30 July 2021

Video of the day -- China vs Taiwan

China and Taiwan have the same cultural and ethnic roots, and became separate nations only seventy years ago.  So why are they so different?

(SerpentZA lived and traveled in China for over fourteen years and speaks Mandarin well, and his channel has numerous insightful videos from his time there.)

28 July 2021


26 July 2021


Over the last few days, some right-wing leaders in the US have abruptly pivoted to a more pro-vaccine message.  Moscow Mitch, Sean Hannity, and Alabama governor Kay Ivey have been notable examples.  Recently senator Tommy Tuberville and Sarah Huckabee Sanders added their voices (the latter garnished with a steaming pile of liberal-bashing, but still).  And the reason is becoming obvious.

Almost all the people who ever paid attention to the anti-covid-vaccine nonsense in the first place (and to the allied nonsense that downplayed the threat posed by the disease), are their own right-wing followers.  Rejection of the vaccine, like rejection of mask-wearing and of the facts about the lethality of covid-19, have become a mark of right-wing tribal identity.  This is why, throughout the pandemic, most of the states with the highest per-capita covid-19 case loads and death rates have been red states, despite most of those states being thinly populated and thus theoretically less vulnerable to an infectious disease.  Florida, perhaps the most urbanized red state, is being devastated.

The adult (over 18) population of the US is 258 million.  Right now, 155 million US adults (60%) are fully vaccinated, and a further 23 million (9%) have received one shot of the two-shot vaccines.  Those 23 million have some protection against the disease, though not as much as the fully-vaccinated, but the remaining 80 million are totally unprotected.  That 80 million, it's safe to assume, consists mostly of the hard-core right-wing base (there are a few people who cannot be vaccinated for various medical reasons, but the numbers are fairly small).  Consistent with that, 80% of the unvaccinated say they "probably" or "definitely" will never accept the vaccine.

Currently, 99.5% of covid-19 deaths are among the unvaccinated 31% of the adult population.  While some vaccinated people are still getting the disease, it rarely becomes serious or lethal among them.  Crippling, deadly covid-19 is now almost entirely confined to the unvaccinated.

The new delta variant is far more infectious than the original covid-19, and also deadlier since it is killing greater numbers of younger people.  As best we can tell, the vaccines provide the same protection against delta as against the original covid-19 -- if you are vaccinated, you are substantially less likely to get infected, and vastly less likely to become seriously ill or die (this is based on what's going on in the US -- some other countries are using different vaccines which may be less effective than the three being used here, which means that data from those countries is less relevant to our situation).  So it seems safe to assume that the death toll from the oncoming wave of delta-variant infections will continue to be almost entirely among the unvaccinated.

How bad is it going to get?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, in the US there have been 35 million total reported covid-19 cases and 610,000 deaths, a death rate of 1 in 57 (it's likely that the true number of both cases and deaths is higher, but even if both figures are, say, twice as high in reality, the ratio would be about the same).  Since the delta variant kills a higher proportion of the younger adults who contract it, it seems safe to assume the death rate will be substantially higher, perhaps 1 in 40 or even worse.

Given the much greater infectiousness of the delta variant, this analysis projects that it will sweep the entire unvaccinated population of the US in just four months.  CNN's chief medical correspondent concurs that soon Americans will be divided into just two groups -- the vaccinated and the infected.

If we have 80 million delta-variant cases in the next four months, and the death rate is 1 in 40, two million people will die.  In fact, there's reason to think it will be even worse.  My guess at how much deadlier the delta variant will be is probably too conservative.  Measures like lockdowns and mask mandates, which contained covid-19 somewhat during 2020, are unlikely to be re-imposed; and even if they are, the unvaccinated, who mostly downplay the disease, will be unlikely to comply.  A health-care system which was often overwhelmed by 35 million cases spread over a year and a half will be utterly overwhelmed by 80 million cases in four months, so the standard of medical care available will be lower.  And cases will be concentrated in red states and rural areas (since that's where most of the unvaccinated people are), where medical facilities are sparser and health conditions such as smoking and obesity are generally worse than in the cities.  There are too many unknowns to make hard estimates, but it seems reasonable to project that if most of the unvaccinated remain unvaccinated, there will be at least two million further covid-19 deaths in the US before the end of this year, likely far more.

And most of those who die will be voting-age conservatives, since that's the demographic which makes up most unvaccinated adults.  Even in a country as large as the US, two (or three or four) million deaths almost entirely on one side of the political divide will be enough to affect later election outcomes, especially since some states are almost 50-50, and most gerrymandered districts have only narrow Republican majorities.  Now you know why right-wing leaders are suddenly getting worried.  They see and know the reality of the situation, even if the delusional lemmings of their base don't.

