Who Knew that the CDC Was Actually a Marx Brothers Film?

October 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Ebola was one of the possible US “outbreak” scenarios that should have been one of the easiest possible situations to deal with for an organization like the CDC. Instead we got what feels like an organization sleepwalking through the situation until finally forced to start waking up and paying attention. They’ve damaged their credibility horribly, and they’ve damaged their ability to effective lead the public in situations like this, because, one does wonder, if this is how they handle an “easy” outbreak scenario, how badly would they have handled a truly nightmarish one?

To borrow an analogy from a semi-recent Obama gaffe- We need the Varsity Team in our corner when the serious ship hits the sand, not the JV Team bringing its B-game. But, unfortunately, right now it feels like we’ve got the JV Team. It’s time to fix that and trade up ASAP.

Who Knew that the CDC Was Actually a Marx Brothers Film?.

Categories: Life, News, Politics

Who Knew that the CDC Was Actually a Marx Brothers Film?

October 17, 2014 Leave a comment

CDC Upside Down

Whatever deity you believe in, whatever fates you choose to believe guides and protects you, thank them tonight before you go to sleep. Thank them for what? Thank them for dropping Ebola onto our soil as opposed to one of the more virulent and terrifyingly deadly bugs out there.

Ebola, as I discussed here, still isn’t a major panic factor for us since we live in a pretty modern society that is not conducive to the mass outbreaks we see elsewhere in the world. For us, living in the country we do, it’s a containable event. It’s also an easy bug to deal with. Or at least it should be.

Ebola was practically a nice, gift wrapped present for the CDC to allow them to shine and look like they were on top of things. It’s Ebola. Compared to the many of the other infectious diseases out there, hell, compared to some commonplace bugs here, it’s actually fairly difficult to catch. Using the zombie scale, there are plenty of 28 Days Later bugs out there, fast moving, quick spreading, and impossible to escape, but Ebola, certainly in a First World country like the United States, is not one of them. Ebola is more like the zombie from the pilot episode of The Walking Dead, the woman who was only a torso and arms, dragging herself at a snail’s pace through the still rather low cut grass. She’s not going far on her own, and certainly not quickly, she’s easy to contain, and you either have to go to her or just not be paying attention to what you’re doing for her to bite you.

Bike Zombie

Contrary to the fear mongering and panicked, hyperventilating stupidity by some of the punditry, Ebola, horrible and deadly as it is, is not the kind of superbug that stands a chance of taking us down, let alone taking us out. Any semi-competent organization in charge of dealing with such threats should have been able to come out of this looking like Hollywood heroes.

Sadly, the people in charge of this apparently aren’t doing too well on their semi-competency scores this year.

Now, there are some things that I can’t join in the group whipping of the CDC over. Some of the things people are screaming about, asking why they didn’t do ‘X’ when they “should have” done so, are things that you can only do as the CDC, or do as easily and quickly as some seem to believe, if you are in fact the Hollywood version of the CDC. Like too many “experts” on police procedure who graduated from the University of I Watched CSI, there are far too many people who seem to think that what they’ve seen happen in their favorite outbreak movie is exactly what can be done in reality.

Some of the things called for by some are completely impractical. I’ve seen calls for full CDC teams to be placed in every hospital and clinic, full gear and full equipment at the ready, for so long as deemed necessary. Beyond simply the unimaginable cost of doing something like that, no one seems to be able to define what they mean when they ask that this be done for as long as necessary.

How long is that exactly? Do we keep them stationed there permanently? That’s not really possible, not with the sheer number of staff and new gear that would be required. Is it until the most recent cases are cleared? The idea is to only keep them there until the “outbreak” (and it’s not at this small size really an outbreak) is officially over and then they can be recalled? If so, there’s no reason to condemn the CDC for not having done this before our first patient was declared to have had Ebola last month.

But where something like that does come into play, and is in fact practical, is to have rapid response teams assigned to various regions. And guess what? The CDC in fact has something like that. They just didn’t use them when they should have done so. And there we start the long line of issues that the CDC leadership has created for both the CDC’s credibility, and potentially for our welfare as well.

Two things should have been done the day that they confirmed the first case of Ebola. The first thing that should have been done was sending a full CDC team to Dallas to deal with the situation. This was shot down by Thomas Frieden, the head of the CDC, as unnecessary. His reasoning was that any hospital should be able to set up its own isolation area, and that any staff working the isolation area would be fine if they simply followed the CDC guidelines.

The problems with this line of thought are all related to the fact that, like some complaints against the actions or inactions of the CDC, it’s simply not practical. Not every hospital or clinic has the resources at their disposal to do such a thing properly and effectively, or even staff trained in certain procedures and everyday use of certain protective gear. They should not be asked to learn what they’re doing and figure out their required upgrades to deal with a situation as they hit the ground running in a real contagion event. The odds of experiencing a breakdown or failure in the system when forcing that kind of (in reality very preventable) trial by fire are high, and we’ve seen the results of playing those odds.

The second thing that should have been done, as soon as positive confirmation was made, was moving the original patient to a properly equipped facility like Emory University Hospital. This was also obviously not done, and the reasons given were the same reasons given for not immediately sending a fully equipped CDC team in to deal with the patient. It’s a shame that it’s taken two nurses contracting Ebola for Frieden to come to the realization that, yes, the suggestions made back in September were in fact the correct ways to handle a US Ebola case after all.

Frieden is also the CDC’s own worst enemy when it comes to being a spokesman. His ability to engage in foot-in-mouth disease is incredible. And, no, right off the bat, one of those moments is not the claim being made by many that he (or, depending on who is making the false claim, Obama) stated that Ebola would never come to America. That wasn’t said by anyone in a position of authority, and one of the obvious hints to the people believing that and simply repeating it as gospel is that no one making that claim ever seems to be willing to link a video or transcript of the supposed interview/speech where this was said.

However, they have said something almost as dumb. One of the more foolish comments to make given the state of affairs overseas was made by the powers that be recently when they claimed that it was “unlikely” that we would see Ebola here in the US. It wasn’t unlikely, it was inevitable. Not only was it inevitable, but it had already occurred once before. Ebola Reston is named after Reston, Virginia, the location that the strain was first identified and catalogued at in 1989.

Perhaps I’m making a point that is little more than arguing semantics here, but there are other words that would have, while perhaps being medically or scientifically squishy, worked better. In the world we live in today, a world growing smaller by the minute as our ability to travel it grows, saying that such an event was possible but historically rare might have been the smarter move. But knowing how large the outbreak in West Africa was and knowing the risks with travel, using wording that seemed to imply, or at least cause other to too easily infer, that such an event would not happen here merely creates the appearance of the powers that be not knowing at all what they’re talking about.

When Duncan was declared positive for Ebola, it was suggested by some that intubation or dialysis might have been beneficial treatments for him. Frieden swatted those suggestions down by stating that he had no knowledge of such procedures being used to treat Ebola patients before and that such measures might actually increase the possibility of spreading the virus. The problem with that, pointed out by several when he made the comments, is that these techniques were used, apparently quite effectively, on the infected doctors brought back to Emory only a short time ago.

