Authenticators

The Microsoft authenticator asks to use the Microsoft authenticator to sign in. There is no joke here, but if there were, that would be the punchline. While setting up the Microsoft authenticator on my Android phone, the authenticator demanded I use the authenticator that I was setting up to authenticate my identity. To be fair, the Google authenticator would have done the same thing if I had added my Microsoft account to it instead of setting up the Microsoft authenticator, but that isn’t where this article started. It started with Microsoft software insisting I turn myself inside out in order to find my own skin.

This is a lot like using your Google voice phone number as part of your two-step verification process. You can’t two-step verify if your second verification is behind a firewall that requires the second step to penetrate. There is a workaround for the Google voice number problem, however there is no way to authenticate the authenticators unless you have two phones with one phone already authenticated. This is because you can’t get the Microsoft authenticator on a Windows desktop installation (Google? Mozilla? The ball is in your court.) It is only available for Android and iPhone.

I’m stuck in this predicament because I was trying to troubleshoot software issues on my Motorola phone. I’ve recently become addicted to Looney Tunes: World of Mayhem, but it crashes all the time. All the time as in about four screen changes to the next crash, crashes all the time. Maddeningly frequent. In an effort to see what was causing the problem I reset the phone to factory specs and then preformatted the SD card as part of the phone’s internal memory, a step I had neglected to perform previously, then activated applications until I started noticing the crash issue again. The cause of the crashes? My malware protection application appears to interfere with the wifi calls within the game program, and I’m not about to turn off my anti-malware application. So no fix on that score, but the phone does appear to function more predictably for other programs, so worth the trouble of going back and setting it up properly.

Or at least I thought that way until starting to reactivate some of the less frequently used Android applications. The Facebook and Twitter apps tw0-step verification worked just fine. Annoying but doable because I hadn’t switched them to using an external authenticator (luckily) If I had made an authenticator my second step to log in, then I would have immediately discovered this problem when I tried to log into those applications. The Steam mobile application is almost that bad. It at least gives you an option for hey dumbass this is the authenticator in question. Deauthorize it. I only used the Microsoft authenticator for Microsoft, and today I notice that I’m not signed into Bing.

Why do you need to be signed into Bing?

I’m glad you asked that question. Pull up a chair, it’s a long story. Today’s Windows spotlight image was of a very beautiful series of fields in Japan, but this is also the day when Microsoft doesn’t link the spotlight image as part of the splash screen display, a clickable link that allows you to look for versions of the specific image shown. Allows you to look for versions of the image that can be shared, or allows you to research the location as an educational effort or a possible travel destination. Bing is where the links on the splash screen go to, and I wondered if logging into Bing might give me different search results.

So I tried logging into Bing. Bing promptly demanded that I approve the Microsoft login from my authenticator app. I open the app on my phone, it doesn’t know it’s the authenticator for my phone and my Microsoft account. The authenticator wants me to authenticate on the authenticator that is being authenticated. Now the loop is complete. But it isn’t just Microsoft’s loop, it is Google’s authenticator loop as well. This would have been a problem if (will be a problem when) I discover that I used the authenticator for another program (fingers crossed) I’m not sure what good a mobile authenticator is if I have to go through this much trouble just to get them to work properly.

My Blizzard authenticator is a fob that I’ve managed not to lose for ten years. It still works ten years later and as long as I don’t lose it (fingers crossed) it’ll safeguard my Blizzard account without causing me to turn myself inside out trying to troubleshoot the problem. More than can be said for mobile authenticators.

If you lose your mobile device or (like me) reset your device to factory specs and reinstall all your apps from the Google backup you will have to re-authorize all your authenticators (at least, all of them that I’ve run across so far) If you use the Google authenticator for your Google account as part of your two-step verification, you will lose the ability to open your Google account. More importantly, you will lose access to any other account that relies on it as part of its two-step verification process. This is also true of the Microsoft authenticator.

So, how do you avoid the authenticator loop? Well, Microsoft allows you to remove the authenticator from your Microsoft account after you log into it with a browser. You will have to remember your password and be able to get a second verification by email or SMS if you have two-step verification set up. You can then follow the process for installing the authenticator again as if it was a new installation. You can also use the Google authenticator and add your Microsoft account to that authenticator if you like.

The authenticator is the second application whose data I have had to restore externally, the other one was my medical ID program containing personal data that I hadn’t saved anywhere else. Luckily I had shared the data directly with several physicians, professionals who happily gave me my own data back after I realized I had lost my only copy (now backed up externally) there is no way to transfer the authenticator security tokens to a new phone as of this writing. I’m just glad I never relied on the Google authenticator for my Google account. If you have done this, here is how you turn two-step verification back off. You’ll notice that the first thing you have to do is gain access to your Google account. So if you’ve already lost access to your account, you have my sympathy. I wish I had answers for you.

