Wednesday August 21st, 2019 13:35 Who needs critical thinking, anyway?

There’s been a story circulating the intertubes lately about some poor kid in Texas who had severe respiratory problems, was put in the ICU and nearly died.

Nobody knows – including his doctors – exactly why all of this happened to him. It’s a bit of a medical mystery.

But you can be damn sure that everyone has taken great pains to point out the fact that he liked to use a vaporizer.

Still photo from what these people think happens at vape manufacturing plants.

My absolute favorite article on the subject was this one, from his actual doctor.

You will notice how insipidly they lay out their case for vaping being the culprit.

  1. No one has any idea what’s happening
  2. This doctor knows what all the other doctors were secretly thinking
  3. The kid told her – a year ago – that he liked vaping
  4. Vaping delivers nicotine and nicotine is bad
  5. One Juul pod has as much nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes (that has what to do with what?)
  6. Lots of kids have tried vaping
  7. They are full of chemicals

So, clearly we can say his habit landed him in the hospital, right?

Not. Even. Fucking. Close.

For starters, the first thing this doctor does is outline for us all the different procedures he required and all the tests he went through and how confused all the doctors on the case were. Then, she mentions vaping, as if we’re all supposed to say “ohhhhhhhh, that must be it.”

Uh, no.

That’s not how science works. That’s not how medicine works. That’s barely how anything on the planet works.

What she’s really saying is: “A team of medical professionals were baffled by this case, but now that we’ve learned that he participated in the subject of a moral panic, we can stop trying to figure out what actually caused all this, and blame it on the vaping.”

Problem the first with this pseudo-logic is that it’s pseudo-logic.

One would expect a doctor to ask his parents to bring in the specific substance he was vaping so it could be analyzed. One would expect they would bring in friends and classmates to see if he was exposed to any toxins and if other children could be affected as well. One would expect they would contact specialists in rare lung disorders to see if this is simply something very unusual that isn’t detectable by standard hospital testing and examination.

One would expect a doctor to not throw her hands up and say “Well, he vapes, so I guess I can stop with all this ‘science’ nonsense.”

Problem the second is the way this doctor throws around the word “chemicals” like this is the 1950s and no one understands that the very air that we breathe is a chemical. Water is a chemical. We are made out of chemicals.

Perhaps “doctor” is the word we shouldn’t be throwing around with regards to her.

The article goes on to spout unattributed statistics about how many teenagers have tried vaping. 45% sounds like a lot.

This, of course, ignores the simple facts of who we’re dealing with. 45% of teenagers would try drinking their own urine if their peers told them to. There’s a new “challenge” on YouTube every couple months, many of which are wildly stupid, some of which are wildly dangerous. Millions of kids – and adults alike – participate in them, for no reason other than everyone else is doing it.

I’m suspecting that this woman is not a parent, because any parent I’ve ever met would view a kid doing something because his friends did it first as par for the course.

Then her article cites a group of cases that the CDC is investigating, supposedly linked to vaping. But one only has to click through to that article to find a key sentence:

“While some cases in each of the states are similar and appear to be linked to e-cigarette product use, more information is needed to determine what is causing the illnesses,” the CDC said in a brief statement.

These cases likewise are curiously concentrated in specific states. Typically, that indicates environmental factors, which would absolutely include a local manufacturer of vaporizer liquids selling a contaminated batch of product locally, then shipping some of that same batch to various locations across the country. Since online sales are a thing that, you know, exists.

When a company ships out salmonella-tainted spinach, doctors don’t go running around saying that all spinach will make you sick. Because that would be really stupid.

The overall point here:

People around the country and the world have been waving red flags around vaporizers for years now. And while there is much to be said about the lack of regulation around the manufacturing and distribution process, nothing excites people who enjoy a good moral panic than the old “won’t someone please think of the children” trope.

And they love a story like this one, be it steeped in logical fallacy or not.

This is how bullshit like anti-vax starts.

One person has some severe problem, and a doctor – a profession we’ve been trained our entire lives to trust implicitly – says that X caused the problem.

Only there is no evidence whatsoever that X did anything at all.

There are just a lot of people being misled by doctors who are either intellectually lazy, pushing an agenda, or otherwise outrightly derelict in their duty to inform the public of facts about medicine.

And they should be ashamed of themselves.

So what do you think we should do, Mr. Smarty Pants?

Glad you asked.

One of the many useful things we can do is introduce enforceable standards in the industry. Every single consumer should be able to tell exactly what’s in their vaporizer at all times, and there should be government-backed recourse for people who produce substandard products that cause unintended harm to their customers.