Will their warnings turn the tide and persuade the unvaccinated to save themselves?  At the moment it doesn't look that way.  From what I'm seeing on the right-wing blogs and news sites I read, most rank-and-file wingnuts are so deeply committed to the anti-vax / covid-is-overblown narrative that they are brushing off the warnings or even denouncing those who issue them as RINOs.  McConnell's statement drew plenty of right-wing flak.  Hannity has already walked back his own warning.  The one thing that might make a real difference would be a strong pro-vaccine exhortation from Donald Trump himself, but Trump is not known for willingness to admit he was wrong about things, and he currently seems mainly interested in rehashing his claims about the 2020 election being stolen.

The suggestion that an advanced country like the United States might suffer millions of deaths from infectious disease, when the vaccines to prevent it are widely available, may seem like a ludicrous fantasy.  Yet I see no flaw in the logic here, and Republican leaders' rare willingness to challenge their base's delusions suggests that they too perceive the magnitude of the danger.  By far the worst of this pandemic is probably still ahead of us.

It will be the greatest mass suicide in history, a self-genocide.  The wingnut politicians and media con men who led their followers into this disaster make Jim Jones look like an amateur.

25 July 2021

Link round-up for 25 July 2021

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

Speak carefully when listing your medications.

It's cool what you can accomplish with a car and a bit of programming knowledge.

Life -- we're doing it wrong.

Extremely unambitious alien invaders here.

New one-minute version of Titanic here, with chinchillas.

Crook gets pwned, big time.

Experience changes one's view of problems.

Best period drama ever.

Lazy serfs are wrecking the medieval economy.

What is corn on the cob used for?

This would be a valid IQ test.

No you're right's!

Dashboard camera pwns insurance scammer.

These people know how to paint houses.

Stupidest question ever.

Here's why dogs are happier.

Kids are cute.

Looks like the start of a great novel.

Feed him and get a nose ride.

It's still a #$@!%* planet, you turkeys.

There is such a thing as a good job.

Oregon finds a large, colorful fish (found via Miss Cellania).

Here's how to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.

I'd actually prefer the "vegan ice cream".

This is not poetry.

Apparently Instagram is censoring content -- here's a work-around.

Pictures here of the Shah Cheragh mosque in Shiraz, Iran.

We know a lot more about extinct animals than you'd think.

It's remarkable what you can make by hand when you know how.

What should replace religion?

This animal exists.

Cool rocks.

Here's how we know ancient Egypt didn't trade with the Americas.

This scary tale of hospital abuse has been making the rounds -- don't be fooled.

"Only a cat."

Jeff Bezos's 11-minute flight got slightly closer to space than Branson did, and the launch at least provided some entertainment value.

The pronoun people can't even keep track of their own nonsense.

This is social anxiety.

There's no basis for religious exemptions from vaccination.

What would Orwell think of smartphones?  Almost anyone can now use yours to track you.  I don't have one and never will.

The internet is turning into shit.  Social media now actively sabotage interpersonal connections.

Don't turn non-work into a job.

"This isn’t even funny. This is just sad."

The Frito-Lay strike has ended in a win for the workers.

Health-care workers describe the nightmare of dealing with covid-denialist idiots.  They're pretty much unreachable, so we might as well make the best of it, aside from trying to save the kids.  The delta variant is far more infectious, and extrapolating the UK's experience to US conditions, "in about 4 months the delta variant will have ripped through virtually the entire unvaccinated US population".  The majority of the death toll from this pandemic could still be ahead of us.  Moscow Mitch has suddenly realized that letting Republican voters get mowed down isn't good for the party, but wingnuttia at large is unimpressed (read the comments too).

I haven't tried this, but it could be useful for internet reading.

Ideology leads to misunderstanding of history.

Blogger Da-AL discusses her own views of -- and personal experience with -- abortion.

Even on its own terms, religion is rubbish.

If you mock your kid's enthusiasms, don't be surprised if they stop opening up to you.

The law and police aren't geared for handling interactions with autistic people, often with deadly results (podcast with transcript).

Priorities, priorities.

"Fuck you and your lies!"

69% of men and 80% of women say work-from-home options are a top priority when seeking a new job.

A talk-radio host who told listeners not to get the covid-19 vaccine is changing his tune now that he's caught the disease.  Sorry, but anybody who takes medical advice from talk radio isn't much loss to the gene pool.  The Rude Pundit calls out their bullshit, and responds to critics.

