Shirt Time

A Galveston County jury has awarded $567,000 to a former deputy constable who was allegedly sexually harassed by his female boss.

Matranga denied pulling her blouse over Gist’s head, but said she did it to other deputies. “If anybody was in a bad mood, like if Phil was in a bad mood, I would say, ‘Phil,’ or to anyone, ‘Do you need to go under the shirt?” she testified in a deposition.

She said in the deposition that she did not “shirt” Gist because he found the behavior “creepy.”

Two former employees also testified that Matranga often put other employees “under the shirt,” incessantly used profanity and constantly made references to her body parts. Matranga was dropped from the lawsuit, leaving only the county responsible for the damages.

The mind boggles.

Beware the Woo: Diet & Supplementation

A Meniere’s diagnosis is frequently a right turn into a blind alley filled with misleading information that the sufferer has a hard time navigating out of. The fact that the disease is a syndrome (a collection of symptoms) rather than a disease with a single cause and effective treatments only complicates matters. Treatments that work for one suspected cause have no effect on symptoms that emanate from another unknown cause.

This fact, that there are multiple unknown causes for the cluster of symptoms named Meniere’s Disease, stymies the efforts of the doctors and the sufferers who simply want to make the symptoms stop happening. Time and again the question arises “what else can I do to treat my symptoms?” Time and again I reiterate the kinds of suggestions that are in my treatment article:

You may notice in that article that I dismiss, almost out of hand, the John of Ohio (JoH) regimen of treatment with diet and supplements. Nearly every person who reads that article and thinks that they’ve gotten something useful out of following the JoH regimen (or some other less promoted diet and supplement con) feels they have to pipe up and protest that they get something out of elimination diets, like going gluten-free for example, or some other thing that they are convinced made their symptoms go away.

The problem with diet and especially supplement regimens is that the data is completely anecdotal and there is no way to improve on this quality. Gluten elimination, for example, serves no purpose unless you have Celiac disease. Gluten sensitivity is a chimera that can’t be substantiated; and yet I’m routinely pestered by do-gooders to give up gluten when I’ve never noticed any ill effect from it’s consumption. Over and over again I run across people with sage advice about how I can feel better if I only eat better. If I ate more greens than I do now I’d be an herbivore, and still I’m told to eat better. It drives me nuts.

Supplements themselves are a problem because they are unregulated and frequently do not contain what they claim. Fraud is rife in the supplement industry, by design. Most of the gingko biloba supplements only contain traces of it; and the effectiveness of ginkgo for treating anything is still an open question. I take fish oil on the direct orders of my physician, and I have to wonder at the plethora of choices and claims promised on the variety of fish oil supplements every time I have to go get more. Unless you have heart disease, save your time and money and just eat more fish. That’s the correct answer.

Every time I buy and take a vitamin pill I have to wonder at the compulsion we seem to feel to take just one more pill for something or the other. I tested and eliminated every supplement of the dozens I started out taking when freshly diagnosed. None of them had any effect that I could discover. Only the fish oil and the daily vitamin remain and I’d give up the daily vitamin if I could figure out which vitamin or mineral I seem to need to keep my skin reasonably healthy.

All of us engage in behavior that has no real benefit to us but makes us feel better. I like a cup of hot herbal tea when it’s time to wind down even though it’s health claims (written right there on the box) have no real meaning. So long as you keep your gluten obsession to yourself it makes little difference to me that you engage in it. It’s the insistence that everyone has to follow along in your routines or your belief in your cures is challenged is when it becomes a problem.

I would prefer that everyone found a cause and an effective treatment for their symptoms rather than be stuck with a Meniere’s disease diagnosis and left to fend for themselves, but that isn’t the world we live in. I’m doing what I can to help those people who have even fewer answers than I do by pointing them towards known causes and effective treatments. If JoH or any other diet and supplement scheme had evidence of their effectiveness I would happily suggest them too. They don’t and so I don’t. That’s the long and the short of it.

If you have the money to spend on supplements and special diets and they comfort your mind, it makes me ecstatic to know this. Please do whatever you can to feel better (just as long as you aren’t hurting anyone else to do it) with the knowledge that what you do with yourself is entirely your business. If a newly diagnosed person has the resources to try these things, great! I don’t have those resources and I don’t assume anyone else does either; so consequently my advice when choose I give it is crafted to appeal to minimum expenditures and maximum results. Feel free to embroider on it as you will, but also feel free not to tell me about it. I’ll keep enjoying my bread and herbal tea and we’ll both be as happy as we can be trapped in our little chronic illness blind alley.


It Rolls Downhill

There was a pink disk with a hole in the middle of it on the camera screen. “What is that?” We asked. The Wife looks at the image. “Oh, that’s the bottom of the cleanout cap. It must have gotten stuck in the drain.”

I remember buying that cap when the old cap had to be drilled out. I remember thinking how cool it was to be able to screw the thing down and have the friction of the gasket hold it in place. The sewer cleanout had to have a cap, and no one made caps for the drains that ran under the patio concrete; if that had even been the purpose of the fittings that were used on those pipes and if those pipes themselves had been intended to be used as sewer drains. There really was no telling, in this house.

The addon to the house that the cleanout was part of had been built by the previous owner. A do-it-yourselfer who happily nailed wood together at any angle he could make fit, left junction boxes off of electrical connections because they were an unnecessary expense and ran plumbing hither and yon with no rhyme or reason other than that was what suited him at the time.

He had trenched the yard and tied into the existing plumbing line at some point in that distant past, putting a cleanout opening in the patio concrete that he later poured, forming a permanent tripping hazard in the pathway between the garage and the house. Whether that cleanout opening is capped or not you would trip over it if I didn’t store the rolling bins directly on it just to keep myself from tripping over it every time I made the journey to and from the garage.

“The drainage lines could have all been left-over pipe from the pool he was having built at the time. Or maybe the pool lines are plumbing lines?” I shuddered at the thought. “So how did the bottom of the cap come loose again?”

“It just fell off.” The Wife said. “The plumber went to put it back on the cleanout and it just fell down in the line and whoosh it was gone.”

Whoosh. gone. “Found it.”

“There are some other serious problems with this line.” The camera-operating plumber said. “As you can see, this isn’t PVC pipe here” gesturing at the screen. “This is probably all orangeburg. Ceramic-paper pipe. Look at this junction point.” Again gesturing at the screen. “Too thick to be PVC. There is also a belly in the line here” pulling the camera back and submerging it in whatever fluid was in the sewer line.

“Where is that at?” I ask.

“Where it goes under the garage.”

The sewer line goes under the garage. Great.

I remember back to that first plumbing problem in the house. Well, not the first one. The first one was the leaky upstairs tub that the Homeshield insurance plumber couldn’t figure out. “We got to tear out this whole wall right here and redo it from the outside.” We didn’t do that. We got a different plumber and he got it to stop leaking, at least for a few years.

No, the time I was thinking about was the time when the sewers backed up into the house and came out of the downstairs sinks. That was traumatic; as in the blob coming through your drains to eat you kind of trauma. I was working fifty to sixty hour weeks at that point. The Wife was working night shifts in a call center, six months pregnant with our second child. Neither of us had time for dealing with nightmares like shit coming up out of the kitchen sink when the upstairs toilets were flushed. So we called in that name-brand service that cleans out your drains. If there was ever a job that we needed them for, this was it.

