— Jesus Shuttlesworth (@AlmighDee_) July 11, 2016
For the unfamiliar, Vi Hart makes fabulously fun-entertaining-educational Youtube videos about math & geometry, doodling, food and music. (No, you needn’t have aced calculus to understand them; my 7-year old grandson thinks they’re awesome.)
Once in a while she takes a tangent, such as this episode, Vi Hart’s Guide to Comments, where she explores ideas about why people make different kinds of negative comments, possible reasons for reacting to them, and how best to respond.
I thought one analysis was particularly insightful:
Type #2 DIRECT SHALLOW INSULT
Commenters like these are thoughtless and bored, and obviously don’t have very high self-esteem. They’ve been taught to be normal, so if anything’s different about you, well that’s not allowed in the rulebook they know.
But in the anonymous internet context, I don’t think the usual explanation of them trying to put you down to make themselves feel bigger quite cuts it. They probably don’t see you as a real, live person, and would never make the comment to your face, so it’s not about putting you down.
In fact, their comments aren’t aimed at you at all.
They comment to pretend that they are not just wasting time on the internet, but being active participants, discerning in their tastes. Their commenting justifies their watching, and just like voting in American Idol or tweeting your local news, their opinion further invests themselves into their identity as a judge, observer, consumer. They have been taught to be vocally judgemental by the people for whom judging means watching, and watching means money. Plus, other commenters might reply, refuting their insult, which proves their comment matters.
As with other types of comments, she then proposes ideas for why we react, and what to do about the comment: that is, just let your eyes glide past them and move on.
The whole video is superb! (Also, she has fun playing with wax on her fingers.)
Auto-generated CC has some glitches, as usual.
This is absolutely inexcusable!
A young woman, Hannah Cohen, has had a tumor removed from her brain, which combined with radiation treatments has made her blind and deaf on her left side, along with limited speech and mobility. She and her mother were flying home to Chattanooga a day post-anaesthesia from another treatment at St Jude hospital. 
And then the metal detector went off.
“They wanted to do further scanning, (but) she was reluctant — she didn’t understand what they were about to do,” said her mother, Shirley Cohen.
Cohen said she tried to tell agents with the Transportation Security Administration that her 19-year-old daughter is partially deaf, blind in one eye, paralyzed and easily confused — but she said police kept her away from the security agents. 
Disoriented and confused from the metal detector alarms and being grabbed, she was forcibly manhandled hard to the floor making her head injured and bleeding.
Worse, the TSA and Memphis Airport Police did not heed her mother, Shirley Cohen, who repeatedly tried to convey necessary medical information about her daughter, and ensure accommodations.
Two guards grabbed her daughter from both sides, the mother said.
“It freaked her out,” she told The Commercial Appeal. “They didn’t listen to me at all. When they grabbed her, it scared her, and she was trying to get away from them. The next thing I know, one of them slammed her down on the floor and busted her head open. There was blood everywhere.” 
The young woman, who was returning home after finishing treatment for the brain tumor at St. Jude Hospital, was arrested and booked into jail.
Authorities eventually threw out the charges against Hannah Cohen, but her family has filed a lawsuit against Memphis police, airport police and the TSA. 
I saw some people eating over at the grocery dining area the other day. Some were just-barely adults, and others were of that great, vague realm of middle age. They were louder than necessary, sloppy, and left a mess. Not that my budget was going to let me buy a hot lunch to eat there anyway, but it would have been unpleasant to sit near them. I sighed inside; it “was like old times” and I wondered what had become of some of my former students.
When I worked with the secondary school students (ages 12-18), I often wished that in our smaller school cafeteria we had full table service — like Hogwarts — so we had a more home-style or nicer environment to teach and practice basic manners. No, seriously. Some of the students were fine, some were simply hungry kids who (being young) weren’t concerned about niceties, and some couldn’t help that they were uncoordinated or dyspraxic.
But all the students were all there because they had severe behavioral and emotional problems. And a good many either did not know, or did not care, how to eat neatly and politely. Instead, they went through a cafeteria line loudly, bumping into people, leaving behind a trail of dribbles around the serving bins, then dropped their possessions about the table and floor, eating noisily whilst conversing inconsiderately, and generally making themselves and the table a mess.
(Perhaps saddest was when someone despoiled a perfectly good piece of fruit by pencil-stabbing or bruising it. There were people there – students and staff – who would have gladly eaten a spare apple or orange. So we tried to intervene and rescue the produce for classroom fruit bowls that existed for the hungry.)
On the other hand, this was one of their few times for all the students to just relax, talk with friends, and recharge for the afternoon. Everyone needs opportunity to take a break, so we eased up from constantly supervising and redirecting, albeit still watching out for unsafe, disrespectful or irresponsible behavior.
But if there were something more like a real dining situation — instead of what amounted to a scramble at a fast-food joint — the following would have been the basic skills of politeness I would have them learn. And they are, very basic.
Note that these are mostly phrased as what TO do; this produces much better learning results than just telling what not to do.
This post from Finn’s excellent blog, Standing in the Way of Control is an easily-accessible introduction to the uses and problems that can result with “person-first language”*.
