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Let's riff

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.14.13

Jocelyn Plums: I wish I was a little bit shorter I wish I was a hoarder I wish there was a bed made of cats I could order.

Via Jammies


 

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ERMAHGERD YOU GUYS!

Posted by Alameida
on 06.13.13

Woo hook'em sober! I had 7 years sober on the 10th of June but I'm just picking up my chip from my sponsor today. In this probably entirely made-up article, Keef explains about how heroin and cocaine helped keep him going over the years. This is...not entirely implausible. It's titration! You do see your body as a laboratory! I haven't used heroin in 17 years. It doesn't make it impossible to graduate summa cum laude. Or get your MA in Ancient Greek. You can stay up all night memorizing battle diagrams because you can't sleep. But then, you can't, entirely, be awake either. Nonetheless apparently the battle diagrams are fine. If I hadn't gotten Hep C and then sick so bad, and then switched boyfriends, I would have kept going until...something really horrible happened? But it might have been a while. My family was supporting me financially as well as the University (sorry, struggling California taxpayers!), and I clean up real good as far as talking to the cops goes. Well, cops, shit, talking to judges later. Still I give a year and a half at the very outside. I am not entirely sure how to spin this to my children. Definitely don't do heroin for more than 5 years kids!

Alcohol, bleh. You'd think I'd be thinking, yeah, obviously fuck heroin but alcohol is tricky. No. Should one wish never to have drunk at all? That would, in fact, have been the wise decision for me to make given my family history, had I been capable of making wise decisions at 13 or 14 which, no. I have met two people in life who have done this, both men. They have never so much as tasted a drop of alcohol, because their mom (in each case) was a lush, and they have a huge family history of alcoholism and they decided, rationally, not to take the risk. They are both libertarians who work in the financial services industry. Not investment bankers, regular actual bankers.

Drinking sucks worse. Being an alcoholic sucks worse than being a junkie. Being a three- or four-day a week heavy drinker makes you feel more like shit all through the week than being a three- or four-day a week heroin user--of which there are loads, obviously, since not everyone gets hooked. You don't know because you only see them at work and they are fine. If you see them looking pale and nauseous and their hands are shaking, it's because they have a horrible hangover. Getting the DTs and the shakes vs withdrawing from heroin, OK, here it feels worse to kick heroin. It won't kill you, howsoever much you whine about it like a little bitch (Jesus, the whining). Suddenly throwing all the booze down the drain and freestying some rehab can kill you pretty easily! When you go into rehab for alcohol they're like "here, please take another 10mg of valium. Now." Naturally everyone says "you don't have to ask me twice, honey!" I say this in part because there is a stage before you become a really committed alcoholic, when you still could pull back or stop. If you have a sneaking suspicion that this might conceivably be you, then its way fucking 2000% you, and I recommend in the most strenuous terms that you do something the fuck about it. Not drinking is fine. It's OK, seriously! It won't hurt you, right?

It's myth of the Eternal Return time, kids. What if I had all that suffering to go through again, just so I could get all that wasted again. And do all that dumb shit. I cannot picture imaginary teetotaler Alameida as anything but priggish and annoying. But probably I would have been great! I would meet you at parties and remember who the fuck you were, and I would go see cool live bands instead of lying in a pile of warm, entwined limbs in my apartment listening to Tattoo You, and getting up to pick up the needle and play "Worried About You" again, and again, and watch the levels on my vintage Marantz receiver dance more and more into the red until every instrument is playing at the end. I suffer from a failure of imagination here. The "that Alameida" seems as insufficiently like me as the person I will be re-incarnated as in much Indian religion, the person who will be punished for my sins with what looks, to the outside, like the workings of a cruel, unjust world. How me, being punished? How me, not having been soothed in this way?


 

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Medical Billing

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.13.13

I just got a 9 page bill from our doctor, for THIRTY separate occasions running back THREE FUCKING YEARS, spanning two separate insurance companies, telling me that I owe $730.

It is a giant fucking unintelligible mess, but this is the doc who recently blamed Obamacare for why they could no longer implant IUDs and so my kneejerk reaction is suspicion and anger.


 

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Guest Post - Nick S is not sure how cynical to be...

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.13.13

Nick S writes: This interview with Kevin Hassett is fascinating; he closes by saying exactly the right thing:

The biggest thing to get people to understand is that it's still a national emergency. Unemployment is down, and job creation is better, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the folks we're talking about are going to see significant improvements in what's going on. It's still an emergency, and it's a really important one.

