Housing crisis? Really?

More and more in the news about the feculent mess our mortgage system
is in. Housing is too costly & too scarce. Empty houses are hanging
very heavy on bankers’ hands. Office buildings stand vacant for years.
Oh dear.

Hmm.. How about making those vacant spaces available to the homeless?
In return for a little maintenance & hygeine, plus paying for whatever
water & electricity they use, you could have a huge impact on the most
vulnerable poor. Think of all the women, kids, even men who could get
enough peace, safety and stability to get back on their feet & back
into the economic life.

You could also keep empty homes from turning into eyesores. I know
quite a few squatters in organized squats, some of them there with the
owners’ knowledge, and they have had a significant effect on one or
two rotting neighborhoods because they simply won’t let their squat
rot, and they won’t let the real trash take over. It definitely keeps
the tone from getting worse & it keeps the drugs & violence down. I
guess squatters can be kinda scary — they are sure protective of
their squats.

When the place becomes rented or sold, they have to move, but should
get 30 days’ notice. Seems fair in return for how much money & trouble
they’ve saved!

A landowning friend of mine said squatters moved in, crapped on the
new carpet, tore up the repainted walls, and so forth. In my ideal
world, those squatters would be blacklisted & left to homeless
shelters. Squatters who decide to use your space should have basic
standards, and if they have some living-security in exchange,
should be ready & willing to take basic care of the place. Not that
you won’t want to bring in cleaners afterwards, but that costs
much less than re-refitting the whole interior!

In Egypt, they had boabs (two syllables: bo-ab) who lived in building
sites or abandoned residences to keep things from falling apart & keep
thieves and scavengers away. They weren’t paid much but they got free
rent. (Had some living across the street in a half-demolished house
that was tied up in litigation; nice neighbors, helped me with my
Arabic.) Since they were one step away from being on the streets, they
knew the underground and would let the neighbors know if there were
thieves in the neighborhood, if rabies had shown up in the area, or if
the Army was going to come around shooting loose dogs (their idea of
rabies control.)

Makes a lot of sense to me. So the rich neighborhood had a blue-collar
family in their midst — they made us all a little more comfortable,
overall. I’d love to have a “boab community” here!

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My contribution to the statistics

Here’s an anecdote to chill the blood.

On my 21st birthday (1987, so imagine the hair, shoulderpads & pegged
jeans), I went out with a mixed group of women friends — girly-girls,
tomboys, jocks; up & down the Kinsey scale.

After closing down the bar, we were talking over where to go to
continue the party. A drunk guy got thrown out of a car that pulled
over nearby. He eyeballed us — kissy noises, “mm-mmh!”, etc.; saw the
“oh f*ck off, you pathetic turd” implied by the way we closed him out;
then suddenly noticed we had no men with us.

That was a problem. Didn’t matter what we were, a bunch of women out
alone had to be evil bitches, or worse — lesbians. Verbal ugliness
ensued. It was disgusting.

One girl thought 2 years of karate lessons made it ok to give him the
fight he was looking for. She put up her dukes, moved him out into the
street, and they started in.

He was a shitty fighter, and drunk. But then something happened. He
went at her with an upraised fist, and another woman grabbed her from
behind and pulled her back — by the arms. WTF?

Somehow, in the midst of a sudden stillness, I got between parked
cars, moved into the street, and stationed myself between him and my
helpless cohort, in the time it took him to take 1.5 steps. I felt his
arm touch my upraised forearm, saw his face melt in shock… And
suddenly the sound came back on.

Behind me, the arm-grabber was screaming, “He’s got a knife! He’s got
a knife!”

Shyt-head and I took a careful step back from each other. Then
another. Then I took one more, turned and ran back to the bar,
screaming about a man with a knife — not realizing that my face was
pouring blood, flying behind me in drops and strings, drenching my
clothes, squishing in my shoe.

Drama, blanched faces, people frozen by shock — but behind my back,
two cute chubby poofters pulled themselves together, ran that crazy
sumbitch down and, unarmed but relentless, kept him penned up in a
dead end until the cops came by. (I’m told it takes balls to be a
queen. I agree.)

My testimony put him away. He was about to go free, even though this
was at least his 3rd such attack, until the judge asked if I had
anything to say. Once I finished, there was a long silence. The judge
sent him down.

He was out by my next birthday.

Let me reiterate: it didn’t matter who we were. He truly believed anti-
gay speech was a justification for murder.

It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s your issue, too. Nobody is immune
to the effects of hatred. Nobody is unkillable.

*The only way to make your world safer is to make hatred less
interesting, less acceptable, and less valid.* That’s it.

It’s astounding how much creative thought and social energy gets freed
up when that happens. Everyone blossoms — regardless of their own
bent. The most “normal” people remark on how good it is to feel so
free. Weird, unexpected, but true. I’ll dig up the studies about that.

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Living lean: mulling cost and value

I’ve gotten pretty good at the
fine art of stretching a dollar so tight that if I let go, the
rebound could snap my nose off.

It dawned on me that I’ve gotten good at living cheap, though it’s
hard to tell because I’m so often out of money. It’s not because I
don’t know how to handle it, it’s that I really am that poor. Poor in
money, anyway.

