To repair the damage done by these people in these times will not be easy. I may not see the wounds mended in my lifetime. It may take a generation or more. The social damage of the pandemic itself, the fear of our old social lives, in bars and restaurants and dance halls and sports stadiums, will take time to heal (although a percentage of people seem to know no fear already). We will hug and kiss again. But will there still be movie theaters? Will there be bookstores? Will we feel okay in crowded subway cars?
I would say that the lack of workers volunteering to die for minimum wage across the United States today in what is rapidly becoming a post-pandemic world says volumes about the actual rethinking that is going on right now. Whether we will turn these things we’ve learned about ourselves and our world into real world changes remains the question. I will say that if we don’t make the changes, heal the breaches in our lifetimes, those ills will fester and re-emerge the next time society hits a breaking point.
It wasn’t the name of the black man that police killed that made last summer’s protests a fulcrum to leverage change. It was simply the fact that the policeman killed another black man while the rest of the world was forced to watch him do it. The pandemic made change possible by forcing the entire world to become passive observers of what the rest of the world was doing in their lives and in their essential work. Essential work that appears to include killing random black people in every corner of the United States.
The next time we are strapped down and stretched thin like we were last summer, there might be some other breaking point that appears and fulminates the last great war, rather than just a call for the equal justice we all were promised. We really can’t afford to keep kicking the can down the road. We need to step up and make the changes now while the motivation is fresh and our intentions pure. I’m becoming deathly afraid that we don’t know how act of pure intention anymore, or even act at all.
These “audits” don’t have to find anything; the fact that they exist at all is enough to do what they are designed to do: undermine voters’ faith in the system at the same time they indicate that no election result that elects a Democrat is legitimate.
One way to look at it is this – a small minority now has the ability to hijack public health policy by waging their own shadow campaign on social media. They are accountable to no one. They can force the expenditure of limited public health dollars just to minimize the effect of their own campaigns. This is also an asymmetric campaign, because it is much easier to spread fear than proper information. At the very least it is reasonable to filter out their harmful misinformation from private platforms. Panels of experts can be used to provide the filter, and fair processes can be made available for appeals. At the very least these options need to be explored.
This article was about Gardasil. The vaccination worked, but social conservatives hated it because it gave women permission to be promiscuous. Think about what that means. They wanted people to suffer and die from a preventable cancer rather than vaccinate them against the cause of that cancer on the grounds that sex outside of marriage is bad and should be discouraged. They used vaccine fear to wage a war against this vaccine, and this isn’t even the first time, nor was it the last.
That is the Conservative-Republican-Trumpist line now about the coronavirus vaccine:
Oh, we’re not anti-vax. We just don’t think vaccines work.
…Strangely, it is the same argument they offer about their obvious racism. What their resistance is about now is still religion. Their religion of conservatism. Their invented Republican Jesus, the one who loves capitalism and profit more than he does the poor and the sick. Their belief that government can’t do anything good in the world.
I’ve heard this pushback from dozens of sources now. They just object to this one vaccination, not the general idea that vaccinations work. Either the science is real, or it isn’t. Either we have stopped Small Pox, Polio, etcetera through vaccination, or the entire business is a sham. A con job. Pick one side people, because it can’t be both sides at the same time. The vaccine works. It works and you should get it.
This was originally posted as a quote on January 11, 202o, I have advanced and appended the quote with the current coronavirus crap.
The Jacobson v. Massachusetts decision made clear that the government could mandate vaccination, arguing that collective good sometimes outweighs individual rights. But the line between the two is blurry. More than two decades after Jacobson’s case, the Court used the same logic in another decision, one the historian Michael Willrich says is among the “scariest U.S. Supreme Court decisions of all time.”
The episode of The Experiment that is embedded above illustrates how easily we can be manipulated into thinking something that is good for us is bad, and it illustrates that the converse is also true. It is illegal to refuse vaccination when that vaccination is mandated by government, that is a basic public health criteria. This isn’t about you and your vaccine fears anymore than it is about me and mine. this is about keeping everyone in the population as healthy as we can, and the way to do that is to make sure that we achieve and maintain herd immunity through vaccination for easily communicable diseases.
This is why you should get your influenza vaccination as well as all the other vaccinations on the list of required vaccinations. Get them because you care about the people around you more than you care for yourself. If you can’t find it in yourself to do it for other people, do it so that you don’t get sick from an easily preventable disease. Wish for a vaccination for every communicable disease that you might casually be exposed to so that you don’t die from that disease, either (I see you hiding over there, Malaria) I do, and I hate needles more than anything else I encounter in day to day life.