So what have we learned here? Well, I’ve discovering that mobile authenticators are almost more trouble than they are worth, and that’s three things I learned from resetting my phone to factory specs. I guess it was worth the trouble after all. Still wish I could get that game to stop crashing.

Sacrifice

Why is the soldier more important than the teacher who trains the next generation? Than the farmer who feeds the nation? Than the doctor and the nurses who treat the sick? Than the average faceless nobody who drops a dollar into the cup of a homeless veteran on the streets of America and thus provides a moment of joy and compassion?

Stonekettle, It Was Never About The Thanks

Newsletter. Facebook.

I thought about joining the corps of engineers in 2001. Go over, build infrastructure, do what I knew how to do and not have to live with killing someone myself. But then W. decided to invade Iraq, secure that beachhead in the Middle East that would lead us to occupying all of the region eventually. I didn’t want to be any part of that. I was powerless to stop it, but I could sit on my hands and wait for everyone else to wake up to the reality of the transparent lie. I’m still waiting for that revelation to sink in. I’m beginning to doubt that it ever will.

Comment on the Stonekettle article.

Rescues

Who is the rescued and who is the rescuer?

They were found tied up in a bag on the bank of a creek. A litter of mongrel puppies that someone had tried to drown, found by a local shelter volunteer and brought to the animal shelter for evaluation and adoption. Just another unwanted batch of puppies created by pets whose owners were criminally negligent in allowing their animals to breed when the products of that breeding were unwanted.

That’s where we found them, at the shelter. Every child should have their own puppy to raise. Dogs and children go together like sunshine and rainbows. Our geriatric nearly 20-year old Shusky Aurora was blind and deaf and would barely live two years past the day that we went to the shelter to adopt puppies for the children to raise as their own. Old dogs are for old people. Children need puppies.

The Wife and I have been animal shelter volunteers off and on over our many years together. We would take strays that we picked up down to the San Angelo animal shelter, and invariably we’d end up with a rescue that we just couldn’t leave behind coming back home with us. Whether it was a litter of kittens that would starve without our feeding them, or a doofus of a Springer Spaniel that we eventually traded to an acquaintance, the pets would come and go through our involvement with the animal shelter until we moved to Austin.

In Austin the shelter is much more regimented and much more expensive to do business with. Consequently we don’t take strays there like we did in San Angelo. Here we find them homes if we can’t find where their home is. Mostly we fend off feral cats here, and take in the odd parakeet that we find perched on the gutters when we come home.

Aurora truly was of the old guard, she migrated with us to Austin from San Angelo. She never had puppies of her own, and she was the last surviving member of the last litter of puppies we got from Muffin-Puff Chevas (she had a Regal name) and Budweiser, two previous rescues that were probably shepherd-husky crosses themselves. There might have been some recent wolf in Budweiser, he had a ferociousness that isn’t found in most dogs these days. But he was protective to a fault, and he gave his piercing blue eyes to most of his puppies that he sired with Muffin.

Muffin was a dream dog. She liked nothing better than to be where ever you were. If you were swimming across the lake, she was swimming right beside you. If she got ahead of you she would expect you to grab her tale and let her pull you to shore. She loved tug of war and fetching balls. She loved chasing tennis balls so much that she would shove her head through cinder blocks to get them, and ended up getting her head stuck in one once. Undeterred, she managed to lift the block while still holding the ball in her mouth, and stiffly walked back over to us with a cinder block hanging around her neck. We couldn’t take the ball from her when she offered it to us because we were laughing too hard to get up off the ground. I have those pictures around here somewhere. I had to carefully chisel the block off of her head after we took the pictures. She was full of life and play until the day she died. It was complications of an undiagnosed corn allergy that got her, common in dogs. She lost all her hair and had constant skin sores for the last few years of her life. She was the first dog we let sleep with us, we were so concerned for her health those last few years.

But she made beautiful babies with Budweiser, little blue-eyed, white, black and tan and black and white balls of joy that everyone wanted. We never had any trouble giving those puppies away, even charging for a few of them. But she died young, fourteen, and her puppies and Budweiser lived on. Bud made it to eighteen before a stroke took him, Corona the second to last of that last litter made it to seventeen herself. This left poor Aurora alone. We had a lapdog that isn’t part of this story since we didn’t rescue her, but Aurora was alone out in the yard and no dog should be alone just as no child should be alone.

So we took a trip to the Lockhart animal shelter looking for puppies for our growing children to adopt. When asked what kind of breed we were looking for, we said German Shepherd. They took us to the litter that had been brought in, the litter that some soulless human had tried to drown. They did look like German Shepherd mutts. They were a little large, but not overly so. The orange puppy immediately bonded with my daughter, and the brindle-coated one plopped down in my son’s lap and wouldn’t leave. So the puppies picked the children, just as it should be.

