Digging through archives, I was delighted when coming upon this picture of my grandfather.  Based on the pose, furniture, and dress, I suspect this was in an established Zambian or Nigerian mission center.  (The scene is westernized, compared to where I was.)  Regardless, I’m glad he had the experience of being with Christians in another part of the world.

Andy T. Ritchie. Jr. with a group of Christians, ca. 1963. Location unknown, but probably Zambia or Nigeria

My own experience in a rural church-planting mission area in Kenya involved no scenes like that one.  Most of Kalenjin-tribe meeting places were outdoors, and none had chairs or pews.  No one dressed up.  The “clock” that told people when to gather was the sound of the white guy’s car chugging through the gulleys a couple miles away.

I remember taking a picture of the rich green grass and titling it “church carpet.”  Here is a shot of a church gathering in the Kalenjin-speaking area of Kenya:I remember the people just like that.  Open, smiling, warm, and hospitable.  I can’t spell “cham’gey” with any certainty, but I surely remember how it sounded when they greeted you with that word.  Getting out of Africa eventually was good, because it was not my home, and I really like the blessing of a good shower.  But being in Africa was a blessing for sure.


My recent orchestra program included a work based on the fairy tale The Bremen Town Musicians.  It’s about a donkey, a hound, a cat, and a rooster, and it’s also about storytelling and music-making.  It’s a fun piece.

This post might be in the “fun” category.  It’s about personal experiences with animals . . . and might be mildly entertaining, but it’s no fairy tale filled with enchanting anecdotes.  It’s not even very important, and I don’t know that I’m at all speaking earnestly in this post.  Why read it?   I dunno . . . mebbe it will be amusing.

Turtles and fish—the bookends of my pet life
I don’t think I ever had a goldfish, but maybe.  I’ll start with my first pet, whose name (if s/he had one) I don’t remember.  I had a turtle for a short time, when I was probably 8-10 years old.  It either died or walked away.  I don’t remember any emotion over it.

Fast forward to 2022.  For a few months last spring and summer, there were about 10 fish.  They all died.  I think it’s the town water . . . or the fact that the fish were surely mass-produced and artificially raised in a pet store.  The first deaths—a small school of three or four—were sad and a little surprising.  Then there was the death of one of the strong ones (three were named after failed/evil world leaders, Benito, Adolf, and Hiro), and that was more sad.  We had a small ceremony, and then it was a swirly bon voyage for him.  One after another, every fish died.  We got free replacements for several and had our tank water tested.  We were doing all the right things with no good results.  The last deaths hardly affected us, and it was time to quit.  The aquarium and supplies are sold.

Now, backward in time. . . .

My feeling is that most normal people have a natural aversion to snakes, possibly because of the biblical reference in Eden, or just because of the slithery, seemingly sneaky nature of a snake.  (Tom T. Hall’s snake song didn’t help enough with this, although the image of a snake laughing and drinking beer is amusing.)  It’s often the daredevils, the rebellious teens, and those into alternative religions who say they like snakes.  Others are snake enthusiasts just to be different.  If you like snakes, don’t even bother to try to convince me.  I will never be very close to one for very long.

I remember a recurring nightmare about multiple anacondas, crawling all over one another, in my fenced, childhood backyard.  The 30-foot-long beasts were keeping me from getting to the gate to escape.  I also remember being at the National Bison Range when in my late 30s.

There was a sign posted near the visitor information desk about its being “rattlesnake season,” followed closely by a reminder that rattlesnakes are (were?) an endangered species.  I’m sorry, but if I had a hoe and Rhett the Rogue Rattler were threatening me, I wouldn’t care if he were the last one in North America.

There are some harmless, colored garter snakes in my backyard sometimes.  They haven’t clambered to get into the house yet, so I usually leave them alone.  Usually.

Guinea pigs
We had a guinea pig named Gracie in 2007-8.  She seemed a trifle more neurotic than some.  She died early.  (With the help of a vet in Allegany County, NY, we helped to end her suffering.)  I was sad but not devastated, and actually a trifle relieved, because she wasn’t much fun and had become a burden to herself and to us.  As a matter of family respect and feeling, I bought Gracie a nice gravestone and buried her in the backyard.

Chickens can be charming on a farm.  The first time I ever encountered chickens in a residential neighborhood, though, was in Greeley, Colorado, and I was a graduate student.  I’d never heard of people actually wanting to own chickens near their suburban houses.  I chalked the experience up to different ethnic backgrounds.  Somehow, though, a rooster sneaked into that covey, or brood, or whatever you call it, and it disturbed my poor, grad-student sleep.

