Strangest Question Ever (Thanks To Poor Wording)

The ‘Ask Anything’ column in this month’s Women’s Health magazine — print edition, but not, oddly, in the online version — has a question that starts, “Is it OK to drink wine and eat sushi until I know for sure I’m pregnant?”

How long, do you suppose, that would be? How long might it take to get pregnant from drinking wine and eating sushi?

Is one kind of wine, or one kind of sushi, more likely to be the magic elixir?

What’s wrong with the idea of getting pregnant the old-fashioned way?

The magazine question continues, “Or do I have to stop if I’m just trying?”

Stop what?

Trying What?

The magazine’s answer to the original question provides both an answer and another question:

The answer: “Moderate consumption of both is fine during the two-week ‘Am I preggo or what?’ window.”

So, now we know consuming “moderate amounts” for two weeks — ideally through a window, for some reason — puts one at risk of getting “preggo” (some kind of sushily-transmitted disease [STD]?).

(I know you don’t get wine-related “preggo” from two weeks of ‘moderate’ drinking of wine. I drank well over two weeks’ worth inside of one week some years back in Kosovo, and I only got heartburn to a degree I was unable to enjoy the wonderful-looking meal served to me post-trip at a Rhine-side restaurant in Rudesheim, Germany, where I was hosted by an executive of the company that sponsored the journalists’ wine-tasting trip I’d just completed.)

(The dozen or so journalists and their hosts spent the better part of four hours per day ‘enjoying’ essentially the same meal, first for two hours at lunch then the same or more time at dinner, for five days, as we toured a relatively small area where local officials wanted us to get a ‘taste’ of their local specialties. Each meal was washed down with copious quantities of local wine.

(For variety, one day, I bought a meat patty of some sort from a fry-to-order guy with a roadside cart. That was about as ‘local specialty’ as you can get — and it was good, too, as the lingering memory, forty years on, attests!)

But the newly-raised question, in the magazine’s answer, concerns that window.

Is that a metaphor of some kind? Am I missing something?

Was that sushi I had for lunch the elixir — giving me a dose of ‘preggo’, resulting, rapidly, in an inability to clearly see the symbolism of a ‘window’?

(I only had a couple of sips, officer!)

On more than a few occasions, when eating alone and being bored while waiting for a server to perform his most important task, I’ve read the warning label the government insists be on wine bottles. That label cautions against drinking wine while pregnant, but gives no indication that — as Women’s Health magazine would have you believe — wine drinking in conjunction with sushi-eating could conceivably lead to a sizable financial commitment over the following twenty or so years as you shepherd a result (or two, or three) of that consumption through childhood and adolescence until, all being well, s/he or they trundle off toward what Nellie the elephant escaped — the circus; In this case, the circus that comprises adult life.

Hopefully, neither he nor she nor they, as the case may be, would have had any cause, during all those growing-up years, to wonder if they were either ‘preggo’ in a reproductive sense or, worse, a spaghetti sauce stuffed with an extra G.

(If the latter thought ever arose, odds are the thinker was ‘sauced’, or a consumer of something more potent than alcohol.)

New Orleans: Coming Back, Moving Forward

500-yr_storm“Straight roads do not make skillful drivers.”

The task of the people now working for Cedric Grant, Executive Director, since July, 2014, of the Sewage and Water Board of New Orleans, has been anything but a straight road over the past ten years as they initiated and moved along the recovery of their city’s water, sewage, drainage and power systems devastated by Katrina.

Grant, a former deputy of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, used the ‘straight roads’ analogy on August 29 in releasing a book-length report entitled ‘Katrina 10’ — subtitled ‘Progress . . . Devastation to Recovery to Restoration to Rebuilding’. The book outlines, in 149 pages, what’s been, is being and will be done with the close to $20 billion being dedicated to not simply restoring but significantly improving the city and its ability to withstand — heaven help us — storms even greater than Katrina.

