May 242017
 

A while back I worked with a group that decided to throw an event in the city of Detroit. This group was primarily run by white suburbanites. Their normal events only had a small amount of racial diversity in their ranks and attendees, but because the event was being held in Detroit proper they decided to make it a goal to reach out to more blacks, particularly people living in the city, to be both participants and attendees.

In many ways they were successful. There certainly was a greater racial diversity present than the suburban events they’d thrown in the past. Yet I want to discuss how the way diversity was implemented felt so awkward to me. Not smooth. Not natural. Not quite respectful. I don’t claim to have all the answers concerning this topic, but I wanted to discuss the experience because I think it’s a valuable discussion, and quite frankly it really bothered me.

When diversity was announced as a goal for the event, I took this to heart. Our event includes literature and art discussions, so when a black comic book convention taking place in downtown Detroit was pointed out, I let the organizing committee know and tried to get people to attend with me. No one else went. I brought fliers for our event. I took free publicity photos. I talked with many people. It was a great time. I learned about the black comic book underground in in Detroit since the ’70s, and enjoyed an event filled with art and performances. I also managed to convince one of the organizers to come meet with us and hopefully join our team.

It was downhill from there. My daughter loves using the word “Awkward,” and that word seems so apropos to this discussion.

The head of our event assigned people she knew well to all department head roles. These were people that had done the job before. She knew they would guarantee the event ran smoothly. They were all white.

To make up for the whiteness of the department heads, a “Diversity Committee” was formed. From my observation, pretty much anyone that wasn’t white that volunteered to help with the event was assigned to the diversity committee to act as an advisor. This committee was headed up by a white person. The black event organizer I had brought in was automatically assigned to this diversity committee.

Now I had automatically assumed, based on her experience, she would have been put in charge of a discussion track she was uniquely qualified for. Perhaps one about the black comic book underground. Another role I thought would be useful was to have her help bring in excellent local artists for the art track, as she knew meny. She later confided in me that all of her suggestions were nixed and no one was interested hearing what she had to say. I wasn’t in those meetings, so I don’t know how they went. I told her I’d try to fight on her behalf. For example, one idea she had was to make the Friday night dance an Afro-Futurism dance with a DJ who lived and operated out of Detroit. I thought it a great idea. When I asked the head of the event about implementing this I was told that our attendees would never go to such a thing and it would be a failure. I’m not sure if this was an example of not thinking things through, or not taking diversity seriously, but if you are truly intending to reach out to the black community and bring new people in, isn’t this exactly the kind of experiment that might make people feel more welcome? Someone from the community representing the event by doing their thing? I suspect it felt like too much of a wild card to the organizer, something too new for her tastes, but that, to me, is part of integrating various groups. Something unique. Otherwise, why bother, unless it’s just for show?

Soon after this meeting a photo with all the event runners was posted on Facebook. A popular public figure called the event out for having no black faces in the photo even though the event was in Detroit. He was right, as the people we had on the diversity committee were not needed for the meeting that day. Making this a public declaration embarrassed the woman I’d been trying to get involved in the event. She felt embarrassed and insulted. She told me, “I refuse to be used as a token black woman for their photo ops!” This public shaming of the event caused her to finally just quit outright. If the objective of this social media shaming was to create a more diverse convention, well, no, it had the opposite effect.

So my analysis was risk adverseness, along with white savior complex, combined into a total mess.

My opinion is she never should have been made to feel this way. She was talented, hard working, and knowledgeable about black culture in Detroit. While she was not familiar with how our events ran, as our event had been going on for decades and is rather locked in its thinking, I still thought she was still a good fit for the event. An excellent candidate to run some programming.

The person that made the social media commotion implied it was wrong to be a “recruiter of people of color” and they would certainly not help with such a thing, but we should be ashamed that we didn’t have more blacks working on the event. Awkward.

As it turned out, the event did end up having an AfroFuturism dance on Friday. The DJ was a white guy with a steampunk setup. It was cool enough, and nothing against the DJ, but it seemed an awkward choice in relationship to diversity and the initial suggestion. The turnout wasn’t very good even with a Steampunk vibe. We’ll never know if a black DJ from Detroit would have done better or worse because it was deemed too risky. Awkward.