On the way home from the shelter the children settled on names. The daughter’s orange and white coated pup would be named Marshmallow, after the color of a marshmallow properly grilled over an open flame. The brindle-coated pup that adopted my son would be called Pearl because of the white overcoat and black undercoat that winked through when she moved.

We discovered within days that these dogs might be shepherds of some kind, but they were definitely not German Shepherds. They were not the six weeks of age that the shelter thought they were. Pearl couldn’t eat solid food and so we had to soak her food in milk for the first couple of weeks of her life. They were probably only four weeks old, making them much larger dogs than we had planned on in the end, but a welcome surprise. They grew up fast, getting larger than Aurora’s measly thirty pounds in a few months. As far as we could ever tell, they were at least partially Anatolian Shepherd, a breed of dog I had never heard of before.

We almost lost Mellow to sarcoptic mange in her first year of life. We only managed to keep her alive by force-feeding her a topical treatment for pests on a veterinarians orders (we thought he was crazy when he gave us instructions to do this) this left her legs scarred with white fur where it had been orange before, and I remain convinced that it made her the epicure she remained throughout her life, eating rocks, bricks, steel and masonite whenever she got bored or agitated.

Muffin used to keep the yard empty of sticks. She would forage around the yard on an hourly basis, looking for a stick to chew on. when she found one she would reduce it to splinters, and then look for another stick. In the same fashion, Mellow would rip the siding off the garage and eat it, leaving no trace of its existence anywhere in the yard. She went through forty linear feet of siding before I gave up and paid to get the garage resided in hardiplank. Apparently concrete was too tough for her to chew through. We caught her chewing on rocks so frequently that we ended up taking all the rocks out of the yard, and I don’t want to talk about what happened to the red clay bricks that used to be stacked up in the back of the yard. We can only find a few of them any more.

They never made a kennel that could hold that dog. She chewed her way out of a steel wire cage more than once. She destroyed so many kennels we finally decided to quit trying to keep her in one. Quit trying to cage her up at all, which was exactly what she wanted in the first place.

In contrast, Pearl was a watcher and a thinker. While her sister blunt forced her way through everything, Pearl studied any situation from a safe distance. She was snappier than Mellow, who could have been an excellent bird dog if I could only have managed to teach her to bring anything back to me. She like her space to be empty unless you were family, and she let everyone know this by raising her hackles and exposing the black fur of her undercoat on her shoulders. I never felt threatened when I was with that dog, and I trusted the children to go play in the park without me as long as they took their dogs with them. It is amazing the respect that a 100 pound dog can command, even if that dog is not visibly threatening. Pearl never bit anyone that wasn’t trying to feed her something, don’t get me wrong. She just never quite could figure out where the food ended and where your fingers began.

It was because of this that I kept unfamiliar people at a distance from Pearl, knowing she would bite, and instead let them pet Mellow who never set her teeth on anyone, ever. But Pearl was a clever dog. She worked out how to open doors and gates when she wanted to. If no one was looking. She would raid the recycling bin and eat the resulting mess on her sister’s bed so that it looked like Mellow had done it. Her favorite prank was going over to the fence and barking at nothing until she got her sister to bark, then she would slink away and leave the idiot Mellow barking by herself to get chastised for making noise for no reason.

She did have the bane of shepherds everywhere, hip dysplasia. It may have been her inability to move as gracefully as her sister, because of her bad hips, that made her think about how to get things done with as little work as possible. The less time standing, the better. For all of her problems moving, though, there was never a dog that liked taking a walk more than Pearl.

I discovered early on that if I wanted to keep Mellow from eating parts of the house she wasn’t supposed to eat, I was going to need to take her on a regular walk. Mellow would always start out fast, pulling on the leash. Pearl would start off slow, setting a slower pace, forcing her sister to slow down. By the time we’d done our mile of walking, Mellow would be dragging behind while Pearl, nearly lame, mincing, almost prancing, Pearl would be leading the way home.

For years we repeated this behavior. Me and my floppy hat, two giant dogs on leashes wandering the neighborhood, sometimes for hours. It was like this when the Daughter was in high school and then went off to college. When the Son started high school. When the Daughter came back from college. When we started looking for colleges for the Son. My dogs and me would be out two or three times a week, depending on the pollen and the weather, walking the neighborhood looking for new smells to smell.

I knew they were starting to get old when they started insisting on taking breaks before we got back to the house. Giving them water didn’t help. It was time to sit and pant. So the walks got shorter. Shorter and farther between. Then the day came that Pearl couldn’t manage to walk anymore. She could get herself up off the floor and out to the yard to pee, but just barely. Then she could barely do it while on enough pain meds to make me sleep for a week. Mellow and I continued to walk without her, but it was torture for her to be left behind. I could see it on her face, that she wanted to come with, but just couldn’t get up to do it.