If we can tell people exactly how many grams of fat are in a Whopper and the precise concentration of alcohol in every beer, then we can do this too.

Another useful thing is to stop wasting our time pretending that fruit flavoring = targeting children. I don’t know about you, but my taste buds didn’t stop working the instant I turned 18.

We can instead focus on the actual presentation of these things in stores.

In most places, you have to go into a liquor store to buy liquor. Kids are not allowed in there. While the kids still want booze and are able to get it through other means, they’re not constantly seeing it in stores everywhere, all the time.

It would even be good for the economy, to create an entirely new category of business that exclusively sells age-restricted items. Also, pretty awesome for us adults, to get a pack of smokes, a bottle of whiskey and some porn, all in the same place.

Ok, that came off sounding like a pretty lonely shopping trip, but you get the idea.

Lastly, shore up the existing laws.

Did you know that, in many states, it is not against the law for kids to smoke? That’s right: it’s only illegal to sell or give them cigarettes. They’re allowed to posses and smoke them as much as they want.

While many might say that making something illegal only makes it cooler in the mind of a teenager, it also makes it a hell of a lot harder to do freely.

I’ve read stories where kids are vaping right in the middle of class. You can bet your ass they’re not going to do that quite so much if it might mean explaining to mom why she had to leave work to pick you up at county lockup.

There are probably a ton of other good ideas out there. But the bottom line is this:

We humans excel at behavioral manipulation.

If you don’t think so, go yell “fuck!” in front of a baby. Then ask any of the people who get immediately offended why they think it’s offensive to say a single word in the presence of a child that can’t possibly understand what you’re saying in the first place.

If we really wanted to stop kids from doing this, we could get the job done.

But hysterics have never worked before, and they’re not going to work now.

In: News, OtherNo Comments

Monday August 5th, 2019 15:35 Official activity mascot #1

This is now the official mascot of “being halfway through a major process when some twit comes around asking you to make a fundamental change that they definitely could have thought of yesterday.”

That is all.

In: Computers, OtherNo Comments

Monday June 3rd, 2019 23:35 Pulling a Tyrion

I must preface that the wife and I are watching the entirety of Game of Thrones right now. Not a marathon, really. Just after work as we can. But it sure beats waiting a year between 10-episode seasons, that’s for damn sure.

Obviously Arya is my favorite character.

If you disagree, feel free to stand there in your wrongness and be wrong and get used to it.

To me, second place belongs to Tyrion. And my favorite moments of his are things like this:

And, just now, I want to pull one of those, regarding something I happened to say this evening, while talking to an old friend.

He had to get some sleep, knowing his youngest will be waking him at 6 a.m.

Me, I had a little work to finish.

Which led to:

“IT, man. IT. We build the world while you sleep.”

Or so the wise* man said.

It’s not at all untrue. “IT” is a generic term, but it only takes a moment to try to remember the world before the public internet or general-purpose PCs existed. And we** – networking, hardware, sec, ops, remote hands, pro*** consultants, l3 support, on-staff, full-stack, all of us – literally built the modern world.

*to be determined at a later date
**Obviously I didn’t participate in building early computing/Internet infrastructure when I was 4. But that’s what I do now. Feel free to whinge if you can do the same.

***pro = hired guns for companies with no on-staff, assuming they actually know what they’re doing…people pitching ‘network assessment reports’ need not apply.
In: Music/Movies/TV, OtherNo Comments

Monday April 22nd, 2019 09:34 On this Earth Day

I just wanted to say:

In: News, OtherNo Comments

Friday April 19th, 2019 14:37 Computer illiteracy is not cute, and you have no excuse

“Sorry, I’m not very good with computers.”

get-out-GIF

I am formally declaring that the time period in which this is an acceptable statement or sentiment is officially over.

There are a number of legitimate reasons why someone doesn’t know how to use a computer, and all of them are socioeconomic or a result of governmental/racial/situational oppression or unavailability of the physical means. None of what I’m saying applies to people in such scenarios. At all.

Thankfully I didn’t run into the encounter that inspired this post at work. This was a nice person, who I actually like.

But whomever it is, I still see the same thing in my head:

what_year_is_it

..except in no way funny.

There are so many ways to learn how to use a computer that there was at least one scammy computer-teaching company that kept its doors open for 20 years. There are thousands of legitimate services to teach you how to use one, and there is virtually zero stigma against not already knowing how – absolutely zero if you have so much as a whiff of white hair.

While many people got through the 18th and 19th centuries skipping out on learning to read, it was a lumberingly slow progression. Character (meaning letters) writing is thousands of years old. It took half a millenium for the world to move from movable type to ‘most people own at least one book.’