Just an appetizer:
This oppositional attitude toward disability stems from the ableist idea that disability is something that happens to “normal” people—or that disabled people are altered able-bodied or neurotypical people—rather than a natural aspect of human existence. This applies particularly to those of us who have lifelong disabilities—we cannot envisage a life in which we were not disabled relative to the societies in which we grew up.
Now, go read “Person-first language and oppositional models of disability”! (-:
* “Person-first language” refers to the practice of saying, “person with ____”, meant to emphasizing the person rather than defining them by their condition(s). Good intentions run into the law of unintended consequences when ignoring how people define themselves by intrinsic qualities, e.g. “I am a Deaf”, “My autistic aunt”, “He’s bisexual”.
Are you getting tired of the same-old same-old for lunch? Had too much holiday leftovers? Here’s a lovely change of pace, especially for all you bread and cheese lovers out there: three very easy and quick recipes for two sandwiches and a soup!
“Salad olives” is the common labeling (in the US) of jars of sliced green Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos.These olives are great for adding to potato salad, and of course, making cream cheese & olive sandwiches.
CREAM CHEESE & OLIVE SANDWICH FILLING
Scoop some cream cheese or Neufchatel into the mixer bowl, and add half that quantity of well-drained salad olives. Blend well, and spread on bread or crackers.
It’s kind of a given that as a result from the slicing during processing, one ends up with a whole bunch of pimentos that have escaped their green olive rings. And you know what that means? You don’t have to buy a jar of pimentos to make pimento-cheese spread!
Dump about a cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (that’s two or three handfuls) into the mixer bowl, and add about a fourth that quantity of well-drained pimentos, about as much mayonnaise as pimentos, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Blend well, and spread on bread or crackers. Great as a filling for grilled-cheese sandwiches.
I made a loaf of bread the other day, but when I stuck it back in the breadbox, forgot to set it sliced-side down. So my first slice was rather dry. “Croutons!” said I, and diced the bread, then gave the pieces a quick hit of vegetable oil no-stick spray, and sprinkling of mixed Italian herbs. I dropped the croutons into a baking pan into the oven to bake while I made some tomato soup.
Dump one can petite-diced tomatoes and one can tomato sauce into a pot. Add a dash each of Sriracha and Worchestershire sauces, and half a teaspoon of dried basil (a whole teaspoon of minced if you’re so fortunate as to have fresh basil on hand), plus a dash of black (or white) pepper. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, and before eating, stir in a bit of milk. Serve garnished with croutons and shredded Parmesan, as desired.
“What are they?” asked my son en passant. “Scallion pancakes; they’re a kind of fry bread.” “Can’t go wrong with fry bread!” he replied, and snatched one to eat before mowing.
Yes, Spring is here (again), and we’ve gone through our usual winter-spring-winter-summer-winter-spring nonsense. The daffodils are blooming, the grass needs mowing, and the scallions are up. Scallions are the same thing as green onions, meaning ordinary yellow or white onions harvested when young. I have some volunteer onions in the former vegetable patch (soon to be lawn again), and because they grew from rogue seeds last year, and as onions are biennials, this year they will in turn go to seed if not harvested before that point. I woke up the other morning thinking, “Boy, some Scallion Pancakes sound really good!” A dim sum from Shanghai, these fry breads are some of the simplest of the tea-house treats to make. If you don’t have any scallions on hand (or found them withered away in the back of the crisper drawer), you can use Chinese chives (AKA garlic chives or Chinese leeks).
PREPARING THE DOUGH AND SCALLIONS
In a large mixing bowl, blend together:
Once the dough is rough and clumpy, liberally sprinkle flour on a clean counter, and knead the dough for a few minutes until it’s smooth and workable. Wrap the dough in a damp cloth or plastic bag and set it aside to rest for 30 minutes (set a timer). TIP: Set the mixing bowl in the sink, and fill with hot sudsy water to soak off the sticky bits. Then I go out to harvest my scallions. When pulling up scallions, knock off the extra soil from the roots, and also strip off the outermost leaf. When onions grow, each onion layer is formed from a leaf; stripping off the outermost leaf removes the thin, dried, dirty layer. In the kitchen, rinse off the scallions (including any soil hiding in-between the leaves), and trim off the roots and brown leaf tips. This recipe only calls for the green parts, so you can set aside the white stalks for a stir-fry or omelette. In a 2-cup (1/2 L) measure, blend together:
TIP: I wear safety / laboratory goggles when chopping onions, as they keep the fumes from my eyes. Yes, it looks doofy, but it’s the best method I have yet to find to prevent the watering-eyes problem.
The scallions need to macerate in the sugar and salt to get soft and tasty, so meanwhile we’re going to do some cleaning up. Remove any clumps of dough from the counter; I use the edge of my square-bladed metal spatula / turner, as I’m too cheap to spend money on an official dough scraper when something else works just fine. TIP: To remove gummy dough bits from the mixing bowl, pour out the suds and use a rubber spatula to scrape off the lumps. Wash the mixing bowl and rubber spatula, plus wash and dry your knife and cutting board, as you’ll need the latter again.
ASSEMBLING THE PANCAKES
Flour the counter, and cut the dough into two even lumps. Take one lump, and roll / squeeze it into a log 12 1/2″ (35 cm) long. Cut the log into five, 2 1/2″ (6.5 cm) long sections. Move four sections aside, and roll out the remaining piece very thin, into a rectangle 10″ x 4″ (25 x 10 cm).
