My 10th Bloggiversary!

What an unexpected milestone!

Tomorrow, December 1, 2022, marks the tenth year that I have been writing this blog. I find it nearly impossible to imagine sticking to any task in life for that long, and yet here we are. What an unexpected milestone.

If this blog were my spouse, I’d be looking around for a traditional gift made of tin, because according to myweddinganniversary.com, “The traditional 10th anniversary gift is tin, symbolizing how a successful marriage needs to be flexible and stable, and able to be bent without being broken. Tin symbolizes preservation and longevity.”

When I started this blog, the last thing I would have predicted was preservation or longevity. I assumed that I’d run out of ideas in about 6 months. But then it became a habit. Then it grew on me. Now, I can’t imagine life without it.

My first post ever, entitled “Nature is what’s happening while you’re not looking.” is a full-on love letter to bridgetending, the job that I’ve now been doing for just over 21 years, and the thing that has given me the time and opportunity to observe the world minutely and then blog about it. But when I reread that post just now, I was kind of shocked that it makes no mention of the fact that I was about to embark on this life-changing blogging endeavor. Of course, at the time I thought this blog was mere whimsy and would have a brief shelf life. That goes to show that we never know how long a journey we will take when we first step out the door.

You’d think I’d have at least said something like, “Hi everybody! I’m Barb, and I’m nervous. Thank you for stopping by. I hope you like what you see.”

But in truth, I don’t think that I believed that anyone outside of my family would ever read it. And that’s a genuine irony, because my closest blood relatives are the very people who rarely take the time to read these outpourings of my very soul. I can only hope they’ll choose to do so long after my body has been made into compost and returned to the earth. If that’s the case, I’d like to say “Hello, relative! It’s about freakin’ time! Ha!”

This blog has caused me to go down numerous avenues of inquiry that I wouldn’t have pursued otherwise. It has allowed me to make friends that I wouldn’t have met in any other way. It has also given me the opportunity to vastly improve my writing skills and find my (often disastrously unfiltered) voice.

If this blog were a dog, it would be 56 to 79 in human years, depending on its size, according to this calculator. Good dog! So good! That deserves a chunk of cheese.

This is my 3,417th post. I now have 655 followers, but I don’t take that very seriously, because I follow scores of blogs that I almost never find the time to read. But when I follow a blog, it’s kind of a vote of confidence, and I definitely appreciate those when they’re directed at me.

Since I’m writing this post two weeks prior to its actual publishing, I can only calculate the following statistics based on overall averages. Through the years, I’ve had about 215,000 visitors who have read about 374,000 posts. That’s a lot of eyes upon my words. It’s almost too much to comprehend. It humbles me.

As for words, I’ve written about 1,808,000 of those in this blog over the years. It’s safe to say that I’ve exposed my soft underbelly to the extent that I can never run for president. But if you’re a regular reader, you know that such an idea would never cross my mind anyway. That much scrutiny and criticism would be my definition of hell.

Having said that, though, I’m even more humbled by the fact that so many people have chosen to share my words with others. I’m unsure if the 4,705 shares on Facebook include my own postings on my Facebook group for this blog, but I can guarantee you that I have had nothing to do with the 4,138 shares on Twitter, the 3,792 shares on LinkedIn, the 4,537 shares on Reddit, or the 4,406 shares on Tumblr. If I were that active on social media, I’d have no time to write.

Of the 15,465 comments that my posts have generated on the WordPress site alone, I must confess that 6,989 of them are mine. I make every effort to respond to every comment, even now, because I’m so gratified when someone takes the time to reach out to me that I feel that they’re owed a response. I’ve learned so much from my readers, and that education, for me, is priceless.

This must be a labor of love, because, despite a brief and feeble attempt to sell out by allowing ads on my blog a while back, I have made not even one thin dime in all these years. In a way, that’s kind of pathetic, but the truth is that I never wanted this to feel like a job. Money has never been the object.

I did self-publish one anthology, and I practically beat you over the head with my plaintive cries to purchase a copy. It’s safe to say that I shouldn’t quit my day job. But I am really proud of the fact that it’s out there, somewhere, especially since my last name is Abelhauser, and there are only 10 of us left on earth. This book is my way of saying we were here.

I learned so much from that first book, and if I had it to do over again, I’d make several significant changes. I have the blog posts picked out for several more anthologies, but as much as I love to write, I lack the follow through to actually make them come to life. I had so many wonderful people helping me with the first book, and many of those would jump right in and help out again if I asked. I just can’t seem to get my act together. The fault is entirely mine.

Part of my hesitancy in taking on another anthology is that I have a complete and utter lack of time, and a good portion of that lack is due to the blog itself. It can be stressful, trying to pump out content on a daily basis. When I’m not writing it, I’m usually in the midst of full-blown anxiety because I’ve fallen behind or I can’t think of anything to write.

To that end, I decided to cut back and only post on even numbered days, starting on August 8, 2021. When I reread my announcement about that change, I have to laugh at my naivete. I actually thought it would double my free time, and I’d have the opportunity to relax and read books, a pastime that I sorely miss.

I miss it still, unfortunately, because somehow when I made that change, my blog posts, which had up to that point averaged 528 words per post, almost immediately increased to 1059 words per post. So I’m actually writing more now than I had been. Believe me when I say that this was not a conscious effort on my part. The reduction in deadline stress seems to have awakened my muse, or at the very least, my tendency to ramble on.

