Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why I am NOT a libertarian...

I am not a libertarian because I think I'm smarter than you.

I am not a libertarian because I think I'm better educated than you.

I am not a libertarian because I think I'm morally or ethically superior to you.

I am not a libertarian because I think I have better ideas about running things than you.

I am a libertarian, because I recognize that no matter how smart, educated, experienced, informed, and competent I THINK I am...

...I KNOW that I am ALSO stupid, uneducated, inexperienced, ignorant, incompetent, and fallible...

...just like everyone else.

I am a libertarian, because I recognize that I do not have all of the information, knowledge, education, experience, judgement, and wisdom; to always make good decisions about MY OWN life, business, or circumstances.

I am a libertarian, because I understand that in fact, it is impossible for me to do so.

I am a libertarian, because if that's true of my OWN life... Then I absolutely and certainly do not, and can not; have the information, knowledge, education, experience, judgement, and wisdom; about YOUR, or ANYONE ELSES life, business, or circumstances, to make anyone elses decisions for them.

And neither do you...

And neither does the government...

Faith, and Schism

In matters of faith, I identify myself as a schismatic catholic, or a catholic in schism with my church.

Several people have asked me what I mean by that. I have explained it before as part of larger discussions, but it came up again today, so I thought I would clarify it here.

I used to call myself a "recovering catholic"...

Then I "recovered" about as much as I was going to, and in my own exploration of self, faith, and the ACTUAL tenets of catholicism (as opposed to what people THINK they are, even people who should know better... even other catholics), I discovered that I was in fact, very much still a catholic. I was just in schism with my church.

There are many things the church does or says, that I disagree with: either because I think they are unrelated to the teachings of god through christ and the mission and purpose of the church (ceasar what is ceasars, god what is gods etc...), or because I believe as a matter of conscience that the current teaching as currently expressed, is incorrect, misguided, or without foundation in the teachings of God through Christ.

My differences with the church are in matters of politics and policy (and sometimes in how these are reflected in current guidance and teachings), and in some semantical issues (disagreements in definition or interpretation)... not in matters of faith.

This does not make me heretical or apostate, nor does it excommunicate me, because of the doctrine of informed conscience (sometimes called enlightened conscience). I am still in communion and fellowship with the universal church.

What it does, is place me in schism.

Freedom, Group Identification, and Consequences

To anyone trying to make the Cliven Bundy issue, or the Donald Sterling issue, or the Brendan Eich issue about freedom of speech...


...PLEASE STOP...

They are unrelated, and MOSTLY irrelevant, to free speech.

None are a question of freedom of speech.

All three are a question of bad PR and violating contract terms.

These idiots are not victims of oppression... at least as far as speech goes.

"Well, that's just your perspective... this is mine"

No... You can have your own opinions, you cannot have your own facts.

This is not an opinion or a perspective, it is a fact. In making this argument, you are entirely and completely incorrect, in both fact and in principle.

That's not so bad... it's OK to be wrong... everyone is wrong about many things, every day.

What IS so bad, and why you must be corrected, is that by passionately advocating such a patently false viewpoint, and making weak and specious arguments to support it, you weaken the very important ACTUAL battle to restore and maintain free speech.

Using bad arguments for your cause HURTS your cause, it does not help it.

There are some very serious threats to free speech in this country, particularly on college campuses and in schools. There are supreme court cases in this session, and coming up addressing these issues right now... and the picture is decidedly mixed.


  • We are dangerously close to criminalizing, or at least accepting some kind of official sanction, on "hate speech" in this country. We already HAVE criminalized "suspect motivations", through "hate crime" law.
  • The Government is spying on and intimidating reporters, with the DOJ going after those it perceives as enemies.
  • Witnesses are being suppressed out of fear of government retaliation.
  • The IRS has gone after conservative political groups, simply for being conservative.
  • We have enacted insane regulations about who can say what, when, and with how much and whose money, when it comes to politics and elections. 

These are HUGE REAL PROBLEMS.

By equating things which are not about rights and freedoms, to things which are, you weaken rights and freedoms, and make them more difficult to defend.

Freedom of speech means you have the right to say as you damn well please and the government can't stop you or punish you for it (except in some very strictly limited ways).

It doesn't mean that private persons or organizations have to publish you, support you, employ you, associate with you, provide you with a forum or an audience, or listen to you.

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence.

If you can't back everything you say, and accept the consequences, then perhaps your problem is not one of lack of freedom, but of lack of courage.

"But... but... political correctness... thought police... BAD"

Yes.

I never said that political correctness WASN'T a chilling force on freedom of speech and even freedom of conscience... Of course it is.

...But that is not the same as government using force against you because of it (though with "hate speech" and things like campus "speech codes", we have to be very careful of that).

The problem with believing in freedom is that you have to believe in it for everyone, including people you don't like, or whose ideas you don't like, or who do bad things with it.

Private individuals and organizations can choose who they wish to associate with freely, and who they wish to support or oppose freely (or at least they are supposed to be able to).

