Archive for 2020

Super Villain Bowl – WOW!

What an amazing, fun, and satisfying tribute to the movies!

SUPER-VILLAIN-BOWL! – TOON SANDWICH

And yes, there is more than just one video!

Another 50 letters for Biden

That’s a total of 150 personal letters to Milwaukee.

Thwapthwapthwapthwapthwap

When it’s windy, the fiber that brings life-giving internets to our neighborhood makes the most annoying thwap-thwap-thwap-thwap-thwap-thwap-thwap sound. I caught a great AT&T serviceman working next door and, two zip-ties later, the world is calm!

The Axe

The Greatest Pleasure

Inbox zero. It is so rare and fleeting.

Update from Step One Room 3: Awesome

The updates we get from our preschool are so fantastic! My greatest concern is that, at this rate, she’ll be a responsible, capable, joy-filled adult by 4th grade.

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Dear Room 3 Families,

We hope you are off to having a wonderful weekend with your family. This week, the focus of Christina’s circle times and projects have centered around meditation and learning tools to calm our bodies down. On Monday, Christina brought all the kids to our cozy spot to talk about what that area can be used for. She talked about the area being a spot where a child can go when they are feeling sad or just wanting a space to be alone. She showed the kids the books we have in that area that focus on the different feelings we are having.

At another circle she introduced how holding a rock can be used to calm our bodies down. She did a great activity where each child held onto a rock during the mindful minute. After, she had each child add their rock to a collective rock structure.

She also introduced yoga as another tool to center our bodies.

Here is a picture of the kids practicing the turtle pose.

At another circle she used the plants as something that the kids can help take care of and be another thing that can help calm our bodies.

One of the art projects this week was doing string painting.

At the manipulative table this week was a basket of glass jewels and different templates for the kids to carefully place the jewels on.

When we sit at drop off and pick up time, the kids have been aware of how fast people drive on Spruce. We talked about what we can do to get people to slow down and they suggested making signs to hold. Here is a picture of a child making their sign.

 

Here is a picture of the kids holding their signs.

We have been observing that animal play has been a consistent theme this year. Block structures have been animal houses. The playhouse has been used as a veterinary hospital. There has been lots of observing sign of animals in nature up on the hillside and there has been some days of kids even giving birth to animals.

We feel there is enough interest that we are going to start the process of developing a project. The first step will be surveying the kids about what animal each child wants to learn about and making a graph where we can count up which animal has the most interest.

Here are some important reminders and information:

* School will be open this Monday.
* This year the administration has decided to allow each class to permit kids to wear costumes on the Friday before Halloween. Please refrain from any scary costumes and do not send your child with any costume masks. As per our COVID protocols, we will not be allowing any families to contribute any treats or items from home.
* As the rainy season begins, please have good rain gear for your child, as we do go outside in light rain.
* Here is the schedule for next week.

We hope you have a wonderful weekend and we will see you on Monday.

Peace,

Steve, Christina, and Robyn

Is Recycling Worthwhile?

I’ve read conflicting reports as to whether municipal recycling actually works or not.

Here’s some musings on that. I have no idea if these numbers are accurate.
I took a look through my city’s budget

I spy that last year…
Disposing of about 7,000 tons of garbage cost $2.6 million (line 46310, chart 8-7)
Disposing of about 4,000 tons of recycling cost $175,000 (line 46320, chart 8-7)
But we also paid 4 “Recycling Maintenance Workers”. I’ll assume they each were paid $50,000.

That means getting rid of recycling costs $94 per ton and garbage costs $371 per ton. So from a money perspective, recycling seems to make sense. But my numbers could be WAAY off. I’m just some guy that spend 1/2 an hour looking up the answer online. I see the average tipping fee for landfills is about $60 per ton. Why does it cost us $371 per ton??

