I'm Verne. I do sound for live theatre, poetry, and am going to school to be a personal trainer. I'm a nice atheist with a good sense of humor. And I'm working on stuff.
New York Democratic Rep. Steve Israel • Calling for a ban on plastic firearms fashioned through the use of 3D printers. The first wholly 3D-printed gun has been produced by Cody Wilson, a 25-year-old law student at the University of Texas, who gave Forbes magazine an inside look at its production. The blue and white colored plastic gun, which looks a great deal more like a toy than a potentially lethal weapon, has been named “the Liberator” by Wilson, who runs a company that intends to release the CAD (computer-aided design) file for the do-it-yourself gun online, free for all. Which means with a 3D printer (available for just $1,300 or so these days), and a modicum of practice, whatever background check system the U.S. does have, however spotty, might be circumvented entirely. Rep. Israel urgently wants this avoided, by an expansion of the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988, to include passages specific to 3D-printed guns. source (via shortformblog)
Lately I’ve started thinking a lot about some of the wildly optimistic claims made by some supplement companies, fitness gurus, homeopeeps, naturopeeps, celebrity doctors/corporate shills, and then about the people who consume their products, general issues of consumer choice, and the nature of belief. As with every other type of business on the planet, there are people in the health industry who are responsible and there are those who are fraudulent shysters, and there is a large sliding spectrum of those in between. The person at the organic mart, recommending a non-FDA-approved magnesium supplement for dietary issues, for example, isn’t in the same ballpark-of-evil as the infomercial promoting a supplement to cure cancer. And then there’s Dr. Oz, who has his own evil amusement park. (Dr. Phil mans the rollercoaster ride.) So, too, is there a difference between the consumer who buys some Tea Tree oil, and the one who signs up for 3 easy payments of *insert life-savings here* for ground-up porcelain dust cancer cure, or even the one who buys “memory-impressed” water “cures.” By entering myself into the world of fitness and health, I have come to realize that I need to figure out where I stand on the spectrum, and this is actually a more convoluted decision to make than I had previously thought.
People are willing to pay huge amounts of money for hope. Things like investment and insurance play on our anxieties, our willingness to risk, our competitive natures, and our inner “what-if” thoughts. It seems to be, though, that the profit margin for selling false hope is much greater than that for selling something that has a basis in reality. I would need to research this, obviously, but if you think about it, the basics break down thusly: 2 different companies hypothetically have the same operating budget for a product. “A” company has had to go through only the most minimal amount of product testing before it hits the shelves, and the majority of the company’s expenditure is on packaging and promotion. “B” company, on the other hand, has had to go through rigorous amounts of testing and inspection, and so spends less on packaging and promotion. Not only is company B not benefitting from advertisement, its product doesn’t even become saleable in the same amount of time that company A’s product does. Company A’s priorities are less about the provable effects of its product on its consumers, and more about profit, and vice-versa for company B. I think this is the main difference in what constitutes false and reality based hope.
My sister works in a sex shop that sells, among other things, “dick pills.” Bigger dick, harder dick, sustainable dick, they come in all flavors of “no-scientific-evidence” claim, and when she first started at the shop she felt really conflicted about selling these things. If asked whether they worked or not, she would say that she couldn’t provide proof, and if the person asking wasn’t being a dick himself, might suggest looking up more info on the net. But she found that this even-handed approach wasn’t making it into the skulls of the people interested in buying the things. Her current philosophy is, “if a person asks if the pills work or not, I think to myself, ‘that depends….how stupid are you? They seem to work really well on stupid people.’” In the end, she doesn’t take on the responsibility for consumer gullibility, nor for corporate usury. Just saying out and out that the pills don’t work isn’t something that she can do, either, because hey…it’s her job to sell things. But when she was trying to do so as responsibly as she could, she found that people weren’t receptive to her suggestions of looking for more information on their own, and more often than not, bought the pills outright anyway. False hope sells.
How many millions of dollars are made every week by companies claiming that the latest cleanse, pill, supplement, or shake is the one to wring out your excess fat and turn you into a lean hottie without ever picking up a dumbbell or walking a mile? How many of these products are ever actually tested to be effective in their claims? Almost as important, though, is the question: would it make a difference?