That means both things and people that you like, and things and people that you don't.

That means you can be fired for expressing yourself. It means you can be fired for your political and social views. It means you can be fired for your private behavior. It means you can lose your customers, your money, your reputation...

In fact, everything but your life, and your freedom.

A free society means we have to put up with that.

We don't have to like it, but we DO have to put up with it.

And many of us actually have very little problem with it... so long as it's aligned with THEIR personal beliefs.

Frankly, I don't see very many "social conservatives" complaining very much when it's "progressives", gays, atheists, muslims, "perverts" etc... who experience negative consequences for their beliefs (admittedly, that is certainly not true of all. Some do decry all of this as suppression of free speech and freedom of conscience).

Most "social conservatives" aren't complaining when church groups or conservative groups try to get certain things banned, or removed from libraries or schools, or have teachers, or school administrators, or abortion providers fired...

...because you don't like their ideas or how they express them.

...Really, most anyone who you would identify as the enemy, or the "other side" or whatever other outgroup identification it may be.... seems it's ok to you if THEY have to live with the consequences of their choices, actions, and words...

Most of you are only complaining when it's happening to those you identify as YOUR ingroup, or for people whose opinions and ideas you agree with.

Again, not always, not everyone... but most.

The same of course is true of "the other side"... starting to see the point yet?

So really... What you're asking for is not "freedom of speech", it's "freedom of speech that you like", and freedom FROM both speech, and consequence that you don't.

That's not freedom. That exactly the same as "the other side"... you just like the opinions better.

Arguing From a Position of Ignorance

Atheists without any theological background, education, or training...

Please, stop trying to speak authoritatively on this subject, of which you know little or nothing.

You cannot teach, that which you do not know.

By doing so, you are spreading ignorance and misinformation throughout the universe... Something you generally claim to oppose.

You don't have to be faithful to talk about my faith... or even to teach about it. You DO have to be knowledgeable of it, and understand it's basic precepts, to speak about it with any accuracy or relevance.

Corollary to that: Please do not assume that what applies to one sect or denomination applies to all, or any, other sect or denomination within what is nominally the same faith (this applies to adherents to one sect or denomination when speaking of a different sect or denomination as well... a problem that comes up frequently).

HINT: If you haven't done the homework... here's an easy shortcut... Ask someone who is both faithful, and knowledgeable about their faith (which, admittedly, can sometimes be hard to find). Most of us are happy to help explain our faith to you...

...In fact doing so WHEN ASKED, is often one of the tenets of our faith. I know it is a duty and commandment of mine to bear witness to others.

Second Corollary to that: This advice applies to just about ANY SUBJECT, not just faith.

He is just like Daddy


Stupid, ignorant, or just wrong....

If for some reason, it should ever come up...

When I tell you "you said something stupid" or "you said something ignorant", I am not insulting you, or attacking you; I am informing you that you made an egregious error, and pointing out the type and magnitude of that error.

If I told you that "you said something stupid", it means that you had knowledge of or access to the facts, but your understanding, analysis, or expression of them was obviously false or incorrect, given the slightest attempt at intelligent reasoning.

Understand, "stupid" does not denote a simple error, or incomplete argument (that's what the words "incorrect", " mistaken" or "dumb" are for); it requires deliberately ignoring the facts, or drawing conclusions or stating positions that are completely unsupported or contradicted by the facts.

If I told you that "you said something ignorant", it means that you spoke authoritatively about something without possession of the relevant and correct facts.

These are not insults, they are statements of fact.

If I was not certain of the truth of my statement, or if it was a matter of opinion or interpretation, I wouldn't have made it; I would have said " I think you might be wrong".

If I respond to your statement in such a way, it means I have sufficient respect,  consideration, or hope for you; to either correct you outright, or to give you the opportunity to clarify or correct yourself.

If I didn't have such consideration for you, I would have simply ignored you, trusting that others would do so as well, in the hope that you could not increase the net total of stupidity on this earth.

If you find statements of fact which have shown you that you are in error, to be personally offensive or insulting... Well, that's your character failing, not mine.

Everyone says stupid and ignorant things all the time... Its a basic part of life as a human being. It may be humbling or bruising to the ego to be corrected, but it is not an insult

Personally, I hate being wrong so much, that I would rather be corrected, than to continue being wrong...  And am grateful for it when it happens (which is frequently, as, like any other human being, I'm wrong a lot). Every bit less wrong I can be, is just that much less net stupidity in the world.

If I were actually being personally insulting, I would have just said "you are an idiot".

Well... ummm... actually, yes... it is... I thought everyone understood that...

So, in a comment on a facebook post discussing cultural appropriation (a ridiculous concept, but that's another topic entirely), a commenter said (paraphrasing):

"and now they tell me 'the jungle book' is racist? What?"

Hmmm...

Ok...

I'm pretty sure she wasn't being sarcastic...

