blog news, language, musings, true crime

I need to work on my titles, don’t I?

I’ve never been very good at coming up with good titles for my posts. Sometimes, that means I get fewer readers than I might. Other times, my posts end up being more “click baity” than I would prefer. I think my posts on my travel blog have better titles, mainly because they are usually about something specific. I get tons of hits on my posts about attending nude spas, for instance.

I’ll also admit that sometimes, I deliberately title something a certain way to yank people’s chains. There’s a post on my travel blog titled “Enjoying some extra dick tonight”. I know what it sounds like… but it’s actually about extra thick pommes. In German, “dick” means thick. So, when I buy extra thick frozen fries at the store, it literally says “extra dick” on the packaging! I’m sure more than one person has been disappointed that the post isn’t pornographic, but it IS a travel blog. The blog’s title itself mentions “travel”, so they probably shouldn’t be expecting anything sexy.

I did something similar a few years ago, when I saw a stray cat walking through our rural yard in North Carolina. I titled the post, “Looking for pussy…” or something like that. Sure enough, people clicked. There are a lot of pervs out there. 😉 And I’m sure they were sad that I wrote about actual cats instead of what they were obviously looking for. It was a very short post, and my good friend, Alex, even left me a comment congratulating me on the “clever word play”. Mwahahaahaha! Because it’s such a short post, I’ll even repost it here, for the curious…

Looking for pussy…

No, not THAT kind of pussy.  I was just sitting at my desk and noticed a black cat cutting through the yard.  I decided to go outside to see where it was headed, but by the time I got out the front door, the kitty was gone.  It’s just as well, I guess.  My hounds would love to go out there and chase that cat and Bill is allergic to them anyway.

I came back inside and Bill asked me if I went looking for the cat and I said I was looking for pussy.  That made him laugh.  The dogs were whining up a storm and Arran brought me a toy when I came back inside.  That’s one of his more adorable doggy behaviors.  Whenever anyone comes home, even if it’s just after a few minutes or so, he responds by giving them one of his chewed up toys.  In this case, he brought me a stuffed duck that makes a quacking sound when you squeeze it.  All of my dogs have loved the stuffed duck toys… probably even more than they love the toy squirrels I’ve brought them.

The packers are coming to pack up our house on July 23rd and will load the truck on the 25th.  I guess we’ll leave on the 26th or 27th and start our long ass drive to San Antonio. 

I bet this blog post will get a lot of hits because I used the word pussy…  People have such dirty minds. 

In other news, this post is my 700th.  I’ve been a busy little beaver.  😉

This was very interesting, since I had never seen an armadillo before… not even in a zoo! And it was in Georgia, not Texas. Our dogs went NUTS.

I included the above video of an armadillo I filmed when we lived in Georgia, then added to the end of the above post, “Or, since we’re moving to Texas, I should say I’ve been a busy armadillo.

Arran doesn’t bring us toys anymore, mainly because we no longer give him free access to them. That’s mostly Noyzi’s fault, because Noyzi has been known to eat toys, and we don’t want to have to have them surgically extracted. But, when we give Arran a toy, he will still play with it for a minute or two. Then he demands a treat.

This post seems really random, but I do have a point to make…

I need to get better at coming up with post titles, because sometimes the titles I come up with encourage people to comment before they read. And, as some of my regulars know, that’s one of my pet peeves. It happened the other day, actually. I wrote a post called “But we really don’t need gun control, do we?” I included a screenshot of the sign for Richneck Elementary School, where a six year old child deliberately shot his 25 year old teacher last Friday. At this writing, that post has just nine hits.

I have a whole lot of friends who are teachers. One of them commented on my Facebook link for that post. Below was our exchange:

I think I gleaned more than my friend bargained for when I read her comments.

My friend must have thought my post was a liberal and impersonal rant about gun control, based only on the post’s title. For the record, I do think we need more gun control in the United States. I don’t see how we can continue to go on the way we have, where people don’t feel safe carrying out their usual tasks of the day, because they don’t know who is packing heat.

When I titled that post, I was thinking about how absolutely terrifying it is that a six year old CHILD got his hands on a firearm and KNEW HOW TO USE IT! He was skilled enough that he could aim that gun at a teacher and seriously injure her. And he carried the weapon into the school and pointed it at a beautiful 25 year old woman who was just doing her job. By so many accounts, Abby Zwerner is a much beloved and respected teacher. She could have been killed by a six year old. How scary is that? And then I found out that I’m actually kind of connected to Abby, simply because I lived and worked for so many years in the area where she lives.

In my original post about that incident, I mentioned that Abby and I have a mutual Facebook friend. She teaches in a city near where I grew up, and where I still have a lot of friends. I was born in Hampton, Virginia, which is adjacent to Newport News, where Abby teaches.

It turns out our mutual Facebook friend is a woman I knew in high school. We were in a lot of classes together. I used to sit with her at lunch, when we were ourselves students in public high school, back in the 80s. I remember her stepmother was a substitute teacher, getting her own teaching credentials. Abby’s aunt, my high school friend, is also a teacher with a doctoral degree who teaches in the same geographical area. One of her best friends is an Air Force colonel, who also went to school with us. I just got a Christmas card from her the other day.