Apothegm for today: EVERYTHING HAS VALUE. ALMOST EVERYTHING HAS COST.

You’d be amazed at how little you can spend per ounce of enjoyment
when you separate the ideas of “value” and “cost.”

This is probably the first most important thing I’ve done: notice what
I enjoy. Fortunately, I don’t enjoy the act of spending money.

The first question pops up: “Why am I starting with noticing
pleasant experiences? Isn’t this about saving money? Isn’t saving
money hard? Like ‘ow ow ow stop it it hurts’ kind of hard?”

Answer: because it works. Unless I win the lottery tomorrow, I’m
living lean for the long haul. That means 2 things:

1. I need a strong foundation. Most of us formed basic ideas about
money early on, and if it hasn’t worked out for me by now, it’s time
to build different foundations.
2. I need good habits. Spreadsheets, check registers, calculators,
even banking software have been around a long time. None of those
tools are rocket science. If they aren’t being used effectively by
now, no amount of “you shoulds” is going to make them work for me.

My Dad, a real genius about money, gave me two pieces of advice that
rocked my world:
1. Make time and money for entertainment. You have to have that. No
budget, however austere, should be without it for more than a couple
weeks.
2. Include a fudge-factor because, for one thing, costs always change
and for another, you’re not always right.

We’re concentrating on #1 right now. I want to figure out both how to
cost, and how to value, that supremely important item: entertainment.

This has taken time to evolve. My awareness shifts as I get
used to noticing what you enjoy. I find my tastes shifting,
since some “pleasures” are really a matter of programming or habit,
and don’t stack up well to things I naturally find pleasing.

No pressure, no expectation, no agenda — just freeing up my mental
habits so I can take a fresh look at seemingly ordinary things.

There’s a serendipitous realization that has been happening as I get better at
noticing happiness, beauty, flavor, pleasure and contentment: I get
better at feeling it, too. Don’t think about that too much right now,
though. I’m working on distinguishing between value and cost.

“No optional pain!” is my guiding
philosophy.

Keeping in mind that this is an intellectual exercise, and exercise
should happen now & then but not constantly.

Remembering to figure out associated costs, like transport, drinks, and
surcharges. I vary between being exact and giving a
ballpark figure — both approaches have their benefits.

With this, as with any skill, it’s all a matter of time — weeks,
months, maybe years. But that time will pass anyway; wouldn’t I
rather be better-prepared at the end of it?

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Re-Cognition: an exercise in thinking with feeling

Dear Reader, I lost my mind.

It was unfortunate. I had sussed out how best to use the one I had, and whether it was a rather good brain or I had learned to use it rather well, it worked out. I was pleased. In fact, I was smug.

Then the neurogenic pain came. It used up neurotransmitters which I felt I had a better use for. It rewired key parts of my brain, and it did not wire them to code. It tore out the railroad tracks and 8-lane superhighways I had built with care over many years. It erased whole neighborhoods, like PG&E’s latest gas disaster — but without the warning.

It was interesting, but not in a good way. It was rather a bore to be losing the mechanisms of assessment and analysis just when they would have been most useful.

[transition]

d

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Re-Cognition: an exercise in thinking with feeling

Dear Reader, I lost my mind.

It was unfortunate. I had sussed out how best to use the one I had, and whether it was a rather good brain or I had learned to use it rather well, it worked out. I was pleased. In fact, I was smug.

[diagram of old brain style?]

Then the neurogenic pain came. It used up neurotransmitters which I felt I had a better use for. It rewired key parts of my brain, and it did not wire them to code. It cut the shuttle service to numeric functions. It tore out the railroad tracks and 8-lane superhighways I had built with care over many years. It erased whole neighborhoods, like PG&E’s latest gas disaster — but without the warning.

It was interesting, but not in a good way. It was rather a bore to be losing the mechanisms of assessment and analysis just when they would have been most useful.

[transition]

discovered a few things, either that were new or were becoming apparent because they weren’t overshadowed by some other cognitive faculty:
– 3-d space.
– not just lateral thinking, but 4-d net-thinking.
– couldn’t build fresh trees, but could populate the shit out of mature trees I already had.

combined with shocks to the system, letting go of sticky muck I didn’t know I had, plenty of reading on the subject (more than any of my caregivers ever did, I’m sure of it), and what The Shrinkrapper refers to as “A Gift”.

LSAT cards, Neuroscience flash cards, ok … but the only research that held my attn was pubmed on rsd. Not an appy one.

Jeff and his articles. context, interesting topics, know him well enough to comment and sometimes get replies.

Acknowledged that help. That freed something up, because now it seems do-able and desirable to study for a couple hours each day. His articles will be part of it, I hope, for a long time to come, but also I can start work on remedial courses to rebuild a knowledge network in my new brain.

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Expected vs. Actual: planning for WC settlement

The lawyers have finally agreed that it’s time to put this turkey of a Worker’s Comp case to bed.

