Category Archives: Life – Miscellaneous Observations

Scapegoating in Families

Greeting Card by J.C. Duffy (c) 1981
Greeting Card by J.C. Duffy (c) 1981

I bought this greeting card back in 1981, when I was 25. I didn’t buy it to send to anyone. I bought it because the woman in the picture looked like I felt: shocked, exhausted, raw.

I was reminded of this picture this week, when I came across multiple blog posts that described my family-of-origin with eye-popping completeness and specificity. In just the last 5 years, the toxic dynamic that shaped my life has become recognized and understood by enough people that it can be googled.

Mean Girl Times a Million

Everybody knows about “mean girls”, and how they bully and torment their targets. Mean girls are narcissists (or, more technically, suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD). They have an exaggerated sense of their own worth, and think that their chosen minions can do no wrong because they chose them. Conversely, they view those they deem unworthy as legitimate targets of libel, slander, gossip, derision, contempt, ostracism, and worse. Mean girls don’t feel bad about hurting people’s feelings because narcissists can’t empathize. They can feign it, but they don’t feel it. Narcissists don’t actually recognize the existence of other human beings as such. Other people matter only insofar as they impact the narcissist’s own life. Character traits like loyalty, responsibility, and integrity are not part of the NPD world. Only what the narcissist wants, needs, and feels matters. Ironically, if you try to assert your own wants, needs, or feelings with a narcissist, you’ll be called “selfish”. How thoughtless of you to consider your own needs above those of the narcissist – or at all, for that matter!

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You’re Probably Iodine Deficient

You’re probably iodine deficient because most people reading this will be American, and most Americans are iodine deficient. Whether it will cause out-and-out disease in your body depends on whether you have any physical “weak links”, so to speak.

I have a history of “hot” thyroid nodules – nodules that spew thyroid hormone without regard for what my body  needs, making me hyperthyroid. I had a partial thyroidectomy when I was 19, and most of my thyroid was removed. My doctor told me to take synthroid for the rest of my life to suppress my thyroid activity, but I didn’t and I was fine for many years. But recently the nodules recurred.

The problem was caught in a blood test. Again my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was very low, indicating that my body somehow already had enough hormone – i.e., nodules again. It occurred to me that I had recently switched from regular, iodized salt to sea salt, which is not fortified with iodine. So I did a google search to see if iodine deficiency could cause hot thyroid nodules. The answer was yes, so I then researched supplements. After taking a high dose supplement (details below) for about a month, two miraculous things happened:

  1. My thyroid nodules went away and my thyroid levels returned to normal.
  2. My ulcerative colitis went into complete remission for the first time in 10 years. (HUH?!?!)

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Bad Business at Empire Cake

Empire CakeOn October 18, 2012, I was accused of stealing at Empire Cake (formerly Lulu’s) on 8th Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets. I’ve never been accused of stealing before since I’ve never stolen. It was a shocking, insulting, and humiliating experience that I did not deserve.

I made a $5.90 purchase, and paid with a $20 and a $1 (as I recall). The cashier gave me $5.10 in change, and I said I’d given her a $20. She gave me the additional $10, but looked uncertain, so I offered my phone number in case her drawer was short.

Just then, two men (I believe the owners – they wouldn’t tell me who they were) came out from the back and accused me of stealing $10. I said I was just offering to leave my phone number in case the drawer was short. The short one sneered, “You’d never return the money.” He said I could come downstairs and watch the security video that “proved” I was a thief. It showed the cashier placing my bill in a slot where there now were no $20s. Okay, so either the $20 bill disappeared somehow, or I made an honest mistake. But he wouldn’t let me speak. He said I’d been harrassing the cashier and I called her a cheat. This was completely untrue. We’d been making small talk about salted chocolate, and when she gave me the change I thought she’d made an honest error. But nothing I said mattered. He insisted that I came into the store with the intent to steal, and demanded that I return the $10 or he’d call the police. I gave him the $10 and left.

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Movie Review: “The Kids Are All Right”

"The Kids Are All Right"

I didn’t like this movie half as much as I thought I would, for two reasons:

(1) The trailer gives away too much.

(2) The part the trailer doesn’t give away is the worst part of the movie.

I actually liked the trailer more than the movie.

What follows is a spoiler, so if you don’t want to know, do not continue reading!

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Movie Review: It’s Complicated

It's Complicated

I had the opportunity to see the new movie It’s Complicated last night at a pre-release screening in Times Square. It didn’t knock my socks off, but it was pleasant and funny, and I enjoyed it. It was the first time I’d seen Steve Martin in a non-comedic role. He was totally believable.