It’s just as easy to throw your money at something scientifically proven as it is to throw your money at something that isn’t. This is where the whole nature of belief and the role of choice comes into play for me. I know that there are companies and representatives out there who are really awful, and who push the most ludicrous things, and get away with murder. (Well…wrongful death, at any rate.) Some measures have been taken towards improving controls for supplements claiming naturopathic remedies, but it’s still nowhere near as rigorously legislated as pharmaceuticals. (One could argue that this could be because most supplements are harmless enough to not warrant the same type of restrictions as placed on pharmaceuticals, but a simple Google search of “dangerous supplements” got 15,800,000 results, and found this link at the top: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/05/dangerous-supplements/index.htm) I totally do think there should be tighter regulations on supplements, and that there should be a code of standards that hold companies to their claimed effects, but at the same time, I’m not so naïve as to think this will stop the homeopathic practice of “imprinted water” tonics from being sold, or from consumers pursuing it. If people take it into their heads that something works, it is only a certain small percentage of that population that will be swayed away from their previous assumptions by way of scientific evidence to the contrary. Everyone else will simply revert back to their assumptions/beliefs, and go about their business as before. Finally, sort of as a wild card comparison, I always think about how alcohol and tobacco are legal poisons, whose only real regulatory hurdle in getting to the public is the amount of tax levied on them, and the age at which the public is able to buy them. Tobacco is covered in warnings, everyone knows the health risks of smoking, but it is still a legal substance, and it is actually killing people. Alcohol is even more insidious, as its health risks (beyond drunk driving) are never talked about openly, and alcohol’s image is always that much more shiny and presentable in the media. (“Drink responsibly” could just as easily be “Give a hoot, don’t pollute” for all the social impact it has.) My point is this: the burden of proof should be on the shoulders of the manufacturers, and the burden of informed choice should remain in the hands of consumers, for any of this stuff. But in the murky waters of where we’re at right now, the majority of the responsibility is on the consumer to “man up” and inform themselves on the feasibility of claims, and the ratio of false:real hope a product is offering. No one is going to swoop in and save you from spending 80 bucks on a weight-loss pill. Nobody is going to stop you from wasting your money on tiny bottles of water “tinctures,” not yet, at any rate. We as consumers have to make up for the lack of regulation on these things and vote with our dollar. Personally speaking, I aim to be the type of personal trainer who doesn’t promise miracle results, but rather just…actual, quantifiable results. And I will NOT sell you a pill while doing it.
He *might* run into a burning building if he thought there was a bucket of KFC in there to be saved. But I think he’d probably just try flipping the bird to the fire, or maybe charging it with harassment.
The point, for me and my sister, was to go to an easy, palm-tree-filled, white sand-filled, warm destination sometime around Xmess to try and distract ourselves from Xmess and its reminders, its loaded sentimentality, due to the death or our Ma in August. Neither of us are really “the type” to attend an all-inclusive resort, because a) Gin’s real pale and would burn like a marshmallow at the slightest hint of sun, and doesn’t drink as much as I do, and b) I tend to like to experience a different country in its authenticity, not in a roped-off, served-on kind of way. But, we were after an easy, cheap, warm getaway, and so we decided to book a trip to Punta Cana. An all-inclusive dealie. The Bavarro Barcelo Palace Deluxe, to be precise.
I’d gone down 2 days prior to Gin and her fiancee, Kevin, because there was no room for me on their flight. The extra days I had were downright pleasant: good sun, good layin’ around time. I took pictures of the beach.
i took pictures of me layin’ around.
i took pictures of the resort, and its endless supply of things one could lounge upon:
HAMMOCK!!! I LOVE GODDAMNED HAMMOCKS!
I took pictures of enormous thatched rooves.
And I took pictures of the strange white orbs that littered the resort, because it reminded me of my friends Lindsay and Michelle, and of The Prisoner:
I drank some, and I worked out some, and I laid around some more. I made some “friends,” (read: dudes who wanted to sell me stuff/bone me/both, but really only got away with selling me stuff, good on them. One was VERY persistent - nice enough kid, but really…he was about 19. He managed to sell me a bottle of rum and 4 cds. But he kept calling my room, reminding me in broken english that his vacation started tomorrow, and didn’t I want beer in my room for my sister? Yeesh. Call room service once and invite the bringer boy to join you for a glass, and suddenly I’m your most hopeful prospect? Honey. I’m not Michael Jackson.)
Gin and Kev finally arrive to save me from myself. Yay! We ate, and had some delicious coffee and brandy and cigars. Witness the excitement!
And they were all cute and lovey and stuff. WITNESS THE CUTE!