They couldn’t clean the drains out. “This cleanout isn’t big enough.” the plumber said, pointing at the ubiquitous square-topped cap on the outside wall located under virtually every kitchen sink in the world. “This is just for the kitchen drain. We need one that’s at least three inches in diameter located on the main drain line to do the job. We’ll have to cut the line about here.” Stomping on the ground. “We’ll put in a two-way so that we can clean the line in either direction.”

“Can’t you use that cleanout?” I asked, pointing to the one on the patio that they had uncovered.

“Naw, that one would only allow us to go down that addition’s lines and out to the sewer main. We got to get in the lines above the blockage which is somewhere between where that line tees in and where the main line comes out of the house.” He gestured to the ground at his feet again. “We gotta put a new cleanout here if you want us to get the upstairs drains flowing out to the sewer again.”

We said “do that” and they did that. It was the latest in a list of catastrophes. We’d just replaced the upstairs and downstairs central air units a few months previously. We found out, in the dead of winter, that mister do-it-yourself had welded a cracked heat exchanger in the upstairs furnace. This was a rookie mistake, thinking you can just weld a leaky heat exchanger. That is how you wake up dead from carbon monoxide poisoning. It nearly killed our little family.

We got the house cheap, though. Got it cheap and didn’t ask all the questions we should have. A rookie mistake on our part, too. No wonder the previous owners couldn’t get their money fast enough. First the air conditioning and now the plumbing. I didn’t have time to ask “what else can go wrong?” because I was already late for work. Always late for work back then. Always late for work and always working late. Always. We just said “do it” and she went to bed and I went to work.

There was a new cleanout in the backyard when I got home. The drains worked, so I really didn’t care that much. The plumbers looked sheepish when I talked to them. “Bunch of orangeburg down there.” They said. “Bad stuff. Tends to collapse on itself.”

“Orange paper? For sewer lines?”

“Yeah, they used it all over the area back in the sixties when they built this place. We’re always having to replace it when we find it.”

“So you replaced it?”

“Just this section we took out. There is a little section next to the house. We couldn’t get to it. It looks to be PVC in the other direction. There is a PVC tee right over here.” Stomps on the ground again, this time nearer to the giant Arizona ash that dominates the backyard. “We replaced the orangeburg down to here.”

“There’s a tee there? Where does the line go on the other side of the tee?”

“They must have replaced all the line below it when they built that addition. The tee is there to bring the addition’s plumbing to the main.”

That didn’t answer my question. I knew why the tee was there, what I didn’t know was where the drains were in the the backyard. What I did know was that if you drew a line from where the sink drains were on the back of the house, a line that connected to where the new cleanout was in the yard, and then to the place where he said the tee was, that line went directly under the ash tree and then went under the middle of the garage. “What I want to know is, where does the main go from there? Please tell me it doesn’t go under the garage.

“Can’t be under the garage. It has to go out to the creek over that way.” Gestures over his shoulder. “There is a manhole cover in the street, it probably goes down between the properties and your line dumps in there.”

Back in the present day I say “So it goes under the garage.” instead of requesting that the plumber lie to me like I did before. Of course it goes under the garage. There’s a manhole in front of the neighbor’s house, exactly where the line would come out off my property if you drew a 45 degree angle from the cleanout on the kitchen wall. Never mind that city code enforcement would never have approved a building being built over an existing sewer line like that. The do-it-yourselfer covered the line with a slab to park his camper van on without telling anyone he did that; and then, years later, built a garage on the slab that already existed and got that building permitted even though it covered the main sewer line for the house.

“Thousands of dollars. That’s what’s in my head when the revelation soaks in. This is going to cost thousands of dollars and we don’t have thousands of dollars to spend. We don’t even have the hundreds of dollars to spend that this pink hockey puck inspired sewer nightmare has cost us already.

We’re going to have to trench the entire yard, from the house to the street. We’re going to have to trench around the garage either through the place where our children buried their pets; or trench along between the garage and the house, ripping up the concrete patio that I hate and want gone anyway but can’t afford to remove. This entire scenario is a nightmare that I want to wake up screaming from, but I’m already awake and I can’t scream at the plumbers if I want to get this dilemma solved today.

Then an idea occurs in the depths of my panic. Drowning in anxiety, depression and hopelessness. Drowning in the knowledge that nothing else is going to go right for the next month or so if we can’t solve this problem quickly right here and now. The disk moved when he tapped it before. Will it move again? “Can you just poke that plastic bit a little harder? Let’s try that.”

He runs the camera back down the line to the obstruction. He pokes at the plastic disk a few times again. It doesn’t move like it did before. “This rig isn’t stout enough. Let me get the big one out of the truck.” After a few minutes of rummaging he’s back at the good cleanout, running a larger camera snake back down the pipe a second time.

The disgusting pink lozenge heaves into view again on the camera screen. He pokes at it a few times more. We can hear it plinking through the open cleanout next to us. He gives it a good poke and, suddenly, it’s gone. Like the giant pink skittle that it resembles, the plastic disk has just gone pee-0we! Straight down the drain and out of sight. The plumber runs the camera back and forth through the entire length of the sewer line a few more times. There is no pink disk to be found in either direction.

“Hungh. It’s gone as far as I can tell.”

“That’s great,” I say, walking over and putting the top of the broken cleanout cap (the useless one that he wasn’t occupying) back over the now-running drain. “I call this project completed.” He wants to talk about replacing the orangeburg and so the Wife talks about spending the money to replace the miraculously still functional sewer line. At some future date, she tells him. We’ll get back to you.

I don’t hear it. I’ve gone back inside wishing I could afford to drink heavily right then. If ever a day begged for an excuse to get sloshing drunk, this was the day. No drinking before breakfast I think to myself.

“This is a nightmare. I might as well cancel all my plans.” The Wife moans when she finally finishes talking to the plumber. “It’s going to cost a fortune to repair all this.” She plops down on the rolling office chair permanently parked in the kitchen. “I’m so depressed. What are we going to do?”

“I could be on a beach in Portugal right now.” It’s the third time I’ve said it today. “Instead I’m here. Why are we still here? We could sell it all and just move, couldn’t we? Pick out ten books we can’t part with, grab a few changes of clothes, sell everything else and move to Portugal. Live on that.”

Why Portugal? Portugal has the climate of California without having the downside of being filled with cleanse-obsessed Californians. I so want to be somewhere surrounded by people that I can pretend are different than the average idiots that seem to fill up every other place I’ve ever lived. In Portugal everyone will speak Portuguese and I won’t have to be burdened by the idiocy that they engage in because I won’t understand what it is they are talking about. It’ll take twenty years to figure out that they aren’t any different than Californians and by that time I’ll be dead. Hopefully. If I live past eighty I’ll really wish I had taken better care of myself when I was younger.

“Why do you always go there?” the Wife demands. She’s not talking about Portugal, she’s talking about my death obsession. She wants to go to Portugal too, she just doesn’t think about dying there. She never thinks about dying, while I think about it all the time. As I said, it’s an obsession.

“Why are you still asking me that question?” I shoot back. I prepared the car as a family burial shroud on every trip we’ve ever taken over the last thirty years. Every time I get on a plane or a boat or a train it’s the last thing I’ll ever do and I make a point of settling all my accounts before doing whatever that last thing that turns out not to be the last thing, is. This is an obsession that she should know about.

“We can’t just leave everything.” The Wife says. “What about the kids?”

“Fine, they can have some of the money from the sale.”

“Be serious. We need to fix this plumbing problem.”

“Why? It’s been this way since we bought the place. The drains are running. Crisis averted, yet again.”

“Those sewer pipes are going to collapse eventually. Then what happens?”

