News Chum Of Prurient Interest

Before I start filling your feed with the Highway Page updates, or the reviews for the seven shows I’m seeing this weekend, some more clearing of the news chum. This is a collection of articles that caught my eye, but that I’m less than comfortable posting at work during lunch. You’ll see why.

  • Theatre Nude Night. The Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles has an interesting blog post related to  an article in the New York Times.  A contemporary art museum in Paris conducted its first-ever tour of its galleries given only for nudists. For one night in the museum, the art wasn’t the only handiwork on exhibit. The French nudist group, Paris Naturist Association, received interest in the museum tour from 30,000 people on Facebook. So, the Fountain asked, “will “Nude Night” one day become a popular American night out at the theatre? American audiences may no longer be astonished to see nudity on stage. But what about seeing it on the patron sitting next to you?  Think about the actors. In an intimate theatre like the Fountain, would any costume-wearing actor be able to concentrate on their own performance while playing to a full house of naked people? It’s the classic “actor’s nightmare” coming true, in reverse.” This is less of a pie-in-the-sky idea than you might think. In 2016 and 2017 at the Fringe, there was a show that required both the actors and audience to be nude. Needless to say, I didn’t go. No need to scare anyone.
  • Nude Woman in a Mall. But do people even notice nudity anymore? Here’s an article about a woman who walked through a mall naked with nobody noticing. This was the work of someone named Jen the Body Painter, who sent one of her models to the mall without any clothes on, but with a painted-on outfit that would allow her to walk around in public without causing too much of a stir. Jen wrote about this experiment beforehand and she wanted to see if people noticed a nude woman walking alongside of them.
  • Diversity in Porn. Another interesting article was on the porn industry — specifically, the diversity therein. In this episode of “What Porn Stars Want You to Know,” porn stars talk about misconceptions about the porn industry. Jiz Lee, Asa Akira, Stoya, and Nikki Darling discuss their experiences with diversity and representation in porn. The question is: What makes a woman beautiful? The video makes clear that the industry thinks beauty is one thing, but that with people, there’s an incredible diverse range of desire. I think that reinforces something I tend to believe: that for any body — any body — someone will find that body attractive.
  • The Porn Business. Mayim Bialik posted an extremely interesting interview with an Adult Film director and producer, Erika Lust. It explored how she worked in the adult business while raising two daughters, and what message it was sending to them. There are some interesting discussions in the article. Again, I’ll opine: Given the choice between someone watching something sexual and something with violence, I’d rather have them watch the sex anyday. I don’t want people desensitized to violence. But then again, often what is presented as sex in visual imagery is often overly violent, disrespectful of partners, or presenting bad images of what beautiful bodies are. That’s a bad thing. Further, although some go in the industry voluntarily, many often are forced and mistreated, or subjugated. That’s just wrong. I wrote on my blog a while ago (alas, I can’t find the link easily) about an interview with Mia Khalifa on the Lance Armstrong podcast where she talked about why she went in, and how they exploited just a month or two in the industry. I think this may be a case where the concept, if uncoerced and with consent, is fine; but the execution as it is today is extremely flawed.
  • Oversharing. An interesting article in the LA Times explores a new art trend in Sweden. Online art entrepreneurs from Gothenburg, Sweden, have launched the Penis Poster. The premise? Men love their best friend. And that has led to a proliferation of men sending women uninvited pictures of their best friend.  The website suggests that men fulfill their urge to share via line art, watercolor or sketch printed on 19.7-inch-by-27.6-inch matte paper for $45 a pop. Braggers, fear not: Designs are to scale, using dimensions the customer provides.
  • Comedy and Sex. An interesting piece by a student at UC Berkeley explores the relationship between comedy and sex. It starts out noting “In a piece written by the Atlantic, it’s proposed that comedians are guided by a central “benign violation” theory. Break your audience’s expectations, but in a way that is harmless. It’s not so different from visiting a haunted house, knowing that people try almost anything to terrify you, but they’re paid not to touch you — so it’s still fun.” The article explores the author’s use of sexual humor, noting “Audiences laughed at my representations of myself as sexually proactive. The worst part was, I hadn’t been in on the joke.” In other words, when someone who doesn’t fit the mold of a sexual creature makes jokes about being agressively sexual, what does the audience’s laughter say? An interesting piece, made more interesting by the fact that I might personally know the author — the name is the same as someone who was a friend of my daughter when she was in high school.
  • Branching Out of Porn. In an interesting business move, Pornhub has launched a VPN. When you think about it, what makes more sense than for a company built on porn videos to allow anonymity of where you browse on the net. It supposedly offers free and unlimited bandwidth. The VPN is supposed to help users avoid ISP throttling and geographic limitations. It’s also designed to let users transmit data anonymously without saving or collecting any of that data.
  • World’s Largest Orgy is a Bust. I’ve noted a few articles on the promotion of the World’s Largest Orgy in Las Vegas. There was the announcement of the intent of the orgy, which noted: ” An organization for sexual enthusiasts called Menage Life is planning to break the record for the world’s biggest orgy. The current record was established in 2006 in Tokyo when 500 people congregated to copulate. The Las Vegas orgy will take place at the Embassy Suites on June 2, and Menage Life is aiming for at least 1,000 participants.” That was followed by an announcement that the Embassy Suites didn’t want that particular business associated with it (can you just imagine the free breakfast!), and so it was being move to the Erotic Heritage Museum. But never mind, there was more science: “Erotic Heritage Museum Executive Director Dr. Victoria Hartmann will conduct a qualitative research project during the orgy to help fill holes in the study of the evolution of group sex.” Help fill holes. Right. But after all of that, the attempt fell short. Despite having more than 1,000 registrants (according to reps from Menage Life, which produces Sin City 8), only 375 of them made it to the Green Door sex club that Saturday to break an unofficial record established in 2006, when 500 participants gathered in Japan. But don’t worry, there’s always next year.