In many ways Frieden seems like a man out of touch with the on the ground aspects of his job. He seems oddly unaware of what his own organization has done in recent past. He also seems amazingly unaware of the shortfalls that many hospitals and clinics around the country face when it comes to finances, practical training on matters such as these, staffing, and the required equipment. To follow the CDC suggestions, guidelines, and requirements to the letter, some medical facilities would come close to bankrupting themselves, and they would be doing so for worst case scenarios that they might never have to face.

And I don’t say that last bit in the same foot-in-mouth manner that was used with the “unlikely” comments. I say it because most hospitals and clinics should never have to do that. We have facilities around the country that are capable of dealing with such matters, and the first thing the CDC should do in these cases is come in, take over, assess the local capabilities from that location rather than from a DC or Atlanta office, and move the patients to these properly outfitted facilities if so required. In other words, exactly what they should have done with Duncan.

Frieden’s inability to speak well has also led him to answering questions in a way that only causes additional overall erosion in confidence by those asking the questions. Using an example of a bus, he would tell you that you should have no worries about traveling if you were healthy as you’re fine and Ebola is hard to get unless someone is symptomatic and you’re making direct contact with that person’s bodily fluids. He would then turn around and tell you that, if you were sick with Ebola you should avoid travelling on a bus because you could infect others. So, apparently, you’re fine traveling with someone who is infected, but no one is okay traveling with you if you’re infected. I (sort of think) I know where he was going, but he didn’t get there at all. And traveling…

One of the wonderful failures of Frieden and the CDC went on full display in the last day. A second nurse who cared for Duncan became infected with the Ebola virus. The nurse, who was supposedly being monitored by the CDC, boarded a commercial airplane to take a trip.

My first thought was wondering why she was allowed to travel at all. You can say that someone has to be symptomatic to be infectious and that, not being symptomatic she was not infectious and thus “safe” to the general public. This might well be true under normal, everyday circumstances, but for flying in a plane?

I’m sure anyone who reads this has had some past experience with a flu bug of some sort or another. I’m sure you know that you can wake up feeling fine, maybe even go to work feeling fine, and then, sometime during the day, sometimes in the span of only an hour or two, you go from feeling just a little “off” to being full on sick. Ebola can act the same way. Four hours in a plane could be all the time needed to go from feeling only barely noticeably “off” to full on fever.

But as forehead smacking as that seemed to come be at the time, even worse news came a day later. The nurse knew she was becoming ill. And let me be clear here that I blame the nurse for this part as well. I’m sorry, but if you tell me that I may have been exposed to Ebola, that fever should be one of my first symptoms, and I start developing a fever in the outlined timeline… I’m not going to assume that it’s nothing at all and that I’m fine and dandy. But, amazingly, as dumb as some might find the nurse’s actions, although possibly excusable given the human need for denial in some situations, the CDC absolutely took the first place medal for dumb away from her here.

The nurse had contacted the CDC multiple times with regards to getting permission to fly. In the last few conversations she had with them, she told them that she was developing a fever. One of the people she spoke to, someone who was supposed to be monitoring her for symptoms, cleared her to fly. Why? Because she only had at that time a fever of 99.5 degrees and the check sheet they had in front of them listed the symptomatic fever as 100.4 degrees.

So a nurse who was repeatedly exposed to an Ebola patient, occasionally with less than full protective gear, during the most contagious period of his infection begins to develop a fever within the predicted timeline for possible signs of infection, and it’s written off by someone on the phone looking at a check list because, apparently ruling out the idea of the fever still developing, she was still 0.9 degrees short of a full “Ebola” fever. If you wrote this up a plot device for a story, you’d be laughed at for coming up with something that farfetched and stupid.

To, yet again, make matters worse, Frieden and the CDC announce that it’s okay because she wasn’t symptomatic and there’s no worry at all about the other people on the plane. Then, shortly after that, Frieden and the CDC announce that they just want to track down and check up on the people, no worry, just for tracking and observation purposes, that were on the one flight with her. But everything is fine.

About few hours ago at the time of this writing, just a around late evening EST, the CDC announced that the nurse may in fact have been more symptomatic than they first let believed. They released information on two flights and requested that anyone who had flown on those flights contact them as soon as possible.

So now we have an entirely new number of people to add to the total count of “possible exposure” that we should never have had to add in. Yet this was a stunningly simple operation to handle, and one dealing with a virus that is in this country an easily containable bug. All that needed to be done was to treat this as a serious threat requiring immediate response teams on Day #1. Get on TV, tell the country that it’s handled, send the teams, transport the patient to a facility like Emory, contain, control, quarantine, and test the then very small number of people with risk of possible exposure, and let the timeline play out. 21 days later, or 30 if you want to play extra safe, you let those people go back to their lives.

But that’s not how they let this play out. We started out with one patient, rather than maybe a dozen or so isolated as possible exposure risks with likely no additional infections we instead have two new cases, over 70 possible exposure risks being, and I use this term as loosely as does apparently the CDC, observed, and now two planeloads of people that get to be added to the list of possible exposures along with, I’m sure, anyone she saw while out of state.

Again, this was, and still is, manageable. But, damn it, it shouldn’t have gotten this far into playing with unmanageable. And the simple act of getting information out and giving the public a person they can hear that information from and feel that they can rely on that information when given it, the simple act of messaging, has been abysmal.

And, I’m sorry, but I have to say something to my dear friends on the Left that’s similar to what I’ve said to many on the Right. Please stop the bullshit politicizing of this. Blaming anyone for this because we don’t have a Surgeon General is asinine. Having a Surgeon General, a figurehead, would not have changed the inept actions on the ground. Having a Surgeon General to play spokesman would not have eliminated the mistakes made by people mindlessly checking boxes on a list. Having a Surgeon General would not have changed the factors in the clinics and hospitals around the country.

The only thing that having a Surgeon General might have done was give as a better, more coherent spokesman for the CDC’s messages. But, honestly, when that became an obvious issue, why couldn’t Frieden and the CDC simply appoint someone in their organization to be their official spokesperson as some other government agencies do? You would get the same effect in the end as you might have someone who can clearly convey what needs to be said to the public in ways that Frieden obviously cannot. Although, in the end, that might not have changed anything either. A spokesperson can only give the message that he or she is given. If the source of the message is garbled, even a good spokesperson is going to have trouble making the message clear.

The people at the CDC are not stupid. Some of the people in charge may in fact be out of touch with the reality of what’s on the ground, and some others may be clueless as to how you best handle your PR, but they’re not stupid. They’re actually very smart. But the problem is that they’ve made themselves look very stupid. You can be the smartest guy in the room, but if you can’t show it or, even worse, you make basic errors that actually make you look really stupid; no one is going to believe that you’re the smartest guy in the room.

Frieden and the CDC have now failed to show it and compounded that mistake by making basic errors that make them look really stupid to many. Bit by bit, misstatement after misstatement, mistake after mistake, and full on error after full on error they have chipped away at their own image of being an agency that can handle such matters. Day by day, announcement after announcement, they’re eroded the trust that the public needs to have in them.

You can’t do that if you’re in a position like the CDC. Beyond creating a vote of no confidence in the mind’s eye of the public with regards to actual ability to handle matters such as this, the erosion of trust creates other issues. If you look stupid, if you act incompetently, especially on the big, showy things, people will start to think that you are stupid in more areas than one. The public doesn’t merely lose faith in the ability of such an organization to act as needed, but it spills over into people not trusting even the accurate information that is disseminated by that organization. And when that trust goes away, when the belief in the facts weaken because of the messenger, that’s when people start to more easily believe anything else that comes down the pike passing itself off facts and vital, needed information.