I have little doubt that Stonekettle is right in the article embedded above. There is too much bullshit out there circulating for this to not be something that Russia is trying to seed throughout the United States in order to weaken us. That other shoe will drop eventually (if we can’t just take past actions as proof in and of itself) and then we’ll know for sure who is spreading the anti-vaccination bullshit this time around aside from the anti-vax idiots in our midst.
There should be a mandate to get the COVID vaccine just as there is for all the other vaccinations we undergo. The influenza vaccination should be mandated as well. What form that mandate takes is the only real question left to answer. Do we just pass a law making refusing a vaccination a crime again, or do we try to nudge people in the direction of doing the right thing without holding guns to their head to get them to do it? Americans can’t seem to get away from doing everything that they can at the point of a gun. Maybe we should try something different for once.
…I think I got the most volume and some of the most varied feedback I’ve ever gotten for any post I’d ever written before. It ran the gamut from “this is easy to do and Facebook can’t seem to do it, so they must not care” or “Facebook is in bed with X group, their behavior demonstrates this.” to “Any attempt to moderate speech violates my freedom of speech.” When I queued up this episode, one of the first things that the guest says on mic is that she figured that the Facebook Supreme Court was just a way to get Facebook out of the crosshairs for making the decisions that need to be made, content-wise:
…and by the end of the episode I was where Jad was “we have to ban Facebook, don’t we?” But then I thought some more about the varied responses to the tests that were put forward to illustrate just how hard it is to make judgements about what is or isn’t acceptable on social media, and I started to realize that what Facebook will ultimately achieve, if it succeeds, is some form of internet protocol for allowing the greatest amount of speech possible without misleading the populace or allowing for the targeting of segments of the population. I wish them luck with their supreme court experiment. Hope it all works out.
Tangentially, there were two more episodes later in my podcast feed that dealt with the same conundrum. Speech, the freedom and limitations of:
The power went off about 2am while I was having a soak in the tub before heading to bed. I grumbled and then rinsed and dried myself off in the dark and climbed up out of the tub to get dressed again so that I could go find the flashlights and the hurricane candles and make sure the house was set up for several hours of life without electricity in the middle of a nearly unprecedented winter storm.
This is the second time in a month that the power has gone off here at the house. It’s off at the school across the street too which has never happened before, and that bothers me. The school is on a seperate grid set aside for essential services. Most Texas schools were built to be shelters for harsh weather as well as their main purpose as schools, and they are largely self-sufficient architecture if properly maintained. The power being out there was a signal that this was not the ordinary squirrel chewing on transformer wires kind of problem.
The power stayed off until 4:38am. It came back on while I was washing dishes by candlelight. Weirdly that is the same thing I was doing the last time there was a power outage. The power stayed on for ten whole minutes and then it went back off again. I’m going to start a fire in the fireplace soon and start cleaning the shotgun in preparation for the zombie hordes that should be milling about by the time everything thaws in a week. I hope all of you have your zombie plans ready.
This is getting to be a too frequent problem. If I wanted to be on my own for power I would live out in the country. I don’t live in the country because I want services from the city to work when I need them too. I’d like to not have to buy solar cells, a battery backup and a generator just because I as a homeowner can’t rely on the city to keep the power on. This is why we pay taxes. We pay through the nose so that the services we need are there when we need them.
Yes, this is unprecedented weather, a never-before seen type of winter storm for this area. I get that. But this is the second time in a month, and that time the weather was normal and the power was still off all day. The city needs to start making sure that basic services stay on all the time, and just FYI that also includes the internet in this day and age. It’s time for a rethink, as the saying goes. Let’s start getting the city to pay attention to what is really important to us as citizens. What is that?
Shelter for everyone.
Clean water for everyone.
Food for everyone.
Electricity for everyone.
Healthcare for everyone.
Information services for everyone.
When it became clear to me that climate change was a thing some time around 2010, I started thinking that the municipalities and states needed to start making plans to deal with unexpected weather conditions in the future, because we really don’t know what will happen as the planet warms up. Winter storms stalling out in the Southern regions of the United States are perhaps a completely unlikely event to contemplate, but that is what the word unexpected means, and that is also why they changed the nomenclature from global warming to climate change, because the net effect may have been hotter temperatures worldwide, but the individual weather patterns will include things like what we are seeing right now. We need to be planning for this kind of event in the future, and we should have started these plans twenty years ago or even earlier.
We’ve waited too long and now it is time to play catch up, and we’d better start doing the planning in earnest or we’ll be seeing rolling blackouts all summer and winter in the years to come. People dying to unforeseen climate events is something that we should not just be accepting blythely like we are doing right now. How many homeless will freeze to death tonight? How many of them have died so far this year?
