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July 11th, 2018
10:24 am

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Harlan Ellison, no rest available
First posted on Facebook. There's some good discussion. Related links after the essay.

It's been a bit since Harlan Ellison's death, and while I believe in cutting slack for those who grieve, it's not infinite slack.

I don't have any personal Harlan Ellison stories, but I do have some personal history about him.

I used to be a fan in a moderate sort of buy-on-sight sort of way. I don't have as bad a case of it, but I used to be really fascinated by writers with authoritative voices. I think that's how it's possible to simultaneously be a fan of Ayn Rand, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and Robert Heinlein. I didn't check their ideas against each other, I didn't use them as guides to life, I just read (and sometimes reread) everything I could find by them. When I was thinking about Ellison, I realized he belonged on the list, even though I didn't like his work as much as the others.

I don't think any of them were a complete waste of time (and not just as bad examples), but I suspect that taste of mine is somewhat pathological.

Everything I'm posting about what Ellison wrote and said is from memory.

Anyway, I started becoming disenchanted with Ellison when I read one of his Dangerous Visions afterwords or forewords about one of his exes. She was horrible, a monster, not a human being. What she'd done was to hold his head while he was vomiting.

I'm not sure why anyone would do that, but I expect it was well-meant, and also that Ellison would have been too distracted by vomiting to tell her to stop it.

What hit me was that he'd used a platform to attack her hyperbolically for something trivial, and she didn't have a remotely comparable platform (this was well before social media) to answer him. My snap reaction was that Ellison wasn't a gentleman. This sounds funny now, and I think it's the only time I've had the not-a-gentleman reaction about anyone, but I do think it's something that's owed between people even if it shouldn't be gendered.

I came to believe that Ellison thought he was right when he was angry. In one way, this is just normal human stuff-- feeling like you're right is probably part of being angry, but Ellison was angry a *lot*, and he made his anger into a moral platform.

Then he wrote a piece about how awful fandom was. Some of it was entirely reasonable. If Gene Wolfe goes to a convention on the condition that no one sends him out for ice, and someone sends him out for ice, this is definitely bad behavior. And it's horrific if a fan throws a cup of warm vomit in a pro's face.

However, there were other things that Ellison said were signs of something wrong with fandom, and one of them was that scholars were going over a writer's fan mail, and found what looks like a piece of green glass glued to a letter.... and it was a moderately valuable emerald. $5000, I think. Possibly worth five or then times as much in current money. How can it make sense to think that sending an unlabeled emerald is crazy the way throwing a cup of warm vomit is? How are they remotely in the same category?

And then I remembered a story Ellison told at an Icon. (That's a convention on Long Island.) He had an agreement (maybe even a contract) that cigarette advertisements wouldn't be inserted in his books. Many of you have never seen this, but there was a period when advertisements were bound into paperback, and those advertisements were on cover stock. I'm pretty sure I only saw advertisements for the Science Fiction Book Club, not cigarettes, but I'm willing to believe there were cigarette advertisements.

Anyway, the editor responsible had a heart condition, and Ellison sent him a dead gopher through the mail. It was a funny story.

After the essay about the horribleness of fandom, I realized that Ellison was presenting attempted murder as funny whether he'd done it or not. My snap reaction was "Fuck you, Harlan Ellison". I suppose a polite reaction would be that Ellison isn't exactly a moral authority. And there are obviously some territorial issues at my end.

Anyway, time passes. I reread Dangerous Visions for a book club and some of the fiction holds up very well, but I'm not interested in the forewords and afterwords. I especially recommend "Faith of Our Fathers" by Philip K. Dick.

If The Last Dangerous Visions every comes out, I'll get it.

I notice that there are people who feel very strongly that they don't want to hear anything bad about Ellison. This is my wall, not theirs.

At some point, Ellison excuses himself for being verbally nasty to someone on the grounds that he (Ellison) had the flu. Guess what? If you haven't spent decades cultivating your ability to be verbally abusive, you won't be that good at it when you have the flu.