 

I had a brief email discussion with Will Provost, a Management Analyst for the city and he thinks we recycle. He responded to me:

Thanks for your interest in this important topic. Yes, with the global recycling markets collapsing a couple years ago, a lot of jurisdictions are having trouble finding processors to accept their recycled plastic. In El Cerrito, we were able to switch contracts and find a new processor (Napa Recycling & Waste Services) that still accepts and recycles the plastics from our curbside program, including products like TetraPaks. However, whereas in the past the commingled recycling stream would have generated some revenue for the City, now the City is instead paying for these materials to be sorted and properly recycled. We’ve also had to limit what’s accepted in some cases. For example, we no longer accept plastic bags or plastic film. So in short, the plastics in El Cerrito are getting recycled, but the economics of recycling has drastically changed and the community is effectively subsidizing the recycling. Unfortunately, other communities around the country that are facing the same markets are choosing instead to send the plastics to the landfill or end their recycling programs.

Hope that helps. Longer term, the City is interested in moving forward with an Expanded Food Ware Ordinance to reduce the amount of single-use plastics generated in El Cerrito and ending up in our waste stream.

 

JK Rowling and Gender: Vile

This is an essay on me coming to terms with JK Rowling’s vile stance on transgender issues. When you want to broach the subject with a friend that the author of Harry Potter might have some disturbing views on gender health, maybe you’ll point them here and let them follow my journey on the subject.

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JK Rowling has written controversially about gender issues, especially the acceptability of transgender people in society.

First, let me be forthright about my opinion about transgender issues:

I fully and without reservation support anyone trying to become whoever they think they might be. Whatever a person believes for themselves is real. It is difficult but worthwhile to work toward becoming that person! There are many aspects to understanding gender including but not limited to social, psychological, and biological. I have travelled a long, occasionally bumpy road in understanding my own and other’s gender and sexuality. It has been composed of a nonstop process of exploration, consideration, observation, and re-consideration.

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When I first read JK Rowling’s Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues, I did so out of context of the discussion that was happening. I simply read it. On my first reading, what I saw seemed to make good sense. I even naively blogged a summary, “To cut through all the flak, what I read is this “Be cautious about encouraging people to change their gender too quickly.” I fully support that position.” I was completely wrong about her intent and about her position. I now see how vile her position is.

Making time to understand the full context of an author’s words can be difficult and time consuming with all the stressors and demands on my time. That said, understanding the context in which words are said is essential! Most of what is below are things I learned in the past few days.

(TL;DR, you are welcome to just read the parts in bold)

To skip to the heart of the matter, I completely disagree with JK Rowling’s impression of gender and gender rights. I believe it is a view that is detrimental to the wellbeing of individuals and society. Her core belief is, despite quite a bit of lip service to the contrary, that gender plays no important role in gender identity; a person’s observed sex at birth is the only important aspect of gender identity in society.

Rowling strongly supports Maya Forstater’s ideas in her failed transgender lawsuit. Rowling and Forstater state with nearly identical verbiage ,”I am concerned that the acceptance of “gender identity” in place of sex in laws and policies has a negative impact on women and girls, as it means that female only spaces including toilets, changing rooms, women’s refuges, prisons, hospital wards, and women’s sport can not be maintained as female only.” and “I am not anti-trans. Like JK Rowling I think people should be free to wear what they like and live as they please.”

A summary of the lawsuit: Forstater doesn’t believe a person who has changed genders has actually changed genders. Forstater includes even people that have gone through the legal process in the UK to obtain a UK Gender Recognition Certificate a “GRC”. She said as much and was let go from her job because of it. The judge in the case decided that Forstater is incorrect and the GRC does actually confer its namesake. “…the sticking point was [Forstater’s] insistence that a trans woman is still a man even if she holds a GRC confirming her legal status as a woman”

On my first reading, I had missed so many details in Rowling’s article. I incorrectly assumed that Rowling and Forstater had an understanding of the difference and nuance between sex and gender and were making an academic, pedantic point. This misinterpretation colored my understanding of the reading greatly. Forstater wrote things like ““Sex” is a material reality which should not be conflated with “gender” or “gender identity”. Being female (or male) is an immutable biological fact, not a feeling or an identity… I believe that everyone should be free to live as they choose without harassment or discrimination because of adopting or not adopting gender norms and stereotypes.” My initial response is “Ok… that’s interesting, I’m listening… where are you going with this?” Unfortunately, where she is going is that Forstater strongly believes that both gender AND sex are immutable in her eyes and likewise should be immutable in the eyes of the law.

