Archive for January 2012

A perspective on disability   Leave a comment

A story

So, I have a disability:  I can’t run 60 mph, and snow and rain slows me down even further, but luckily I have really great piece of adaptive hardware (A Volvo V70) that allows me to have a normal life.  Of course, since I can’t afford one of the better power chairs (Like a Ford Expedition or a M1 Abrams tank), I’m almost totally dependent on the government to provide me an infrastructure that my mostly-smooth-surface Volvo can handle.   Again, fortunately for me, there is a fantastic infrastructure available.  I can use my adaptive device almost everywhere.  There’s hundreds of thousands of miles of paved trails that are designated for people who share this disability.  In fact, normal people, without the same adaptive equipment aren’t even allowed to use OUR infrastructure so there is more room for us, and the unique needs of our power chairs.

Yesterday it snowed, and the city didn’t clear the hill by my house, making it a slippery, icy mess.  All my similarly disabled friends were infuriated by how we were following our civic duty and paying taxes, but the city wasn’t following it’s civic duty and maintaining the infrastructure that allows all of us disabled people to use the different parts of the city.  This is fairly rare.  Usually the city really takes us into consideration with everything it does.  It never builds a park unless we can get to it, and it regularly improves the infrastructure so that I and all my disabled friends to get to more places.  A lot of people have a similar disability, in that they can’t carry up to 40 tons of cargo.  Almost identical infrastructure is needed for their adaptive equipment (Peterbuilts and Macs and such), and every effort is made to make sure they can get to all the stores around town.  For them we make paths a little wider, a little stronger, and parking a little bigger.  For both groups, service centers and refueling centers for our adaptive devices are among the commonest of all businesses.  Truly, we live in a great world for disabled people.

A truth

A disability is a limitation, and a car really does correct your limitations.  You can’t run 60 mph, and you can’t carry hundreds of pounds of stuff.  A car really is an adaptive device that lets you do those things.  Without roads, your car is useless.  You are 100% dependent on the government to provide an infrastructure that makes it possible to use your adaptive device.  I have never heard anyone complain about everyone’s taxes going to build an infrastructure for this particular disability.  If a bridge is needed to cross a tiny creek that separates two business districts, no one even ponders telling car owners to buck up, no one ponders telling the business owners to build it themselves, and no one bulks at putting the infrastructure costs of their adaptive equipment on society.

A question 

Why do people think it’s right to build a publicly supported infrastructure for their inability to be a car, but wrong to build a publicly supported infrastructure for other’s inability to walk?

Of Citalopram and Strippers   Leave a comment

This blog, like one I had before it sometime ago, is an experiment in honesty.  I’ve often heard people say “you have to be honest with yourself before you can be honest with other people,” but  I have found the reverse to be true.  By being honest with other people, I learn to be honest with myself. Yet, I blog under my real name on purpose, because any comment you see of mine on this here interweb is truly mine.  Its not some anonymous construct, it’s the real israelkwalker.  That’s part of being honest too, because it requires me to not do or say things that israelkwalker would not really do or say.  My real life boundaries are my internet boundaries.  I have to ask myself “Is this something I would say in a speech class?” each time I write a blog.

So I want to talk about two things today: Celexa and strippers.

I started taking Citalopram last week.  My god.  I’m going to be OK.  I didn’t know I could be OK.  I’m thinking about a time when my wife never has to deal with me suicidal again, and it’s  mind blowing.  Citalopram has a lot side effects, which can be quite disruptive for people.  I know this. I accept this.  Perhaps in 6 months, my doc and I will talk about this.  But Citalopram is making me think hurting myself is an awful idea.  Awful is interesting.  My life has been divided into feeling two ways about suicide: that it was a good idea, or an idea that might be a good idea later.  I’ve never thought it was “awful”.  That’s worth a lot of side effects.

About strippers.  I know one.  Not well. Not professionally.  But it’s strange to me they are just people.  And its strange to me that its strange to me. Why can I watch a movie like “Die Hard” and know thats not how real cops are, or “24” and know that not how real terrorist investigations go, but it is a surprise to me that strippers are just people, just like everyone else?  Just like me.