Last spring, Pearl finally left us, surrounded by the people who loved her. Mellow and I went on even fewer walks after that. Now I’m starting to feel the age along with Mellow. Me pushing sixty, she’s pushing fifteen. The Daughter started taking her on more walks than I did. Exercising indoors means I don’t cough up a lung from allergy irritation. It’s boring as hell, but less life-shortening.

Yesterday we came home from a marathon round of doctor’s visits to find that Mellow didn’t want to drink or eat. Then she started to exhibit signs of pain. Labored breathing. Excessive panting. We tried a pain pill, but it just knocked her out, it didn’t help her breathing. About midnight we bundled her into the car and the Wife and Daughter took her to a 24 hour animal hospital, something else I didn’t know existed. I figured they’d be back in a few hours with some horror story about something Mellow had eaten while we were gone. Something she had eaten that had finally refused to sit in her stomach peacefully. Nothing could kill that dog, in my opinion.

One thing could, and I should have known what it was. Cancer could kill her. Cancer can kill anyone. I should have remembered. A tumor ruptured on her spleen, causing her to bleed out internally. She was gone and I didn’t get to say goodbye. I really hate that. Mellow joins the long list of pets that I’ve known before her, the only dog the Daughter has ever owned. Joins her sister, the only dog the Son has ever owned. By the time I was their age I had known no fewer than five dogs and countless puppies starting with a chocolate Poodle that founded a line of Poodles that probably still exists somewhere in Kansas, and the last being a Golden Retriever I named Buddy. None of them were mine, although dad told me Buddy was mine. He didn’t fetch birds for me, just for dad. That makes him dad’s dog, and dad mourned his loss when he was gone. Mourned him far more than I did.

Corona was my dog, more than any other dog I’ve ever known. She picked me, and like the Daughter who was born a few years after Corona, I didn’t spend the time I should have spent with her while I had her near me. I only appreciate how much that dog and the Daughter bonded in my absence, in hindsight. It was Corona’s being attacked and killed by a stray that dug its way into our yard that made it imperative to get new dogs to blot out that memory of violation. Not only because children should have puppies, but that because death, especially violent death, should be answered with unashamed hope. A recommitment to the future. A dedication to time, life, continuing unapologetically.

We will be taking a trip to the animal shelter soon, I imagine. Not today and not tomorrow. But soon.


NYT Op:Ed – What it means to be loved by a dog

Angioplasty

It’ll all be fine.

That’s what they always say. Medical professionals. They’re always keen to reassure their patients that all will be well. They don’t want the patient to freak out and do anything crazy like killing themselves or canceling the procedure out of fear of the procedure. That is so not me; and I am way, way beyond the ability for comforting words to assuage any fears or disquiet.

Nope, I’m already certain that the end has come. I’m gonna die on the table. That’s the worst possible outcome. The next most likely outcome is that I’m going to wake up with a zipper chest like so many of my relatives have. Of course, I don’t tell anyone else that, not even the Wife. At least I don’t say that in those specific words. The Wife knows my mental acrobatics. She helpfully exclaims to the cardiologists nursing staff,

See what I have to put up with?

I know my own genetic history. I know what is in store for me because it is what happened to my direct genetic ancestors. My maternal grandfather had a heart attack when he was about my age. They cracked his chest open and sewed six bypass arteries into his heart in order to keep him alive. The procedure was successful. He lived for another thirty years before his gut killed him. When I started getting that weird sensation in my chest, I knew what that feeling meant, I just couldn’t jump to conclusions about what it was. No, I had to go through the experts and ge their opinions. I could have been wrong, but I wasn’t wrong. This time.

The feeling? It was like two solid objects rubbing against each other in the area around my heart. I’d never felt anything quite like it before in my life. After the sensation repeated itself several times during exercise, I decided I probably should take it seriously. So I did. I cancelled the physical therapy appointment I had the next day and booked an appointment with my cardiologist for as soon as he could see me.

He’s the one who offered the platitude it’ll be fine after saying the word angiogram and then watching me pale. What he didn’t know was that I have had nightmares about things crawling through my veins for most of my life. it’s part of my fear of needles and why I nearly faint every time someone sticks me with something. An angiogram is exactly that fear come to life.

I cringed every time an older relative would go in for one of the procedures. The Wife’s foster father had one done back in the dark ages, back in the 1980’s when an angiogram was still experimental. His was the first one I had ever heard of being done. They went in through his groin. They went in through that artery in the thigh that if cut you can bleed out in a matter of seconds. Not minutes, seconds. That artery. The femoral artery.

The catheter that they introduce into the blood system through the artery allows them to run a camera up through your arteries to study blockage from inside your body, and they can use it to introduce dye into your blood system, near the heart, so that they can use x ray imaging to study blockages. Which is what they wanted me to agree to. We’re going to slice open an artery and run tubes through your bloodstream. But don’t worry, we do this all the time.