In Rowling’s article she talks about people’s impression that she may be a Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF) but she doesn’t say if she embraces the label or not. Forstater calls herself “gender critical” which is recognized as being synonymous. I didn’t understand what the term meant before reading about Rowling’s position and I mistakenly let the words roll over me. I even googled the term but got the wrong impression. I had latched onto a discussion about how it wasn’t really a derogatory term and moved on. Well, I’ve got egg on my face because “TERF” is not derogatory in exactly the same way that “white supremacist” is not derogatory per se.

A person that is a trans exclusionary radical feminist “denies that trans people’s self-affirmed genders and sexes are equally valid as cis people’s self-affirmed genders and sexes”

In the UK, actively promoting the core belief of a TERF is against the law as evidenced by Forstater’s failed lawsuit.

In Rowling’s Sex and Gender article, she expressed concern about “…Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, where [Lisa Littman, the person who coined the phrase] believes that in the realm of transgender identification ‘youth have created particularly insular echo chambers.” I’m sorry to say that I latched onto that idea too quickly and strongly without looking into it carefully. I had been reminded of an absolutely essential book I read a few years ago “Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche“. I cannot recommend it highly enough. (thank you Professor Jennifer Dawgert-Carlin at CCSF for the recommendation!) Please read the book, or my summary, it will blow you away! In brief, the book traces several mental illnesses that have been spread socially: literal “memes”. Recalling this book got me concerned that Rowling understood a problem that others might not understand. The rub is that the idea of Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria is very new, not well studied yet, and simply not ready to be discussed outside academic psychology! Maybe it’s actually a thing, maybe not. I found exactly 1 research study about ROGD on Google Scholar, all the other articles are heated discussions about Littman’s paper. Here’s a good article in Psychology Today about some of the complexity of trying to mainstream the idea too quickly. My friend S. reminded me “[Rowling] is not a Psychologist. She is an author. Look to experts to learn more about the issues. Wikipedia is good for starters.” That is spectacular advice. I had made the mistake of thinking that Rowling was speaking as an academic with a lot of evidence. She is not and does not.

Here are the last nails in the coffin. Rowling took the pen name “Robert Galbraith”. The most prominent real individual with that name is Robert Galbraith Heath, a psychiatrist who was famous for coming up with electroshock gay conversion therapy in the 1950’s. That says it all. Yes, it’s as unethical and as you suspect it might be, maybe moreso! Rowling denies this origin of her pen name, but her reputation as an author who meticulously crafts her character’s names is well understood. Rowling’s new book is about a male serial killer who dressed up as a woman to hunt women. Oh come on! That’s just piling on! That demonstrates clearly yet again her ridiculous “things that go bump in the night” fear.

So, what do I think of JK Rowling’s views on transgender persons? Destructive, abhorrent, and disgusting are a good start.

 

More reading:

Dying in a Leadership Vacuum: from the Editors of The New England Journal of Medicine

The New England Journal of Medicine is the world’s leading medical journal and website. (Specifically “The journal usually has the highest impact factor of the journals of internal medicine”)

In my previous post, I quoted an NPR article about how The New England Journal of Medicine published a very strongly worded article to vote Trump out. Please read what they have to say:

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Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.

The magnitude of this failure is astonishing. According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering,1 the United States leads the world in Covid-19 cases and in deaths due to the disease, far exceeding the numbers in much larger countries, such as China. The death rate in this country is more than double that of Canada, exceeds that of Japan, a country with a vulnerable and elderly population, by a factor of almost 50, and even dwarfs the rates in lower-middle-income countries, such as Vietnam, by a factor of almost 2000. Covid-19 is an overwhelming challenge, and many factors contribute to its severity. But the one we can control is how we behave. And in the United States we have consistently behaved poorly.