I'm also pretty sure she hasn't actually read Kiplings "the jungle book", likely only having seen the Disney cartoon and childrens books.

Not a knock against her personally,  just that most people haven't read the original.

Because... yeah... "The Jungle Book" IS very definitely racist... by some definitions extremely so.

And remember, this is coming from someone who both loves Kipling (I have a framed copy of "IF" on my desk, and a printed copy of it on a card in my wallet. I can recite many entire Kipling poems from memory. I'd like one read at my funeral), and finds the modern tendency of seeing racism in everything to be ridiculous.

Kipling was a thoroughgoing imperialist, and fully indoctrinated into both British, and Indian, notions of race, class, and culture.

It wasn't that he had animus against other races, simply that like almost every Englishman in the 19th century, he was a cultural and racial chauvinist (to a degree that is difficult for modern Americans to understand, and which would be considered beyond extreme today).

This is sometimes called "cultural supremacism", "soft racism", "the racism of lowered expectations" or "the racism of condescension".

On one level, the jungle book is a lovely childrens story. On another, it's a series of moral fables.

However, the jungle book is also a satirical allegory for race, class, and culture; with what to modern sensibilities seemingly little question as to the relative position of superiority of each (though understood in context, he was also tweaking and deflating many of these notions).

It is no less of a satirical allegory than Animal Farm for example (though perhaps subtler in ways).

Really, the only surprising part of this, is how much LESS racist Kipling was than other Englishmen of his time and background

Because yes, he was a cultural chauvinist, who broadly considered other cultures and races to be less civilized and more savage...

...but Kipling never had anything but respect and admiration for those of other cultures who he considered virtuous, honorable, or capable. He always respected that there were things they did well, and that they had skills and abilities that others may not have.

He constantly and consistently warned against common British attitudes of the time, and the dangers of underestimating others, or overestimating ones self, simply by dint of culture or race.

Most Englishmen of Kiplings time quite literally thought the "lesser races" to be subhuman, or at best inherently inferior; Incapable of real thought, or industry, or achievement; and had little or no regard for their personal honor, honesty, fidelity, morality, or cleanliness.

To an Englishman of the time, everyone else (including most other "white" cultures for that matter) were just ignorant savages.

Kipling understood the dangers of this attitude very well.

No power on earth can make smooth jazz cool

... But the power of the greatest TV theme since "Dallas" can sure make it suck a lot less:

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

End of Spring/ Beginning of Summer bingewatch/new show update

Ok... spring/summer bingewatch/new show update.

This year, out of the necessity of circumstance, we have become cord cutters. As such we consume all of our television programming off the internet, either streaming (netflix, hulu, amazon prime), or downloaded.

Mostly, we batched up episodes and bingewatched them a few hours at a time, which is how I now GREATLY prefer to watch TV shows.

This isn't everything we watched, just the stuff I had something to say about that popped into my head.

First, the new full season shows that just wrapped for the season (or will shortly), in no particular order:

  1. The Black List: James Spader getting to be 100% James Spader... The 80's movie creepy sociopathic badguy that we all love, 30 years later, and a spy... It's a damn good show, frankly better than I thought the major networks could do these days.
  2. Trophy wife: We liked it, it's cute and sweet, and it's got good performances from a cast we really like. The writing is spotty though. Worth watching.
  3. The Millers: Everybody loves Raymond with the "nasty" dial turned WAY up (and that's not a bad thing); except Raymond is Devon Banks, and Marie is Mags Bennet. That's not a bad thing either. Again interesting performances from an interesting cast... but the writing can at times be crude and clunky. Worth watching.
  4. The Crazy Ones: We LOVE this show. I'm generally not a sitcom lover, but this show is really great... At least when it lets Robin Williams go for a bit... but not TOO far (as he is wont to do). A lot of the show is improvised on the set, and it shows, usually in a good way, sometimes in a great way, occasionally not so good. He is well balanced by the supporting cast, including Sarah Michelle Gellar... Pretty much playing herself... which is a good thing (Williams is also pretty much playing himself).
  5. Mom: Another new show we love. The cast is incredible (Allison Janney, Anna Farris, Kevin Pollack, Nate Corddry, French Stewart), the performances are great, and the writing is great (it can be somewhat overly goofy at times, but it balances out). Were it not for "The Crazy Ones" this would be our favorite new comedy.
  6. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: I made this one last in the section because it's going to take more than a couple lines for this one...

    So... I want to love it... at times it's great, at times it's not good at all... Overall I think it's worth watching, and I like it.

    HOWEVER...

    You have to understand what it is and especially what it is NOT.

    It is NOT a superhero show. If you go in expecting a superhero show, you will be disappointed and unhappy.

    It IS a mission impossible/spooks/covert affairs/alias/dollhouse procedural espionage and adventure show set in a universe with superheros.

    Personally, I think that's kind of an awesome premise, and there are times it really lives up to that premise. There are unfortunately times where it very much does not. It's worth watching, but I really wish they'd improve the consistency of the writing. 