So, again, thank whatever deity you believe in, whatever fates you choose to believe guide and protect you, that this is only Ebola. That may seem a strange turn of phrase, to say “only Ebola” after all of this, but it’s not. Again, this is not the worst bug that could have hit our shores by a long shot, and it’s still containable now that it seems like they’re finally trying to act like they should have from day one.

But this isn’t going to be without a price. We now have two people infected who never should have been infected. We now have well over a hundred who will now be dreading the worst for the foreseeable future. What should have only ever ended with, worst case scenario, one death may in fact now end with two, three, five or ten, before it’s all over and done with. It should never have gotten higher than one infected patient, infected overseas at that, and a relative handful of possible exposure subjects kept for observation.

As for what the CDC needs to do in the long run- Frieden needs to go, to step down and leave the public eye, and the organization itself needs to have its procedures looked at, revised, and brought up to speed as soon as possible. As an organization, the CDC needs to get a major, and public, overhaul. They’ve become the FEMA of this Katrina. The only thing that’s missing is Obama walking out during a press op with Frieden and telling him that he’s doing a heck of a job to complete the picture.

Ebola was one of the possible US “outbreak” scenarios that should have been one of the easiest possible situations to deal with for an organization like the CDC. Instead we got what feels like an organization sleepwalking through the situation until finally forced to start waking up and paying attention. They’ve damaged their credibility horribly, and they’ve damaged their ability to effective lead the public in situations like this, because, one does wonder, if this is how they handle an “easy” outbreak scenario, how badly would they have handled a truly nightmarish one?

To borrow an analogy from a semi-recent Obama gaffe- We need the Varsity Team in our corner when the serious ship hits the sand, not the JV Team bringing its B-game. But, unfortunately, right now it feels like we’ve got the JV Team. It’s time to fix that and trade up ASAP.

Categories: Life, News, Politics Tags: , ,

This Whole Ebola Panic-Train that Some Are Lining Up to Ride? Time to Park it Back in the Shed.

October 13, 2014 Leave a comment
Categories: Life, News, Politics

This Whole Ebola Panic-Train that Some Are Lining Up to Ride? Time to Park it Back in the Shed.

October 13, 2014 Leave a comment

Ebola Cover

I know this is going to fall on few ears via my humble little blog. I also know that it’s likely to fall on quite a few deaf ears as well. But, people, for to those of you buying tickets for the panic train, please, on this entire Ebola issue, start using your heads and stop freaking out.

The fear mongering idiots with their deliberate disinformation want nothing more than to amuse themselves by stirring crap up and watching as you all do the panic dance to their tune. It’s how they get their jollies. It’s how they make themselves feel like they’re better than you, smarter than you, by provoking and manipulating you into acting exactly how they most want you to act. They’re no different than any other form of internet troll. They’re saying something inflammatory or outrageous, likely not believing a word of it themselves, in hopes that someone else will take the bait. And then, once they have you on their hook, they’re just going to keep playing with you and reeling you in for as long as they can.

Let’s look at some basic facts, things I think we can all agree are accurate, and take a look at what they tell us.

Thomas Eric Duncan is the man who came from Liberia to Dallas after having been exposed to Ebola. His exposure is believed to have been from helping his landlord’s daughter try to get into a hospital in Liberia on September 15th. He became symptomatic within 9 days of that event, and sought treatment the first time on September 24th. He was sent home, but later brought back via ambulance on September 28th. He died on October 5th. Over (at the time of this writing) this last weekend, we were informed that a nurse who was helping to care for him has contracted the Ebola virus.

Because the nurse was wearing the required protective gear, the panic trolls have leapt all over this to declare that this strain of Ebola is even more contagious than we’ve been told, the CDC is lying to us, and, laughably, that this proves that this strain is obviously airborne. They even stretch and twist the medical definition of “airborne” to tell us that all it takes is sneezing to infect the room. Anyone, we’re told, will contract this deadly Ebola virus by just touching a table, chair, or doorknob that the infected have touched. However, I’m going to explain to you exactly why the timeline data that we have, combined with what we’ve read of the outbreak overseas and 40 years of observation on the matter, is more than enough information to dispel such notions, allow you to stop some of your hyper-panic, and to confidently tell the panic trolls to shove it up their backsides.

We’ll start with the simple one and look at the nurse. Much is being hyped by the fear mongers and panic trolls about the fact that this woman contracted Ebola despite wearing the proper protective gear. There are two things to keep in mind with this.

-1- There’s this thing called human error that we tend to engage in because we are in fact human. It’s a constant in our daily lives and we tend to see it even when dealing with life or death situations. No human is immune to the effects of human error, not even medical professionals.

I’ve seen law enforcement, rescue, and medical professionals encounter human error with U.P. Protocols before. Sometimes it’s from being too tired, other times it’s from not focusing on what they’re doing. I’ve seen things before as simple as taking gear off in the wrong order expose skin to potential contact with a contagion, and, usually, one of the two above reasons is the cause.

And it’s not as if human error didn’t have enough opportunities here. The patient was being tended to by multiple healthcare professionals for a sustained period of time. That brings us to point #2.

-2- It was not only this one nurse who had been in contact with the patient. There were other healthcare professionals who had been in contact with him. If the U.P. Protocols were insufficient, if the protective measures as prescribed did not in fact protect, there would be more than just one healthcare provider at that hospital infected with Ebola. Or, for that matter, we’d have been reading about far more than just one person being infected.

Again, the fear mongers and the panic trolls are quick to push garbage medical science and declare that this strain is far more contagious than it really is and far easier to catch than the “lying” CDC and other government or official medical sources say it is. They love to repeat the historically disproven “facts” that all you need to do is be in the room with someone with Ebola to catch it or, even better, simply enter a room that they’ve recently been in. You can catch Ebola from a chair, a tabletop, a doorknob, or any other surface that a symptomatic patient has touched. Some even love to promote their junk science sites and talk about how “sources” confirm that this strain is mutating to be an airborne virus or is already such a thing.

This is all utter nonsense, and if anyone swallowing this garbage cared to engage their brain for a few minutes of thought they would realize this in a heartbeat. Again, look at the timeline that we know to be factual.

Thomas Eric Duncan was symptomatic on or just before September 24th. That was within ten days of his believed date of exposure. It’s been roughly twenty days since he first went to the hospital and roughly sixteen days since his return to the hospital.

The patient was originally out in the public and moving around when he was first becoming symptomatic. Health officials have stated that they are monitoring 47 people who range from low risk to extreme risk due to possible contact with Thomas Eric Duncan. But, the catch with that number is that those are merely the people who are deemed to be at any level of realistically possible risk and not every single person he may have been around or every single person that may have been someplace that he had been only a short time before. In a city like Dallas the number of people who would fill that list would be in the hundreds or thousands.

If this were truly a wildfire bug, if this were truly a virus that was as super-contagious as they claim, or, going with the extreme fringe kook rantings for a moment, airborne, Dallas would be a raging hot-zone right now. So far, only one nurse has tested positive for Ebola.

