Today’s action for the Resistance

Every Saturday,  when I drive past the  Planned Parenthood office  in Mountain View,  there are anti-abortion protesters. Today, given Alabama and Georgia and Ohio and Mississippi, it was just too much. I decided to join them.

I went home and quickly put together a sign that read “Protect A Woman’s Right To Choose.” Nothing like a  little counterprotesting to fill out your Saturday morning.

They were mostly old ladies, although there was one younger woman. She glared at me, but the other ladies were civil. We exchanged “hellos” as we walked past each other.

They didn’t stay very long before after  I arrived. I wish  I could  say that I scared them off, but it was more likely the impending rain.

All of them were carrying  rosaries, and one of them was  going through the “Hail Mary”s and “Our Father”s.

I thought that next time — if there is one — I should bring one of my rosaries. Maybe the rosewood  one from Rome? Or the one made from seeds that suppopsedly was like Mother Theresa’s? I can’t use my silver and amethyst and pearl one: I gave it to my Mom and it became her favorite rosary. It was  buried with her.

I can’t decide whether that  would be trolling or not.

I pray the rosary from time to time. Wherever I am in my relationship with God, I find the rosary to be a calming and centering exercise. I have been contemplating making a new one out of lapis and Swarovski, but my tremors would make that difficult.

I sort of want  to tell the ladies, “I understand you. We’re not so different, you and I. I want to end abortions, too, but I know that is not going to happen.”

I know that among some circles there is a push to say that you are not merely pro-choice but also pro-abortion. I cannot in all honesty say that.

I believe that all potential life is important. In a perfect world there would be no abortion — there would be no need for abortion. Birth control would be effective and easily available, rape would be non-existent. Mothers and children would be supported financially. Students would be supported in working towards their diplomas or degrees.

We don’t live in a perfect world.

Women have abortions  for all sorts of reasons, financial and otherwise. Women have abortions  so as not  to disrupt their  education. Women have abortions because  they can’t afford another  child. Women have abortions because they have been raped.  Children have abortions because they have been raped, often by a relative.

Not  to mention abortions for the health of the mother (both physical and psychological) and because the fetus is not viable or would die shortly after birth.

My beliefs are  just that: beliefs. They arise from a particular religious upbringing.  I have no right to impose those  beliefs on others. I firmly support the  Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Too many people on the other side don’t, and they approve of the Freedom of Expression  Clause only when it applies to conservative, supposedly “persecuted” Christians.  Forget Sharia law; they would  impose a fundamentalist Christian theocracy.

So  yes, I might be out there again. Even in a safe state like California, we cannot let anti-abortion forces go unchallenged.


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I am spitballing here (to use a very annoying neologism).  It’s one of the ways I cope with the incomprehensible.

Given that Roe v.Wade is under attack, we need to figure out what we will do for the women affected. We need to have a game plan. Assuming that there are groups that can undertake this (not Planned Parenthood — we need to keep their hands clean so that they can continue to offer other medical services) some ideas are:

For early abortions, the simplest would be to smuggle in abortion drugs. This would require a doctor willing to write prescriptions for them, or smuggling them in from abroad. If people can get the drugs, I am willing to fly to the affected states and hand them off to others.

Since I think eliminating some forms of birth control will be next, I am also willing to fly doses of Plan B or the pill to affected states. Plan B will be easier — it’s over the counter in my state.

For more complicated abortions, we need to be able to fly women out  of state or have a network of reliable doctors in the states. Or both.

We need to figure this out now.

And yes, I am willing to go to prison over this.


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Pat’s BETTER Damn Brownies.

An update of Pat’s Best Damn Brownie recipe. Recipe first, comments after.

  • 1 cup Guittard semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1 cup (1 stick) Crisco butter flavored shortening
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tbsps good cocoa (I use Penzey’s — Ghiradelli in a pinch. For very special occasions I have used Vahlrona or Scharffen-Berger. ) Natural cocoa, not Dutch-processed.
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup – 2 tbsps all purpose flour

Freeze chocolate pieces for at least a couple of hours. Set oven to 300 degrees. Grease a 13×9 baking pan using cooking spray. (I also make a parchment sling to remove the brownies.)

Using a microwave safe bowl, melt shortening and stir in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, completely incorporating each one before adding the next.  Add the cocoa and vanilla and stir until well mixed. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. Add frozen chocolate pieces.

Place in oven for fifteen minutes. Remove from oven for fifteen minutes (yes, really). Return to oven until the brownies hit 195 (about 30 more minutes). Remove and let cool for 30 minutes. Then either remove (if using a parchment  sling) or cut in pan. Makes 24 brownies.


I took these to trivia recently, and reactions ranged from “wow, these are really good” to “oh my God.”

This recipe owes  a lot to the Cooking Channel. I grabbed the interrupted cooking technique from Alton Brown’s Good Eats: Reload episode “The Art of Darkness II.” I saw the freezing the chips on an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate. (I found the Guittard pieces myself.) I now have access to a stand mixer, but I usually just use a wooden spoon. It’s easier and there is less chance of flinging cocoa or flour all over the kitchen,

Now that pot is legal in California, I keep meaning to adapt the recipe for “special brownies.” I haven’t yet, but if I do I promise to post the recipe.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these.


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Dear Red-Headed Menace,

The fact that you are graduating from college next weeks shocks me to the core. How dare you grow up on me!! That said, I am more proud of you than I can say. I hope graduate school goes as well.


A very proud Mom.



Dear Robert Downey, Jr.

If you don’t get an Oscar for Avengers: Endgame, there will be no justice in the world. Given that it is just a comic book movie, I’m not holding my breath.

You are my favorite Avenger. Sincerely,

A fan who has a tremendous crush on you.