Posted January 30, 2012 by israelkwalker in Depression, Sexuality, Uncategorized

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So excited I forgot to blog   6 comments

Last time I blogged, I wrote about depression.

Let me write about it again.  I made what I suspect will be a life long change not long after I wrote that.  My dad is a recovering alcoholic.  If you hang around AA or recovering drunks, you will run into people like my dad who were at least as addicted to the double life as they were the alcohol they consumed in one life and not the other.  In a way, for the last 20 years or so, I’ve been living a double(ish) life.  Now, I wasn’t flat out lying like my dad did, but I hid the symptoms of my depression vary carefully.  I would tell my very close friends, and some members of my family because they needed to know why I acted the way I did. Whether it is in accordance with the ‘proper’ realization of Christianity or not, most of the church sees depression as a sign of enormous spiritual failure, and despite the pity, the effect of telling your church that you struggle with depression is something akin to the effect of telling your church you struggle with going to homosexual bath houses: it’s OK if you say it once, but if you are back next week saying the same thing, it’s because there is something wrong with you, or the way you are working the solution, and not the solution itself (which is, of course, more of Jesus).

One of the wisest things I ever did was really explore Christianity and my doubts about it.  I think most people who knew me hoped that this would strengthen my faith, but instead I became first became an increasingly radical Christian, then a theist, then a diest, then an agnostic, and finally an atheist adhering to the philosophy of existential nihilism.  However, disappointing this was to my friends and family,  the result for me was the peace and freedom I had always sought in Christianity but never found.  Enormous loads of my depression sloughed away over about a 2 week period.

I remember in particular waking up one morning and realizing it was the first time I could remember that I hadn’t woken up wondering if today would finally be the day that I would disappoint myself so completely that I could finally kill myself and have done with it.  So that was a great day.  Improvement, sadly, is not cure. Several times a year I still found myself struggling to go to work.  Struggling not to cry all day.  Struggling not to kill myself.  Most often the fear of making myself a quadriplegic and no longer having the ability to kill myself was what stopped me.

So, last week, I’d had enough. I was hitting a pretty dark stretch. I went to my doctor and told her I couldn’t stop thinking about killing myself, I hadn’t slept more than a few hours a night in weeks, I was having trouble remembering to eat, and I was carefully avoiding my family so I wouldn’t scream at them or start weeping or both.  She strongly recommended that I take an anti-depressant and start therapy.  So I did.

I’m not sure how much of the following is the effect of the drugs, or after a mere 5 days is placebo, because I didn’t think I would change so fast. And frankly, I don’t care. I’m not euphoric.  I’m not excited, or ‘too happy’…I’m just not depressed.  Looking back over my life, I feel like I am walking up from a dream.  How in the world was it OK with me to hurt myself?  Where did that come from?  Why did I let so much guilt from a faith I no longer hold keep me in sway?  Why did I hate myself so long?  Why was it OK with me to put my wife daughter through my symptoms?

I don’t know, but I’m glad I’m on the other side of it, even if this temporary or placebo.

Existential nihilist relationship primer.   Leave a comment

So, I wanted to write about depression today.

I’ve said before that I struggle with depression.  I realized recently how weird of a phrase that is.  Depression for me is a minor disability.  Struggle sounds so temporary, so transient.  When you hike up a mountain, the steepest part is “a struggle”, the rest is just the hike.  Depression is more like missing a foot.  A lot of things you can do just like everyone else, but then randomly, you find some new thing you can’t do.  Further, I don’t know that I have ever heard anyone say “I struggle with cancer.”  or “I struggle with angina”.   You just have it, or you don’t. (Though people might say they struggled. Past tense.  Again, pointing to the transient nature of the experience.)

