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Bedrest

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.12.13

NASA will pay you $5000/month to stay in bed.

After the first 11-15-day period, participants will spend 60 days lying in bed, (except for limited times for specific tests) with their body slightly tilted downward (head down, feet up). Every day, they will be awake for 16 hours and lights out (asleep) for 8 hours. During the bed rest time they will also take part in a number of tests to find out changes in the state of their bone, muscle, heart and circulatory system, and nervous system, as well as their nutritional condition and their ability to fight off infections.
...
Once you've entered the 60 day bed rest portion of the study, your options to pass the time are, of course, somewhat limited. Every participant is setup with a TV, computer, and video game console. You can also read or spend time with visitors.

I was on prescribed bedrest once for about a day, and on limited activity for a month thereafter, under conditions where I physically felt absolutely fine, and I got really cranky. The study above might possible be my hell on earth.


 

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Rightwing Lunatics I Can't Even Handle

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.11.13

Exhibit A:

Larry Ward, chairman of the national Gun Appreciation Day gun rights advocates have planned for the weekend of President Obama's second inauguration, told CNN Friday that there never would have been slaves in America if black people had guns.
"I think Martin Luther King, Jr. would agree with me if he were alive today that if African Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the country's founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history," Ward said.

Exhibit B:

"But even worse is the way some textbooks are pushing the liberal agenda," the Fox News host explained, pointing to an algebra worksheet that Scholastic says gives students "[i]nsight into the distributive property as it applies to multiplication."
"Distribute the wealth!" Bolling exclaimed, reading the worksheet. "Distribute the wealth with the lovely rich girl with a big ole bag of money, handing some money out."
Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle explained that the algebra worksheet had put her on "high alert" for the liberal agenda in her 6-year-old son's curriculum.

And later, "I think the only way leftism can survive is through indoctrination because its number one adversary is reality." Do you now.

Both via FB


 

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The Feminist and the Abusive Asshole

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.11.13

From FB: The Feminist and the Cowboy: an Unlikely Love Story tells the story of a feminist tamed by her Marlboro man. Then the feminist goes and blogs how abusive and horrible the relationship was. Then the feminist's agent makes her take the blog post down, but long live cached versions.


 

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Scrolling so smooth, like the butter on the muffin

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.11.13

Nick S sent along this link about infinite scrolling, and why it failed for Etsy. I, for one, love infinite scroll. And in particular, Etsy's browsing is annoying because you can't even increase the number of items visible on the page. You're just forced to click through page after page and it drives me a little nuts.


 

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Tom Slee

Posted by Ben
on 01.10.13

X. Trapnel pointed out this post of his about Uber and AirBnB recently, and then today at CT Henry posted a link to this self-assessment which also includes a selection of particularly favored posts. They're good! Maybe you should read them if, like me, you hadn't been following him.

I found this comment from Clay Shirky interesting in that if you read the "Wikibollocks" post linked in the assessment post linked above, you may well come away thinking that, in Slee's opinion, "Clay" from this review has definitively triumphed over "Shirky" and all that's left is Another Damn Triumphalist from TED who isn't really worth serious attention. Or, perhaps less tendentiously, you might just come away thinking that about Shirky on your own behalf and not bother speculating about Slee's opinion.


 

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Professional attire

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.10.13

I just had a memory of a math professor, who told me "For years, I got a student evaluations after the fall semester, which said that I dressed too informally, but no one ever said anything after the spring semester!"

I assume I feigned polite interest. He continued, "I finally figured it out: I wear shorts at the beginning of the fall semester, so it made a first impression on them. But I don't wear shorts until the end of the spring semester, so they already had intact opinions of me."

He's probably right about the mechanism, but more importantly: who on earth wears shorts to teach in?!