And with that, I can get those links off … my bookmarks list.


Can You Explain It To Me?

In between various things, I’m still trying to clear out the accumulated news chum. Here are some good explainers for things you might be curious about:

  • QAnon/The Storm. A new conspiracy theory called “The Storm” has taken the grimiest parts of the internet by, well, storm. Like Pizzagate, the Storm conspiracy features secret cabals, a child sex-trafficking ring led (in part) by the satanic Democratic Party, and of course, countless logical leaps and paranoid assumptions that fail to hold up under the slightest fact-based scrutiny.  Here’s the explanation.
  • News Deserts. One of our big problems these days is that many of us live in news deserts, a result of the nationalization of the media, which has been good for news junkies but not as good for those who want and need news about their local communities. Here’s the explanation.
  • Family Separation. The news is full of people upset about the new family separation policy from the Trump administration. Wonder what it is? I posted this yesterday, but it’s worth reposting: Here’s the explainer.
  • Blockchain. You’ve probably heard of blockchain. It is the basis for cryptocurrency, and it is supposedly the savior for everything from sliced bread to the water in Flint MI. Here’s the explainer of what it is.
  • Dishwashers. Dishwashers are magical devices. You put in your dishes, and without scrubbing, they are clean. Ever wonder how they work? Here’s the explainer.
  • Milk. Even something like milk sometimes needs an explaination. For example, why is milk white, as opposed any other color? Here’s the explainer.