Only one thing hasn't changed.

How do fundies deal with translating the Bible?

Cancel culture exists.  Including here in Oregon.

Stealing is OK as long as it's a huge amount.

The cruelty is the point with anti-abortion laws.

Sorry, some people deserve to be insulted.

Yet another Catholic diocese files for bankruptcy to escape paying compensation to molestation victims.

Counterweight is a liberal activist group fighting back against cancel culture and totalitarian "woke" hysteria.  Interesting case stories here of specific people they've helped.  These interviews with Steven Pinker and Sam Harris are also worth watching.

Calls for a general strike on October 15 are circulating on Tumblr.  Don't get suckered.

CNBC lists the ten worst US states to live in.  Not many surprises.

Every book lover should resist Amazon's growing domination of the market.

Earth-Bound Misfit is through with the NRA and suggests a better alternative.

Restaurant workers face shitty pay, shitty bosses, and shitty customers -- and now they have options.

The California prison system knows full well that moving hundreds of male inmates into women's prisons will lead to a wave of rapes and pregnancies -- and they're evidently just going to let it happen.

Never pay anything on debts you don't owe.

Murderously-lethal right-wing nonsense has religious roots.

Smoke from fires here in the western US is causing haze as far away as New York.  Here's what the smoke patterns look like.

Know the reality of the new laws on critical race theory.

New figures here on the rapid decline of US Christianity, especially among Latinos.

Just a single bitcoin "mining" operation is generating hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide and dangerously warming a glacial lake (found via Cop Car).

This is not freedom.  And this is not justice.

Another witness to the Wi Spa incident speaks out.  Discussion thread here on the "it didn't happen" bullshit.  Watch for shifting goalposts.  Here's some info on normal practices at Korean spas.

Update:  Several people are now saying that this guy is the man who was in the women's area at the spa.  Background info on him here, including his own (ambiguous) statements about whether he was the one there or not.  Discussion here and here and here.

We'll probably never know covid-19's true death toll among American Indians, but it was high.

It is madness to proceed with the Olympics under these conditions.  Most people in Japan agree.

"Yes, but now hundreds of trans activists have threatened to beat, rape, assassinate and bomb me I've realised that this movement poses no risk to women whatsoever."

Introduced predators such as stoats are a serious problem in New Zealand.

Photos here from the severe floods in western Europe.

A hero of free expression has died.

France has stupid people too -- just not as many as we do.

The Cuban regime is harassing and arresting journalists, artists, and anyone else who gets out of line (found via Hackwhackers).

Two years after Trump's betrayal, the Kurds -- including women -- are still fighting back.

As the Taliban regain control in Afghanistan, they're demanding that unmarried women and girls be handed over for forced marriage.

The House is taking action to save Afghans who helped the US.

Islam is profoundly misogynistic, despite the propaganda spouted by apologists.

Here's what happened when citizens in New Delhi protested about water shortages.

India's true covid-19 death toll is probably around five million, far higher than the official figure.

Two-thirds of Taiwanese people now self-identify purely as Taiwanese, not as Chinese at all.  Forget "one China" -- Taiwan is a separate nation, and has been for decades.

The rise of brain-machine integration will necessitate formalization of "neuro-rights" to protect the integrity of the individual mind (found via Cop Car).

More links at Fair and Unbalanced.

o o o o o

In case you missed it -- this week I posted some more improved words, a call-out on strikes and the media, and a video on China's "lying flat" rebellion.

[Image at top:  the planet Pluto, a planetary object of unimpeachable planethood]

24 July 2021

Video of the day -- dropping out of the rat race

The wholesale rejection of shitty jobs with shitty pay, shitty working conditions, and insane work hours -- the simple refusal to participate in an economy which offers nothing but misery and exhaustion -- it's happening in China too.  Based on the regime's frantic efforts to suppress internet discussion of the trend, they're scared.  躺平!

22 July 2021

Class struggle from below, and the media

Two major strikes under way in the US are manifesting another side of how, faced with a largely paralyzed government, American workers are taking action themselves.  Sadly, these strikes also illustrate how so much of the left in this country has lost its focus.

I've posted before about the Frito-Lay strike in Topeka, where workers endure forced overtime sometimes bringing total work time above eighty hours per week -- pay and safety conditions are also an issue.  It's possible that an agreement could be reached as soon as today, but during the two weeks the strike has been under way, I've seen almost no coverage of it on left-wing blogs or news sites (aside from a couple of Tumblr blogs) -- media which should have been, among other things, getting the word out about which products to boycott to support the strike.  I did unearth one small item at the Daily Kos, but it was far from prominent and took some looking to find.