The storm-initiated damage resulted primarily as a result of failed levies intended (but poorly designed) to protect the partly-below-sea-level city from just the kind of massive overflows it suffered on August 29, 2005.

New Orleans lost close to two thousand people, something like a million homes and businesses dwellings, and massive damage to many of those that remained standing. Roughly a quarter of the pre-Katrina population never returned from places to which they were evacuated or fled. On August 28, 2005, nearly 480,000 people lived in the city. Today, there are fewer than 370,000 residents — and many of them remain unable to return to storm-damaged and still unrepaired homes.

The vast majority of the mountain of 10-year-anniversary coverage on the internet and in print has focused, to a certain degree logically, on the human aspects of the tragedies — the initial one and the ongoing smaller ones affecting areas of the city and their residents. How communities have, to one degree or another, moved on — some better off, some not. How individuals have, too. Or not: Many remain homeless; many others who’d like to still be in the city they consider ‘home’ remain elsewhere, more than likely never to return.

Depending on your perspective, it’s either as, or more, important to explore how the city’s infrastructure — the publicly-funded physical elements — as well as it’s ‘corporate culture’ — the far-less-obviously-corrupt way its government operates — and its ‘future awareness’ have changed and will continue to.

To put all that in perspective, there’s this: Two years ago, The Times-Picayune (often abbreviated, like it’s website to NOLA, a common ‘nickname’ for its city) cited a fascinating statistic from a collection recently released by the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, which has steadily tracked recovery indicators since shortly after the storm. Its ‘New Orleans Index at 8’ report, detailing progress, and lack of it, in that eight-year interval, noting that, as the Times-Picayune put it, “The New Orleans metro has weathered the Great Recession impressively; As of 2012, it had recovered all its recession-era losses and reached 1 percent above its 2008 employment level while the nation remained 2 percent below its 2008 job level.”

The Times-Picayune also noted at that time, “The New Orleans area is showing encouraging signs that it might be pulling off a rare reversal of a once-entrenched economic decline.”

That, in a nutshell, points to how steadily New Orleans’ labor- and construction-intensive efforts carried on even as both those indicators faltered in the nation as a whole.

‘Katrina 10’ (see paragraph 3, above) includes details on “a new plan to coordinate infrastructure management, commitment to reform,the ongoing rehabilitation of the sewage collection system, the major rebuilding of the massive drainage system and improvements to the water system and the Board’s own power plant.”

That plan was announced in a press release in June of this year. It then was said that, the Sewerage & Water Board had joined with The Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority of Louisiana, the City of New Orleans, agencies across the metropolitan area and the US Corps of Engineers — which is responsible for levy construction and support — in “a coordinated, region-wide preparation effort . . to ensure that coordination of operations and communications between [local agencies and the Corps of Engineers] were in place and tested.”

Specific storm-anticipation preparation efforts have included

• Emergency contracts for prestaged generators at key facilities;

• Emergency response boats and communication equipment staged at various Drainage Pumping Stations;

• Arrangements for an Emergency Operation Center at the Main Water Plant to coordinate the S&WB’s response to emergency events;

• Providing employees with placards for response and reentry;

• Giving employees a 1-800 call-in number to report their location in the event they have evacuated;

• Building emergency protective Tiger Dams to protect against flooding at the Main Water Plant Power House; and

• Establishment of a Mobile Command Post to be staged in Baton Rouge as an alternate Emergency Operations Center.

‘Katrina 8,’ says, “Management and staff [are] confident that their team of experts [is] well prepared and able to work internally with our own forces and externally with the City’s overall Office of Emergency Preparedness Command Center, Corps of Engineers, levee districts and [with] adjacent parishes.” It also notes that employees who experienced Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike and Isaac “were invaluable resources” as the new preparedness plan was put together.

Even as that press release was distributed, Corps’ contractors were hard at work on what undoubtedly will be the most important infrastructure effort ever undertaken anywhere, to date, to guard against hurricane damage.