The Mother and Child Reunion

userpic=trumpI’ve seen a number of good articles come across my feeds today that explain this whole child separation kerfuffle quite well:

  • What is Happening: Vox had a great visual explainer of what is happening, and what is different. Basically, in the past families seeing asylum who entered illegally had the asylum addressed first, keeping the families together. Trump hasn’t changed the law; what he has done is place prosecution of the illegal entry misdemeanor above the asylum request. As kids can’t go to jail with their parents, separation then occurs, and there are no mechanisms to get the kids back with their parents. Combine this with the belief that many of the families are not real families, just taking advantage of the family loophole in the law, and you get what we’ve got.
  • Why It Is Viewed as Acceptable By The Administration. The simple answer is race. Trump believes that people who look different from him don’t have the same capacity for pain and emotion. This is all part of the dehumanization that I’ve written about before, where people who are different are viewed as something lower that can’t feel pain and are somehow less than human, and can be treated as less than human. It’s clearly a wrong belief, for if that same person were raised in a country where they had access to the same privileges as you and I, they would be no different. Hell, even where they were raised, there is no difference.
  • How Did We Get Here. The Revisionist History podcast just had an episode on General Chapman, and the belief that strong fences make good neighbors. It is well worth listening to. It points out how, before Chapman, our more “open door” immigration policy meant that people could come in easier, but they could also leave easier. This meant that there was a regular ebb and flow of seasonal workers. Under the tightened policy, that broke. People would come in illegally, and then not flow back for fear they couldn’t get back in next season. This led to a net flow inward. Essentially, building the fence made the problem worse. Quite a good listen.

Hopefully, these articles will prove useful in your discussions.


💊 Safe and Effective … Or Perhaps Not

As I work, between other tasks, to clear out the news chum, here’s a collection of articles related to health, medicine, and drugs:

  • Co-Pay Accumulators. One of the big problems with our medical system in the US today is how we pay for drugs, and a large part of that are the games insurers make us play. Consider co-pay accumulators. These impact use of those coupons drug manufacturer’s provide to make their drugs affordable. Copay accumulators mean that coupons no longer will be counted toward patients’ deductibles. When you use the coupons, you pay a fixed amount. The drugs manufacturer takes care of the difference between that fixed amount and what the drug company charges (or what insurance would pay). More importantly, the coupons are often applied to the insurance deductible (especially for injectable drugs ), speeding up the point where your out-of-pocket max is met. Co-pay accumulators, on the other hand, allow insurers to double dip: They get their full co-pays and they get to extend the duration of patients’ deductibles. The article is an interesting read for the exploration of the pros and cons.
  • Anticholinergic drugs and Depression. Recent studies are showing that some classes of anticholinergic drugs — particularly those used to treat depression, Parkinson’s and urinary incontinence — carry a higher risk of cognition problems or dementia. The concern is those anticholinergics used for depression (e.g. amitriptyline), urinary incontinence (e.g. oxybutynin) and Parkinson’s disease (e.g. procyclidine) were associated with around a 30% increased risk of developing dementia. Amitryiptyline is of interest to me, as it is a common drug used for migraines as well.
  • Depression Drugs and SuicideMore than a third of American adults use medications that list depression as a risk, and a quarter use drugs that increase the risk of suicide. The 203 drugs researchers identified aren’t obscure; they include some of the most commonly prescribed medications around — like birth control, beta blockers for high blood pressure, and proton pump inhibitors for acid reflux. Many are drugs used for migraines. The researchers from the University of Illinois and Columbia University discovered people using these drugs had an elevated risk of depression compared to the general population. And the more medications with depression as a side effect people took, the more their risk of the disease increased. It is certainly something to be aware of. [And while I’m ending a sentence with a preposition, here’s why that is considered bad.]
  • Yogurt and Chronic Inflammation. A recent study provides new evidence that yogurt may help dampen chronic inflammation. The study explored the hypothesis that yogurt may help reduce inflammation by improving the integrity of the intestinal lining, thus preventing endotoxins — pro-inflammatory molecules produced by gut microbes — from crossing into the blood stream. While anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin, naproxen, hydrocortisone and prednisone can help mitigate the effects of chronic inflammation, each comes with its own risks and side effects. There is a need for additional options — particularly safe, gentle, long-term treatments. Researchers have been exploring dairy products as a potential dietary treatment for more than two decades. Findings have been mixed, setting up a scientific debate about whether dairy products are pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory.
  • Baking Soda and Auto-Immune Disease. Here’s another interesting study, this time concerning baking soda (the most effective antacid, in my book). It appears that a daily dose of baking soda may help reduce the destructive inflammation of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. The study is some of the first evidence of how the cheap, over-the-counter antacid can encourage our spleen to promote instead an anti-inflammatory environment that could be therapeutic in the face of inflammatory disease, Medical College of Georgia scientists report in The Journal of Immunology.
  • Dealing with Chronic Pain. We’re all hearing about the opiod epidemic. Yet for those with chronic pain, they are often the only choice. What if they weren’t, and I’m not talking CBD as an alternative. Pain often has a psychological cause or at least a psychological component. There are 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain, and an unknown number of them with back pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia symptoms, or other forms of pain that have no diagnosed physical cause. There have been numerous studies showing the benefit of placebos — in other words, belief that something will work — and belief is a large component of why prayer works for some. The problem is  the psychological component is often dismissed or never acknowledged. Cognitive behavioral therapy, meanwhile, shows meaningful benefits on chronic pain — both for psychogenic pain, and for pain with a physical cause — according to systematic reviewsof the research. There’s also promising research around mindfulness-based stress reduction and therapies inspired by it.