In Alabama, coal miners have been on strike for three months over pay cuts and weakened safety standards, yet the mainstream media have totally ignored the story for all that time, and I've seen no mention of it on the left-wing blogs or news sites I normally read, though Crooks and Liars did post a story yesterday.  Everywhere has had heavy coverage of the silly and meaningless rocket antics of narcissistic billionaires, but hardly a word about labor actions which embody what used to be the essence and raison d'être of the left.

As for the mainstream media, their bias is so institutionalized that we hardly see it for what it is.  Every mainstream news site has a whole section for business news, but none has a section for labor news.  Every momentary fluctuation of the stock market is parsed and analyzed to death, and a corporation's change in business strategy or an absurdly-overpaid executive's move to a new sinecure are headline stories, but ordinary Americans' revolt against 84-hour work weeks or dangerous job conditions are unworthy of mention.

But that's how the MSM does things.  The left-wing internet can and should do better.  There's more to the news than what politicians are saying and doing.  What is being done from the bottom up deserves attention too.

20 July 2021

Improving words (21)

Some more revised word definitions, based on what the words visibly should mean.....

Alternative:  To change an indigenous person

Assurance:  An insurance policy for one's posterior

Chartreuse:  The act of using a map again

Chicken:  Barbie's stylish companion

Converse:  Poetry written by prison inmates

Cornice:  Maize-flavored frozen water

Distort:  To remove from the jurisdiction of civil law

Honored:  The prostitute is not a communist

Hungarian:  A non-trinitarian heretic with a large dong

Inferno:  To deduce that the answer is negative

Insubordination:  Making someone a priest aboard an undersea vessel

Melodious:  As repugnant as Mr Gibson

Merchant:  The mindless recital of slogans by mermaids

Needless:  A female sewing implement

Observatory:  To watch a British conservative

Overcast:  To hire too many actors

Plumage:  An era of juicy fruit

Reproof:  The upper surface of a building which embodies your good name

Romantic:  A twitch typical of an ancient Mediterranean civilization

Surface:  A playing card that rides the waves

Untenable:  Not capable of being put into quantities of almost a dozen

Winnowing:  To fail to be awarded a bird's organ of locomotion

[The previous "improving words" post is here.]

18 July 2021

Link round-up for 18 July 2021

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

First up, Happiness between Tails blog has another guest post by me, this one about my time as an abortion-clinic escort.

Regret will follow if you shove yeast up your ass.

Evidently they made them come back to the office.

Entertaining animal pics here.

Disco inferno, a noble sentiment.

Observe how Hungarians repair a clock (scroll down a bit).

Make a face.

Teenager pwns bully, threefold.

When writing a fantasy story, what do you call money?

This person exists.

Here's what ten thousand ducks at work looks like.

Achoo!  Achoo!

To succeed in the world of work, start preparing early.

Friendship can transcend the species barrier.

Nice hats.

Whales are big.

Finally a CEO contributes some value (John Brosio's art in general is worth checking out).

This is Crater Lake in southern Oregon.

Why aren't they lining up for him?

The newest cryptocurrency is/was at least honest enough to name itself after a con man.  Cryptocurrencies in general are a scam, says the guy who invented one of them.

You aren't crazy, this is crazy.

"Negative energy", my ass.

Capitalism can be hilarious.

Don't mess with people's food.

The "freedom phone" is the latest scam to rip off dumb Trumpanzees.  More mockery here.

Learn to not care if people don't like you.

Somebody does "like" you.

Many Romans escaped the destruction of Pompeii and were resettled elsewhere in the Empire.

Some interesting stuff here about ancient Egyptian medicine (the last part is the best).

Censorship is always about controlling people.

High-heeled shoes are terrible.  Nobody should suffer this.

There's some evidence that Polynesians discovered Antarctica 1,400 years ago.

Here's why billionaires can't escape Earth's problems by going into space.  Oh, and Branson didn't even really reach space -- Alan Shepard in 1961 flew more than twice as high.  Sign up for the Bezos welcoming committee.

Is this the future of gender?  Well, the past couldn't have anticipated the present.

Borat pwns Roy Mo[lest]ore.

Here's a tip on asking autistic people to do things.

We've seen a better world.  We can still fight for it.

This gibbering idiot wants to be a senator.

Lessons have been learned from the reaction to JK Rowling.  More responses here.

Read what you like, ignore what you don't.  The alternative is endless conflict.

Blogger Bilbo bestows an Ass Clown Special Award (link from Mike).