The event as a whole was still heralded for it’s diversity among my white friends. There was indeed an entire track of panels specifically about diversity. That’s where you saw nearly every one of the black panelists. Other topics, not so much. This, I fear, was the result of assigning all non-whites to a segregated diversity committee. Yes, we need to talk about diversity, but does it really need to be the only thing a black artist/writer is allowed to be seen talking about? Don’t talented people belong in all discussions? Every time I went to a non-diversity related discussion panel I kept looking up at the only white panelists while thinking about people that should have also been participating, but they couldn’t, because they were already on on the diversity discussions. Am I the only one that finds this awkward?

I wondered about the days when groups run only by men started to allow women to participate? Did they form “Women’s Committees” to advise the men who ran everything on what women would want to talk about, only to create special discussions just for those women, totally separate from all discussions the men had? These days doesn’t that sound awkward? I would hope it would, unless you are a member of a religion that does not allow men and women to mix in public. Now if people want to segregate themselves for special discussions related to their group that’s great, but having the people in charge make it happen is very different, and having almost no integrated discussions to me also just seemed awkward.

Of course, I’m just a white suburbanite, and I’m sure there are people ready to argue with me that there was nothing wrong with all this segregation, and that there was nothing “awkward” about it, and indeed was the appropriate way to run the event, but I personally think we could do better if we simply respected people for their talents, not just their minority status. My viewpoint is likely flavored by my life experience. I went to high schools and college in areas that were highly mixed race. In fact, in some cases I was in the minority race. People just did their thing. Black teachers didn’t teach only black studies. Black students in school didn’t only discuss diversity or only black history at the exclusion of every other topic. Sure those topics were discussed, and topical groups existed, but in the public schools and the university I attended I never saw people being “managed” solely based on race like this, and were certainly never kept out of general topics. This event was doing it for the first time, and the people implementing obviously couldn’t see how awkward what they were doing was. In a way they certainly were being more diverse, compared to their regular events, and maybe they fixated on “diversity” as a topic rather than diversity as a natural idea, and it all felt so awkward, to me at least.

Upping diversity at an event doesn’t have to be awkward. If it doesn’t exist naturally at your event, get out and search out talented people to work with. There is nothing awkward or offensive in doing so. I assure you great people are out there waiting to give their all, just don’t label and file them away. Welcome people in as people, dammit! Not just as “the other”, but as friends and associates. Take risks on newcomers. Work side-by-side. Know their experience may be different, and appreciate it. Learn from each other. If they want to focus on diversity let them, but don’t force their role to be solely about your cultural differences. Most of all, please try to be respectful, and just try your best to not make the whole experience awkward.

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Feb 082016
 

I’ve had debilitating pinched nerve pain in my neck for well over 6 months each time on two different occasions. Both times this happened I was taking a medication called Uloric to lower my uric acid levels. I went off this med for a while when I has having my digestive issues and realized there was no pinched nerve pain issues during that time. As soon as I went back on the medication I started having increased pain again. I decided to take a few years and do further self-testing before deciding there was a connection. Each time I started taking Uloric the pain would kick back in. Each time I went off Uloric the pain decreased. I’ve decided the evidence is clear enough that I personally should not be taking this medication.

Perhaps this is why, after multiple scans, doctors said they were not sure why I was in so much pain? Perhaps it was not a normal pinched nerve, but peripheral neuropathy being triggered or intensified by this prescription medication? Perhaps it’s taking a mild arthritis and making it feel like a full-on pinched nerve, or increasing inflammation in what should be a mildly aggravated area? There’s apparently no way to really find out what’s up using normal medical testing, so all I can do is wonder and note there is some sort of connection.

My current uric acid levels test around 8 mg/dl. While I’d prefer around 6 mg/dl, my values are low enough that it’s unlikely to trigger a gout attack. Anything 9 or above would be a bigger worry. Taking Uloric seems to guarantee eventually being crippled by pain for most of a year. Thus, I’ve decided to stay off Uloric for now.

There is another gout medication called Allopurinol, but the two times I tried that medication I had a non-stop headache until I stopped taking  it.

I’ve also tried gout diets, drinking cherry juice, etc., but these didn’t help lower uric acid levels any further than they are now. Reduced sugar intake seems to be the most beneficial dietary change.

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May 212015
 

Research into gut bacteria is an interest of mine. I started occasionally reviewing the DNA of my own microbial boime over a year ago. I was curious if I’d be able to witness known research, or my own hypotheses, in action after dietary changes.

