Eyes of a Child

Sena wonders if I’m ever going to use Patsy Cline’s tune “If I Could See the World (Through the Eyes of a Child) in a blog post. She also brought home a potted plant she bought, an Easter Lily, ahead of Easter Sunday on April 9th next week. I thought of a couple of things, and of course one is a quote from Men in Black 3:

Agent O: “Agent K is dead!”

Agent J: “Well, I just talked to him last night!”

Agent O: “You are imagining things.”

Agent J: “I’m not imagining anything. Aqua Velva after shave! I didn’t imagine that. Where every stakeout, endless hours of cowboy music.

Agent J and I have a few things in common. One of them is a mild dislike for country western (cowboy by extension) music. I can’t help it OK; the Patsy Cline tune is one of those.

I’m the first to admit I’m not a Bible scholar, but I’m going to talk a little bit about the apparent contradictions between being childish and childlike in the Bible. The reason is that the lyrics in “If I Could See the World” is either an obvious or accidental reference to the seeming contradiction between being like a child in one sense and in another sense, growing up and putting away childish things.

There’s no contradiction if you remember the scripture quotes are in different contexts. In childhood, we’re innocent, trusting, and open. Being open to the kingdom of heaven is the context for that. On the other hand, another context is when we grow up and recognize the duplicity in other people and the inevitable push to learn how to lie. If you don’t tell Aunt Clara that you love her gift of fruitcake at Christmas, you will be grounded for a week.

OK, so that’s the extent of my Bible scholarship.

I’m not a credible music critic either. But it’s easy to see the connection of the Patsy Cline song “If I Could See the World (Through the Eyes of a Child) to the book of Matthew. At the same time, the lyrics ignore the book of Corinthians, which tells how important it is to give up being childish. You need to lie to get by sometimes, although Agent J has trouble telling just where and when to stop lying. Much of MIB 3 is about the conflict over telling the truth and lying.

Come to think of it, that conflict could be much of what life is about.

Agent J after finally telling young Agent K that Boris the Animal will kill him when he goes to Florida to stop Boris, and that’s what Agent J wants to prevent: “I know I told you everything but…”

Young Agent K punches him in the nose: “That’s for lying to me! He punches Agent J again and says, “And that’s for telling me the truth!”

The Patsy Cline song is about seeing all of the good and none of the bad, all of the right and none of the wrong—and how wonderful that would be. Could it be ironic? On the other hand, in the real world of grownups, maybe Griffin has the idea:

Griffin: “The bitterest truth is better than the sweetest lie.” Well, sometimes.

Do You Really Need to Replace That Ceiling Light?

Sena and I just had a very challenging time installing a ceiling light to replace an old fan. I just want to point out that I would always rather hire a handyman to do this because I’m not real comfortable with electrical components. I can replace outlets and switches OK, but the ceiling fan…well, all I can say is we got the job done.

You always want to cut the power off at the circuit breaker before tackling a job like this, of course. And there are the usual problems with hooking up the right wires to each other between the ceiling light fixture (or whatever) and the electrical box in the ceiling.

The model of ceiling light we got had a fairly heavy base, which is the thing that has all the wires and the fluffy insulation and covers whatever mistakes you made in the electrical box. Just kidding.

This was a 2-person job for us and involved jockeying around on a tall ladder, taking turns hanging on to the heavy base while the other did the magic of making wiring connections. If the base had been lighter, we could have hooked up the ground wire in the ceiling with the ground wire in the fixture and just let it hang.

Sena found helpful YouTube videos about how to manage this installation. There were different perspectives on grounding, even on whether you need to do it given that some experts said the electrical box is already grounded so another grounding contact is unnecessary.

We grounded generously and even wrapped wire nuts with electrician’s tape.

Making the wire connections was hard enough, but we thought the most frustrating part was fishing for those two mounting screws through all that fluffy insulation on the base. I thought we’d never get that done.

If you ever have to do a thing like this, you might want to consider hiring the job out to someone who has a lot of experience with it.

Crank the volume on the video to hear my voice over comments.

Whitetail Deer Think Your Lawn is a Salad Bar

We have a small herd of whitetail deer who regularly visit our lawn because they think it’s a salad bar. They’re all over the neighborhood because the city apparently doesn’t have a consistent deer population management plan. I don’t know anything about the animals, other than what I care to look up on the internet.

We saw several bucks the yesterday. One of them was missing an antler. It might have been lost in a fight with another buck.

As far as we could tell, most of the deer seemed pretty healthy, although I guess you can’t really tell which ones might have chronic wasting disease just by looking at them.

One animal looked like it might have suffered an injury, possibly from a buck. The lesions looked like they might be healing.

I guess this time of year, they would be molting. That probably explains why some of them look scraggly.

