Stonewalling Good Air

When I was in high school, my mother joined a group to improve the ventilation on the top floor. That’s where the art classrooms were—they used materials which put out toxic fumes.

This wasn’t for my benefit. I had no classes on that floor.

What most disturbed my mother was that one art teacher was pregnant. After studying the chemicals building up in that air, she believed no pregnant person should work there.

They put together a plan for upgrading the ventilation on that floor. The school district—whose approval was necessary—ignored them. No justification, not even ‘that’s too expensive.’ They refused to acknowledge the problem.

Could they have moved the art classes outside? There was a roofed outdoor area where classes could be held even in rain (a few dance classes were held there). But the wind would’ve blown stuff around.

The ventilation in the entire building was bad, I’m sure. No windows would open, and the school district controlled the vents remotely from a location in a different neighborhood. Just to change the thermostat, teachers had to petition the school district. No, there was one—only one—classroom which had local control. The teachers marveled that they could choose the temperature there.

I wouldn’t trust the school district administrators to keep the vents clean.

Studies show that high carbon dioxide levels impair student learning.

Once in a while, I fell asleep during class. Maybe the classes bored me but… I wonder.

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Have My Civic Ideals Faded?

Now I’m reading Boundless by Jack Campbell. It’s a military science-fiction novel. The story begins in a multi-planet democracy which verges on collapse. Some characters—reasonably—believe their democracy is doomed.

Why? A faction diverted military resources to building a secret fleet of AI-controlled spaceships which only they control to ensure nobody else—including a majority of elected representatives—can take power away from them. Most of these AI-controlled spaceships were destroyed in the previous book, but a few still exist, and the people who built them still haven’t been held accountable (yet, I haven’t finished the book).

Many characters fear that the admiral who defeated the rogue AI spaceship fleet is so popular he can—and will—install himself as a dictator. Heck, some characters want that to happen.

On top of all that, they’ve contacted several alien species. The alien species are interested in humans, yet their goals are unclear. This is rocket fuel for conspiracy theories—which already motivated two assassination attempts.

This democracy is in trouble. And yet… most of the senators give a damn what their voters think. They care enough that they will piss off other senators to meet their voters’ demands.

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To Keep an Open Mind, Refuse to Comment

A book (maybe Refuse to Split the Difference? Maybe Cues?) said that when you see nonverbal cues that someone is thinking something negative, that’s the time to intervene before they verbalize their negative thought. Once someone has something in public, our desire to appear consistent pushes us to stick with it—even if it’s wrong.

(By the way, here’s the anti-paywall link to my review of Cues by Vanessa Van Edwards.)

I’ve given ‘hot takes’ on current issues which I would’ve reconsidered in light of new information—except I wanted to stand by what I already stated. Now, before commenting on the hot topic-du-jour, I ask myself a) how much did I think about this before? and b) what good comes from me speaking instead of listening in silence?

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My Stomach Returned to Taiwan

One irony of the pandemic is that my lungs are healthier than ever. As far as I know, I haven’t had a single respiratory infection for over two years. That’s unprecedented.

By paying more attention to my nose than before, I figured out that I have low-level chronic hay fever. Xylitol-saline nasal spray is cheap and increases airflow. Wearing masks which screen out nasal irritants might help too.

Then there’s my stomach.

When I lived in Taiwan, I had stomach bugs about twice a year. I accepted them as an unpleasant fact of life. After I returned to the United States, stomach trouble happened much less often. Since the covid-19 pandemic started, I’ve been catching stomach bugs about as often as I did in Taiwan.

I wonder why.

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Your Biggest Control Over Comfort: Changing What ‘Comfort’ Means to You

In “The Collapse Will Not be Like the Thunderdome,” Sharon Astyk says that in collapse, “You aren’t going to be able to live in relative comfort, or if you are, it will because you changed your definition of comfort.”

That last line stuck with me: change your definition of comfort.

There are hard limits to what we can accept as ‘comfort.’ When we die, we can’t feel anything, let alone comfortable. Wet-bulb temperatures beyond above 35 C cannot be comfortable. It’s not clear that mammals can survive wet-bulb temperatures above 35 C long-term.

And yet, it’s possible to change one’s definition of ‘comfort’ within the range of wet-bulb temperatures which allow humans to stay healthy.

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People Outside San Francisco Care More About the Boudin Recall Than Residents

A bunch of media outlets are blabbering about the Chesa Boudin recall and what it means for San Francisco. I run into references in online interactions with people from outside the city… sigh.