The idea of chickens in residential areas puts me off.  Last month, I saw a book titled Under the Henfluence, and I nearly spat.  There were chickens in Searcy, Arkansas, but they didn’t cause my parents any distress.  I still don’t get it.  I find it strange and off-putting, although I like the idea (and sometimes the taste) of fresh eggs more than store-bought ones.

Some cats are just fine, but I’ve never been a cat person.  I did come to like cat jokes and really enjoyed the silly humor of the 90s sitcom character Alf (short for “Alien Life Form”).  Alf claimed they ate cats on Melmac, his planet of origin, and he famously quipped, “The only good cat is a stir-fried cat.”

In the height of my sophomoric cat-humor years, I accidentally hit a stray cat while driving on DE Rte. 7 near Churchman’s Road.  Quickly cured of my anti-feline jokes, I frantically searched for the injured cat, nearly cried, and drove to the nearest pay phone to call the Humane Society to see if they could help the poor animal.

These days, feral and otherwise uncared-for cats infest my neighborhood.  Some neighbors feed them for a while, contributing to the problem.  Cats have been known to sleep near my back door, sit on my car’s hood, and put their grubby feet on my motorcycle seat.  I, on the other hand, have been known to put out citrus juice to keep them away, but never to fire small pebbles near strays with a slingshot, just to scare them.  OK, maybe a couple times.  I don’t mind a nice cat here or there.  I would pet a personal, indoor cat.   But keep him away from my human food!  A cat can impress you as a wannabe tiger:  he would tear your limbs from your fang-punctured body if he were just about ten times bigger.

Now about “man’s best friend.”  Anyone who thinks a chicken or a cat is friendly hasn’t met a good dog!  Those yard banners and bumper stickers that say “My kids have four paws” are offensive.  I feel I stand on solid ground here, but the petty side of me comes out in being particularly annoyed when I know the sign is about cats.  Dogs are far more a “part of the family,” at least in the way I think of it.

There are lots of good (at least moderately well-behaved, affectionate) dogs in my history, and I fondly remember Gidget and Mitzy at the Thomases’ house, Pepe at the Murters’, Muffin at the Brackeens’, and Pepper at my friend Andre’s.  I knew of Rufus the dachshund at the Adairs but didn’t know the little guy well.  In one sense, Frisky, at my grandparents’ house, was the first dog I was attached to, but Chester was my first dog friend.  A Saint Bernard/Lab who was 165 pounds of muscle, he was a gentle giant who belonged to my aunt.  (The initial typo was “gentile” giant, which I suppose is also true!)  Chester walked alongside me when I was on crutches after foot surgery.  That, my friends, is a good dog.  Imagine a cat doing that.  Right.  A cat wouldn’t.

Then there was the unfortunately named Trevor, a beautiful and mostly well-behaved Golden Retriever, my sister’s dog, who will forever be known to have had the same name as an unspeakable person who helped to alter my life-course forever.  Then there’s the only dog I ever owned myself:  the slightly neurotic and somewhat incontinent Tessa (“Fraulein Tessa Zita,” whom I named with respect to her German Shepherd coloring, her retriever side, and the Italian and Irish elements in our family).  Around me now, an inordinate number of pit bulls lie in wait.  I used to think German Shepherds could “turn on you,” but give me one of those instead of a pit bull any day.  And there are not enough Goldens and Labs and Spaniels!

Despite a like-them-a-lot feeling for the good dogs of the world, I can’t help but wonder if we haven’t done a disservice to ourselves and the dogs by domesticating them.  When did the idea of having a “pet” originate, anyway?  At this point in my life, I doubt I’ll ever have another.  This concerns me, because my son would like another one, but not having a pet beats being tied down and overrun with the care of animals.  Are animals better off in the wild—observable and appreciate-able?  I think it’s likely.

The real trouble comes, I would suggest, when humans take second place to animals.  In describing a disturbing situation once to a friend, she remarked that she didn’t really know much about Y person but that “she treated her animals well.”  I’m sorry, and no disrespect to my friend, but I just don’t care about the lack of animal abuse when the person had terribly mistreated multiple humans.

And therein lies my trouble with the whole proposition of pets.  They might even feel like “one of the family,” and I do have genuine sympathy for people when their much-loved pets die, but the fact is, they are not humans.  Inter-species relationships should naturally be different from intra-species ones.  If a relationship between humans suffers because of pets, it’s the animal side that needs adjustment, not the human side.

If you have a good dog, I would like to borrow him for an hour to play and pet him and tell him he’s a good boy.  OK?