But, reading it, I feel not quite sure how cynical I should be. Is he serious, or is he just trying to promote something which probably won't happen as a way to criticize the existing stimulus? Normally I feel like an appropriate amount of skepticism is healthy, but reading that I'd like to believe. The whole interview just sounds so . . . surprisingly sane. Not just compared to what I expect from Republican advisors, but compared to most Democratic politicians as well.

Heebie's take: I think it's just that the thoughtful conservative is such an extinct species, that when you see one you want to put it in a jar and then try to find another one for it to eat or hump.

It's sort of like when Michael Steele was on Jon Stewart while being head of the RNC and then after being head of the RNC, and it was like he gained 50 IQ points. All of a sudden he was capable of following a series of logical statements and making a thoughtful response.

As soon as Republicans are invisible and out of the public eye, it frees them up not to base every single breath around obstinacy and destruction.


 

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Ask the Mineshaft: is Davis better than D.C.?

Posted by Ben
on 06.13.13

A query comes to me from afar, and with it a request that the query be posted here:

I work on climate change in DC, which is depressing: Progress is grindingly slow and the politics are not particularly encouraging. I'm really happy in my community in DC, but I'm feeling professionally frustrated. But I could try something new: It's looking like I may have a chance to come to California to help move the state's climate program forward instead. Since California is actually moving aggressively on climate change and is developing what will be the national—and maybe international model—for a working carbon control system, that's pretty exciting. Major drawback: the job is in Sacramento, which seems less than exciting. It might be an okay place to raise a family, but downtown seems burned out and the nominally hip neighborhood everyone extols looks pretty limited. I'm worried that it would turn out to be a depressing place to live and a hard place to date—which would be a real bummer for me (a single guy in my early 30s looking to meet someone of the engaged, wonky, sort that inhabit DC and seem like my natural dating pool). But maybe Davis would be better? It seems so, if it could be made to work for commuting (I don't have a car at the moment, but could) So:

Should I make a move for career purposes that means leaving behind a great—and probably hard to replicate—community for one that might be more sterile? And, critically, how much could I mitigate that downside by moving to Davis (which seems way more full of the sort of people I'd want to befriend and/or date) and commute to Sacramento?

So, there you have it. A peremptory dismissal of this great state's capitol and an even more peremptory positive assessment of Davis, which doesn't scream "excitement" to me. Maybe you people can offer some advice, or snark.


 

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Epigenetics is the new veldt

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.13.13

I wonder if there's any traits which evolved by the following mechanism: first-born children exhibited some unpleasantness which made the parents not want to have another kid, or to delay having another kid, and so the first-born received more resources. NO REASON, JUST WONDERING.

Mostly unrelatedly: I predict that epigenetics will be the new veldt. In this article, the scientists are measured and basically saying "we came to understand the mechanism in the brain by which infancy stress can show up as elevated levels of things like cortisol in adulthood. The article is good-seeming at dumbing down the mechanism (methylation) enough to make it understandable-seeming.

Is it not completely unsurprising that there exists a mechanism by which our experiences affect our neural mush? As far as I can tell, what's new is just our new understanding of one mechanism by which experiences turn genes on and off.

Anyway: The author! Or the editor! is so sensational. The headings are things like The Mark of Cain and Voodoo Genetics, and the lede is this:

Your ancestors' lousy childhoods or excellent adventures might change your personality, bequeathing anxiety or resilience by altering the epigenetic expressions of genes in the brain.

whereas near the end, the article says this:

The latest evidence, published in the Jan. 25 issue of the journal Science, suggests that epigenetic changes in mice are usually erased, but not always. The erasure is imperfect, and sometimes the affected genes may make it through to the next generation, setting the stage for transmission of the altered traits in descendants as well.

Epigenetics poised to become the new folk explanation of why you had your bad luck coming.


 

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Guest Post - America's Worst Charities

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.12.13

Minivet writes: Where are the IRS jackboots when you need them?

Note in particular the one whose remaining money after fundraising and salaries goes to producing and airing its president's scuba-diving videos, and the catalog of medical supplies to be shipped overseas, for which you chip in a bit and claim the whole value as your donations to the needy.

The regulation question in part 2 seems like a real challenge - although it treats the lack of sufficient regulatory staff as an exogenous misfortune, not politically-founded - but then there's the constant abandonment and re-forming of organizations. Do we need a national blacklist of people from participating in any 501c3? More prohibitive fines?