San Francisco residents care so much about Boudin that we had a lower-than-normal voter turnout. Despite a governor race AND a US Senator race on the ballot (to be fair, everyone knew who was going to win those elections). The election we had earlier this year, which was basically just the recall for three school board members, had a higher turnout, lol.

For what it’s worth, I voted no on the recall, not because I support Boudin (I didn’t vote for him in the first place, and I’m not sorry to see him go) but because I dislike the recall campaign. The claims that this will drastically lower crime rates in San Francisco are bogus. Property crime was common in San Francisco before Boudin came into office, and the causes for our high property crime rate aren’t going away when he leaves office. He’s a scapegoat.

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How can anyone believe that we are “after the pandemic”?

The other day, a local organization sent me an email which had a recap of their first in-person event “after the pandemic.”

Um, what?

I’m not against outdoor gatherings. Heck, I considered going to this organization’s outdoor gathering (and decided not to for reasons unrelated to covid). But… “after the pandemic”?

In San Francisco (where both I and this organization are located) official covid case counts are rising, hospitalizations are rising, test positivity rates are rising, and wastewater covid levels are rising. One testing location in the city reported a 19% positivity rate this month.

How is this compatible with being ‘after the pandemic’?

Deaths aren’t rising—yet—but that’s a lagging indicator. Long covid data sucks so bad we can’t track it.

Anecdotally, among locals I talk to… covid still makes people sick.

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I start out talking about a fun song, then this post gets dark.

For over a decade, I’ve been a person of good taste who didn’t fall for that Kpop crap. Yes, I may have stared at the Kpop music videos playing in the electronics stores a little long (this was in Taiwan, where all the electronics stores use Kpop music videos to show the quality of their screens), but I chose music based on what sounded good, and the local Taiwanese pop music sounded better.

In the past year, something in me snapped.

Here’s the evidence of my downfall:

That’s right, I watched a music video for a debut Kpop group as soon as it dropped.

That’s a screenshot of me watching “Shut Down” when it had only one official view on YouTube

If the person I was ten years ago saw that, she’d be ashamed of her future self.

I’ve even… horror of horrors… bought the album. But only one copy.

I like this group’s mix of voices. That’s how I justified the purchase. But I’ll be honest. There’s more.

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Black & White Morality Blended with Cynicism: The Downfall of Abortion Rights in the United States

I’ve tried to understand the anti-abortion perspective in the United States, particularly the thinking behind ‘crisis pregnancy centers.’ Even in California, I’ve stumbled upon two (in small towns) without making any attempt to find them.

This is an excellent description of American grassroots anti-abortion activists:

For many of these women, supporting the Right to Life movement had become a means of defining and expressing their femininity. Giving to the baby center reinforced their beliefs and allowed them to put their faith into action. Acting on their beliefs demonstrated to others their love, generosity and kindness. Actively opposing abortion could not be separated from their sense of self as loving Christian women.

I came to realize that these true believers were embracing Christian values by giving to others, loving babies and publicly opposing what they saw as sin. Volunteering at the center enhanced their social standing in their church community. It was a public declaration of faith and was the quintessential statement of self-worth. It was ladylike and appropriate. How could I suggest anything to the contrary that might challenge or endanger that?

– Kathleen A. Coakley, Huffpost

Yes, the woman who wrote that supports abortion rights, but it’s consistent with what I’ve read on anti-abortion websites (no, I don’t want to link them).

The True Believers have a binary mindset in which babies are Good and abortionists are Evil. This makes it easy to decide what to do, figure out who are your allies and enemies, and feel like a hero in a Hollywood movie. It justifies lying to pregnant people about their options. It justifies bullying pregnant people. It justifies murdering abortion providers.

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History Curricula Aren’t Cheat Codes for Changing Other People’s Worldviews

Many people talk about changing history curricula, especially in grade schools, to instill their preferred worldview in the population. This has been a thing for as long as mass education/schooling has been around, though the temperature of the debates is currently higher-than-average.

Does changing history curricula actually change students’ worldviews? A little, but not nearly as much as proponents think it does.

Most of you have been in a grade school history class. Did it always interest you? Do you remember all the history facts the class covered? Did you uncritically absorb your teacher’s point of view with no resistance, not even resistance confined to your own mind?

I’m going to go out on a limb and claim that the answers to all those questions are ‘no.’

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