So now, I feel even more connected to that incident, even though I moved out of the Tidewater area of Virginia about 23 years ago. It’s still “home”, even though I don’t really have a home to go to down there anymore. Not only do I still know a lot of people from that area, but I also have connections because of so many of my friends– people who have never lived in the Hampton Roads area– who are teachers. And what happened to Abby, could have happened to any one of them. I’m sure all of my teaching friends are feeling a special kind of terror about this case.

My dear friend who wrote the above comments is very special to me. I would be absolutely DEVASTATED if she got seriously hurt while on the job, never mind if she was killed. She doesn’t teach in Newport News, but she is a Virginia teacher. I can’t even fathom how scared she must be to read about gun violence in schools. Because of where I went to college, I know a lot of teachers. I remember watching them prepare for their careers in our dormitories at Longwood University. Their coursework often involved a lot of reading, papers, and tests, as well as complicated art projects. I never even knew what contact paper was until I went to Longwood and made friends with budding teachers. They were constantly using it to make learning aids for their students.

There is so much preparation and dedication involved with becoming a teacher. It’s a lot of work for not that much money… but at least in the early 90s, there weren’t constant gun related events in schools. In those days, my friends were blissfully unaware of the bloodshed that was coming to America’s schools from 1999 onward. My friends who became teachers all have one thing in common. They are kind, caring, creative people who love working with young people. But now, they have to fear for their lives as they do their jobs. My friend wasn’t the only teacher who wrote about how teachers get blamed when kids do crazy things. Another former high school classmate– not someone I was friends with– wrote something similar about the crisis in public schools.

Maybe I don’t really want people to read what I write…

There is a certain freedom in writing things that people don’t think they want to read. I do use a headline analyzer, which gives me a “score” that shows how “good” my titles are. I aim for the green score, which I usually manage to attain, even though my post titles are often kind of cryptic.

After years of writing blog posts, I’ve come to realize that there’s a certain freedom in not giving too much away in a post title. I’ve frequently mentioned that I don’t write this stuff for money, so I don’t necessarily want to upset people. Sometimes I do make people angry, and they have a right to their feelings. I don’t want to deal with hate mail, though, nor do I want to be targeted by criminals. True crime posts often invite lurkers, which is unnerving. I’d rather my readers be people who know and like me, than the random person who jumps to conclusions.

So… maybe, for my mental and physical health, my post titles should stay the way they are… But then, that might lead to people continuing to assume things before they’ve read. I don’t think my friend has yet read the post she referenced. If she had read it, she’d know that I don’t blame teachers for what that little boy did. I don’t even necessarily blame the kid. The adults in his life have failed him. At least we know that he won’t be going to juvenile hall… at least not for this crime. He’s too young. But he probably will end up in foster care, which may or may not be a good thing. Foster care is a mixed bag. If that boy doesn’t get some serious help, he may very well go to juvie soon… and that will probably lead to prison.

Anyway… I’ve found that I often have connections to the things I write about, and that’s what compels me to blog. I want to put my thoughts down somewhere. I don’t mind when people read, especially if they get something good from my insights. However, I also don’t want to be a target. So… maybe these crappy blog post titles are really just a form of cowardice. Maybe it’s time I stopped blogging for the public. Or maybe I should just write book reviews, although even those can be controversial. I wouldn’t be able to post every day, either.

Today’s post probably won’t necessarily attract a lot of readers. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing. But I do feel better for having written today. I hope one or two people enjoyed my insights, such as they are. Or… at least had occasion to think about them a little bit…

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communication, complaints, News, technology

Google nightmare reminds man that Big Brother is always watching…

Last night, I read a frightening New York Times article about a San Francisco dad named Mark whose life has been upended over photos he took of his naked toddler son. I know that on the surface, it sounds like Mark’s life should have been upended. Nobody should be taking naked kid pics, right?

But what if it was in the middle of a pandemic? What if the photos were necessary for a doctor to see what was wrong with the boy, whose penis was swollen and hurting him? That’s the situation Mark was in, back in February 2021, when the COVID pandemic was routinely killing people apace. That was when people were being encouraged not to congregate indoors if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. When Mark’s son needed help, it was also a Friday night. His wife had called a nurse’s advice line to schedule an emergency telemedicine consult for the next morning. The nurse had told her to take photos of the infection and send them to the physician for review.

As requested, Mark’s wife took the pictures on Mark’s phone, then sent them to her iPhone, so she could upload them to the doctor’s messaging system. Under those circumstances, she didn’t realize that the photos might be seen by anyone other than the healthcare professionals who were entrusted to take care of her toddler’s very real medical problem.

The pediatrician received the photos, examined them, diagnosed the child’s medical problem, and prescribed antibiotics. The toddler quickly recovered without further incident. Unfortunately, that’s not where the story ends. The naked toddler’s photos tripped Google’s screening system and were flagged by “an algorithmic net designed to snare people exchanging child sexual abuse material.” The end result is that Mark lost over a decade of contacts, emails and photos. He also became the target of a police investigation. 

A couple of days after the photos were taken, Mark’s phone made strange noises. It was then that he realized that Google had flagged his account because of “‘harmful content’ that was ‘a severe violation of Google’s policies and might be illegal.’ A ‘learn more’ link led to a list of possible reasons, including ‘child sexual abuse & exploitation.'” Mark was surprised and confused, but then remembered the photos of his son’s genitals. Realizing that Google’s screening system probably flagged the photos and labeled them as abusive, Mark thought that eventually a human being would review them and let him off the hook.

