Sunday, July 20, 2014

CDC Study on LBGTetc.

"1.6 percent of adults self-identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent consider themselves bisexual.
The overwhelming majority of adults, 96.6 percent, labeled themselves as straight in the 2013 survey. An additional 1.1 percent declined to answer, responded “I don’t know the answer” or said they were “something else.”"
-- The Washington Times
For simplicity's sake, rather than list every form of politically-correct non-traditional gender roles, The study refers to them all together under the label "gay". But there will still be people who get hung up on labels. Even when you use the currently in vogue "LBGT" there are people who argue about whether "their letter" is being included, or whether their group is adequately represented by a letter [don't believe me? Click]. So I'll be using the just-now-invented word "curfs" to mean "every form of non-traditional gender role". There. Now i'ts defined, and as it is now a real word, we don't have to waste any more time on it. (And yes, this is me protesting the corruption of plain language. Making up new words is frankly better than fucking up old ones. It doesn't matter what a word IS so long as everyone agrees on what it MEANS. That's not possible when you hijack a common word.)

The WP goes on to list a number of additional facts that seemingly reinforce curf stereotypes.
  • Curfs are more likely to be cigarette smokers (26% vs 18%)
  • Curfs are more likely to have five or more alcoholic drinks in one day at least once in the past year (33% vs 22%)
  • Curfs are more likely to have met federal guidelines for aerobic physical activity (56% vs 49%)
  • Curfs are more likely to have been tested for HIV (67% vs 37%)
  • Curfs are more likely to have received an influenza vaccine during the past year (46% vs 41%)

The actual report lists more information. To me, the fact that the data seemingly reinforces curf stereotypes is completely unsurprising. Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. A stereotype tells you what is likely to be true about a member of a group. They are derived from observation of that group. They are not pulled out of thin air. A stereotype is not a lie, it is a probability. Of course that doesn't mean that it will be true of any particular individual; and that is why it's wrong to apply a stereotype to an individual (such as thinking that all curfs are effeminate). And it doesn't mean that behavior doesn't change with time, which is why it's wrong to apply outdated stereotypes to a group (such as thinking that all Southerners are inbred hayseeds, or assuming that women don't have jobs outside the home).
But seriously -- as an aside -- if a member of  a group is offended by a stereotype, then it's misguided of them to direct their ire toward people who notice the stereotype. Instead, they could direct it toward the members of the group whose consistent behavior brought that stereotype into existence. Or toward themselves for believing that merely describing the general characteristics of their own group as being somehow "offensive". Or they could choose to understand what a stereotype truly is, in which case there's no cause for offense.
Here's a quick example of stereotyping in action. You invite someone to dinner, but knowing that he's Jewish, you assume (via stereotype) that he may have some restrictions regarding the menu. So you ask. And he doesn't get in your face and tell you that he's a non-practicing Reform Jew and then ask how dare you make assumptions about the level of his Jewishness. No. He says "No it won't be a problem," or "Anything but ham or pork," or "Why don't we eat out?" Show me someone who says they never use stereotypes and I'll show you someone who is either a liar or self-deluded. It's how you apply them that makes them either problematic or culturally sensitive. 
Aside complete. 
A couple of observations...
  1. The study doesn't posit any reasons for these trends. It is purely a fact-gathering exercise. Arguing the figures would be silly. These are self-reported statistics, so it would be accusatory, unprovable, and unhelpful to suggest that the "real" numbers are different.
  2. It's not clear whether all of those percentages in the detailed comparisons mean anything. When you're comparing 33% of 2.3% of the population to 22% of 96.6% of the population, is that a fair comparison? Is it even outside the margin of error? Either way it's still clear that mega-boatloads more straight people have had five or more alcoholic drinks in a single day within the last year. So if you asked some random person that question, the chances are terribly small that the person is actually curf. So there's a danger that people will misinterpret these data and conclude that there's a 33% chance that a heavy drinker is curf when in fact the probability is under 1%. 
To illustrate that second point... out of every 1,000 randomly-chosen people, the chances are that 7 curfs vs 213 straights have had a drinking binge in the last year. So, how useful is that? My point here is that any significance of these individual categories has yet to be determined. It's really easy for laypersons to get wrong, it's not in the report, and speculation isn't terribly useful.
A third observation is, 2.3% of the population is pretty small. Far smaller than one would expect given the representation of curfs in the media. And that's not unexpected, because (via perfectly valid stereotype) we know that many curfs tend to gravitate toward media-related jobs. So yeah, they're more highly visible in media than they are in the general public. So the study does seem to indicate that fears of being "overrun" by curfs in your community are irrational.