The “current projects” tab on S&WB’s web site offers details of, among other things, the post-Katrina-created Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS) for southeast Louisiana, a sizable chunk of which is known as the Permanent Canal Closures & Pumps (PCCP). It “will provide a permanent and more sustainable measure for reducing the risk of a 100-year level storm surge entering [three] outfall canals,” the web site says. That project is due to be completed, at a cost of something like $615 million, in 2017, when the PCCP replaces temporary barriers erected in 2006.

(This photo shows another similarly-massive part of the new flood control system — so-called Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Surge Barrier. At lower right, U.S. Senator David Vitter, is poking his head through one of the many openings that line the entire length of the that structure. [Photo: Chris Granger, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune].)

An NPR story on Aug. 28 looked at some of the details of the largest single piece of this flood control project::

First, it quoted Susan Maclay, president of Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority — West — one of two state-created agencies that, since Katrina, have been charged with consolidating and improving flood control. “The West Bank is astronomically safer; There is no comparison since before Katrina and today,” she said.

Next, the story talked about “A giant concrete and steel structure called the West Closure Complex [that is] one of the engineering marvels of the new [flood control] system. During a flood event, a water gate nearly as long as a football field slowly shuts and 11 behemoth diesel engines kick on to pump water out of Jefferson Parish.

“This structure cost approximately $1.1 billion,” Maclay was said to have boasted. “It consists of the largest pump station in the world. It can fill an Olympic-size swimming pool in three seconds.” (The photos on this page shows renderings of three new pump stations in New Orleans.)

It and the rest of the new flood protection system are expected to render New Orleans virtually impervious from storms with winds up to more than 200 miles per hour as well as the storm surges they generate.

Meanwhile, at considerably less cost, the populace of the city has so strongly said ‘enough is enough’ where rampart public corruption is concerned. Te people’s outrage at (corrupt) ‘business as usual’ in the years leading up to Katrina has, since then, resulted in the conviction of no fewer that 17 politicians being convicted on charges of one or another kind of corruption in office. The 17th was former NOLA Mayor Ray Nagin, who was sentenced in 2014 to ten years in federal prison after being convicted on  “20 counts including bribery, conspiracy and money laundering stemming from his two terms as mayor, including the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005,” as Fox News reported.

A lot of the people-focused media coverage of Katrina+plus+ten has mentioned — sometimes almost in passing, because the fact has long been part of the city’s reputation — how ‘politics’, particularly the less than savory kind, contributed to the climate causing minority citizens of the city to be denied opportunities for better jobs, reasonable housing and, by the way, fair treatment by the police and other officials with whom they come in contact; How residents of primarily-Black areas were, after being hardest-hit by Katrina, made to wait longest before being rescued, and then given the kind of help and support they deserved.

Now, much as some of those neighborhoods have changed (The New York Times has provided a detailed look at that), the city’s ‘corporate culture’ has, too, with public officials have come to be, if not as honest and straight-forward as they should be, at least superficially for the people, as they are serving by — at the will of — the people.

While a lot was lot, a lot has been gained in NOLA since August 29, 2005. Perspective is high on the list of ‘gains’: Both ‘city fathers; and citizens have come to accept — many of the citizens, anyway — that their city will never see, in its good and less good aspects, July 2005 again.

New Orleans is in some ways worse off, and in many ways gaining, from Katrina — continuing to gain: New blood, new spirit has come to town; Business start-ups, and people aiming to make them happen and succeed, have invested themselves, and their money, into a ‘new world’.

The past is; The future’s brighter.

Extending The University Experience Through Fine(r) Dining

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Food Prep At Tulane University  (photo: Tulane)

It used to be, not all that many semesters ago, that colleges put together their food service programs almost as an afterthought — something that was necessary (everybody’s gotta eat!), but not something that should consume a lot of resource, and certainly not something intended to serve as ‘part of the learning experience’.