Last summer, after a simple diet change, I saw a very dramatic drop in bacteria diversity. At first I wondered if the DNA analysis was faulty, as the drop was huge, but later I read a study on emulsifiers and realized it was possible I was viewing the findings of this study.

Here’s a graph of my uBiome data.

Gut Bacteria Chart Showing Dip in Quantity and Variability During Summer

Each color represents a different category of bacteria. The dramatic dip in the middle shows the variety of bacteria in my system being dramatically reduced.

To understand why I’m interested in this topic, I should mention that I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease over 20 years ago, but have been able to keep it in remission using diet. Cane sugar seems to trigger an autoimmune reaction, so I avoid it as best as I can. Beet sugar, the other common white sugar, does not trigger this reaction, and luckily I live near the heart of beet sugar production.

One item I could never find with beet sugar was ice cream. Continue reading »

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Apr 152015
 

Until last month, I was still having some discomfort related to my pinched nerve of the previous year. Some mild nagging neck and shoulder pain that was aggravated while lying down. At night I’d constantly wake to shift to a more comfortable position. I couldn’t sleep on my right side at all. Swimming was keeping the stabbing pain at bay, but if I didn’t swim every few days the pain would start to return. During the day I sometimes had pain if I moved into the wrong position, like reached behind me to grab something without fully turning. Nearly all of this discomfort is now gone, and it only required one hour of assistance.

Back when I was suffering from a nasty pinched nerve, I realized there were two issues that needed handling. The hospital only dealt with one, the vertebrae where the pinch originated, yet I discovered that I received more relief from muscle and fascia release than I did from spine stretching. The hospital used a machine to try and open the vertebrae, which included no muscle pressure. The hospital’s only muscle treatment was to assign the patient some light exercise to do at home. The exercises were not effective. The only thing that worked for me was hands on muscle work.

I assume muscle work is not part of standard therapy because it sounds like massage, and insurance doesn’t pay for massage. When properly done, proper muscle treatment is not what most people think of as a massage. Properly done muscle work either hurts or feels like pressure. No oils. No incense. No gentle sleep inducing touch. The greatest progress I made from the beginning to the end of my pinched nerve always came after a muscle work session. Once it was after a hospital worker broke treatment protocol, and later after I hired  someone when the hospital refused to let me see that same therapist again. I’m fully convinced I could have saved months of physical therapy, and been more productive much sooner, if insurance and the medical system had included some skilled muscle work sessions.

I described my experience with my pinched nerve treatment in a prior post. Once the stabbing pain was gone I had assumed I’d steadily recover. After a year I was still having some discomfort, as I mentioned. So I finally decided to dished out more cash for another rolphing session. The person I’d hired the previous year was on maternity leave, so I searched around and found someone that had been properly trained and had experience. Rolphing is normally done as a 10 session progressive series, but because this injury and a flood last year had impacted my income, I requested a single session that only targeted the area where I was having issues.

The session lasted one hour. At one point the therapist said the muscles over my scapula were not laying over each other correctly and he would try to correct them. He worked all through my left side: shoulder, neck, back, chest, ribs, arm. After the muscle work, some of it quite painful, he gave me some stretches to do at home and some posture tips.

I immediately found I was able to stand up straighter without discomfort I’d been having. The next time I swam my arm moved more freely, with none of the “crunching” sensation I would sometimes feel. I could now go over a week without swimming without the pain returning, though I have been keeping the swimming habit up to keep healthy. I could now also sleep on either side without waking to shift due to pain.

So, if you’re in pain, perhaps try some muscle work. The type of therapist I looked for was not a massage therapist, but a structural integration therapist, or Rolpher.

It’s been a month now and it still feels much better.

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Mar 062014
 

Green Ethernet Switch

A while back our color laser printer became annoying. Every time I went to print something it refused to print. I ended up having to turn it off and on again. Without an off/on cycle it would just sit there in sleep mode.

I don’t print hard-copy nearly as often as I once did, so it didn’t drive me too crazy at first. I just anticipated the step when I needed to print something.

Eventually my wife and daughter started printing a lot more often for work/school projects. Having to keep running to the printer to restart it had become an annoyance for multiple people.