And there's the Connie Willis incident, where Ellison grabs her breast (hard enough to hurt, she said) at an awards ceremony. There's video.

So, Ellison dies. I notice that one of the people who doesn't want to hear anything bad about Ellison was a friend of Ellison's but was afraid of Ellison's temper.

The eulogies are fascinating. I've never heard of anyone else who was so good at kindness. Period. Full stop.

And he was also a horrible person some of the time.

I have no idea whether the two were inextricably linked.

It might be possible to use Ellison's kindness as a good example. I could end there on something of a high note, but I'm not sure I want to end on a high note.

****

Ellison about the gopher story

Ellison telling the gopher story

Where to find Ellison's "Xenogenesis" It has no connection to Octavia Butler's series of the same name.

Ellison groping Connie Willis

Alan Dean Foster really did say a fan threw a cup of vomit on him I'd reached a point where I wanted verification of things.

The Last Deadloss Visions by Christopher Priest. Ellison put together Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions-- these were supposed to be stories which couldn't be otherwise published, and included some major works.

Ellison wanted to do one more, The Last Dangerous Visions, and got the rights to a lot of stories, but then the project stalled out because it was huge (Ellison wanted to do substantial forewords and afterwords for each of the stories) and because he was procrastinating.

He this dragged on for decades, and he made a big moral issue of not giving the rights back to the authors.

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June 8th, 2018
12:37 pm

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A good fish soup
2 pounds or so of unspecified bass (1)
3 medium white potatoes, microwaved
4 big shallots (2)
Some swiss chard (maybe half a pound, not a major ingredient)
Some olive oil for frying the shallots
a quantify of Auntie Arwen's Hunter's Heaven-- a spice blend which is heavy on black pepper
a lesser quantify of Auntie Arwen's Muchi Mughul curry
some Auntie Arwen's Ultimate Garlic Insanitiy

Quart of Imagine Creamy Super Red Soup (3)

Chop shallots. Fry on medium in the olive oil. Add the potatoes and the spice mixes.

When the shallots are cooked, add the super reds soup, and the bass. Simmer until the fish is cooked.

This came out as a very nice soup. It tasted more of the black pepper than anything else-- rather like buillion. It was surprisingly rich considering that there isn't a lot of fat in it.

Obviously, a lot of substitutions are possible.

(1) bought at the Italian Market, not expensive so presumably not Chilean sea bass. Light pinkish filets. I usually stir fry fish, but bass is much better if simmered.
(2) didn't shallots used to be small?
(3) their Super Greens is good, too

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June 1st, 2018
10:56 am

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Varieties of orthotic experience
I've posted about research on the value of orthotics, and I thought I'd do a little research of my own-- a casual survey on facebook. And I'd be glad to see more about people's experiences with orthotics.

Note: None of the replies implied that orthotics were being over-prescribed for flat feet.

Text on facebook:

I posted recently about an article saying that orthotics were mostly not useful for the disorders they were prescribed for. I got a couple of angry replies, and one which said they worked very well for the commenter's plantar facsiitis.

I should have checked more carefully.

When I looked into the article's sources, it seems to have overstated the research.

Here's the article:

https://www.smh.com.au/national/expensive-orthotics-no-better-than-a-sham-review-finds-20180331-p4z788.html

Here are the sources:

http://www.cochrane.org/CD006801/MUSKEL_custom-made-foot-orthoses-for-the-treatment-of-foot-pain_

http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2018/02/23/bjsports-2017-097892

A rant about low-quality custom orthotics, and the limits of orthotics in general.

https://www.painscience.com/articles/orthotics.php

Previously, my vague impression of custom orthotics was vague but favorable-- people were getting them and weren't complaining about this.

If anyone wants to write about their experience with orthotics, I'm interested in it. What were the orthotics prescribed for? Did they work?

For the record, while I'm enthusiastic about various methods of improving coordination, they are not a substitute for treatment for structural problems.