Sena taps on the windows and orders them off the property. That doesn’t work. Sometimes they look up at you like they know you’re staring at them—but they usually ignore you and go back to munching on your lawn.

I wonder if I’d feel differently about culling the whitetail deer if I watched hunters actually cull them—or kill them. The word “culling” actually sounds like a nicer version of “killing.” The definition of culling is the reduction in the population of wild animals by “selective slaughtering.”

The origin of the word “cull” is interesting. It comes from the Latin verb colligere, meaning “to gather.” In general, it means to collect a group of animals into separate groups: one to keep and one to kill. Usually, it’s about killing the weak and sick ones.

On the other hand, the origin of the word “kill” seems to be obscure. Of course, it means to strike, hit, put to death. It might derive from an Old English word, “cwellan,” which means to murder, or execute.

Cwellan, cull, kill. I think it’s a coincidence they sound similar. None of them sound like “Bambi.” When me and my brother were little, we had a toy record player that played a simplified version of the Disney classic movie, Bambi. It had either a little storybook that came with it or a little slide show. It got a lot of use. One slide showed a shadowy image of a big stag. Eventually the record got stuck on a place that cried over and over, “Man!”

Maybe that’s why the city doesn’t have a whitetail deer culling plan.

Hello, I’m Dr. James Caramel Brown

I read Dr. Moffic’s article, “The United States Psychiatric Association: Social Psychiatric Prediction #4”. I think the rationale for renaming the American Psychiatric Association makes sense.

However, it also got me thinking about the names of other associations connected to the APA (here meaning American Psychiatric Association). One of them is the Black Psychiatrists of America, Inc. We make up about 2% of psychiatrists in the United States.

It also reminded me to once again do a web search for the term “Black psychiatrists in Iowa.” It turns out the results would lead to a repeat of my previous post “Black Psychiatrists in Iowa” on May 7, 2019. Nothing has changed. My colleague Dr. Donald Black, MD is still coming up in the search. Just as a reminder, he’s not black.

It probably comes as no surprise to readers of my blog that this also reminds me of a couple of Men in Black scenes.

Video of Men in Black scene, Dr. Black and Dr. White quotes.

And my post still appears high up in the list of web sites. There has also not been published a more recent edition of the Greater Iowa African American Resource Guide than the one in 2019. You can still find my name and that of Dr. Rodney J. Dean listed in the 2019 edition as the only black psychiatrists in Iowa.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m retired. I have never considered changing my name and title to Dr. James Caramel Brown. If you noticed that the “Caramel Brown” part is from Men in Black 3 (Agent J talking about what Agent K should say about his skin color in his eulogy for him), give yourself a pat on the back.

Agent J: Can you promise me something, if I go first, you’ll do better than that at my funeral? Yeah, something like, uh: “J was a friend. Now there’s a big part of me that’s gone. Oh, J, all the things I should have said, except I was too old and craggy and surly and just tight. I was too tight. Now, I’m gonna just miss your caramel-brown skin.”

Agent K: I’ll wing something.

Anyway, I’m not sure what to do about renaming the American Psychiatric Association. But I think whoever is in charge of google search results for the term “black psychiatrists in Iowa” could improve on the current situation.

Feisty and So On

There’s this dialogue in Men in Black II between Serleena and Zed:

Serleena: Zed, look at you, 25 years and you’re still just such a looker.

Zed: Cut out the meat dairy. And you, still a pile of squirmy crap in a different wrapper.

Serleena: So feisty.

I’m becoming more aware of the use of the word “feisty” in reference to so-called “older” persons. That’s because I’m getting older.

I noticed an article on the use of patronizing words for older persons. A couple of other such words are “spry” and “sharp.”

“Sharp” as in sharp as a tack (for his age, of course). Also, as in sharp enough to know today’s date.

“Spry” as in he is spry enough to get into and out of a chair.

I’m also spry enough on most days to do under the leg and behind the back juggling tricks.

I’m still sharp enough to know the difference between respectful and patronizing.

I guess that makes me feisty.

Exactly When Were the Good Old Days?

I just saw a short web article about Baby Boomers and their opinion of what’s going on these days and comparing it to the “good old days.”

There were the usual complaints about bad music, lack of teamwork, no effort to maintain social bonds, and the like.

I’m not sure I can identify any such good old days. I can think of good and bad times. I tend to think of them as being a byproduct of good experiences with people you enjoy being with—which don’t always fit with the times.

I grew up in the 1960s during the Civil Rights struggle, and I would be hard-pressed to call it the good old days. I can recall my mother trying her best to straighten out the curls of the hair of my younger brother and me with a lot of hair oil. It was almost painful as she tried to press the evidence of our mixed white and black parentage out of our hair.

I think the perception of what the good old days were might depend on your place in society at the time.