Still, being flagged by Google wasn’t a small inconvenience. Mark’s whole online life, including his cell phone plan, was through the company. He filled out a form requesting that Google review the decision. He explained that his son had an infection, and he had only taken those photos so that the doctor could diagnose him properly. But because Google had shut down his cell phone plan, Mark had to get a new phone number from another carrier. And then, because he couldn’t access his old phone number or email address, he couldn’t get the security codes that would let him access his other accounts.

A few days after Mark asked Google to reconsider their decision, he received a flat denial from them, with no further explanation. The company had also flagged a video Mark made and sent everything to the San Francisco Police Department. He was already under investigation by the police and didn’t even know it. In December 2021, Mark received a letter from the San Francisco Police Department informing him that he had been under investigation. The envelope included copies of search warrants, as well as other documentation generated by the investigation. The investigator’s name was included, so Mark called him. The investigator, whose name was Nicholas Hillard, told Mark that he’d tried to get in touch with him. But… his phone number and email address didn’t work. Go figure!

Fortunately, Mr. Hillard told Mark that the case against him was closed. He had looked at the evidence Google sent him and determined that no crime had taken place. The police did not consider the photos and video abusive or exploitative. So, at least Mark would not be arrested… but, when he asked Mr. Hillard to tell Google he wasn’t a criminal, Mr. Hillard said that there was nothing he could do to help Mark get his online life back from Google.

So Mark appealed to Google again, this time sending them the police report that exonerated him. But Google still wouldn’t budge. In fact, they sent him a message letting him know that his account was being permanently deleted. Mark contacted a lawyer to ask about suing Google, but when he was told it would cost at least $7000, Mark decided the lawsuit wasn’t worth the money. And even though it’s been proven that the photos and the video were not abusive or exploitative, Google refuses to reconsider.

The article included a story about another man who was wrongly accused of sexually abusing a child due to intimate photos on his phone that were taken out of context by Google’s AI system. The other man faced similar repercussions, and basically lost his online life because of artificial intelligence that flagged photos that weren’t taken for abusive or exploitative purposes. For some reason, the HUMANS at Google are incapable of discernment, and fail to see that while the technology they use is very valuable for preventing child abuse, it also poses serious privacy issues and potentially ruins innocent people’s lives.

Mark says that the police department has his information on a thumb drive, and he’s hoping they will give a copy to him. The police department says they are “eager to help him”, which sounds like good news. But according to the article, it’s “easier” for Google to just deny people in Mark’s situation access to their services, rather than exercise discernment. In other words, too bad, so sad. I hope Mark changes his mind and sues. Maybe he and the other guy, both victimized and treated unfairly by Google, can team up and sue. What happened to them isn’t right.

And now, a loosely connected rant…

Naturally, a lot of people had comments about this situation. Many of the comments came from people chiming in, even though they hadn’t read the article and simply reacted to the headline. As my regular readers know, this is one of my pet peeves. Especially when they also complain about paywalls, and make a statement like “I think journalism should be freely open to everyone.”

That sounds good in theory, doesn’t it? Until you realize that newspapers are in business, and the people who provide the news have to eat, too. Most people can’t and don’t want to work for free. This was an excellent investigative article by reporter, Kashmir Hill, for The New York Times. Below is a screenshot of Hill’s information page on the newspaper’s Web site.

I see that Ms. Hill is a graduate of two fine private universities. She is based in New York City, which is not a cheap city to live in. She’s a successful and experienced journalist. She probably owes student loans, too. Delivering the news is a very important job, but newspapers are in decline. Why? Because people don’t want to pay for subscriptions and expect that the news ought to be “free”. But you get what you pay for, right? Someone has to pay the bills.

Even if the news is “free” for everyone, someone still has to pay expenses. So– they either get paid for by taxes, which most Americans would prefer to keep as low as possible, or they get paid by wealthy people who have their own agendas to push. That means people like Donald Trump or George Soros… or Jeff Bezos, who already owns The Washington Post, or Bill Gates… or Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News and other news publishing outlets. The New York Times is not a cheap publication, but it’s not owned by the likes of Bezos, Murdoch, or Trump. It’s owned by The New York Times Company, which is publicly traded. How would the paper change if it was purchased by a politically affiliated billionaire with an agenda to push?

I have repeatedly stated that I subscribe to several newspapers, ranging from local publications like The Gazette Journal in my Virginia hometown, to The Irish Times. Yes, it costs money, but we can afford to pay, and I am grateful to have access to the news from excellent and reputable sources. The newspapers help me create content for this blog and keep me engaged in the world. I know not everyone wants or needs to pay for newspaper subscriptions, but I also think that if you’re going to comment on something in the news, you should know what you’re writing about. At least take a moment to read comments made by people who did read before spouting off ignorance. And have some respect for the journalists who took the time and spent the money to get trained to deliver the news properly.

Journalists– especially the ones who bravely go into harm’s way and/or cover difficult or challenging topics– help keep us free by reporting the unbiased truth. Isn’t that interesting? Paying for a newspaper subscription and supporting journalism, rather than expecting it for free, will help keep all of us free. Think about that.

And now, for a funny anecdote involving The Irish Times.