My, how times have changed.

Amazing options can be found in meal plans at a growing number of institutions of higher education. Options including multiple dining establishments, often with very different menus, sometimes with particularly careful attention being paid to student’s special food needs.

Or special wishes: A new $32 million dining complex at the University of Kentucky, The 90, features a broad assortment of food “platforms” focused on, among other things, fresh produce, bakery items, grilled selections, several pasta choices and a spectrum of vegetarian offerings. Students favoring more traditional ‘meat and three’ dishes with have their choice of those, too, and, in a thrust to expand not just food offerings but cultural experiences, at UK and North Carolina’s High Point University, for example, there are periodic special cuisine days or periods — there’s a different one each each of several school months at High Point — showcasing the cuisine of a different country, or area.

High Point highlights include Chinese, French, Italian and Cajun Creole specialities and, with some, informational presentations about aspects of the culture of the subject area. HPU’s steak house, 1924 Prime, offers a level of cuisine head and shoulders above what’s available at all but a relative few US universities.

The 90 at UK offers more than 20 Mongolian items on one of its platforms. The Western Dining Commons at Miami University of Ohio —  the WDC is one of a dozen food-offering facilities on this campus — includes an International Station where choices include items “inspired by the cuisines of India, Italy, Greece, France, Thailand, China, Korea, Japan, Mexico, Jamaica and more,” a web site says.

The Becker House Dining Room at Cornell regularly features selections that are well beyond the ordinary offerings at most US universities — items such as Hunan Seared Kale, Sicilian Sheet Pizza and, in a mouthful of a soup bar choice, “Miso Shitake Brown Rice Udon Noodle Bowl”.

Cornell also has an annual event called the Diwali Festival of Lights Dinner, celebrating the Hindu holiday of Diwali, or Festival of Lights. The dinner offers a mouth-watering array of Indian dishes including Saag Paneer, Chicken Bombay, Mushroom Biriyani, Malai Murgh, Sweet Potato Chaat, Fattoush, and Carrot Halva.

The Daily Meal noted recently that Cornell has increased the amount of locally-grown or -produced food to 22% of the total it purchases.

At Duke’s Freeman Center For Jewish Life, there’s a gourmet Kosher kitchen called Henry’s Place. It serves special meals for Friday evening Shabbat and Jewish holidays and, During Passover, three kosher-for-passover meals are provided daily. Henry’s also offers a number of vegetarian options, and the staff very strictly observes rules requiring that there be no dairy products used at any point when meat is being served.

Among Duke’s 26 other on-campus dining locations, some are described by The Daily Meal as “serving fare that sounds more suited to a fine-dining restaurant than a college dining hall, such as pan-seared divers scallops with a basil pistou, carved-to-order porchetta with salsa verde, and gnocchi and sage au gratin.

You would expect schools with strong agriculture-oriented programs or are in prime growing areas, such as Oregon State University, Texas A&M, Kenyon College (Gambier OH) and a host of others to have strong farm-to-market programs feeding their dining operations. Increasingly, they do.

At Kenyon, the menu is changed three times a year “to focus in on the climate and the local foods available,” the school’s Dining on Campus website says. Overall, some 40 percent of what students eat is locally grown, US News & World Report was told by Robin Davis, Kenyon’s public affairs director. She noted that the locally-grown fare includes potatoes used for french fries, cherry tomatoes for the salad bar and the basil used in pesto served on pasta. The US News story also noted that Kenyon buys whole hogs and steers instead of packaged cuts or ground meat for its food service, and left-overs from the dining hall are composted to be used as fertilizer around the college’s grounds.

(A few years ago, when she still was food editor at the Columbus Dispatch, Davis wrote how Kenyon chef Walter Miller took a break one weekend to prepare food for 1500 attendees at the Governors Ball, a prestigious Los Angeles party associated with the Academy Awards. That event, for which Miller donated his services, was for a long time catered by “uber-chef Wolfgang Puck,” Davis noted.)