We know that we could have done better. China, faced with the first outbreak, chose strict quarantine and isolation after an initial delay. These measures were severe but effective, essentially eliminating transmission at the point where the outbreak began and reducing the death rate to a reported 3 per million, as compared with more than 500 per million in the United States. Countries that had far more exchange with China, such as Singapore and South Korea, began intensive testing early, along with aggressive contact tracing and appropriate isolation, and have had relatively small outbreaks. And New Zealand has used these same measures, together with its geographic advantages, to come close to eliminating the disease, something that has allowed that country to limit the time of closure and to largely reopen society to a prepandemic level. In general, not only have many democracies done better than the United States, but they have also outperformed us by orders of magnitude.

Why has the United States handled this pandemic so badly? We have failed at almost every step. We had ample warning, but when the disease first arrived, we were incapable of testing effectively and couldn’t provide even the most basic personal protective equipment to health care workers and the general public. And we continue to be way behind the curve in testing. While the absolute numbers of tests have increased substantially, the more useful metric is the number of tests performed per infected person, a rate that puts us far down the international list, below such places as Kazakhstan, Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia, countries that cannot boast the biomedical infrastructure or the manufacturing capacity that we have.2 Moreover, a lack of emphasis on developing capacity has meant that U.S. test results are often long delayed, rendering the results useless for disease control.

Although we tend to focus on technology, most of the interventions that have large effects are not complicated. The United States instituted quarantine and isolation measures late and inconsistently, often without any effort to enforce them, after the disease had spread substantially in many communities. Our rules on social distancing have in many places been lackadaisical at best, with loosening of restrictions long before adequate disease control had been achieved. And in much of the country, people simply don’t wear masks, largely because our leaders have stated outright that masks are political tools rather than effective infection control measures. The government has appropriately invested heavily in vaccine development, but its rhetoric has politicized the development process and led to growing public distrust.

The United States came into this crisis with enormous advantages. Along with tremendous manufacturing capacity, we have a biomedical research system that is the envy of the world. We have enormous expertise in public health, health policy, and basic biology and have consistently been able to turn that expertise into new therapies and preventive measures. And much of that national expertise resides in government institutions. Yet our leaders have largely chosen to ignore and even denigrate experts.

The response of our nation’s leaders has been consistently inadequate. The federal government has largely abandoned disease control to the states. Governors have varied in their responses, not so much by party as by competence. But whatever their competence, governors do not have the tools that Washington controls. Instead of using those tools, the federal government has undermined them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was the world’s leading disease response organization, has been eviscerated and has suffered dramatic testing and policy failures. The National Institutes of Health have played a key role in vaccine development but have been excluded from much crucial government decision making. And the Food and Drug Administration has been shamefully politicized,3 appearing to respond to pressure from the administration rather than scientific evidence. Our current leaders have undercut trust in science and in government,4 causing damage that will certainly outlast them. Instead of relying on expertise, the administration has turned to uninformed “opinion leaders” and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies.

Let’s be clear about the cost of not taking even simple measures. An outbreak that has disproportionately affected communities of color has exacerbated the tensions associated with inequality. Many of our children are missing school at critical times in their social and intellectual development. The hard work of health care professionals, who have put their lives on the line, has not been used wisely. Our current leadership takes pride in the economy, but while most of the world has opened up to some extent, the United States still suffers from disease rates that have prevented many businesses from reopening, with a resultant loss of hundreds of billions of dollars and millions of jobs. And more than 200,000 Americans have died. Some deaths from Covid-19 were unavoidable. But, although it is impossible to project the precise number of additional American lives lost because of weak and inappropriate government policies, it is at least in the tens of thousands in a pandemic that has already killed more Americans than any conflict since World War II.

Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences. Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment. Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates. But truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.

Disclosure forms provided by the authors are available with the full text of this editorial at NEJM.org.

Supplementary Material
Disclosure Forms PDF 591KB
References (4)

1.Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. COVID-19 dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html).

2.Total number of COVID-19 tests per confirmed case, September 14, 2020. Our World in Data (https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/number-of-covid-19-tests-per-confirmed-case).

3.McGinley L, Abutaleb L, Johnson CY. Inside Trump’s pressure campaign on federal scientists over a Covid-19 treatment. Washington Post. August 30, 2020 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/convalescent-plasma-treatment-covid19-fda/2020/08/29/e39a75ec-e935-11ea-bc79-834454439a44_story.html).