 

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Guest Post - Parental Visitation of Kids in Foster Care

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.10.13

Thorn writes: Kids often go into foster care because their parents' substance abuse problems keep their parents from keeping them safe. It's pretty standard that a judge will rule that parents need to take random drug tests if they have a history of use and that part of their caseplan will be to test clean consistently for a significant period of time before the kids will be returned to their custody. Where there's a wrinkle is in what happens when the parents don't comply with either the requirement to show up for tests or the requirement to test clean. In some places, visits between children in foster care and their families are considered a right that needs to be protected except in very drastic circumstances (sometimes sexual abuse, generally child murder or attempted murder) and so even parents who aren't testing or aren't clean are allowed to have visits unless over time the visits are clearly detrimental to the child's well-being or the parent is drastically unsafe during visits or the parent stops showing up for visits. (All of those things happen with some regularity, but in these states the assumption is that you start with visits and dial back from that because children and their parents deserve to stay in touch.) In other areas of the country, a parent needs to be in substantial compliance with the caseplan to have visits, so visits are essentially a reward and reinforcement for good behavior. The downside to this is that the children may want visits and not be able to have them since they're dependent on what the parent is doing rather than anything the kid is doing, and in effect the child is being punished for the parent's bad decisions. (Of course, in both cases there are children who don't want to see their parents and have to do so anyway because it's court-ordered, whereas parents who don't want to visit can just not show up, though that risks losing their parental rights forever.)

I'm just curious how people here think about foster care and about parental bonds and which of these options you think is a better system or if you have a better, platinum-coin-financed one to recommend. Nothing we say is going to change anything, but I've been kicking this around with my foster parent friends and have been interested in the degree to which opinions differ and practices in different locales differ, so I thought I'd open it up to the larger group.

Heebie's take: My belief is that facilitating visits when safe is much preferable than using visits as a reward for compliance. Addiction doesn't respond to such manipulations, so I'm on team needlessly-punishing-the-child.

Update on Far From The Tree: the chapter on prodigies make me feel like the best parent ever. (It's repetitive, though. Please can we discuss more than just musical prodigies? No.) The chapter on children conceived during rape, and children who become criminals both make a strong case that the world is tragic beyond reprieve. Both of these chapters diverge dramatically from the past, in that they should be under a sub-heading of "horror and abuse predictably leave a long trail of destruction". Both chapters involve quite a lot of kids rotating in and out of the foster care system, which is why this is totally pertinent to the post above.

Finally, I almost called this post "Parental Visitation of Foster Kids" but decided I didn't need to be a person with obnoxiousness.


 

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Unfoggedydodecahadron

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.09.13

Real survey, located here.

At some point this weekend, I'll book a house, at which point polling will close. No matter the location, I'll try to find a house close to public transportation and close to hotels. So all of you getting the vapors from this consensus-process can just hang on for a few more days, okay?


 

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Syllabus Time

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.09.13

What's a fair way to quantify class participation? I have a class in which I will not be lecturing, and students need to come ready to interact. Ideally, everyone should be making short informal presentations to the class (ie this is how I solved this problem) equally regularly. If I let students volunteer, then what's a suitable accounting method? In the past, I've just gotten to know the students well and then used my judgment at the end of the semester, but I'm wondering if any of the instructors out there do something more formal.


 

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AIG

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.09.13

What assholes. This would have been more interesting and breaking if I'd posted it yesterday but that didn't happen.


 

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Fantasy Constitutional Provisions

Posted by LizardBreath
on 01.09.13

The discussion of the platinum coin (conclusion: there's a better argument than I'd thought that the wording of the statute is ambiguous enough to get to the legislative history, at which point a judge could legitimately rule an economically important platinum coin illegal, but it's by no means a slam dunk, and the likeliest outcome would be that courts would stay out of a squabble between the elected branches) reminded me of a old fantasy of mine: required legislative fixit sessions.