By now, if the fear mongers and panic trolls actually knew what they were talking about, every person that was anywhere near Thomas Eric Duncan when he went to the hospital on September 24th would be infected and showing signs of their infection. Every healthcare provider who saw him would be infected and showing signs of their infection. For that matter, if the fear mongers and panic trolls actually knew what they were talking about, just about everyone who walked into every place he had been in the days before the announcement of his having Ebola would be at this point wildly infected. But, so far, only one nurse has tested positive for Ebola.

For that matter what the fear mongers and panic trolls desperately want you to forget is that they played this song already. They played their “We’re All Doomed!” song once already this year. They were no more accurate when declaring that this was the end back then, or Atlanta, Georgia and Omaha, Nebraska would also be raging hot zones right now. But they’re not, are they? By September 9th, we had airlifted four people into the states for treatment. The same people pressing the panic button now, playing the fear card and screaming that we’re all going to die, were the same people declaring back then that the CDC and WHO were lying, didn’t know what they were doing, and that as soon as these people touched ground in a major US city it was going to be the beginning of the end for us.

They were wrong. They were wrong with their fear mongering, misinformation, and junk science then, and they’re just as wrong now. Atlanta, Omaha, and now Dallas are still functioning quite nicely and still showing no signs of being ground zero locations for a super contagion, airborne or otherwise. And certainly, by every timeline we’ve ever seen with the spread of Ebola up to and including the most recent, they would be hell on Earth right now if the fear trolls knew even a fraction of what they were talking about or if there was more than a superficial shred of accuracy to anything they were promoting.

And the press isn’t helping any. Yes, it’s their job to inform the population, not that they’re particularly good at that job on most days to begin with, but their “Ebola Symptom” headlines are, while arguably necessary, only giving the fear mongers and panic trolls coal for the fires that they so want to stoke.

Every time someone posts the latest alert that someone went to a hospital, in cold and flu season no less, claiming Ebola-like symptoms, please try to remember the following- “Ebola-like Symptoms” in a headline does not in fact equal a new case of Ebola. If that was the case, if it was in fact a case of Ebola for every “Ebola-like Symptoms” headline that’s been shared on social media, most followed by much smaller, less sensational headlines declaring the subjects to be negative for Ebola that are then not shared by the panic pushers, we would be well and truly in an absolutely unmistakable deep end with outbreaks in multiple cities where we would already be seeing multiple deaths.

People can be prone enough to panic as it is. Add in the deliberate hyping of the fear mongering, in some quarters by irresponsible cable news channel hosts and other press outlets, and you tend to see the hypochondriac in many come out rather strongly. So suddenly someone with no Earthly reason to fear having contracted Ebola is convinced that they’ve got it when all they have is the flu. They’re convinced that they’re going to die, that they have a super-deadly virus, but they won’t because they don’t.

Well, unless they’ve got D68. Then they might have caught a deadly bug, a bug that has in just this season alone infected and killed more people in the US than Ebola ever has. But, apparently, a bug named Enterovirus D68 isn’t sexy sounding enough or exotic enough to be pushed by the panic trolls.

Now, I am in agreement with some who suggest limiting or ending nonemergency, nonmedical travel from the West African hot zones to here. The simple fact though is that they won’t do that, not as anything other than an absolute last resort measure to quell fears. But that fact also isn’t something to panic over if you look at the numbers.

When Thomas Eric Duncan was announced far and wide in the news as our first in-country Ebola case, we had, by all reports, screened well over 10,000 people flying into the states from Liberia. Let that number sink in for a moment. Over 10,000 people screened. And only one failure in the process on record so far with even more people screened since then.

Just keeping the number at 10,000 even, that would mean that the screening process has a failure rate of 0.0001%. And, again, it’s statistically less than that since we’re rounding down the number for that moment in time and not including the additional numbers that have been screened since.

And once one slips through as happened here? Those pointing to the devastation in West Africa to promote the model of an Ebola outbreak to which we will all succumb to are comparing apples and leg of lamb.

We’re not West Africa, and the conditions in West Africa that are allowing this outbreak to ravage their people are not present in our country. The worst sanitary failings of our poorest inner cities and isolated podunk towns are still worlds better insofar as providing safe, clean living conditions than what can be found in the areas in West Africa where this outbreak has taken root. The medical treatment centers that are essentially being set up on the fly in West Africa may be modern medical marvels compared to what was there already, but they’re still possessed of far less of the technologies, protective measures, and supplies that can be found in hospitals here in the states. They certainly have barely a fraction of the staff and the treatment space as well. We’re also not facing the starvation issues that some people in West Africa have been facing.

There’s actually an ongoing cause for new cases of Ebola victims that we don’t face here. It’s also a factor that is, not surprisingly, largely unknown to people here and a fact that the panic trolls try to avoid at all costs. There are people who are starving, or near starving, in West Africa. They can’t go down the street to the local Dollar General for cheap foods, they can’t go to the local day-old shop for marked down items, they can’t go to fresh-to-frozen type stores selling foods close to or at their expiration dates for rock bottom prices, and they don’t get food stamps or similar assistance with which to purchase food. Their solution is to turn to bushmeat.

Bushmeat, sometimes called wildmeat, refers to meat from non-domesticated mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds hunted for food in parts of the world like West Africa. Right now the health experts in West Africa are trying to get the people to stop eating bushmeat, but the problem is that some face eating bushmeat or eating nothing at all. There are also some who simply refuse to listen, but I’ll address that refusal to listen in a bit.

The reason that health experts are telling people not to eat bushmeat is that, in West Africa, this includes apes, monkeys, bats, and others that can be carriers for Ebola in outbreak areas. Indeed, prior outbreaks of Ebola, human T-lymphotropic virus, smallpox, chicken pox, tuberculosis, measles, rubella, rabies, yellow fever, yaws, and simian foamy virus (which is related to issues with HIV-1) have all been linked to the consumption of bushmeat. And we know that there is a quite sizable infected population in what is being harvested as bushmeat in the parts of West Africa where Ebola is at its worst.

We don’t have these problems here. Despite the occasional hyperbolic (or simply delusional) rantings by the punditry that we may see from time to time on American cable news channels, we are not a Third World country, nor are we becoming one. We are quite the opposite of that actually. As such, the worst of our First World problems with matters such as these are largely dwarfed in nature and scope by those in the Third World, and are not in fact anywhere near as likely to contribute to an Ebola outbreak like West Africa’s. In the meantime, our First World medical facilities and lifestyles actually completely remove us from many of the worst issues that would aid such an outbreak being faced there.

Well, all save one. And that one thing is human stupidity acted out as unreasoning fear and suspicion.

Do you know what actually helps the spread of some diseases in parts of the world like West Africa? It’s aided by the fear mongers playing on the unreasoning fears and suspicions of the local population. The local equivalent of the internet junk medical science pushers and panic trolls stand in the center of their towns or their villages and inform all who will listen that the people who are trying to help them can’t be trusted. They inform them that the people telling them what to do to prevent the likelihood of contracting a deadly disease are actually all liars. In fact, just as we’ve seen here on social media over the last month, there’s even the odd nut claiming that the very people who are trying to save lives are really the people who created and deliberately infected the population to begin with.