So that was all awesome. But then, on their second day there, Gin started hacking away and came down with a pretty serious cold. They took a day off from chillin’ - Kev and I still managed a dinner date, while Ginny slept. Meanwhile, I’d had a few bites from local mozzers on my feety bits and went to see the doc. Here’s where the photos go from “pretty” to “pretty gross.”
Whatever, I went to the hotel clinic, they shot me full of something, and I seemed to be doing fine, until, 24 hours later, the mozzers got me in a renewed attack. That’s when I got worried and went back to the clinic, because this shit weren’t right, y’all. One bite had swollen up on the front of one calf, whilst on the other, it looked like an oozing rat-bite. My elbow had been got, too. Mind, I had gotten these bites and continued on my merry way, working out and such, for a day before I thought that perhaps I’d visit the clinic again for a magic shot of whatever they gave me the first time. But no! They said that I’d have to get sent off to the local hospital for treatment, because, HOLY SHIT YOU’VE GOT DOMINICAN WEIRD-LEG! That’s not what they called it. Gin and I dubbed it that later, but you could see it in their expressions, and in their mad stabbings at the phone to try and get a cab for me asap to the hospital. HERE’S SOME GROSS PICTURES!!
I got bored waiting in the emergency room. so I took these pictures.
I also managed to record a pretty decent hospital ambience wav. file on my iPad whilst waiting. Good reverb. Anyway….
They told me that I had severe infection in the area surrounding the bites in my legs/elbow, plus a severe allergic reaction, and that, to counteract that, I’d have to stay overnight. I have problems with sleepovers anywhere, let alone foreign hospitals that poke you awake every 2 hours with some other fucking thing they want to stick in you. Plus, how do I know your hospital isn’t populated with EVEN MORE MOSQUITOES? But, okay, even though we were due to leave the NEXT DAY, I resigned myself to the fact that I was gonna be tapped for an IV, and made to stay overnight.
I’m a fairly white woman. I’ve never had problems with nurses getting a good ol’ vein to pop up in Canada. Sadly, this was not the case here. I was, for the first time in my life, afraid the nurse had rammed the needle clear through my elbow-vein (not a technical term) when i looked down and saw a little blue vein-balloon happening. Now, I’m a tough broad. But this made me lose my shit. “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?” I yelled, instantly springing freak-out-tears in panic mode. No habla Englis. Sure, they tapped another vein, and mimed that the vein-balloon would go away, but it freaked me out.
I mentally calculated the hours that I could feasibly take in all the meds I could and still make an 11 a.m. checkout the next morning. As long as there was SOME improvement in the infection, they’d discharge me, and I’d be golden. No problem.
2 hours later, i’m admitted to a room. I doze heavily, as i think the afternoon I spent procrastinating from going to the clinic again in the sun has given me a wee bit of heat stroke. Either that or the IV is kickass. But around 9 pm, Kevin texts me and says that they, too, are on their way to the hospital, to get xrays for Ginny’s lungs.
Party at the hospital.
Sometime between experiencing her normal hacky symptoms and being admitted to emergency, Ginny starts into a stomach ailment meltdown of unpleasantness. I dazedly keep up with progress reports during the long night of how she’s doing, still intent on busting us all out of there for our flight the next day.
At one point, a nurse comes with a steel bowl of what appears to be hot water, which she sets down at my bedside and dips cheesecloth into, which she then arranges on my infecty calf bits. I later discover that the bowl has 9 teabags floating in it. Weird.
At around 7 am, I try texting Ginny again to try and get an update. The text I get back is short: “Two days.” Buh? The next few hours involve increasing stress, lessening time, and no change in the demeanour of the staff. That means, essentially, absolutely no comprehension of the time it takes for THEM to do stuff vs. the very real timeline that everybody else is facing. No matter what happens, I need to check out of the resort at 11. I fight to get disconnected from my IV, I FIGHT to get discharged. I run down and see Ginny. She’s in absolutely NO condition to fly, and she’s freaking out. My heart squeezes as I tell her that I will taxi back to the resort, check us all out, grab Kevin, arrange for a later flight, and be back to camp with her.
My taxi drives me to the wrong hotel. Brilliant. I lose another 15 precious minutes. Finally at the right hotel, I hit the ground running, I run to my room, pack everything, run to the concierge to stash my stuff while I run to try and find Kevin at their room. No Kevin, but luckily they were on a ground floor, so I went around back, broke into their room, and clipped a note to kevin’s bag telling him to meet me at the front desk. Finally we found each other, checked out, spent too long on the phone arranging a later flight, then cabbed us both back to the hospital.