Summary of replies:

orthotics made things worse, skilled chiropractic worked
orthotics plus other treatment worked
orthotics didn't work, cheap insoles worked
orthotics helped by giving some respite from pain, but most of the improvement was from other methods-- the respite was important
over-the-counter foot supports worked
over-the-counter orthotics plus other methods worked, was lucky to get a good fit

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May 19th, 2018
12:19 pm

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Orthotics are over-prescribed
https://www.alexanderschool.edu.au/single-post/2018/05/19/Are-orthotics-useful

https://www.smh.com.au/national/expensive-orthotics-no-better-than-a-sham-review-finds-20180331-p4z788.html

There's no solid evidence for orthotics for most of the conditions they're prescribed for. They are good for rheumatoid arthritis and for high arches.

For other conditions, improved coordination can be a more effective solution.

Personally, I've only gotten plantar fasciitis from a chi gung exercise called swimming dragon, which I solved by not doing swimming dragon. However, I didn't have the problem with the exercise when I was younger, so maybe I should take a serious look at how I'm doing it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IOX50Y7dso

https://www.amazon.com/Swimming-Dragon-Chinese-Fitness-Beautiful/dp/0882680633

Also, I cleared up flat feet for a while by doing an exercise about the relationship between hips and ankles from _Running with the Whole Body. I need to get back to that.

https://www.amazon.com/Running-Whole-Body-30-Day-Program/dp/1556432267

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April 2nd, 2018
04:13 pm

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Beware the "butterfish"! The escolar probably isn't your friend
Summary: Escolar (frequently sold as butterfish or white tuna) can make you pretty sick.

I bought some smoked butterfish at the Reading Terminal Market-- it was only $5 for about a pound, and I like smoked fish.

I didn't like it all that much-- too salty and an odd flavor. I was trying to figure out whether rinsing it and cooking it with something was worth doing.

Then I got some diarrhea which seemed vaguely different than usual-- some of the details are TMI (Too Much Information) and I started thinking about what I'd been eating lately.

I'd heard about white tuna (a sort of sushi) being hard on the digestive tract, so I was open to the possibility that fish might be a problem.

Well! White tuna isn't related to tuna, it's butterfish. So is escolar. I will say a thing or two to the people at Reading Terminal Market-- they've got a big fish shop with a neon sign over it that says something like EAT FISH BE HEALTHY.

White tuna as sushi isn't a hazard to me-- the quantify in an assorted sushi plate isn't enough to hit me, and it's actually pretty tasty. It being labeled as white tuna is eroding my faith in humanity that little bit more, though.

Substantial article. I got off easy, some people get a lot sicker. If you read the comments, you'll find that people getting sick from escolar happens all over the world, except Italy and Japan where the fish is illegal. Pricey restaurants sometimes sell escolar (mislabeled, often enough) as a main dish.

Teminology! There's an English eel called butterfish.

Mercifully, "black cod" is at least has black scales, but many species of sable aren't black.

I'm reminded of the bit in Stranger in a Strange Land which complains about English words having multiple meanings. The example was that red hair doesn't resemble the color otherwise called red.

Butterfish, the red-tailed hawk and turkey vulture of the sea.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escolar

Which is not the same as butterfish.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_butterfish

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_butterfish

More details. People who love escolar, including chefs. Recommendations to make it safer (less fat, small portions).

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March 7th, 2018
02:34 pm

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Presidents with military experience
This was on facebook. I'm reposting it here because I definitely want to be able to find it again, and also because I think I should be doing more on DW/LJ.

*****

Al Lock posted in response to my question:

Nancy Lebovitz "I've asked elsewhere about whether presidents with military experience make better military decisions, and never gotten an answer."

I'll give you an answer from a historian's point of view (not everyone may agree with me, but still...).

George Washington had more military experience than the 4 Presidents who followed him combined... and yet, only he had to deploy military forces to deal with rebellion.