The new spring/summer/mid/end-season replacement shows:

  1. True Detective: Oh my god... one of the best things I've ever watched. McConaughey is, unrecognizable, and amazing. The writing is spectacular. It's as good in it's genre as Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Sopranos, or The Shield.
  2. House of Cards seasons 1 and 2: I'm including both here, since they were both single day releases, and you should watch them back to back if you can. I watched the first season in 13 continuous hours that's how good it was. This season I broke it up in two blocks of 6 and 7 hours. It's that good... and again, as good in it's genre as those I mentioned above. This is probably Kevin Spaceys best work ever, and it's certainly Robin Wright's.
  3. Silicon Valley: Holy christ this is funny. Of course I'm a bit biased because... well... If I were a much bigger asshole, I would be one of these characters; I have lived, worked with, and been friends with ALL of these characters, for much of my working life. And man... Finally someone is tapping the rich comedy vein that is the particular breed of bullshit unique to the alternate universe that is silicon valley. Four shows in, they've already got a two season commitment (the sad part being though, one of the actors playing one of the more interesting and important characters died a few weeks ago), so we are really looking forward to seeing more of this.
  4. Surviving Jack: Someone combined "Clueless" and "my so called life", but from the dad and sons point of view...

    The dad (Christopher Meloni) here being a competent, decent, conservative but strict high achiever (and that's a very good thing), and the son is the awkward and neurotic one (as opposed to the daughter being the awkward neurotic POV character, and the dad being a bumbling but good hearted asshole etc... etc...).

    And when I say combined those two other works, I do so advisedly, because the show is set in 1991, and definitely embraces the early 90s aesthetic and culture (though picking through the best parts of the music of the previous decade... a very good choice).

    The obvious comparison would be to "that 70s show", and there are superficial similarities (high school, awkward son, strict and sarcastic dad, retro setting 20 years later etc...), but that's all they are is superficial. Otherwise, the shows are nothing alike.

    Christopher Meloni is PERFECT here, playing a retired marine, now a doctor; with his wife going back to law school now that the kids are in high school. It's from the creator of "shit my dad says" so dad is... Well, let's just say he is familiar to me.

    So far, the series only has an 8 show order, and it's in a death slot, with no promotion around it... I really hope it finds an audience because it's great. 


In the queue:


  1. Penny Dreadful (summer show, first episode online now, looks REALLY interesting)
  2. Blackbox (summer show, just started)
  3. Friends with Better Lives (summer show, we've got 4 episodes queued up)
  4. Orphan Black season 1 and 2 (2 just started)
  5. Orange is the New Black Season 1 and 2 (I watched the first few episodes myself, then stopped so I could start over with Mel, because it's really very good and I think she'll like it. Season 2 starts in a couple months). 




Monday, April 28, 2014

Flash Fry

So, as happens every few months, another major vulnerability has been discovered in Adobe Flash:
New Flash flaw could let attackers control Macs, Adobe urges users to update
Adobe on Monday disclosed a new vulnerability in its Flash platform that may allow attackers to remotely take over and control Macs, PCs, and Linux machines and advised users to update their system as quickly as possible. 
This problem was previously thought just to impact IE on Windows, but was proven yesterday to impact all common platforms and browsers.

The most important thing to do, is update your flash right now (and for Chrome users, update your browser as well... it should auto update, but some Mac and Linux users are having problems with autoupdate right now).

If you are unable to update Flash, you need to block or disable it (uninstall it, block it in your browser settings, block it with a plugin or security software etc...). This WILL break a lot of web sites, so be prepared.

Updating though, isn't enough.

Flash... or really any active web content for that matter... has so many major security issues, which you expose to the world every time you visit any web page, or access any open network... that you absolutely must take additional precautions.

Don't just update your flash, use less stupid browsers (chrome and firefox both do just fine for the most part). Never use internet explorer for anything unless you are absolutely required to; and then only use it for the absolute minimum required.

If you are required to use I.E. for work, or a specific site or application, ONLY use it for those things. Use another browser for everything else. Heck, that can be a good security or organization practice anyway, just to avoid mixing data accidentally (like saved passwords or form fill data).

That's step one... or I guess step one and two, counting a browser switch (though I would hope that after the last few years, and the number of times I've warned about it, very few of my readers are using I.E.).

Step three, once you are using a decent browser, you need to use a script blocker, an ad blocker, and a flash blocker. These stop active web content from running on your computer without your permission.

All are available as free plugins, and they only take one button push to install from the builtin plugin search in your browser.

The great thing is, in addition to improving security, they just reduce the general annoyance, stupidity, and irritation of the internet.

For example, they prevent auto-loading auto playing flash video and music, prevent most pop-up and banner ads, prevent some useless and stupid social media overlays... Hell, they even make your computer faster, because all that crap takes up bandwidth, CPU, and memory.

Browsing with ads, scripts, and flash blocked, makes living with the internet better in every way.