They don’t know that worry is what I do eighteen hours a day, every day. If I’m not worrying about something, then I’m probably not actively thinking at the moment. I even worry when I dream. This is why driving a car every day of a working life is a special kind of torture for me. Anything more than a half-hour of driving, and I’m already worrying a hole in my stomach. I gave myself an ulcer inside of six months when I briefly flirted with driving for a living, bringing to an early end any kind of career driving trucks or test cars.

Over the course of the next week, while waiting for the procedure to happen, I say my goodbyes to everyone and make sure my karmic debt is paid off. I don’t want to be surprised in a potential next life by being reborn as a cockroach or anything. Just covering my bets. When the day finally arrives I’m under so much stress that if you scared me I would probably have a heart attack on the spot. That’s me trying not to worry.

Luckily I wasn’t going to be awake for the procedure. I made sure of that before agreeing to it. No, I do not want to be awake. I want the good drugs. The kind of drugs that keep you from remembering anything. I definitely do not want to be reliving the memory of crap crawling through my veins when I go to sleep for the rest of my life, if there is a rest of my life. Knock me out, or as close to out as I can get and still be responsive to commands or questions.

The doctor showed up early. He checked my wrist to see if it was large enough to get into easily. He was planning on accessing the radial artery rather than the femoral artery. I was initially thrilled at the notion that I wouldn’t have blood shooting out of the artery next to my junk the first time I went to the bathroom after the procedure. Then he left the room to allow the prep nurse to get to work. They prepared both the femoral artery area in the groin (so much hair!) and the right wrist as possible surgery locations. Had I known they would need to shave my groin anyway, I could have used the trimmers on it beforehand. Manscaping is a foreign concept to me. If hair grows somewhere on my body (on your body, even) it probably grows there for a reason. I see little need to trim hair that no one sees but me and the Wife. If she doesn’t like the hair, it usually gets snatched out by the roots anyway.

Talking to the surgery nurses is the last thing I remember before the procedure. I remember that both arms were strapped down (we don’t want you moving. Yes, I understand) The surgical shields were put in place. They were cold, but in place. The nurse said they do these kinds of procedures eight times a day on a normal day. They wouldn’t be doing eight of them on that day because the cardiologist I had been referred to had already dealt with two emergency procedures before he got to me in the mid-afternoon, and I had been scheduled as the first cardiogram of the morning when I walked in that day. He’s a busy guy. He earns his pay, without a doubt. He definitely earned it working on me that day.

The good drugs started when the doctor entered the surgery and verified everything I’d agreed to for about the fourth or fifth time (the thoroughness of modern medical procedure is reassuring if slightly tedious) and I don’t remember much after that. I remember the imaging system suspended over my chest like the upper hammer in a forging hammer press. I remember voices, but not words. I do vaguely remember something rounding the corner in my shoulder at one point, but I definitely do not remember the amount of work they had to do once they had done the initial scan.

…because it was as bad as I imagined it was. I didn’t die, so the worst outcome was averted. They didn’t have to crack my chest, something that would have been required had I been undergoing the procedure even ten years ago. Second worst outcome avoided by simply being born in the place and time that I was. No open heart surgery. Just three stents. Three stents, in three different arteries, and then the second set of tests to make sure that blood flow was restored to the blood starved areas of my heart.

What would have been weeks of bed rest and a lengthy hospital stay reduced to overnight observation and three months of cardiac rehabilitation. I’m a big fan of science-based modern medicine. It has once again kept me alive to see another day. From that perspective, what is there not to like about it?

I start remembering things after I’ve been in the recovery room for a bit. I remember the Wife’s usual amusement at my slowly dwindling confusion. I remember the cardiologist (now my favorite person in the world) visiting to let me know what they found while crawling through my arteries. He also let me know that I needed to stay for observation for at least a day to make sure that there were no complications. I also remember sitting in the recovery room until they had a hospital room ready for me, sitting there waiting until the cleaning staff was impatiently waiting for me to leave so they could clean up and shut down the surgery wing for the day. At least I had Looney Tunes to keep me company.

The pressure bandage was removed from my wrist at some point during the wait, and then there was a brief panic while I bled through quite a bit of gauze before the nurses got the bleeding to stop. Nurses pressing on the fresh surgery site to stop the bleeding, that was the most intense pain I endured that day. A mercifully brief pain considering the amount of pain that open heart surgery entails. Pain for months on end.

