I Love Amazon – But..

For Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my blessings; I love to list my favorite things, what makes them thank-worthy, and what little disappointments that come with them.

For example, I love Amazon.  I have bought all sorts of things I needed and some that I just wanted.  One disappointment:  assembly instructions.  My frugal self loves the savings for things that are twice the price in the brick-and-mortar stores; my honest self sees the hidden price I pay.  I rationalize the wonderful nuances of foreign cultures as I try to figure out which real-life nut and bolt matches the vaguely portrayed nuts and bolts in the faintly-printed instructions.

assembly

Sometimes there is not even unintelligible English-as-a-language-no-one-here-really-knows text to confuse me.  The diagrams are diabolical, psychological warfare.  A few companies tease us by attaching stickers to pieces with the letter or number shown in the pamphlet.  Even then, one company mislabeled the parts in the instructions.

Most throw us graphics that are tests, like Mensa/SAT/Psychological/IQ tests.  The questions on the test?

  1. Match this table of drawings to the items you are staring at, that came in the box.
  2. Can you see the pattern or sequence between step 1 and step 2?
  3. Can you identify the actions required to explain the difference between figure 1 and figure 2?
  4. Can you fill in the missing part or parts of the sequences?
  5. Can you get the parts you glued together by mistake apart again?
  6. Is the FedEx guy too far up the street to flag down?

I can see the Mensa buyers sitting on the garage floor with dressers that look more like Picasso bookcases, or Escher stairways.

The instruction writers of foreign manufacturers must have never been to America.  They have never spoken to any native speaker in English, in person, just the less-than-fluent instructors who taught them, and the non-English-speaking bosses who were impressed with what sounded like English to him.

And here is where frustration brings out sadism:  We who have fallen, do not enlighten the seller, nor warn other buyers.  Why shouldn’t they suffer like we did?

Even if the instructions are adequate, they often include fewer of the metric nuts, bolts, and washers than needed, or some that are defective.  Where will you find 10 more of those little slider-holder thing-a-ma-jigs you need when you are bent over, holding up the critical strut of your almost-completed gazebo with one hand, the instructions in the other, as the sun sets?

If “some assembly required,” does not ruin your day, how about things that do not fit together like you saw on-line?  I mean a coffee maker that dribbles when you follow the instructions exactly, or the lid of the pressure cooker that will not lock, or the replacement for the roller brush for your vacuum cleaner that spins out from under the vacuum and sticks in the wall?

coffee

Oh, I forgot, batteries; you buy an electronic device that does what you want, for an incredibly low price.  Once you have it, you find that the “batteries-are-not-included,” or run out after 10 minutes, are not rechargeable, and cost more than the device.

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I love the whole concept of Amazon; I use it regularly; it appeals to my money-saving, couch-potato side. I love it when I find something better, at a lower price on-line, than my wife can find with woman-days of store shopping.  It makes me feel vindicated for never wanting to go to the mall.

 I just have to learn to temper my greed, contain my optimism, and curb my enthusiasm.  Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and every other winter-solstice-scheduled celebration of the return of the sun, that you may enjoy.

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Smart-phones Trigger 30+% Increase in Teen Suicide

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12/1/17  A ten-year-old Colorado girl hanged herself after a video of her was posted online.  https://tinyurl.com/ycrflygb

A group of researchers, in Clinical Psychological Science showed the drastic impact of smartphones on teen mental health.

 Between 2010 – 2015 among 13 – 18-year-olds

  • Depression increased 33%
  • Teen suicide attempts increased 23%
  • Suicide jumped 31%.

 What changed?  The social structure of American children now revolves around virtual “friends” and “selfies;” self-importance, notoriety, acceptance, and electronic “gear.” These needs are the same as ever, but the structures, and ways of connecting changed drastically. 

Now, teens stay alert to every text, email, Facebook posting, and Instagram message; they play computer games maniacally; sleep less at a critical stage of development; they barely notice the real world around them.  Even when they are together physically, they play vicious, amoral, computer games, mentally isolating them and pitting one against another (e.g. World of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto).

Teenagers develop identities, feel lonely, realize they are separate from others,  feel unworthy, measured on an impossible scale of unending perfection, want independence, but see they are not self-sufficient, are completely dependent on the adults in their lives.  But, what is different about that?   