Life in the Classroom

What is the purpose of school? An article today from NPR on the fading away of “Home Ec” classes, combined with another article about LA Unified establishing the goal of preparing every grad for CSU or UC, got me thinking: Should we be preparing students for college, or for life? I think both, m’self.

When I was back in Junior High (and yes, we called it that), there were still shop classes for boys — wood, metalworking, electrical, drafting — and home ec — sewing, cooking — for girls. By the time I was in high school, the classes were still there but mixed sexes, plus there was auto shop and photography. We also had courses available in Driver Education and what was called “Health”, but it was really Sex Ed and teaching you what drugs were on the street.

Today that has changed, and there appear to be courses called life skills, but based on the NPR article, I’m not sure they are teaching the right stuff, however. I believe, that by the time you get out of high school, you should know the following life skills:

  • Basic cooking
  • Basic clothing repairs and sewing
  • Basic electrical and plumbing
  • Basic wall repair and painting
  • Basic car repair
  • Basic financial skills: balancing a checkbook, what a loan is, how interest works, what impacts your credit score, what insurance is and how it works
  • Basic legal skills: how to read a loan contract, how to read a rental contract
  • Basic driver education

In general, you should come out of high school with sufficient skills to “adult” on your own. But that’s not enough.

I agree that schools should prepare you for college. That doesn’t mean you should go, but they should not preclude the option beforehand. This goes well beyond the academic course prerequisites that UC or CSU require. It also includes “collegeing” skills — which are appropriate even for those going the vocational route. These include:

  • How to manage your time
  • How to write papers with convincing arguments
  • How to get up and speak and present findings
  • How to think critically, examine issues critically, and argue issues.
  • How to navigate the academic process: not only financial, but exploring the wide variety of post-high school education options

We’re just now seeing the impact of a generation that cannot critically think. It occupies an office that is neither rectilinear nor circular, but something that has two focii.


Breaking Up is Hard To Do

The news today is filled with discussions around a proposition that will be on the November ballot. Quoting the LA Times:

If a majority of voters who cast ballots agree, a long and contentious process would begin for three separate states to take the place of California, with one primarily centered around Los Angeles and the other two divvying up the counties to the north and south. Completion of the radical plan — far from certain, given its many hurdles at judicial, state and federal levels — would make history. […] Northern California would consist of 40 counties stretching from Oregon south to Santa Cruz County, then east to Merced and Mariposa counties. Southern California would begin with Madera County in the Central Valley and then wind its way along the existing state’s eastern and southern spine, comprising 12 counties and ultimately curving up the Pacific coast to grab San Diego and Orange counties. Los Angeles County would anchor the six counties that retained the name California, a state that would extend northward along the coast to Monterey County.