But my life is so full these days, and my health is ever more precious to me. The bulk of my health issues are triggered by stress, so I’ve decided to take a run at reducing my content yet again. Don’t panic. You’ll hardly notice. I’ve decided to only post on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays going forward. Statistically, viewership tanks on the weekends anyway, and on the weekdays, it will still feel like an every other day thing for you.

Hopefully this change will be a reduction in stress for me. But who knows? Maybe I’ll start writing even longer posts to feed my addiction. If so, perhaps I should quit blogging entirely and just write the books that are in me somewhere.

Nah. I’d be lost without your comments on a regular basis! I write alone, but we read together.

Thank you, dear reader, for sticking with me all this time. I hope you’ll continue to do so. You have been my companion on this journey of self-discovery by way of inspiring me to explore the world. And that means more to me than you’ll ever know.

So, what will I be doing to celebrate this decade of blogging bliss tomorrow? Truth be told, I’ll driving someone to a very unpleasant sounding outpatient surgical procedure, and then anxiously waiting until I can return him home. That’s what one does when one has a full life, I suppose.

After 10 years, I feel that I have the right to ask you for a favor. Please have some cake for me to recognize this lofty milestone of mine. Maybe even blow out a candle if you’ve got one. At the very least, sing a song, do a dance, or leave a comment below.

Thanks! And this isn’t goodbye. You can’t get rid of me that easily. I’ll be talking to you in two days. Life does have a way of going on.

Bridge Woman

Everyone deserves a place where they feel safe.

As you prepare to eat a nice warm meal on this Thanksgiving day (provided you’re are able to overlook the disturbing colonial overtones of this holiday), and whether you’re spending the day with family or friends or all alone, I hope that you remember to count your blessings, dear reader. I know I’m making a lot of assumptions about your circumstances, but the fact that you have access to the internet tells me that, like me, you’re a lot better off than many people are.

I’d like to tell you about someone who doesn’t have it as good as we do. As I write this, she’s sorting through garbage in a ditch, not 20 yards from where I sit. Perspective.

Here at work, I spend a great deal of time watching the comings and goings of the people who cross my drawbridge. After doing this for a while, I began to spot patterns. I’ve learned people’s routines. I’ve created backstories about them in my head, which, admittedly, are quite likely inaccurate, but it helps me feel a certain kinship with these people, even though they probably don’t even know I exist.

In the past month or so, I’ve been seeing quite a bit of someone that I’ll call “Bridge Woman”. I considered calling her “Drainage Ditch Woman”, but that seems undignified.  And she needs all the dignity she can get.

I suspect that this woman is mentally ill and/or homeless. She spends hours on the bridge approaches, sitting on the curb that separates the sidewalk from the bike lane. She is completely engrossed in the detritus that flows down the drainage ditch. It’s as if she is panning for gold. She doesn’t even look up when someone goes past.

She sorts through the gunk, sifting out little bits of God-knows-what, and puts those things in what she deems to be their proper place. Some things are placed on the sidewalk, some on the curb, and apparently some things don’t pass muster and are returned to the ditch. I’ve tried to figure out her method of categorization, but I’ve yet to succeed.

She doesn’t do anyone any harm, and it is, after all, a public sidewalk, and she’s far enough away from the part of the bridge that moves to be safe, so I let her be. And I’m painfully aware that her odds of continuing to “be” are a lot higher when she sits on this bridge and quietly organizes away. Here, she’s relatively safe. No one hassles her. No one influences her or takes advantage of her vulnerability. If anyone tries to hurt her, there are witnesses. I strongly suspect that these things can’t be said about the rest of her days or nights.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, women comprise only 29 percent of the homeless individuals (as opposed to families) in this country. This means they’re greatly outnumbered in most places. Women who are unsheltered have a much higher risk of premature death, mainly due to mental health and chronic health issues. And, “The rates of victimization and assault, including robbery, physical abuse, and sexual assault are much higher for women than men.”

An article entitled, “Rates of violence against the homeless are worse than you think” spells it out in upsetting detail. It also contains a link to a comprehensive report entitled, “Vulnerable to Hate: A Survey of Bias-Motivated Violence against People Experiencing Homelessness which details stats from 2016-2017.”

Here are some of the statistics from the article and that report that jumped out at me:

  • Life expectancy for someone who is homeless is 20-30 years less than the general population.
  • About 13,000 American homeless people die on the streets each year.
  • 1 in 3 homeless people have been deliberately hit, kicked, or experienced some other form of violence, including having things thrown at them. Some are urinated on, intimidated or threatened, or verbally abused or harassed.
  • While 1-3% of the general youth population report sexual assault, 21-42% of homeless youth have reported sexual assault. 1 in 3 teens are lured into prostitution within 48 hours of living on the street.
  • 1 in 3 homeless youth engage in survival sex.
  • The experience of violence in the lives of homeless women: A research report, showed that 78.3% of homeless women in the study had been subjected to rape, physical assault, and/or stalking. Those who experience such assault while homeless also lack access to legal, medical and mental health services, which can worsen the post traumatic effects of the experience.
  • The report also briefly focused on Seattle, my city, by saying, “many cities do not often provide free public restrooms that are easily accessible. For example, Seattle, which has the third-largest homeless population in the U.S, only had one functional 24-hour restroom, downtown, as of 2015.”