For those few sites where blocking tools breaks stuff, all the tools have a little button to pause themselves. If you're going to go to that site a lot, they all have an option to not run whenever you visit that site... Just remember if you manually paused the tool, to manually unpause it before you move on to another site.

It doesn't take a tech wiz to do it... it's no harder than clicking a link in a browser.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

I for one welcome our new robotic overlords

"Well... You could've asked"

Happy Birthday to Me:


Sheared Clean off

So, we just drove 75 miles of twisty mountain roads, 180 switchbacks, 7 mile long up and down grades over 10%... In the dark... Towing a 28 foot 13,500lb trailer.

She actually rode pretty good, smooth and quiet, and not too much push on the downgrades... Good trailer brakes help a lot there, as does a good weight distributing hitch.

Did the last 10 miles on the freeway at 70, then a couple miles on city streets, light traffic, but through some busy major intersections.

Finally, we pull into our destination and see this:


Holy bleeding christ.

We were driving for god knows how long, with one wheel missing.

f you take a closer look you'll see, the studs were sheared clean off.


The really scary thing is... we didn't notice a thing wrong, nor did any of the cars that saw us on the road. The trailer rode fine the whole time, no weird sounds, no problems...

 Just... you know... 40 pounds of tire flying off in some random direction at 60mph...

...hopefully not in or into any of the residential neighborhoods we were passing.

 If we'd caused a car accident I'm sure we would have noticed that... I'm pretty obsessive about checking mirrors when I'm driving the trailer... But I couldn't see the tire the way my mirror was adjusted (I would have in daylight, just not at night).

 If it happened on one of those twisty downgrades... It very well might have killed us.

 I'll investigate further in the morning... It could have been any number of things.

 Scary...

Friday, April 25, 2014

Entirely off the hierarchy



"NO-MELT, imitation pasteurized process cheese product"

This is not cheese.

This is not "pasteurized processes cheese food"

This is not even fake "Cheez!"

This isn't even "Kraft Macaroni and Cheez" fake cheez...

This is IMITATION fake cheez...

It has fallen entirely off the Poretto Cheese Hierarchy.

But worse... they have taken the ONLY GOOD THING about fake cheese... that it melts really well for cheeseburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches...

AND MADE IT NO-MELT!

What exactly is the point of this product? Because it is clearly not intended for human consumption.

Neat gimmick... but really, there's no secret, just basic science and sense...

I used to be one of the lucky bastards who never got hangovers no matter how much I drank.

Then I turned 30...

Did you know you can get a hangover without having actually been drunk?

I actually went through a controlled alcohol study while I was in college. I'm one of the genetic anomalies who simply have a higher tolerance, and metabolize alcohol at a much higher than normal rate.

Combine that with my bodymass and you get something of an epic heavyweight as far as getting drunk...

I still don't like getting drunk though (and can count the number of times I've been actually drunk, vs. just having warm ears, on the fingers of both hands with a few left over), so I very rarely even get a slight buzz.

I DO like fine beer, wine, and spirits however, and there are times when I want to drink quite a few adult beverages of a night, and not suffer for it the next day.

This Esquire piece popped into many feeds overnight:
HOW TO DRINK ALL NIGHT WITHOUT GETTING DRUNK 
Jim Koch knows beer. He also knows a beer trick that may change your life.
It's a neat trick, well known among beerfest types, and it does work to an extent, but it's unnecessary. 

Here's what you really need to know:


  1. Drink a glass of water before each glass of beer (or better, soda water with lime, a dash of salt, and a bit of sugar... It actually hydrates better than water, and replenishes some lost electrolytes. Or best of all, 50/50 sodawater mixed with OJ).

    DO NOT DRINK SUGAR SODA OR DIET SODA, or anything with caffeine, as they will dehydrate you and deplete electrolytes, which is the OPPOSITE of what you want.
  2. Wait until you need to pee, before you order the next beer
  3. Every 4 beers, drink an orange juice. It replaces lost potassium and other electrolytes, but potassium is the most important one here, and the one you lose the most of (and the one you NEED the most of) when drinking.
  4. Before bed, take aspirin (it thins and expands the blood. If you're dehydrated and vitamin depleted it will make things worse, but since you shouldn't be at this point, it makes things better), drink a glass of water (or better as above) and a glass of orange juice. Then, when you have to get up and pee later, do it again.
  5. Before you drink, and for breakfast the next day (and do NOT skip either), have a high protein meal, with low to moderate carbs, preferably rich in niacin and thiamine. DON'T DRINK COFFEE with either meal.  If necessary, take some B vitamin supplements, and a multivitamin before and after drinking. 
Alcohol consumption dramatically depletes potassium, niacin, and thiamine (and other critical vitamins and minerals) in your blood stream, and caffeine makes it worse. These deficiencies reduce kidney and liver function, causing waste products to build up in your blood (which is made worse by dehydration caused by alcohol diaeresis), and interfere with neurological function; causing headaches, joint pain, muscle aches... Hangovers.