In a year marred by uncertainty and loss, homeless Austinites and advocates gathered Sunday morning to remember and read the names of the 256 homeless Austinites who died in 2020 – an increase of more than 70 deaths compared to last year.
Along Auditorium Shores, dog tags representing each life lost were nailed to a memorial live oak on the banks of Lady Bird Lake. The silver tags fluttered and jangled with each gust of wind on the blustery morning, while Austinites on the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail went about their Sunday exercises largely unphased.
Will it top 400 in 2021? 500? When will we say enough?
February 18, 2021 – I wrote the original portion of this article Sunday night, early Monday morning, by copying parts of text that I had written on Facebook and Nextdoor earlier in the day Sunday. I was using my phone as a hotspot while typing on my laptop and it was the only connection to the outside world that we had in the house at that time. Not too long after my 5 am post, the phone and then the laptop went dead, and I had no power to charge either of them (other than sitting out in the SUV we borrowed from a friend due to the terrorist squirrels attack on our car. I’ll be writing that article shortly, I’m sure. If the power stays on) until Wednesday afternoon when we were woken up from the pretty poor sleep we were getting without our cpap machines, woken up by the sound of the high temp alarm going off on the chest freezer that sits just the other side of the wall from our bedroom. So that makes just under four full days without power for us here in Austin.
Most of the food in the chest freezer will be of questionable safety and will have to be thrown out, and that goes double for the contents of the refrigerator. We moved most items that we needed to keep edible to the porch, which remains colder than the refrigerator even today, Thursday the 18th.
That is 59 hours without power thanks to the Texas electric grid manager’s (ERCOT) unwillingness to provide or find additional power to keep the electricity on for most Texans. The death toll from freezing will not be known for some time (90 days per the Statesman article quoted further down. -ed.) and the cost of life among the homeless population may never be known. Nor is this winter storm over. I noticed flakes of snow falling again today as I washed dishes in my freshly boiled tap water this morning.
Boiled tap water? The boil water notice was instituted yesterday as the assessments of the damage that the lack of electricity for four days has had on our local infrastructure revealed that the power had been turned off at Austin’s largest water treatment plant, and that water pressure remains under low pressure conditions. Low water pressure means that contaminants can be siphoned off of toilet tanks or leaks in cracked water lines, rendering the once potable water in the lines potentially life-threatening. The boil water notice will probably remain in effect here for several days.
I’m still no more confident the power will stay on than I was when it came back on the last time. It may be still on now, but how long will it be before ERCOT or the PUC once again screw up and Texas is subjected to blackouts because of it? This has happened several times, pretty much every time that the weather goes below freezing for long enough for the non weatherized portions of the electricity grid to freeze and then fail to provide power.
When I wrote about this issue on Nextdoor several people displayed a complete lack of knowledge about the subject of the electric power grid in Texas. People like this guy:
So you’d like Texas to invest hundreds of millions (or possibly billions?) of taxpayer dollars to expand capacity to meet the power needs created by a single day of once in a century weather?
The problem is not capacity that needs to be built into the system. The problem is weatherization. Weatherization that has been pointed out as being needed before, but that Texas’ electricity council has never done anything to address:
So this is a very frustrating narrative, and largely because it is true that some of the solar and wind farms were producing less than you might have expected because of the extreme cold, but a lot of them were actually overperforming expectations as well. Simultaneously, almost an order of magnitude or almost 10 times as much of the thermal system – so coal, gas and nuclear – actually shut down because of the extreme cold, due to things like instruments freezing, et cetera. So I think the overall point here is all of the fuels were really, really struggling. And as the governor mentions, renewables being about 10% of the grid, the other 90% of the grid was not available in the way that we expected to, either, and in a way that was very, very far outside of what we expected to see fail.
The weatherization issue is a known problem and it is an old problem. In 1989 Texas faced power outages due to freezing weather impairing the electrical grid. It happened once again in the 1990’s and in 2011. Now it is happening again because ERCOT and it’s member corporations have still not complied with suggestions made by the national electrical regulating body more than a decade ago.
As another commenter pointed out on that thread on Nextdoor, this is because ERCOT was set up specifically to allow Texas to avoid federal regulation. This is possible because all of ERCOT’s activities are inside Texas, which means its activities are not interstate commerce and thusly cannot be regulated by federal authorities. ERCOT passed on the recommendations from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to their participating electrical power generators, but few if any of them were followed:
Moreover, some of the same equipment, the report noted, had failed during previous cold snaps. One in December 1989 prompted the state’s grid operator to resort to system-wide rolling blackouts for the first time.