Homelessness is a rough life for anyone, but it’s even more so for women. So when I see Bridge Woman organizing garbage in the ditch, oddly enough I’m happy she’s there. Yes, I would like much more for her, but given the current state of the world, I think that that ditch is probably a safer place than many of her current societal alternatives. It makes me sad, but I genuinely believe that it’s true.

As winter approaches, and the cold, raw, Seattle weather settles in for the duration, I worry about Bridge Woman. I’m relieved to see that she now has warm clothing and good shoes, and she looks clean enough that she would blend in with the general population if only she were not so focused on the task at hand. I assume that she has been in contact with someone who cares, at least, either personally or professionally.

I hope her situation improves even more.

It probably won’t.

When the ditch is flooded with icy water, she may not enjoy her project quite as much. She’ll most likely choose to pass her time elsewhere. I hope that she continues to find safe places, ideally places that are warm and dry, where she won’t be hassled, even if it’s only for a few hours a day.

Gazing out the window at her, I count my blessings and think that she deserves better. I wonder if people understand how much we have let this woman down, or if they think she gets more than she’s entitled to. I have no idea what she wants or what she can get. I hope she is loved.

At a bare minimum, I’d like to think that all but the most cold-hearted among us can agree that everyone deserves a place where they feel safe. I’m glad my bridge has provided her with that kind of respite, if only for a short time.

I hope, dear reader, that like me, you use this holiday to give thanks for all that is good in your life, rather than thinking back, with pride, on the wholesale theft of this continent and all the bloodshed that was required to rip it from the hands of the people who were already here. If so, then Happy Thanksgiving!

Gratitude should not require a holiday. But if you’re giving added focus to it on this day, please consider ordering my book, Notes on Gratitude. And happy Thanksgiving, dear reader. I’m so glad you’re here!

Some Scary Statistics

Some dogs don’t let go.

On this, the day before Halloween, I wanted to write something scary. A ghost story. A campfire story that would give all the kiddies a shiver. Fun scary, not scary scary. You get the idea.

But the very moment I had that thought, an article popped up on my computer screen entitled, 2 Children Killed, Mother Hospitalized After Family Pit Bulls Attack Them Outside Tennessee Home. And I realized that this was a topic that is scary/important.

I know this post will ruffle feathers, so I wanted to start off by saying that I love dogs. I really do. I always have. But love brings with it a certain responsibility, and in order to make responsible decisions, one must have information. And all the information I’m providing below can be found if you read all of the links I provide. So here goes.

There are an estimated 90 million pet dogs in America, and they gift us with 4.5 million bites per year. While it’s true that “only” 40-50 Americans die each year from dog attacks, 26% of those fatalities fall in the 0 to 2-year old age range. These children never had a say in what dangers they would be exposed to. And it’s noteworthy that 77% of all maulings come from the family dog or a dog known to the victim.

Between 1982 and 2021, 931 people have been killed by dogs in the U.S. and Canada.

Still, when you consider that we’re talking 90 million dogs in America today, the odds of getting killed by one are startlingly small, almost to the point of insignificance. Unless, of course, you are a victim.

A responsible pet owner makes sure that her/his/their dog, regardless of its temperament, is not put in a position where harming someone is even a possibility. Dogs should be adequately trained, not allowed to roam free, not neglected or abused, and, whenever possible, kept away from situations that might trigger aggression or any type of startle response.

Now, here’s where I get controversial. Let’s delve into pit bulls specifically. I know several people who absolutely love pit bulls, and swear that their dogs are gentle and loving companions that wouldn’t hurt a fly. Yes, the odds are in their favor that this will remain the case. Statistically, it’s true that we humans are 21 times more likely to be killed by a mosquito than we are to be killed by a dog of any breed.

But.

Choosing a pet should be more than just an emotional decision. Yes, I’m willing to concede that pit bull puppies are about as cute as they come. But you are about to allow a creature into your world who, once large enough, is physically capable of killing you or someone you love. (And bear in mind, two 6-month-old pit bull puppies once killed a 7-year-old boy.) Fortunately, most dogs would never make that choice. But it’s something to think about, especially if you have children or other pets.

When choosing a dog, you should consider the disposition of the breed in question. Pit bulls were not bred to be “nanny dogs” as some would have you believe. This article explains the long and complicated history of pit bulls, but the bottom line is that they were originally bred for bull baiting. When that became illegal, they were used in illegal dog fighting. Aggression is what people were seeking when they bred these dogs, and I guarantee that as you read this, pit bulls are fighting in rings all over the world.

A horrific side effect of the history of the aggressive manipulation of this breed is that pit bulls are still the most abused dogs on earth. That certainly doesn’t do anything to improve their disposition, and given that one survey indicates that 41% percent of animal rescue staff would lie about a pit bull’s personal aggressive history in order to find him or her a home, in this instance I would actively discourage dog rescue with regard to pit bulls. There are so many other rescue dogs out there who need your love and attention. I hope you’ll turn your eyes to them.

Pit bulls have a bite force of 235 PSI (pounds of force per square inch). That is similar to a lot of industrial machines that most parents would never let their children play around. There are actually many breeds with a stronger bite force, but pit bulls combine their bite force with an extreme level of tenacity. Some dogs just don’t let go.