(Yes, these conversions aren’t exact, and that’s okay as we’re going to be further mashing up the dough anyway.)
TIP: It’s hard to use a rolling pin to stretch the dough by just rolling it. So after the initial bout of rolling the dough flat, I use the rolling pin to anchor one end and gently pull, then without lifting the rolling pin, lay down the stretched dough and roll the pin over the dough to secure the stretching and flatten it more. Then I roll the other direction to broaden the piece.
Now it’s time to fill that piece of dough! Take a tablespoon of scallions and distribute them along the center of the strip, but stop half an inch (1 cm) before each end. (Resist the urge to “supersize” your load; you’ll find out why.)
Fold over each of the short ends, and then fold over the top to cover the scallions, and the bottom to cover the top. I’ve never seen any recipe source mention folding in the short ends, but I have found from making burritos and such that tucking in the short end first helps prevent the filling from falling out. Take one end and fold the whole thing over lengthwise (doubled).
Lift from the counter and gently smuush it along its length to make it thinner and longer. Take the end with the original ends, and fold it over a bit.
Then coil up the roll, tucking the outside end between adjoining parts of the ring.
TIP: Don’t even think of trying to use a rolling pin to flatten the coil into a pancake; even using your palm to flatten it onto the countertop doesn’t work well. Instead, dust it well with flour, and use your fingers to palpate the dough, pressing it as thin as possible, all over.
Note that some scallions wil pop out of the dough and create a juicy mess here and there. That always happens. Tuck them in, or just use them in the next pancake. Don’t worry your early pancakes aren’t terribly round; they will still taste good.
Repeat the rolling, filling, coiling and flattening process with the other pancakes.
You might ask, “Wouldn’t it just be easier to flatten and fill one of those two big lumps of dough, and then cut it into five pieces, instead of doing each piece separately?” Being an efficient sort, I wondered that myself, and tested my dough with both methods. The fill-then-cut pancakes ended up much messier, with scallions popping out everywhere. You can see the results here, with the fill-then-cut on the left, and the make-five-individually on the right:
TIP: To easily remove the dough and scallion gunk off your hands, use warm running water and a rubber spatula to scrape off the dough; be sure any dough bits aren’t left stuck on the sink where they might harden.
Likewise, scrape off your counter, and put your utensils to soak in warm, soapy water. The washing up will be easy to do by the time you’ve cooked and eaten your scallion pancakes.
LAST STEPS: COOK AND ENJOY!
Get a large iron or non-stick skillet and heat up a thin layer of oil for frying your pancakes. (On my electric stove, the ideal setting is somewhere between Medium and Medium-hot, but stoves vary.) Do not crowd the pan with too many. The pancakes are ready to turn over for frying on the second side when lightly browned, and the dough looks mostly white instead of translucent. Once fried on both sides, remove to blotting paper.
TIP: I drape a couple of paper napkins over the pages of an old phone book; the napkins keep the ink off, and the phone book pages provide plenty of blotting ability. Once the cooking is over, I rip those pages from the book and toss them.
No sauce is needed for this dim sum; just let the Scallion Pancakes cool enough to eat!
Way back when I was an evening proofreader at a newspaper, I grew an avocado tree from a pit. Alas, somebody kept dumping their old coffee on it, and the young tree died. It would also have been nice if this sandwich had occurred to me at the time; it would have been mighty sustaining for long nights when I was making corrections, like “boquey” to bouquet and “expresso” to espresso. (Unfortunately I wasn’t there the right evening to correct “mid-evil” to medieval or “castlations” to crenelations.)
But back to food! The contrasts in flavors and textures in the filling is fabulous! It’s an easy sandwich to make — the only trick is having all the ingredients on hand. (Recipe after photo.)
As reported on Thursday, April 11th in the UK paper The Independent, “Swansea measles outbreak: Confirmed cases rise to nearly 700″, which is worse than than last year’s outbreak in Merseyside, England.
Over 2,600 MMR vaccines were given last week, but are still insufficient to counteract the number of unvaccinated people, or those who lack the full number of necessary dosages. Public health officials explained that the outbreak will continue to grow. (This is what is meant by “herd immunity”: there needs to be a sufficient percentage of people who are immune to prevent the spread of infection.)
And as the article reminds us,
Before the introduction of the MMR jab in 1988, about half a million children caught measles each year in the UK. Approximately 100 of those died.
But for reasons I don’t understand, Andrew Wakefield (who apparently suffers from ‘Center of Attention Deficit Disorder’*), was not just mentioned as a historical reference, due to being a pivotal figure in the paranoia that led to the drastic drop in immunisations. The front page of The Independent’s online edition for Saturday, 13 April 2013, has in its top, featured article a large photograph of him, “Struck off MMR scare doctor: Welsh measles outbreak proves I was right“. What in the world for?!
Andrew Wakefield should not be a featured person of interest for opinions. He is no longer a licensed doctor in either the UK or the US. In 2011, Medscape designated him “Worst Physician of the Year” and in 2012, Time listed him in, “Great Science Frauds”. There is also a good editorial in the same edition of The Independent, “Andrew Wakefield’s baleful legacy”.
