A place where I can share interesting ideas and maybe get a few things off my chest

Archive for December, 2013

Trying To Make Sense Of Senselessness

I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I am up at 3:00 am, and there’s really not much else to do, so….

My husband and I were talking about the altered receipt above and it reminded me of the Jewish student who sent herself anti-semitic death threats via e-mail (I tried to find a link, but there were too many college-students-and-racial-threats hoaxes to pinpoint the one I was thinking about) and then the young woman from several years ago who actually smeared herself with excrement and carved a racial slur into her own body with a box cutter (again – I thought this was a singular incident – an internet search turned up multiple hits with variations and different datelines.) What thought process leads someone to do something like this?

My husband pointed out that one can’t make sense out of senselessness. But people don’t do things that don’t reward them in some way, even if it doesn’t serve them in the long run. I wonder what kind of pain these people must be experiencing that makes these behaviors rewarding. I guess before the internet, something like the altered receipt above would have just been something to try to use to get sympathy from a few people – the few that still bought every bizarre story you made up. But when this went viral, it brought way more attention than she had anticipated.

Which also reminds of the guy (the most recent one, anyway) who was charged with making a false police report when his girlfriend insisted he call the police after having been kidnapped. Except that he wasn’t kidnapped – he just wanted to have a couple of beers with the boys but didn’t want to listen to her and her mother bitch at him about it. And that story seemed like such a good idea at the time….

What is the point at which the “polite fiction” that eases social interaction becomes the unreasonable lie or even the prosecutable fraud? Is it the same every time? Kant posited that there is not such thing as a “white lie” and that deception at any time is immoral, even were one to be lying to a murderer about where to find his intended victim. Does that make the people in the examples above immoral, or merely desperate within their own peculiar situations? Or mentally ill?

I dunno. Maybe it’s time for me to try to go back to sleep….

Pain Reduction Via Profanity


Last week at work, we were meeting to develop a course outline for training foster parents who are interested in serving higher-needs children. One component of training will be what behaviors to expect from these troubled and angry kids. One of the things a foster parent must be ready for, and be ready to let go of feelings of offense over, is colorful and sometimes quite imaginative profanity. This is common to almost all the verbal children care, sometimes learned from their parents, sometimes from the other children, but almost always present.

When we were talking about this, I remembered reading about a study that seemed to point toward profanity offering relief or protection from physical pain, and I wondered if the use of profanity by children in the foster care system (or anywhere, really) indicated that it might also help dull emotional pain. Since some of our neural pathways related to mood are also related to pain, (which is why chronic physical pain is one of the red flags for depression), it certainly seems plausible to me. And if it’s true for children, I would think it would be true for adults, too. Maybe the alcohol at the local bar isn’t the only thing easing existential pain.

Stress Inheritance

I recently read an article on Aeon.co entitled Die, Selfish Gene, Die  by David Dobbs. It talks about the work of Steve Rogers, Mary Jane West-Eberhard and Gregory Wray (among others) and how physical and behavioral traits are not just about the genes themselves but also about the variation of expression available within each gene, and how genetically similar organisms can vary widely in their physical expression based upon their environment , e.g., grasshopper vs. locust; worker or scout bee vs. queen bee.

This made me think of an article I read several weeks ago that I’m still not sure that I fully understand, about how stress factors can cause epigenetic changes that can be passed on to offspring through changes increasing CRF-1 expression in the prefrontal cortex, affecting emotional regulation and decision making, even if those stressors occurred prior to conception. This ruled out the cause of these changes being congenital due to prenatal exposure to elevated cortisol levels. Further reading introduced the concept of DNA methylation which can suppress the expression of certain genetic factors and be passed on even while the actual DNA structure remains the same.

Often family members of war veterans experience what some call Secondary PTSD. Some mental health professionals believe that there really isn’t such a thing as Secondary PTSD, but that the family members can experience PTSD due to the frightening and sometimes violent behaviors of the veteran parent. In families where the parent’s behavior is not extreme enough to be a primary cause of PTSD, it would seem to me that the epigenetic changes discussed in the articles noted above would give some credence to changes in stress response of offspring, even if they were not primarily exposed to such stressors.

I work in child welfare services, and most, if not all, of the children in care have experienced some level of trauma. In extreme cases, this can manifest as Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). If you’ve read about the difficulties adoptive families have had with the adoption of Romanian children from the austere and emotionally sterile orphanages there , many of their difficulties can be attributed to RAD due to their early childhood experiences. But if methylation of parental DNA prior to conception can cause such changes, then even children adopted at birth would be susceptible to stress disorders and attachment issues, and possibly their children as well, based not just on direct experience but inherited DNA expression or inexpression.

An abstract on the PNAS website states that methylation is a reversible process but doesn’t suggest that we know how it might happen naturally nor how we might positively facilitate it.

Bruce Lipton (and many other New Thought advocates) posit that “with our intentions and beliefs we can ‘reprogram’ or ‘control’ our genes and our lives”. It makes me wonder if the positive benefits I have personally experienced from meditation, affirmations, and a focus on positive and healing thoughts are things that can facilitate this demethylation and help erase the ill effects of stress inherited from previous generations.

New Rules for Tipping?