It’s the story of a divorced woman, played by Meryl Streep, who ends up in an affair with her ex-husband, played by Alec Baldwin. And then there is the divorced architect, played by Steve Martin, who also is interested in Streep’s character. I won’t tell you who wins.

I thought the acting and direction were better than the script, which was a bit predictable. The acting was great; everyone in it was good. One very funny scene was when Streep’s character tells her children about the affair with their father, thanks to some inspired direction (or maybe it was in the script, who knows). I won’t spoil that for you, either.

The movie has many funny moments – one in particular is fall-on-the-floor funny. If you see it, you’ll know which one I mean. The film consistently held my attention, never dragged. But it became obvious fairly early on what was going to happen, so there wasn’t a lot of suspense. Nor was there much depth in the character development. This is okay in a light comedy, there just wasn’t a lot to it. It’s a simple story with simple characters.

I’d rate it good but not great, pleasant but not profound. It’s a pleasant way to spend a couple hours, but not the kind of movie you tell all your friends they have to see.

Easy Way to Cut Your Own Hair in a Curly Bob

I’ve been cutting my own hair for years, with varying success. It started as a way to save money, and then became something I just wanted to learn how to do – seemed like I should be able to do. It usually ended up an all-day project. But I found a new method, and this morning I was able to cut my hair into a medium length, gently layered bob in just five minutes. Here’s a pic – I think it came out well! Here’s how you do it.

My 5-minute, do-it-yourself haircut
My 5-minute, do-it-yourself haircut

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Review: Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story

Capitalism isn’t as well done as Sicko, Moore’s previous film. But it’s well worth seeing for its disturbing insights and information, brought into vivid high relief by Moore’s inimitable style. The film’s main themes are:

  • Capitalism is not the great moral good that we’ve been taught it is since childhood. In fact, it’s an evil system with incentives that inevitably lead to a small number of people amassing vast wealth, while a large majority of workers can’t afford the basics of life. Ironically, although the pro-capitalist religious right has appropriated Christianity to itself, capitalism goes against all the precepts of Christianity and Jesus Christ. Moore backs up this assertion with numerous and persuasive expert interviews, and some shocking facts of which most people are unaware.
  • Capitalism is actually not small-d democratic at all. The hierarchical structure of large corporations is fascist, not democratic. You have no say; you’re a cog in a machine owned and run by others. You do what you’re told or you’re fired. Capitalism was not part of our founders’ vision. There is no reference to capitalism in the Constitution, and in fact many of our founders – including Thomas Jefferson and John Adams – warned against it. Jefferson said, “Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.”

Capitalism makes its main points well, but has some weaknesses:

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Good-bye PC Magazine (Print Edition)

This morning it was announced that the print edition of PC Magazine will end with the January 2009 issue. Former Editor-in-Chief Michael Miller blogged about this on

Memories, memories. I started at PC Magazine very shortly after Michael Miller became Editor-in-Chief in 1991. In fact, my first interview was with the previous Editor-in-Chief, Bill Machrone.

I confess to mixed feelings about the end of the print edition.

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The Immigration Issue No One Talks About

256px-Statue_of_Liberty_7Why do so many people attempt to enter the U.S. illegally? The answer is not just that this is a desirable country to live in. That doesn’t explain why, for example, so many Mexicans risk their lives crossing a desert on foot rather than getting a proper visa. Why not come here legally?

I asked this question of a very nice man who has worked at a store in my neighborhood for years, and came to this country by risking his life walking through the Mexican desert. (The trick to survival, he said, is to cross in winter when it’s cooler.) Why did he do it? The answer is simple – there’s no way he could have gotten a visa. Coming here legally was not one of his options.

  • Poor people looking for opportunity cannot get visas to enter the U.S.
  • Desperate people fleeing persecution cannot get visas to enter the U.S.

If you’re educated and have a job waiting for you at a big American company, you can get a visa. But if you’re a poor Mexican who wants to come to this country for the opportunity it offers for education and advancement, forget it. If your life is in danger in your home country, you can die waiting for permission to enter the U.S.

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A Connection to the Ship that Rescued 705 Titanic Survivors

My great grandfather emigrated to the U.S. from Hungary in 1907 with his wife and two young sons (one being my grandfather). In 2002, my mother found his passenger record on the Ellis Island Web site, and forwarded it to our family in email. It contains a detail we didn’t notice at the time.

The ship that brought my great grandfather to America was the Carpathia. Less than five years later, this same ship would answer the Titanic’s desperate distress call.

To maximize speed, Carpathia’s captain cut off heat and hot water to the cabins and diverted all available steam to the engines. The ship finally reached the Titanic lifeboats at 4am, and rescued 705 survivors.

And there’s video – video of the very ship that brought my great grandfather to the U.S., as it returned to port with Titanic survivors.

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