Of course, this proposal will never go all the way: it has to pass Congress at the national level, and they would be loath to create something that might topple the balance of power in either the House or Senate. That’s why neither Puerto Rico nor DC have achieved statehood: they’d come in a strongly Democratic. But there are so many other problems with this proposal. One can easily see why the last successful state split was West Virginia, during the Civil War, in an era where there wasn’t much state level infrastructure.

But splitting California would have so many problems:

  • What would be the state postal code? After all, both NC and SC are taken. CN and CS and CA?
  • You think the state bureaucracy is bad now? Splitting means duplicating and recreating all of the government bureaucracy: Three governors, Three Lt. Governors, Three of every executive, Duplications of staffs and such. Where does the money to pay for all of that come from?
  • How will you divide infrastructure and infrastructure maintenance, especially when Caltrans districts straddle and cross state lines?
  • Think about all costs associated with resignage. Almost every sign on state highways would need to be replaced if they referenced the state name or used the state highway shield.
  • What do you do about funding of multiyear infrastructure improvement projects? How do you split the bonded indebtedness of projects that straddle state lines?
  • How do you handle water, especially when all of the major urban areas are importing their water from new California states?
  • How do we divide the costs of prisons, when they aren’t evenly distributed across the new states?
  • Think about the mess this creates for Cal State and UC, as they now become multiple systems? How would USC react to there being another USC (and note that both SCU and CSU are also taken)? How will UNC react to their being another UNC (and note that both NCU and CNU are also both taken)?

Most importantly, would I have to do the Californias Highway Pages?

Seriously, if you want to break up a state, break up Texas. They already have the Congressional approval to do so. Malcolm Gladwell of the Revisionist History podcast has a great episode on the subject; even the Texas Law Review cites it. Hint: No matter how you do it, the Republicans will lose, and lose big.


Respect – It’s More Than an Aretha Franklin Song

Today, while eating lunch, I was reading the news and came across Giuliani’s slam against Stormy Daniels, where he says:

I respect all human beings. I have to respect criminals. I’m sorry, I don’t respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance or a woman who has great respect for herself as a woman and as a person and isn’t going to sell her body for sexual exploitation.

This is a subject I touched upon in my rant about Trump referring to some people as “animals”, and it is something I will keep emphasizing over and over: All people are worthy of respect. It is a characteristic of their being human; it is part of our shared humanity. That means we do not denigrate them based on the looks, their skin color, their religion, their orientation, their sexuality, their sexual behavior (or lack thereof). Anything that is a characteristic of the person — don’t make fun of it. And, yes, that includes those who you disagree with politically. Just as we progressives were upset when people made fun of Obama for looks, we shouldn’t be the ones fat-shaming Trump — or making fun of his skin color. We certainly shouldn’t be discounting the opinion of someone just because of their profession, or what society, circumstances, or economic position has driven them to do.

When they were a infant, were they worthy of respect? When a child? When a young adult? When an adult? Why should our ability to treat someone with respect change because of a career choice, or what they wear, or any other aspect like that?

Disagree with someone for what they say, but discuss the issue with them respectfully? Disagree with someone for how their positions influence their actions, but respect their humanity when doing so? If you dismiss them out of hand, they will ignore anything you have to say, and you move from a dialogue to a screaming match.

We have an administration that judges based on the superficial. Giuliani has made that clear, and so has Trump. But just because they do so does not make it acceptable behavior, and we need to point out just why that is unacceptable.

No one is less than because they have done sex work. No one is less than because they’ve been in a gang. For those of a religious bent, religion teaches that repentance is always possible. If they are worthy of respect after repentance, they are worthy before as well.

Treat people with respect. That is all.