I have been a subscriber for a few years. I don’t read The Irish Times as much as I should, even though the journalism is excellent and offers an interesting perspective. The paper covers US news, but naturally, most of it is about Ireland and Irish issues. And sometimes, a reporter will cover a really unique topic. The other day, I read a poignant piece about a man who realized that his power garden tools were killing machines for the creatures who dwelled there. The thought never occurred to him until he noticed a headless frog, accidentally decapitated by his weed whacker. The guy wrote that he immediately decided to buy new tools that weren’t powered in hopes of sparing the wildlife. I don’t think I would have read something like that in a US paper.

Anyway, The Irish Times also has an advice column, and yesterday, I read a letter a young mom wrote to the advice columnist. The troubled woman explained that before she had her baby, her husband regularly wanted to have at least an hour of sex, preceded by showering and shaving. The mom wrote that her baby is very needy, and she simply doesn’t have the time or stamina to give in her husband’s demands for extended sex sessions.

The comments on this were hilarious, but one in particular was hysterical. A man wrote:

My wife and I have an hour long sex session every week by playing doctor and patient. She’s the doctor and makes me wait outside the door for 55 minutes before I can have 5 minutes with her.

At this writing, his comment has 819 likes and laugh reactions. I responded:

I’m an American, but I subscribe to The Irish Times just so I can read Irish witticisms. (62 likes!)

And the guy came back and wrote:

We’re great at taking the piss out of ourselves. That’s not true about my wife. She’s actually an Olympic Performer……….. Once every 4 years!

To which I replied, “In that case, my husband and I are also Olympic contenders.”

See? Besides the news, when you subscribe to a paper, you also get witty comments from other people who read! Of course, the quality of the comments tends to be commensurate to the paper’s readership. I used to be a Wall Street Journal subscriber, but I got rid of it when I realized it was much too conservative for me, and I never used the subscription. And then I had to jump through a bunch of hoops to get rid of the subscription, which I ranted about in this blog some time ago.

Well, I think I’ve prattled on long enough. I need to practice guitar and walk the dogs. I hope you have a good Monday. And if you don’t already subscribe to a newspaper and have the means, please give it some consideration. The papers need your support, and the rest of us don’t want to read your erroneous and misled reactions to headlines.

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fashion, good news, rants, social media

Energy surges… my body is finally kicking the crap out of the virus.

I think I’m starting to feel somewhat better now. I can tell, because when I start getting over a sickness, I get a surge of energy, and I start getting annoyed by little chores that need to be completed. Yesterday, the weather was cooler, so I took the dogs on a much needed walk. I ended up walking longer than I had planned, because there was a lady sweeping the narrow pathway where we usually go when I’m feeling lazy or sick. I didn’t want to get in her way or have to maneuver past her. When we got back to the house, I had every intention of vacuuming, because I always do that on Thursdays. But I was, all of a sudden, so tired that I hosed off the sweat in the shower and laid down on my bed. Before I knew it, I was sound asleep for two solid hours, complete with vivid dreams about a woman from my childhood to whom I haven’t spoken since the early 80s.

I went downstairs after my nap, noting that it was mid afternoon, and I just really didn’t feel like vacuuming. The vacuum remained in the closet, and I pulled a notice taped to my front door, letting me know that the chimney sweep is coming. In Germany, it’s a law that chimney sweeps have to inspect every year, even in homes that don’t have fireplaces. In our old house, we didn’t have a fireplace, but we did have a visit from the chimney sweep every year– a pretty brunette lady who was quick and polite about her business. Former landlady would always show up to “supervise” her work (and be nosey). In this house, we do have a fireplace, but our current landlord doesn’t feel the need to bother us or “supervise”. So I have to wait for the chimney sweep. It’s a good thing we weren’t away, since we got very little notice. Hopefully, I won’t share germs with him.

Bill got home last night at about 8:00 pm. Arran was as delighted to see him as I was. We had a little dinner and beer, and went to bed. I got up a little later than usual, and Bill was making us breakfast. I started a load of laundry. Bill said he thought he’d try to come home early, and I remarked that I hoped he’d be home in time to deal with the chimney sweep. After he left for work, I went up to my trusty iMac and started thinking about what I wanted today’s topic to be. Suddenly, I had an overwhelming urge to vacuum, in spite of a coughing fit. I went to the kitchen, got the vacuum, plugged it in, and briefly considered getting the laundry. Then I realized that I’m so slack about vacuuming, that I could just vacuum and be done with that dreaded chore very quickly. It’s not even 9:30 am, and I’ve already done laundry, vacuumed, and written half a post. I think I still have the energy to walk the dogs, turn on the robot mower, and deal with the chimney sweep! So let’s hear it for strong immune systems! Maybe by tomorrow, I’ll be even closer to my old self. I might even try to weed whack a little.

I still don’t know if this was COVID or a cold. It felt mostly like a cold. I had something similar last month, only my nose ran a lot more, and I didn’t have a sore throat. If it was COVID, it wasn’t bad at all, as sicknesses go. I think that’s proof that vaccines work, even though I know I’ve read comments from people who have said they were unvaccinated and didn’t get really sick with the current COVID variant. Maybe the mild illness isn’t such a good thing, though. Maybe it gives people a false sense of security when COVID doesn’t bite very hard. Then, they get really sick with a different variant. I won’t pretend to know… What I do know is that nothing I’ve had so far as come even close to what I think was swine flu in 2013. That shit knocked me on my ass for a solid week, and I was coughing and fatigued for many weeks afterwards.