Contrary to the persistent myth, a pit bull’s jaws don’t lock. It isn’t that they can’t let go, it’s that they won’t let go once they’re in frenzied attack mode. And to me, that’s even scarier.

When getting a pet, one’s first concern should be public safety, which, of course, includes the safety of you, your loved ones, your friends, and your neighbors. This is why the vast majority of us don’t have lions or tigers or bears curled up on our living room couches. It’s just a bad idea.

So, set aside emotions when making your choice. Look at cold, hard, statistics. They don’t lie. They don’t have an opinion. And below is some pit bull information that I found extremely easy to obtain. I’ll start with the most incontrovertible truth, and the statistic that would be all I’d need to know, personally, in order to give a pit bull a pass:

In the past 16 years, from 2005 to 2020, pit bulls have been responsible for 67%, or 380 dog bite fatalities, in America.

The next most deadly breed is the rottweiler, and they are responsible for 9%, or 51 bite fatalities. All other breeds pale in comparison to those two.

That, to me, is scary. But I hope it doesn’t scare you off dogs in general. The truth is, you have a 1 in 73 chance of getting bit by a dog in the US, and your odds of dying from a dog bite are 1 in 118,776. That’s not bad at all, actually. But from a logical standpoint, you might want to avoid the possibility of greatly improving your chances of being bitten or killed by avoiding the breed that does most of that biting and killing.

Even the Pitbull Federation of South Africa, an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the American Pit Bull Terrier in South Africa, an organization that always wishes to portray the breed in a positive light, is realistic about these dogs. They strongly encourage sterilization, and in a public statement, they stressed that they feel that, unfortunately, “99% of pit bull terrier owners should not own a pit bull and that these dogs are owned not because the breed is loved by their owners but because of the standing owning this breed gives the owners in society.”

If you want to read a very detailed statistical breakdown of North America’s scariest encounters with man’s best friend, which includes 9 pages of horrific descriptions of some of the more unusual encounters, I urge you to download this report. Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, September 1982 to December 31, 2021.

In an effort to give you balanced information on this subject, I spent hours looking at several sources, but I tend to rely more on those that provide actual statistical evidence. One such source, which spells out the rarity of dog bite fatalities, but also makes clear the risk factors involved, is the National Canine Research Association of America. They also put out a simple flyer that spells out the most salient points: 15 Year U.S. Dog Bite Fatality Chart – 2005 to 2019

If, after reading all the statistics, you’re still on the fence about pit bulls, then I strongly encourage you to read the many articles listed on a page entitled Voices of pit bull experience. And then, if that isn’t gut-wrenching enough for you, check out this article, entitled Pit bull “nanny dogs” kill three children, two adults, in nine days.

You’re probably wondering if I’m saying you should have your pit bull euthanized if you already own one. I know what it’s like to love a dog. I’ve thought long and hard about this, and my answer would be no, but with a few caveats.

If your dog has displayed worrying signs of aggression, then, sorry, yes, it should be put down. If you have small children, even if your dog has displayed no aggression, your dog should not be allowed around those children unless it is completely under your physical control and supervision. If you are unwilling or unable to provide a pit bull with the continual training and socialization it requires, or if you are not doing everything possible to ensure that your dog isn’t running the streets unsupervised, or if you are neglecting or abusing that dog in any way, then at a bare minimum, your dog should be taken in by someone who is willing to step up to the increased responsibilities that this breed demands.

Keeping your pit bull is potentially a life and death decision. I encourage you to check your emotions at the door and ask yourself if you are doing everything you need to do to ensure the safety of those around you. If you can say yes to that without hesitation, then go for it, but please reassess frequently to make sure you are not becoming complacent.

The biggest takeaway from this post, I suppose, it that, when it comes time to adopt your next dog, I hope you’ll consider all the other breeds out there who need your love and care, and choose one of those. Why throw the potential kill factor into the mix? Pit bulls just aren’t worth the risk.

In the interests of full disclosure, I currently have two dogs. Nelly is a mixed breed old couch potato who leaves the room when anyone approaches. Quagmire, the dachshund, can be aggressive. I discovered that when he bit a neighbor. (And I did the right thing and paid her doctors bills. I also make sure that my pets have all the necessary inoculations to prevent the spread of disease.)

Quagmire has also bitten me and Dear Husband more than once. Usually blood isn’t involved, but not always. I’m not going to lie. It does hurt.

Some people have encouraged me to euthanize Quagmire because of this. Instead, I choose to take the occasional risk, knowing that dachshunds have one of the weakest bite forces of any breed. In addition, Quagmire is an old, 15-pound dog who is missing more than half his teeth, and is therefore not capable of killing us.

However, it’s my responsibility to make sure he can never bite a visitor again. We keep him in our house. We don’t take him to public places. Our back yard is completely and utterly dog-proofed. And if we do have visitors, we have a soft muzzle on hand that we can put on him, which basically causes him to stand still and stare balefully at us.

Quagmire will never kill anyone. And he’ll never hurt anyone who hasn’t volunteered for such treatment (and that’s a short list). I feel we’ve done our due diligence.

In contrast, in the course of my life, I’ve been lunged at by several pit bulls whose owners were walking them on leash on busy urban sidewalks, and I’m sure those owners think that their dogs wouldn’t hurt a fly. That’s not responsible pet ownership.