Nice set of positive headlines here (I haven't independently checked the stories).

Learn of the plight of the lesbian transwidow.

Most tasteless wedding ever.  Seriously, it's gross.

Compare two daughters.

White guy tries to explain black people's lives to black person.

There are two kinds of Republicans (found via SickoRicko).

Beware of media spin about vaccines.

We accept science, they don't (found via Hackwhackers).

Spread the truth about the trans nonsense via personal networks, like ripples in a pond.

The five-day workweek has been the standard for too long -- time to move forward.

Yes, keep digging up the past of the Catholic Church.

The honor system won't work for vaccinations because anti-vaxers are liars.

Frito-Lay workers are on strike for better working conditions -- the post lists which products to avoid buying.

This woman is a dangerous criminal.

As politicians push schools to re-open in person, parents seek out online options.

Reality-denial has consequences.

Here's a sensible approach to being a landlord.

The campaign against Abigail Shrier's book Irreversible Damage is backfiring spectacularly.

If you are more than ten years old, you probably have heart disease already -- but you can reverse it instead of just treating the symptoms.

The delta variant is fueling a new covid-19 explosion in the US.  Very soon there will be just two kinds of Americans, the vaccinated and the infected.  The latter have only themselves to blame.

Racism exists.

McDonald's workers strike this Tuesday for decent pay.

Conditions have changed at the US-Mexico border (with before-and-after pics)

Old lives matter.

Good discussions here on freedom and critical race theory.

Ownership is security -- don't fall for a subscription-based model.

Most people who prattle about violent revolution have no idea what it's really like.

Don't waste your time with Christianity and suchlike nonsense.

California women's prisons are preparing for an expected wave of rapes and pregnancies as hundreds of male prisoners are transferred in.

This job ad is an insult.

No, fish is not a health food.  Anything but.

People like this and this are perfectly normal and should be allowed into women's spaces everywhere.

Here is some background of that wingnut "7-point plan" to reinstate Trump as president (found via Voenix Rising) -- it's way wackier than you think.

Prison labor is neo-slavery and drives down free workers' wages.  Working conditions are often lethally dangerous.

The spirit of Fred Phelps lives on in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement (via a comment by reader JHolm), even here in the Pacific Northwest.  Skip to about 13:00.  It gets worse from there.

It is legal in the US to use electroshock as a punishment for disabled children.  More here.

"Woke" ideological purism is the biggest threat to Democrats' success in 2022 (not just opinion, lots of supporting data).

Millions of people is a lot.

Some slaves fought back.

This is how things work in a civilized country.

WalMart failed hilariously in Germany by refusing to learn the local culture and laws.

France's struggle against covid-19 is beset by anti-vaccine propaganda, much of it originating from Russia and China.

Venice has built a defense against its seasonal floods, now all the more important as global warming raises sea levels.

Israel has reformed its surrogacy law to include gays.

Here's a report from Cuba earlier this week.  The regime is trying to limit internet access and has arrested over 100 people, but has also offered concessions.  Don't hijack the story to score points on domestic US politics.

The hijab is oppressive and Islam is disgusting, and Westerners who defend those things are idiots or worse.

Japan now assesses the Chinese threat to Taiwan as a danger to its own national security.

North Korea is facing famine again, and the regime is telling its people they're on their own (this is not socialism).

Blogger Ark in South Africa posts pics from the riots in that country; comments are also worth reading.  Background info here.  At last count 117 people have been killed.

T-rex probably wasn't as fierce as you think.

Not all protein is alike -- almost all animal-based sources are associated with higher mortality.

Global warming is a fixable problem and we are fixing it.  I get so tired of ignorant people moaning that "nothing is being done".

More links at Fair and Unbalanced.

o o o o o

In case you missed it -- this week I posted on autism and the authentic self and the changing pandemic.

16 July 2021

Dealing with a changing pandemic

Covid-19 is now almost entirely a problem only for the unvaccinated.  Within the US, roughly half the population is now vaccinated, yet 99.5% of covid-19 deaths are occurring among unvaccinated people, as are over 90% of hospitalizations.  Even when a vaccinated person gets the disease, it is far less likely to result in death or serious symptoms than in an unvaccinated person.

At the same time, due to the spread of the delta variant, covid-19 is becoming more dangerous to the unvaccinated than it was earlier in the pandemic.  More young people are developing serious cases, and people are dying faster.

So the US population is now bifurcated into two groups among whom the pandemic is following opposite trajectories.  Among the vaccinated, it is petering out and disappearing.  But among the unvaccinated, it is resurging and becoming deadlier than ever, including among younger people who previously were at much lower risk.