What's not irrational though, is how a solid number might reasonably shape social expectations and legislative policy. We have an expectation that "reasonable accommodations" are made for minority groups, and that there is a reciprocal expectation of "reasonable accommodations" BY minority groups. For instance, if I'm the only wheelchair-bound student in an existing school, a reasonable accommodation would be to make sure that all of the classes I'm scheduled to take are on the ground floor. It would be unreasonable to expect the cash-strapped educational system to build an elevator just for me (although new buildings may have that requirement as a result of updated building codes). After all, it's easier to switch a couple of teachers around than to build a lift. It would be unreasonable to change the rules of basketball so that I could play on the varsity team. After all, able-bodied students are equally excluded from the team under the existing rules. But if no restroom existed on the ground floor, it would be reasonable to expect that one be added, because it is a necessity; and I would expect to engage in some form of exercise within my physical limits. Likewise, where laws are not written to deal with necessity, it's reasonable to expect curfs to accommodate the majority.

What this means in practical terms to me is that this study changes nothing whatsoever. I think it's reasonable to expect that the average person I meet is straight. I see no reason to pussyfoot around bizarre pronouns, or to require of me that I remember your quirks specifically, and whatever invented labels you wish to apply to yourself. I see no reason for me to begin to care who you sleep with, or who you make love to, how often, or where, so long as it's not in any place that I would reasonably expect a straight person to get jiggy.

Since I don't give a shit about who my straight friends marry, I see no reason to begin giving a shit about who anyone else marries, and I don't have any reason to support any law that implies I give a shit one way or the other. I'd rather repeal laws rather than stupidly try to fix the system with more of what broke it in the first place. So I'd repeal just about anything that has to do with marriage, because I don't think the government has any business having a say in it. The First Amendment says that Congress can make no law regarding religion. If you believe that marriage is a religious affair then regulation of it is prohibited by the Constitution. If you think it's a secular affair it's still nobody's business. I'd repeal a lot of other laws, too, but that would be a digression. But if your brand of weird preys upon the helpless, then I see no reason to change anything that prevents you from doing it. A society exists to protect its citizens, and predators are predators no matter what twisted justification they invent for themselves. I see no reason to stop defending the underaged, or the physically weak, or the psychologically impaired, or the aged, or animals, for that matter.

Nothing changes for me. Must be a slow news day.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Getting rid of foot fungus

OK, I've long had a problem with foot fungus, and particularly on and under the nails. There are a LOT of products out there, including some that work "internally" (pills), which some doctors will tell you are the only effective way to get rid of such an infection.

However, in my case I got it licked, on my own and it was easy-peasy. If you don't mind some possibly squeam-inducing descriptions, keep reading. I won't be posting pictures because I didn't think to take any pictures, primarily because I had no real expectation that this would work. But it did, faster and better than I'd hoped for. (update: I found some creative commons pictures that are fairly close, though)

First I cut back the nails as far as they would go. I'm not talking about down to the quick... I'm talking about scraping away as much of the damaged and flaking nail as I could, as far back on the toe as I could, using a nail clipper, file, and pocketknife. That turned out to be about halfway up the toe. It didn't hurt... this stuff was beyond help anyway. I just resigned myself that I'd have a pretty gross-looking toe until it healed.

I had no worry about whether it would heal. My little brother's was removed entirely when he got his caught in a door, and it grew back. And again, this isn't painful. When I started to feel it I just stopped scraping. Good thing I don't wear open-toed sandals.

Then I doused my feet in ethyl alcohol once a day until they were healed (about 4 months).

That's it, really.

Not my foot, but pretty close to
what the nail looked like before I
got started. Under the cracked and
discolored surface it was opaque white
and flaking and crumbling.
I doused the whole foot... just wiped it down with a very wet cloth... with special attention to the toes. Ethyl Alcohol (ethanol) is the stuff in Germ-X and in most other germicides. It kills 99.99% of germs according to just about every reference, so there's no reason to think it wouldn't be effective here. It does dry out your feet, so following it up with a moisturizer isn't terrible. I eventually saved myself some trouble by using Germ-X hand sanitizer with Aloe, once a day, before putting on some socks.

It not only got rid of the toe fungus, but also stopped the flaking skin, the over-production of callouses, and any foot odor.

It works so well, I'll probably just keep doing it as a preventative measure.


This isn't the first time I've found that simple measures are better. My first job was in a pet shop. While I was there we experienced an outbreak of mouth fungus among the snakes. One of the hardest parts of treating a snake for anything is getting it to take medication. Snakes are famously talented regurgitators. Sadly, mouth fungus is often fatal to them because it prevents them from eating.

So on a hunch I ran and got a bottle of plain-old garden-variety Listerine mouthwash and some cotton swabs. With finger and thumb on the hinges of the jaw I forced the constrictors' mouths open and swabbed each of them down. They had immediate relief overnight and were completely cured within the week.

As an FYI, Listerine's active ingredients are the essential oils eucalyptol, menthol, methyl salicylate, and thymol dissolved in ethanol.