Wakefield’s unprofessional behavior as a researcher and false assertions that MMR vaccines can lead to autism (in a 1998 article in The Lancet, later withdrawn by the journal) are a bunch of frass (insect dung). Plus, his ongoing media attention and involvement with what initially were fringe groups, inflated such ‘antivax’ sentiments to mainstream popularity.
Vaccination rates dropped drastically, from 92% to as low as 50% in some areas. Measles outbreaks began occurring across Britain, and in 2006 for the first time in 14 years, someone died of this preventable disease.
(Similar outbreaks happened in the US as well, including mumps. In 2006 got an MMR vaccine then because I had never had mumps, nor been vaccinated for it. Even if I had, the old killed-virus mumps vaccine used when I was a child was found to be ineffective.)
Included in The Independent’s series of articles is the useful, “Timeline: How the MMR scare story spread” by Jeremy Laurance.
The front-page feature by Jeremy Laurance is titled, “Struck off MMR scare doctor: Welsh measles outbreak proves I was right”. Which of course, is not true; Wakefield is just bloviating again**. As the front-page subhead reads, “Experts condemn discredited doctor’s outburst pinning the blame for the outbreak of measles in Wales on the Government as cases in the Swansea area rises”.
The linked article posted in the Health News section has a different title, “MMR scare doctor Andrew Wakefield breaks his silence: Measles outbreak in Wales proves I was right” (subhead: “As measles cases rise, experts condemn Wakefield’s outburst”), which begins with with six paragraphs of current events, then describes Wakefield’s assertions in the next eight paragraphs.
BUT, the factual counterpoints to the nonsense, clearly stated by, Adam Finn, paediatrics professor at University of Bristol, and childhood vaccines expert, are not given until afterwords, in the next nine paragraphs of the article.
Unfortunately, not everyone is going to read that far, nor stop to digest the complete refutation of all the idiocy that Wakefield said.
I think Finn’s factual material would have been more useful if presented earlier, such as a point-by-point dismissal of nonsense, e.g. ‘Wakefield claims … but Professor Flinn refutes …’
Alas, perhaps due to following the common news formula of, So-where’s-he-working-now, included this last paragraph, which unfortunately lends him what some might perceive as professional credibility:
“Dr Wakefield moved to Texas, US, in 2001 where he is director of Medical Interventions for Autism and in January was promoting a reality TV series on autism.”
Remember, Andrew Wakefield uses the title “Doctor” because he earned a degree in medicine; he is not licensed to practice medicine in either the UK or the US.
As I said, Wakefield should remain a historical warning, rather than a featured person of interest for opinions. Adding on the reasons why his comments are harmful nonsense at the end of an article are not enough to detract from the fact that all this frass is featured for free!
* I didn’t make up the (fictional) COADD — ‘Center of Attention Deficit Disorder’, but I sure see a lot of it in our problem students (as opposed to the students with problems, who generally want to avoid being in class).
To decorate for our winter party before the semester-end break, we made paper snowflakes in art class at school.
Being the geek that I am, I made a mobile from the fractal of the Koch snowflake, which starts from a single equilateral triangle, and keeps adding triangles onto the triangles. The mobile is made from the first three iterations, cut out as nested pieces, plus the background to the largest, which is trimmed as a circle.
(The mobile’s crossbar is the metal edge that came loose from a ruler; it’s being employed in this manner to prevent misuse by unruly students.)
More on the Koch snowflake: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koch_snowflake
Yeah, you’ve seen them: old ladies wearing Old-Lady Shoes.
Dowdy footwear that inextricably time-travelled from some economically-depressed post-war period.
Or low-heeled, lace-up shoes resembling dull leather sneakers, that shuffled in from the land that fashion forgot.
Practical shoes. Hopefully, comfortable shoes, given the tired way those old ladies are getting around. But damn, I mean dayam, if not quite ugly shoes, then definitely shoes without style.
And, as you may have guessed, suddenly, here I am, too.
Last fall I broke my foot. The displacement fractures in the metatarsals (the long bones over the arch) mended, albeit crookedly, with offset mends that make them look like rivers with meanders. (Don’t fall over in shock when I say that my hypermobility includes rather low arches, too.)
This past spring my foot started hurting again, as my second job stocking groceries involved walking around concrete floors and stocking heavy cases — not good for the osteoarthritis or the broken bones. So I got orthotics to provide more support for my poor ravaged feet.
But now my foot is constantly aching, and I’m limping, and am getting what I’m assuming are referred pains in my knee and hip. And when I saw the orthopedist earlier last week for chronic foot pain, he disapproved of my buckled Mary Janes I’d worn to my first job, and told me I need to wear shoes that lace up.
I’m not much of a fashionista, but I can’t picture wearing either hiking boots or my rumpled black sneakers with skirts, suits or dresses. So that means I need to get a new pair of shoes. Or maybe a pair of knee-high boots.) But, I can’t wear polyurethane (PU), PVC or silicone, which limits me to fabric or leather footwear, which is of course, more expensive.
Great! I need to find:
If you’re laughing and/or groaning, you probably have some idea of the magnitude of that request. I mean, that is pretty specific! Not being fond of shopping, I did some quick noodling around online, and discovered that the lower-end department stores don’t carry leather shoes (boo!), and that many of the online sites don’t mention whether or not the insoles can be removed. (I’e also become quite the connoisseur of Web sites with numerous lists of ways to filter search requests.)