I never did like our Brother color printer. It leaked magenta toner and left streaks. Plus, it was expensive to use: one of those good deals on the hardware, but they get you big time on the supplies. When I realized I was going to have to spend hundreds of dollars on maintenance soon (drum was near the end of it’s life, plus toner running low) I decided to buy a simple black only laser. Plus, I figured something was wrong with the printer as far as waking from sleep, so maybe a new one would save me the hassle of having to constantly hit the power switch.

What surprised me was the new HP printer also didn’t wake from sleep. Something else was obviously going on here.

My first thought was it must be a networking issue. The only piece of gear between the computer and the printer was a network switch.  An energy efficient network switch. And how do those switches save energy? They cut power on unused ports. You probably see where I’m going with this.

People all over the Internet are complaining because their printers will not wake from sleep. I found no solutions posted anywhere.

I decided to do some research on a similar topic. I found that people were having problems using wake-on-lan (WOL) with some green switches. WOL is a method of remotely waking a sleeping computer by sending it a WOL data packet. It appears some green switches would simply not send any data down a line with a sleeping device on the other end. Feature or bug? BUG! It broke the WOL standard. Luckily there’s a large enough hacker community that plays around with WOL for computers. That community debugged the WOL problem. My assumption was that if a computer wouldn’t receive a WOL packet while sleeping, a printer wouldn’t receive printout data while sleeping either.

I replaced the naughty trickster D-Link DGS-2208 with a business level HP ProCurve 1410-8G which was known to handle WOL correctly. The laser printers are back to printing instantly! No more running to the printer to power cycle them.

The new switch is still an energy saving switch. It’s just a properly engineered energy saving switch. So, before you buy a green wired network switch make sure it’s WOL compatible.

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Feb 082014
 

Pain takes over. It rules what you do during the day, keeps you from sleeping at night, and changes your day-to-day behavior. It tosses all your plans, replacing your to-do list with one line: “Stop the Pain!”

As you might guess from this seemingly over-the-top opening, 2013 was not one of my better years.

The first time I experienced pinched nerve pain was back in 2009. My primary doctor at the time insisted that pain pills and alternating hot and cold pads was all I needed. The pain pills did nothing to stop the pain, and there was no continuing relief from applying heat and cold. I was stuck in a chair with my arm raised over my head unable to move. I managed to do some activities on occasion by grimacing and just accepting pain as a fact of life. After suffering for a few months, out of desperation, I started seeking alternative treatment plans. These included seeing a chiropractor and various forms of traction. The pain lasted about six months total the first time. I slowly found relief after traction, and figured I had my future cure should it ever kick in again. This was not to be the case.

Back in 2009 I realized the pinched nerve started up after having joined a gym. I decided weight lifting was probably not the best form of exercise for me. Luckily, the gym moved and required everyone to rejoin. I didn’t. All was fine pinch-nerve-wise for a few years until I did a charity photo shoot for which I lugged a bunch of heavy lighting equipment to and from a hotel. It was a bad move: I’d gone from months of inactivity to heavy lifting in the middle of the winter and the pinched nerve pain was back again.

When the pinched nerve struck this second time (insert dramatic music here) two weeks into 2013, I decided I would make the medical system work for me this time. I had changed doctors since the first time. I liked the new guy. I had high hopes for a quicker recovery. Many months later I decided this obedience had been a bad idea. Under standard medical care I made little progress.

As of today I am totally pain free. I’m convinced I would not have been had I relied on standard medical treatment. Instead, I would have been begging for surgery, and based on talking to others, it was likely that surgery would have been a failure. My positive outcomes all came from listening to what the medical expert said, some chance meetings, and figuring out different therapies than what the hospital was offering. The huge leaps in progress I experienced took place when I left their protocols and followed my own intellect.

I offer this as my observations dealing with my pinched nerve, explaining what did and didn’t work for me, just in case it’s of interest to others.

Continue reading »

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Oct 012013
 

Milk

Last year I reported on how ingesting sugar alcohols, which are artificial sweeteners sold in stores and found in many low-glucose processed foods (the ones that end in -ol, like sorbitol, Erythritol, mannitol, xylitol, etc.), can cause health problems. Many people have intolerance issues with indigestible sugars, including myself.

At the time I noted the ability to digest lactose would fall into the same category since for many people lactose is an indigestible sugar, at least to some degree. Now that I’ve avoided all sugar alcohols this year, I appear to be experiencing this link to lactose intolerance in action. I’m back to being able to eat dairy without worrying about major headaches. Continue reading »

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Apr 172013
 

My desk is a horizontal door. Not metaphorically. It’s a real door.