Having typed all of that, I now realize that if that was COVID, it was really contagious. I wasn’t in super close contact with anyone last week, except for when we went to the wine stand on Friday, and when we went to AAFES on Sunday, to pick up a few things. We did talk to one person who said her partner had been sick with COVID, but we weren’t that physically close to her. She was probably the source of the sickness, though.

I’m still plowing through my book about Roe v. Wade, marveling at how very comprehensive and well researched it is. Norma McCorvey (aka Jane Roe) was a very complicated woman, but there were so many other interesting and complex characters in the story of Roe v. Wade. I look forward to finishing the book so I can write about it. I think it will make for an interesting blog post, which will probably parent a few other blog posts. 😉 And while Roe v. Wade may have been a very flawed decision, I still believe, and continue to see strong evidence that overturning the ruling is going to have tragic and devastating consequences for a lot of people. I continue to be saddened by the terrible and ignorant comments people have about abortion. Are Americans really that uninformed about why abortions are necessary sometimes? Do so many people really think that the only people who have abortions are heartless, irresponsible, awful people who are loose and careless? Do people really believe that using pregnancy as a “punishment” is a good idea?

I am genuinely heartsick about it, even though that particular ruling won’t affect me. I did read a comment from a woman last night who wrote that she got pregnant at age 50. Fortunately, she had a miscarriage, because the prospect of being pregnant at 50 was “horrifying” for her. I read a comment from another woman, who at age 51, wrote that she was going to get her tubes tied. Obviously, this is a woman who hasn’t reached menopause yet, just as I haven’t. Some asshole MAN wrote, “I think you’re good, ‘Grandma’.” Seriously? What an inappropriate and tone deaf comment by an ignoramus. I hope no woman ever lets that guy get close to them. He shouldn’t be breeding!

Can I just say I’m so sick of those kinds of rude, dismissive, snarky comments from people? And I’m also sick of people who “react” to things they haven’t bothered to read, or in the case of videos, haven’t watched. Yesterday, I shared a video by this hilarious androgynous person named River. I think River is technically a male, but they present as female– or a princess, even. River often comments on the British Royal Family and fashion, and Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are frequent topics. Yesterday, River made me laugh as they shared a pretty pink ring “Second Hand Suzy” purchased. River said that they didn’t have a pink ring… at least not one that one can wear on a finger! I thought that was hilarious and shared the video, which had a title that suggested it would be about throwing shade at Meghan Markle. River is actually quite kind and fair to Meghan, but I still got an “angry” reaction from a friend… who didn’t even bother to check out what she was reacting to. I know it happens constantly and almost everyone is occasionally guilty of doing it, but it’s still annoying. Why not just keep scrolling instead of making erroneous assumptions? Leaving angry reactions to friends, particularly when they aren’t really warranted, is kind of disrespectful.

The reason I shared this is at about 2:33, and my reason for sharing it has NOTHING to do with Meghan Markle.

I don’t like most of the Facebook reactions, anyway, because people use them inappropriately. On the other hand, there are times when I can feel satisfied leaving an angry reaction to someone’s rude comment rather than firing back at them. Sigh… social media is such a mixed bag, isn’t it? Remember the days when you had to communicate face to face or by letter? Seems like life was so much less complicated then. Someday, I hope someone will come up with a better version of social media. Or I’ll just simply stop caring about it.

Well… I suppose it’s time to wrap up this post and walk the dogs, so I’ll be ready when the chimney sweep gets here. I doubt Bill will be home early enough. He has to take the bus home from work, since he had to get a rental car for his overnight to Stuttgart. I need to take the dogs out for their walk… ride this wave of energy while it exists. Because, just as today’s featured photo suggests, sometimes energy surges are tragically fleeting. I’m just glad the vacuuming is done. I hate vacuuming. I need a riding vacuum.

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condescending twatbags, healthcare, overly helpful people

Asshole detectors…

Yesterday, I read an article on The Atlantic entitled “Are Outdoor Mask Mandates Still Necessary?” Written by Derek Thompson, this piece was exactly what it sounds like… an article about whether or not people should be forced to wear face masks when they are outside. Here in Germany, we aren’t obligated to wear a mask outdoors if we can “socially distance”. I have noticed that despite the rather anal retentive and uptight rule following stereotype that seems to dog the German people, folks here are not too jazzed about wearing masks 24/7. I never see people wearing them when I’m walking my dogs through the neighborhood, although people do wear them at bus stops because it’s required.

Thompson included statements from respected public health experts from around the world, explaining why the zero tolerance/100% enforcement attitude could backfire in getting people to comply with the rules. Thompson wrote:

Requiring that people always wear masks when they leave home, and especially in places with low levels of viral transmission, is overkill. As mentioned, the coronavirus disperses outside, posing little risk to people who are walking alone or even swiftly passing by strangers. In fact, almost all of the documented cases of outdoor transmission have involved long conversations, or face-to-face yelling. The risk calculation changes if you’re standing in a crowd: Some uneven evidence suggests that the Black Lives Matter protests last summer increased local infections. But that’s an easy carve-out. States can end blanket mandates and still recommend outdoor masking by anyone experiencing symptoms, or in crowds. (Extended conversations pose their own risk, but when people are vaccinated, the odds of viral transmission are probably somewhere between microscopic and nonexistent.)

Outdoor mask mandates might also turn people off from obeying better rules. “Given the very low risk of transmission outdoors, I think outdoor mask use, from a public-health perspective, seems arbitrary,” Muge Cevik, an infectious-disease and virology expert at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, told The Washington Post. “I think it affects the public’s trust and willingness to engage in much higher-yield interventions. We want people to be much more vigilant in indoor spaces.”