“Many generators failed to adequately apply and institutionalize knowledge and recommendations from previous severe winter weather events, especially as to winterization of generation and plant auxiliary equipment,” the 2011 report said.
The failures have already spurred a tangle of finger-pointing, with Texas Governor Greg Abbott calling on leaders of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s grid operator, to resign.
The wikipedia page I linked under the acronym ERCOT above appears to have been written from press releases and from ERCOT’s own website. It is pretty hard to find any information on this obscure agency that isn’t filtered through their own internal lens. A local news station has just recently published a story that claims that several board members don’t live in Texas and one board member purportedly lives in Canada:
A KXAN analysis of ERCOT’s board revealed a total of five members do not live in Texas. Along with Telberg and Cramton, board members Vanessa Anesetti-Parra, Terry Bulger and Raymond Hepper do not appear to live in the Lone Star State.
Anesetti-Parra’s professional social media account shows her location as Canada, Bulger’s ERCOT biography lists his home as Wheaton, Illinois and a University of Pennsylvania law school biography shows Hepper calls Maine home.
What is clear is that ERCOT has proven that it can’t manage Texas’s electrical generating grid with any reliability and needs to be scrapped and replaced with another organization that is mandated with ensuring that power stays on for the average Texan even when inclement weather is affecting the region.
This is not a big ask. This is not asking the government to invest billions of dollars providing excess capacity, although re-investing the millions of dollars of profit that these corporations have taken out of Texas in the future of Texas and in Texas’ ability to sustain the necessary systems for power generation and delivery would be a completely justifiable demand.
I’ll start simple. I’d like the state to stop denying that climate change is real. It’s all around us and affecting us more and more each day. Stop pretending that science is political. Science is real and climate change is real and we are just going to have to learn how to deal with this new reality that we have created. I would like a task force to be set up to spitball and then solve similar issues to this one we are living through now, and then they need to set up preparations to deal with similar crisis in the future.
There will be another crisis this summer from the heat and there will likely be one next winter from the cold. Once in a century storms seem to happen every other season these days. It is time to get off of our collective asses and go about setting up the systems we will need to survive this new and rapidly changing climate we find ourselves in. Austin should probably increase their investment in the South Texas Nuclear Generating Station, and possibly start backing current plans to expand that station to generate more power. That would be a good place to start. On the other end of the spectrum Austin and Texas should allow and/or encourage households and businesses to install battery backup systems for their solar power systems, so that households and businesses can draw on their own power during peak demand cycles. Completely the opposite direction from where Governor Abbott is currently agitating energy to go, demanding a reinvestment in oil and natural gas:
In the meantime we still don’t have running water. Luckily we started having drinking water delivered a few years ago because Austin tap water had started tasting weird and didn’t look to be improving anytime soon. At least I could still wash dishes and clothes in it, as well as cook with it, while it was running. I really miss water at the taps that we could drink as well as do all those other things we need water to do in the average human home. Looking forward to the time when we can once again take basic necessities for granted as being guaranteed by the governments we elect to make sure we have what we need to survive.
If you elect people who hate and fear government to run government, you get bad government.
Bad government has consequences. Bad government can’t handle a crisis, won’t help its citizens (not can’t help its citizens, won’t), and can only blame others for its endless failure.
And you don’t have to look any further than what’s happening in Texas right now to see it.
We made the Rachel Maddow Show and The Last Word on MSNBC Feb. 18th & 19th . A clip from Rachel’s show is the featured image. Here are some links to the screenshots (Instagram link 1 and link 2) I took from the Thursday Feb. 18, 2021 show.
The last commenter on the Nextdoor post I cribbed a portion of the text for this article from kept passively/aggressively implying that we had better shut up about wanting the power to stay on if we didn’t want to pay more for our electricity here in Texas. After about the fifth version of this reply being posted in the thread, I asked her to answer the question “is it a prosecutable crime to allow someone to freeze to death in their house by turning off the electricity? Yes or no?” She never responded to the question.
In private groups – where you’re not invited – we share our bewilderment of your descent into madness. We all have stories about how we’ve cut ties with you, our family and former friends, because we don’t want your hatred poisoning our social media streams. We can’t stand to listen to you vomiting the lies of your cult, day after day. You used to be different. We liked you. But now that we know what was inside your heart all along, we’ve decided you don’t deserve to know about our lives.
I love every stinking word of that article. I love and agree with every single letter, space and punctuation. Tell him I sent you, if you click the link and read the whole thing. Since this is one of my #MAGA articles, I’m betting you, dear reader, won’t do that.