We all suffered these growing pains, but mostly in private; now teens have zero privacy, addicted to the idea that worthiness equals public notice, acceptance, and approval.  They live for attention, “Look at me and what I did.” is the mantra of teens in 2017.   This transparency exposes them to what their peers post about them on social media, especially “shaming.”  Teenagers have always been vicious to each other in the struggle to be on top, or at least survive.  Teens’ private lives, become public, like embarrassing intimate photos; the cruelty stays imbedded online for anyone to see, forever.

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Sexting, is insanity; trying to impress someone, can lead to immortal images.

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That is much more damaging than the teasing and taunting kids have always done.  Remember, “sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you?”  Not true for today’s teens. They have paper-thin egos that bruise and tear from any loss of face. Girls have increased anxiety, depression, eating, sleep, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Screen time per day is closely related to suicide risk; the study showed that teens who spend less than 2 hours per day on-screen, have normal levels of risk.  As average on-screen time increases, including texting, so does the suicide risk level:

Risk of at least one suicide risk factor from 2009 to 2015:

Screen Hours/ day = Suicide Risk Factors

2  = 27%

3  = 34%

5+= 48%

What to do?  If you want to support someone screen-addicted, work with them to increase in-person social interactions, not involving screens.  Manage on-screen personal time to 2 hours or less.  Schedule screen-free days or weekends.

Here is a link to the research:  http://bit.ly/2zianG5

 

Media Magnifying Glass – More Like a Fun-House Mirror

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Disasters, accidents, violent events, novelties, and scandals sell news.  Human nature compels us to gawk when we drive past an auto accident.  Danger, violence, and death attract us.  We “try on” the situation as if it is happening to us.  If our imagination is vivid enough, we experience what we see.  Our adrenal glands secrete cortisol, which gets us ready to freeze, fight, or flee.  The media know this well, and play to that part of our nature.  The more they succeed, the more fearful and suspicious we become.  Common sense tells us to lock our doors and cars, and take other wise precautions.  But, exaggerated fear-based stories lack context and perspective.

Gun Violence

Fifty-million Americans own more than 300 million guns.  We see the gun violence on TV and read about the terrible incidents of people dying. We hear about the mounting toll of Chicago’s homicide victims.  That does not mean you can expect more gun violence in your neighborhood.  It does not mean that every owner of a gun is a menace to you or your family.  The statistics sound horrific until you realize how vast America is and how many people live here.  The US population is over 323 million today.

Race      Pop.   %
Total 323,515,021 100%
White & Hispanic 232,943,055 73.6%
Black 44,908,095 12.6%
Other 50,663,871 13.8%

Below is a table of firearm death facts.

Firearm Deaths
  Total Black White & Hispanic
Homicide 17,250 7,881 6,576
Suicide 21,000 1,152 16,980
Police      500    233      267
Accidents      800    400      400
Total 33,900 9,666 24,223
% 100% 28.5%   71.5%

I broke the figures down by race because news about guns often revolves around race.  Note that blacks were 28.5% of the victims, which is more than double the 12.6% of the population who are black.  The FBI statistics show that 90% of black homicides were shot by blacks; likewise, 90% of white homicides  were shot by whites.  Gangs were responsible for most of the  homicides, while attacking other gangs, or committing  crimes.

Gunshot injuries 2015 were 85,000, according to CDC.  Total dead and injured 118,900.  Divide 118,900 by 300 million = .04%.  That means that 99.96% of guns did no harm.  That same total divided by 50 million gun owners = .24% were involved.  That means 99.76% of gun owners did no harm.

Police Shootings

Police shot 963 in 2016; 233 were black; of those all but 16 were armed.  The news media make it seem like hundreds of white police officers are shooting unarmed black men. A new study, “Do White Police Officers Unfairly Target Black Suspects?” used details of 2,699 police shootings 2013-2015 from 1,500 police departments around the country to discover:

  1. Black officers killed unarmed black suspects at a significantly higher rate than white or Hispanic officers.
  2. Both black and white police officers kill unarmed black suspects with higher probability than unarmed white or Hispanic suspects
  3. White police officers are not more likely than black officers, to kill black suspects.
  4. Hispanic police officers are significantly less likely to kill black suspects than either black or white officers.
  5. No evidence of significant racial discrimination on the part of white police officers with respect to black suspects.