The idea is that a legislature would have, say, a few weeks every year where they weren't setting their own agenda. Judges and members of the public, but I think mostly judges, would identify problematic statutes: this is ambiguous -- does it mean X, or Y; this is badly worded -- it obviously means X, but read literally includes Y, which can't reasonably be what you meant (this is the platinum coin situation -- in my fantasy world, someone would have noticed the goofy possibility before it became relevant, and it would have gotten fixed); this is misnumbered -- it goes (a)(i), (a) (ii), (a)(iv); this is obsolete -- it made perfect sense when it was passed in 1930, but something about the world has changed so we're applying it by analogy to facts that no longer fit the wording well; any statute with a noticeable problem with it, where applying the words of the law as they are on the books may not well represent what anyone, ever, wanted to happen. And ideally, the party raising the issue would offer a proposed fix. The legislature would have to discuss all the statutes offered for fixing: they wouldn't have to do anything, but where there was a non-controversial way to straighten out a problematic statute, they'd have dedicated time to do it.

This wouldn't make the world a much better place, and really wouldn't be all that important. But I would find it immensely satisfying: the situation now is that there are all sorts of statutes with problems that judges and lawyers sort of work around on the basis of precedent, and there's no plausible way that they're ever going to get fixed. A week or two every year for this sort of tidying would make me very happy.


 

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Pop quiz!

Posted by Ben
on 01.08.13

In what city in New Mexico might members of the worshipful company of blacksmiths congregate?

Credit will only be given if you can explain your answer fully.


 

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Coal chute

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.08.13

We have multiple children's books with an illustration which happens to feature a dumptruck of coal, being poured down a chute, through a manhole cover or something like that, beneath the street, as part of what goes on in town or city life. What exactly are they doing?


 

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Resolve my confusion

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.08.13

Unfoggedy-dodecahedron: Baltimore or Pittsburgh?


 

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Guest Post - Foreign Policy

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.08.13

Jackmormon writes: "At the heart of the opposition to Hagel is the fear that he will do what Republicans have thus far largely prevented: bring America's experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan into the Iran debate."

Witt writes: Photo montage: 19-year-old US solider killed in Afghanistan. This young man was just 7 years old when the war in Afghanistan started. The photos are as much a cultural distillation as a memorial.

Heebie's take: The Hagel link is a nice summary of why foreign policy has remained unchanged for the past twelve years:

The Iraq-era GOP, by contrast, has constructed an intellectual cocoon so hermetically sealed that it has remained uncontaminated by the greatest foreign-policy disaster of the past 30 years. That's partly the result of the "surge," which allowed the Republican foreign-policy establishment to claim, in my view incorrectly, some measure of vindication. It's partly because Iraq required no draft, and thus ordinary Americans never mobilized as dramatically to oppose it, which allowed foreign-policy elites to remain more insulated from shifts in the public mood. It's partly because the institutions where conservative foreign-policy types work--places like The Weekly Standard, Fox News, and the American Enterprise Institute--have no natural mechanism for reconsidering their view of the world. When Vietnam went south, the intellectual climate at Harvard (where Bundy served as a dean) and The New York Times (which had initially backed the war) changed because Harvard and The New York Times had missions that transcended any particular perspective on American foreign policy. By contrast, hawkish nationalism is so intrinsic to the identity of places like Fox, the Standard, and AEI that abandoning it would threaten their reason for existence.

and why Obama's foreign policy might actually begin to deviate, under Hagel.

Also I adore the name Zbigniew Brzezinski almost as much as Spiro T. Agnew.


 

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Luxury Healthcare

Posted by Alameida
on 01.07.13

Tomorrow I'm going to get a luxurious MRI, for real this time. Last time I went to see my Platinum Elite Flyer American Express Astaroth Prince of Thrones* class neurologist, who is, I would have you know, one of the top three in the country, I only got X-rays. So not 'flying at the front of the plane.' (And have you ever tried Spotnana? There's no reason to, really. But the man who owns it, Sir Hugh something, is married to my grandfather's fourth wife, and he says it like this--imagine English accent from a mayonnaise commercial--"Spot. naaaaaaana." At our last dinner, my mother and I just didn't know where to look, because we were in such danger of bursting out laughing; as a result we laughed excessively at all his 'witticisms' and 'humorous tales' and he found us unusually pleasant. Both he and his wife are lovely people, I hasten to add, but famously talkative.)

