Babysitting the Garbage at 4 a.m.

Dark Night Crescent Moon

We bought a delicious whole salmon two nights ago. Wild caught. Super fresh. Almost unheard of, from Lucky, at $3 a pound! We feasted on it with friends and family. It’s summer now; all the kids are home from school and we are spending a lot more time at home. We produce a lot of garbage.

This morning was garbage pick-up. I had called yesterday to have them take an extra bag. They charge extra for each bag that doesn’t fit into their standard gray plastic “toter.” They always come early in the morning. Last night at around 6:00, following urgent proddings from my husband, I put the overflow from our curbside can into a big black plastic bag on the sidewalk. I went out to my exercise class, and when I came back, there was a gray cat poking his paw through the bottom of the bag, pulling out food and eating it. When I came over for a look, I could see he had found the salmon remnants. I could picture where this was going: a ripped open trash bag with the contents strewn out all over the street, and the scavenger company leaving it there for me to clean up. Oh, no you don’t, my little feline friend.

It was a contest between me and the gray cat.
Who was more tenacious? Whose persistence would prevail?

He was not about to leave. I made a big gesture and he darted under the parked car near the trash cans and then became invisible. I went in to tell my husband. After some back and forth, he found another large black trash bag and we put the ripped one into it. He then brought it inside the kitchen, where it would stay until “later.”

It was a contest between me and the gray cat. Who was more tenacious? Whose persistence would prevail?

At this point, I had to make a choice. Did I want to go through all of the messy, ant-ridden trash and separate out the non-food items so that the “outside” bag would be unattractive to cats? Definitely not. Did I want to get up at 5 a.m. to put out the fishy garbage bag right before pick-up? Not really. But unless I wanted to pay the extra six dollars for nothing and still have extra garbage waiting around all week until the next pickup, the latter seemed the only reasonable option. I figured I’d go right back to sleep after depositing the bag.

It was one of those “on-call” nights—you know, when you don’t really let yourself sleep soundly because you know you have to get up at an ungodly hour and you don’t want to miss it. The alarm was already set for 6:45 for my husband. The garbage truck would be long gone by then. But I didn’t want to change the alarm time and then forget to re-set it.

At 4 a.m. I opened my eyes and looked at the clock. Dare I let myself go back to sleep? I was not ready to get up. Still, I needed to make sure to get the bag out to the corner by 5:00, as instructed by the Scavenger company. I lay back down on my pillow, not daring to lapse back into dreamland, but resolving to maintain a “conscious” rest. I looked again. It was 4:40. OK, I said to myself, it’s probably safe to put out the bag now. The cat has wandered off to molest someone else’s garbage, or gone to sleep by now. As I left the bedroom, I pulled up on the door so it wouldn’t stick on the frame, and latched it slowly and noiselessly. It was very dark in the living room. I turned the switch in the kitchen to shed indirect light on the front door. I did not turn on the front porch light. Carefully grasping the bag of fish-laced refuse, I silently opened the front door. A neighbor’s porch light faintly illuminated the parked cars across the street. Just above the black rooftops, a large, waning crescent of a moon lounged, a lone morning star floating two inches diagonally above. The world was still asleep. I would stealthily pose the bag against the garbage can and all would be well.

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Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa was founded in 1772 by Father Junípero Serra in the present-day city of San Luis Obispo, California. It was the fifth of 21 Spanish missions built by the Franciscan order of the Catholic Church between 1769 and 1823 in what was known as Alta California. Named after Saint Louis of Anjou, the 14th century Bishop of Toulouse (France), the mission gave its name to both the city and the county of San Luis Obispo, on California’s Central Coast.

King Carlos III of Spain saw the missions as a means to expand and protect Spain’s interests in Alta (upper) California (especially against the Russians who were making inroads southward from Alaska along California’s coast), while the Franciscans saw them as a means to expand the influence of the Catholic Church and to “civilize” the many tribes of indigenous peoples who inhabited the various regions of California.

Along with the Catholic faith, the missionaries brought disease and cultural decimation. A thriving tribe of over 15,000 Chumash Indians inhabiting the area were considered “souls to be saved.” The Spanish settlers forbade them to speak their native tongue or practice their accustomed dances and rituals, forcing them to build the mission, while imposing their language and faith upon them.

MSLO Main Nave

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Only in San Francisco

Monks & BBBabylon
At the De Young Museum. The mannequins in the background are wearing costumes from Beach Blanket Babylon, San Francisco’s longest-running satirical, musical review, which today celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Sexist Jokes and Social Dominance

Jokes have been around for a long time. They are defined in dictionaries as little stories culminating in a punch line that makes people laugh. Psychologists have studied what it is about jokes that makes people laugh—in fact, even the physiological laughter response itself has been analyzed.

Why do we laugh at jokes?

The researchers have decided that what constitutes humor in a joke’s punch line is the perceived incongruity between what was expected and what is then stated, followed by a sudden jump in understanding (which I’ll call the “get-it” moment)—a paradox that provokes a mental somersault which re-sets understanding to a different, unexpected level. The physiological response is laughter.

Laughing at a joke implies acquiescence with the viewpoint behind it.

Why do we tell jokes?

Alright, we know what jokes are. We’ve all heard them, and we’ve all had a laugh. What I find interesting is the lingering meaning that suffuses a joke’s intent. Why do we like and repeat certain jokes, and what do they mean to us? Further, how do jokes function to define and reinforce our personal and group identity?

People use jokes as a way to state, through implication, their beliefs, group identity, and social standing or power. Through jokes, they can reach out and recognize others with similar sentiments.

Conversely, jokes are also a way to get a picture of someone else’s beliefs or viewpoint. Jokes are a short-cut to get at how people really think, feel, or identify themselves. Judging the response to a joke (the “get-it” moment), the teller can get a good idea of the beliefs and social standing of the listener.

Unfortunately, jokes can also be used to bully people: to belittle, demean, or ridicule the recipient (or a third party), in order to assert a dominant social standing. Nasty jokes, whether they are racist, sexist, or just insulting, really do leave a lasting impression of anger and frustration with the person or group that they target.

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