Ulysses S. Grant arguably made some of the worst military decisions in US history in how he dealt with the Sioux. He was very, very experienced in military matters, but I'd say that pretty much all the Presidents who followed him made better military decisions regarding the various tribes.

Dwight Eisenhower was probably the most educated and experienced General to ever reside in the White House. He is also responsible for the massive increase in the various intelligence agencies and their activities worldwide.

JFK had military experience - combat - and took us to the brink of nuclear war, as well as getting us into Vietnam.

LBJ had very limited military experience (the story about his Silver Star is enlightening) - made horrible decisions throughout Vietnam.

Jimmy Carter was a Navy Commander. Submariner. Worst CinC in my service era.

Ronald Reagan made movies while he was in the military. Important stuff, but not really combat or even overseas duty. Best CinC in my service era.

GWH Bush was a naval aviator. Shot down at the Battle of Midway. Honestly? Middle of the road.

Bill Clinton had no experience and made some absolutely horrible decisions early - but he did learn from them.

Being President is its own skill set. I don't think military service has as much to do with being good or bad (even as related to military decisions) as the right mindset to challenge assumptions and make smart, balanced decisions.

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February 3rd, 2018
10:37 am

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Don't hassle people for doing what you want
https://olofahere.tumblr.com/search/do%20not%20punish

*****

DO NOT PUNISH THE BEHAVIOR YOU WANT TO SEE

I mean, it seems pretty obvious when you put it like that.

But how many families, when an introvert sibling or child makes an effort to socialize, snarklily say, so you've decided to join us"?

Or when someone does something they've had trouble doing, say "Why can't you do that all the time"? (Happened to me, all too often.)

Or any sentence containing the word "finally".

If someone makes a step, a small step, in a direction you want to encourage, encourage it. Don't complain about how it's not enough. Don't bring up previous stuff. Encourage it.

Because I swear to fucking God there is nothing more soul-killing, more motivation-crushing, than struggling to succeed and finding that success and failure are both punished.

****

Here's my comment: So, why do people do this?

Two theories: One is that they're still angry about the past lack of accomplishment. The other theory is that they just want to claw at the person.

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January 22nd, 2018
09:17 am

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Favorite shoes, and source for unusual sizes
I've been wearing Grasshopper Janey shoes-- they're a nice comfortable simple sneaker. The thing is, they've solved their durability problem-- the shoes' canvas used to wear out on the sides near the heel-- this doesn't seem unreasonable for $50 shoes, but my current pair is holding up nicely.

https://www.auditionsshoes.com/?Ntt=janey

It didn't seem reasonable to reward them by buying shoes I didn't need, and I was thinking about how I could reward them some other way. A little publicity seems reasonable.

Also, the company I found them at is Auditions Shoes. After going to a number of stores to not find comfortable shoes (I'm an 8W, not a very extreme size), I hope to shop online for shoes for the rest of my life. Auditions' return policy isn't especially generous-- they don't cover postage to or from you-- but their prices are good.
navy blue sneaker

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December 16th, 2017
04:53 am

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Apple thing (recipe)
Medium-large apple, sliced
2 eggs
about an egg-sized volume of chevre (soft goat cheese)
about a cup of cooked brown rice
cinnamon and all-spice

Mixed together (I used a potato masher to mix the eggs and cheese), and baked at 350 for about 40 minutes.

This worked out pretty well. The apple was hot rather than cooked soft as it would be for a pie, but I'm actually not crazy about the texture of fruit pie.

The result tasted like a dessert, but was as satiating as a normal dinner.

The apple was a variety I'm not familiar with-- green with some small pinkish areas, round, sweet, no seeds and very little core.

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December 4th, 2017
10:54 pm

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Tinnitus-- a thing that works well for me + a generalized ramble
I have some tinnitus in my right ear, and I also have a way of shutting it down, generally for months at a time.

