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Check Ins, Reassurances, and Concerns, 9/11

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.11.20

(This is intended to be our system for checking in on imaginary friends, so that we know whether or not to be concerned if you go offline for a while.)

Clearly I cannot keep this simple thing together. Maybe I'll just aim to keep one on the front page at all times.

Episode 45.


 

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Guest Post - Class Action Park

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.11.20

Minivet writes: I think the whole blog is going to love Class Action Park when they can see it.

Not only capacious oral history from people involved (all the management is middle-aged today because they were all quickly-promoted teenagers!), but it also uses cartoons to give a better understanding of the mechanics of the rides than one gets from written descriptions.

It connects the concept and implementation of the park to high-Reaganite ideology and culture, and surprisingly it's not that forced - the CEO and primary investor both came from Wall Street (if the less elite, penny-stock world).

Heebie's take: Don't you all feel a little like we loved the band before it was cool?

(I'm sad at how many since-lost commenters were still chiming in, in 2012.)


 

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Shambles

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.10.20

Via one of you, at the other place:



 

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Fires

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.09.20

I'm sorry that it took me so long - we should really have a California fires thread. How are you all holding up?


 

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Senegal

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.09.20

Sounds nice:

COVID-19 test results come back within 24 hours - or even faster. Hotels have been transformed into quarantine units. Scientists are racing to develop a cutting-edge, low-cost ventilator.
This isn't the pandemic response in South Korea, New Zealand or another country held up as a model of coronavirus containment success.
It's Senegal, a west African country with a fragile health care system, a scarcity of hospital beds and about seven doctors for every 100,000 people. And yet Senegal, with a population of 16 million, has tackled COVID-19 aggressively and, so far, effectively. More than six months into the pandemic, the country has about 14,000 cases and 284 deaths.

I wish I could put my finger on what they're doing right that we keep messing up, but I only have ten fingers.

They were ranked 2nd in effectiveness against Covid, behind NZ, but that study is paywalled.

....

These early weeks of the fall semester remind me of early June: Surely everything is about to explode. I'm tense, waiting for case counts to tick upwards en masse. And yet, until they do, everything is even more uncertain because so many people are engaging in risky behavior and there's no narrative yet that it turned out poorly.


 

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Wage Theft

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.08.20

Here is a twitter-thread pointing out that we criminalize theft, but not wage-theft.

What should we do about it? criminalize employers or decriminalize theft or something else?
Wage theft shows that we believe restitution is important. Giving the money back is important. Currently, AG keeps track of bad actors and will increase future financial penalties for bad actors.
It also shows when harm is committed, we don't have to lock someone in a cage or label them a felon, both of which destroy years of life even after the sentence is over. We can demand restitution instead of punishment.
It also shows how ridiculous the label "high crime neighborhood" is. And the arbitrary and racist response of police surveillance in HCN. Because we defined it that way.

I truly hadn't considered this before, and I think he makes good points, but... is he getting tangled up in the "corporations are naturalized persons" business? Do corporation crimes ever go through the regular old criminal process?

I think there are a whole lot of better ways to deal with burglary and regular property theft, but modeling it after wage theft ain't it. And vice versa, which he acknowledges at the very end:

Getting a lot of questions, so I'd like to clarify I am not saying we should criminalize wage theft!

Anyway, congratulations, commenters. I've been posting here for 12 years now, and you all finally have trained me to look askance at this kind of thing.

He's right that we're hypocritical as a society with how negligently we sweep away wage theft and how heavy-handedly we crack down on property-theft, but I think a whole lot of this* is muddled.

Here are my conclusions:
1.The two situations aren't as similar as is implied by the common use of "theft".
2. We should be much stricter on wage theft, for sure, and make the process significantly easier for the victim.
3. Isn't property-theft at this point pretty much the purview of drug dealers and addicts, though? I'm in favor of divest and re-invest, but I bet burglary by strung-out meth heads is one of the situations where we keep the police around. I don't know that restitution is exactly the right path there.


* I just had the weirdest moment. I was trying to write "a whole lot of this" and kept trying to spell it "a holot of this", and could not figure out how to translate "holot" which my brain was audibly dictating into words. AM I DYING? IS THIS SENILITY? thank you.


 

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Guest Post - Censorship and Oligarchy

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.07.20

From politicalfootball: On Facebook, I recently tried to link to this article from PeaceData because I wanted to discuss Russian propaganda. Facebook wouldn't let me because it's Russian propaganda!

