Sign in

Ghost writer, essayist, marketer, Zen Buddhist, academic refugee, living in Athens GA, blogging at A Quiet Normal Life: https://www.quietnormal.com/

It’s not the heat, it’s not the humidity, it’s the people

A man holds a small alligator on its back on a wooden table, with one hand holding its mouth shut and the other resting on its stomach
A man holds a small alligator on its back on a wooden table, with one hand holding its mouth shut and the other resting on its stomach
Handler places an alligator in a sleeper hold at the Ross Allen Reptile Institute in Silver Springs, ca. 1960 (State Library and Archives of Florida)

Back around 1990, some friends and I had a habit of strolling over to the Red Lion pool hall to watch America’s Most Wanted and count how often our state came up. If the number was ever zero, I don’t recall it.

Yes, my native state is famous for producing headlines like these:

Man, 76, Cops Plea For Home Castration: Perp once did surgery in room at La Quinta Inn

Florida couple “trapped” in unlocked closet for two days

Boyd Corbin, Once Arrested for Fighting a Drag Queen With a Tiki Torch, Runs for Wilton Manors Mayor

Florida man arrested…


They weren’t designed to stop you from catching the virus

A person with gloved hands makes an injection into a person’s right shoulder
A person with gloved hands makes an injection into a person’s right shoulder
Image by Angelo Esslinger

Today I read a breathless, almost panicky article by a popular writer here, spreading paranoia about failing vaccines. The vaccines are not failing.

People are freaking out because vaccinated people are testing positive for COVID-19. So please, be aware, the SARS-Cov-2 vaccines were never designed to stop COVID infections altogether.

Humans have lots of receptors for the coronavirus in our upper respiratory tracts (throat and nasal passages) and in our lungs, but not so many in between. Getting an upper respiratory infection with SARS-Cov-2 is no fun (trust me, I know first hand) but it’s typically not life-threatening unless the…


It’s tasty, healthy, good looking, and almost sinfully easy

Table with potluck dishes including boiled eggs, tuna salad, stuffed olives, brie, hummus, and asparagus wrapped with ham
Table with potluck dishes including boiled eggs, tuna salad, stuffed olives, brie, hummus, and asparagus wrapped with ham
Image by congerdesign (edited)

There’s times you really want to pull out the stops for a potluck and fix that specialty dish everyone asks for — rum cake at Christmas, three-tier dip for the Super Bowl bash, hot and spicy deviled eggs for the family reunion, that sort of thing.

Then there’s other times…. Like when you forgot to put the neighborhood block party on your calendar and you’re so covered up you’ve barely got time to think.

OK, I hear you — just bite the bullet, you say. Go and pay an arm and a leg for the sandwich tray in the deli…


The Soul and the Id: Understanding the Hard Problem of Consciousness

Sorry, folks, but digital immortality by upload is impossible

Image by Gerd Altmann

Like the song says, “everyone wants to be on a postage stamp, but nobody wants to die.”

And lately, one of the hottest topics for those who’d like to keep the party going forever is mind uploading, the notion that we can transfer our consciousness to machines. But like all immortality schemes that have come before it, there are fatal flaws in the plan.

The first thing we need to recognize is that consciousness — the only type of “mind” that could reasonably be uploaded in order to bestow an immortality worthy of the name — is a bodily function…


Think 2 words: hot and thin

Cast iron pans and stainless steel pans hanging from a ceiling rack
Cast iron pans and stainless steel pans hanging from a ceiling rack
Photo by Ernest Roy

Both my grandmothers lived into their early nineties and cooked with cast iron into their eighties. My mother still uses her pans in her eighties. My father did until he couldn’t get around the kitchen anymore.

I inherited three cast iron pans from my grandparents — a flat #7 from sometime in the 1800s that’s good for heating tortillas and covering hot eyes, a #5 pan from the 1930s, and a #10 skillet from the ’50s. (The older pans’ numbers are the diameter of the stove ring they fit into, in inches. …


Sgt. Pepper’s is still iconic, but Keith has a point

Keith Richards in a green shirt and black headband holding a microphone (and a cigarette) in front of a blue lightboard
Keith Richards in a green shirt and black headband holding a microphone (and a cigarette) in front of a blue lightboard
Keith Richards, London, May 2018 (photo by Raph_PH)

Perhaps it was the North Carolina summer heat that loosened him up. It certainly wasn’t the marijuana.

June 30th, 2015, was a real paint-peeler in Durham, NC. Thermometers pegged out at 91° (33°C) and the humidity outside was an equally oppressive 91% as Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards settled into one of the high-backed leather chairs of the plush Sanford Boardroom at the Washington & Duke Inn and lit a cigarette.

Esquire’s Scott Raab had been polite enough to bring along a joint, but Richards demurred. Maybe if they took a break.

After some talk about the rigors of touring at age 71 and reflections on the Rolling Stones’ early years, Raab mentioned that he listened to…


Fairness demands that anti-vaxxers be ostracized

Boy with short red hair looking angrily at viewer and brandishing a fist
Boy with short red hair looking angrily at viewer and brandishing a fist
Image by Hanna Kovalchuk

Go around telling people you are all that matters and they don’t, and you can expect to be a social pariah. Because you chose to be.

Yet millions of Americans are now telling their compatriots that their own comfort and convenience matter more than everyone else’s health and lives, more than their kids’ lives. At the same time they are enraged, sometimes violently, that anyone should suggest they be excluded from anything.

Let’s be clear here. Getting habitually drunk and driving on the public roadways is not a personal choice. Defecating in a public swimming pool is not a personal…


It’s no coincidence Confederate flags flew at the Capitol on January 6th, 2021

Trump supporters stand on and around the Ulysses S. Grant monument on 6 January 2021, with the US Capitol building in the background, displaying flags including the US flag, the Confederate navy jack, Gadsden flags, the Bedford flag, and a “Trump 2020” flag.
Trump supporters stand on and around the Ulysses S. Grant monument on 6 January 2021, with the US Capitol building in the background, displaying flags including the US flag, the Confederate navy jack, Gadsden flags, the Bedford flag, and a “Trump 2020” flag.
Photo by Tyler Merbler, 6 January 2020 (public domain)

They say history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. Well, on January 6th, 2021, Trump and his insurrectionists were singing “Dixie” loud and clear.

Old times there, it seems, are indeed not forgotten.

It’s one thing to remember past evils so as not to repeat them. It’s quite another to give them CPR. And make no mistake, the parallels between the Trump insurrection and the Confederate rebellion are real, disturbing, and ongoing.

Race baiting

The most obvious Trumpist echo of the Confederacy is tolerance or, depending on who you are, outright cheering for white supremacy, repackaged today as “white nationalism” and “the…


They say death is final — but I know dying is never finished

Oil painting of a man with short white hair and beard, seen from the chest up, lying in a bed, propped up on pillows and covered with a blanket
Oil painting of a man with short white hair and beard, seen from the chest up, lying in a bed, propped up on pillows and covered with a blanket
“The Artist’s Father on His Sick Bed I”, Franz Marc, 1907 (public domain)

When my stepfather died, my mother was in the kitchen, cleaning up after supper. I was in the back room where we had set up the hospital bed for him.

I had just put some balm on his lips. He’d made no effort to take the ice cream I’d held to his mouth on a spoon. Nor any water.

The house was quiet, the way houses can be in Georgia mill towns on late summer evenings. …

Paul Thomas Zenki

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store