But one pit bull encounter, in particular, stands out for me. I was in a convenience store, prepaying for gas. There was a van parked right at the front door, and I had to walk past it to get to the pump. I wasn’t paying much attention. I certainly didn’t hear any barking. There was no one in the driver’s seat, and the window was wide open. As I walked past, a pit bull came through that window and lunged at my face. I saw it all in slow motion. I felt his hot breath on my eyelashes. I was able to jump out of the way in time, but it was a near thing. I could have been disfigured for life.

And here’s the kicker: the pit bull owner came running out of the store and started yelling at me.

Are you wondering what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner? How about my book, Notes on Gratitude? Place your orders now! (Or any other time, since we’re on the subject.) And… thanks!

My Fruitless Debate with an Anti-Vaxxer

I had to try.

A friend whom I’ve always highly respected nearly died from COVID-19 recently. He lost 75 pounds and was in the hospital for two weeks, part of that time on a ventilator. His wife was in a hospital room nearby, going through the exact same thing. You guessed it: They weren’t vaccinated. Fortunately they survived, much to the shock of their medical teams.

To make matters worse, he has lost his government job because proof of vaccination is now required. He’s under the impression that he has a chance to get it back, but as they are no longer accepting religious exemptions, I know he’s out of luck. And he was great at that job. He loved it.

This is a wonderful man whom I’m happy to call a friend, but we’ve always studiously avoided talking politics or religion, because I think we both instinctively knew that we are polar opposites when it comes to those topics. And because I value his friendship, I did my best to hold my tongue about this. Truly, I did. But the other day my crashing disappointment with his ill-informed and nearly deadly choices bubbled to the surface, and I found myself incapable of keeping my mouth shut.

You already know how this turned out. I did not change his mind one whit. And I’m quite sure I went about everything the wrong way, but I had to try.

In essence, it felt like I was trying to deprogram someone who had been a member of a destructive cult for years. Needless to say, I have no training in this arena. He kept texting me misinformation and I was able to debunk every single thing, point by point, with readily available facts. I read the information on the links he sent me in order to debunk them, but I’m fairly certain that he didn’t click on any of my links, because he did not want his mind to be changed.

Oddly enough, I totally get that. Think about it. If he were to come to his senses at this point, he’d be forced to admit to himself that he and his wife nearly died, and he lost his dream job, due to his own foolish choices. He’d also have to conclude that his religious and political leaders do not have his best interests at heart, and he has been duped. His entire worldview would have to fundamentally change. That would be a very hard pill to swallow. I wouldn’t want to be in that position.

He started off by saying that God told him not to get vaccinated. I wasn’t going to get into a religious debate with the man, so I let this point slide, but I’m fairly certain that unless God showed up at his kitchen table, sandals and all, and chatted about the subject over a cup of tea, he didn’t say a word. If the God of my understanding were to encourage me to put my life, and the lives of others, at risk, I’d have a hard time with that. And if that same God encouraged me to reject science, when he theoretically was the one to give us brains for the scientific research in the first place, I’d be done with him. My friend is mistaking the word of his misguided preacher, along with a heaping helping of misinformation from Fox News and a steady diet of confirmation bias, for the word of God.

This makes me really sad, because he’s an intelligent man. I truly believe that. But somewhere along the way he never quite acquired critical thinking skills, and then was taught that blind faith is superior to any thinking at all. Beware of anyone who tries to teach you that.

He kept sending me links from obscure websites, and their articles had no confirmation or validation from any credible source. I kept asking him to provide multiple sources, and he couldn’t. For me that would be a red flag, but he was too busy being blindly faithful to see it.

He also said he had natural immunity now, so he didn’t need the shot. I sent him a report from the CDC that says that “unvaccinated individuals are more than twice as likely to be reinfected with COVID-19 than those who were fully vaccinated after initially contracting the virus.”

I’m sure that fell on deaf ears. He has been told not to trust the CDC, and since he’s faithful and unquestioning, he is unable to see why that’s a horrible idea. I’m quite sure he thinks that vaccinations are a part of some huge liberal conspiracy. Never mind that 163,000 unvaccinated Americans have needlessly died since June per the Kaiser Family Foundation, and all the hospitals are overwhelmed. Minor details.

Next, he hit me with a link from a website that is so suspect that I won’t even provide the link here, for fear that you’ll be overwhelmed with spam and malware. In fact, when I did a google search asking if this site was legitimate, I discovered that Scam-detector.com gives it a score of 26.9, based on a 1-100 scale, with 100 being the most reputable.

But the article says that 317 athletes have had cardiac arrest and 170 of them have died after taking the shot. The article comes with a really sketchy video that shows athletes collapsing during games all over the world. I watched this video. It shows different news reporters talking about athletes collapsing, yes, but it doesn’t show when these reports were done, and it cuts them off before they mention what the cause of the collapse was. It’s only the sketchy website that draws the conclusion that this is all recent and COVID related.

I pointed all that out to him, and also mentioned that my whole life, I’ve seen stories of athletes collapsing during games. It’s not particularly unusual. I also pointed out that this article is not only not confirmed by other news sources, but also that it is debunked by this article, which says that “there is no connection between COVID-19 vaccines and sudden cardiac arrest in athletes.” (And, incidentally, that website has a score of 85.6 from Scam-detector.com.)