Penn State University also is among the growing number of schools whose catering departments have moved heavily into recycling and, in Penn State’s case, composting. Not just from their dining halls, but from catering operations at some 3000 events per year and, for good measure, office waste is being recycled, too. A total of more than 100 types of food, food service and other waste, overall, resulting in more than 10,000 tons being diverted from landfills, according to a Penn State web site.

Tulane University, which shares a dining program with Loyola University in New Orleans, sources as much as possible of its food locally. Presumably, that includes some of the seafood served at Tulane’s  1834 Club — which has offerings tempting enough to make you want to head for the airport!

Emory University, a leading research facility in Atlanta, has been working toward a goal of having three-quarters of its food locally-sourced. While the food service department gives priority to Georgia farms, the school has “additional partners throughout the eight-state region of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi,” an Emory web site says.

As well as buying as much as possible of its food locally, Oakland CA’s Mills College cooks in small batches to reduce waste and preserve freshness, The Daily Meal said.

It’s hardly surprising, though, that students many times don’t care about either locally-grown or ‘freshness’ in the sense Mills College means the term. Instead, they want ‘comfort food’ of the type they’re used to wherever they come from — and that translates, in many instances, to fast food as provided by such national chains as Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, Au Bon Pain, and, of course, McDonald’s — among others. Where they don’t actually bring such franchises into their in-house food service program, a lot of universities enable to eat at such places off campus, using their meal card.

A surprising number of schools — even urban ones such as the University of Pennsylvania — offer a few (or a lot of, in the case of U Penn) food trucks within or alongside the campus. These can add tremendously to the variety of foods available to students. At U Penn, in Philadelphia, the offerings include Japanese, Chinese, Greek, Middle Eastern, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, fruit salad, hot dogs, and something called “Quaker Shaker.”

At Penn, food trucks “date back to when the University was predominantly a commuter school,” a U Penn web site says.  At other schools, the vending ‘tradition’ is nearly as, or just as, short-lived as the trend toward more, better food offerings in general.

The assortment of options already is virtually limitless, and the trend is a healthy one.

This writer recalls a day — some decades ago — when college food service was not far removed, in style or quality, from what students had recently escaped from when they left high school.

If you live near, or will be visiting near a mid-size to larger college or university, check out their web site: You may be able, as a visitor, to enjoy an excellent meal for a student-budget price!

Bon apetit.

Another Day, Two More Gunshot Deaths — TV Reporters, This Time

It was an early-morning site visit for a feature story alongside spacious, peaceful Smith Mountain Lake, near the Blue Ridge Mountains. By 6:45 on the morning of August 26, a reporter-camera man crew for Roanoke VA’s CBS affiliate, WDBJ, were well into a waterside interview with Vicki Gardner, executive director of the lake area’s Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Two minutes later, after at least eight shots were fired by a lone gunman,  reporter Alison Parker, 24, and photographer Adam Ward, 27, were dead, and Ms. Gardner was in need of surgery.

Another day, another senseless shooting.

The gunman, Vester Lee Flanagan, a former reporter at WDBJ where he used the name Bryce Williams, videotaped his attack and posted it on Facebook — from which it was removed shortly thereafter. Mr. Ward’s recording of the event was broadcast live on his station and quickly picked up and rebroadcast across the country.

The station’s ongoing live coverage, for the next hour or more, showed studio presenters discussing how “well loved” Ward and Parker were, and how full-of-life they were upon reporting to work in the wee hours of the morning. Parker was particularly well-loved by Christ Hurst, the WDBJ anchor who she’d recently begun sharing a home with. “We wanted to get married,” he Tweeted at 9:32 am. “I’m numb.”

He said the “very much in love” couple had been a couple “almost nine months, and it was the best nine months of our lives,” They only recently celebrated her 24th birthday.