John R. Lott, Jr and Carlisle E. Moody
College of William & Mary and the Crime Prevention Research Center
July 21, 2017

Here is a link to the study: https://goo.gl/xqI4bu (Unless you are a statistician, their paper can be daunting)

CDC Pushing Pain Patients onto Streets of Death – DEA announces 20-25% reduction of legal opioid production

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This week, in the Federal Register, the DEA announced 20-25% reduction of quotas for 2018, legal, U.S. opioid production.   (2017 Quotas:  https://goo.gl/sChjmc  2018 Quotas: https://goo.gl/sj8L7C)

This, along with ill-advised CDC pressure on ethical pain doctors is pushing legitimate pain patients to seek pain relief on the black market.  I am lucky, my doctors have not caved in to the hysteria.  What the public does not know is the difference between “dependent,” and “addicted.”

Four years ago, I started having sharp pains in my back and down the backs of both legs from my hips to my ankles.  I am fairly pain tolerant, but this was excruciating.  It felt like someone was electrocuting me from behind.  I had double sciatica. Two back surgeries, and three spine infusions later, the surgeons had relieved me of a baseball-sized tumor on my spine, and a herniated disk.  I now have a titanium strut screwed to my vertebrae, a substitute disk, and residual nerve damage.

My doctors started me off with a pretty big dose of oxycodone for two months while I was starting to heal.  Every month, they monitored my pain, and tested for “compliance,” before they gave me the next month’s prescription.  They gradually lowered the dose and switched me to hydrocodone and a small fentanyl patch.  Then I stopped the patch and lowered the dose of hydrocodone below the “worry line.”  They have guidelines for prescription levels that pose potential danger.  Now I take a small, stable amount of hydrocodone every day, right above the threshold of pain.  If I take less, the pains begin.  I do not feel high; I hardly notice the effects of the drugs; I do not crave more.  I am drug dependent, but not addicted; that is the difference.  This is what pain specialists want for chronic pain patients.

When the CDC reported the rise in drug overdose deaths, they said they were issuing “opioid guidelines for primary care physicians.”  My doctors told me that was code for the hospital lawyers that these were the rules for everyone, because of liability. That is when I read the CDC report.  I discovered most of the overdose deaths were from illegal drugs.  The deaths from prescription drugs did reveal the abusive prescription doctors; I think the authorities are dealing with them.  But that might be part of the problem.  Where do addicts or people in pain go when cut off from prescriptions?  Their options today are extremely dangerous.

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Equal Amounts of Death:  Above are Lethal Doses of Heroin, Fentanyl, and Carfentanil.

The latest CDC report showed that deaths from prescription drugs declined over the past several years, even before their report.  So, the “crisis” lies in illegal synthetic opiods, like fentanyl and carfentanil, which are many times more potent than heroin.  They are true pain killers.

Mexico and China manufacture the drugs for drug dealers to strengthen other drugs, like heroin, and to put in counterfeit pain pills, such as fake oxycontin and hydrocodone.  The danger is that it takes so little of these super powerful synthetic opioids to kill you.  Fentanyl is a strong pain killer, 100 times stronger than morphine; Carfentanil is an elephant tranquilizer, 10,000 times stronger than morphine; 20 micrograms will kill a human being; that equals the size of one or two grains of salt.  Drug sellers and drug users do not know how much fentanyl or carfentanil is in their drugs.  Police are terrified when they discover drugs, that they might touch or breathe a deadly dose.  Houston police discovered that, what they thought was 80 grams of methamphetamine powder, was really carfentanil.  It could have been lethal for any officer who got some on their skin or accidentally breathed the dust.

On top of this, a new fentanyl derivative, acrylfentanyl, is resistant to Narcan, the drug used to neutralize overdoses of opioids.  Another Narcan-resistant  drug, tetrahydrofureon, is so new, it is not yet on the list of illegal drugs.

The current portrayal of the drug overdose epidemic hurts real pain doctors, like mine.  If they get pressured into under-prescribing pain medicine, three things happen:

  1. Patients with real pain will suffer
  2. “Breakthrough” pain will inhibit patient healing.
  3. Patients may seek illegal drugs for pain relief.

So, let us dispel this vast generalization and focus on the lethal products and problems.  Let professional pain management specialists do their best for their patients.  Do not push people in pain onto the streets of death.