For some reason I thought I could appeal to my friend’s under-exercised logic, too, so I pressed on. I said, “Even if that were true, it’s a small statistical sample. Let’s do the math. Using that small sample, all of us who were vaccinated would be having cardiac arrest, and 53% of people who get the shot would be dying. So far, 194,747,839 Americans have gotten the shot. If your sample were true, then 103,216,355 of us would be dead by now.”

No response to that. But then he said, “the VAERS websites for America and the UK are pretty informative.”

All right. I’ll bite. I hopped on over to VAERS, which stands for Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, and which is, indeed, run by CDC (which shows that he’ll believe CDC if their reports are twisted enough to agree with his beliefs), and I could debunk him pretty quickly. VAERS is a passive reporting system, which means it’s not statistically accurate and the site itself reiterates that on nearly every page, saying that it’s not designed to determine if vaccines cause a health problem. In Addition, even a quick look at it on Wikipedia turns up this information: “As it is based on submissions by the public, VAERS is susceptible to unverified reports, misattribution, underreporting, and inconsistent data quality. Raw, unverified data from VAERS has often been used by the anti-vaccine community to justify misinformation regarding the safety of vaccines; It is generally not possible to find out from VAERS data if a vaccine caused an adverse event, or how common the event might be.

All this information seems rather convincing to me, but his only response was, “I appreciate and respect your opinion. I hope you’ll do the same with mine.”

That made me get tears in my eyes. He’s a decent guy. And while I do appreciate that he shared his beliefs with me, I cannot respect opinions that are so easily debunked, especially when it relates to people’s very lives. I just can’t. All I could say is that his coworkers would really, really miss him.

I suspect that will be the last time I hear from my friend. I am not going to try to force it. I’d still like to be friends, but I wouldn’t want to breathe the same air that he does, and that might make things awkward. For the life of me, I’ll never understand why republicans want to kill off their base. Their misinformation and their desire to make this about the rights of individuals, even though public health impacts us all, is, indeed, killing them. The statistics bear this out. Check out the graph below, and read this article for more details.

Public Health should NEVER have been politicized. It’s too important. And it’s way too easy to prove that vaccines are important. When’s the last time you saw a child die of Polio?

In recent days, even Trump has encouraged people to get vaccinated. Such is the dire state of this pandemic. He admits that he got two vaccines and a booster himself. So did Sean Hannity, the hypocrite. But they can’t unring that disastrous anti-vax bell. People have too much pride to admit they’ve been led astray. It’s heartbreaking that so many people will die needlessly because of it.

People who don’t get vaccinated are not only foolhardy, but they are also selfish. As long as they persist in their inaccurate beliefs, this pandemic will continue to rage on. The virus will continue to morph in those carriers, and people will continue to die, all alone, even as they assert their independence. It’s all so unnecessary.

Sigh. I’m so frustrated and disappointed. I’m so sad. And most of all, I’m tired to the very marrow of my bones.

Incidentally, my blog gets a 75.7 score from Scam-Detector.com, which indicates that it is “Standard. Valid. Common.” And more importantly, safe to use. It says it would have gotten a higher score if the site hadn’t ranked zero in popularity. Well, ouch. You guys need to start sharing my posts with friends!

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A Shout Out to Graveyard Shift Workers

Thank you for your hard work and sacrifice.

I want to express my appreciation for all the people who work graveyard shift. I did it for 13 years, so I can tell you that it affects your health and your relationships. Your whole world revolves around a desperate need to get enough sleep. You miss festivals and events and ceremonies, and dating is all but impossible. You can’t attend religious ceremonies. Just about everything that allows you to be a part of your community is out of reach. And you are always, always exhausted.

You are also driving the roads at a time when a higher percentage of drivers are intoxicated or otherwise impaired. There are fewer pedestrians to deal with, but a higher percentage of them are out to commit crimes. You are a lot less safe than those of us who work day or swing shifts.

The articles I’m attaching below show that graveyard shift workers have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke, diabetes and cancer. They gain weight at a higher rate. Their divorce rate is higher. They average fewer than 6 hours of sleep per day, and are more likely to be in car accidents.

Graveyard shift workers help the economy. They keep goods and services flowing, and often do so while being overlooked by the rest of us. When you call 911 or rush to the emergency room at 3 a.m, they are there. They are why you can look forward to next day delivery. They are our security guards, our street sweepers, our mail sorters and our factory workers. They drive our trucks, ships, buses and planes.

I want to thank all graveyard shift workers, past and present, for your hard work and sacrifices. Many people don’t realize how much you are depended upon, but you really do make a difference. Thank you, and please share this with all the graveyard shift workers in your life.

The Night Shift | Psychology Today

Managing 24/7: Shiftwork and Divorce – CIRCADIAN

The risks of night work (apa.org)

Shift Workers – Consumer Health News | HealthDay

Night Shifts Linked to Higher Risk of Heart Attack, Stroke | TIME.com

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Stupid Deaths

There are many options to choose from, but don’t.

A friend of mine just posted footage of some people on a beach in Lake Tahoe. Bucolic enough, until I add that there was a mama bear and her three cubs walking straight toward them. And they see that, and don’t seem to care at all. They’re too busy sunbathing to worry about minor details like their imminent demise. When in doubt, save the freakin’ beer.