I also noticed a general lack of lace-up shoes, aside from “granny boots” with 2.5″ heels. So I looked up the current addresses to the store with a huge, self-serve selection of shoes, and stopped by there en route home one day.
They had nifty boots full of brass buttons, sharp-looking tweedy spectator pumps [court shoes], loafers and flats with all kinds of fun hardware … but an absolute dearth of lace-up shoes. (Since I have wide feet anyway, I checked out the men’s section, but was dismayed to find walking shoes with heavy lug soles, or stiff wingtips so stylishly long that it seemed my feet would look like aircraft carriers, down to the brogues resembling rows of rivets.)
I finally asked a sales clerk for assistance, just in case I’d missed something. She was understanding of my requirements, even letting me slip out some insoles to test my orthotics on a couple of pairs — only to find that the toe boxes were too low-profiled. She too, was surprised to realise that there were so few lace-up shoes. What few they had were made with the insoles sewn down, or were fashioned of (sweat-inducing) imitation leather. And, apparently this year’s crop of sneakers [trainers] comes in neon colors. Naturally, chef’s or medic’s clogs won’t work either.
Le sigh. And this is why I hate shopping for wardrobe items (in addition to the noisy lighting fixtures that drill into my head.); it seems that no matter what I’m looking for, it’s not to be had. The year I wanted khaki shorts, I couldn’t find khaki shorts — yes, khaki shorts! Ditto denim overalls. Or a long-sleeve white blouse with sleeves to fit my arms, and tails long enough to stay tucked in. Or, good grief, cufflinks to go with a French-cuff blouse I found at the thrift store.
And so it goes.
I already have a pair of black sneakers that I wear (with black trousers) at my grocery job. Sorry, but unless I’m evacuating in an emergency, I can’t imagine wearing either hiking boots or my rumpled black sneakers with skirts, suits or nice dresses.
All I need to find is a pair of slightly-dressy, low-heeled, lace-up leather shoes, with removable insoles, in a size 10.5 wide, preferably brown. No, I’m not being picky, I’m being particular.
The “slightly-dressy” and “preferably brown” are what I want, but the rest are what I need. (And unlike a coworker who has diabetes, neither my orthotics nor my footwear are covered as a necessary medical expense. Those orthotic insoles I had to get cost me half of what I pay for my monthly mortgage!)
Even worse, a lot of those “comfort” shoes don’t lace up or come in 10.5 wide.
Or, I can find lace-up “granny” ankle boots or knee-high boots, but the heels are too high, or they are made of some sweat-inducing synthetic.
Or, I can find oxfords with the right heel height and made of leather, but not in a 10.5 wide.
Or, I can find cute, low-heeled, leather lace-up shoes, but either the insoles are sewn in so I can’t use my orthotics, or else they’re so cheaply made there isn’t any arch support.
And so on, and so on.
So now I have joined the ranks of older women looking for supportive, sensible shoes that don’t look too dowdy. Don’t laugh at us gimping along in our leather sneakers; those specialty shoes are DAMN hard to find!
All those years of spending hours thinking up that brilliant retort to their insults … and instead of that stunned silence of acknowledgement you had anticipated — you just got more bullying.
Don’t play their game.
Short eye contact, a nonverbal response of incredulity, and then ignore them.
Now, I am a mint-chip ice cream (-loving) person myself, and dismiss vanilla* for being merely useful as an ingredient base for other treats. And of course, I’m entitled to my opinion. In turn, you all are free to express your own opinions about flavours of ice cream, including your total disinterest in eating ice cream.
(* It may be that I lack some kind of flavour receptor[s] to fully perceive vanilla/vanillin, because no matter what sort of sweet or quality of material, vanilla has never seemed to be particularly interesting or tasty to me.)
But there are opinions and there are other opinions, and Patrick Stokes, Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University, teaches his students that they are not entitled to have their opinions.
In a recent article, “No, you’re not entitled to your opinion” he immediately acknowledges this sounds a bit harsh, but explains that the point of a philosophy class is learning how to create sound arguments, instead of leaning on beliefs, emotions, and misconceptions of what we think we know. Although opinions may be owned or expressed, not all opinions are equally valid.
Stokes skillfully distinguishes between the different things that fall under the vast umbrella of opinion:
But “opinion” ranges from tastes or preferences, through views about questions that concern most people such as prudence or politics, to views grounded in technical expertise, such as legal or scientific opinions.
It’s the conflating of being able to express one’s tastes, preferences, and beliefs — and then expecting those statements to be taken as seriously as fact-based, logically-sound argument — that is the major problem.
It is a major problem in everyday discourse, and in heated debates within and between countries, and it is an especially prevalent problem in various media. There’s the tired trope* of “getting balance” by interviewing “both sides” even though there are often more than just two sides (life is messy that way), and the problem that the opinions of both “sides” do not necessarily carry the same factual value (life is reality-based that way).
(* More on the problems with the news media and “balance” in my earlier post, “Both Sides Now”.)
Not all the information one finds or hears is equally valid. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.”
Stokes further explains:
The problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned. It becomes shorthand for “I can say or think whatever I like” – and by extension, continuing to argue is somehow disrespectful. And this attitude feeds, I suggest, into the false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse.