Makes sense to me. If I’m alone in the woods or swiftly passing someone on my walking route, I don’t think wearing a mask is as important as it would be if I was in a huge crowd of people who are shouting. Also, there are quite a lot of people who just plain resent being “nannied” and “nagged” by others. If we let people exercise their free will in less risky areas, they may be more willing to cooperate when they’re indoors. And yes, to me, it makes more sense to wear a mask when indoors with strangers than it does out on the street, when you can be far enough away from people not to risk sharing germs.

Thompson continues:

Julia Marcus, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, spoke with several male mask skeptics last year for a piece in The Atlantic. When she explained that masking wasn’t as important outdoors, the men became more amenable to wearing them indoors. By connecting rules to reasons, she got them to see the value of covering their nose and mouth when it actually mattered. Last week, Marcus told me that she’s baffled by the notion that the best way to get people to wear masks inside is to mandate that everybody wear one when they’re alone outside. “We don’t recommend condom use when people are enjoying themselves alone to get them to wear condoms with their sexual partners,” she said.

The argument that outdoor mask mandates create a warm and fuzzy feeling of social solidarity confuses a personal definition of etiquette (“I think my mask makes everybody feel safe”) with a public defense of population-wide laws (“everybody should wear a mask everywhere, because it’s the only way to make everybody feel safe). Masks send all sorts of messages to all sorts of different people. To some, they’re beacons of safety; to others, they’re signs of imperious government overreach. As Marcus argued, mandating a public-health tool that’s not needed can drive away people who might otherwise be on board with more important interventions. “I think there’s a proportion of the population that believes restrictions will last indefinitely,” Marcus said, “and they are probably one of the hardest groups to keep engaged in public-health efforts.”

And I also liked that Thompson considered that not everyone has the same reality. A lot of people– myself included– are lucky enough to have backyards or balconies. But many more people are not so fortunate. In our previous house, we lived next to a large naturepark. But we didn’t have balconies or a yard with a functional fence, where we could let the dogs out free. The fence at our last house was more of a decoration, and would not have allowed us to safely sit outside with the dogs untethered. I know a lot of other people in Germany simply live in flats with no private spaces at all. As Thompson says:

Finally, mandating outdoor masks and closing public areas makes a show of “taking the virus seriously” while doing nothing to reduce indoor spread, in a way that often hurts the less fortunate. To deal with its COVID-19 spike, for example, the Canadian province of Ontario instituted a stay-at-home order and closed many parks and playgrounds. “These policies are made by people who have yards,” Marcus said. “If you live in an apartment building and have no yard, and are required to wear masks at all times outdoors, you never get to be maskless outside. And then, where do people gather maskless to socialize? Inside their homes”—where the risk of transmission is higher.

I thought Thompson’s article was fair and balanced, and the information within it was reasonable. I especially appreciated the comments from Julia Marcus, who came right out and said that there are people (like me) who worry that the mask mandates will turn into an indefinite rule. Allowing for some easing of the rules outside gives people hope that we won’t have to tolerate these rules forever, and that will make it easier to keep being vigilant. A lot of us just PLAIN don’t want to live this way for the rest of our lives, and we resent other people insisting that this is the way it HAS to be from now on. The fact is, many people feel that this is NOT how it should be. We should be working hard on a solution that makes mask wearing obsolete for most people. Or, at least that’s my opinion… but it seems like more and more people, especially in the United States, feel like only one opinion is the correct one. Anyone who disagrees is automatically an “asshole.”

One thing I take comfort in, at least here in Germany, is that it’s pretty obvious to me that people here are not going to accept being forced to wear face masks forever. In fact, I have noticed that even rule loving Germans are starting to rebel. There have been more protests lately, especially as Angela Merkel has pressed for stricter lockdowns. People are really getting tired of the crisis and they’re becoming more apathetic and lax.

I know there are people in some countries that are forced to wear veils whenever they are outside, but the rest of the world isn’t the Islamic world, where those kinds of oppressive rules are okay. And Thompson then ends with this uplifting conclusion:

Hyper-neuroticism is a mitzvah during a pandemic. But we really don’t have to live like this forever, and it’s okay for more people to say so. We can learn to look at a well-populated beach and not see a gross failure of human morality. We can see somebody unmasked in a park and not think, I guess that one doesn’t believe in science. We can walk down an uncrowded street with a mask, or without a mask, or with a mask sort of hanging from our chin, and just not really worry about it. We can reduce unnecessary private anxiety and unhelpful public shame by thinking for a few seconds about how the coronavirus actually works and how to finally end the pandemic. Let’s tell people the truth and trust that they can take it. Let’s plan for the end of outdoor mask mandates.

BRAVO! And let that be the FIRST step in eventually ending ALL mask mandates, because COVID-19 will be under control, like most infectious diseases usually become after time passes and science advances. Or, at least that’s what I think we should be aiming for. That’s what makes the masks different from seatbelts, which I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of, at least in my lifetime.