If you look at the PeaceData site overall, it's not so terrible. My Facebook friends have not only been deprived of a reasonable-looking leftist site; they won't get to read my trenchant critique of Russian media manipulation. Not long ago, I would have said: We must not let corporations draw the boundaries of acceptable public speech!

I don't believe that any more.

We lose good stuff to Facebook's censors, but our media oligarchs have always policed speech. Now -- especially after the abolition of the Fairness Doctrine -- Facebook is turning out to be among the most responsible arbiters of public discourse we have.

Heebie's take: PF sent this over on Thursday - and since then, PeaceData has decided to take their site down! The front page now has a cartoon of a guillotine taking aim at the heads of Zuckerberg, Bezos, and the Twitter guy. So was this actually Russian propaganda pretending to be Russian critics? Was this AI babble? Here's what the WayBack Machine has ti say about the site, as of last Thursday.

Anyway: Facebook is turning out to be among the most responsible arbiters of public discourse we have? Compared to anyone besides Twitter? Is Peter Thiel still on the board? Has Facebook done anything besides the bare minimum that they perceive necessary to avoid congressional oversight? Also I hate the new design.

I think PF's argument goes: disinformation is clearly a huge problem and Congress is not going to solve it, because Republicans have rendered that mechanism worse than useless. So there's no mechanism besides corporate oversight and let's not tie our own hands on the one remaining source of restraint when we desperately need a way to dial it back. In other words, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

I'm willing to concede that to get us through November. If Biden wins, though, I would like to see us take steps towards becoming a functional state again. Walking back Fox News and having Congress set some parameters on social media is a part of that.

I do have one question that I've wondered: Would it be sufficient to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine, as long as it was enforced and not toothless, and expanded to include new media markets beyond broadcast license holders? Or was that such a product of its time that it enforced mid-century notions well enough, but wouldn't really be a solution to modern day problems?

NB: I have avoided using "reign" incorrectly about six different times in writing this post. "Pull it back", "dial it back", "walk it back", there's just a lot of language like this when you want to undo the Pandora's box of fake news on the internet.


 

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Check Ins, Reassurances, and Concerns, 9/6

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.06.20

(This is intended to be our system for checking in on imaginary friends, so that we know whether or not to be concerned if you go offline for a while.)

Clearly I cannot keep this simple thing together. Maybe I'll just aim to keep one on the front page at all times.

Episode 44.


 

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Guest Post - Weekend Longread

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.06.20

Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) writes: Here's an interesting and complicated blog post about someone going off ADHD medication. I recently tried ADHD medication for the first time in my life. I hated it and gave up after a few days, not really for reasons related to ADHD but because it made me feel antsy, gave me insomnia, and gave me the worst headache I had in years (it all felt like having way too much coffee). Nonetheless the experience of going on and off the medication was very interesting, and resonated with several of the things in this article. The most striking thing for me from the article was the idea that people without ADHD are located in the present in a way that I have never been. It had never occurred to me that the reason I spend more time than other people thinking about the distant past, about old friends, or people who aren't in the room was ADHD related. That the lifelong suffering that I've had around the fact that I spend more time thinking about other people than they spend thinking about me isn't a difference in how they value me, it's that they don't have ADHD. In particular, the paragraph "I might start reading through old emails and instant messenger transcripts, picking apart the diction, looking for clues, like I'm connecting the yarn on my own conspiracy corkboard. I hyperanalyze everything. It doesn't matter if one theory is wrong, I've got twenty more where that came from, bub." is so 100% me, but I hadn't put together that this was an ADHD thing. Nonetheless, for those three days on medication that part of me was gone. And even though it's back a little bit now, it doesn't quite bother me in the same way because it feels a little bit less like a necessary part of who I am, now that I've experienced being me without that part for a couple days.

Heebie's take: Oh man. If you've followed my saga, I've also gone on ADHD meds, about 9 months ago, and my experience has been very different. I always had the most severe symptoms during the unstructured weekend days, and found them unpleasant and stressful, and I think Covid19 - and how it has turned 6 months into one long unstructured stretch of time - would have been hugely worse for me if I hadn't been on ADHD meds.

In general, I experience a much narrower amount of alteration of experience than he describes. I feel like myself, but I don't have to white-knuckle my way through so many facets of organization and maintenance anymore. (I still have to battle my laziness. My parts of the house are still a mess.)