“Then we replace the much shorter line that goes to the street instead of the much longer line that I thought went out to the creek and under our neighbor’s property. As a bonus, I don’t have to explain to them why I need to dig up their yard for my sewer problem.” A conversation I was not looking forward to.

“Well, at least we know now why that Arizona Ash got so big.” The Wife said.

“Why’s that?”

“It was feeding off that orangeburg pipe. It and the other trees have been getting fed by the seepage from that sewer line.”

I hadn’t thought of that. How much of the miracle of orange paper sewer pipe still functioning sixty years later was because of the fact that most of it was covered by the garage? That the part that failed wasn’t covered by the garage? Maybe the do-it-yourselfer had inadvertently extended the life of the kludge that had been assembled back in the sixties? Houses going up all over the country, no time to kiln-fire the traditional ceramic pipe that had been used up to that point in time. They needed pipe and they needed it yesterday. How about treating paper with bitumen like we do with rooves and then just bury that in the ground? Should work, right? At least long enough for all the pipe to be replaced with that newfangled plastic pipe that was in the works.

Sure, and then another sixty years passes and everyone forgets that they put paper pipe in the ground. Until that one homeowner figures out that it was done and never replaced, because no one remembers the past and few people think about the future. The future where the garage is built over the paper pipe that needs replacing.

Well, it will give me an excuse to remove all the concrete in this backyard that I wish had never been poured. Gotta look on the bright side, right?

WOW Dead Again? Part 3

The majority of people who still want to call themselves fans push back against critiques. They will twist themselves into pretzels defending the game’s weak character creator that improved but not nearly enough, the lack of housing or meaningful options for people who don’t find M+, raiding, or ranked PvP entertaining, and so forth.

If Blizzard wants to attract new players to WoW, changes need to be made. And if changes aren’t made, the game will continue to recede in prominence and eventually go into the same maintenance mode as other games the company no longer develops actively. But in order to critique that in good faith, you kind of have to assume that this is seen as a bad thing, that this is an outcome to be avoided.

It’s that time of the WOW season again. The first raid is stale, the second raid isn’t out yet and everyone wants to declare that WOW is dead again. Every time World of Warcraft hits its current mid-expansion point, these types of critics come out of the woodwork to decry the lack of progress in the game and ask if this is the end of WOW? Again and again, like clockwork, this happens.

How do I know this? There is a reason that this article’s title is a second third installment. Unlike my feelings at the end of Cataclysm when I wrote that previous piece, I like the current expansion World of Warcraft: Dragonflight. I like it at least as much as I did Wrath of the Lich King, which was my favorite expansion prior to Dragonflight’s release. I’ve been playing this game off and on for all the years in-between these two expansion. More on than off.

I play to raid and so the current expansion suits me in a general sense. The other parts of the game are interesting, especially the wildly expanded professions and the newly created artisan’s consortium, not to mention dragonriding; but in the end I play an MMO to do MMO things like raiding, dungeoning and PVP. Should the focus of the game be taken off of raiding, M+ dungeoning & PVP? I don’t see why it couldn’t be expanded. The artisan’s consortium is a nice first attempt to make professions into a thing that might keep someone playing the game. Grinding for mats is a perennial gripe of mine; but if you are willing to pay auction house prices, those mats are there to purchase if you want those pieces of gear.

I’d like to see Classic WOW open up so that new players can actually complete content in the game without having to suck up to established guilds. The players that cling to their nostalgia won’t let that happen though. I’d like to see all the previous raids and dungeons be available for play at current endgame levels. However, expanding the endgame content to include old content cuts against the focus on new content, which attracts new players, which is what keeps the game alive and current. If the game expands in that fashion, how is that different than maintenance mode?

Blizzard clearly thinks this is the case because they intentionally level-restrict all content that isn’t part of the current expansion. They want the player base focused on the new content and not distracted by yesterday’s quests and achievements. Most players would tell you that this hurts the game, but most players are not required to make money creating games, either. Blizzard has to worry about the next bit of coding they need to do and how to keep players interested in that. That is where the costs and the profit are. Definite costs and hopeful profits.

How is catering to the individual wants of every player even an MMO? In Warlords of Draenor and in Pandaria, the developers tried their hands at providing a personal space for individual players like the MassivelyOP author laments for. Those things are still there for anyone to go back and occupy all by themselves. What, exactly, does doing things by yourself have to do with a massively multiplayer online game? World of Warcraft is not Minecraft. I suggest that if you want to build worlds of your own to play around in, find a sandbox game like that one and have a great time.

There are plenty of things to hate about anything we do on a day to day basis. If the negative of the thing I’m doing outweighs the positive I get from it, I do something else. I don’t hate-watch shows I don’t like and I don’t hate-play games I don’t enjoy. There isn’t enough time in the world if you are going to spend it doing something you don’t want to do. I’ve quit World of Warcraft before and I daresay I’ll be quitting again sometime in the future (nobody lives forever) in the meantime I play that particular MMO game to engage in battles with large groups of fellow players. Since that was what it was created for and I’m still playing it, I think it’s doing its job quite adequately.

Link to comment on MassivelyOP

The Problem Isn’t Blizzard

As I alluded to tangentially above, the problem with World of Warcraft isn’t Blizzard brass, the game developers, the programmers or even the players. It is all of those things and the human condition itself all wrapped up into one giant painful ball of generalized discontent. When it comes to getting a handle on what it is that makes gameplay in the current version of World of Warcraft so unsatisfying, even though I find the particulars of the game interesting, has been best captured by the author of this video:

Folding IdeasWhy It’s Rude to Suck at Warcraft

If you aren’t up to watching an hour and a half video on the subject, I get that. Just getting to this point in this article is going to be an achievement for some people.

I can summarize the theme of the video this way. If the criteria for success in World of Warcraft can be reduced to numbers, then the better numbers will always be seen as more successful in the game than lessor numbers are. We have turned the fun of gameplay with other humans in World of Warcraft and made it into a soulless spreadsheet of numbers that tells us whether we are winning or losing instead of just fighting those battles for ourselves right there in the game. This is true of most raiders, PVP’ers and mythic dungeon runners. They don’t just play the game, they have to verify their stats first. Then if they don’t win, they find different stats and blame the old stats or admit that they suck at World of Warcraft and are bad players.

I myself as a player cling to the edge of free play and hope to be allowed to continue just enjoying my semi-directed instrumental play without having to kill the soul of joy that is at the center of free play. But it gets harder every year to find the space to just play the game and not have to spend every minute farming for materials, reading up on fight strategies and just getting through the mechanics of each raid battle as they are presented to me and my guild raiding group.

World of Warcraft is hardly alone in this predicament. Playing any game these days can turn into a nightmare of referencing other players walk-throughs and stat write-ups just to make sure that you are playing the game the right way. Which is nuts if you think about it.

Why does it have to be this way? Because numbers are quantities and quantities can be measured. We all want to be able to determine if we are engaged in a winning strategy or not. Why waste your time on a losing strategy? The cheat sheets are out there and we know it. This number is bigger than that number? This number wins.

Whereas joy has no measurability. It’s just… Joy. So if you find joy pretending to be a hobbit that doesn’t wear shoes and walks (not runs or rides) everywhere (the amalgamated player referenced in the video) your joy is going to be destroyed by the number crunchers who are driven to win at any cost. Because they will make you put on shoes and run if you need to run. Or if you just want to not run another Mythic+ dungeon this week and because of that you don’t get the best stats possible on your trinket when it drops (an actual incident also related in the video) you can be kicked out of your guild for not being dedicated enough. This is what happens when you value numbers over companionship, over humanity.