Moreover, which group a person is in is now almost entirely a matter of choice.  The vaccines are easily available in great abundance all over the country.  In most cases, people stay unvaccinated only because they choose to be so (there are a few exceptions such as illegal aliens who shun contact with anything they associate with government authority, or legal minors whose freedom of choice is overridden by anti-vax parents).  In most cases the rejection of vaccination is rooted in willful refusal to accept the known facts about the dangers of covid-19 and the efficacy of the vaccines, which in turn is rooted in political or religious ideology.  Anyone who regularly reads right-wing blogs and "news" sites knows that that camp's opposition to vaccination is firm and truculent.  In one recent notorious case, the audience at CPAC actually cheered news of the country's failure to reach its vaccination target.  Making covid-19 vaccination compulsory would fail for the same reason alcohol prohibition failed and sex-work prohibition fails and gun prohibition would fail.  It's not possible to enforce laws which a large part of the population, including many of the people who would need to do the enforcing, simply don't accept as legitimate.

So, the militantly unvaccinated are pretty much unreachable.  The government has done what it can.  It's time to accept that that element of the population has chosen to leave itself vulnerable to disease and death, and leave them to face the consequences of their decision, since doing so no longer poses much threat to the vaccinated.

(Also, to be blunt, the kind of people who reject science in favor of ideology, who threw tantrums at the minor inconvenience of wearing masks to protect others, who cheer at the failure of a public-health campaign, who mostly voted for Trump and continue to embrace the hateful bullshit he represents -- these are the kind of people the country would better off with fewer of, anyway.)

The objection is sometimes made that allowing covid-19 to fester endemically in a large sub-population will facilitate the continuing appearance of new variants, perhaps eventually one which would be resistant to the existing vaccines and thus threaten the vaccinated population.

Here's the critical thing to remember about that point, though.  To the extent that this is a possibility, it makes no difference whether the unvaccinated people you're talking about are inside the United States or outside it.  The delta variant originated in India and spread very rapidly all over the world, just as the original covid-19 itself originated in China and did the same.  This will be the case with future variants as well.  National borders have proven pretty much irrelevant to the spread of this disease.  If you are a vaccinated American worried about unvaccinated populations fostering the rise of a new variant which could defeat the vaccines, then an unvaccinated individual in Bengal or Ethiopia presents exactly the same risk to you as an unvaccinated individual in Florida or Missouri does.

The differences between the two cases are (a) most unvaccinated Americans have already decided to reject the vaccine and any further efforts to get them to accept it are likely to be futile, whereas most unvaccinated people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America do want the vaccine but cannot obtain it due to supply problems; and (b) the unvaccinated population in Asia, Africa, and Latin America is far larger than the unvaccinated population in the US, so the risk of a dangerous new variant arising there is correspondingly greater.

So, even if you care only about the security of our own country (and I would hope that most people reading this do also care about Asians, Africans, and Latin Americans for their own sake), the most effective course of action now is to do all we can to increase the supply of vaccines to countries where many people want those vaccines but cannot get them.  This could involve suspending the patent-law obstacles which now inhibit more widespread vaccine manufacturing, and/or increasing our own production so that we can provide greater supplies to other countries.  We're already doing this to some extent, but far more is needed.

The US is not an island, and 96% of the world is outside the US.  That point must always be front and center of all our thinking about global problems like pandemics and climate change.  Nature pays little heed to human-drawn lines on maps.

13 July 2021

Autism and the authentic self

First off, let me say that I am not autistic (or at least I've never had any reason to think so), and I have no special insights into autism, beyond what I've seen autistic people say about it.  Nor do I want to encourage the fad (irritatingly pervasive on Tumblr at least) of people laying claim to various ill-defined mental conditions in a transparent effort to gain "cred" or sympathy or to appear more colorful.  Such attention-seeking merely distracts from the needs of those who actually do suffer from such conditions.  Rather, my point is that learning about the autistic experience may provide insights useful to self-understanding even for those who are not autistic themselves.

This insight came to me via two recent podcasts by blogger Johnny Profane at AutisticAF which can be found here and here (if you are not a fan of the podcast format, the first is fairly short and the second has a transcript, though I think the audio version is more effective).  The second, in particular, discusses "autistic joy" or "flow", a state of total focus and immersion in an experience fascinating to the individual.  Most people, I think, achieve something approximating this at least occasionally, though it sounds like the autistic experience is much more immersive, sometimes making the individual completely oblivious to distracting stimuli.  The state is a "blissful" one, not exactly tranquil but fully engaged, such that being jerked out of it by the demands of the external world causes real psychological pain.

