Wipe is Available

It’s finally complete!

Wipe: A Brief History of Toilet Hygiene is now available as an ebook through Amazon.

And, yes! Selling this through Amazon gives me complicated feels. On the one hand – it was fun to write. I think it’s fun to read. I hope you read it and enjoy it! Writing short works like Wipe is a fun hobby. Even though the editing is annoying, I like everything that goes with a project like this — the research, the writing, the design. This is my idea of a good time.

On the other hand – pitching in to help a sociopathic monster become even wealthier. So, there’s that. My only consolation is that a project like this ebook only puts a few pennies in the coffer. UNLESS YOU BUY A MILLION COPIES.

Regardless, Wipe is available. If you want to support this project, here’s how.

  1. The best is to buy a copy and leave a stellar 5-star review. The Amazon algorithm really likes verified purchases and 5-star reviews.
  2. Buy a copy (but don’t bother with the review). All those pennies add up over time.
  3. Share a link. Let others know, so maybe they’ll buy a copy, write a review, and/or share a link.

And, I want to thank everyone who read various portions of this in draft and gave me feedback. THANK YOU! My friends made it better, and I alone am responsible for its mediocrity.

Attempting to Peer Into the Future

This article from MIT Technology Review popped up in my feed today:

This is what it will take to get us back outside
How to safely easing social distancing while we wait for a covid-19 drug or vaccine.

“Getting to normal, therefore, is not so much about getting back the old normality as it is about getting back the ability to know what is going to happen tomorrow.”

It’s an okay overview, and it deals specifically with a near future where there is no treatment available (assuming a treatment might be available as early as August 2020 or as late as 2021).

What surprised me most is that the AEI report it links to seems reasonable. I’m not sure if I’ve ever agreed with an AEI policy proposal. If the Republican leadership <snarky comments removed>, they may suggest something along the following:

Stay-at-Home Advisories

The trigger for issuing a stay-at-home advisory in a US state is when case counts are doubling every three to five days (based on the current New York experience) or when state and local officials recommend it based on the local context (for example, growth on track to overwhelm the health system’s capacity).

The trigger for issuing a recommendation to step down from a stay-at-home-advisory back to “slow the spread” is when the number of new cases reported in a state has declined steadily for 14 days (i.e., one incubation period) and the jurisdiction is able to test everyone seeking care for COVID-19 symptoms.

I like this because it gives pretty clear triggers for how to manage life over the next few months. It divides the future into three phases. Phase one is where we are now. Phase two is when we start to open things up again, and phase three is when we have a reliable treatment in place.

The AEI report recommends that when we see a steady decline in new cases for two weeks, we can move to phase two.

Phase two still includes “teleworking (as much as possible), maintaining hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, wearing a mask in public, regularly disinfecting high-touch surfaces, and initially limiting social gatherings to fewer than 50 people.”

States should return to phase one “if a substantial number of cases cannot be traced back to known cases, if there is a sustained rise in new cases for five days, or if hospitals in the state are no longer able to safely treat all patients requiring hospitalization.”

Phase three begins with a vaccine or other effective and widely available treatment.

The AEI report was co-written by Trump’s former FDA commissioner Scott Gottleib. Don’t agree with him on many issues, but he did a few things while running the FDA I thought were reasonable. He had an op-ed in the WSJ on Feb. 4 saying that a pandemic in the US seemed inevitable and the administration needed to act immediately. Politico ran a piece on him a month ago if you want to know more.

Never thought I’d point favorably to a policy proposal from the AEI, but this one is worth checking out.

Mindfulness Chicken

In the spring and summer of 2019 I was burned out. During the summer I scheduled some appointments with a therapist, and she helped! I recommend it.

One of the issues that fed my emotional distress was constant rumination. Something would upset me at work and my mind would review and argue and cogitate ceaselessly.

She recommended several mindfulness techniques, but none really connected with me, so I made up my own. The mindfulness animal.

I scraped a lot of animal names from Wikipedia and now I have a daily animal. When I find myself ruminating about something upsetting, and I catch myself (which I’ve gotten pretty good at), I say “Stop. Think about…,” and then I think about the animal.

For example, today’s animal is the porcupine. If at some point today I find myself fruitlessly ruminating about something that’s bothering me, I’ll say “Stop. Think about the porcupine.” And then I’ll ask myself a bunch of questions about porcupines. Where are they from? Where are they indigenous? How big do porcupines get? Does anybody every harvest quills? Could I harvest quills? What could you make out of porcupine quills? Do the babies have quills? etc. until I break the rumination.

Some days this is easy enough, and I’m able to quiet my mind. Other days It’s nearly impossible and I spend a lot of time working to break the rumination.

A few weeks ago there was something my mind just wouldn’t let go of. The animal for that day was chicken. I ended up singing a repetitive chant-song to myself of “Mindfulness chicken mindfulness chicken, mindfulness chicken, mindfulness chickennnnn, and then repeat.