Clearly less happy with the course of his life, Flanagan/Williams, an African-American, was dismissed by the statement in 2013 after he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying he’d been subjected to racial remarks at the station. WDBJ president and general Manager Jeffrey Marks said the complaint had been dismissed when no corroboration was found to support it. “We think [the charges] were fabricated,” Mr. Marks said in a statement.

His dismissal, after he’d “quickly gathered a reputation as someone who was difficult to work with,” as Mr. Marks put it, certainly wasn’t dismissed from the  former employee’s mind as evidenced, even before the shooting, by his preparation of a 23-page fax received from him by ABC News, which turned the document over to law authorities. A New York Times report said Wednesday that a Virginia government official who saw the fax “described it as the ‘rantings of an obviously depressed individual’ who mentions suicide, but does not talk about killing others.”

It is likely that law enforcement’s follow-up to that fax contributed to the quick identification of the shooter, who apparently drove his own car to the shooting scene then switched at the Roanoke airport to a car he’d rented a month earlier. State police tracked that vehicle onto and northbound on I-81 and a high-speed chase carried on across a lengthy stretch of interstate roadways from central into northern Virginia.

Then, on I-66 heading in the direction of Washington DC, Flanagan/Williams shot himself in the head while driving, resulting in the crashing of the rental car. He was airlifted to a Fairfax VA hospital, where he died some seven hours and 170-plus miles from the site of the initial incident.

Flanagan/Williams, who had worked at several television stations across the south, in 2000 “filed a lawsuit in 2000 against WTWC, the Tallahassee station where he worked, making allegations similar to those he made about WDBJ; The case was quickly settled on undisclosed terms,” The NY Times report said.

Don Shafer, who worked with Flanagan/Williams at the WTWC, the Tallahassee station, said his former colleague’s contract “had been terminated, in part, because of bizarre behavior and threats to other employees,” according to The Times.

‘Get Out of Jail Free’ Card Shifts Sex-Altering Costs for California

One of the ways California came to have a new, just-passed budget with a surplus estimated to amount to “hundreds of millions of dollars” is by curbing avoidable and unnecessary expenses. One of the more unusual ways the state has attempted to do that is to grant a highly unusual ‘get out of jail free’ card to an individual recently granted the right to have a state-financed “medically necessary” sex-change operation.

After a Ninth Circuit Court judge ordered California’s state prison system to provide sex-change surgery to a transgender inmate, Gov. Jerry Brown decided that instead of being cut, the inmate should be cut loose – paroled – perhaps saving the state tens of thousands in medical costs.

Perhaps: While Michelle-Lael Norsworthy’s ‘get out of jail free card’ would let the prison system off the hook for her surgery, the 51-year-old parolee could be eligible, as a low-income individual, for coverage of the procedure by Medi-Cal, the state-funded Medicaid program.

At age 21, Norsworthy fatally shot Franklin Gordon Liefer, 26, after an argument outside a bar. That was in 1985. She – then he, Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy – was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.

Upon learning in 2012 that a Massachusetts had ordered that state to fund a sex-change procedure for an inmate – a decision later overturned on appeal – Michelle asked California’s corrections system to cover her physical conversion costs and provide the appropriate procedure. California appealed to the 9th Circuit Court after U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar rules the state should fund the procedure.

Her lawsuit cited Prison psychologist William Reese as having declared, in 2012, that “clinical and medical necessity suggest and mandate a sex change medical operation before normal mental health can be achieved for this female patient”.

After a Board of Paroles’ hearing recommendation that Michelle, who was identified as having gender identity disorder in 1999, be released, Gov. Brown decided that, after nearly 30 years in prison, she doesn’t pose a threat to society and should be allowed to leave prison.

michelle_Norsworthy--AP

Michelle Norsworthy   Photo: Associated Press

She’s been taking female hormones for some time, and has been provided woman’s clothing and counseling to aid her transition – but she’s housed in a men’s facility, Mule Creek State Prison, near Sacramento. Prison records continue to identify her by her (male) birth name.