Combine those five things and you'll never get more drunk than a light buzz, and never get a hangover.

They work with hard liquor and wine as well, but you have to wait longer between drinks, and drink twice as much water, because they fill your bladder less.

Wow... A leftist NOT named G.B. Shaw said something I mostly agree with...

Wow... a leftist not named G.B, Shaw actually said something I mostly agree with (though neither his politics, nor the position he is advocating. Scottish independence would be an economic disaster. That hasn't changed since "yes minister"):


From: http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/40-reasons-to-support-scottish-independence-reasons-13

"Confusing solidarity and centralisation was the greatest mistake of the left in the 20th century. 
Distant bureaucracies alienate and are less able to empower people. We are often told that the resulting refusal to engage is apathy. This is to imply that human beings don't care about their families, their neighbours, their communities. 
There is no discernable difference between this mis-diagnosed apathy and sociopathy. It's nonsense. Huge swaiths of the population aren't sociopaths. They are alienated. They don't believe they can change things through the available democratic process. 
The first step of any progressive political program must be to change this."

Of course, the really scary part, is that most on the left still seem to think that their failure is they haven't centralized and concentrated power in the hands of distant elites ENOUGH.

The Much Bigger Problem

Millions of Americans think gays should be allowed to marry.

That's not a problem.

Millions of Americans think gays should not be allowed to marry.

That's not a problem.

The problem, is that most of both groups think that it's perfectly acceptable to use the government to force the other guy to do what they want.

The much bigger problem, is that we have stupidly given the government the power to make and enforce such decisions.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Lessons From the Well Spouse - Help! I'm Young and My Spouse Was Just Diagnosed With...

... fill in the blank. Cancer, MS, any kind of potentially deadly or debilitating condition. Doesn't matter. All the advice will be the same.

So recently a couple of friends' spouses have been diagnosed with potentially deadly or debilitating conditions. Evidently I've become the go-to person for how to deal with your spouse's medical emergency when you're young.

First, let's define "young". If you
1. are under the age of 45 or
2. have minor children or
3. if someone were to say, "well they had a good run" in reference to your spouse you'd want to punch them or look at them in disbelief or
4. if your spouse were to pass you're sufficiently young to be facing multiple decades of life without them
... you count as young in my book, at least for this exercise.

Why is it important to make a distinction? Simple. Advice for the senior set and their spouses would emotionally destroy you. It's that simple. A lot of advice for seniors in your position refers to things like  "acceptance", "quality of life" or "preparing for life without your spouse".

If you automatically thought "fuck that shit, dying isn't an option and I want to FIX this" then this is written for you.

So here's a rundown of things you need to know that nobody (other than survivors of this situation) will tell you. A lot of examples will center around cancer because all examples are from my own personal experience, but other conditions will have similar issues.

There's 2 things you need to do immediately for your own sanity.
1. Get a piece of paper, or your phone, or your computer and make 3 lists. Title these lists "People Whose Opinions Matter", "Give the Smile and Nod Treatment", and "Don't Talk to Unless Required". Later you'll be tempted to make a list of "People I Want to Physically Harm" and "Never Talk to Again" but those are extreme reactions you want to avoid.

Everyone in your life that's closer than acquaintance (and some acquaintances) will end up on one of these lists. Everyone. You'll soon find out why.

For now, populate these lists with close friends, family members, and in-laws based on how you already interact with them. There will be a lot of movement from one list to another, this will cease to shock you after a while.

2. Set up your social media so you repeat news as few times as humanly possible. If you have a blog link your blog to Facebook and Twitter. If you don't, consider making one or accept that you'll be using Facebook for news dissemination. The point is, every time something important happens make it so you can post it once and reach as many people as possible. Your goal is to make as few phone calls as possible and respond to as few questions as possible. This will help your sanity immensely.


Now on to what you should expect to happen and how the world will work from now on.
1. You will be in shock initially.
How long it takes this shock to fade will vary depending on the situation and the person. You will feel overwhelmed, despair might be your new friend, and you'll have lots of depressing thoughts. This is normal and natural.

If you express this to anyone and they tell you to "get over it" or "just accept it already", move them to the "Don't Talk to Unless Required" list. It will just save time and irritation.

2. Transition as fast as you can into the warrior mindset.
If someone tried to kill or harm your spouse right in front of you, what would you do? Stand back and wring your hands over your helplessness, or find a way to kick their ass? The faster you wrap your head around cancer being the enemy, or any other condition being the enemy, the faster you'll transition into a place of power.

Fight. Pretend you're in a war and the opposing army is attempting to invade your village and kill everyone in sight. The goal would be to take out the threat while doing as little damage to the village as possible.

Your goal is to take out the threat to your spouse's health while causing them as little harm as possible. You're not powerless, not in the least. The sooner you recognize you have the means to fight, the better. You can find a good commander in the form of a good doctor. You can find good mercenaries, er, specialists. You can build your own army.