PICTURES FROM THE HOSPITAL!
We settled ourselves in. Most of our time was spent trying to stop the staff from actively hurting Ginny with shit they’d inject into her IV that would burn her (Me: “Okay. STOP. TAKE IT OUT. STOOOOP!”), asking various people if they knew what was actually wrong with her (ha, no hope there) and trying to find sources of sustenance she could ingest. (like, soda crackers. Not, say, fish and beets. REALLY? I didn’t even know the Dominican KNEW about beets!)
It also saw me venturing out into the wide world of the Dominican fo’realz, yo, because I got bored and hungry and wanted to see what I could find. Oh HELLZ! I got the real dope, yo. Firstly, I’m a woman, and I’m a white woman, and so things like me don’t appear out of nowhere very often there, I rest assured. Every car and moto pass was a beep. I learned that the common attention-getting sound for locals was simply to “sss” shortly through their teeth. I acknowledged some, gave a wave, ignored others. As you do. I kept on my mighty way, just looking for a quick bite, or a cerveza. I settled for a quick cerveza, because most places that sound like road-side food places are actually car-part shops. I went into a place that seemed safe because I saw one woman at the bar as a customer, and ordered a beer. I had the loudest possible miming conversation in history there, if only because the Dominicans like their music CONSTANT, and LOUD. But the situation was illuminating: you are a stranger here. Many people are friendly enough, but more people could just as well not be. Get the fuck out of Dodge. I had my beer, gave a hi-five to my beer-friend, then made my way back to the only outpost of food I knew how to negotiate at: Burger King. God, I was suddenly an asshole. I was an asshole white woman afraid of street meat diseases getting back to my vulnerable little hospital camp-out.
Not only did I do that outing, but I did a NIGHTTIME OUTING, which was even stupider! But I’m like that. I just can’t let quite well enough alone. I went out past dark to get little snacks for all of us, down the road, at the gas station. But really, when you’re left with no choice, you just do it.
Again, illuminating. So much of the Dominican culture seems to rest on being ON the STREET, just standing on the street, and doing whatever: talking, making deals, catching moto-taxi passengers, prostitution, selling bags of whatever they have to sell…And being a 3rd world country, there’s not an abundance of anything else going on. But I threw on jeans and buttoned my leather football jacket as far up as it would go, and powered on into the blind, dark night. I walked fast, and hey, because it’s dark, nobody beeps or does the “sss” thing. Still. This is the shit where you need to be super aware. Chicks may walk alone in Dominican culture but, a) if they do, I’m pretty sure it MEANS something, and b) sure as anything, white chicks walking alone is just confusing as SHIT.
In any case, I got back to the hospital with wee snackies. Kevin and Gin and I spent the next couple of days watching whatever horrible English television was on (FYI: The bad news is, Fox news is everywhere; the good news is that you can sometimes get English Animal Planet. Sometimes.) Another bonus: Dominican being what it is, we (Kevin and I) were never without some sort of soccer coverage. So that was nice.
Here’s a shot of my leg healing!
I know, it still looks really nasty. But trust me, it’s better. And then Kevin got real excited about chickens roaming in the back yard of the hospital.
Just look, off to the right, that’s a wandering chicken. Which is funny, because when I was still in fun and games mode, on my first day, i texted Ginny, saying, “I swear I’m hearing goddamned roosters. Where the fuck are we?”
I haven’t truly painted the full picture of just how horrible this entire ordeal was, simply because i’m tired and i’m leaving SO VERY MANY things out, particularly in the dealings with hospital staff. But I think this well covers the gist of it. We flew back Xmess Day, o holy of holies (nope) and while we’re kinda pissed at such a wasted spate of time, energy, and money, we’re all SO FUCKING HAPPY that we live in FUCKING CANADA. Best country in the world, by far. Holy fucking crap. BY FAR.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton • Giving vocal support to the plight of oppressed LGBT persons worldwide, at a meeting of diplomats in Geneva. Clinton’s speech is being hailed as a landmark event in terms of U.S. foreign policy towards LGBT rights, and dovetails with the Obama administration’s memo earlier today pledging foreign aid support for the same cause. After her speech, she received a standing ovation. This could well be worth marking down on your calendar for future reference, everyone; this could be a big, big deal, whether Rick Perry likes it or not. source (via • follow)