NPR – Invisibilia – The Fifth Vital Sign

I could bitch about the inability to get my betahistine cleared through the hospital administration while I was laid up at the hospital for the night, but that seems pretty trivial in the scheme of things. We’ll just pretend I didn’t take the betahistine anyway because that would be against the rules. Did you know you aren’t allowed to bring your own drugs into the hospital? It was news to me. If you have drugs that aren’t available in the US unless they are compounded, you probably should get your drugs approved by the hospital you might be staying in before you find yourself stuck there with no treatment for your weird diseases. It will save you the frustration. In my case, it would have kept me from requesting a Xanax from the staff in order to keep the vertigo at bay. They didn’t want to give it to me, but I convinced them they didn’t want to see a full blown drop attack in the middle of the night. Really, I’m not complaining, I’m just a problem patient. Ask the Wife.

The only real surprise I experienced post-recovery was that I didn’t expect to be one-handed for such an extended period of time. Had I realized that the bruising would hang around for as long as it did, I would have told them to go in through the groin. I would have missed a wedding anyway, as it turned out (thunderstorms will do that) But I could have done everything else I normally do while laid up in bed for forty-eight hours. Not having two hands meant I missed raiding in World of Warcraft for two weeks. But the worst part was not writing. Not writing much of anything for nearly three weeks. Slow torture for anyone who loves to write. As I said previously, I watched a lot of television.

This brings us to today in this little story. Today, where I’m stuck in the near-endless repetition of cardiac rehab three times a week. Exercising while wearing a heart monitor with nurses always hovering nearby. Me and a whole lot of people twenty years my senior sweating as a group and wishing we could be somewhere else. I’m beginning to understand what it means to be handed the short end of the genetic stick now. What it means to have a cholesterol problem that can’t be treated with a Statin because of dangerous side effects. I hope to survive my genetic handicaps long enough to see a crispr application that will fix what is ailing me, whatever that is.

Look Ma, I Can Write Again!

…at least briefly. I’m starting a entry on what happened and why after I finish typing this up, but I can finally use the right hand without pain again. Two weeks of forced TV viewing has finally come to an end. I thought I was going to lose my mind. At least I still had my podcasts to keep the mind busy in between binge watching all of Better Call Saul, Altered Carbon, Man in the High Castle and finally finishing the HBO series The Pacific. I’ll probably have time to at least start Electric Dreams before I’m fully recovered.

Two of the greatest scientific achievements of my lifetime made the news during the weeks I was recuperating.

Reality provides us with facts so romantic that imagination itself could add nothing to them.

Jules Verne, the SGU quote of the week.

I think that is appropriate given this episode. I mean we have a picture of a black hole, what’s more awesome than that?

…Except maybe fossils from the day the dinosaurs died.

Steven Novella

So I’m pretty happy to still be here to ponder which of those two achievements is the more important one.

Twitter Trolls

Nothing about this man is real. I’d be willing to bet pretty much anything on that fact. His marriage to the Banshee Queen, his opinions about Trump’s mental health, his education and pretty much everything about him is probably fake. If the man exists at all, I imagine he lives in his mom’s basement playing fortnite and QQ’ing every time some twelve year-old ganks him.

If you believe anything he or his purported wife or her employer says, your head rings like a bell when you strike it. He is a troll. He’s a troll’s troll trolling Twitter trolls. The only thing to be gained from noticing this floating turd in the American toilet bowl of modern politics is this; his mere existence bears out my opinion that even listening to the noise around the Orange Hate-Monkey makes you more stupid. Bullshit is bullshit, no matter who is shoveling it.

I generally despise Twitter and only stay on the platform in order to cull the news from news organizations through my aggregator of choice, Nuzzel. That is the only real function Twitter serves. To give the average user the ability to troll the media directly.

I Passed! Most of you will not.

A majority of Americans could not pass a recent citizenship test conducted by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. This held true in every single state except one.

The survey was conducted Nov. 14, 2018-Jan. 3, 2019 among 41,000 adults, using 20 history-specific questions from the practice tests for people taking the citizenship exam. The margin of error was 1 percentage point.

Axios

In what passes for normal behavior for me, I immediately tracked down the test in question and took it myself. I wanted to know what kind of questions were on the test. Was this a realistic test of knowledge about American history?

That was no slouch of a test. Many questions required puzzling out exact years and distinguishing lists of names from other very similar lists of names. If every immigrant has to pass this kind of test, my hat is off for them. They have every right to be here. Come right in.

The rest of you? If you can’t pass that test, you better start studying, and you better pass it soon. Because as sure as day turns into night and back into day, there will be people who will tell you that you won’t be able to stay here if you can’t recite this kind of deep knowledge of American history.

The only state where a majority passed the citizenship test? Vermont. The socialist paradise of Vermont is the only state doing the job of educating people about their own history and government. Remember that the next time you laugh at Bernie Sanders.

h/t to David Buth on Facebook. He was top of the feed.

A Deadly Belief

This is part three of a Meniere’s page I’m slowly editing together. Part one is here. Part two is here. This is tangential, but still part of the story.