The method is to run my attention down a muscle on the side of my neck. I think it's the sternocleidomastoid-- it starts at the back of my ear and runs diagonally down the front of my neck. It sticks out if I turn my head towards the center.

Minor evidence of involvement of neck muscles-- I've felt that turning my head included a sensation of pulling on my eardrum a couple of times.

I'm not sure how long I need to keep running my attention down the muscle, but I think it's in the range of a few minutes.

I've tried stroking the muscle instead, but that doesn't seem to work-- I may not have kept it going long enough.

I've tried paying attention to the tinnitus while I do this-- I wanted to see if I could catch the moment when tinnitus went away-- and that definitely doesn't work.

The idea for doing this just came into my head, apparently from nowhere. It seemed like it was worth trying and I was surprised at how well it worked.

There's a technique at the bottom which helps some people and makes things worse for others. While I think my technique is so gentle it's likely to be harmless, I also believe that anything which is strong enough to do good is strong enough to do harm, so it's a gamble.

And that's the specifics about my technique, the rest is a ramble about various things from the net about tinnitus.

I had the impression that doctors said there was nothing to be done for tinnitus, but apparently they do have some methods. Informal survey-- what have you heard about treatment for tinnitus?

There are different sorts of tinnitus. Mine has some correlation with worrying. It isn't the result of exposure to loud noise. I avoid loud noise because I find it painful-- no rock concerts for me. I've had the good fortune to not be exposed to loud noise involuntarily.

I get a wooshing noise in my right ear-- it ranges from just barely there to moderately annoying.

I haven't seen any evidence people are looking into the possibility that loud noise might cause muscle tension which would lead to tinnitus. However, some drugs cause tinnitus, so presumably it isn't all about muscle tension.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/tinnitus-ringing-in-the-ears-and-what-to-do-about-it

This article has what seems to be a thorough overview of tinnitus, including methods for managing it.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110112122504.htm

This article offers an intriguing idea of neurological treatment for (some types of?) tinnitus, but is much weaker about existing treatments.

Tinnitus and trigger points:

"Tinnitus is a multifaceted symptom that may have many causes (otologic, neurological, metabolic, pharmacological, vascular, musculoskeletal and psychological) several of which often occur in the same patient. Tinnitus can often be modulated by different kinds of stimuli. In this chapter we describe the results of a study of modulation of tinnitus from stimulation of myofascial trigger points (MTPs). MTPs are small hypersensitive areas in palpable taut bands of skeletal muscles found in patients with the myofascial pain syndrome where stimulation of MTPs causes local and referred pain. We found a strong correlation between tinnitus and the presence of MTPs in head, neck and shoulder girdle (p<0.001). In 56% of patients with tinnitus and MTPs, the tinnitus could be modulated by applying digital compression of such points, mainly those of the masseter muscle. The worst tinnitus was referred to the side that had the most MTPs (p<0.001); Compression of the trigger point on the same side as the tinnitus was significantly more effective than the opposite side in six out of nine of the studied muscles. Compression of MTPs was most effective in patients who have had chronic pain earlier in the examined areas."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLEZ2H1qeoM

20 minutes of pressing on muscles to see which ones might be involved in a person's tinnitus. This is something you can do for yourself. I've never followed the video when I have tinnitus, but I can testify that it's a pretty good head, neck, and shoulder massage.

I like that anatomical charts are superimposed on the man demonstrating the trigger point exploration, but if you don't like that sort of thing, you've been warned.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/22/health/magnesium-tinnitus-ringing-ears-partner/index.html

This one offers hope that magnesium might help tinnitus, but leaves out any connection to muscle tension.

https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52726-My-accidental-triumph-over-tinnitus

Meditation on the tinnitus sound was very good for this man.

https://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/63etps/the_reddit_tinnitus_cure_attempted_by_people_with/

Tapping on the back of the head works well for some people with tinnitus, causes temporary relief (sometimes a good bit better than nothing) for others, has no effect for some, and makes tinnitus worse for others. I don't have a feeling for the proportions.

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