It took about 60 years after the computer’s invention for us to start carrying an access card to the entirety of human knowledge (and stupidity) in our pockets. Computers now control the world’s money, nuclear arsenals, transportation systems, electrical grids and water delivery pathways. And those are just the one with which almost none of us will ever interact.

There is no reasonable comparison for how chart-toppingly foolish it is not to at least know some fundamentals. My aforementioned inspiration couldn’t figure out how to open a web browser. Why? Because there wasn’t a link on the desktop.

So, no, it is no longer cute. It is no longer okay if you’re over 50. It is not a quirky character trait. It’s not you being ‘traditional’ or ‘preferring paper.’

It is you being pathetically inept at even the most basic interaction with that which controls the world around you, and doing so voluntarily, often with a twisted sense of pride about it.

And just because it reminded me, I leave you with this:

In: Computers, OtherNo Comments

Wednesday April 17th, 2019 14:42 Hypocrisy in real time

I just wanted to put this up on the ol’ intertubes an additional time, because it’s pretty much the best example of IOKIYAR* I’ve ever seen.

*It’s OK If You’re A Republican
In: Other, PoliticsNo Comments

Friday March 8th, 2019 14:56 Pay her. Pay that woman her money.

:::title must be read in the appropriate Teddy KGB voice:::

So, the most successful women’s soccer team in human history is having to sue the US Soccer federation to get paid as much as their dreadfully-underperforming male counterparts. Jeebus Crist.

It’s not the most popular sport around, so a couple quick facts on how absurd this is:

1. The men’s team sucks. Like, a lot. They made it to third place…in 1930, by way of miracle and the fact that it was the first-ever world cup and only 13 nations bothered to show up. It took 64 years for them to get past the first round again, in 1994. In 1998, they followed up that performance by placing dead last.

2. The women’s team fucking rules. Like, a lot. They made it to third place in 1995, 2003 and 2007. Second place in 2011 in a heartbreaker of a game. They have been champions three times.

3. Count up all the cups in that last point. Total of 7, right? Well, that’s the total number that have ever taken place. That’s right: the women have never finished below third. Germany is the closest contender for being so superiorly badass, but they managed to screw up the one tournament they hosted (kind of a theme for the Germans).

4. I can’t find a clip to link to, but I promise you I’ve actually seen one of their opponents shaking before kickoff. Literally shaking with fear of the impending asswhipping before them.

Need more?

Think of it this way: saying the USMNT should get paid more than the USWNT is like saying the players from Brazil should get paid less than the guys from Poland.

Still not convinced?

Well, here’s the women’s team:

Here’s the men’s team (after failing to qualify for the last WC at all):

So just pay them already. Last thing you want is to piss them off. They destroy pretty much anyone who gets in their way.

In: News, OtherNo Comments

Saturday February 9th, 2019 15:29 Apropos of nothing

In: OtherNo Comments

Monday December 17th, 2018 16:50 I am shocked to learn that there is gambling in this establishment

I usually stay away from religion around here, but this thing is just bugging the hell out of me.

So, a boy in California commits suicide. The priest at his funeral, rather insensitively, points out that, the religion espoused by the boy, his family and probably most of the people in the room at the time, is officially against suicide and thinks it a mortal sin that sends you straight to hell (albeit with exception for mental illness).

Now, that there is a really shitty thing to do with the grieving family sitting right in front of you.

But from whence does this outrage come? Their family is Catholic. They attend Catholic mass. They raised their son to be Catholic. They held his funeral service in a Catholic church.

And now everyone is simply appalled that the guy behind the lectern stated exactly what their religion says is true about suicide.

Of course we all think it was inappropriate. Of course we all think he should have held his tongue.

But I don’t see a single headline saying “Catholics reconsidering their view on suicide when confronted with the cruel reality of that position.”

They’re just complaining about a priest mentioning one of their own beliefs at an inconvenient time.

I’ll leave the last word to an old writer:

In: News, OtherNo Comments

Saturday November 3rd, 2018 04:41 In truth, I hold little nostalgia

But this is among that I have:

That bottom juice was the sweet nectar of the gods.

In: OtherNo Comments

Whois

IT guy, dev, designer, writer.

Got a degree in print journalism from UF but history dealt some bad cards to that industry, so I moved back to an earlier love: the computer.

Was recently at ZMOS Networks, but am now the Senior IT Associate at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.

My name is moderately common, as are a couple screen names, so always look for the logo to make sure you're reading something with official Km approval.

You can get to me directly with kyle(@)kylemitchell.org