Joe Biden won the election. I realize this is news to you because your cult leader and his approved media sources won’t tell you that Donald Trump lost the election for U.S. President, but that is the truth as verified by the recent votes of the electoral college. It really shouldn’t matter that the electoral college votes one way or the other, but in the United States we have some pretty weird ideas about what it means to win an election.
Seven million (give or take) seven million more people voted for Joe Biden. Seven million more people voted for Joe Biden than voted for Donald Trump. When seven million more people vote for Joe Biden, he wins the election. That is just basic math, and it is also the way that the electoral college was supposed to work:
It was supposed to work that way originally, and it could well work that way again unless we get rid of it entirely. Seven million more people voted for Joe Biden, and still the currently sitting (lame duck) President and his supporters think that they have the umph to make him president for a second term. I don’t think they understand the basic math that is at play here. I have some visual aids for this article, because the Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans apparently can’t understand what 7 million more votes for Joe Biden actually represents.
There are more of us than there are of you. Seven million more of us. Do you get the picture now? We are rapidly approaching the New Year as I sit here typing this. The 117th Congress will be sworn in and seated on January 3rd. The votes of the electoral college will be counted on January 6th. Barring antics by Republicans that slip through the net and attempt to sabotage the the electoral vote count, Joe Biden will be sworn in as president on January 20th.
The trumpists can either learn how to live with the fact that they and their cult-leader lost the election, or they can overthrow the legitimately elected government with trickery on January 6th or with insurrection sometime before January 20th. In either case, they will have chosen to end what has been seen as normal for the United States since 1789:
The moderators of the public Common Sense with Dan Carlin group have informed me that Facebook decided to close the group down rather than bother with trying to punish the individuals who violated Facebook rules inside the forum. This is not the first time I’ve experienced Facebook’s high handed attitude towards organizations that are native to the platform.
Every time that Facebook harasses a public group out of existence, that group reconstitutes as a private group somewhere else, either on Facebook or on another platform. I’ve seen this happen dozens of times now.
Forcing public groups to go private or leave Facebook is self defeating behavior on their part. The objectionable behavior in question always continues in these reconstituted groups. It just happens in private, and the members who witness the behavior will not want to report it because of the consequences that Facebook will inflict on their group.
They need to stop this punishing of public groups if they want to be able to rely on user feedback going into the future. Their actions against public groups only further balkanizes group thought, forcing the individuals into more close-knit groups that are even more fearful of outsiders and differences of opinion than they were before.
Facebook should at least try to be smarter than their users are. They might be more successful at curbing the frightening polarization already present in the world.
The rental house I lived in when I moved to San Angelo in 1985 had these damn space heaters in it. Still had them, fifty years after the house itself should have been condemned. Only the ones in the bathroom and living room worked, and when I say worked I mean the gas could be turned on and lit, and there were enough heating elements in them to radiate heat out into the room. I don’t mean that they kept the house, much less the room they were in, warm.
When I moved into the place in the Spring of that year, my new roommate had been living there alone for quite some time. A recent divorcee, he was living in a bachelor’s paradise. The kitchen sink had a motorcycle engine in it. Under the engine was the rotting remains of a summer feast that he hadn’t bothered to clean up before taking the engine apart on top of it. The bathtub had the engine from his truck in it. He had been showering off with a garden hose outside, or going home to his parents house on lake Nasworthy to get cleaned up. Had been driving several miles out to their lake house on a pretty regular basis, before the motorcycle broke down and after the truck broke down. When the motorcycle quit working he was kind of stuck in a rut, until I showed up.
I slept on the floor in the bedroom, on a mattress we salvaged from somewhere. He had his bed in the former sitting room. It had its own front door that we never used. A second front door that let onto the front porch, the nice entrance to the nicest part of the house, the one that still had the best finishes in it for those long-gone guests of the poor people who had probably assembled the building out of the spare trash that they had cobbled together from another construction project somewhere in town.
How we got through that year is a mystery shrouded in clouds of Ganja smoke. What I can say is we made the place livable in pretty short order. We put the truck back together with twine and bailing wire, and he rebuilt the engine for his motorcycle, which let him go back to riding motocross in his spare time, and we managed to live there for most of the rest of that year until the freeze hit. when it got cold, the downside of the shabby and time-worn construction of the house showed itself.
The house was made of pasteboard. What’s that, you ask? Paper? Not paper no, but it might as well have been paper for all the good that it did. To assemble a pasteboard house you put up corner posts and frame the doors and windows. They are generally square houses with four rooms, one in each quadrant of the structure. As I mentioned, ours still had two front doors. One door for the sitting room that you invited your guests into, and the other door was for the living room, where the family spent their time, back in the 19o0’s when it was built. In the center of the structure, where the four interior walls would meet, you put the main structural post to hold up the peak of the roof, which slopes down to just about head height at the eaves. The roof was usually made of tin, and was definitely the most durable part of that house.