People “of Politics” Underestimate Trump

The underdog populist, Donald Trump enlists seasoned veterans of the establishment for his insurgency.  Do not underestimate the “swamp-power” behind his crusade.

The British underestimated George Washington, who was a veteran officer of the British forces that fought the French and Indian War.  He attracted a cadre of experienced men, and the support of Lafayette.

The Union Generals underestimated Robert E. Lee who was a top graduate of the United States Military Academy and an exceptional officer and military engineer in the United States Army for 32 years. He used his abilities to outmaneuver his enemies despite their immense superiority in men and weapons.

Both knew the other side from the inside; that is how they won.

There are some neophytes, but many “inside-the-beltway” professionals, in Trump’s camp.  Yes, there is entropy, as the elite scramble to understand the America they assumed they knew.  But there is also transformation.  Many entrenched politicians are pushing buttons that always worked before, (rather more like the Regency Bell Pull), to no avail.  The old ways can work against the establishment, when used by masters of “the system.”

Information is the ammunition for both side’s cannons.  As the prestige leaders of government take sides, the balance of power swings back and forth between extremes.  The media is the battleground of taking sides.  The Left singles out Fox News as the Devil of the Right, ignoring the giant counterbalance of media favoring the Left.

Recent reports on the inside shenanigans of the DNC to assure Hillary Clinton would defeat Bernie Sanders are a fitting example of the underhanded fighting within one party.  The rancor among Senate Republican leaders and the President is suicidal.  The Tea Party and the populist movement battle against the “safe-district” Republican incumbents.

The point is, the blandishments of both sides favoring themselves and the apoplectic, demeaning, political ridicule of both sides is dehumanizing and embarrassing.  We would be wise to put down our clubs and sharp-pointed sticks, and resume civilization.  Who believes that damaging another member of our community, somehow enhances our community?  Who knows other individuals who exemplify the crude deprecations flooding the Internet?  I do not have any of the menacing characteristics attributed to either party.  Anyone who knows me knows that.

Go get to know some people outside of your clannish prejudices; you might be surprised how few monsters live here.

 

 

 

Virtual Fahrenheit 451 – No Part of History Is Good Enough

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“Fahrenheit 451 – the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns…”.

In Ray Bradbury’s prescient 1953 novel, the government made the past illegal. Guy Montag is a “fireman” employed to burn the possessions of those who read outlawed books.  They even had book-sniffing robots to find homes with hidden books.

When Guy becomes despondent over the meaning of his work, his fire chief explains that, “over the course of several decades, people embraced new media (in this case, film, and television), sports, and a quickening pace of life.  Books were ruthlessly abridged or degraded to accommodate a short attention span, while minority groups protested over the controversial, outdated content perceived to be found in literature (yet comic books, trade papers, and sex magazines were allowed to stay, as those fed into the population’s want for mindless entertainment).”  People would watch the “parlor walls” (large televisions) with visiting friends instead of conversation.

We are now in the throes of a virtual Fahrenheit 451.  The need for burning books has become moot with the advent of ubiquitous, mesmerizing “screens.”  Evidence:

  1. Generations of high school graduates who show increasing ignorance, apathy, and illiteracy; they are ill-equipped for self-sufficiency, yet they excel at World of Warcraft, and Grand Theft Auto.
  2. People without enough money for food, have cellphones, and giant high-definition televisions, with cable. They read little and text a lot.  Everything is Facebook, selfies, videos, and soon virtual reality.
  3. Minority groups are protesting the controversial facts of our history. For example, the Fairfax County, Virginia school board just renamed my high school, J.E.B. Stuart High School, Justice High School.  (I can just imagine my next class reunion.)  Why?  Because he was an officer in the Confederate army.  Does anyone believe the Confederacy won the war?  Does anyone not see the tragedy of 600,000 lives lost as a lesson in pain?  Why remove the reminders?

What is next?  Will we remove the Civil War from our libraries?  Will museums take down every work of art with elements of that part of our nation’s history?  Will schools bury the history of slavery and the people responsible?

When will we hold accountable the Africans who sold tens of millions of other African as slaves to the entire world? https://goo.gl/EXnyGT

Were they not even more responsible for the misery of those slaves and their progeny?

Ignoring or censoring history will neither change the past, nor the consequences of what happened.  It will leave us less aware of the truth; a type of cultural dementia.  We must resist becoming a world of virtual Fahrenheit 451.