I felt pretty good as I read Derek Thompson’s article. But as I finished reading about how there’s a weird dichotomy between hyper-neurotic mask police types and vehement anti-maskers, I had sinking feeling that there would be tons of comments left on the magazine’s Facebook page. Sure enough, I was right. So many people, clearly folks who didn’t bother to read, left comments regarding this article. And one person wrote that non-maskers are his personal form of an “asshole detector”. Behold:

At this point I think of them less as masks and more as asshole detectors. Even if the chances are small, it’s the very least you can do for your fellow man. How damned privileged is our society that this is a hot button issue? If it happens to save even a few extra lives, it’s worth it. Buck up buttercups.

Seriously, dude? I think YOU are an asshole for taking this attitude toward your fellow man, especially as you pat yourself on the back for being so “considerate” as you judge people you don’t even know. And I think people who comment on things they haven’t read are assholes, adding unnecessary and uninformed noise that everybody else has to wade through.

and…

I live in southern Georgia and literally no one wears masks in stores, etc. All asshole behavior. I literally got into a verbal argument with a man that refused to stand on the 6 ft marker on floor in grocery store check out line. No mask. Even the clerk was like, “Sir, stand back!” It’s like the non-maskers get off on being a bully.

Why get in an argument with someone? Just get away from them. Arguing with a stranger is “asshole behavior” too, isn’t it?

There were more comments like that, along with the usual chorus of people writing things like “just wear the damn mask”, which I find pretty offensive, myself. I don’t think it helps compliance when you swear at people. In fact, people who swear at perfect strangers are probably assholes, right? I actually feel like telling them to go fuck themselves, but because I’m a lady, I don’t do that. 😉 Instead, I just think it to myself… and if I get angry enough, I vent about it in my blog.

I mean, I do wear a mask if I have to. But I go out of my way not to be in situations where I have to wear a mask, or deal with assholes who take it upon themselves to determine what perfect strangers are or are not doing as “asshole detectors”. Here’s one that made me laugh…

But it doesn’t matter. Wear the mask. It’s not an inconvenience in any way. It’s the least difficult thing that has ever been asked of us to do collectively. Articles like this only lend credence to selfish, broken people. Wear the mask until the pandemic is over. Simple. And until then, STFU.

Dude… to some people, it truly IS an inconvenience. You may not think it is, but they do– and they get an opinion and a vote, too! And telling someone to STFU, sorry, is also “asshole behavior”. You don’t get to tell people to STFU, simply because you claim to agree with the opinions of “experts” and you assume they don’t. There are all kinds of people out there who really are experts, and most of them have more balanced, fair, informed, and sensible opinions than yours. This lady had a sensible comment, in my opinion…

As a biologist, I can confirm that masking while outside was only suggested if you would be less than six feet from others (the transmission distance for errant coughs, sneezes or loud talking); it was never required by science to mask all the time outside. I carry or wear it and put up/on as I approach others on a path etc. ps I would warn against dining inside until one is vaccinated: the author’s point about the indoors being highest risk is valid.

And this guy also has reasonable thoughts, in my view…

I agree with this. The problem with outdoor mask mandates with fines for noncompliance is it becomes something law enforcement can selectively enforce. Look at what Miami was doing. They passed an ordinance that said everyone had to wear a mask at all times indoors or outdoors even when social distancing is possible. Miami police basically set up mask traps and stood outside supermarkets just waiting for people to come out of the store and take the mask off or wear it under their nose so they could ticket them. A woman was walking through an empty parking lot without a mask and was ticketed. Someone was in a barbershop and pulled his mask down for a few seconds to take a drink of water and a police officer happened to be walking by and that person was ticketed. I think a reasonable person would agree that this enforcement was overreach. I get the seriousness of the virus, but you have to give people a little breathing room. If a person is walking in an empty parking lot or on a back residential street and is not wearing a mask, but has a mask with them in case he or she comes to a situation where he or she can’t socially distance, then I don’t see the problem.

Sounds to me like Miami has found a great way to fill its coffers by oppressively fining people over mask wearing. Glad I don’t live there, especially as hot as it gets.

It baffles me that so many people have gone to such extremes on this issue. It should be perfectly okay to hate wearing a face mask. It should be okay to say it out loud, and hope for the mandates to end at some point. It should be alright to expect and fervently hope that we’ll get to a point at which this nightmare is either ended or mitigated. Otherwise, why go on living? I HATE living this way, and I don’t have it as bad as a whole lot of people do. Telling people that they don’t have the right to their feelings is toxic, and labeling them as “assholes” because you make assumptions about their character based on their masking habits is extremely limiting and offensive. Obviously, people who feel this way about other people are assholes themselves. Are there really people out there who think the whole world should be expected to accept living like this from now on? It blows my mind! As long as people are complying, what’s it to you, anyway?

I particularly love it when people compare mask wearing to wearing a seatbelt, or they compare going outside maskless with drunk or reckless driving. It’s absolute lunacy. I think, if seeing someone’s bare face outside in a sparsely populated area makes you compare them to drunk drivers or reckless people, you should simply do your best to avoid them. That’s what I do when I see someone on the road who drives erratically. I let them go ahead and get away from them. I don’t fan the flames by flipping them off or cursing at them through my window. Doing that in Germany can get you a pretty stiff fine, actually. It’s against the law to insult people or shoot the bird at them. Seems like doing one’s best to avoid problems is the better way to get through life. But… that’s just me.