3. Knowledge is power.
Research your enemy.

Find out what you can about the condition, how it's treated, how people who have survived managed to survive. Find out its weaknesses. Figure out how to exploit them.

As a bonus you'll understand why the doctors are making their recommendations and how the battle will proceed. This will insulate you from further shocks.

Preferably do at least a little bit of this research before spreading the news so you have a basic understanding of what's going on that you can communicate to other people.

4. Write your speech and practice it BEFORE spreading the news.
"______________ has ________. The doctors think we should do _____________. We're doing some research and figuring out how we will handle this. We don't have a firm prognosis yet, we'll let everyone know when we do. The next time we will have any information is (date)."

Yes, you need a speech. Because you need to be prepared for...

5. People will expect you to help them deal with the situation.
It's not fair, in fact it's pretty horrible. There will be some people who expect you to manage their emotions and calm their panic. Sometimes it's understandable, like your mother-in-law being in shock and not knowing what to do. Sometimes it's really really not. Don't be roped in unless you want to. By having a speech prepared you'll know what to say. Don't let them ask a ton of questions before you're ready to answer them. Just let them know when you'll know more and maybe when you're in less shock you'll be able to help them through the process. Also it will keep you from engaging when you find out that...

6. People are breathtakingly ignorant and can be utterly self-righteous about their own ignorance. You will discover this while spreading the news. After a while it will cease to shock you.

How ignorant, you ask? Well this really requires a post all its own, but people react in different ways to news. Some of it will be an opportunity to educate. "Is that like ______ cancer?", "will they lose their hair?", "is that what Michael J Fox has?" are opportunities to educate or let them get their own education. If you want to spend the time educating them, do so. If not, give them the correct spelling and send them on their way. You can decide whether they're on the "opinions matter" list or "smile and nod" list later.

That's benign ignorance though. Benign ignorance is much preferable to blamers and fixers.

Some examples of blamers include "well if they'd just been on the right diet" or "it's all the chemicals we use now" or "what did they do to deserve this?". Yes, people will say this stuff right to your face in your hour of need. The need to find something to blame to make themselves feel better. Doesn't matter if they're right or not, blamers need to be put on the "don't talk unless required" list.

Less horrible but pretty horrible are the fixers. "If you take this supplement it will go away", "if you smoke enough pot you'll be cancer free", "if you pray enough you'll be cured." Occasionally they're somewhat correct. Most of the time they're breathtakingly ignorant in a harmful way. Assess their intentions (honestly trying to help or promoting pet cause?), tell them you'll look into it, and place them on the "smile and nod" list or "don't talk to" list accordingly.

7. People are also breathtakingly insensitive and clueless.
Sometimes they just don't know how to react. That's fair. However far too much of the time it's clear they don't even hear the words they're saying.

"Oh I'm so sorry your husband has cancer. My dog had cancer so I understand what you're going through."
"My aunt had that cancer. She died."
"My nephew's wife died from cancer. He killed himself later."

Refrain from killing them if you can. Assess their intentions, assign to lists accordingly.

NOTE: I told you there would be people you'd want to harm. Also, by distributing news via Facebook or another group medium you can keep how much you deal with these people to a minimum. Hopefully you'll have a few relatives or friends on your friends list who can point out how stupid they're being and model better responses. Please let them.

8. All medical facilities are not equal.
Some really are better than others, have better doctors on call, have nicer nurses, have better specialists and equipment. If you can get to a medical center or hospital that specializes in your condition, do so. The choice of where you get treated can be the difference between life and death.

9. Doctors are neither omniscient nor universally competent.
We spent 5 years trying to find out what was wrong with Chris. When we found out what was the wrong the first surgeon wouldn't operate until he lost enough weight. She wanted him to get a gastric bypass first.

If we'd gotten the gastric bypass Chris would be dead. He'd have no way to "fix" the medication issues he's currently having.

After the second surgeon removed the tumor we found out Chris would have been dead within a couple of months.

We'd gone through 8 highly respected doctors and 1 highly respected surgeon. The people who actually were responsible for saving Chris were 1 physician's assistant, a stubborn endocrinologist, and a cocky surgeon.

Always get a second opinion. Always keep pushing. Follow your instincts. Don't believe that the doctor is necessarily correct just because they're a doctor. The field of medicine is far too large to be understood by any single person.

Keep going until you find a doc and specialists who 1. you trust and 2. treat you like an individual, not a bunch of statistics. Good doctors research what's been done before and know what *usually* happens in 90% of cases. Excellent doctors understand it's possible they're dealing with the other 10%.

The best doctors will appreciate it when you bring them what you found out through your research and will look at the information themselves to see whether or not it applies. Which brings me to...

10. Rules? What rules?
Some nurses will hate me for saying this but...

You're the spouse. Sometimes the rules don't apply to you.

