Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Some Joy

We had a visit from an AT&T dude today out doing still-more of the the dirty work for Starnet. I've still not quite figured out why I'm paying these guys. So far, all they've done is mail a DSL modem to the house and made two service calls to AT&T, who, as far as I can tell, are the ones actually doing all the work. After telling Debbie's mom that it was impossible to run DSL this far from the switch, which is why I'm a Starnet customer instead of an AT&T customer. Anyway, I guess I should start a DSL service. I could run the whole thing right here from Debbie's mom's basement with nothing more than internet access and a phone. The end of the story is that a loose wire was shorting out against another person's phone line about a half mile from here. Once that was fixed and filters were installed on every phone, DSL fired right up and we can now talk on the phone without both parties having to scream at each other. This has probably been going on for a long time and the DSL just made it painfully obvious. There have always been gremlins in the phones here and even dial-up was problematic.

So it only took a week, but we're finally up and running at a decent speed. The last step was to get all the computers to share the internet connection. Debbie's laptop wasn't any problem; wifi is built in. It took about two minutes to get it connected to the wireless router built into the DSL modem and sharing her mom's printer. However, my PC is a tower and doesn't have wireless. Originally, I had planned to run Cat5 from the basement to the upstairs room where the modem is located and jack into one of its four ports. I always prefer a wire to wireless; just one less thing to worry about. But with us moving so much and the probability that we will be renters for the foreseeable future, I decided to go wireless. While we were out running errands this morning, I picked up a Linksys Wireless-G USB Adapter. Like all good electronics, there is absolutely nothing to report: Pop in the CD, click, click, click, plug the wireless adapter into a USB port when the install routine tells you to, click, click, enter password, click, done. Five more clicks and I was sharing Debbie's mom's printer as well. Total time: less than five minutes. So now I can sit on my comfy couch and surf on my 42" monitor and not be in anyone's way. Of course, that means that I had to go through the whole download/install/reboot/rinse-and-repeat routine on a second PC (we've been using Debbie's laptop in hotels and other wifi hotspots since we left Arizona, so it's stayed more-or-less up to date). That seems to have run its course as of about an hour ago.

On a completely different subject, I'm seeing more and more crap on Facebook about the flu vaccine causing everything from complete paralysis to chronic halitosis. The H1N1 was rushed into production without being tested, all vaccines are a plot by the government to give your kids autism, all you have to do is trust God and the immune system He gave you, blah, blah, blah. All sorts of cranks and jackasses claiming to be doctors stating how they're not letting their kids get their flu shot this year. I've avoided saying anything because there are others who can say it much better than I can. But as you may have already caught on, I'm saying something now.

First, the world is full of attention whores who will do or say anything to get other people to pay attention to them. There are any number of "war heroes" out there with very entertaining stories of battles that the Army has no record of, fought in places that US troops have never been deployed to, in units no one in the military have ever heard of. Some of these people have written books, been on TV and have friends in the highest offices of the land. Some have even told the stories so often that they can pass polygraphs. They are still liars. Anyone with ten bucks (the cost of a domain from GoDaddy) and an internet connection can become anyone they want to be; doctor, nurse, world-famous virologist, cripple, widow, parent who has recently lost a son or daughter. Some have pretended to be teen-age girls dying of cancer. Some have concocted wild stories about diseases they have which in reality don't exist. Why? Because they are attention whores. People who are not attention whores are easy prey to those who are because we can see no logical reason why someone would do such a thing, especially if they are not making money off it in some way. As recently as ten years ago, attention whores had to be really good to reach an audience of any size. Now any blow-hard with an internet connection and a free YouTube account can reach millions of people in a matter of hours. Conclusion: just in case anyone missed the memo, when someone says "I saw it on the internet, so it must be true," they are being sarcastic.

Second, just to get this one out of the way: back when trusting in God and our immune system was the only option, people lived on average to about 30. If you have a flush toilet in your house and wash your hands with soap after you use it, you are not trusting in God and your immune system. You are depending on the ingenuity of men. End of discussion.

Third, I spent twelve years working in two different hospitals and heard all sorts of complete rubbish from various members of the medical staff. Being a nurse does not necessarily make someone any more knowledgeable about vaccine safety than you or me or the guy that delivers my pizza. In fact, if the guy delivering my pizza is a post-grad working on a degree in virology, he likely knows a great deal more on the subject than any nurse. And most doctors; see next point.

Fourth, even if someone is an actual practicing physician (see point number one), that still doesn't mean a great deal. Like many fields, the domain of knowledge that we call "medicine" has become so large that no one person can be an expert in "medicine." Like everyone else, they specialize. Asking a GP or OB for an opinion about flu vaccines is like asking an aerospace engineer his opinion of a new design for deep-sea submersibles. Sure, the common language used across disciplines may give our hapless aerospace engineer a bit of an advantage over the average lay person when it comes to understanding the basic issues, but that hardly qualifies him to go on Fox News spouting off about the "dangerously inadequate" work of the deep-sea submersible guys.

Finally, just look around and use your head for five seconds. Is the rate of infant mortality higher, lower, or about the same as it was 500 years ago? Do people have longer, shorter, or about the same life-spans as they did 500 years ago? Are living conditions better, worse, or about the same as they were 500 years ago? Which of the following do you think is most responsible for these benefits to society: medical science, homeopathy, or prayer circles? When I was in high school, someone living 100 years was unique enough to warrant at least a sizable article in the newspaper, and on a slow news day, maybe even be a human interest story on the eleven-o'clock news. (These were the days when the eleven-o'clock news was more than commercials for erectile dysfunction pills briefly interrupted by inaccurate weather forecasts and a high school football highlight reel.) Now such an event is barely noticed by the person's family. To repeat: Use your head! We didn't get from half-starved goat-herder with a 30-year life expectancy to where we are now by magic.

And I've probably pissed off enough people for one day, so I'll shut up and go to bed.

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