So we have created this monster that is World of Warcraft or more generally, online competitive gaming. Can there really be winning and losing in this kind of game, where everything can be reduced to numbers and strategies, incorporated into documentation or an addon like WeakAuras and widely distributed? Where do we go next when everything that we might encounter in the gaming world has been done by somebody somewhere else before, better, faster and stronger? Where is your joy then?

I just play the game man. That’s what I always try to do. Just play the game. Don’t ask me to read cheat sheets, please. If I feel I need a cheat sheet I can find them all by myself.

Elitist Jerks

I wrote the second part above reflecting on the tone of the comment that started this thing. I’m enjoying my single-player experience in Dragonflight quite a bit (a nice change that hasn’t been present in World of Warcraft in quite awhile. Pandaria? Probably Pandaria, but that was after nearly quitting during Cataclysm. I liked Legion but wasn’t there for most of it. I should have skipped out for all of Warlords, too. All of these thoughts are recorded here on the blog if you are interested enough to go looking for them) Then I noticed a reply or two coming in on the original comment that started this article.

There was some spittle-flecked hatred revealed when I went there again; that, and one gentle note from an editor letting me know that Massively OP wasn’t some fly-by-night operation. They’d been talking about World of Warcraft for eight years now. Very professional. They were very professionally deleting all the comments that included links back to my originally published content here (thereby leaving me there like a sitting duck, the punishment for saying anything at all on their Elitist Jerk of a site) so I very politely let her know that I had been writing here since 2008 so I thought that I had them beat when it came to years writing on the subject, and thanked her for letting me know that they were going to last longer than say, Gamebreaker, the first website that I ran across predicting the end of WoW back in 2013. I won’t hold my breath in anticipation of the collapse of either Blizzard or Massively OP, but I wouldn’t put money on Blizzard or World of Warcraft failing anytime soon.

I wrote my own tale of the end of World of Warcraft for me in 2022:

I end that article with a quote from Eliot Lefebvre, the same author that I quote at the beginning of this article. He blames Blizzard there just as he blames it here. He’s consistent, at least. I find myself enjoying Dragonflight more than I thought I would; more than I wanted to, even. My complaints about the constrained nature of endgame gameplay that I voice in that article still ring true to me today. I really am about done spending time in the game unless they come up with something new to do (I’ve run through everything more than once and I’m losing interest in the reputation… errr, renown grinds, same as always) but we’re about due for another raid so I’ll bide my time for a little while longer and see what happens next patch.

The difference between me and Eliot is plainly obvious to me; he’s looking for a scapegoat and I want to understand why I am not happy playing this game I’ve spent so much time involved in. His rants appear weekly on Massively OP, the hell that waits for all critics willing to do the work of critiquing a dozen different games all at the same time. He has my sympathy there. My rants appear here when I feel like writing them. I win.

Then the replies to my reply to the editor show up, and one of them is the kind of Gish Gallop (GG) that I’ve come to expect from believers who really don’t understand what it is they want but want to impress you with their ability to dissect your words nine ways from Sunday. Eliot Lefebvre quotes the most objectionable part of that GG in his comment:

Weird flex, considering most of the former WoW players here have also been playing since the game launched, so on that camp, we’ve been playing longer than you, but ok. Back in my day, you would have been called a Wrath baby.

Making fun of newbs, as if it’s laudable behavior. They unashamedly make fun of newbs, applaud making fun of newbs, but can’t seem to figure out why no one new wants to join in the games they love. I think I see the problem here.

In the For What It’s Worth department I have this; World of Warcraft wasn’t worth playing until the Wrath of the Lich King expansion (I didn’t bother signing up early for reasons I go into in my End of WoW article) and the game went totally sideways after Wrath trying to win back the love of the Elitest Jerks who hated Wrath and the inclusiveness it brought to the game. A fact which Eliot Lefebvre himself acknowledges while still making fun of newbs. Go figure.

In classic Wrath they didn’t include the limited ability to form groups that was present in the original game, instead opting for the kind of exclusive setup that made Vanilla and BC a wretched hell to attempt to play in, if what you wanted to do was group content and didn’t already have a raid group you were working with.

I have that kind of support in retail WoW, but that group doesn’t want to go anywhere near Classic in any form. Which I don’t blame them for. It’s hard to navigate those games and I’ve basically given up on them because I’m not going to buy gold on the black market so I can pay someone to carry me through content or spend the months of work required to make new lifelong friends in a game that I won’t be playing in two years.

Which is the ultimate problem with WoW as it was originally conceived. It did build friendships that lasted, but it wasn’t something that was going to last as long as the friendships did. Which meant that requiring the building of that kind of trust and reliance in order to play a game that would be gone in two years was an emotional overinvestment on each individual players part. A fact that still pisses most of those players off even twenty years later.

I’m still a newb according to the Elitist Jerks though. Great. I designed buildings in the real world when I was a working stiff but somehow that knowledge and experience just doesn’t carry any weight with people who wasted twenty years playing a game that I’ve only enjoyed playing for 14 or 15 years.

I really would like to try to explain the facts of life to these people. The facts of life when it comes to creating something real. Something real like a game or a computer system or a building that works well enough to live in; as opposed to just making fun of the people who do put things together but somehow fail to read the critics mind in advance. If I try to do that legwork I’m going to fail based solely on the herculean nature of the task of communicating that breadth and depth of knowledge in a few short paragraphs. Designers struggle with these kinds of problems every single day and every single project is different in some fundamental way.

If it could be done that easily, the architectural design website I envisioned thirty years ago would be as old as World of Warcraft is now. The knowledge is too unwieldy to be communicated that easily. The lack of vision inherent in the non-designing mind dooms the process from the beginning. If you aren’t a designer then you only know what you like when you stumble upon it somewhere else, disconnected from the thing you want to add it to. The process of incorporating what you like into the thing you already have will require compromise and streamlining and in the end the thing may or may not even be worth the time it takes to find out if it is possible to execute or not.

What I hear from the Eliot Lefebvre’s out there is a lot of small complaints, things like making space in World of Warcraft for housing. Sounds great, right? Your own house in WoW? I mean, I bought houses in Skyrim when I was playing it while not playing Legion, why can’t I have a house in WoW? For starters it would entail huge swathes of game real estate for individual houses that others could visit; or it would require phased housing like the garrisons were, for individuals to sit in by themselves. It doesn’t seem like much of a game sitting alone in your house, but I know a few players who filled their Skyrim houses up with every piece of cheese they could find in the game, so I guess for some people the idea of game is a little looser than it is for other people. There are dozens of places to go for this kind of entertainment already (I’ve already mentioned one. The GG’er mentioned two others. In code. Which I’m not going to bother to decode to reference. Screw ’em) Blizzard could and might even eventually do the background work to make this demand happen. Will it be worth it? I highly doubt it.

Trading Post clothing fails to render.

GG also wanted to know why they can’t design their own appearance? Every unique appearance has to be stored in the game and communicated to everyone who runs across that appearance in game. When that appearance fails to load you get a wardrobe malfunction like this one. Even if the unique appearance does load successfully, it impacts rendering times across the entire game. In every mentioned change in every article ever written critiquing Blizzard for their failure to deliver on promises and functions found in other games, there is some calculation-saving reason not to do whatever it is, so that the game plays smoother and loads faster.