So, I’m going to stop saying I struggle with depression.  I don’t struggle with it.  Sometimes as a symptom of depression I struggle get out of bed. I struggle to love people well.  I struggle with a lot of things, but I don’t struggle with depression.  I just have it.  I struggle with the symptoms.

The other thought I wanted to say, is accepting the OKness of relationships ending.

All relationships will end. That’s not pessimism, it is reality.

(1.) Only part of relationship is with a person.  Part of it, maybe even most of it, is with your perception of the person.  Frequently relationships end because the perception and the person are just to far apart.  Because your vision of the future relationship was based on the perception, when the perception is proven wrong, sometimes you don’t want the new vision.

(2.) Even if you perceive the person perfectly, or perfectly enough, they might not perceive you as well.

(3.) Even if you both perceive one another perfectly, or perfectly enough, people change.

Your youness is the result of chemicals interacting.  Some of those chemicals are inherent to you, like your DNA.  Others are unique to your experiences (memories are coded as chemicals, or chemical changes).  Others are totally situational, for instance you might be very tired, or very high.  We all want to pick the “me” we like best and call that one real, but that’s magical thinking.  The fact is, low-blood-sugar-cranky you, giggly drunk you, darkly depressed you, head-over-heals-in-love you, jamming out to the car radio you, and many others are all equally the the real you.  There is no good reason to chose one and say “that’s the real me”.  The reason most of us do it is because we want to claim the parts of ourselves we find the most noble, and divorce ourselves from the parts we find the most ugly.

Where do those lost fragments of self go?  That’s a subject for another time.  But my point is here, because the list of our experiences is always growing, and the chemicals in us are always changing, we change.  If two people change the terms of the relationship they used to have, ends, because its about different people now.  Some relationships, like my marriage, terms are renegotiated constantly so that the relationship continues to keep up with us. This creates the illusion that the relationship continues, but the reality is, it does not. Long term relationships are series of beginning and dying relationships.

People change, even if they regret it, or wish not too.  That which is seen cannot be unseen, and you will change as a result of your experiences. If the chemicals didn’t change, there would be no memories.

(4.) People die.

All the time.  Billions of them.  You will die. Everyone you love will die. Everyone you hate will die.  Entropy means the tendency of a system to decrease in order/non homogeny.  Life is not immune to entropy.  Entropy happens to you all the time, but the pieces of you that don’t work are replaced constantly.  Eventually, the pieces which replace them cannot keep up.  Disorder increases faster than it can be repaired….the vast symphony of chemicals that makes you different than your weight in badgers or butterflies will play it’s last chord and everything that makes you, you…will stop.  Then, very soon after, everything that makes you, you, a badger, or a butterfly will stop, and you will be base constituents: hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen.  Everything that lives dies.  People die. You-ness stops.

Not persuing a relationship for fear of ending is stupid.  Relationships end.

Further, your emotional response to relationships ending will follow a bell curve. Not can.  Not might. Will.

Most of your relationships will end averagely…which is to say “badly”.  Psychologists find that relationships ending is a huge stress factor for people.  Badly is in irony quotes because if it is average it’s not really bad.  Bad would be deviating significantly from average in one direction, good would be deviating significantly in the other direction.   A better word than badly would be painfully, since pain in this case is average.  Most relationships will end in the region of the bell curve near the center: heartbreak.  You will have a few relationships that end with significant deviation from bell curve center.  A few of these will be painless, perhaps even pleasant.  You will have a corresponding number that will really cause long term psychological harm , perhaps even death. (Dying of broken heart is a real phenomenon.)

Since all relationships end, and virtually all will end in normal statistical scatter around heartbreak, it would be stupid to avoid them.  To say “I should avoid relationships because they hurt” makes about as much sense as saying “I should avoid food because  I will poop.”  Avoiding a behavior that is fundamentally required for human life because you don’t find the outcome as pleasant as the behavior is just…mind bogglingly stupid.

 

A man on feminism   Leave a comment

So here I’ve been chipping away at understanding feminism.

