To Vax or not…

When to accept general scientific consensus and when not to? The well educated people I know are pretty much on board with the idea that our climate is changing and that human activity contributes to the change. They’ve accepted the conclusions which the vast majority of folks who work in climate related fields have come to. Not necessarily so with the science behind vaccines, even though, as with climate change, the vast majority of people working in that field have concluded the science is sound. Why then, would otherwise well educated, well-intentioned people accept one but not the other? My guess is that it comes down to psychology- one is (still) somewhat abstract while the other is very personal and might involve some very bad things in the very near term. The storms and wildfires may be worse than they were, but they still would’ve occurred, and the changes seem to be coming at a pace we might be able to deal with (time will tell if we’re kidding ourselves about that). On the other hand, the damage from bad medicine could be severely life-changing or fatal. Add to that an industry which, on a good day, doesn’t exactly have an honest track record and you can see where some skepticism might be in order. Due to that more immediate threat, though, emotions in the anti-anti-vax camp are also heightened, and not without some justification- if you have an immune-compromised child in the school system you know what I’m talking about, and it’s probably rather infuriating to hear (yet again) about that phony study involving autism (you know the one- anyone still repeating it should really get out more often). Suffice it to say bad medicine can kill, but so can no medicine.

People often lament the “age of specialists” we’re supposedly in, but it has it’s uses- I don’t have a science education but lots of other people do, and they understand their work to a much greater degree than I ever will. In general, that’s reason enough for me to take their word about what they do (I’m an electrician- not everyone else is, and that’s why they call me and usually believe what I tell them). I have no doubt there are bad actors (what group doesn’t have those?) but, having been around for over a half-century, I’ve learned some things about human nature- one of those things is that conspiracies involving more than a small number of people don’t stay secret for very long. So when I hear that the moon landing was faked, or that people are spraying weird chemicals from planes for some weird reason I have to laugh- people just aren’t that good at keeping secrets (especially not assholes- just ask Oliver North).

So, should you get vaccinated? Thankfully, it’s not for me to say (but if you’re wondering about that sub panel in your garage I can probably help). It’s also not a completely binary decision. For me, though, I’m hoping the answer comes more from logic and empirical thinking and less from anecdotal evidence or conspiracy theories.

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For Mike

A friend from my early days in Boulder passed away recently- Mike had been living in Minnesota for years, after various other places since I’d seen him last. Around 1985 he offered me a job working with him in the kitchen of a Boulder restaurant, and he seemed like one of the few relatively sane individuals in the place- an island of calm and skill, and I’m pretty sure certain elements of his work style rubbed off on me. We both left that restaurant after a few months, as life took different turns for us- him selling his trailer and leaving Colorado and me moving into a van and then a mountain cabin. In the ensuing years I heard bits and pieces from him through his brother Bob (also a friend, who stuck around Colorado) and later social media, which isn’t as useless as it’s fiercer critics might have us believe (as long as you can manage to stay out of exchanges involving hot-button issues or scientific opinions of people not working in whatever field is being discussed. Also probably shouldn’t try to post with a phone while driving or walking. Right then, carry on). What happens to us after we die? Despite whatever spiritual or religious ideas I’ve heard or come up with over the years, I haven’t the faintest idea, and I generally pay no attention to anyone who says they do- Mike certainly wouldn’t have. What I feel somewhat confidant in saying, though, is that we leave a trail of actions and ways of being behind. A fleeting triviality in terms of geology or even evolution, but perhaps not so trivial in terms of us critters and how we make our way along whatever path we’re on.

And the winner is…

POWERBALL FEVER, BABY! YEAH! BIG JACKPOT! LINE UP! GET YOUR TICKETS!
OK, fine- whatever… it’s basically a tax on people who can’t do math, but some of the funds go to stuff like parks, and It’s cool how so many people interviewed say they’d give lots of money to various charities if they won. Maybe people aren’t as generally f*cked up as Trump’s poll numbers might suggest. Thing is, a lot of life is actually a lottery- most people reading this live somewhere not currently experiencing famine or war, and have enough food, clothing and shelter to get by for at least the time being. Most people reading this live in places where they’re free to try their hand at a new career, or adventure, or just go from one place to another. Most people reading this can believe in whatever version (including no version) of God they want to. There’s a reason millions of people who don’t live in places like this want to live in places like this. Here’s another “lottery” for you- out of all the bazillions of tons of stardust and organic matter (and whatever else goes into making the world) you emerged- with all your quirks, talents, perceptions, flaws, pain, suffering, laughter, love, insights, and stunning beauty, you are here now. And the winner is…

Toxic Masculinity

 

I occasionally get asked what I mean when I use the term “toxic masculinity”- usually by males who haven’t heard it before and/or are noticing how much the term is used these days. In August the American Psychological Association published “Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men”, and it defines “masculinity ideology” as “a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.” The report also links this ideology to homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment. Now, as a climber and business owner, I don’t view things like achievement, adventure, or risk as inherently negative, but when I look at the way males were socialized and expected to behave when I was growing up I can see how those things might feed into an ideal of men that leaves out other things, like emotional development. The guidelines also state “Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health”. In other words, the patriarchy doesn’t only limit women… perhaps those of us who don’t fit our assigned roles can help point the way toward a more functional future for everyone.

Link to the guidelines here

I took this photo a couple of summers ago… In November of 2010 I fell off of a building and broke my back- I’m extremely lucky to be alive and able to walk, let alone climb, hike, and work at my various physical trades. The vertebrae in my spine will never be the way they were before the accident, but with time and lots of physical exercise (and an amazing partner  ) they seem to protrude from my back significantly less, to the point of being barely noticeable. So here I was in 2016, arching my back… took a long time before I could, and these days I try not to take any of the gifts I’ve been given for granted. You never know what’s around the next bend… may whatever God (or lack thereof) you celebrate bless you as much as He has blessed me!

December 1st, 1955

Related image

On this day in 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. In the following years, many other acts of civil disobedience occurred, and as those acts (and the associated confrontations) got national attention the stage was set for major civil rights gains. Anyone who was involved in those struggles will tell you how difficult and dangerous they were- the freedoms were hard won, require effort and vigilance to preserve, and need to be expanded. We’re on the road, but haven’t fully arrived there. A significant number of our citizens have never accepted the idea of equality for everyone, and currently have a champion of their ideals in the White House. Fortunately, those ideals belong to a minority, but that minority is vocal and sometimes violent. So we’re in dangerous times once again, as short-sighted greed, anger, and hatred have control over one of the world’s biggest microphones. Most of us, though, aren’t interested in going back to the time of slavery or segregation, and the people who have been rigging the game know this- that’s why they increasingly resort to rigging the game. Their social views are becoming less and less relevant to the mainstream every passing year, and it’s evidence that Rosa Parks and those who came after her made a much more profound and lasting impact on this country than our current president is ever likely to.

At this point, perhaps the far left in our country is getting a sense of what happens when people on more or less the same side of major issues fail to put their differences aside on election day. People on the far right, for all their other faults, are smarter about this and it’s one reason republicans run the show (other reasons include voter suppression and gerrymandering, which are increasingly required to win as the GOP becomes less representative of the majority). For the rest of us, who might not be overly psyched on any particular candidate, I offer this tidbit a friend said recently: “your vote isn’t a valentine- it’s a chess move.”