I don’t know which games the GG’er is playing but I’ve played Red Dead Redemption 2. I’ve seen the kinds of character customizations that are possible in that game. Why can’t World of Warcraft do that? Red Dead Redemption is a dedicated console game that works best for single player scenarios. Throw in a thousand or a million other Arthurs or John Marstons all with their unique outfits and unique housing and you might begin to see the kind of impediment that calculation burden entails.

All down the line, without exception, there is some calculation saving compromise that goes into why this or that thing doesn’t appear in World of Warcraft or any other computer game that has ever existed. That ever will exist. Because in the end, if you can’t play the game on the system that you have in front of you at the moment, that game might as well not exist at all. That game will not make money from you and from X% of all the other potential players out there, and making money is how you stay in business.

Blizzard, with all its faults, has managed to produce a playable, enjoyable game based on something like the same universe for twenty years. It could have been better, but wasn’t. How many other games are still out there being played by millions of people that were first put on the market that long ago? While I hated Shadowlands and played as little of that expansion as I was required to play in order to raid (and the unpopularity of that expansion shows in the fact that the current game play-line skips it; going straight from BFA to Dragonflight) Dragonflight seems a lot more like Wrath than any expansion since Wrath has been. Which I personally will count as a success. If this is the last expansion of the game then so be it. It will have gone out on a high note at least.

Snovid Anniversary

On the first anniversary of the SnoVID power blackout I laid out the story of my great uncle, Roger Heim. I thought it was relevant, facing the impending probabilty of going without power again for an extended period of time, potentially not surviving until the power came on again.

It’s possible. I need electricity to run some essential devices (CPAP, for one) the absence of which could cause traumatic loss of life. So I need the electricity to be on, and I need it to be on reliably. January 2023 saw a localized repeat of the power outages that were statewide in 2021, proving that the claims of Governor Abbott were the bullshit I knew them to be. The grid was not safe. Our power could be turned off for days for no good reason and there wasn’t a thing we could do about it.

Gross Negligence

I titled my original piece on the SnoVID debacle Guaranteed City Services for a very good reason. The City of Austin’s self-owned electric provider has gotten pretty lackadaisical over the last decade or so. They don’t seem as interested in making sure the power stays on all over the city all the time. The month of the SnoVID event marked two or three outages of more than a few minutes. I couldn’t even tell you how many times the power might periodically simply just turn off in the neighborhood over the months before and after. Ten? Twenty times? Who knows. I lost count.

After the grid service smoothed back out and returned to what Texas calls normal operations (but is still pretty sub-par) the power in the neighborhood was reliably on far more often than it had been up to that point. I had hopes that Austin would at least have learned a lesson from that catastrophe.


This last January proved those hopes to be unfounded. Both Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk and AustinEnergy’s manager Jackie Sargent were in charge during the SnoVID event. Both of them should have understood what it meant to be prepared for a hazardous winter storm. They clearly did not do their jobs and should be summarily fired for their failures. The power was off for three days because of a light dusting of ice across the city. I don’t want to hear about trees or power lines or any other bullshit excuses. Those crews should have been on standby and the power should have been restored across the city within hours, not days.

The storm my uncle Roge sat for a month without power in, hunting geese and squirrels and whatever else he could find to shoot and eat and survive for another day, that storm dumped a total of eight feet of snow across the entire midwest. Our power stayed on in our little town of four thousand people. The crews were out working day and night to make sure that the power stayed on, if that was what it took. That was the job they were paid to do, and they did their job. Which is more than I can say for the people who run the City of Austin.

This is 2023, I hear you saying. You can buy battery backups and solar power panels and personal wind turbines. You don’t need the grid to be up 24/7 anymore. Get with the times! That’s great. Sure. I could buy all those things. I probably will forego the rarified monthly dinner out in exchange for buying a battery backup that will power my CPAP machine, charge my phone and whatever else I can afford to pay to keep running. Probably not much. I’m disabled. I don’t have a lot of time, energy or money to devote to solving the Texas power grid problem for myself, personally.

Either we are living in a world where we can rely on our neighbors to have our backs, rely on our government to keep the power on and to provide basic city services as if they were guaranteed, or we are living in a anarchist hellhole where only the wealthy can buy a ticket out. We need to decide which version of this story we want to be in. Soon.

Lots of Luck in Your Senior Year

Honestly? I don’t give a shit about the State of the Union Address. I don’t watch it, not since they started this “rebuttal” nonsense. It’s just theater, a moment for every wealthy politician and rich pundit to tell you how terrible everything is. There’s no meaningful content.

I don’t watch rebuttals. They are always embarrassing. Rubio with the water bottle. Bad sets. Bad speeches. Bad intent. Always. Embarrassing. Let’s face it, you can’t rebut a non-factual hour-long feel good ramble. You can’t do it, not without looking like the dickheads that you are. So just stop doing it. Let the President have his jollies for that one day a year.

Or maybe not. Maybe we should treat the SOTU like the Prime Minister’s questions:

The style and culture of PMQs has changed gradually over time. According to former Speaker Selwyn Lloyd, the now famous disorderly behaviour of MPs during PMQs first arose as a result of the personal animosity between Harold Wilson and Edward Heath; before this PMQs had been lively but comparatively civilised.

Maybe that’s what Marjorie Taylor Greene will be remembered for. The Congresswoman who introduced cage fighting to the SOTU. In that dystopian future, in a dark chamber lit by torchlight, they’ll eat the raw human flesh of their defeated opponents and shout her name in praise. Probably.

In the meantime her behavior warrants censure. Don’t hold your breath waiting for… Kevin McCarthy (I keep forgetting his name) to punish her. He already gave her his balls. Actually, George Anthony Devolder Santos (who shouldn’t have been seated in congress since we don’t know his real name) has one of his balls. Marjorie Taylor Greene has the other one. So their both safe from punishment for the term of this Congress.

…and they wonder why we don’t hate Joe Biden, don’t take them seriously when they say we should hate Joe Biden with them. Why would we believe anything any of them say? The Republican brand is falsehood now. Corruption has become a Republican stock in trade. They stole the anarchist/libertarian mantra “government doesn’t work,” and then proceeded to make government work even worse than before they were in power (Everyone still remembers the CoVID plague, right? Trump pretending it wasn’t happening for a year? Glad we all still remember that) Same people, even crappier government.

Joe Biden said he’d run for President and the entire country screamed THANK GOD (even the atheists) and voted for him. Two years later, in the midst of the unavoidable post-plague inflation (seriously, there are no cars for sale at a reasonable price, anywhere) the country starts to have second thoughts about Joe Biden’s leadership and they let a few too many crazies into the House of Representatives again.

That forgettable guy (googling again) Kevin McCarthy, who doesn’t win the speakership on the first vote (because he can’t count) doesn’t win the speakership until fourteen votes later, after he’s cut off his own balls with a rusty knife and handed them out as souvenirs to the would-be Republican majority, finally gets to be Speaker of the House. In name only, apparently.

No one in his caucus pays any attention to him. He tells them all to be adults during the SOTU and they shout and chant and act like British MP’s (worse than spoiled children) …and Joe Biden loves it. He eats it up. This is his natural environment, being in the scrum of the legislature.

NPR Politics – Biden had a sick burn in his State of the Union speech. ‘Lots of luck’ explaining it – February 9, 2023

They basically hand Joe Biden a win without his even having to try hard. Which is the way this entire two years is going to go for What’s His Name and his non-majority in the House of Representatives. I hate to break it to you guys, but this isn’t going to end well for any of you no matter how 2024 turns out.