IDIOTS!!!

I was just telling dear husband the other day that when I die, I hope it’s not because I’m being stupid about something. There are so many stupid death options out there to choose from. Most intelligent people value their lives too much to “take advantage” of those options.

For example, you won’t see me driving while intoxicated. I’m also not going to cross train tracks when the traffic gates are down. Nor would I ever jump an opening drawbridge. But you’d be amazed how often these things happen.

I’m also not going to eat something that can kill me if it’s not prepared just right. Fugu can’t taste good enough for me to risk my life or it. Nothing can. I’m also never going to ingest something without knowing what it is, even if everyone says the high is awesome.

I also have zero desire to play with explosives or fire or deadly weapons. I think a lot of stupid deaths are caused by youth and arrogance. That whole, “It can’t happen to me” thing is ridiculous. If it has happened to someone, then, by definition, it can happen to you.

I’m not saying that people should be so cautious that they don’t live their lives. If that were the case, no one would ever walk across a street, even if the traffic lights are red. We’d all be paralyzed with inactivity.

It’s a statistics thing, really. If I want to enjoy the redwoods, I’m not going to cancel my trip to see them because one person was crushed by a falling redwood. I just won’t wander amongst those trees during heavy winds or rains, and will heed all warning signs that I come across. Calculated risks. That’s the ticket.

Currently, 95 percent of the COVID-19 deaths are by people who refuse to get vaccinated. The fact that this whole issue was ever politicized is a travesty. Going without a mask while unvaccinated is not living free, it’s living stupid, and potentially dying stupid. It’s entirely preventable at this point. There’s absolutely no valid excuse.

So if you’re thinking of juggling chainsaws while walking a tightrope across the Grand Canyon, I’d urge you to think of the consequences and consider how much you value your life. Because there’s nothing quite so pathetic as having someone stand over your grave, shaking his or her head, saying, “what a stupid, unnecessary waste.”

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Curbing Male Violence

Women should not have to curb their freedoms.

Have you ever noticed that people always talk about the number of women who were raped each year, rather than the number of men who were rapists each year? Why is that? I think it’s because, whether we care to admit it or not, there’s a twisted bias in the world that if women get raped, they’ve somehow asked for it. When it comes to violence against women, it’s the women who get to “own” the crime as well as the statistics.

It has been ever thus. Women are expected to limit their freedoms to curb male violence. If you don’t want to get assaulted, ladies, you should avoid going out at night. You shouldn’t be in that parking garage. You shouldn’t dress like that. Don’t take male-oriented jobs. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Be quiet. Never travel alone.

I genuinely believe that more is not done to curb male violence precisely because that violence helps keep us women in our place. I’d call it a disgusting trend, but a trend implies that change occasionally happens. This is more aptly described as a disgusting culture.

Sadly, the focus on the victim rather than the perpetrator isn’t going to change if we sit back and wait for the men to make the changes. Women need to speak out to adjust the focus to the ones committing the crimes. We need to raise our boys to understand that violence is never okay. I also wish more women would take self defense classes. We are not, nor do we ever have to be, helpless.

And yes, I know that men are raped, too, and that most men are not violent. But every woman I know has been the victim of some form of violence, abuse, or harrassment or another, so you do the math. It’s time to claim our freedoms and make these criminals sweat.

To show you how pervasive the culture of having women own victimhood really is, I must confess that I almost included a picture of a woman as a victim here, rather than one taking charge. Shame on me.

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Serial Killer Stats

Killers will find it a lot harder to hide.

If you enjoy reading mystery novels or watching that type of thing on television, you probably have heard of ViCAP, the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program. In most mysteries, the detectives can input information about their particular crime, and voila! A pattern emerges that sets them on the trail of a serial killer or a serial rapist. Aren’t statistics wonderful?

The problem is, all of that is fiction. Yes, ViCAP exists. Yes, when it’s used properly, it’s helpful. But submitting data to ViCAP is voluntary, and most police departments don’t take it seriously. Less data, less value. Less value, less desire to input data. And with most police budgets shrinking, they really don’t have the time or the manpower to input their information anyway. So, yeah, ViCAP is more of a success in theory than in practice.

I find this supremely frustrating, because data and its analysis is an extremely useful tool. It really amazes me that agencies that are so male dominated aren’t loving the statistics. Most guys can rattle off sports data as if it should be common knowledge. They take their fantasy football seriously. Why they don’t want to apply that to their jobs is beyond me.

I’m not the only one who’s frustrated, though. According to an article entitled, “Serial Killers Should Fear This Algorithm”, A guy named Thomas Hargrove has created a database that’s even more interesting than ViCAP, and it’s publicly accessible. It’s called MAP, or the Murder Accountability Project.

MAP identified a serial killer in the Gary, Indiana area, and yet the local police didn’t take it seriously when Hargrove pointed this out to them on multiple occasions. They  were forced to do so, however, when they finally caught Darren Deon Vann, who led them to several of his victims, and admitted he had been killing for years. If local police had listened to Hargrove when he first approached them, seven of the victims might be alive today.

Here’s a bone chilling thought: Hargrove believes that every city has at least a few serial killers. That’s one of the reasons why he has made his database publicly accessible. That way the general public can see these patterns for themselves. It’s also an open fact that the closure rate for murder investigations is getting worse with each passing year, so clearly law enforcement needs a change in tactics, and data analysis could very well be that much-needed change.