After you have your doors and windows framed up, you run lap siding from the corner posts to the door and window frames. There are no studs in the walls outside of the studs required to hold the windows and doors in place. The interior walls could be made of almost anything. Anything that would hold up to what came next. On the inside face of the exterior siding you then staple chicken wire or plaster lathe (if you could afford that) and then you plastered the chicken wire and the backside of the siding to make the inside face of the exterior wall of your house. You would then carefully plaster the interior walls so as to make them look like walls, too.
The resulting interior surface is markedly strange-looking, with accentuated bulges all around the doors and windows, where the only framing in the walls actually existed. You have now created your pasteboard house. It is paste applied directly to the boards that the rain runs off of on the outside of your house, and the interior walls are so thin as to make privacy largely a figment of your imagination.
There is no insulation value in the walls of a pasteboard house. The temperature outside the house is the temperature inside the house. Those little space heaters were like candles in the wind, the drafts through the cracks in the wall were that bad. We had to prop our feet up right in front of the fire to feel the heat at all. The less said about the intolerable heat in the Texas summers, the better. The swamp cooler had mosquitos living in it, just to add to the fun of the oppressive heat. But on those winter nights when it really got cold, it was impossible to get warm anywhere in that house.
The pipes froze, of course. Indoor plumbing was an afterthought, an addition that took up the space where a sleeping porch had been once upon a time. That room had the space heater that could keep the room warm, since it was the smallest room with the lowest ceiling. But the pipes froze routinely because there was no way to keep them warm. We could leave the water trickling over night, but that usually just meant we had icicles hanging from the faucets when we woke up.
The last few weeks we were there, the wooden floors started to bow up, which made sleeping or even walking on the floor an interesting dexterity test, especially when stoned. Clearly the exterior walls were not keeping the moisture out of the house, and the resulting swelling of the floorboards caused them to buckle in several places. We never could figure out how to get them to lay flat again once they started doing that. Which was too bad. The floors were about the nicest thing about the place before they started to buckle.
I caught pneumonia that winter in that rental house on Adams Street. I caught pneumonia and had to beg a space to stay at a friend’s house. A friend’s house that seemed like a palace in comparison to the rental we had on Adams. A palace with insulated walls and central heat and air. It even had indoor plumbing that wasn’t an afterthought tacked onto the back, a bathroom taking up what had been the best place to sleep in the house during the summer. Instead the bathroom was inside the house, like a bathroom should be.
That was my last experience with space heaters. I got lucky. I didn’t asphyxiate because the rooms were so drafty there was always enough oxygen to feed the gas fires and the living, breathing people, and I didn’t set myself on fire sleeping with my feet in the grate. Also? The friend I bummed some crash space off of was generous enough to let me keep living in that comparative palace that her parents had entrusted to her, let me keep living there until I found an apartment in a completely different part of town. An apartment that wouldn’t kill me. Which was a step up, for me.
I get banned from forums pretty frequently. A username of mine has a lifespan that is generally numbered in weeks, not years, on any given forum on the internet. And since I historically have only used my real name on forums (belief in anonymity on the internet is a common delusion) that means that my time on a forum is strictly limited to how long I can manage to stay in the moderator’s good graces.
The one forum in history that I managed to not get kicked off of was Dan Carlin’s forum for his podcasts. There are other forums I participated in that expired before I managed to offend a moderator, but that offense would have occurred given enough time and interest in the forum. Dan had his own problems when it came to hosting a forum full of hate speech and bullying and confusing that thundering noise with a dedication to free speech, but the fact was that you couldn’t get kicked off of his forums. Consequently I was a member on that forum when it too expired, even though I had long since fallen out of Dan Carlin’s good graces. Weirdly, I miss that dysfunctional place. I reminds me of my dysfunctional family.
Not only do I routinely get kicked off of forums that I join, I have even been asked to leave forums that someone has been silly enough to ask me to moderate. Perhaps one of my few saving graces is an unwillingness to linger where I’m not wanted, to the point of setting out on foot facing a walk of many miles just to get out of an uncomfortable situation that will only become comfortable if I leave. The latest place to reach that uncomfortable stage is the purported Front Page of the Internet, Reddit.
The biggest problem with Reddit is that it isn’t really one place. It is one system with a near-infinite number of sub-forums (subreddits) a confusing hodge-podge of purportedly different forums with completely different rules and readerships, each managed by it’s own little group of absolute rulers who enforce rules (or not) completely at their own whim.