The only personal observation that I will make about Joe Biden’s SOTU speech is that I really missed Barack Obama by the end of it. There has never been a better speaker than him in the White House. Those were some sweet, sweet days. I’ll probably never see days that good again.

As for rebuttals, there has only been one President in my lifetime that was so incapable of making sense that he needed someone to come after him and correct his lies. That would be Donald Trump, and I avoided his bullshit like the toxic plague it was so didn’t need the redirect. Trump’s second-string press mouthpiece, the now Governor of Arkansas (bet you guys miss Bill Clinton now, don’t you?) Sarah Huckabee-Sanders didn’t do herself any favors trying to rain on Joe Biden’s parade. All Rubio did was awkwardly reach for water.

Some of this was posted on twitter.

Why I Hate Texas

They’re right. This is totally Texas in a nutshell. Exhibit A for why I hate Texas. I have a problem with being told that I have to trust in their god. If I don’t trust in their god or accept their god as my god, I should leave.

This sign is 100% political posing. Christmas is a secular holiday, it is the requirement of the holiday being named Christmas and being placed on the calendar of a country that does not have an official religion. There is no controversy about the name of the holiday so it isn’t politically correct or incorrect to call it anything other than what the name of the holiday is. Don’t like it? Tough. That’s the way it is. That is the way that law works. The way that law is supposed to work, anyway. This is why there aren’t nativity scenes on public property unless there’s going to be every other kind of religious symbolism invited to sit right alongside it. The holiday isn’t about Jesus even though it’s named for the Catholic celebration of Christ’s birth. Christmas is officially the name of the secular solstice holiday in the United States and so call it Christmas and then explain it to the Trumpists as many times as it takes until it sinks in.

However, Texas is Trumpist land, which is why I hate Texas even though I still live here. Trumpists as a rule are prosperity gospel Christianists. They want us all to worship their capitalist god, even though that god can’t be the god that Jesus was talking about.

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:24

If your imaginary friend (this guy you call god that rewards you with wealth for proper christian living) is not only invited to this party but is going to be put in charge of it; then I’d like to introduce you to my friend, the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM). The FSM doesn’t have a problem with anybody, not even you. The FSM doesn’t need to be worshiped or even acknowledged. The FSM doesn’t have a Hell because everyone gets to go to his heaven that is stocked with beer volcanos and robot hookers at your beck and call. The FSM would like to be in charge though, if it’s all the same to you. So let’s pit our two imaginary friends against each other and see which one of them recruits more followers. I’m betting it’s going to be the one offering free beer and hookers.

The national motto is “e pluribus unum” and not “in god we trust.” Why? Because the United States is a secular country. You can try and destroy our country, Trumpists, and make it into the country you think it should be, a Christian nation, but you will do it over the dead bodies of the majority of your countrymen. You should think about the odds of that effort being successful before heading any further down this road.

You don’t salute your flag, you walk all over it:

Trumpists don’t support the troops unless they are protecting other Trumpists, and then only as long as it doesn’t personally cost them anything to be respectful. If respecting means paying for their medical bills or helping them deal with mental health crisis or making sure that they have a place to sleep and food to eat, then Trumpists will pretend those troops weren’t the right kind of troops and so don’t have to be respected.

How do I know that the sign hanger was a Trumpist? No one but a Trumpist would think this stupid sign would mean anything in the first place. I’m owning the libs. Sure you are. Keep talking buddy.

Beware the Woo: Antivax

I come from a family of science deniers. My mother and her family were Christian Scientist, mostly without my direct knowledge, going back at least two generations. I haven’t established yet who in the clan started following Christian Science first and brought everyone else along with them to share in the fun; but the fact is that the denial of science, medical science, runs deep in my family.

While my mother did stop going to prayer rooms to pray her diseases away, she never stopped repeating her mantra doctors don’t know anything. I believe she became a nurse later in life specifically to hack the system, to get her ideas about health and wellness into the practice of medicine. Ideas that included kinesiology and homeopathy and other things that I frankly didn’t start writing this article in order to discuss (those subjects are for another article. Or three. –ed.) I started this article many years ago without knowing that I had started it. I started it by being supportive of being vaccinated among the descendants of people who have questioned the validity of medical science all their lives.

Don’t get me wrong here. I have most of my vaccinations. I have them because my mother was not given any choice on the subject. Either I and my siblings would be vaccinated or we wouldn’t be allowed to attend public school in our small Kansas town, and she wanted her children to have an education even if she wasn’t especially fond of doctors and their poking, prodding intrusions.

So we got vaccinated because none of us had medical profiles that would have flagged us for being unfit for vaccination, as it should be. That didn’t stop our mother from sending us to Pox parties anyway.

Imagine my horror when it was brought to my attention that this was still a thing several decades after an effective vaccine for Chicken Pox was introduced. I doubt you can envision the state of rage that I was in at the time. Feel free to make the attempt anyway.

I had my moments of vaccine hesitation when my children were old enough to start getting their vaccines. By the time our son was old enough to get the last round of vaccinations, new vaccines had come out for Hepatitis B and of course we ran across enough internet cross-talk at the time to convince us to delay his course of vaccination for six months or so. But those fears passed because they turned out to be as baseless as all the other fears have been, and we went ahead and allowed him to get his last round of shots, shots that didn’t cause him to drop dead or get autism or any number of other stupid things that you read about on the internet.

If I’ve learned one thing about the internet it is that you don’t want to trust Dr. Google when it makes medical recommendations. Time after time Dr. Google gives me quack information layered in with solid information, and I have to spend time trying to sort out the difference every time I do a search on any subject that is medically related. Dr. Google and Dr. Facebook have done more to advance vaccine hesitancy in the last twenty years than any previous groups of quacks have done in their entire lifetimes.

It was because of this experience, attempting to treat a little-known and routinely misunderstood disease/syndrome in a universe seemingly dominated by quackery and fraudsters, that I stumbled across an announcement on a website and podcast that I know and trust:

…the antivaccine movement is more powerful than ever, having reached a level of mainstream influence that we at SBM would never have thought possible, even in 2019. Indeed, after the unexpected passing of Dr. Hall last week, antivaxxers swarmed on her social media, blaming her death on COVID-19 vaccines, as they have for so many over the last two years. That’s why we at SBM are happy to be holding a virtual screening of a new documentary on vaccines, vaccine hesitancy, and the antivaccine movement, Virulent: The Vaccine War.

I signed up to watch the movie almost as soon as I heard of its existence and the screening they were offering. If you too plan on watching it I wouldn’t bother watching the trailer:

I wouldn’t bother watching the trailer because it is essentially just the first five minutes of the movie, slightly edited. If you are even tempted to watch the movie, just ante-up and watch it. Don’t feel like you have to attend the panel next Sunday (7 PM, January 29, 2023) although I do intend to sit in and watch the Q&A myself. This is personal for me.

The movie could have been more hard-hitting, as far as I’m concerned. They could have gone into the fact that there is a fund for those people demonstrably harmed by vaccines, a fact that counters most of the arguments raised by those who cry foul because they believe they or a loved one was harmed. They could have taken apart the lies put forth by the leaders of the antivax movement in a point by point fashion (this is how I would have approached creating a documentary myself) what they did do works and probably will be persuasive to a large group of the population. The problem with this movie is the same problem that exists for vaccination itself. The people who need to watch the movie and take the lessons to heart will not bother to watch it, just as they will not bother to get vaccinated.