If you read the article mentioned above, you’ll get a good sense of how the MAP database works. Then, hop on over to the database itself, and you’ll be bowled over by the articles on the homepage which indicate that so many homicides are not reported that MAP is actually suing the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs for failing to obey a 3l year old congressional mandate says these homicides must be reported.

If we actually had good, accurate, up to date data, which MAP is attempting to achieve for the first time in our history, this algorithm would spot trends across towns, districts and states that have been previously overlooked. We have many more ways to communicate and share information than we once did. These killers would find it a lot harder to hide. Justice would be served and a lot of grieving families would finally get the closure that they deserve.

Meanwhile, if someone you love has been a victim of a violent crime, or if you are stuck at home and itching for a way to make a difference, I urge you to dive into the MAP database and spot a few trends for yourself.

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In Honor of the 200,000

We have to speak for them.

By the time you read this, we’ll have blasted past 200,000 COVID-19 deaths in America, with no end in sight. That’s an inconceivable figure. Its so large that most of us can’t accept it.

That’s 200,000 grandparents, parents, siblings, children, friends, loved ones. Every single one lived and laughed and worked and loved and mattered. If each of those people only had 5 people on earth who loved them (a very conservative figure, in my estimation), then there are 1 million grieving people out there, right now, and it has only been 6 months.

We were all devastated by the victims of 9/11. Now imagine that 9/11 happened more than 67 times over, or basically every other day since this pandemic started. That’s what would have to happen to get to 200,000 deaths in that tragedy.

This is a grizzly thought, but given the average height in America is 5’6”, if you lined up the 200,000 dead head to toe along some rural highway, they would stretch for 208.33 miles. Driving at 52 mph, it would take you more than 4 hours to pass all those bodies. Seriously, that’s a lot of soul-crushing loss.

And lest we forget, dying of COVID-19 is a horrible way to go. Each one of those people suffered. Each one struggled to breathe. Each one felt as if he or she were drowning in their own bodies. And they weren’t even able to have a loved one there for comfort. They died all alone.

And the vast majority of these people died needlessly. Other countries have demonstrated that the death toll doesn’t need to be this high. Our COVID-19 death toll is 597 deaths per million Americans. That may not seem like much until you compare it to other countries. New Zealand has had 5 COVID-19 deaths per million. Japan has had less than 12 deaths per million. Venezuela has had 17 deaths per million. Greece has had 29 deaths per million. Australia, 32 deaths per million. Egypt, 57 deaths per million. What’s it going to take before we realize that something is seriously wrong with the way we’re handling this virus?

We need a leader who leads by example. One who doesn’t disparage those who wear a mask. One who does not encourage his base to congregate, maskless and shoulder to shoulder, to worship him. We need adequate testing. We need accurate reporting. We need financial support. We need supplies for frontline workers as well as the general population. We need a president who actually listens to his own staff, multiple members of whom have come forward to say that they’ve begged him to wear a mask, to set an example, to only share accurate information rather than insane speculation, and not politicize this virus.

In honor of the 200,000 people who can no longer do so, please be sure to vote in the upcoming election. Their silence was forced upon them. We have to speak for them. Please vote.

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Polluters Should Pay for Plastic Pandemic

This has got to stop.

I actually wrote this post a few months ago. I keep putting off its posting, because it feels strange to bring up yet another important issue when we all have so many other things on our minds. But it’s beginning to weigh me down, having it sit there in queue, gathering dust. So here it is. I hope you can see through all our other stressors long enough to take it seriously. Thanks for reading. Stay safe.

I just read a very disturbing article, and it wasn’t even about COVID-19. It is in the Rolling Stone, and it’s entitled, “Planet Plastic: How Big Oil and Big Soda kept a global environmental calamity a secret for decades.”

It’s a long read, and a disturbing one. Here are just a few of the statistics it mentions.

  • Each one of us ingests nearly 2,000 particles of plastic a week, from tap water, food, and the air. That’s the equivalent of swallowing 1 credit card a week.

  • Worldwide, we use 1 million plastic bottles a minute and 500 billion plastic bags a year.

  • A dump truck load of plastic enters our oceans every minute.

  • Since 1950, the world has created 6.3 trillion kilograms of plastic waste, 91% of which has never been recycled.

It goes on to say that the fossil fuel industry is doing its best to keep us consuming plastic, because as we start to break our dependency on oil, the only way they can continue to make a profit is by selling it to us in the form of plastic.

There is one bright note. A Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 has been introduced to Congress. This act would ban many single-use plastics, and force corporations to pay for programs to keep plastic out of the environment.

Making the front end polluter pay sounds like a really great first step, but this act faces forceful opposition from the oil and soda lobbies, and Trump is very much in favor of propping up the oil industry, so it will be interesting to see how far this gets. Ask your congressman to support this act.

We need to do something. We probably won’t. This has got to stop. It probably won’t. But at least there are people out there who are thinking about it, and they need our support.

Recently a dead whale was found with nearly 64 pounds of plastic waste inside his stomach. That’s real. The picture below is an artist’s representation of this. If this doesn’t stop you dead in your tracks, nothing will.

Shocking Picture Of Whale With 29kg Of Plastic In Its Stomach Alarms The World About The Huge Plastic Pollution Problem

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