Wait a minute — can’t anyone have an opinion about anything? Of course!
Can’t anyone express their opinion about anything? Of course!*
(* Although it really helps if people take the time to ensure their protest signs are properly spelled and punctuated. Otherwise much hilarity ensues and one ends up with derisive and/or dismissive infamy rather than being taken seriously.)
But what unfounded opinion cannot do is carry equal weight when discussions require expertise.
Back to our ice cream opinions: I know that vanilla bean pods come from a variety of orchid, because that’s a tidbit of horticultural knowledge and I am a horticulturalist. Being a foodie, I have long known that vanillin was synthesized as a less-expensive alternative for use in commercial products, and that it is the primary ingredient in the artificially-flavoured vanilla extract sold at the market.
BUT, I cannot be an expert witness or speaker on vanilla.
Likely, neither can the majority of you.
Not on the cultivars, growing, agri-ecology, processing from raw material to diverse flavouring forms, business economics, grower’s social justice issues, distribution and packaging, artificial synthesis of vanillin, culinary chemistry, historical usage, future trends of natural versus artificial flavouring … none of that stuff. Nor anything else that didn’t come to mind, albeit I was able to come up with a longish list just because I have that horticultural background and was able to extrapolate what accessory topics could be included.
You are entitled to have and to express your opinion, but that does not mean it must to be taken as serious fact; pointing that out is not being disrespectful to you as a person — it means that your opinion is insufficient to the case.
‘Personal Opinion’ is not some cloak of factual immunity that one can wear to suddenly become a creditable expert.
(Oh, and speaking of public persons with opinions but who are not experts, guess who came along to comment upon Stokes’ article …)
A Facebook friend of mine posted this problem for folks to solve:
Answers included 0, -90, 810 and -810. The correct answer is -810. Some of you are sniggering at the errors — quit that!
Now, if you didn’t get -810, hang on …
Why do people have problems solving math equations? It’s not that they’re stupid, but that:
Hey folks, don’t feel badly if you got it wrong. I had trouble with the maths in school, too! I didn’t even learn all my multiplication tables until 8th grade. You know what? It’s not fatal; I slowly went through some pre-College Algebra classes at my local community (junior) college, and filled in the confused bits, gained confidence, and eventually went on to introductory Calculus.
And I still have to pause and think on some of my multiplication facts, and still have days when I’m prone to reversing numbers. But those difficulties don’t detract from the fact that I am able to learn math, and they don’t mean I’m stupid. (“Take THAT, ‘Mr. Dull’!” she says, shaking her fist at a middle-school algebra teacher.)
But now I work with students in 7th – 12th grade math, and you know what? Good news! It makes a lot more sense when you go back and review it as an adult! You can fill in the parts you missed or didn’t understand, and get a better idea of how it all fits together. Honestly.
Math no longer terrifies me, even though my brain still has that glitch that prevents me from memorising the quadratic formula. But I never use the quadratic formula in real life.
I DO use ratios in real life, for example, adjusting a recipe, figuring how much stuff to put on my garden, planning travel time… And I’ll show you how to do those really easily, without getting all tangled up in multiple steps, and you don’t need some mysterious “intuitive feel for how to set the problem up”.
MEANWHILE, In our problem above we use Order of Operations. I tell my students, “You use Order of Operations every day! You put your tee on before you put on your shirt, and you put on your jacket last.”
The problem above is solved like this:
Ah, the dreaded “small talk”! Learning scripts to use for small regular transactions isn’t hard (e.g. waiting for coffee to brew or cashier transactions, as described in this post).
It’s the chit-chatting with coworkers and strangers that’s hard.
I like this page because it gives concrete details on how to successfully initiate and participate in chit-chat — not just a bunch of fluffy vagueness. People who understand the fluffy vagueness already know how to chit-chat!
“How to Break Through Small Talk and Turn Strangers into Friends”
I was on the radio! :: hyperactive bouncing :: You should listen to the show — there are links below.
Adrienne Lauby and Shelley Berman, co-hosts of Berkeley, California’s KPFA “Pushing Limits” disability program, invited Mike Ervin, advocate and blogger of Smart Ass Cripple and me to talk about “The Wild World of Disability on the Internet.” Is that fun or what?
Broadcasting is always giddy: I get to talk with interesting people I wouldn’t have otherwise, and the experience is recorded to share with all of you!
Between my ADHD and Auditory Processing glitches, I was worried about accidentally interrupting folks, but I don’t think we had too much trouble with that. It’s always curious to go back and listen to it myself, because one’s voice never sounds as low pitched as it does inside your head. But when I’m speaking, I’m on “live” rather than “Memorex”, and it’s cool to be able to rewind life and hear what happened.
Mike Ervin and I were unfamiliar with each other, but when you get four people together who are passionate about the same things (including hosts who can lead out introductory stories) there is no awkward stage — we hit it off quickly, and Mike has a wicked wit.
Of course, we could have easily spent an hour riotously remarking about activism, attribution errors and other topics. We did talk about those, and amazingly, with less than eight minutes apiece, we also talked about accessibility, myths, inspiration-p*rn, othering, home-care, how blogging “levels the playing field” and more. It was great fun!
(Oh, and related to a question on fidgeting, I mentioned an XKCD cartoon, which I’ve included — with descriptions — at the bottom of this post.)