The Circuit Court decision to hear the state’s appeal was predicated on the possibility – a strong one, in the Circuit Court’s opinion – that denying the procedure was a denial of the prisoner’s constitutional rights (under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution) prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment.

On Friday (Aug. 8), the day after Michelle’s parole was OK’d, California told the federal court it has agreed to provide another inmate, Shiloh Quine, 56, the sex-change procedure to settle a separate lawsuit.

Formerly known as Rodney James Quine, Shiloh — who’s also received gender identification counseling in prison — was sentenced to life in prison when s/he was convicted of murder, kidnapping and robbery.

Jeffrey Callison, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said in an email that, “CDCR evaluates every case individually, and in the Quine case, every medical doctor and mental health clinician who has reviewed this case, including two independent mental health experts, determined that this surgery is medically necessary for Quine.”

The state hasn’t indicated yet when Norsworthy will be released or when Quine will receive her procedure. But if Norsworthy is released before her surgery, Quine is likely to become the first California inmate to undergo a state-funded sex-change procedure.

Seeking a Selfie With A Bison? Settle for One With a Moo-Cow!

bison_storyIt’s easy, when pursuing a selfie, to overlook personal safety issues. An extreme example of doing so has resulted, so far this year, in five people being injured by bison — often erroneously referred to as buffalo — in Yellowstone National Park. That’s more of that type injury than have occurred in the past 15 years, according to The Idaho Statesman.

If you’re planning a visit to Yellowstone, home to the largest American Bison population on public land in the US (some 4,900 in 2014), and if you’re a fan of selfies, here’s a pair of facts worth remembering: [1] The fastest-recorded human footspeed — the fastest a human has ever been known to move, unassisted — is 27.78 miles per hour (44.7 km/h/12.4 m/s). [2] American Bison can move at speeds of up to 35 mph.

This year’s higher-than-usual injury count is despite the National Park Service’s service efforts, in handing out yellow warning signs, to discourage Yellowstone visitors from getting too close to an example of the largest terrestrial animals in North America. Even at their approximate top weight of two thousand pounds, male bison have no difficulty outrunning — often at double the speed of — the average human (male or female),  Female bison, which usually top out at around 900 pounds, may be even more likely than males to be aggressive during the better part of a year they stay with their young. (The calves are weaned at around six months of age, but like many Millennial humans, they tend to stick around ‘home’ for some time thereafter.)

Contrary to what some people obviously believe, park rules — at Yellowstone and other national parks — are not meant to be broken. One at Yellowstone advises people to stay at least 25 feet from bison. One of those injured earlier this year was within six feet of one. A Taiwanese girl, aged 16, approached one in May to have her photo taken with it as it grazed near the Old Faithful geyser. She was gored.

Not far away, near the Old Faithful Lodge, an Australian man, 62, was thrown in May as he attempted to take the beast’s photo with a tablet PC. He was reportedly within five feet of the animal that, in all likelihood, was minding its own business at the time.

Also in May, a concession worker, 19, who’d been enjoying a night swim in the Firehole River, finished off his evening by getting sent airborne by a bison.

June was injury-free, but July saw two incidents — one on the first of the month, when a bison charged and gored a Georgia woman, 68, as she hiked on the Storm Point trail. Then, on the 21st, A Mississippi woman, Brandi Burgess, 43, and her daughter had just snapped a selfie (see photo) about 18 feet from a bison when it charged and struck the mother, sending her air borne!

Bison mate in late July and August, so, as well as being more visible then, they also are more likely to be aggressive then.

Note, too, that in order to encourage the growth of the bison population, the National Park service works with area residents and other agencies to enable grazing territory beyond park boundaries during the winter months. There’s no one in those areas handing out warnings about the risks of too-closely approaching bison. But you have been warned!