Listening to this, I felt a startling sense of familiarity.  I can remember, when I was young, sometimes going into somewhat similar states of absolute absorption with something that fascinated me, sometimes to the vexation of people who had to deal with me, when it led me to forget things I was expected to do.  As an adult, of course, it is easier to limit one's access to that state to times when no such expectations will likely arise.  However, socialization in our culture actively discourages experiencing it at all, dismissing it as "daydreaming" or the like.  We are relentlessly encouraged to turn our attention outward, to focus on the world of work and mass media and group recreational and social activity, even while Americans are notorious for the shallowness and superficiality of friendship and social interaction.  The kid who sits alone engrossed in a book or, even worse, absorbed in some intricate phenomenon like a flower or a swarm of insects, is a weirdo who needs to be cajoled into roughhousing with other kids or something else more "normal" and group-oriented.

People in general, and Americans especially, are not very introspective or self-analytical, and are socially discouraged from ever becoming so.  Autists may have no choice but to become so.

(I was actually luckier than most in having a family environment where intellectual interests were usually respected.  I have, for example, an early and fragmentary memory of one night when my parents rented a telescope and set it up in the back yard for me to look through.  I can still vividly recall the sight of the Moon, suddenly huge and rugged-surfaced, drifting slowly across the field of view, due -- as I knew even then -- to the Earth's rotation.)

Johnny Profane also feels that when he was young he didn't have a "personality" as the concept is generally understood, rather simply drifting through alternating states of autistic joy and the stresses of dealing with the baffling and increasingly intrusive social world.  He eventually had to essentially fabricate one, in the sense of an alertness and set of responses to social stimuli, but it always felt awkward and unnatural, like an ill-fitting set of clothes.  Again, I suspect that many people experience a less stressful version of this.  As a child, you constantly struggle and flounder in social interaction, sensing the existence of some kind of rule book of proper behavior that the adults all know but you don't.  When you become an adult yourself, you realize there is no such rule book and the adults were all just winging it as best they could.  You merely learn from experience to avoid the most damaging blunders, and surprisingly many adults remain rather inept even at that.

Even as a child I was profoundly aware that as time went on, I was increasingly being taught and expected to behave and express myself in ways which were at odds with my real personality, or at best irrelevant to it.  For many years I consciously maintained an outward façade, a fake self which manifested the behaviors and feelings expected of me (not that I was ever very good at it), while also consciously cultivating and preserving my real self deep inside, in a spirit of deliberate hidden defiance, constantly reminding myself that someday I would be an adult and more able to let that authentic self rise to the surface and live free.  That way of being stood me in good stead later in situations like jobs, where I usually ended up knowing a lot about my co-workers while they knew almost nothing about me.  Even the people closest to me have never known about most of what goes on in the depths of my inner mind.  They would not have understood and there was never any reason to let them in.

And for years it never occurred to me to wonder to what extent other people were doing the same.

Johnny Profane's insights about the value of unstructured time, and how time spent in intense absorption in your own personal interests and pleasures is the only time which is truly not wasted, also perfectly agree with the view of life I arrived at years ago.

I encourage readers to check out the podcasts.  You may see more of your authentic self reflected there than you expect.

11 July 2021

Link round-up for 11 July 2021

Various interesting stuff I ran across on the net over the last week.

o o o o o

Not quite what the professor actually meant.

Open a trans-dimensional vortex to the dog universe.

Gender-Critical Cat has no time for nonsense.

Obviously not racist, or.....

Don't take astrology seriously.

Time for teh stoopid.

RO is back with fake names, unclaimed cash, venomous snakes, and more.

Bow down to the mighty puma suffocator.

Various religions face the challenge of squirrels.

Assess the risk of becoming addicted.

Annie Asks You ventures into money laundering.

Bill Gates isn't getting his money's worth from all those microchip vaccines.  More anti-vaxer takedowns here.

Bulgarian language pwns USSR.

It's an offer (almost) no one could refuse (NSFW).

This person has a bunch of rocks.

Dogs adapt to humans working from home.

Trolls hate being ignored -- so that's the best option.

Mark Zuckerberg presents the most embarrassing video of all time, defiling a classic song in the process (found via Hackwhackers).

AutisticAF has a new podcast (with transcript) on "autistic joy" and how social expectations and interactions derail it.  Sounds like some experiences of my own, but much more traumatic.

SickoRicko does religion and a few other odds and ends.

Ringo Starr turned 81 this week.