In West Africa, just as there are here, perhaps even more so, there a loads of people who will happily fall for such nonsense. This mindset results in their not seeking help, not seeking treatment, and acting in ways that run counter to any and all established procedures that could help them avoid catching whatever virus may be in bloom. This is the one thing that we may truly say may be the only major issue we have in common with West Africa when it comes to dealing with possible outbreaks of any sort of contagion. We have the happy misinformation promoters electronically spewing their stupidity all across social media and the rest of the internet, and we have far too many who are just as happy to allow themselves to be whipped up into unreasoning fear and suspicion, to allow themselves to unwittingly be made to dance to a troll’s pied piper tune.

But we shouldn’t be seeing this panic or this foolishness from anyone here in the states. There’s no need for it. The facts of the matter as we’ve seen them so far run counter to ever bit of fear mongering and panic trolling that’s being pushed out there.

Now, this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be observant, that we shouldn’t be paying attention to what’s around us. This isn’t saying that we’re facing zero threat at all. Of course we are. There’s always a level of threat in any deadly contagion. But the facts, the numbers, do not support the fear mongering and do not show this as amounting to anything that anyone other than someone who has had direct contact with a fully symptomatic Ebola patient should have any true worries over.

We have brains in our heads. I’m pretty sure a zombie or two have mentioned something about this before. We should be using them. I’m going to borrow from one of my wife’s favorite works of speculative fiction for a moment to share a quote with you.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

This is absolutely, 100% true; especially with matters such as this. When you act on fear, especially when you give in to unreasoning fear, you slowly (or quickly) give away your capacity for rational thought and decision making. Whenever you do that, you set yourself up so that you make the worst possible choices and do yourself the most possible harm.

We don’t need to do that. There’s no reason to do that with this. And, honestly, we should be better than that, and certainly better than allowing ourselves to be baited and hooked by internet trolls and junk science frauds that get their jollies by making other people scared.

Pulling Back and Slowly Backing Away

October 8, 2014 3 comments

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I can’t get out completely. There are too many things that I have to keep track of and keep up with, from festivals to cons to working on projects with friends, but I can certainly pull back a bit; I can cut down.

And I probably should for the best of reasons. I’m really getting jaded about the basic levels of the stupidity of mankind as a whole. I even once had more of a sense of humor about it when I wrote this piece some years back – A P.H.D. from Email U. –but the sense of humor about it has gone a little numb.

Years ago, back when there was more time in the day and less electronic connectivity, you still had urban legends and the suckers who would fall for them in a heartbeat. As I often cite when talking about these sorts of things to friends, I grew up with friends in school who swore blindly that the kid who played Mikey in the old cereal commercials had died from an exploded gut when he washed a pack of Pop Rocks down with a soda. I knew people who swore that it was documented medical fact that if you sneezed and passed gas at the same time you would die from the intense strain that it caused in your body. So, yeah, there have always been the gullible for whom urban legends were gospel.

But there were two things about these people back then. First, they were usually the very young. Some of the really goofy stuff you only heard from people of high school age or younger. Granted, with topics ranging from the Loch Ness Monster & Bigfoot to JFK conspiracies involving casts of hundreds to thousands, you had the adult versions as well, but most of the goofiest stuff seemed to belong to the younger set. Second, outside of most of the JFK conspiracy nuts and the cryptozoology diehards, you could usually present evidence, present facts, that would be taken as information completely refuting and debunking the urban legend in question.

Although, it wasn’t always easy to get those facts with which to refute the wild claims. We’re talking pre-internet era here. Looking things up involved actually leaving the house, visiting the local library or archivist, and sifting through a small ton of actual print material in order to find something. Local libraries would only retain local papers and one or two of the big boys of the news world, and looking up medical or legal information in actual medical or legal texts sometimes felt like it required a degree in the field to understand what you were sifting through.

But there were rewards for that hard work. When you found what you needed, whether for a school paper, a news story you were working on, or a debate/discussion, it was pretty solid and the actual facts of the matter were accepted by most.

And then we moved out of the 1980s and into the 1990s, and we acquired a new tool. As the 90s wore on, the World Wide Web, which had actually been around for some time, started becoming much more mainstream. Personal computers, hell, computers in general, had made a rapid evolution and become something that more and more people worked with and wanted to have at home to play on. People had ability to have the internet in their homes, and it was played up as an amazing tool.

Many started calling it the Information Superhighway. More so than books, more so than radio, more so than antenna television, and more so even than cable television, the internet was going to bring the world into our living rooms. With the internet, we could see and share information and images from all over the world, and we would have the facts of a millions of books, newspapers, and archives at our fingertips. We were, we were told by some, at the dawn of a golden age of information and knowledge.

Of course, our suffering from human nature and all, we seem to want to do whatever we can to fuck it up. So, as fast as we could get started on doing so, we set out to turn the Golden Age in the Pyrite Age as fast as we could and in as many ways as we could.

We should have seen it coming as well. Several templates, examples of what would be refined and created later, were already being set up. One of the better known ones was the Drudge Report.

I’m using Drudge as an example not just because the man is pond scum, but because I always found the promotion of Drudge confusing early on. Then, after I figured out the scam that had been built, I found it fairly humorous.

A great deal of work went into building up Drudge early on. He was praised a great new “citizen journalist” and hailed as a sign of what was to come with the future news media by the likes of Rush, various other conservative pundits, The American Spectator, The Heritage Foundation, a then new to the news landscape Fox News, and others. The Drudge Report itself was played up as this amazing new media platform that would be the start of the end of the old media and the “control” on information by the MSM. The image of Drudge and the Drudge Report as a dogged citizen journalist striving to report the truth with a website that would make the “old media” tremble in its boots, as I said above, initially confused me a bit though.

As far as Drudge himself went, he didn’t really do a lot of reporting. You didn’t, and still don’t, often go to the Drudge Report website and see stories filed by Drudge himself. This may be because whenever he attempted doing so, as with his infamous “Clinton Lovechild Exclusive” story or his Ashley Todd attack story, he tended to aim for the sensational and have it blow up in his face or simply fizzle out. But you also had very little in the way on the Drudge Report of “Drudge Report” stories. You didn’t have stories filed by people working for Drudge with accompanying videos or pictures supplied by people working for Drudge. All that you found then, and all that you still find now, were links in the form of hyper sensationalized headlines; usually with negative spins against the left.

Did the links go to some Drudge write up? No, they went to the same “old media” that various conservative outlets were claiming that Drudge and his ilk would be the downfall of. Click a Drudge Report link and you went to the websites for CNN, MSNBC, the NY Times, the BBC, the LA Times, the Washington Post, etc. This much ballyhooed “new media” was nothing more than a glorified copy & paste link page that, 99.9 times out of 100, directed you to the websites of the “old media” giants that were supposedly quaking in their boots at the coming of Drudge and his kind.

Again, it seemed curious. But after some time the answer become obvious. Drudge was a cover, a shield. You’d hear what sounded like an unlikely (or flat out insane) anti-Clinton/anti-Democrat story being plugged by Rush, Fox News, or others, but it was always a “story on Drudge” or a story that “Drudge was reporting” over on the Drudge Report. I discovered at the time because of those I worked around that, while Drudge was getting some fair amount traffic at the time, most of the people I knew who would discuss the Drudge story they heard about were quite content to get it just from Rush, Fox News, etc. without actually going to Drudge’s website. That was probably a good thing, because a lot of times, with the really wild stories or the ones that fizzled out as false and went uncorrected by the outlets that promoted the “Drudge” story, the “stories” were links that went to the website for the National Inquirer or some other even less reputable tabloid of the time.