You’re Naming Your Kid WHAT? (Please Don’t!)

American taxpayers actually support a program run by the Social Security Administration to track the most popular baby names, yearly. (Don’t even think about the unreal, unrealistic, and unpleasant sum that must cost!) In the long run, though, it’s not the most popular names that are the most important ones: The oddest ones count for far more, because, for the entire length of the bearer’s life, they are a burden, of one or more of several sorts.

We all know, of course, about North West, the financially fortunate progeny of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, mother’s name: Donda, making both mother and son – and now grandson, victims of UNS: Unfortunate Name Syndrome. Then there are Scout, Rumor and Talullah, the three daughters of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, before they split and he married model Emma Heming, with whom he’s had daughters more-sensibly named Mabel and Evelyn. And there has long been talk that Michael Jackson’s son, Blanket, is so named because his mother is — oddly — unknown.

There are some — the younger ‘some’, in particular — who would have you think the providing of odd names to celebrity babies is a relatively recent phenomenon. Far from it! Probably the weird-name prize of all times goes to the eldest daughter of Frank and Gail Zappa, Moon Unit Zappa (born September 28, 1967 in New York City) with her siblings, Dweezil, Ahmet, and Diva Muffin. getting runner-up honors.

But those aren’t the ‘worst’ of the odd names kids have to suffer: Those are the ones that, for whatever reason, are difficult to ‘scan’ for either pronouncing or spelling.

All such kids suffer, throughout their lives — or at least until they are 18, and can legally change them — from UNS. Every introduction, in every circumstance in life, creates a momentary ‘speed bump’, when the new hearer of the name has to try to decipher it, to properly pronounce it, and (guess, perhaps, at how) to spell it.

As Salon pointed out a while back, “Take a quick glance down the Olympic roster. It is the Black names that disproportionately stand out: Tayshaun, Deron, Rau’shee, Raynell, Deontay, Taraje, Jozy, Kerron, Hyleas, Chaunte, Bershawn, Lashawn, Sanya, Trevell, Sheena, Ogonna, Dremiel. You can safely bet that NBC’s commentators practiced these a few more times in the mirror than the name “Michael Phelps.”

In many instances, such names clearly represent parents’ aim, with all good intentions, to make their child stand out, to be ‘special’ — not that every child isn’t special as a birthright.

But from the first time a child with such an ‘unusual’ name is introduced to others as a pre-schooler, through the deciphering teachers have to do of pronunciations and spellings, to the same issues faced by a child’s friends — right up through and beyond school — to the same struggles faced by potential employers (and eventual workplace colleagues), the UNS victim suffers.

Later, love complicates things for a surprising number of people — individuals whose last names are so incompatible, as www.thechive.com has noted, “you might want to call the whole thing off: “Brooke Gross and Kevin Pantii have announced their engagement.”  “Lisa Renee Kuntz and Gary Wayne Dick plan to be married.” Anna Wang and Brad Holder, both of Atlanta, are pleased to announced…” — No! Don’t tell us! We Get it!

Sadly, or humorously, those folks have done ‘it’ to themselves — joined the UNS brigade.

Then there are those who, without thought or any forethought, give children names that, for one or another reason, as a whole name or the ordinary nickname thereof, doom a son or daughter to certain ridicule. Examples I’ve personally known include two Candice Barrs, a Mary Christmas, and a Hunt lad whose forename has frequently been in the number one or number two spot of the Social Security Administration‘s most-popular names list — making use of the usual nickname out of the question.

So, if you’re expecting, or expecting to be expecting, and your surname is ‘inappropriate’ for being paired with a particular forename, don’t assume that your child will overcome a disastrous name to become, as one lady, like a particular, peculiarly-named an American philanthropist, patron and collector of the arts, did: Ima Hogg was “one of the most respected ladies” in her area, in her time, despite the giggles her name provoked. (She did not, as humorists like to note, have a lesser-known sister named Ura.)