Heebie's take: You have to distinguish between charities which are the worst! because they're amusingly frivolous (party hats for dolphins!) and those which are the worst! because they funnel money away, under the guise of aiding serious situations. This article is about the latter, although I haven't dug in very far.


 

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Over-angst In My Classroom

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.12.13

This author comes off as a bit douchey in White pride in my classroom, about having an aggressively political white supremacist in his classroom. Surprisingly, the effective student leader is charismatic, and the author had never contemplated a charismatic person with odious views. What a game-changer.

His student is much more of a lightning rod than anyone I've taught, and I do my damndest not to find out what these kids believe, because otherwise I'd never get out of bed in the morning, but I do sort of relate to the teacher.

What I find most utterly naive about him, though, is this: doesn't he know that there is a complete and total divorce between people's private persona and their public, political beliefs about society? There's an absolute break, and it's just a nice coincidence if both sides happen to be lovely (and a nice coincidence when both sides are ugly, because then you can relish hating the person extra.)

Anyway, in the end he's one of the few people who extends common courtesy to the supremacist student and he wrestles internally with that. Look, professor, you get to choose to relate to someone as their private persona or their public, political persona. Since you're his instructor, you should relate to his private persona. But yes, practically everyone else will relate to his public, political persona. Since he's made himself a locally hated celebrity, then yes, you'll be in the minority in treating him politely.


 

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Guest Post - The Normalization of Prison

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.11.13

Witt writes: Three reactions:

1. Wow. Good on Sesame Street for creating a toolkit for caregivers of children whose parent(s) are in prison.

2. Man is it depressing to think how many children we're talking about.

3. Aaaand it's funded by....a big military contractor that depends on prison labor? Ewww.


 

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Expectation Of Privacy

Posted by LizardBreath
on 06.11.13

While I usually try not to do legal blogging without some fairly solid sense of what I'm talking about, I had a thought that seemed worth following up on. A lot of the legal justification for all the metadata searching and so on (note the lack of a 'fairly solid sense of what I'm talking about' here, but bear with me), is based on the idea that it's already public information: once you're interacting with a phone company or an internet service, you don't have any expectation of privacy in what happens to metadata, because you've already shared it with the phone company.

So, what happens legally if some particular phone company advertises its services with "To the very best of our ability, we will keep all data of any sort associated with your use of our network private. Nothing stored on our servers is ever abandoned, we're actively keeping it safe and private for you forever." Anyone using that company would, presumably, expect them to live up to their promises. Are they then in a better position to resist giving data to the government, just by committing to their customers that they won't? This seems like an easy thing to try, and a market niche that's ripe for exploitation -- it's not most of the market, but there have to be enough people who care about this stuff that it'd be worth selling them phone service. Possibly someone's doing this already?


 

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Priorities

Posted by Ben
on 06.10.13

You might think that the really worrisome thing about total kidney failure is that you'll die, but actually, it's that it's bad for one's career (possibly because one is dead):

It's moderately amusing to consider other conditions one might substitue for kidney failure here: "When her busy career was brought to a hard stop by acute blood loss …"; "When his busy career was brought to a hard stop by a brain aneurysm …" When his busy career was brought to a hard stop by a collision with a drunk driver …" No doubt in all these cases the good people of UCSF would strive to their utmost to save one's career.


 

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Sexism is so quaint

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.10.13

Harvard, back in 1961, asks this woman if she's planning on getting knocked up and wasting her education, and if so, could she let the admissions committee know in advance so that they don't waste their resources on her? She didn't respond, but went on to have an illustrious career as a food critic. Then now she responds, answering how she balanced work and family over all these years. (Then the admissions guy responds, at the very end: Well, I wouldn't give that advice now, duh.)

Sent in by Knecht


 

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Epic wars between good and evil

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.10.13

Stephen King apparently wrote a sequel to The Shining which sounds spectacularly bad.

...this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

I certainly loved his books as a tween, so it's not like his original books were particularly high brow.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless--mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the "steam" that children with the "shining" produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

But many of his older books at least had a great premise. Or so my impression goes.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father's legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant "shining" power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes "Doctor Sleep."

And certainly the Kubrick movie of The Shining is objectively great.

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan's own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra's soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

Clearly he's just phoning it in, these days.


 

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The Nutrition Experts

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.09.13

Dr. Walter Willet, chair of the Harvard School of Public Health's nutrition department, got scolded by Nature for generally being kind of a paternalistic ass.


 

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