Whenever you're given paperwork, particularly HIPAA paperwork, make sure you're listed as someone who can receive medical info. Go to every appointment you can. Take notes. Be extremely knowledgeable. The docs will respond to you accordingly and will respect you. Where they wouldn't trust most spouses with info, they'll trust you.

When you get to the hospital, be calm. Be collected. Be knowledgeable. Take care of your spouse. Ask the nurses questions about when you should call for help and what to watch out for.

Do this, and you'll find out visiting hours no longer apply to you and they'll move mountains to make sure you can stay with your spouse. Make it clear you'll make life easier, not harder, and overworked nurses will happily bend the rules for you. Cots and extra pillows will suddenly show up and food will be found for you in the middle of the night.

Become a pain in their ass or cause your spouse distress and hospital "policies" will spring up from nowhere.

11. You're now part of the "tribe", and the tribe has the nicest people you'll ever meet.
All that faith in humanity you lost? It's coming back. Once you find people who have gone through what you're going through, or even something similar, you'll find kinship you won't find anywhere else. When we went to have the genetic screening while I was pregnant, the doctor who went over the results with us found out Chris had cancer. Turned out she was in the middle of treatment for colon cancer. We talked for hours about how no one else "got it".

People who have been through cancer know what it's like. They'll help people who are new to dealing with their conditions. The spouses will help you. It's a big support network you never knew existed.

When you find other people who "get it", hold them close. You'll need them. Because...

12. It's never over.
The declaration of remission is just that. Remission. Cancer can always come back in other ways. What you did to survive might try to kill you, just like it tried to kill Chris. The aftereffects last for the rest of your life.

Even if your spouse is "cured" of something you'll spend the rest of your life questioning every symptom and knowing how close you came to permanent loss. You'll never be the same. You'll keep looking for the next invading army.

So don't treat it like a "temporary" crisis. It's not. It will sap your strength for years to come. So take care of yourself, live as much as you can in spite of what's going on. Adapt to your new circumstances. Life goes on.

Mel



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sustainable and Improving

So, for those who don't know... My wife has been posting a bunch of stuff on facebook about thyroid, pituitary and adrenal stuff, medications, diet, how I could have died etc...

Here's why:

A few weeks ago, after months of getting sicker and sicker without realizing that was what was going on (we thought it was just cumulative  exhaustion and burnout from overwork, overstress, traveling,  not sleeping for months, and having had severe pneumonia for six weeks)...

...I spent about a week and a half going in and out of a shallow coma.

It turns out this was because the medications which are supposed to keep my hormones regulated post endocrine cancer, were not working at all (and were in fact having adverse effects and interactions).

I became acutely and critically deficient in several substances necessary to regulate my metabolism and brain function, and my body basically started to shut itself down for 18 to 20 hours at a time.

Because I was on these medications... Very large doses of them in fact.. The cause of the problem, and thus the treatment, were unclear. It seemed impossible that the cause of the problem could be what we eventually found it to be.

I came very close to going into systemic shock, a deeper coma, possibly even brain damage or death.

The thing is, with endocrine issues, sometimes, for some people, the medications that work for everyone else, don't work for them...

Worse, the tests don't necessarily show that the meds aren't working until you reach a critical state.

This is complicated in that endocrine illnesses often present similarly to other problems, or present symptoms which mask real problems, as was happening here.

In fact, in my condition, the primary medication I was taking such a high dosage of, was actually making the problem worse.

Eventually, symptomology made it clear that my medications could not be working, no matter the dosage or what the tests might say.

We have temporarily switched to another primary medication, which has helped immensely. I am no longer close to a coma, and after an initial big improvement, I am recovering gradually.

However, this other medication is very difficult to dose consistently, and has some unpleasant side effects (which is why it is largely no longer used).

Essentially, I roller coaster from moderately too little, to moderately too much of the hormones I need, plus a big dose of stuff I don't want or need (and the somewhat to severely unpleasant side effects thereof), just to ensure that I have at least the minimum amount no matter what, while not having far too much (which can kill me just as easy as not having enough).

There are other options which we will be investigating as we are able to do so, but right now we have no medical insurance and can't afford the extensive testing necessary to find the right drugs and the right dosages; nor can we afford those drugs (they are much more expensive than those I was taking, or have now switched to).

For now... I'm OK but not great... I'm in a sustainable and improving, not deteriorating state. And that's better than I have been for quite some time.

Granular Victimhood

"Progressivism" is an ideology in which individuals are ignored, and every person is either a victim or a victimizer; oppressed or oppressor; with the "victims" having perpetual moral ascendancy over the victimizers.
As a result, it has become nothing more than a continual process of dividing all people into ever more granular groups of victims and victimizers, so that they may claim greater or lesser degrees of moral ascendancy.
Call it what you will... Privileged or unprivileged, advantaged or disadvantaged... In every question, the individual does not matter, only their group identity and its relative position of advantage.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Would have been...



Today would have been my brother Rob's 35th birthday.

I miss you man.

I love you.