There’s this old Twilight Zone episode about a guy trying to make it in the tough business world and he wasn’t doing too well.

Spoiler Alert: I reveal what happens in the ending, just in case you want to try to find a YouTube.

On the train home from the office, he would dream of a place called Willoughby. It was a place years before his time. It was sunny. People were friendly, enjoyed picnics, went fishing and it was always summertime. He longed for it. His boss was a tyrant and his wife pretty much called him a failure. He got off the train at the Willoughby stop a few times and really enjoyed the good old days feel to the place. But he always got back on the train.

One day, he had that “last straw” moment. His boss was tyrannical; his wife belittled him and called him a loser. He got off the train at Willoughby, determined to stay in the good old days.

OK, this is the spoiler:

Willoughby turns out to be the name of the undertakers who pick him up where he jumped off the train and died.

Anyway, this “train” of thought led to Sena and I reminiscing about the trip to Hawaii we made way back in the day. The flight was long and excruciating. My ears were plugged most of the way there. We were both exhausted, but the tour group we traveled with were raring to go after we got to the hotel in Waikiki. They were mostly 3 decades older than us. I can’t remember if one of them or somebody else at the airport made a disparaging comment about Waikiki, something like: “I don’t know why anybody thinks Waikiki is anything special; what the hell, it’s just like Des Moines!”

While we camped out in our hotel room, the older folks went out to see Don Ho perform. When they got back, they said Don was drunk, they had a few drinks, and we just marveled at their energy.

We developed a friendship with a married couple in the tour group named Leota (Lee for short) and Norman. Lee took exception to Norman having a beer with the rest of us on some outing. I think it was about a health problem he had. He grumbled a little and we toasted the event anyway. Norman, who had been in the military, shed a few tears at the Pearl Harbor monument.

We traded Christmas cards with Lee and Norman until their children sent us a card telling us that Lee had died. Norman died several years later. We still have a photo of Sena with Lee and Norman taken while we were having a great time in Hawaii.

I guess you call those the good old days. Maybe you could even find a reason to call the present times the good old days after a while—if you were as drunk as Don Ho during the whole era.

Ugly Juggling Hits the Shower

OK, I’ve found out that there’s more than one way to hit the shower pertaining to the juggling trick called “The Shower.”

As usual, my form is ugly because I’m in the early practice phase of trying to learn the shower. But then, even when I think I’ve got a trick down—it’s always ugly.

Anyway, different experts have different instructions for the shower trick. A couple of them tell you to throw the two balls in your dominant hand one right after the other. “Go for it” the guy says, who wrote the Learn to Juggle manual I still use. A YouTuber also tells you to just throw the two balls up there. Another expert doesn’t suggest that—but I can’t do it at all unless I toss two balls up sequentially.

I keep my two hands two close together and too high for the “slap” part of the pattern, which is tossing a ball straight across from my nondominant hand to my dominant hand. I also throw a ball too far out from the pane of glass (which is a pain in the ass!).

As usual, you can see all my mistakes in my ugly juggling on my own YouTube video, which you should not use as an example of anything but the wrong way to learn the shower.

By the way, Sena is making progress learning to juggle!

Sena Learning How to Juggle!

Big news flash—Sena is learning how to juggle. She just started doing the single and two-ball practice throws on the way to learning how to do the 3-ball cascade, just like I did about 5 months ago.

Just like she heard me dropping balls—now I hear her doing it. It’s a gas! It’s fascinating to watch her gradually improve.

On the other hand, I’m trying to learn how to do another juggling trick called the shower. If you look this up on the web, you’ll find a comical entry that reads “How do you juggle 3 balls in the shower?”

It’s not a trick you do in the shower.

The shower is what some call an intermediate level trick which, I think, historically was how everyone started learning to juggle. Instead of learning the cascade, you started by learning the shower. The way the balls fly, they sort of look like they’re raining. And it’s a lot harder than the cascade.

There’s a half shower trick that I learned pretty quickly. And I can sort of handle the two-ball practice for the shower. I’m stuck when I add the 3rd ball, sort of how I got stuck learning the behind the back throw. You have to throw two balls up from your dominant hand in perfect arcs just before throwing one ball across from your non-dominant hand to the dominant hand. Catch them all. Right.

You can find YouTube videos of this that make it look easy. But that’s only because the teachers are very well practiced!

Fathers Can Be a Pain in the Ass

I’m going to talk a little bit about fathers. Mothers are important too, but I’m a guy and I can talk about mothers another day. Because it’s a touchy subject, I’m going to begin with a Men in Black (MIB) joke, like I always do when I’m being defensive. There’s this MIB 3 scene in which Agent K and Agent J have this exchange:

Agent K: I used to play a game with my dad, what would you have for your last meal. You could do worse than this (explanation for this: they’re sitting in a restaurant and an eyeball in Agent K’s soup swivels around and stares at him).