Sigh… I really think Derek Thompson’s article is a good one. It gave me hope to read it. And, if people had taken the time to read it, they’d find that he consulted “experts” before he shared his thoughts. He’s quoted a Harvard educated epidemiologist, for Christ’s sakes, yet so many people feel the need to claim that Thompson is being “irresponsible” by giving people hope that things will get better! I would certainly listen to Julia Marcus of Harvard Medical School talking about COVID-19 and mask wearing than I would some jerk commenting on The Atlantic’s Facebook page.

Anyway… if you read all of this blog post and don’t think it’s an “asshole detector”, I thank you. I really think these hyper-vigilant, hyper-neurotic, nagging mask cheerleaders are how we wind up with right wing nutjobs like Marjorie Taylor Greene and straight up narcissistic creeps like Donald Trump in charge. There needs to be balance in all things… and that includes mask mandates. But maybe I’m just an asshole who needs to STFU. If you honestly think that about me, I hope you will take it as a cue to find someone else’s blog to read. 😉

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condescending twatbags, healthcare, sex, slut shamers

This just in! “Unintended pregnancies” are caused by having sex!

Okay… now that I’ve had a walk and all of my other chores for the day are done, I’ve just thought of something else to write about… and that is, “unintended pregnancies”. This morning, I learned that they’re caused by having sex! Who knew?

I recently read about how scientists are concerned because not enough people have gotten pregnant during the pandemic, that will eventually cause a shortfall in people to care for the elderly. I blogged about that revelation, which came from information in an article with the headline “Experts sound the alarm on declining birth rates among younger generations: ‘It’s a crisis’.

This morning, I read another alarming headline “The pandemic has caused as many as 1.4 million unintended pregnancies. Here’s how that impacts women’s lives.” I was confused, since I have seen several headlines lamenting the baby bust. The lamenting over the baby bust also confused me, since I’ve been hearing for years about how overpopulated the world is. And the fact that people weren’t getting pregnant over the past year means fewer abortions, right? But apparently, there hasn’t been a baby bust after all…

I started reading the article and discovered that it was about women in developing countries. In places like East Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, plenty of people were getting pregnant. They had lost access to birth control, thanks to widespread closures of facilities that weren’t needed for treating COVID-19. According to the article, a lot of women were unable to get birth control even before the pandemic. After it struck, things got markedly worse, and the women were faced with a potentially terrible choice– have a potentially unsafe abortion (obviously depending on the location) and worry about the stigma attached to that, or be forced into a potentially unsuitable marriage.

Well, none of this is news to me. I used to work in maternal and child health as well as healthcare policy. My older sister is also in public health and spent years traveling to developing countries to research and promote contraception. But, as is my habit, I decided to read the comments anyway. Lots of people who didn’t read were chiming in, as usual. And one man came up with this illuminating comment:

The pandemic caused pregnancies? I know science is distorted these days, but I still believe sex caused those pregnancies.

Another man came up with this one…

And here I thought pregnancy was a side effect of having sex…

When someone asked why he thought this was an amusing subject, he said…

“where did I say it was amusing? Its a fact that pregnancy is a result of sex, don’t want to be pregnant and can’t get access to birth control? Don’t have sex, pretty simple.”

I suppose it is simple, as long as men respect a woman’s right to say no to sex. But, as we all know, some men don’t respect that right. That is especially true in developing countries, where women are thought of as second class citizens and/or property. A couple of other guys chimed in about how women shouldn’t be having sex if they don’t want to be pregnant. When someone else brought up the issue of consent, or lack thereof, a guy asked “So all these women were raped?”

To that question, a woman replied, “only men can be having this stupid conversation. And maybe you should educate yourselves a little bit: even using birth control a woman can get pregnant.

Then, Mr. Brilliant added, “If you get pregnant using a condom you should name that baby Houdini.

Maybe… except this article was about women in developing countries, who may or may not have access to condoms or partners willing to use them. And then, someone else suggested butt sex, which does not result in pregnancy. But it does result in a pain in the ass. Not everyone is that chocolate, either. I know I’m about as vanilla as they come… maybe with a little fruity ripple and a few nuts.

Jesus Christ!

And then someone made a comment about Republicans and manages to add in a blurb about face masks. I agree with her comment about Republicans, but it has no place on this article, which has nothing to do with the Republican Party. It’s about the worldwide shortage of condoms and access to contraception. I WISH PEOPLE WOULD READ BEFORE LEAVING THEIR DUMB COMMENTS.

Wow… for once, I’m with the guys.

And it went even further, with talk of dildoes…

Midgets? WTF?

Well… it’s true that sex causes pregnancy, at least most of the time– barring any medical procedures, that is. But being in a pandemic, with reduced access to contraception and medical care, more women are getting pregnant without meaning to get pregnant. Before I studied social work, I used to refer to the unintended pregnancies that resulted in unprotected sex as “unwanted”. But I was corrected by a field instructor and told I should use the term “unintended”. I’m sure that has a better ring to it, especially in a state like South Carolina, where legislators are continually trying to control women’s uteri. We don’t like to think of pregnancy and the resulting births, which many people consider to be a blessing, as “unwanted”. Many religious folks consider children gifts from God, and they proclaim that God will provide. Except when God doesn’t provide and the women need help.

As we can see from reading this article, unintended pregnancies happen all over the world, and they can and do have a devastating effect on the lives of the people who aren’t prepared for them. And while the headline for this article could have been better considered and more accurate, the fact is, a lot of women are pregnant and didn’t want to be because of conditions caused by the pandemic. That’s the main idea of the article. I got the point; did you?

I’ll end with a poem…

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