Dear Rachel Maddow:

I am not viewing your show as often  as I used to.  This is not because you are any less informative and entertaining than usual, but because I start crying when I read or view something about the crumbling state of our democracy. I find myself watching things like Forged in Fire on the History Channel.

Keep the faith for those of us who are struggling,

An occasional viewer.


Dear Georgia legislature:

I wish you were all women so you could have some idea about how horrible your abortion bill is. And I say this: if it goes into effect and is not struck down by the courts, I will risk that conspiracy charge to help women get the health care they need, including abortion.

I am not going to wish that the women in your lives need abortions: I will not wish ill on innocent third parties.

Just sign me,



Dear Anti-Vaxxer teen, and your parents:

I don’t want you to get serious side effects from your chickenpox (don’t you know that an airline attendant died recently from encephalitis caused by measles?) but boy howdy do hope they itch like crazy.

People like you are a menace to society. I would call you stupid, but the problem is a lot of you are relatively intelligent about other things. You’re not stupid, you are arrogant and selfish and close-minded. Sorry, your Google search does not trump decades of  research and development into safe vaccines.

All I can say is you had better not complain when you get shingles later in life. You may think that chickenpox is nothing, but I bet you change your tune when you are subject to the stabbing nerve pain shingles can cause. I have had shingles, and they are horrible. My father had shingles, and his doctors were worried he would lose his eye.

So if you want to forego vaccines, you better stay the hell away from civilized (and responsible) society.

I am totally


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Why the MCU movies are so good (no spoilers)

I keep thinking that I have posted this before, but I can’t seem to find it (maybe on Facebook?), so…

The reason that the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) movies are so good is the acting. Exhibit 1:

  • Robert Downey, Jr., two time Oscar nominee
  • Gwyneth Paltrow, Oscar winner
  • Mark Ruffalo, multiple Oscar nominee
  • Jeremy Renner, two-time Oscar nominee
  • Don Cheadle, Oscar nominee
  • Brie Larson, Oscar winner
  • Bradley Cooper, multiple Oscar nominee
  • Josh Brolin, Oscar nominee
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, Oscar nominee
  • Michelle Pfeiffer, two-time Oscar nominee
  • Tilda Swinton, Oscar winner

And so on.

And that’s not to mention all the Emmys,  BAFTAs, Tonys, Golden Globes, Hugos and stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that various MCU cast members have earned.

And the cast members not mentioned above are really good, too.

Although with all the talent, Robert Downey Jr. is the best. Through all the Avengers movies he shows emotional nuance in a role that he could have walked through.

If Robert Downey, Jr. does not get an Oscar nom for Avengers: Endgame there is no justice in the world. Given that it is a comic book movie, I’m not holding my breath.

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Let’s try something new.

Yesterday was my birthday. I usually commemorate it in my this blog by going through all the horrible things that happened this week. This year, I think it is really important to keep strong, so I’m going to try looking for the positive:

Railfan made me a kick-ass cake. Dark chocolate cake, split layers, with ganache made from Guittard between the layers, with the whole thing covered in chocolate buttercream. The Resident Shrink, who is careful about what she eats in a way I wish I could emulate, actually got a second piece.*

April 17:

  • Daffy Duck debuted.
  • The Apollo 13 astronauts returned safely to Earth.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer tells the Canterbury Tales for the first time at the court of Richard II.
  • Lochner v. New York. (Ok, this might not be a good thing, but it is interesting.)
  • The Kepler telescope identifies an Earth-sized, habitable planet around another star.
  • Thornton Wilder is born.
  • Sean Bean is born. (Among a lot of other people.)

April 16:

  • The first railway through India is established.
  • Natural Bridges National Monument is established in Utah.
  • Harriet Quimby becomes the first woman to fly across the English Channel.
  • Albert Hoffman accidentally discovers the hallucinogenic effects of LSD.
  • MLK writes the Letter from Birmingham Jail.
  • The last Apollo flight, Apollo 16, takes off from Cape Canaveral.
  • Ford Maddox Brown was born.
  • Charlie Chaplin was born.
  • Henry Mancini was born.
  • Dusty Springfield was born
  • Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Claire Foy, and Chance the Rapper were all born.

April 18:

  • Yankee stadium opens. (I realize for a lot of people this is NOT a good thing, but YMMV. In any case, it is important for the history of baseball, no matter how much you hate the Yankees. I hate the Yankees too, as far as that goes.)
  • Irish Republic Act goes onto effect. The Irish Republic is established.
  • The International Court of Justice holds its first meeting in the Hague.
  • Lucrezia Borgia is born, making Renaissance history more interesting.
  • Clarence Darrow is born.
  • David Tennant (*swoon*) is born.

I could go on to the other days this week, but I think I will leave it at this. At any rate, at least some positive things happened this week in April.

Oh, and I was born. For now, I am going to treat that as a good thing.

*I had a second piece, too, for breakfast.

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Notre Dame.

Notre Dame is burning.

To quote the CNN commentator, “It was a reminder that there is still beauty in the world….  We all need beautiful things right now…. It is a reminder that there is something bigger in the world than you.”

There are several buildings whose destruction would pain me more — Westminster Abbey, the Prado — but very, very few. Watching Notre Dame’s nave burn and its spire fall hurts.

I have been to Notre Dame. Yes, I had a money belt stolen there while I was maneuvering though the crush of tourists. But what I remember is sitting the cathedral, of praying for my family. Of lighting a candle for my sister who died.

Thank God no one has been killed. The loss of the art (and those amazing stained glass windows) is terrible, but it would have been worse to lose people.

It’s Holy Week.  There is a resurrection at the end, but I can’t see that in those flames.

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