Back when news aggregators first started showing up on the internet, there were several sites like Reddit that sprang up that allowed subscribers to recommend articles to other visitors to the website. Most of them have since closed their doors or been bought out and turned into spamming e-mailers, but Reddit remains pretty much as it was in the beginning, very nearly the sole survivor of an earlier internet age.
If you go back through my blog archive, as I have been doing since I started writing this blog (this is how you teach yourself to write. You try to figure out why your previous attempts to communicate failed to communicate even with later versions of yourself. A free writing tip for the newbs) you’ll notice links that say digg story (at least, you will until I manage to edit them all out. -ed.) Digg was one of Reddits early competitors; one that allowed, even encouraged, self-promotion. While Digg still exists, it was bought ages ago by another corporation that uses it to spam former contributors like your’s truly with articles upvoted somewhere as being popular for whatever reason. I liked digg back in the day. I liked the fact that it catered to various media types and allowed for a free-form interrelation of text and video and audio all mashed together in one location. But the fickle finger of fate choose it to fail and so it failed.
These days the dominant stream of information on the internet is Facebook, not Reddit. Facebook is not a news source no matter how many people treat it like it is. Reddit can be a news source, but the subreddits allow the kind of balkanization of information that you get on Facebook, potentially leading to as much disinformation as you will find on Facebook.
If you have the right sources on your twitter feed, Twitter can serve as a reasonable approximation of a news feed, and it does this by its very brevity, it’s cramped confines of 140 and the now expanded 280 characters. But the nature of Twitter, the fact that it is a glorified headline writing contest, also limits the time you spend on the platform. Time spent on the platform or engagement is how internet businesses are rated these days, and the way to increase engagement is to force the users of the platform to create their work on that platform directly.
Which brings me back to Reddit and my ongoing fights with the petty little dictators that run the various flavors of subreddits which you are required to post to in order to get content onto Reddit. I write political pieces reasonably frequently. One would think that /r/politics/ would be the place to post links to original political opinion pieces. One would be wrong to think that.
[–]from TheRedditPope[M] via /r/politics/ sent You really aren’t supposed to submit your own content. If you have content that is on topic for this subreddit someone will come along and submit it themselves.
[–]from hoosakiwi[M] via /r/politics/ sent Blogspot is a filtered domain in /r/politics. We do not allow personal blogs, so your submissions from your blog will not be approved here. If you want to promote your blog, take out an ad with reddit.
Well, that was news. Looking at the rules over at Reddit.com it doesn’t say anything about not being able to post your own material. In fact, it encourages you to post your own material as well as material from other people. How, precisely, is anyone supposed to find content if links to it are routinely autodeleted or treated as spam? When I posed this question to the moderators of the subreddits that I posted to, I was told to take out an advertisement on Reddit if I wanted to promote my blog.
…no seriously. A lot of bloggers have commented on the death of blogging and I think I’ve found one of the culprits. It is Reddit and Facebook and the advertising funding model that has been rejiggered to fund the internet, as if the internet was just one more entertainment source like TV or radio is. Were turned into, by advertising. If I had the readership that afforded me the ability to advertise on Reddit, I wouldn’t need to advertise on Reddit.
I think you can see the problem here, denying attention to bloggers which in turn squelches the blogosphere and promotes mass media and other commercial ventures which can afford to purchase advertising. I begin to realize why I’ve never taken the time to build a rep on Reddit. I’m simply not consumerist enough to buy into the capitalist charade going on there and on places like Facebook.
I’ve been banned from several of the subreddits now because I refuse to write my content on Reddit directly and instead link to it here on the blog. I won’t create content for Reddit to use to make money directly. I really don’t give two shits if they make money, anymore than they care if I can get readers for the blog or not. But they care if they make money, and they make money by keeping me on their platform creating there, clicking on ads there, getting people to read my work written there. It’s the same way that Facebook makes money, and that is also the reason I don’t invest my time creating work on Facebook, either.
All authority based systems will fail when tested in this fashion. This is the reason why I consistently agitate for democratic approaches to policing and policies. Authority for authorities sake will always succumb to mob mentality. Always.
I noticed, after being kicked off yet another subreddit again today, that Reddit now allows me to self-publish links and full articles from the blog directly to my user profile, bypassing the requirement that I submit to the vagaries of the petty little modos that run most forums, including the majority of subreddits on Reddit.com. So I guess I’ll try posting links and shortened blurbs for some of my better articles straight to my user profile and see if I get any traffic from Reddit. Worth a try, guess. Can’t get any worse than the headaches I get trying to deal with moderators of any stripe.