Then there was the effect of Christian Science on my family. I’ve struggled with where and when to mention this little gem of understanding, because mentioning it is fraught with tons of angst and potential explosive feedback. But understanding how I got to 40 without a diagnosis of Meniere’s, how I’ve never been diagnosed with dysgraphia even though I have had all the symptoms of it for the entirety of my life is a direct result of my mother’s early childhood indoctrination into Christian Science. Because of this fact, Christian Science has to be discussed here as part of this story.

Christian Scientists aren’t scientists; they pray to Jesus to cure what ails them. Jesus is their science, and they exercise their science in prayer rooms across the US. They still do this all across America to this day. When a child dies from lack of medical care, and the state where that child dies cannot prosecute the child’s parents, the law that allows this was lobbied for by the followers of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. My mom and her immediate family were members of this belief.

Her distrust of doctors and medicine lead directly to her demise February 9, 2018. One of the mantras she took to her grave was doctors don’t know anything. It was her most repeated comment over the last months of her life, as doctor after doctor told her she had cancer and needed chemotherapy. You couldn’t dissuade her of this or pretty much anything else she believed at any point in her life.

This is a hallmark of most of humanity, I have come to find out. If you think you can change the average person’s mind you simply don’t know what you are thinking. People survive as long as they do by believing things, and sticking to those beliefs. My mother survived to the age of 77 and raised four children to adulthood based on her doing exactly what she deemed best at the time, and you won’t convince someone who has lived successfully by their own judgement for 70 years and more that what they believe is wrong. So give that idea up now and save yourself the life-shortening frustration.

Christian Science. If you are a Christian Scientist you don’t take drugs. You don’t see doctors, and if that religious upbringing was all there was to my mother’s belief, I think she would probably have gotten over it eventually. However, over the course of her life she has been nearly killed by well-meaning doctors more than once. All her life she’d been told gibberish by people who didn’t have the sense to pour piss out of a boot with directions written on the bottom (not that she would ever utter such a low phrase. In her estimation) so she knew that people believed insane things and discounted what other people told her almost by rote. She knew what she knew, but that left her vulnerable to the things she thought she knows but was wrong about.

Mom knew the value of modern medicine and never hesitated to get me antibiotics to treat the frequent illnesses that I had as a child, but she never stopped believing that doctors were pulling a scam on the sick. It all had to be a scam, somehow. She was never clear on how or why, but it was a scam, she was sure of it.

She never stopped believing that people would get better on their own if they just lived a better life, ate better food, got the right kind of nutrition. It was the failure of this belief, that healthy living was all you needed to keep from getting cancer that killed her a decade early. Had she not had encounters with believing doctors who proposed treatments that proved near-fatal, treatments that were fatal to her mother. Treatments that decreased the quality of life for the patients she tended. Patients that died anyway. Had she not watched time and again as things were labeled bad be relabeled good with more study and more time. Had she had different experiences with the medical community, she might have said yes to the promising new treatment the doctors wanted to try. The same treatment that saved president Carter’s life. But she didn’t have those experiences, and so she didn’t get to live that extra decade.

Who should be blamed for that?

The Charitable Steel Man

Not sure if you have any pull with Jim or not but I would like to continue the debate with you, just a bit unsure if that is the correct forum. I DO appreciate Jim for his non political writings, and do not wish to become airlocked.

In truth I have been well noticed, particularly by Jim, and received a tongue lashing and an allowance to stay. I make a point to stay within his posted rules of decorum and by those rules, I do not believe he wants a complete echo chamber. See rule #1. If you can reach him, ask for him to respond to me in PM. All debate will be in the same manner in which we have already been discussing things.

This was a private message from the opponent that a good portion of the article The Key to Ending Mass Shootings? was directed at before I took the time to generalise the argument in a way that made it more monologue, less dialog. I try to go through Facebook memories on a daily basis. I do this to pick up the conversational tidbits that never made it onto the blog, and then I put them on the blog where I unquestionably own all the content. Anyone who has read a post of mine and noticed the small print at the end probably realizes I do this. Yesterday was just another day. I search for a text string with the blog search function, and if that string isn’t there somewhere, I create an article and try to embroider what is frequently two or three sentences of text into something that unambiguously makes a statement, drives home a point.

Yesterday I looked at three paragraphs of text on a historical article and realized I’d never finished the article I was trying to create from those three paragraphs. What’s worse, I had preserved those paragraphs written on the spur of the moment, and a whole separate thread of comments that I had written in response to arguments presented in the wake of the Parkland mass shooting last year. Reading through the unfinished article, I realized that I had taken the time to write rather lengthily on the subject. For some reason that I can’t remember I abandoned the work mid-sentence.

So, I did my best to clean it all up and finally posted it to the blog a year late and a dollar short, and then I do what I always do and posted a link to the article on the threads where the content was posted. I do this as a mental note to myself, you’ve preserved this on the blog already, rather than in the hope that someone will notice and comment subsequently. Few people do notice and even fewer comment. This was an even rarer moment. An opponent that wants to continue beating a dead horse a year later. I’ve never seen that before.