My version of Meniere’s disease is probably autoimmune related. My immune system was compromised when I was born and it has never recovered from whatever that initial shock was that has left me borderline asthmatic and seemingly allergic to everything I’m exposed to in the environment. I catch almost every communicable disease that I comes my way. I have never stopped wearing the N95 masks that COVID-19 made ubiquitous because I feel better when I wear one, even indoors.

…and still, I get all my vaccinations even though every single one of them makes me ill when I get them. I get them because the vaccination is easier to deal with than the actual infection is, and the vaccination is less likely to kill me than the pathogen I’m hopefully being immunized against. I get my shots because I care about the people around me. I get my shots because I care about maintaining my own health.

I should have stopped while I was ahead. I had a concession. She had said “I’ll get my flu shot and my kids a flu shot soon.” But I had already replied to her friend by the time she said this. Had already uttered the forbidden word mandatory in that next comment. So out the window went the concession. Out the window went common sense and decency. I was one of them. A state-ist. Someone willing to use force to ensure that the public good was observed.

This argument was about the flu vaccine. It wasn’t the first argument I’ve gotten into concerning health and safety, and it certainly won’t be the last. But this one was about the vaccine and the swelling influenza outbreak all across the US that year. Her friend had piped up that he wasn’t going to get a flu vaccination. Had never had one, had no intention of ever having one. The thread asked the question Anyone had a flu shot and still got the flu? This should have been my first clue about who I was dealing with. You can’t catch the flu from the flu vaccine. It simply can’t happen.

No immunization is 100% effective, and flu shots are less effective than immunizations for many other diseases, like measles. By one estimate, 33 to 100 healthy adults have to be vaccinated to prevent one case of influenza symptoms. But that one case might be you. It’s like insurance. How many houses have to be insured against fire for one house to burn and get a payout? Does anyone say, “I don’t need insurance because I’ve never had a fire”?

Immunization is a public health issue. Immunization protects the immuno-compromised from diseases that might kill them by providing a herd immunity shield around them, as well as protecting the individual from disease. So it isn’t just for you that you get a shot. You get it for any babies you might come in contact with, or any elderly that you might encounter. You don’t want to pass diseases to them and cause their deaths by accident. That is why you get your shots. Now, I’m a bit more militant on this subject than the average speaker. I come down hard on the side of the necessity of vaccination, even flu vaccination. I am one of those people who will likely die from catching some disease or other from someone who didn’t get their shots like they were supposed to. There is no demonstrable harm in getting the vaccination regularly. Vaccinations do n0t increase toxins. A flu vaccination can’t give you the flu. Antivaxxers pursue a demonstrably false narrative when they lay blame on vaccination for the many ills that plague modern man. There is no good reason out there to not get your vaccinations regularly other than out-of-pocket expense.

Are there people who become sick right after having gotten the flu shot? Of course, and it’s an illness they had likely caught before the shot and it took a few days for symptoms to appear, or it’s just coincidence (and it may or may not be the flu). The flu shot takes two weeks to confer protection, and it takes 2-5 days to incubate a flu virus. A person who does come down with the flu within a week of getting the shot was already infected when they got the vaccine.

Public health is where libertarian ideals, where the ideas of individualism, fall apart; and they fall apart because there is no way to address the needs of large groups of people if you don’t allow that the needs of the many can outweigh the whims of the individual. This is an error in US public health, this illusion of choosing whether you will abide by good public health practices. If a reliable universal influenza vaccine is discovered, I would push to have it put on the list of mandatory vaccinations given to children and adults, because no one should be able to chose to let someone else die from preventable disease.

This internet friend tried to insist that no vaccinations are mandatory! So how dare I try to force her to get one? However, vaccinations are mandatory in many places in the world, including most US states (the sensible states) some states have recently allowed religious exemptions that open the barn door to all kinds of kooky ideas that end up destroying the purpose of public health. California mercifully has reversed course and removed the non-medical vaccination exemption from the laws in their state. I wish more states would follow that example.

If you looked online for mandatory vaccinations back in 2018 when I had this argument I’m relating here, you would have seen that the woo was strong with Natural News and other purveyors of the antivax hysteria. Google ranked their sites as being worthy of quoting on the first page of results, as if those sites were an authority on the subject of public health. In the years since the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant pandemic of misinformation lead by the then-sitting President, Dr. Google has started to wrest back control of what gets spread as truth on the internet. I wonder if their discovery that they were destroying confidence in public health has happened soon enough, or is it already too late?

The argument with my online friend went rapidly downhill from the point of disagreement about mandatory vaccinations and she blocked me and went her separate way shortly after that revelation. Letting her children and herself be plague spreaders, no different than the zombies they resemble in behavior if not in appearance. Libertarian zombies roaming free across the land, spreading plague wherever they go.

If we don’t want to be forced to vaccinate, then the public health systems have to be crafted in such a way that rewards accrue towards acting in a positive public health fashion. The US currently has the world’s best cancer outcomes. No one treats cancer better than the US does because there is a lot of money to be made treating it, and desperate people with money who also have cancer will pay all of that money to be cured of their cancer. Anyone with money will spend all they have to enjoy one more day of life. We just don’t bother preventing cancer, or engaging in most other preventive strategies.

Like what you ask? How about bonuses for getting your vaccinations? Rewards for used rubbers turned in at a pharmacy as proof of safe sexual practice? OK, that’s a little gross, but how about not punishing women for taking precautions before engaging in sexual behavior? Birth control pills, morning after pills, all free and available for the asking. If the system was set up to reward good behavior, you would be paid to go to your annual physical. Paid a bonus for getting a cancer screening. Paid to get your vaccinations regularly.

The list of things we don’t do to encourage good health is dwarfed only by the things that produce bad health outcomes that are rewarded in the current system. Poor people economize on health because it costs money they don’t have. They don’t get regular checkups. They don’t get vaccinations. They go to work sick because they can’t afford to stay home. They eat cheap food which also happens to be bad for them because economics dictates what food is cheapest, and sugars (all carbohydrates) are cheap and plentiful while protein is harder to find and more expensive to buy. Bad health gets more expensive the longer it is left untreated, and in the end society picks up the cost because we don’t want to see people dying penniless on the streets. We pay more for healthcare now because we designed the system to perform this way.

That is the movie I’d like to see made, one that details how we could improve on the ductape and bailing wire assemblage that barely manages to maintain public health in the United States. The vaccine war is being fought today precisely because of the failings of our current healthcare system and our unwillingness to prosecute fraudsters like Andrew Wakefield, Robert Kennedy Jr., Del Bigtree, Bob Sears and so, so many others. We have to come to grips with the fact that fraud is a crime and that lying about known facts for the purposes of profit is fraud and should be prosecuted as such. If destroying the organized antivax movement doesn’t prove enough to see 90% uptake on life-saving vaccinations, then we can talk about moderating parental control in such a way that we can ensure that children grow up as healthy as we can reasonably be expected to guarantee.

Whether a free society can exist or not is going to be dictated by individuals being motivated to do the right thing without being compelled to do so. If you really cherish your freedom, you had better be sure that you are operating based on the best information available and not just the information that makes you feel better. Information that panders to your innate fears.

There is a price for knowledge. When we say that a vaccine is effective, there is a price for that. There is probably no better example of that than the Polio story. When Jonas Salk made his Polio vaccine there was going to be a big so-called phase three trial. 420,000 children were going to get his vaccine, 200, 000 children were going to get placebo. So the trial was completed and it was found to be remarkably safe and effective; and then Thomas Frances stood up on the podium and said three words: safe, potent and effective.