My lawyer said that, for one thing, I get a mathematically-determined
“apportionment” for being 30% disabled (yes, the Governator thinks I can do 70% of the work I was trained for — writing and patient care — with no freakin’ hands!) The amount would buy a midrange car, but not insurance or gas.

In addition to that, I can either continue fighting with them for every scrap of care my doctors are willing to go to bat for, or hold them up for cash on the barrelhead in return for letting them off the hook in future.

My lawyer figured they might be persuaded to give me the equivalent of another midrange car. This adds up to roughly the cost of a moderately tricked-out Tesla Roadster.

That’s not chump change, but put this in the tailpipe and smoke it …
I suggested plotting out future expenses and seeing how close that amount (the Tesla) would come to meeting the need. So I did.

Turns out that, after writing the check for the Roadster, they’d still
have to move the decimal one place to the right. And that’s for basic lifetime care — nothing fancy, no further disasters or complications. Just regular doctor visits, generic meds, some minor surgery (although
with CRPS there’s really no such thing), and acupuncture at about the same rate they’ve allowed so far. Over a million dollars.

Think they’ll move that decimal point?

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Scientific method & infant studies

Further thoughts on this article which revealed, to every parent’s astonishment I’m sure, that babies remember what upsets them and learn to hope for less in the future:
http://www.physorg.com/news201964561.html
My first, suppressed response was a huge internal “WTHF??? Who’d do
that deliberately??”
But I was a nurse for years — I know what people will do deliberately and I won’t go into it here, especially since I just had a tasty breakfast.
My second thought was the one reflecting my training, which tells me that if it isn’t repeated in a number of controlled scientific experiments, it’s not accepted medical knowledge (document, document, document!), and if it’s not accepted scientifically, it won’t be accepted as good parenting practice.
grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… But I digress.
On the one hand, I’m glad that a few OBs might suggest that parents hang onto their infants instead of handling them like awkward, smelly little responsibilities to be managed with as little face-time as possible.
On the other, I find it profoundly, horribly wrong to tell young parents to walk away from their screaming baby and stay there while we stab or slash the kid to get a few blood samples, and then come back again later to do it all again.
Because heaven knows you can’t just watch the painful reality of life unfold naturally. That would require the assumption, antithetical to scientific method’s assumptions, that observation and empathy in a real-world setting (where sometimes kids get put down for real reasons) is a valid basis for drawing conclusions.
I could go on about psychogenic shock, neurological development, early bonding, the isolationist shift in child-rearing advice over 30 years, the current puzzlement among psychologists about the staggering proportion of young adults who are incapable of empathy, the weirdness of the fact that most of the world is toilet-trained by ~2 but here we’re rarely trained by 4… And so on.
But that could take awhile and my iPhone is starting to make my fingertips sting.

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Scientific method: a fragile prop

There’s an unalterable gap between scientific method and basic decency. This is one of several profound deficiencies in the former, like its rigidly Newtonian frame of reference, the circular logic of many fundamental assumptions, and the _unacknowledged_ reflexive trope, “If we don’t understand it, it isn’t real; if we haven’t tested for it, it doesn’t exist.”
How can scientific rigor possibly be equated with intellectual rigor,
when it cherishes this absence of basic intellectual integrity?
The combination of profound & pervasive logical fallacies, combined with a very weak attachment to the human context in which it’ll ultimately be used, make scientific method far too limited to base most of biomedical research on. It would be excellent as one of several methods, since what it does accomplish, it does very well.
For better and worse, though, it’s the “gold standard” of biomedical research. Astonishing. And very scary. It explains an awful lot.
… In related news, the US currency went off the gold standard under Nixon.

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Standards

Driving requires licensure, even though you can only knock off a few people at a time & do maybe half a million dollars worth of damage.
Carrying a gun requires licensure, even though you can shoot only a handful of your work or school’s population before getting taken down.
But what about things that allow you to screw things up for generations? I wonder about how recklessly we leap into things like abusive relationships and electing con artists. (Almost a tautology.)
Without changing existing syllabi (or syllabuses), and with only minor logistical adjustments, it seems promising to institute the following requirements:
* Before voting, passing a 9th-grade civics exam and a course in basic logic & critical thinking. Refreshers required every 4 years, increasing to 6 years after age 35.
* On entering your first sexual relationship, passing an 8th-grade course in effective communication… regardless of how old — or young — both partners are at the time. (Because of the strange nature of some pederasts, this should bring some child-abuse cases to light; a desirable side-effect.)
* Before moving in together, passing high-school level home economics (including hygeine) AND a basic financial management course. Everyone does both. Divide the tasks afterwards if you like.
* Before getting married, passing a course in negotiation & mediation. Also adult versions of safety, hygeine, and personal financial management.
* Before breeding, a 6-month intensive course in parenting (including models from Dr. Spock to Attachment Parenting) and developmental psychology. Also, screening for psychoses and serious personality disorders — not to exclude them (there’s no eliminating these from the gene pool) but to provide pertinent training and prepare appropriate backup and support for nutcase, partner, and child.
Wackos raise some very gifted & capable kids, so excluding them from the parenting pool doesn’t make sense as a social strategy.
But don’t worry, I’m not going to have kids.

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