I would like to thank the moderators and residents of /r/atheism for reminding me exactly why I don’t identify as atheist anymore even though I am one. Their harassment and then banning of me for daring to post on the sub and subsequently defend myself from attack has once again confirmed for me my firmly held belief that moderators and forum dwellers really don’t like conversation. Moderators especially hate posts and conversations because posts and conversations make them have to do the thankless job of moderating. A dead forum means that there is a happy moderator enjoying his porn videos on another tab, somewhere else on the internet.
When told “you have to write your material here, not link it” the only logical response after the way I was treated there is to say “why would I write for you assholes? I don’t even know why I thought a conversation with you would be interesting in the first place. Have a nice life.”
WordPress stopped supporting interactive embeds for Facebook and instagram back at the end of October. Facebook was changing the way that their content was going to work with outside sources like WordPress and other publishing platforms, making it necessary for anyone who wanted to have interactive embedding on their platform to maintain a official relationship with Facebook (an official relationship that probably has dollar figures attached to it) if you didn’t do this new thing that Facebook wanted, Facebook was going to cripple your ability to embed their content.
Back when I was writing on Blogger, I never had the really nice ability to just pop in a link to outside material and have it work seamlessly inside my blog articles. If I wanted to post my comments to Robert Reich’s or Stonekettle’s or whoever’s work on Facebook, or include photos from Instagram, I had to make a picture of the thing and embed that in my article, then manually add caption material to the image in order for readers to find what I was talking about.
When I started writing on WordPress I realized just how arcane the entire blog-writing process had become on Blogger. It was possible to embed all kinds of material from outside sources directly into my articles and never have to take another screenshot again unless I wanted to pretty up the article when linked somewhere else. Now that Facebook has decided it will take its toys and leave the sandbox, I realized just how spoiled I had become. It was going to be a serious pain the ass to go back and re-edit all those articles that I had put interactive links into, replacing the links with images like I used to have to do on Blogger.
Luckily for me I was given a heads-up on the upcoming changes, and the fact that WordPress was going to stop supporting Facebook and Instagram embeds as part of their core editing interface. That heads-up came in the form of a recommendation that I install some new plugins for WordPress that would handle the issue for me.
There are a lot of plugins for WordPress that you really do need to have installed if you are going to be using WordPress at all. Essential things that need to be addressed such as website administrator security and spam comment filters and a whole host of other things that I might or might not get around to writing about when I finally finish the article I threatened to write two years ago when I migrated to WordPress and realized how much work was involved in just leaving Blogger and taking my stuff with me.
So adding two more plugins to handle Facebook and Instagram embeds? Not a big deal. I looked them up. Lots of installs for the plugins. Very highly rated plugins. So I installed them and I’ve had no complaints. Had no complaints until I noticed a curious problem with disappearing captions.
The only reason this article exists on the blog today is because the Smash Balloon plugin put a nagger on the top of my editing screen and encouraged me to leave a review for their plugins, since I loved them so much. This was the review I wrote for them.
I’m happy that these plugins exist, the Smash Balloon Custom Facebook Feed and the Smash Balloon Instagram Feed. You could say I’m ecstatic, even. I mean, since WordPress decided that they wouldn’t do the required work that Facebook added to the ability to link directly and interactively to Facebook and Instagram articles, someone was going to have to do the work for them and I certainly wasn’t going to be able to do the work myself. I would just go back to screenshotting the articles I wanted to discuss on the blog and then add captions back to them for anyone interested enough in the source to go look at the original article.
Captions are the problem with these plugins, though. I can add captions to them when I’m editing and they will show up in the article. But if I go back in and re-edit (as any writer does and should do) the captions are strippped off of the embed and I have to recreate them again. This is more than a little maddening since historically I have left off linking information and so lost access to source material when that material went offline later. With captions I can at least go look on archive.org or the google archive for historical information about missing articles. When the plugin then strips the data that I’ve taken the time to put into my captions specifically because I don’t want to lose the original linking information, it is basically breaking the thing that I take extra time and effort to do. In the meantime I will pull captions off of the embeds and put them under the linked article in a separate paragraph (like I used to have to do on blogger) but it seems like a cludgy way to get around a plugin behavior that I never encountered when WordPress was doing this work for me. If someone could fix that issue, that would be great.
I just tested it with an Instagram embed. I hadn’t actually used the Instagram embed plugin before, but lo and behold I had an article that had an instagram embed in it (I did remember writing one) that I hadn’t published before today. Weirdly enough, Instagram embeds don’t strip the captions off of the embed, only Facebook embeds rebuild themselves each time you open them, stripping off the captions in the process. So, there you go. Just figure out why the Instagram one works right.