I made my first door-desk when I was a teenager. I still use one today. I have no desire to get a “REAL” desk, because what could be better than a door? They’re big. They’re sturdy. There’s no worrying about damaging expensive furniture, because it’s just a damn door. I’ve attached all kinds of things on my desk with screws, glue, and clamps. The door top of my desk is decades old now, but because doors are constructed to be slammed and kicked the surface still looks like new.

Door-Desk

One secret to making a door desk is to use a solid core door. That makes it heavy and solid. You can screw anything into it and it stays in place. My own desk was stained with a cherry stain on top and black stain on the side. It was the 1980s, after all. I might give it a more natural look these days. The underside doesn’t need any special treatment, so it’s bare. I coated it with a satin polyurethane so it looks like nice furniture and has a waterproof surface. Door desks should be projects of their own, and boy do I have a lot of things attached to mine. Continue reading »

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Jan 232013
 

Such simple ingredients for such yummy pancakes.

Now, I’ve always loved myself some good pancakes. Pancakes soaked with real maple syrup, maybe a pad of melting butter. Thin pancakes. Thick pancakes. I like pancakes so much that I would tease my wife by playing the Marvin Pontiac (John Lurie) song “You Never Make Me Pancakes” and look at her with puppy dog eyes… and then go make myself some pancakes.

These days, though, I need to watch what I eat to feel my best, so I’ve taken to eating more simple, primal foods. No more big plates of carbo-grains drenched with liquid sugar. These banana pancakes are perfect. The ingredients are basic. The preparation easy. I happen to like the taste and texture. They need no added sugar, not even my favorite sweetener: maple syrup. They puff up fine without flour or leavening. I never feel rotten or sluggish after finishing a plate.

Let me also mention that I probably make them a little differently every time, yet they always come out good. So, add more or less banana to your taste, from as little as 1/2 a banana, up to two bananas. These are a great way to use up those really brown/black bananas. Add more or less nut flour to your taste, or use different nut flours, or use a few tablespoons of nut butter, or a tablespoon of coconut flour instead. Toss in some vanilla or cinnamon or chocolate chips if it’s your want. Drizzle with a tiny bit of maple syrup if you really need the fix, or cover them in sliced strawberries or bananas. Add a pinch of salt if you crave it. It’s all good.

BananaPancakes

Banana Almond Pancakes

2 Eggs
1 Ripe Banana
1/3 Cup Almond Flour

Heat a flat pan to medium.

In a bowl scramble up the eggs. Add the banana and mash it into the eggs as smooth or as chunky as you’d like. Add the almond flour and stir until blended into a batter.

Drop some butter or oil (coconut or grapeseed perhaps) into the pan. Pour in the batter to form small pancakes. I typically use about 1/4 cup each. Cook until puffed and browned. Flip to brown both sides. Eat ’em up!

 

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Jan 212013
 

Jim C. Hines is a writer that’s been discussing sexism and the impossible-body-posing fetishism found on book covers. He’s been doing it mostly by personally duplicating book covers himself, posing and writing about how ridiculous and painful the postures are. You can check out his blog and see a bunch of his own crazy photo shoots.

As the discussion goes: Book sellers want skin and out-thrust bosoms and butts on their covers, so artists provide them by contorting their figures to crazy and impossible extremes. There’s also a tendency to wear ridiculous clothing, like all those nearly naked warrior women wearing metal bikinis in the snow. What does this say about us?

I became involved in the conversation when Jim proposed doing a group photo using science fiction authors to raise money for charity. If people donated enough he’d pull in some of the new big names in the science fiction field and do a group photo, reversing the genders. Well, the money came streaming in, three times what they expected was raised, and Jim contacted me to do the shoot at one of our local science fiction convention here in Michigan called ConFusion.

The models:

Within the fantasy and science fiction community these are all very well known folk. All are fun, generous, and active in the genre. All were also very willing to put themselves out there to raise money, join the discussion, and let everyone enjoy them stepping way out of their own comfort zones for a good cause.

Jim secretly sent us all the photo we’d be using. It was the cover art used for the Poul Anderson book “Young Flandry”, a James Bond styled action adventure in space novel. Jim gave everyone the option to say no way, but instead out came the cry, “Let’s do this!” Continue reading »

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