Photo linked from Yahoo’s article


A Yahoo article referencing a Payscale study (how circular could I get with this if I really tried?) says that if you’re still tipping your restaurant server 15%, then you’re below the norm and too darned cheap. I posit that this could be an example of declining math skills in the U.S. populace. It’s much easier to mentally double your bill and move the decimal point over than it is to actually attempt to calculate 15% of your bill. And on larger parties, the house will often add a gratuity of 18% onto the bill, which some patrons don’t notice and then tip again, thus driving the average tipping amounts even higher.

I normally tip about 20% when the service is anything better than adequate. Part of this is the laziness of not wanting to try to do math in my head (but I could if I wanted to -really!) and part is due to the fact that my mother and sister spent a good deal of the their adult work lives waitressing. I know how hard restaurant servers work and just how much that extra bit of income can mean to someone on the lower levels of the working class.

So, okay, maybe I should give my fellow diners the benefit of the doubt and agree that we have become more generous on the whole. But I still think that math thing has a lot to do with it.

Blackwing 602

I just got home to find my new pencils had been delivered. Palomino’s Blackwing 602 is highly recommended by Mark Frauenfelder at boingboing.net as being The Most Wonderful Pencil In The World. Well, at least his pencil of choice. I have been writing with whatever pencils I’ve found in the desk, and except for the last few “Write!” pencils given to me over a decade ago by my wonderful friend, Joy, I haven’t been really pleased with any of them.

I sharpened the first one with my manual sharpener, originally bought to be used with my art pencils, and then gave a little test scribble across a scrap piece of paper on my desk. It felt like the lead was almost hydroplaning across the surface of the page. I made everyone in the house give it a try and then we tried to figure out what hardness the lead might be. I did a quick search and found the answer at penciltalk.org. (Who knew there was an entire website devoted to talking about pencils??). According to the post, the lead is rated at a hardness level of 4B, but with an increased wax content that allows for the smoother flow in writing, and reducing the crumbling and smearing normally found in that soft a lead.

I am very excited to see how well it works during tomorrow morning’s journaling/writing session.

Dream Dollies and The Blogging Imperative

Herb Dollie1a

Dream Dolly


The ladies from The Cleaning Authority are here working. I’ve been up since 7:00, journaling and then working to find the maximum amount of horizontal surface area so they could actually do their work. And now, it’s past time for me to head to my job, yet I am compelled to complete a daily blog post.  So, here goes.

Several years ago, I was reading about making dream pillows with calming herbs and thought that a washable doll with a secure pocket for changeable herb packets would be a great thing. The pocket is doubled back so that small fingers cannot remove it, but an adult can easily remove it in order to toss the dolly into the washer. I sewed up a few to sell on e-bay and then realized that while I really enjoyed designing it, and liked sewing specific items for specific people, I really did not like production sewing.

So, now I have a bin filled with patterns, assorted fabrics, yarns, herbs, and a few dollies that I may one day return to when I have a notion to do some sewing, crafty stuff. And I have also fulfilled the Blogging Imperative for today.

Daily Tarot – 242

At the end of every morning’s journaling session, I do a quick daily tarot spread based on the The Heart of the Tarot by Sandra Thompson, Robert Mueller, and Signe Echols. (I head the page “242” because it is “2 cards 4 2-day”.) It essentially takes the center of the 10-card Celtic Cross spread and posits that that is the most important part and all you need to concentrate on anyway. For a quick reading, it’s ideal and a nice way to have a daily tarot practice that doesn’t feel like studying. (I have had an Amazon Associates account for ages, and this is the first time I have attempted to embed a link and photo. I still can’t tell if it’s working through the “preview feature”. I guess I’ll see if it is there when I hit “post”.)

I look at tarot is an intersection between Jung’s concept of synchronicity and Rorschäch cards. It entertains me when my morning reading really seems to hit the mark, as it did the morning we left Dallas to come home after our Thanksgiving visit. The first card I drew, which in the two-card spread represents The Situation, was the Three of Swords. As you can see by the image below, it is not really a happy card, and I felt it really represented the feelings I had in leaving my granddaughters behind after such a short visit:

The second card of the two-card spread represents The Challenge. In a standard Celtic Cross spread, it is called the Crossing card, representing a major interaction, for good or ill, depending on the card. The second card that morning was The Chariot:

I didn’t really need to consult the book for help interpreting this very obvious two-card set-up. My heart hurt because we were on the road away from my girls.

Dominant Genes


Etta & Gus Fraser c. 1953

This is a photo of my father’s parents. I don’t understand just how specific facial features can be so much more dominant than others, but in our family, Etta’s chin, cheeks and dimples are still showing up in almost all the babies in our family, now in the 5th and 6th generations from Mamaw & Papaw.

Here’s a picture of me:


Baby Kay, around 6 months old

And a picture of my daughter:


Baby Janette, around 12 months old

And a picture of my older granddaughter when she was brand-new:


Baby Eva

And now our newest addition, her baby sister:


Baby Kelsey

That’s five generations (too bad I don’t have baby pix of my Dad!), and some of my sister’s grandchildren have become parents, carrying these cheeks into the 6th generation.

When my daughter posted Kelsey’s first picture on Facebook, one of her cousins commented, “Yep – she’s one of ours!”

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