Let me start by saying that I support feminism, even when I don’t have 100% agreement with individual feminists.  There are feminists out there that are batshit insane.  There is no Matriarch of Feminism, lording (ladying?) over the Grand Universal Church of Feminism.  As such there is no catechism, and no way to kick people out who violate the non-existent standards.   So, some feminists, like the people who think that maleness itself is a form of rape, are nucking futz.  But feminism is why my wife can vote and I dont know anyone working harder to make the world a better place for my daughter.

Sometimes I think the whole movement is wrong in a way  too.  It seems to be tainted with Marxism.  Marx said some brilliant things, and do think it is fair to say that the Soviets were not the best example of Marxism that anyone ever thought of.  Sometimes I hear things they say, and like religious people, I respect the direction, if not the execution of their beliefs.  The catch is, the position of women in the US is horrible.  Everything that makes life rough for anyone in the US, lack of a social net, taxes, healthcare, etc…it’s all worse for women.  That’s not my opinion, it’s solid facts that you can look up for yourself.  So even when the feminists are nuts, their nuttiness pushes the whole of American society closer to a better world for women.  Since most men love some women, that’s a better world for everybody.

But I do have 3 pieces of (unsolicited advice).  I offer this not only to feminist, but literally all leftists, it just applies most directly to feminists.  Note also, feminists, that I’m not saying with this little list, that any of the systemic problems that these put back in YOUR individual laps aren’t real systemic problems.  They are real. They are systemic, and top-down change will be required.  But I just want to talk about some of the bottom-up things we can do while we are waiting for the top down-change.

(1.) Don’t buy crap you don’t need.

This is huge.  One of the big top-down changes that I hear about is media.  We need to control the media better because it’s controlling us.  They say that they are just giving us what we want, but they are insidiously poisoning our minds with with materialism and a corrosive body image.  And I agree. So I don’t buy crap. Ever. Don’t buy gossip rags. Don’t buy fashion mags. Don’t buy porn (lord knows there is enough out there free).  Think TV is corrupting your soul? Stop watching.  Think the news is giving you biased crap?  Stop watching it.  There are numerous overseas, English-language news outlets.  Use those.

(2.) Don’t have sex with misogynists.

Please, please, please stop having sex with men who treat you like shit.  The demand for sexual experiences excedes the supply.  I promise you, if handsome, rich misogynists can’t get laid, and goofy looking, poor, feminists can, douche bags of the world will quickly convert to feminists.  We have a society where sex is power…go on strike.

(3.) Treat people the way you want to be treated.

Yelling at guys for telling rape jokes to strangers is awesome. Keep doing that, because it needs to be said.  Please, though, don’t say things like “Heterosexual intercourse is the pure, formalized expression of contempt for women’s bodies.”  (Andrea Dworkin).  I don’t want to be lumped into a giant group of violent criminals.  I bet no one wants to be told that that because they belong to a group they must have value X, or behavior Y.   It can be truish, if you say it right like “White men, in general, make more than anyone one in the US.”  That’s a fact!  But please take the time to not say that every white man makes more than everyone else, because (1.) its a stupid lie, (2.) it’s bigoted, (3.) It’s not something you would want done to you…don’t do it to others.

Shit Christians Say to Atheists   Leave a comment

This isn’t what I was going to post to day…but…man do I get this.

 

Posted January 17, 2012 by israelkwalker in Atheism, Christianity, Religion, Skepticism

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Edison2 saves the day, if people in the future are more rational   Leave a comment

http://www.gizmag.com/edison2-x-prize-winner/16408/

^Follow the link and read about car called the Edison2. It’s pretty sweet.  It seats 4 people meets modern collision standards.  It tops out over a 100 mph and gets over 130 mpg highway in the internal combustion engine version, and over 350MPG equivalent in the electric version.  As the guy says on the video, you start with a design that uses 250% less power to do the same job, and then you plug in whatever form of power works best: engine, battery, or hybrid.

Two things interest me about Edison2.