Dealing with Toxic Waste

The last few weeks have been incredibly busy, what with the election, highway page updates (still in progress), and theatre (always in progress). Through it all, I’ve been accumulating News Chum to discuss, and one collection seemed particularly apt to discuss, as we deal with throwing away our post-election materials: the articles related to the disposal of toxic waste:

  • Recycling Tech Gadgets. In the old days, disposing of things was easy: you just put them in the trash can. But now, every device has some level of technology in it — meaning PCB circuit boards with rare earth metals and potential toxins. How do you dispose of all this techno-junk. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans generated nearly 3.4 million tons of consumer electronics waste in 2014 and that only around 40 percent of that waste was recycled—the rest went to landfills or incinerators. The U.S. is also a top destination for e-waste from other countries—and in turn, we export much of our e-waste to places like China and India.  Here’s a useful start: 7 ways to recycle your techno-gadgets.
  • Solar Panels. If you are like me, you’ve either put solar panels on your house (or you’ve been thinking about it). But one question we don’t tend to ask: what do we do when the panels start to fail? When we need to replace them? It turns out this is a big question: although the energy is clean, solar panels decidedly are not. Solar panels often contain lead, cadmium, and other toxic chemicals that cannot be removed without breaking apart the entire panel.    “Approximately 90% of most PV modules are made up of glass,” notes San Jose State environmental studies professor Dustin Mulvaney. “However, this glass often cannot be recycled as float glass due to impurities. Common problematic impurities in glass include plastics, lead, cadmium and antimony.” Researchers with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) undertook a study for U.S. solar-owning utilities to plan for end-of-life and concluded that solar panel “disposal in “regular landfills [is] not recommended in case modules break and toxic materials leach into the soil” and so “disposal is potentially a major issue.” California is in the process of determining how to divert solar panels from landfills, which is where they currently go, at the end of their life. But it isn’t just end of life: Panels can be broken by natural events such as earthquakes or hail, and then these chemicals can leach out. The link in this post is well worth reading.
  • Rocket Emissions. We’re all used to thinking about the pollutants that come from our automobiles. But there are other airborne sources. Jet airplane exhaust is more deadly than plane crashes, and at least under the Obama administration, the EPA recognized that airplane pollution is dangerous to people. But then there are rockets.  Every time a rocket launches, it produces a plume of exhaust in its wake that leaves a mark on the environment. These plumes are filled with materials that can collect in the air over time, potentially altering the atmosphere in dangerous ways. The risk is less greenhouse gasses, and more tiny particles that are produced inside the trail. Small pieces of soot and a chemical called alumina are created in the wakes of rocket launches. They then get injected into the stratosphere, the layer of Earth’s atmosphere that begins six miles up and ends around 32 miles high. Research shows that this material may build up in the stratosphere over time and slowly lead to the depletion of a layer of oxygen known as the ozone. The ozone acts like a big shield, protecting Earth against the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. However, the magnitude of this ozone depletion isn’t totally known. Here’s an interesting article from The Verge that explores the issue of rocket exhaust pollution;  I’m pleased to say that the researcher mentioned is a co-worker (although in a completely different area).
  • Plastics. Plastics are a big concern to me. Stop and think about how much you depend on plastic everyday, from the cars you drive, the medicine you receive, the electronics you use. We can replace the oil we use for fuels in our cars with electricity, but we really don’t have a good alternative for our plastics. And yet, our disposable society throws away more and more each day; it is hard to recycle, and when you do, you don’t get the same plastics back. Boing-Boing just highlighted a recent National Geographic issue on Plastics. They noted that it shows how America became a plastic-addicted throwaway culture, and how the earth is now paying for humanity’s short-sighted sin. It really makes one think — and perhaps we should before we get that disposable take out container or plastic straw? Perhaps we should be bringing our own reusable silicon take out containers and reusable straws with us when we go out, just as we take our bags.
  • Dead Lakes. This last news chum piece isn’t something people dispose of, but it does relate to something man-made that is creating health problems as it is being disposed of — The Salton Sea. Here’s an in-depth exploration of the health issues that are arising because of the death of the Salton Sea. As the lake dries up, more and more toxic chemicals are exposed, for the lake served as the terminus of agricultural runoff. It dries, becomes airborne, and creates loads of health issues for those who live in the Imperial Valley (who often are economically depressed and can’t afford to move). Quite an interesting read.