Google Scholar. opens in new tab

4.Haberman M. Trump admits downplaying the virus knowing it was ‘deadly stuff.’ New York Times. September 9, 2020 (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/09/us/politics/woodward-trump-book-virus.html).

Close References

Citing Article (1)

Janice Hopkins Tanne. (2020) Covid 19: NEJM and former CDC director launch stinging attacks on US response. BMJ, m3925.

Crossref

New England Journal of Medicine Editors “Trump failed you. Kick him out!”

The New England Journal of Medicine is the world’s leading medical journal and website.

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FILE – This Dec. 29, 2011 file photo shows the entrance to the editorial offices of the New England Journal of Medicine in Boston. On Wednesday, June 13, 2018, the journal retracted and republished a landmark study on the Mediterranean diet, and issued an unprecedented five other corrections after an obscure report in 2017 scrutinized thousands of articles in eight journals over more than a decade and questioned some methods. The New England Journal’s review did not alter any conclusions and should raise public trust in science, not erode it, said its top editor, Dr. Jeffrey Drazen. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

 

The Trump administration has “taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy” in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The New England Journal of Medicine says in a scathing editorial that essentially calls on American voters to throw the president out of office.

It is the first time the prestigious medical journal has taken a stance on a U.S. presidential election since it was founded in 1812.

“When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent,” reads the editorial signed by nearly three dozen of the journal’s editors. “We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”

The editors accuse Trump’s government of a massive public health failure — and of worsening the pandemic’s effects by prioritizing politics over sound medical guidance.

The piece, titled “Dying in a Leadership Vacuum” and published Wednesday, does not mention President Trump or his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, by name. But it refers to the Trump administration repeatedly, and its footnotes cite news articles about Trump insisting that coronavirus risks are overblown, pressuring federal scientists, and politicizing the search for treatments.

“Instead of relying on expertise, the administration has turned to uninformed ‘opinion leaders’ and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies,” the editorial states.

The New England Journal of Medicine is at least the third widely respected medical or science journal to call for a change in U.S. leadership. Editor-in-Chief Dr. Eric Rubin says the editorial is rare for two main reasons: It’s one of the handful of times an editorial has been signed by all the editors, and it takes an unprecedented political stand.

“There have been many mistakes made that were not only foolish but reckless,” Rubin tells CNN, “and I think we want people to realize that there are truths here, not just opinions.”

Even though the U.S. has distinct advantages in biomedical research, manufacturing capacity and public health expertise compared with many other countries, the U.S. has recorded more than 212,000 deaths from the coronavirus — the most in the world. Along the way, U.S. leaders have denigrated experts and ceded disease control to the states, the journal’s editors say.

“Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences,” the editorial states. “Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment.”

The editorial acknowledges the difficulties that all countries face in coping with the coronavirus. And it notes that some deaths are unavoidable in a pandemic. But in the U.S., the authors say, “we have failed at almost every step,” from having adequate protective gear to a problematic approach to testing and contact tracing to a failure to follow basic precautions such as wearing face masks.

“In much of the country, people simply don’t wear masks, largely because our leaders have stated outright that masks are political tools rather than effective infection control measures,” the editorial states.

Many of the sentiments echo concerns raised in other venerable journals this year.

Scientific American broke with 175 years of tradition by endorsing Biden last month – a decision that was both unanimous and quick, Editor-in-Chief Laura Helmuth told NPR. And The Lancet called on Americans to make Trump a one-term president back in May.

All three journals took stands against Trump without referring to political parties; Helmuth says the Scientific American editorial purposefully avoided doing so in an attempt to be inclusive for its readers.

In a similar vein, the New England Journal of Medicine editorial states, “Truth is neither liberal nor conservative.”

The opinion piece notes that the U.S. has performed worse than many other developed nations, such as South Korea that had much higher rates of travel to and from China when the coronavirus initially emerged.

The journal’s editors write: “The death rate in this country is more than double that of Canada, exceeds that of Japan, a country with a vulnerable and elderly population, by a factor of almost 50, and even dwarfs the rates in lower-middle-income countries, such as Vietnam, by a factor of almost 2000.”