And that was the purpose of building Drudge up early on. He and his site were great tools to use by Rush, Fox News, American Spectator, conservative television pundits on cable news, and others to use to report wild, often wrong, stories from “news” organizations that, had they cited them as the source, even their most diehard listeners/viewers/readers would have laughed at them. If they rumor mongered a salacious story and cited the National Enquirer, their segment fizzles. But, if they did it while claiming it to be a Drudge story… Well, it was the reporting of the dogged citizen journalist, and the story was only referred to with lines like “Drudge is reporting” and “the breaking story on the Drudge Report” and never as a story by the actual source material. And that game would allow it to get into play and become an “American Spectator” story, a “Fox News” reported story, or some other such thing when referenced still later.

Years later this would lead to a hilarious moment in conservative media meltdowns when Drudge linked the National Enquirer story detailing Rush’s illegal drug use. Drudge, in the closest thing he likely every showed to journalistic integrity, declared that he had to run with it despite the source as he had done the same for years with Enquirer Clinton stories and other such stories, and that not doing so would be hypocritical. In the meantime, the same people who had for years used Drudge as a shield from having to say that they were hyping an Enquirer story suddenly found the Inquirer to be a hack rag scandal sheet with no credibility and, in some cases, attacked Drudge for linking such obvious trash.

But, even before that point, the Drudge thing was wearing thin and showing its age. The problem with a gimmick like the Drudge Report trick is that the bigger you make your “shield” the sooner more people start actually seeing for themselves that the “Drudge” story is either trash or a misrepresentation by the various people hyping the story of what was actually being reported. For their game to have legs, there needed to be created a series of new outlets, Drudge Gimmick 2.0 as it were, but without the flaw of the original.

When it came to the world of politics, the answer was to create a bumper crop of fake news websites, some little more than glorified blogs, which actually went old school, playing to greater or lesser degrees to the time honored tradition of Yellow Journalism. And, in the new media age of the internet, these things could thrive.

We acquired players like PoliticusUSA, Forward Progressives, NewsBusters, and Kos, sites that often play in the deep end of heavy spin and half truth. We got sites like TPNN and Breitbart which like to throw complete fabrications into their news mix on a fairly regular basis. And then, for the complete fringe lunatics in the mix, we got the political equivalent of the Weekly World News in the form of World Net Daily and InfoWars. The creation of these “news” sites, both by the left and by the right, was a major part in changing the Information Superhighway into Stupid Street.

You see, if you didn’t like the facts, there was now a “news” site just for you. If you wanted to ignore the truth and embrace “facts” that were completely at odd with the reality based community, you and your best, like-minded friends could now go to your new home on the web for the information you wanted to be true rather than the information that actually was true. In truth it was little more than an extension of what you had with talk radio, but talk radio was “commentary” and not “news.” With this, you had junk propaganda sites being labeled as news sites while being promoted and supported in their little bubble reality communities. And, of course, they get to be linked on Drudge if they slanted right.

And what it’s done to political discourse in this country is ridiculous. You no longer in many cases have the ability to present a fact to resolve a debate or a discussion. If you present a fact, a real, honest to God fact, someone will find a “news” site to their liking to present a “fact” to counter reality because, in this little cottage industry, there’s always someone who will write a “fact” for the reality impaired.

The big problem is that it’s not restricted to just politics. As abundant as the fake news sites catering to the politically inclined have become on the web, they’re merely a part of the greater whole; or the greater hole, as it’s basically becoming a giant hole in which all information and intelligence falls into, never to be seen again.

It’s also, admittedly, not completely new. The charlatans, the hucksters, the crooked carnival barksters, the snake oil salesmen, and the conspiracy freaks have always been with us; as has the urban legend. But, as I stated above about Mikey and the search for facts in general, at some point you could find a fact, or an interview with Mikey himself laughing about his “death” at the hands of snack food, which all but the most mentally challenged would accept for the facts and the truth that it was. It seems like it’s not that easy any more.

We now have a small ton of websites that have been laughingly branded news sites, medical sites, science sites, historical information sites, educational sites, and whatever else sites that are anything but what they claim to be. They are in fact the electronic age’s updated versions of the snake oil salesmen, the con artists, and the liars of old. But the electronic age has given them a reach far greater than that of their old school counterparts, following far greater than any individual could have once had, and, added bonus, and something mostly unwanted by the scammers back in the day, they’re now part of a community of liars in their chosen field.

They network now. They build on each other’s bs. Yeah, sometimes they turn on each other, but not in the numbers needed to totally break the illusion they create of their bubble reality. They’ve built entire cottage industries of bullshit, referencing each other, “confirming” each other’s “findings” on a subject, and building new layers of bullshit on the old. And out there, desperately happy to lap up the most insipidly stupid lies, are millions of people who have convinced themselves that these really are news, medical, science, etc. sites just because they call themselves that and have found fellow con artists happy to support the claim.

And there’s no subject under the sun that doesn’t have these sites growing up, ready to create a completely different reality for the faithful to electronically live in. What’s more, the faithful will almost violently argue that, since they’ve finally found someone who will tell them the comforting lies they most want to believe, that it’s the rest of the world that’s wrong, and it’s only the brave truth seekers of their bubble reality website that have it right.

But it doesn’t seem to end there. No… Not content to effect that change, not content with turning the Information Superhighway into Stupid Street, we’ve worked damned hard to turn social media into the new off ramp to Dumbass Drive.

Social media, where we can all come together and talk about things, share things, and, apparently, in many more cases than I would have once thought, dumb ourselves down to incredible degrees. It’s bad enough that the electronic charlatans of the day get their own pages and profiles to post their bullshit with, but their bullshit is then shared over and over again by the faithful and somehow always end up in everyone’s feeds. Oh, there’s also apparently a rule for being a participant on social media that I seem to have missed.

You see, as any good researcher will tell you, all you have to do to make something true is add words to a picture. At least, that’s apparently the rule with social media. If someone makes it a meme, it’s got to be true. If someone posts a picture of one thing and adds words under it that claim it’s something else entirely, it must be true. If you read it on social media and like it because it confirms your personal biases, it has to be true. And, frankly, between these websites and social media these days, I’m starting to wonder how much bullshit some people will embrace before they either snap back to reality from the sheer absurdity of the world they’re creating for themselves or the layers of bullshit finally just collapse in on them and suffocate them.

It doesn’t matter how stupid, or how downright insane, something is; there are websites and social media groups out there to be embraced by the faithful to protect their bubble reality view of the world. And then the faithful will plaster it all over their social media pages, guaranteeing it that somehow it will end up in your face and have you wondering how about just how gullible humanity can really be.