Anyway, MRI. Just because I feel like it. I heard they're cool, and all the cool people I know, like my sister and stuff, have had them. The university hospital does own one of those gleaming white donut ones that looks as if it were made of melted down iMacs, I have had that type before. The nurse who injected my veins with liquid fire--I mean: the actual physical sensation of heat, as of being too near the fireplace, all in and over and through me, all at once--told me precisely 45 seconds too late that this would occur, leaving me a surprisingly long stretch of time to imagine that I was so allergic to the contrast dye that I would die, myself, before I drew in my next breath. But tomorrow I have the go-inside-the-tube-for-an-hour kind. I'm not claustrophobic exactly, I just hate the idea of not being able to sit up. Like in a coffin. Locked in a small closet would be horrible, but I would find upright much easier to deal with. There are loud clanking noises, they say, but rhythmic. Well, it's a good thing I don't detest regular clicking and also have the WORST FUCKING MIGRAINE IN THE WORLD.

I was doing OK before. But I didn't think so. This is why we should all be annoying and practice gratitude for what we have now. Because a month ago I would have--and in fact did--bitch at you about how I was exhausted, with constant migraines, and blah 6 kinds of medicine blah. Jesus Christ sick people are so boring. Now I think that would be the greatest thing ever. If only I could be as sick as that again! Last night at 3 in the morning I was idly wishing I had a non-cancerous brain tumor. (They're not looking at my brain; they've just given up there. This is for some spinal bullshit, stupid minor arm degenerative arthritis.) Then they could take it out! And wouldn't they feel awful. "God's wounds, Al, I can't imagine how you've been able to bear up under it all this time. What fools we've been!" And then I would be gracious and say, "not to worry old chaps, we're all on the same side here; and one is only human after all!" And then we'd have a good laugh together, and then I would press the motherfucking button on my motherfucking morphine infusion pump. Now, this is obviously idiotic, because brain tumors are evil and no one wants them, and I'm sure someone reading this has watched someone they love suffer this enormity and wants to say, "hey Al, why don't you give yourself an enema with a rusty fishing gaff." OK. Tough, but fair. Please keep in mind that this was the middle of the night and I wasn't thinking clearly. I honestly think hitting myself in the face with a hammer might be an improvement because it would be different. I am aware that this, as well, is stupid.

Also, that sick people are boring. What, eventually I will be keeping you abreast of my vitamin deficiencies? (All. I am deficient in all the vitamins. No, except D.) And fuck, the last time I saw my Astaroth Prince of Thrones class neurologist, he gave me a prescription for nerve tonic. Nerve tonic? Are you fucking kidding me? Esteemed Dr. R------, you wretched creature, who I assume are sensible to the fellow-feeling of another sufferer in this vale of tears, you are going to look me in the eye, and prescribe me mother. Fucking. Nerve tonic? OK fine. I have neuralgia. I have officially graduated to Victorian imaginary ailments. I thought that had occurred when I suffered so terribly from pleurisy but with the benefit of hind-sight I see now how wrong I was.

*Regular readers of this site may be particularly interested to know that Astaroth Prince of Thrones is a servant of Lucifer of the First Hierarchy, and that he specializes in sloth, laziness, and idleness. His demons cause discouragement, lassitude, indifference and irresponsibility among men. Additionally, he has a subaltern Verrine who trains lesser demons in causing men and women to sin by falling into sudden antagonisms, rash bursts of anger, and the like. And, as if that were not enough to endear him to us, in so far as one can be endeared to cold, infinite, and implacable malice, he has another servant, Sonnelion, a lesser Lord of a sub-order of Thrones, who tempts people into sin by hatred for those who disagree with them. I think that if Unfogged is to have an official Demon of the First Hierarchy of Hell, it should be Astaroth, Prince of Thrones. And really I think we must, taking things all in all.**
**Husband X objects that Astaroth Prince of Thrones is too much Arch-Demon for one blog, howe'er Superkoranic its Fellatio powers, to contain, and that he is quite obviously the patron Demon of the entire internet; that Verrine's troll army has grown so mighty he has likely overtaken Sonnelion with the divisions of 4chan alone; and further that since the invention of the internet Astaroth Prince of Thrones may well have overthrown Lucifer himself. Cogent points.