First he took me to task for dredging the thread back up again. I in turn complimented him on avoiding Jim’s airlock for more than a year, going so far as to marvel at how he managed to get into the group in the first place let alone avoid capture and ejection for over a year. Considering how strident his attacks were, not getting airlocked in the subsequent year is no small feat. Then he PM’d me with the message above, and when I didn’t reply right away, he commented on the thread that I needed to check my messenger app. I’ll try to avoid the ire I feel at being chided for resurrecting a zombie thread, while at the same time being told I need to pay attention to said zombie thread and long dead counter arguments. I’ll try to do that and simply answer the specific question asked.

I don’t know Jim Wright. I was lucky and discovered his writing early. I got into his circle of friends on Facebook before he hit the 5000 max. It has not been all sunshine and kittens. I have had my share of disagreements with him in the past, mostly over the finer points of intellectual property (I should put those comments on the blog but I’d have to find them first) I’ve faced some pretty heated arguments with him. I’ve consciously risked airlocking more than once. I had people whispering to me both times,

“You better back down. You better change that post. He seems pretty mad.”

I’m a professional when it comes to arguments on the internet. I read every comment at least three times before posting, and I do this on every platform I participate on. I read the offered replies and I try to gauge the best argument I can assemble from the point being made. I’ve tried to employ the steel man technique for longer than I’ve known it’s name. If you are charitable, employing the principle of charity, rather than picking the flimsiest straw man you can concoct just so you can make the biggest splash possible, you’ll get less reflexive pushback from opponents. If all else fails, I walk away from the keyboard and contemplate the argument to get past the emotion. Sometimes I do this for weeks. Sometimes the navel gazing lasts for years.

If I can’t get past the emotion I simply don’t reply anymore. I won’t reply or I block the user, leave the group, whatever. If you respond in anger, your opponent wins the argument. They’ve forced you to act irrationally with their barbs. I’ve tested this truism many times. Responding in anger is always worse than not responding. I don’t succeed in striking a balance every time (no one does) but in the case of arguments on Jim’s turf, I want to be sure to go out well. As he has said more than once (paraphrasing) if you’re going to go out the airlock anyway, go out with style. If I post to Stonekettle Station, I try to make whatever I say something that is unambiguous in its point and worthy as my last words to live by. Because those words might well be the last words anyone on the group reads from me.

This caution on my part is well earned. My most innocuous attempts at humor have lead to violent outrage by former friends in the past. Some of these encounters are documented on the blog. Clever comments are rarely seen as clever by the targeted reader. The authors of poorly crafted arguments never thank you for taking their arguments apart. I’ve been blocked innumerable times, and I have my own lengthy block list that I add to prophylactically. I do this on every platform that allows blocking, and I don’t stay long on platforms that don’t allow content moderation. Arguments inevitably go sideways if someone is invested in their argument, if it represents a core belief or if emotions are running high. If emotions are at play, like when a gunnut kills 59 people and injures at least 527 at a concert. Or possibly when another ammosexual kills 17 high school students and injures 17 more. Children the same age as your own children that are gunned down in classrooms much like the classrooms your children are currently in.

You tend to not think clearly, in those cases. You really cannot think clearly, no matter how many years go by, and you just want the senseless killing to come to an end. You are motivated to see the circumstances change, no matter how many years go by, and no matter how many armaphiles just can’t bear to be separated from their cherished collections. In those cases it is time for the status quo to change, and it will change because enough people want it to change.

Opponents will be blocked in those instances. There really isn’t the mental space for contemplating not doing something. Opponents will be airlocked mercilessly until the lunacy comes to an end. Opponents will be blocked, their comments deleted, their participation in the conversation erased. This is true of everyone. Everyone will hit their August Landmesser moment.

Who is August Landmesser? Just another ordinary German. Someone trying to get along and be reasonable in the face of the complete lack of reason being displayed by everyone around him. Until he can’t ignore it anymore and rebels. He refuses to play along even though it costs him his life in the end. Once you realize that the authority you are responsible to no longer makes reasonable requests but instead asks you to sit idly by while the people you love are ground up by the machinery of profit, you’ll hit that moment yourself. When you realize that reason is no longer prevalent, you face an unenviable choice. You can conform to the nightmare in front of you and abandon who you were, or you can fight the nightmare in front of you with every weapon at your disposal.

This is me doing what I can for the cause. For the cause of not seeing more children shot while sitting in their classroom. For the cause of ending mass shootings as we have come to endure them here in the United States. I will tolerate this insanity no longer. #NeverAgain

Everytown for Gun Safety – Sick of leaders doing nothing to fight gun violence? So are we. Let’s work together and #ThrowThemOuthttp://every.tw/2sAcIwT