And the gullibility seems to know absolutely no boundaries. The stupidity flows from all quarters, whether they be Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, conservative, liberal, undecided, domestic or foreign. If you have a comforting lie you desperately wish was the truth, you can now find multiple websites, blogs, and social media pages to help you happily delude yourself and let you share your delusions with everybody else.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that the 9/11 attacks were masterminded by the international banking cartel, Israel, and the American shadow government, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that W. initiated the Iraq war to help destabilize the world and set us up for the coming One World Government, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that the Colorado theater shooter was supplied and backed by the Obama government in order to push an anti-gun agenda, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that ISIS is secretly the Israeli Secret Intelligence Service and a creation of USA Army Intelligence headquartered in Sierra Vista, Arizona and the Reagan Building in Washington DC, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that Sandy Hook never happened and that it was all staged to push the wild, leftist, anti-gun agenda, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing the Boston Marathon bombing was a staged hoax designed to double as an excuse to enforce martial law and as a false flag attack, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that the various mass shootings and acts of terror on American soil over the last few years were all staged and all the victims are really “government actors” moved from tragedy to tragedy to play the same rolls over and over again, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that Obama is a Kenyan born stealth Muslim who is secretly a closeted homosexual with a thing for older white guys and that his real father was actually activist Frank Marshall Davis, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that Obama is sending 3,000 troops over to aid in containing the Ebola outbreak because he really wants them to all get infected because he hates the military and, bonus, wants to bring them back infected to speed up the population control measures, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that we made Ebola and deliberately infected people and the proof of this is that the CDC owns Ebola, web pages, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that streams of harmless water vapor trailing behind jets are in reality secret evil government chemtrails designed to dumb us all down and help to mind control us, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that medical science is hiding the truth about cancer and all that’s really needed to cure cancer is lots of vitamins, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

And, building on that one- If you want to delude yourself into believing that cancer is a totally recent thing that never occurred in our ancient ancestors and is only now happening because of nefarious government reasons, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that fluoridation of water is actually a way to pump deadly chemicals into our water and that it’s never been tested for safety so much as one time, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that the annual flu bug is secretly, this year at least (and then next year when this one doesn’t kill us) a superbug planted in the US by our government via the means of “spreading” illegal aliens throughout the lower 48 states, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that Ebola is hyper contagious, that it’s absolutely, 100% airborne, and that our government is hiding the real facts about it from us in order to implement population control measures, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that hundreds of ISIS terrorist have secretly been arrested in Texas and that the Obama government and the “liberal, MSM” are hiding this fact for nefarious reasons, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

If you want to delude yourself into believing that there’s a woman with three breasts walking around Florida, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

And if you want to delude yourself into believing any of the thousands of other completely insane things that are out there, there are websites, web pages, and social media groups for you.

Now, of course, there are websites that actually try to cut through the bullshit. There are websites that have sprung up that try to debunk the garbage that these other websites and their faithful spew out all over the net every day. But, for the faithful, these sites are always wrong.

And don’t even get me started on the whiny and outright petty political hypocrisy put on display on a daily basis.

Snopes, Factcheck, Punditfact, Truth or Fiction, etc. are all sites that devote pages and a huge amount of bandwidth to debunking bullshit and hoaxes. They do legwork like actually interviewing people involved when they can, they link original sources, and they document whatever they claim. The same can be said of actual, reality based news sources as well. But, nope, these sites are always wrong because, for the faithful, it’s only the desirable lie that’s the truth.

And it’s weird to see how far some will go through mental gymnastics to hold that position. Not long ago I had a family member post to Facebook a link “proving” that Snopes was a lying propaganda site. The interesting bit was that the linked three paragraph article in question had four easily provable lies, all of which could be documented as lies with links to the source materials being discussed, and the article itself never offered so much as one link, source, or citation to back its claims about Snopes. Result? Nope, the article offering no proof, no links, no sources, and no citations while demonstrably lying “pulled back the veil” on Snopes despite the fact that the Snopes article that it attacked provided multiple links to original sources that could be checked and verified to back the position it took as absolutely accurate.

The facts, the reality based community, was not on the side of the website claiming to have proven (by making false claims about a single article on their site) that Snopes was a lie filled website. But the lie was comforting for the faithful, so the comforting lie was embraced, shared, and promoted on the web and through social media.

Years ago, again, you could get someone to give up the notion that Mikey died because of washing down his Pop Rocks with a bottle of Pepsi. You could show the person claiming that a news article of the adult Mikey talking about the goofiness of such urban legends or maybe show them a VHS copy of a TV interview where he discusses it.

Today? More than likely the person would claim that, no, Mikey really did die, find a website that “proves” it, inform you that you were in fact the sucker for buying into such a fake video since they can do so much with photoshop and video editing these days, maybe suggest that it wasn’t the real Mikey but rather a government actor pretending to be the real Mikey, and then question you on how you can be such a sheeple as to believe anything that the lying, MSM tells you.

And I see this crap every time I log onto social media these days. And I continually see it from people who would otherwise seem smart, but seem to desperately desire to believe anything that makes any idea they have “factual” whether their notion about something is just a little off base or entirely insane. It’s there, clogging up my notifications and news feeds, filling a third to half of my feeds on social media.










And, even better, some of these people, strengthened in their belief by the new bubble reality of their social media circles and “expert” websites, take their delusional fantasies out into the real world with them whenever they finally decide to leave their wackadoo websites. They bring it into the workplace, sometimes mine, and go on about their delusional ravings, getting offended when you don’t treat their nutty delusions as indisputable truth.

I’m already jaded enough about some things as well as about people as a whole. It’s a bad side effect of my job that I tend to try and not let get to me as much as I’ve seen it get to others in the past. But the sheer massive collective stupidity that seems to be growing… If I ever had a point where I knew I was getting too jaded about humanity’s overall lack of intelligence… That point would be now.

I can’t do much about the idiots that wander about with their reinforced delusions and set about making asses of themselves in the public square. We all have our own Dorseys to deal with, even if the genuine article is more annoying than most. But I can do something about the general annoyance on things like social media.

But it’s not like I can solve this problem by trimming a site, a page, or a person here or there. The stupidity is far too widespread. I’ve actually made things a little better on my feed by cutting out one person who was starting to dance into the violent, armed revolution rhetoric one too many times, and I’ve come close to cutting a family member who has defended that type of asinine rhetoric as “reasonable” discussion. But to get away from the sheer fucknuttery that’s on display on a daily basis? To get away from the delusional bubble worlds of fake facts being built and promoted all over my feed? That would require cutting out legions of people, some family, some friends, and, beyond the issues that this would cause with some of the things I do and use social media for, I actually like some of these people outside of social media because, outside of social media, they pretty much never talk about, push, or promote this garbage.

I was considering cutting ties with social media all together. Certainly it would give me more time in the day for other things, and it’s not like I didn’t know what to do with my time without social media and the internet since both have been widespread for only a minority of my lifetime’s years. But then I realized that the unfortunate truth is that social media has become a massive and major networking tool that too many people I know use. I, as I stated way up above, have too many things that I have to keep track of and keep up with, from festivals to cons to working on projects with friends, and most of that is best done these days through social media platforms.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t cut back greatly. And that’s what I’ll be doing for a while out of necessity because, frankly, my level of jaded annoyance with the sheer amounts of absolute mental retardation on social media has hit its maximum safe capacity. Others may feel free to create entire conspiratorial fantasy worlds to substitute for the reality we actually have to live in all they want, but that doesn’t mean I have to stick my head into those twisted unrealities any more than I absolutely have to.