 

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Guest Post - Health Care by Age

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.07.13

Lw writes: There was a fairly widely posted chart suggesting that health care spending starts rising very sharply in the US but not other countries at age 60. Corrected figures are here, also a link to the original chart. (The original chart was not fake exactly, but a selective edit of a thrice-propagated survey of government spending only, not including private spending, or some such).

The way I am coming around to thinking about health care, some of what people in the US want is discretionary luxury spending, and some of what we need (vaccines, NICU access for everyone) is a public service. Maybe there's a reasonable way to draw a bright line between these two reasonably, I sure hope so. I hadn't considered the luxury spending end seriously but for two observations. Anecdotally, from listening to attorneys between sixty and seventy discuss their medical care choices. They sound very much like people talking about cars. Statistically, the libertarian point about veterinary spending tracking health spending IMO holds up and makes sense. Source.

Heebie's take: I am nine kinds of confused by that funhouse mess at that veterinary link. The initial report was picked up by McMegan, who writes:

Veterinary spending is rising just about in line with human medical spending. Kudoes to AEI for publishing a graph that seriously undercuts one of the major conservative arguments about health care: that the main problem is consumers who don't bear their own costs. Veterinary spending is subject to few of the perversities that either left or right suppose to be the main problems afflicting health care spending. Consumers pay full frieght most of the time. They are price sensitive, and will let the patient die if keeping him alive costs too much. There is no adverse selection. There is no free riding on mandatory care. Government regulation is minimal. Malpractice suits are minimal, and have low payouts. So why is vet spending rising along with human spending?

And then a bunch of conservatives agree, and then a bunch of liberals point out flaws with the comparison...and am I batty? She says write there that she's undercutting a conservative argument, but then everyone just takes their traditional sides and agrees or argues with the people that they're used to agreeing or arguing with.


 

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Raising autistic kids

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.06.13

I'm reading Far From the Tree, about situations where parents find themselves raising children who are vastly different from themselves. So far I've read the chapters on parents of deaf kids, dwarf kids, Down syndrome kids, and autistic kids.

First, I can't quite recommend the book because it's 700+ freaking pages long. So it's only for people (like me) with an endless appetite for this kind of thing. The basic premise is fascinating, though: let's take conditions which straddle being both disabilities and identities, and consider how those are at odds with each other. And then read endless anecdotes of parents wrestling with these issues as they raised their kids.

The chapter on parenting kids with autism stands out in stark contrast to the previous three chapters, though. First, the range of experiences parenting autistic kids is definitely much huger and more fragmented, compared to the previous three chapters. (Obviously there's a wide range of experiences in parenting any group of kids. I'm not saying the others were uniform.)

Second, the bottom third of experiences sound wildly hellacious, in a way that even the worst stories from the previous three chapters didn't. Parent after parent sound like they went years past their breaking point, because either there was no alternative, or they were agonizing over the decision of whether or not to institutionalize their child. The big problems seem to be: 1. autistic kids have excess energy. Waking up daily at 2:30 am, for example, or not sleeping for days in a row. So the parents are intolerably exhausted, much more so than the parents in other chapters. 2. Complete lack of affection or recognition for the parents. 3. Violence and toilet-training problems.

(Obviously everyone here supports meaningful support services for such parents. I don't think it's a mystery what ought to be available.)

Anyway, there is also a top half of experiences, where parents find enough balance and rewards to persevere without losing their minds. But this chapter is strikingly more ominous than the previous three.


 

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Guest Post - Religion & Congress

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 01.06.13

Witt writes: This year, we elected the our first Hindu Congressperson and first (modern-day) representative to declare "None" for religious affiliation. The table showing Congress's percentages compared to the country as a whole is interesting.

Heebie's take: Pentecostals make up 4% of the US?! Apparently, twice as many of them as Mormons.


 

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