He knew it was effective because sixteen children died from Polio, all in the placebo group. He knew it was effective because thirty-six children were permanently paralyzed in the placebo group. That broke Jonas Salk’s heart. He couldn’t conscience giving 200,000 children salt water in the midst of what he knew was a yearly Polio epidemic. So it’s those gentle heroes we left behind who were never acknowledged because we were so busy celebrating that vaccine that we forgot exactly how we knew it was effective.

Paul A. Offit – Virulent: The Vaccine Wars

Idiopathic Endolymphatic Hydrops

There is a need in the human psyche for certainty. It isn’t enough to simply prove that someone is suffering a particular set of symptoms, and to give that set of symptoms a name. The sufferers and the caregivers want to know what causes the symptoms. Why am I made to suffer this way?

There is no cause for Meniere’s by definition. Meniere’s is idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops, an inner ear fluid imbalance that has no known cause. That is what the name means. When you find a cause, those cases of endolymphatic hydrops are no longer idiopathic and so they cease to be known as Meniere’s and are known by another name even though the day before the cause was established those sufferers were lumped in with the rest of the Meniere’s sufferers.

AIED was Meniere’s. TMJ was Meniere’s. Semicircular Canal Dehiscence was Meniere’s. This list grows ever longer with each newly discovered cause. There will soon be a name for virally induced endolymphatic hydrops because we are clearly on the road to establishing that as a cause. There are other iterations of AIED that have not had a cause established yet and they’ll probably get lumped in as AIED-? When tests and treatments are developed after the causes are established. That is how this process we call science works.

In my years, decades now, of traveling the interwebs among my fellow sufferers, I have found people who have each and every cause that can be listed; from vascular to autoimmune to viral to trauma to metabolism to just insisting that Meniere’s is idiopathic, that there is no determinable cause at all. I have met each and every one of these people individually online. They all equally have Meniere’s. They have it because they have the symptoms in common with all their fellow sufferers. Singling out one cause for the disease and excluding all the others kicks those people who identify with all the other potential causes out of the family we either have established or can establish in the future.

In my estimation, even those people who never had idiopathic endolymphatic hydrops, because the cause of their symptoms is known, should still be considered a fellow sufferer so long as they have the same set of symptoms that I do, that most of us do. Ear pressure, tinnitus, hearing loss and rotational vertigo. If you have those symptoms then you are part of my family of sufferers and I’m here to support you in any way I can. While I need an explanation for my symptoms and will welcome the day the explanation is known, I’m not willing to throw any of my fellow sufferers overboard just to prove that my Meniere’s is the only Meniere’s that there is. Idiopathic may define Meniere’s scientifically, but suffering is universal and should be acknowledged wherever it is revealed. That is what it means to be humane.

Beware the Woo: Nausea Relief Bands

Once upon a time there was a show that specialized in debunking the myths that surround us on a daily basis. That show was called Mythbusters. Unfortunately for those of us still trapped in the real world of today, Mythbusters only ran for 20 seasons and their last season was in 2016. The show ended the year where it seemed we needed mythbusting the most and the real world has only gotten more mythbegotten since 2016. Beware the Woo is a tribute to the science that was present in-between the explosions that were in pretty much every episode of Mythbusters.

The Wife handed me a set of flimsy little fabric sweatbands. On the insides of the bands there were these little plastic dimples. I just looked at her.

“Those go against the bottoms of your wrists.” She said. “They worked wonders for me when I was pregnant. Give them a try, please? It can’t hurt.”

She was right. It couldn’t hurt. Nothing else had worked for me so far in the vertiginous hellhole that had opened up and threatened to consume me since my Meniere’s symptoms had accelerated and started to occur almost weekly. So I placed the little plastic bumps in what I thought was the right place on my wrist and wore the glorified sweatbands around for weeks. It felt like weeks, at least.

The vertigo, nausea and vomiting happened anyway so I threw them away in disgust and went on to the next thing, which was probably dosing myself with meclizine if I remember my timeline correctly. Who can say? I really can’t say for certain because I had forgotten everything about those silly little wristbands until this post appeared on the subreddit a few days ago:

I was wondering if anyone else had tried a ReliefBand yet and what their experiences were.


I didn’t understand the reference at first. I though they meant Sea-Bands, which was the sweatband with the plastic pimple on the inside. So I riffed on that subject for a bit before I even googled ReliefBand and discovered that it was basically a wrist-mounted TENS unit that sent electric shocks into the point on the wrist that the Sea-Bands just pressed on. A wrist-mounted TENS unit that costs a few hundred dollars. I would have sworn I’d never heard of them before. Then I googled a little further and I discovered that there was a Mythbuster’s episode on the subject:

…an episode where they not only tested the Sea-Bands but they tested a version of the ReliefBands and about a half-dozen other anti-nausea myths. The only thing that proved to work reliably was taking a ginger tablet when you feel nauseous. I drink a ginger beer when my stomach starts to give me trouble, so this result doesn’t surprise me. I probably picked up the idea of eating ginger for tummy troubles from watching this very episode and then forgot all about it.

In a nutshell the idea that you can quell nausea by poking the P6 spot on your wrist is quackery. There is no established (or establishable) mechanism for these bands to do anything at all, much less reduce nausea. The Sea-Bands that I was mistaking the ReliefBands for work on exactly the same (non)principle. The P6 spot is an acupuncture point:

This wrist acupoint is known by various names: the Nie-Guan point, pericardium 6 or, more commonly, P6. Look for the skin crease that denotes where your palm ends and your wrist begins, and go down the wrist two to three fingers’ width, and you will have found P6.

…and acupuncture is a pre-scientific attempt to explain why people get sick by ascribing healing and or sickness causing powers to rivers and streams of Qi (Chi) energy that supposedly flows through the body, power that can be harnessed by doing an oriental version of bloodletting; now reformed into sticking needles into your body, although some practitioners will still practice a version of bloodletting in certain circumstances. (see cupping. –ed.) The premise that both these types of bands are supposed to work on is the same one as the acupuncture point they utilize. One type of band is just more expensive than the other and has electrical stimulation to make it seem more effective.

…On the other hand if you convince yourself that these bands work and that stops the symptoms then there is no reason not to keep using them. I mean, you’ve already spent the money, might as well get your use out of the device. Half of the problem of dealing with symptoms is just reassuring yourself that you are dealing with them, even if the thing you are doing is just reassuring yourself. There is no arguing with what works. However, if all you are doing is tricking yourself into a feeling of non-nauseous normalcy, you could also trick yourself with a free piece of string tied around the same place on your wrist. Or any old bangle that creates the sensation that you associate with preventing the nausea.

The Wife says I’m an asshole on this subject. She still swears the Sea-Bands worked for her. She swore that even after watching the same Mythbusters episode that I now remember watching with her and the children; although she did question the wisdom of a wrist-mounted TENS unit when I brought up the subject of the ReliefBand. Then and now. I’m certainly not going to buy one.

The price of these woo devices varies based on the misery of the group being pitched to and their relative level of wealth. Sports teams pay a fortune for the silly tape they put on players and that is every bit the same kind of snake oil that all of these bands are. Magic magnetic or electrical surface contact that alters the perception and makes the person who is being treated believe that something in them has altered. Which is, as I already observed, half the problem.

If there is any doubt remaining on this subject after the Mythbusters deft analysis is over, a Pubmed article should put it to rest:

Neither band nor placebo prevented the development of motion sickness, regardless of whether the bands were used correctly or incorrectly.

Save your money for the ginger beer. You’ll enjoy that more anyway.