Are These the 10 Best Onsen in Japan? (Spoiler: no)

I originally planned to write about how railroad company executives in the United States are holding the economy hostage so they can avoid wages increases which match inflation and giving their workers paid sick leave… but plenty of other people write about that better than I. I find it astonishing that Congress and the POTUS are avoiding the obvious solution: force a contract which gives the railroad workers what they want. Well, it’s not astonishing. The Railway Labor Act, which allows Congress to block otherwise legal strikes, gives the executives too much power and workers too little. It’s ‘rational’ for executives to abuse this imbalance by denying shipping service to force the government to impose a contract which allows them to squeeze as much as they can out of workers for profit. Workers can’t retaliate with a strike. Except… many railroad workers have been quitting for a long time because the railroad companies penalize them for going to necessary medical appointments. If the railroad companies lose too many workers to stay functional, that’s also a kind of labor strike.

Anyway, instead of writing more about that, I feel like writing about something frivolous: Japanese onsen.

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Western Europe’s Cost of Living Crisis Makes My Jaw Drop

I’ve seen numbers for how the cost of electricity and fuel in Western Europe is rising. Some Western European businesses say they can’t handle the surge in prices and that if this continues, they must close. Many people in Northern Europe need fuel to get through winter—to prevent pipes from bursting and keep the physically vulnerable alive.

All this I understand intellectually, but my feelings refuse to accept this as truth.

We’re going through our own energy crisis in California now. The heat wave has led to more air conditioning, which has overwhelmed our electrical grid. Some people (including some of my contacts) have had blackouts. This is minor compared to what Western Europe faces.

If change doesn’t happen fast, it’s obvious that some businesses will fail. (Dutch greenhouses have already closed). Jobs will be lost—and how will the people who lose their jobs pay these rising energy bills? It looks like a downward spiral. Once some of these businesses are taken down for the winter, some might not come back in spring, even if energy and fuel are cheaper.

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Will 15% of Our Society Experience Long-Covid Caused Disabilities at Once?

I’ve seen predictions that, if we don’t implement policies which do much more to restrict covid transmission, we’ll face having 15-20% of people disabled by long covid, and our society can’t handle that, therefore our society will collapse.

My prediction is that having 15% of people in the United States with a long-covid disability as severe as ME/CFS at the same time has a 5% chance of happening within the next five years.

That I don’t rule out the possibility—that I think this has over 1% chance of happening—is horrifying. But I don’t think it’s the most likely scenario.

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Buy a Product with Money, or Buy a Skill with Time?

My small net-tent under a tarp

People who are new to camping often ask, “What tent should I buy?”

My answer is, “a cheap secondhand tent, ideally from someone who has used it and can show you how to pitch it.”

Might the tent suck? Yes. That’s why you shouldn’t pay much. Never buy a secondhand tent for more than 50% of its original retail price (a few rare ‘collectable’ tents which are no longer manufactured are worth more, but if you’re that kind of connoisseur, you don’t need my advice).

You can find secondhand tents for sale at various websites, but, if possible, I recommend buying from someone you know or a local camping group. Camping enthusiasts tend to build up a collection of tents over time, and chances are some of them have tents they no longer want to keep.

If you can borrow a tent, that might be better. It’s a tradeoff between money vs. the obligation to return the tent in good condition.

As a beginner, there’s something more important than what tent you use: starting with easy conditions.

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Is it okay to enjoy reading about toxic relationships in fiction?

Sometimes, I enjoy reading about abusive relationships in fiction. This isn’t an endorsement of abuse in real life. I’m open to talking about the toxic nature of this fictional relationships (or I think I am). Yet I don’t slap on a ‘yes, I know this relationship is messed up’ disclaimer every time I mention them.

Purging fiction of all toxic behavior is ridiculous. Many people experience abuse, and they deserve to see themselves in fiction. They need to know they’re not alone.

Some time ago, I read an essay by a bookseller who feels uncomfortable whenever 12-year-olds buy Colleen Hoover books. (I haven’t read anything by CoHo). This bookseller read one of her novels and felt that it romanticized relationship abuse. She doesn’t want 12-year-olds to think that’s acceptable behavior. Yes, she sells them the books anyway upon request.

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Do young people fear asking their romantic interests out?

I observed an online chat session where people were exchanging dating advice. What struck me was how many of the people (mostly in their early 20s) seemed to not know how to ask people on romantic dates. Other people gave advice like “you got to put yourself out there, otherwise nothing happens.”

The closest thing I have to experience with romantic dating is guys asking me out. I always said ‘no.’ I have nothing against any of them, I just never wanted a boyfriend.

Intellectually, I understand that asking someone to romantically date you is hard because it feels so important and personal. Emotionally, it doesn’t feel like it should be hard. That I put such low stakes to this is a sign of how aromantic I am.

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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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This Old-School Blog Is Still a Beacon for My Weirdos

Cory Doctorow says in “So You’ve Decided to Unfollow Me”:

“…Instead of trying to figure out what some “demographic” wanted to read about, we wrote what we wanted to read, and then waited for people who share our interests to show up and read and comment and write their own blogs and newsletters and whatnot… In the golden years of internet publishing, the point was to find the weirdos who liked the same stuff as you. Freed from commercial imperatives, the focus of the blogosphere was primarily on using your work as a beacon to locate Your People, who were so diffuse and disorganized that there was no other way to find them.”

This blog started in 2012. That was the twilight of “the golden years of internet publishing.”

I keep that ethos. This blog makes friends, not money.

Doctorow says that dream is dead. Me? I don’t think so.

The blogosphere doesn’t socialize like it did a decade ago, but newcomers still pop in here. Most leave, once in a while someone stays. Maybe I’m too set in my ways to notice the withering of the blogosphere, but if so, other dreamers wander with me.

I’ve avoided the social media platforms which ‘curate’ what I see through algorithms (except Medium, in moderation, ironically that’s where I read Doctorow’s essay). I still follow some old-fashioned link blogs which curate the internet by hand.

My weirdos are welcome here, always. If someone doesn’t like this blog, they are welcome to bounce.

I don’t depend on this blog for financial support. If I did, I’d have to chase subscribers or readers who can draw advertising money, or use this blog to sell products. My freedom to do the heck I want with this blog rests on not commercializing it.

As long as some people keep non-commercial blogs running, these beacons will shine to draw our tribes.

If more people become interested, the choose-your-tribe blogosphere will rise again. If not, that’s cool too—as Doctorow says, we’re fine with unfollows. As long as the basic systems needed for old-school blogging exist, old-school bloggers will stick around. We don’t need to be commercially viable.

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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