You haven’t missed it — there are 3 ways you can listen now!
1. Click this link: Pushing Limits: The Wild World of Disability on the Internet
2. Paste this URL into the address box for your mp3 player (iTunes, etc): http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/82157
3. Click on this download hyperlink:
Pushing Limits – July 6, 2012 at 2:30pm
Click to listen (or download)
“RESONANCE” An XKCD.com cartoon by Randall Munroe, in 3 panels.
Oh, boy howdy! This article by Laura Hibbard, “Texas Republican Party Calls For Abstinence Only Sex Ed, Corporal Punishment In Schools” nearly made me choke on my cuppa tea. She described just a few of the details the 2012 Republican Party of Texas wants for their state schools. (The article also includes a nicely scrollable copy of their entire Platform Report.)
You know me, I’m a science person, with keen interests in education and social justice. And I was flabbergasted. It’s like a car crash — you can’t help but gawp in horrified fascination. Well, I had the day off work, so after a house-painting break, scanned through most of the document. It’s one thing to hear soundbites on the radio or in video, but quite another to actually be able to read an entire position. For one thing, it gives a person the chance to notice internal inconsistencies, and look things up.
In addition to the aforementioned items listed in the title of Hibbard’s article, the Texas GOP’s document lists a lot more in their “Educating Our Children” section. For example, they also want to eliminate preschool and kindergarten, and require daily pledges of allegiance to the US & Texas flags (because that somehow makes one patriotic).
Ooh, get this:
“Classroom Expenditures for Staff – We support having 80% of school district payroll expenses of professional staff of a school district be full-time classroom teachers.”
You realize that means giving the ability to hire a number of part-time classroom teachers (and paraprofessionals if they opt to include some) who can be paid WAY less, which will keep a district’s budget way down. “Fiscal responsibility” as a loophole for loading up on part-time staff. Who of course often don’t get benefits — unfortunately, a common practice in education and other industries. (Yes, I’m calling education an industry.)
And of course, this next incredible ::head-desk:: concept that (for me) underpins a great deal of their platform:
“Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”
Because you know, mastering the subject material and learning how to think critically will undermine the GOP’s fixed beliefs and enable challenging authority. Any challenges to authority will be dealt with accordingly:
“Classroom Discipline –We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas.”
Under the “Promoting Individual Freedom and Personal Safety” section, this concept continues as, Read the rest of this entry »
1. a plural of tedium.
2. the quality or state of multiple media being wearisome; irksome; tedious.
3. the quality or state of overwhelming tedium resulting from multiple, unrelated sources.
Overcome by the tedia of so-called “news” coverage and inane blather that displaced any real information, she resorted to drawing political cartoons and posting them on the Web.
Lacking sufficient mental stimulation from either of his jobs, and commuting without a working radio, he found himself daydreaming and telling himself jokes to allay the suffocating tedia.
Use it! Pass it on! Post a comment and share.
Cite it with a link-back! Short link: http://wp.me/p10w9-Kp
Let me introduce you to a new friend of mine, Nandi the garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis). Unlike most of the snakes whom I have encountered in my gardens, this one was much more amenable to being held, and didn’t thrash about, pee, or exude stink from its postanal gland. We decided to adopt him. (I think it’s a him; the tail after the vent is slender and shortish. Also, males emerge from hibernation first.)
Isn’t he just the cutest thing?
Despite what pet stores may tell you (or told me), garter snakes are not insectivorous. So In his roomy terrarium/herpetarium, I ended up with a bunch of crickets (and some cricket feed cubes). The crickets will end up as chow for Rosie, my tarantula. Meanwhile though, the male crickets serenade the females, as well as Nandi and Rosie and me. Chirp, chirp, chirp! It’s the cricket equivalent of, “Hey, ba-by! Ooh, sexy!”
And as you can tell from this picture, Nandi is not a threat to them. In fact, he seems a trifle annoyed at times, and a few days ago after I fed him a hyuge earthworm, he burrowed into the soft plant substrate to digest, unmolested by the jumping jiminies.
At about 22 in. / 56 cm., Long Snake Is Long. Well, not really; that’s about an average size for an adult, although he could grow longer. Read the rest of this entry »
… but the Woo is giving off bad vibrations!
OhMyGosh the world is full of idiots! Tonight I was stocking over in the health foods section, which is either a great place (for our large selection of gluten-free products for coeliacs) or a magnet for all people woo-stricken.
A woman came to the grocery wanting “bread made without yeast” — I gestured to the big display of matzo (unleavened for Passover), but no, she wants loaf bread, but without yeast so her son “doesn’t get yeast infections”. I tried to explain they’re not even the same kinds of yeast, and it’d be dead after the bread’s baked anyway, but NO-O-O-O…
Yeasts are a kind of fungus: yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae is necessary for yeast-breads, beer and wine fermentation. For sourdough breads, a variety of wild yeast Candida milleri plus acid-producing bacteria Lactobacillus sanfrancisco that gives the dough the distinctive “tang”.
For our confused customer, the yeast infection [mouth, digestive tract, vagina] is from an entirely different fungus, Candida albicans.