Perhaps not perfect, because I was still obsessively thinking about something, but thinking about mindfulness chicken was much, much less upsetting that whatever else it was that was agitating me.

Anyway, this year I’ve been learning how to draw/cartoon, and last night I drew the Mindfulness Chicken. Below is yesterday’s effort. I think I’ll probably do another this weekend and work on the text (letters shouldn’t be in a box!) and font (needs to be sharper). But, I sure do love that chicken!

I got my chicken drawing from this series Lynda Barry has been doing for the last week or so. You can check out some of her short cartooning videos at her YouTube page.

heroes

If every grocery store clerk were told – I’ll give you your exact same wage for staying home OR you can continue to work. How many would continue to work?

They aren’t heroes, they are workers working under threat. They are compelled to go to work. If they lose their job, they lose their paycheck. If they lose their paycheck, they can’t pay rent, or buy food, or look after the health of their family, or pay for school.

I mean, I’m glad they’re there, but let’s be realistic about what compels them to be on the ‘front line’.

About Those UTampa Students…

Let’s dial back the vitriol against those University of Tampa students to, like, maybe zero.

University of Tampa spring break was March 9 to March 13. On March 12 the CDC was still reporting no community-transmitted cases of COVID-19 in Florida.

If a responsible student wanted to make a responsible decision, she would probably be directed to the CDC, which said travel was safe, just be reasonably precautious. If they asked the University president, or the Governor, or the Mayor, they probably would have been told the same thing.

If they asked their professors they might have heard, “Well, I’m going to New Orleans,” or “I’m going to Barcelona,” or “I’m going on a cruise.” All things I heard professors say before UT’s spring break.

We also don’t know what those students were doing during ‘spring break’. Not everyone gets wasted at the beach. They might have been working together on their marine biology project. They might have been traveling back to the same home town. They might have gone camping in North Carolina. And, sure, they might have been swapping spit in a dance club.

What’s more upsetting is that a non-trivial number of UT’s outsourced labor force was laid off yesterday. Many those people who clean the buildings, take out the trash, and cook the food are now without a job; many of whom live paycheck to paycheck. That’s not on the students. And that’s getting no viral status or snarky comments. And what’s being done to those workers is far worse than anything any of those students did.

Smart is a euphemism for surveillance

I’m working on a new book for Hillsborough River Press and came across this article – Smart Toilets: The Jetpack of the Bathroom.

A couple of years ago I got into the habit of substituting the word surveillance everytime I saw the word ‘smart’ used as a modifier.

Smart cities are surveillance cities.

Smart toilets are surveillance toilets.

Smart phones are surveillance phones.

It’s a handy reminder of how much information about ourselves and our lives we are willing to share. And how that information is commodified.

A smart toilet can monitor your urine and share that information with your doctor. So healthy! But, you know, what if it’s also spying on you? That line of cocaine you did on New Year’s eve gets noticed and you’re now on a database shared among insurance providers as a high risk candidate.

Or, if you’re a military contractor, can the US government compel you to use a smart toilet as a condition of the contract? And if they’re monitoring you for drugs, do they have to tell you if any illness is detected?

Some of our futures are creepy, indeed.

The Second Edition of My Explainer on the Green New Deal is Here

I posted an ebook earlier this summer about the Green New Deal. I wrote it mostly to figure out if it was something I could support. (I can and do.)

To publish it I created Hillsborough River Press, thinking I might publish a few more works in the coming years. (And, yes, it’s fun and I’ll probably publish a few more things before the year is over.)

I don’t really expect sales for a nano-press like this, especially since I’m not interested in marketing, but it was selling a few issues a week until I received a drive-by 1-star review. Below is the post I made at the Hillsborough River Press website.

UPDATE: The Second Edition of Green New Deal is now available. I want to thank everyone who gave me feedback. The book is now much improved. Thank you!

However, despite their help and positive feedback, sales have dropped to zero. Why? Former Representative (R-PA) Phil English dropped a 1-star comment on the book in Amazon. English clearly never read the book, described it as dishonest, and mischaracterized the purpose of the book (and then whined it didn’t address the strawman arguments he conjured up).

Before English dropped by I was selling a couple of copies a week. Not much, but, you know, it was something. After his comment — zero.

In the conclusion I mention reasons I’m optimistic and reasons I’m pessimistic. Phil English’s disdain for civil discourse, and intellectual cowardice are part of my pessimism. Millions and millions of people see the world the same way he does. And they are going to let the world burn just to mock the liberals they loathe so much. They have neither science nor cogent argument on their side, so they resort to juvenile taunts and false accusations.

If you’re curious, note that this 1HR explainer has 41 endnotes pointing to the evidence I’m paraphrasing, and contains a references page containing (coincidentally) 41 resources that allow you to dig deeper into different aspects of the Green New Deal. If you have any questions or corrections, please let me know.

Hillsborough River Press is in it for the long-haul. This isn’t the only book we’ll publish, and I’m sure Phil English isn’t the only asshole I’ll ever have to deal with.