Agent J: Oh, okay, I used to play a game with my dad called catch. Except I would throw the ball and it would just hit the wall, cause—he wasn’t there.

Agent K: Don’t bad mouth your old man.

Agent J: I’m not bad mouthing him, I just didn’t really know him.

Agent K: That’s not right.

Agent J: You’re damn right, it’s not right. A little boy needs a father.

On one level, this scene is just another way of showing the father/son, teacher/student, mentor/mentee relationship Agents K and J had with each other. By extension, their interaction says something about what happens in similar real-life relationships—in the shallow, cliché ways that movies always do.

I sometimes think about the relationship I had with learners when I was a teaching consultation-liaison (C-L) psychiatry. Often, I say to myself that I never had a mentor and I was never a mentor.

That’s not true. Although I never had a mentor who was formally assigned to me, there was more than one faculty member in the psychiatry department with whom I had an informal mentor/mentee relationship. And I was an informal mentor to at least a few trainees.

However, I was middle-aged by the time I entered medical school, which probably set the stage for awkward relationships with my fellow students and some teachers, partly because I was either the same age as or older than them.

That doesn’t mean I was wiser than them. It just means that I was conflicted about them. Later, in residency, I learned about transference and countertransference. In fact, I focused on the psychodynamic as well as the medical issues in teaching trainees. In the first C-L manual I wrote (the forerunner to the book I and my co-editor published later), I devoted a large section to psychodynamic factors relevant to doctor-patient relationships.

So, if you’re wondering when I’m going to start bad-mouthing my old man, you can stop wondering. I’m not going there. He wasn’t a hero, like Agent J’s father was (you need to see the movie to get this angle).

My dad was funny. I don’t think I got my own sense of humor from him, but it makes sense why I would have one—and just because “he wasn’t there” doesn’t explain everything. It never does.

Fathers can be a pain in the ass, not just because of dad jokes. Fathers can be a pain in the brain, too. Ask anybody who was a latchkey kid; I was one of those. We really don’t belong to any specific generation.

We also can’t just up and time travel like Agent J and find out about the father we never really knew. Mostly, it’s just bits and pieces, like a matchbook with a name and address from somebody on your paper route. The path it can lead to doesn’t always mean you find out that “Your daddy was a hero,” like a young Agent K tells young James (who becomes Agent J in the future) after he neuralyzes him to shield him from the hard truth about his father.

You’ll have to watch the movie to get that one.

Behind the Mask Policy

Tomorrow I’ll get to see how the new Covid-19 face mask policy works at the University of Iowa Hospital & Clinics. It goes into effect today. I’m going to see the dentist, as I have periodically for years, even during the Covid-19 pandemic. Of course, the idea of masked dental patients is ironic.

The rule change about masks being sort of optional is a little confusing.

It’s sort of optional because it looks like it’s not optional for unvaccinated health care employees. They still have to wear masks.

I wrote about this back in May of 2021, “Unmasked Means Fully Vaccinated?” That was back when bandanas were acceptable as face coverings.

So does being masked mean “not vaccinated?” It’s confusing because if masking is optional for patients and visitors, why are health care workers the exception? I’m not sure how anyone would enforce the policy.

If you can wear a mask just because you want to do that, how does that separate you from the unvaccinated person?

If masks are optional, then why are the entrance and exit policies not changing, including screening of patients, visitors, and staff? I didn’t see the guidance about what to do if anyone says they are symptomatic or unvaccinated and prefers not to wear a mask, other than to offer a mask (which is free!).

If it’s disrespectful to ask a patient or visitor to put on a face mask, why is it not disrespectful to require an unvaccinated health care worker to do so? There is one bullet point in the question-and-answer section about whether you can ask anyone to wear a face mask which says you can’t ask anyone, including “employee, colleague, patient, visitor, etc.” In the same section is the statement: “Whether or not to wear a mask is a personal decision that each person must make for themselves and for their own reasons.” Does that apply to getting a Covid-19 vaccine as well?

That said, I’m a staunch supporter of everyone getting a Covid-19 vaccine, if they don’t have medical or other exemptions. They don’t make you magnetic!

And I don’t think the recent Cochrane Review results on face masks really means they’re useless, which some news stories tend to convey. I think the Cochrane review does what most such reviews do, which is point out the problems with some controlled studies. And the reviews themselves may have unintended biases.

What’s the most important part of all this? Well, maybe the predicted snowstorm coming to Iowa tomorrow will prevent my dentist from getting to the clinic. And if that doesn’t work, maybe I could just exercise my right and privilege to wear my mask as a barrier to any nefarious procedures.

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