If you’re curious, the fuzzy black stuff that grows on bread is a mold, Rhizopus nigricans. Molds are another kind of fungus. Yummy blue cheeses [Maytag blue, Dana-blu, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton] are made possible from the mold Penicillium roqueforti or Penicillium glaucum that were naturally present in the [naturally cool] caves where the cheeses were made & aged. (Nowadays the cheese wheels are injected with the appropriate mold). A few people with Penicillin antibiotic allergy may have a reaction to blue cheeses, but the quantity of the material is so much smaller in the cheese, it is rarely a problem.
I almost mentioned yogurt as a source of probiotics — I was “this close” — but refrained. Trying to add bacteria to her mental mix of Bad Things We Can’t Pronounce & Must Avoid would have been too much for the both of us.
Related to fungi (well, related just in the sense of small organisms helpful to food), are bacteria. Most of the bacteria that exist in the world are neutral to humans, and many are beneficial. Only a relatively small number are responsible for bacterial infections. Truth be told, we NEED bacteria, because they are responsible for the fermentation processes that turn raw food items into different, processed food items that have better/different flavor, are more digestible, and store for long periods of time. Some examples of these great bacteria include: Read the rest of this entry »
(The doorstop is actually upside-down, and reads, “Gym”.)
“Same thing,” she said, waving off the comment and walking off toward the time-clock to punch out.
“But– no, it’s not …” I protested, and then stopped talking as I saw her leaving not only the the doorway where I stood, but our conversation as well.
If you could call it a conversation; I’ve had longer dialogs with fellow elevator riders.
It was hard to stop my rebuttal. I so wanted to explain, and having to force myself to stop in mid-sentence (hell, mid-mini-monologue) is hardly my style. But I diligently keep practicing social skills, including noticing when others have quit a topic.
Having already clocked out, I gave up, left the building, and even waited to get into my car before expressing my complaints aloud to no one — except a fruit fly uselessly orbiting the fragrant-but-empty lunch bag I had just tossed onto the floor.
And a fruit fly doesn’t give a gnat’s ass about the seemingly subtle difference between reason and cause. No, it is not mere semantics, and they are not exact synonyms.
“So how was your trip?” she had asked as we met in the hallway. We had not yet crossed paths that day, delaying the obligatory Monday morning chit-chat.
“Oh it was lovely, except for missing a connecting flight, so I was only there two days,” I began. And I was proud that I had even mindfully planned ahead to next ask her if she’d ever been to Boston, thus fulfilling my offering volley in the chit-chat process — when she gave me that totally unexpected, inexplicable response:
“Well you know, ‘Everything happens for a Reason’ !” She chirped, nodding sagely.
“You mean a cause,” I began.
“Same thing,” she said, waving off the comment and walking off toward the time-clock to punch out.
“But– no, it’s not …” I protested.* Read the rest of this entry »
Well, more than once-in-a-while I misunderstand what I hear. Especially if I’m preoccupied, or the environment is noisy, and rather much if the other person is mumbly.
Quite likely the funniest Auditory Processing glitch I’ve had yet:
A grocery customer comes by and asks, “Do you have any haggis?”
(Mind you, I’m in the States; most groceries don’t even carry haggis, traditional or vegetarian.)
Turned out he was enquiring about
And no, we don’t generally carry those either, tho’ at the beginning of summer we get various toys in our seasonal aisle (sidewalk chalk, soap bubbles, jacks, pool floats and such).
Sometimes people ask for the oddest things at the grocery … this week someone wanted a printer cable — a serial port* printer cable! At least we got ourselves sorted before getting as far as the breakfast cereal aisle.
* For you non-technical folks, that’s an older piece of equipment, not something you might find at a big supermarket, like cheap headphones, CDRs, or power strips.
My grandson, The Blur is beginning to start to get tired. I call him The Blur because he’s such an active lad, he can be hardly be photographed. He’s only 2 1/2, and little kids are generally bouncy, active beings, but he is especially so, and reminds his papa and I of when we were children*, which is alternately endearing, alarming, humorous, annoying, fun, and/or exhausting.
Especially the alarming and exhausting parts, because apparently he’s one of those kids who doesn’t need as much sleep. A few months ago he figured out how to pop off the child-proof doorknob cover to escape his room, and a few weeks later, had removed a couple of hinge pins to his bedroom door towards a similar escape attempt. (His parents just want to be sure of where he is when they are trying to sleep!)
Right now he’s squirming off and on and around his mum’s lap, and off and on the furniture, and off and on and around her lap again, and off and on and under me, and so on. His mum explained, “I call this the ‘Writhing’ stage.”
“Perfect term! He’s not ready for a siesta yet, is he?” I ask rhetorically. ‘Siesta’ = nap; we’re speaking in code over his head.
“No, next is the ‘Manic’ stage,” she sighed.
“Burnoff!” I confirmed, thinking of his evening hyperdrive mode, when he needs to burn off the last bit of energy.
“I know he’s ready when he gets to the ‘Melting’ stage.”
I’m imagining Dali’s watches flopped over tree limbs, and that’s pretty much what The Blur looks like when it’s time for reading books. And then after gathering a number of toys and bears and books, he “reads” to himself before possibly sleeping during naptime.
* I’m not saying that he has ADHD like I do; he’s only 2 1/2. But we’re really conscious about channelling all that energy and nimble-fingered intelligence to positive stuff!