Spinach can detect land mines and e-mail you about them.

Horror movies depict dark occultic superstitions.

Octopus vs cat -- who wins?

Jenny Jinya of the "Loving Reaper" comics has a new book available in August.

This is the Moon over the village of Oia on Santorini island, Greece.

If you have a yard at all, might as well make it useful.

How did this Karen-calling thing get started, anyway?

Wingnut cartoonist self-pwns, creates perfect Trump cartoon.

A first-time novelist from Kerala discusses self-publishing.

Restaurant workers are quitting in droves.  Better raise those wage offers!

Fundie puritan fumes about cleavage (some amusing comments).

This Somali soldier returned to duty at age 80, but some of his ideas were a bit behind the times.

If there's an intelligent designer, science is outwitting him.

A urologist debunks several myths about humanity's most harmless recreational activity (NSFW).

Is Grindr being colonized?

Nonnie9999 does Matt Gaetz.

Religio-dingbat steps to superstar, self-pwns.

Education doesn't mean merely accumulating facts.

An apparent con man reaped millions from wealthy dumbasses for "protection" from the Apocalypse (found via Big Bad Bald Bastard).

The "Society for Children's Book Writers and Editors", whatever the hell that is, fired its "equity and inclusion officer", whatever the hell that is, for criticizing anti-Semitism.

Here are the 20 US states which have reached the 70% vaccination goal (found via Mock Paper Scissors) -- prepare to be unsurprised.

Try listening instead of insulting and threatening.

Wingnut parents in Tennessee are bitching about a book by Ruby Bridges being in the curriculum (but the kids seem to like it).

Adobe is assholing its customers, apparently, but there are alternatives to its products.

A familiar Beatles song has a little-known meaning.

Now it's the Boston Marathon too.

The FBI has known for years that police forces across the country are infested with white supremacists -- the article is from 2017, but I doubt things have changed much.

Maybe the Declaration of Independence was a mistake (found via Hackwhackers).

The problem with the gun "debate" is how many people don't know that they don't know anything.

Almost all US covid-19 deaths are now among the unvaccinated, creating a case study in natural selection.  Annie Asks You worries about teenagers, many of whom are being deprived of vaccination by their parents.

CNN sees the beginning of the end for big oil.

The male-female disparity in physical strength is much greater than many people realize.  It matters.

Darwinfish 2 addresses misleading arguments about the minimum wage.

The trouble with holy men lying to their ignorant flocks about science is that the flocks believe them.

Puerto Rican statehood has broader support than you might think.

Yes, freedom of speech is under attack in academia (oh, and being able to write standard English is a necessary skill in the US, even if you don't always choose to use it).

The recent super-heat-wave which killed over 100 people here in Oregon, and hundreds more in Washington state and Canada, was possible only due to anthropogenic global warming.  The heat wave may have killed a billion marine animals on the Canadian coast.  Denialist propaganda is now exploiting "woke" clichés for its own purposes.

White evangelicals have declined from 23% of the US population in 2006 to 14% now.

Weird medical accounting practices abuse both doctors and patients, but Biden is starting to do something about it.

Refusing to date somebody is not "intolerance".  Everyone has a right to their preferences.

"The New IFB [church movement] is strongly opposed to homosexu- ality, with several pastors advocating the belief that homosexuals should be executed. Anderson and other New IFB pastors have praised the Orlando gay nightclub shooting."

The resistance is working -- little by little, service-sector employers are raising wages to get employees.

Hobby Lobby supports theocracy.  Shop elsewhere.

Antifa becomes the Brownshirts, violently attacking protesters at the Wi Spa (watch the videos).  Merely objecting to a man in a women's changing room now makes you a target for profanity and slurs.  Again, if this is what the left has become, I want nothing more to do with it.  TRAs are now claiming the original incident never happened, though several women complained and the staff were shown defending the man's presence in the women's area, not denying he was there.  The spa has a history of similar incidentsHere's a response to the "just avert your eyes" nonsense.

These slaves fought back and saved lives.

The specter of blasphemy laws rears its head in the UK.

The Saudi regime is still imposing decades-long prison sentences for peaceful dissent (found via Hackwhackers).

Don't betray our allies in Afghanistan as we did in Vietnam.

North Korea's sole apparent defense against covid-19 is to keep everybody out, even the Chinese.

Dozens of clinical trials are already under way testing the power of CRISPR to treat various serious medical conditions.

More links at Fair and Unbalanced.

o o o o o

In case you missed it -- this week I posted David Byrne still not worrying about the government, and how sometimes the eyes see but the mind does not.