First off is the Offenhauser school of design it uses.  Most advanced designs consists of squeezing out the most efficiency possible by using as many parts each doing a small and specific part of the job. Offenhauser design is the opposite: use as few parts and systems as possible each designed as well as possible. Big, dumb, Offenhauser engines were beating gorgeous, complicated engines which were better in theory for decades after theory suggested it shouldn’t have happened.  (Like the year an Offenhauser engined car beat all the gas turbines) Why? 7 major reasons:

(1.) Simple designs are easier to model, because system interaction adds layers of analytical weirdness.

(2.) The models are more like reality because the reality is simpler, so the numbers they produce are more accurate.

(3.) Simple parts are easier to design perfectly in line with the numbers

(4.) Because of 1-3,  simple designs often have higher strength to weight ratios, capabilities to complexity ratios, benefits to ease of maintenance ratios, etc.  Simple, stout designs are often better in almost every measurable way.

(5.) It can’t break if it isn’t there.  The history of motorsports is littered with designs that were “better”, but complexity made it impossible to keep them in the race.

(6.) Sum of losses. Flow through one 60% efficient part  is more efficient than total flow through 5 parts that are each 90% efficient.

(7.)  Ease of repair. It’s easier to diagnose problems in one part than it is a system, and faster to replace.

The Edison2 uses Offenhauser design principals.  Instead of trying to reinvent the car, they took very well understood motorsport design elements like steel tubing roll cage, and simple, robust, and highly stressed engine (40 hp out of a 250cc is 160 HP/liter.) working through a close ratio, many gear transmission, and a body designed to be as aerodynamic as possible while minimizing shapes that are hard to analyze properly  (so they can be as a light as posible) or manufacture cheaply.   I want to point out that it takes great skill to do this.  Any fool can “design” by addition. Design by subtraction requires a keen understanding of exactly what the problems are, so that utility is not lost along with the useless bloat.   Why isn’t such skill used more often?  Let me first say:

Second, the commenters really, really hate it.

It’s not fast enough, even though it tops out over 100 mph.

It’s not pretty enough, as if the universe owes them a aerodynamics that look like Transformer’s rejects.

The engine will break, as if singles break down because of strange magical properties inherent to them, rather than the fact that most singles are designed for low purchase price ahead of all other design factors.

It’s too expensive, as if loads of other custom made, carbon fiber bodied, 800 lb, rear wheel drive, 160HP/liter performance car were going for $20,000.

It’s not safe, (or more accurately they wouldn’t feel safe in it) even though it is.

You can’t take your family on long trips with it.

One particular comment that got me was the complaint it was too airplane like.  Not surprisingly, it is airplane like.  Physics doesn’t really allow for more than more than one general shape that four people can sit, 2+2 in and can be pushed through the air with minimal energy.  So I looked up some airplanes that have approximately the same passenger and cargo volume.  They start at around $200,000 and max out around $350,000.  What does more than a quarter of million get you, besides movement in three dimensions?  600% more power, yielding only 70% higher top speed, horrifically expensive purchase, maintenance, storage, and operational costs, and requirement to get a special license before you drive it.

What do people have to say about them? They are fast. They are beautiful. The engines are reliable. The price is reasonable for the utility. They feel safe in it.  They take their family on long trips with it.

What’s the difference?

Team Edison2 chose to design the Very Light Car (the technical name for the racer) using Offenhauser design principals, and I mentioned this took skill and also something else.  That something else is courage.  Offenhauser design always works.  Even when more complex designs overtake the first design, it only because knowledge of each individual part has advanced to the degree that Offenhauser method can be applied to a more complex design.  And yet it is rare, because Offenhauser design is a lot less sexy than magic bullets.  It takes courage and genius in equal measure design by taking away.  IE, the Offenhauser method is less prestigious.

And thats why all the negative comments about the car, and the positive comments about planes that do virtually the same thing, only badly.  Because fuel economy isn’t prestigious and owning your own plane is.   In the end, saving the environment isn’t a technological problem, it’s a social one.  We don’t win it with technology, we win it with the courage to design our desires and our society.