Anyway, here are my thoughts, reading this post, which I found interesting:

I have a good memory. Never wish a good memory upon anybody. A good memory means the wounds of the past are always fresh. And so tragedies and the indignities and insults and failures tend to compound each other, piling on like an LA freeway car wreck.

I don't think this is right. It's the emotional salience and the unwanted intrusion of memories, not just the mere recall ability. Those things don't need much of a tether to the facts to take over, hence emotional trauma can occur in early childhood, despite retention of all the facts, or when you're drunk, or whatever - we stitch together a narrative in our heads to fill in the blanks when our memories fail us. It doesn't depend on the factual recall.

Here is a garbled thing from a book I read half of, once: basically, the psychologist (Bluma Zeigarnik) was watching a waitress in a cafe, back in the 30s, and she observed how state-dependent the waitress's memory was. While a customer was present, the waitress had perfectly detailed memory of the customer's order. Then when the customer left, the waitress would purge that information and clear out her mental cache for the next group of customers. (It appears a little differently in this wikipedia article.)

From there, a bunch of psychologists did some studies that may or may not have survived the replication crisis. In the end, they had (perhaps) a functioning model of why therapy is helpful, which is something that's always troubled me. Is it just the venting? Are we just being re-parented? This theory says there's something more substantial going on. Basically, when you have something that bothers you, it affects your memory, and it stays like an active table in the waitress's mind. Often times you can't actually go solve the problem, because it was a pattern or trauma that happened when you were a kid. But you keep the table open, and it's monopolizing the lens in which you see current situations. The point of therapy is to get a resolution to the table-issue, so that you can recategorize it as a closed table, bill paid, and purge those memories from your active RAM and just have them in your cloud-storage for occasional retrieval. (The book - one of the John Gottman ones - was hit and miss, and I haven't actually finished it.)

Anyway, I like this explanation of the function of therapy. This ADHD guy could use a little talk therapy, IMHO, to complement his Ritalin.

Reading along...

I'm getting more exasperated with this guy for never getting the feedback of a therapist during any of this. Now he's off convinced that his Ritalin is numbing his nucleus accumbens:

Methylphenidate is magic without moral alignment. It hands you an incredible power -- the power of pure, concentrated concentration -- but with a catch. It can't tell you what to focus on.
So sure, you like to tell yourself that you're going to concentrate on writing that compelling essay or finally finishing Anna Karenina, but just as likely, you'll play computer games for 8 hours. And not Great Computer Games, not the sort that prove Roger Ebert wrong once and for all, that video games can be art. We're talking matching gems for eight hours, because it gives you a feeling of accomplishment. It's the simple comforts, the one with a little dopamine bells and jingles, that truly draw me now.
A little bit of reading, and turns out that one of the side-effects of ADHD medication may be damage to the "nucleus accumbens," the part of the brain that fuels ambition and drive.

Dude. It hasn't occurred to you that playing video games for 8 hours straight may serve some escapist purpose that maybe is worth shining a light on? (Granted, he's been on it for 5 years, and I've only been on it for 9 months. Maybe my nucleus accumbens will take a hit over time.)

Reading on...he's weaning himself off the Ritalin...Why hasn't he talked to his psychiatrist about any of this stuff? Both my psychiatrist and my kids' have said that we really don't understand this stuff very well, and different drugs affect different people differently, and there are many different combinations we can try if one doesn't work, or if over time it becomes less effective, or if side effects crop up. I'm on my 3rd medication, due to side effects with headaches that intensify the longer I'm on the particular medication. This anhedonia he describes certainly sounds like a side effect to me.

FWIW, my experience with skipping doses is very different: when I miss a day, or a few days, I get "stuck to the chair" as I call it. I sit in an easy chair - it's so easy! - and just play nonograms and think about all the things I should be doing, and marvel that I'm still stuck to the chair. I just can't get started doing things. For me, it's so much easier to keep starting when I'm on this stuff.

Finally, I should clarify: I believe everything he's reporting about his experience - that it's just a totally different one than mine. I'm just exasperated because every step of the way, everything you read or hear tells you to let your psychiatrist know about any issue, or consider talking to a therapist, etc etc, and he doesn't want to do those things, and I think it's because he thinks he's smarter than these professionals. In some ways, he is smarter, and so he'll have some confirmation bias when he actually talks to them. But in other ways, he isn't smarter than them, and he's cutting himself off from benefiting from those domains of their expertise.


 

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