So, for most of you that I do things with, there’s always email. There’s also this really cool device in homes called a telephone that’s absolutely awesome. Skype isn’t bad either, but why would you want to look at my mug any more than you already had to? But social media? I’ll be watching for certain notifications in my email if anything important is there, but on the whole I’ll be spending much less time on the web and especially on social media for a while. Frankly it’s making me too damned jaded about everything right now, especially people in general, and, with everything else going on, I really don’t need that.

It Was a Totally Different Dragon Con, But Somehow Exactly the Same

September 8, 2014 Leave a comment

That’s what my wife said to me after we got home late Wednesday night after the convention had ended. And she was right. This was a totally different convention experience for each of us, but it was, at heart, exactly the same.

Dragon Con Puppetry Track

Two things happened last year that went on to shape the experiences of this year. One thing was my kids discovering the Dragon Con Puppetry Track thanks to my wife’s lifelong devotion to all things Fraggle Rock and Henson. Dragon Con had two of the original Fraggles there last year, and my wife took the kids, who had been growing up on her Fraggle Rock DVDs, to see them. They then stayed on for a few panels and shows, a few of which my son and daughter became a part of.

This, particularly that last bit, made my kids a wee bit Puppetry Track addicted. They ended up spending the remainder of the 2013 convention weekend primarily at Puppetry Track events. This led to my wife becoming Facebook friends with several of the puppeteers immediately after the convention and then continuing to correspond with them throughout the year. This in turn led to my wife becoming a volunteer on the Puppetry Track for 2014’s Dragon Con.

Back around the time that my wife was signing up for the Puppetry Track, I was investigating Dragon Con Security. They had been a little shorthanded in 2013 and I assumed that this might be the case again in 2014. I didn’t get very far with my inquiries before I was talking to another department head at Dragon Con. This leads us to the other thing that happened last year.

I’m not going to go over it all again. If you were paying attention to Dragon Con related news throughout 2013, you know what was going on. And since I already have quite a few blog entries discussing it, I don’t see the need for more. But these events led me on that Labor Day weekend last year to meeting a few people behind the scenes at the convention, people who I continued to correspond with on Facebook or via email after the 2013 convention was over. Long story short, I ended up volunteering in 2014 with Media Relations.

That’s not quite as… for lack of a better word right now… glamorous as the title might cause some to infer. The department head is really the only one who actually has any active role in doing media appearances or speaking/writing for or on behalf of Dragon Con in interviews or articles while the rest of the volunteers work on things like auditing news outlet and reporter information, compiling data on convention coverage, handing out press badges, and running the onsite interview room. In my case, my primary jobs were to help hand out the press badges on the Thursday before the convention and then essentially be large and menacing looking when needed.

That’s rather easy for me to do since I am a rather large guy and my naturally less than dashing looks tend to lend themselves well to being menacing in appearance. As it was, outside of traffic and crowd control during the parade, I pretty much just got to be on “Menace Standby” while working the door to the interview room or running from the interview area to the Walk of Fame and back again. There was a bit more to it than that, but it was mostly just dusting off my old private sector skills and working a little more of a customer service style than my present line of work has me doing when on duty.

These job description details were information that I was made aware of before the convention on paper. Or whatever phrase one might use for email. Somehow the phrase “on pixels” just doesn’t carry the same vibe to it. Anyhow… I was made aware of these responsibilities on paper, but having never done it before I was actually getting a little nervous before the convention.

The make a living job is what it is. There are ups and downs, good times and bad times, and there have been more downs recently than ups. Dragon Con is usually my escape from that kind of thing. Even when work is 110% firing on all cylinders great, Dragon Con was still a much anticipated vacation that recharged the batteries and allowed me to forget any day in and day out worries.

But this year I was actually getting nervous about going before con. I was worried that, once there, once I had to hit the ground running on day one and start working on a team doing something that, I had thought beforehand, did nothing that transitioned anything over from my skill sets or strong suits, I was going to screw something up. As it turned out, outside of being at the wrong interview room location for the first few minutes of Friday morning, everything was organized so well that there was really very little for me to screw up, and by the end of Friday’s shift I was basically on familiar ground with well over half of the job being in line with my long ago days of private sector customer service and the rest falling in line with the more public service aspects of my chosen profession.

My wife’s experiences with the Puppetry Track were much the same, just without the pre-convention nervousness. She worked her butt off during her assigned volunteer hours, and she had a couple of long days as well, but there was a lot of smiling while being polite and helpful. And while we both put in our required hours, plus a little bit more here and there as almost all Dragon Con volunteers end up happily doing, we both still had an absolute blast while doing it.

We also had time around the work end of it to actually attend and enjoy the convention. We got to see some old convention friends who have become closer friends over the years, we spent time with geek friends we’d made outside of Dragon Con who came into town for this year’s convention, and we got a dinner invite that surprised the hell out of me when I got it.

Plus we did the Dead Dog party afterwards. That was a blast with great food & music to boot, and I got to enjoy seeing my wife get almost hugged to death by an extremely happy woman. :) Sorry, but while there’s an actual (very normal) story to that last bit, it’s one that will remain untold here for now.

But, yeah, we also spent a good chunk of our time working it. And I don’t say that as a bad thing. I point it out to emphasize what my wife said when we got home. This was a totally different Dragon Con for us, but it was absolutely the same as every other one we’ve attended. And there are two reasons for that.

The first is that we had fun. Even when working, we had fun. It was Dragon Con after all, and you would have to actively try almost impossibly hard to not have fun there in order for it to not be fun as the vibe and energy around the convention almost doesn’t allow one not to have fun. Plus, even when working, you see the convention. In my wife’s case, she got to see events at the Puppetry Track as well as having a front row seat for the daily pageantry of Dragon Con that one can’t help but to enjoy watching as it marches on by. In my case, I was in a position to see/hear one cool interview after the other whenever I wanted to, and I was able to chat with a few people, like members of the ESO crew, who do work I greatly enjoy.

The second (big) thing was that we had fun with the people we were with. A big thing with Dragon Con has, for us, always been about leaving Dragon Con with more friends and family than we came in with. We’ve always done it in the past, and this year was certainly no exception. It’s just that this year it was a hell of a lot easier to do it because we were working with the people we would leave as friends with. Much easier than hunting people down or randomly coming across them at con.

Jenn worked a track filled with really great, creative people. I worked on a team filled with the same. We both made new convention friends that we hope to keep as friends as the years go on. And in the end, above and beyond the autographs, panels, performances, celebrity sightings,  convention swag, etc., that’s what Dragon Con has always been the most about in my family. So, yeah, this was a totally different Dragon Con for us in so many ways, but it was still exactly the same in every way that counts.

Robin Williams – RIP 1951 – 2014

Robin Williams RIP

Robin Williams was one of the most genuinely funny human beings I’ve ever seen. Watching him perform stand-up, hell, even seeing him in most interviews, was like watching a manic ball of energy devoted to sheer joy and laughter.

A Night at the Met was probably my favorite comedy album for years. I wore out two tapes before getting it on CD. In my teens and twenties, Robin Williams and his stand up (and the experimental improv comedy he did) was one of the most influential things in shaping my humor into what it is today.

I’m at a loss for word to express how much it saddens me that not only has he died, but that the reports at this time indicate that he has apparently died by his own hands.





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