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One more thing we can do about gun violence

February 22, 2018

A friend asked, “Why do so many people have problems with putting metal detectors in schools?” I’ll just speak for me, here.

I don’t have serious problems with metal detectors at schools, except for one thing: It’s rather security theater, than it is actual security.

I’m all for metal detectors, if we don’t think of it as the end of the safety discussion. But it, or something like it, often is the end of the discussion.

There’s a ton of thought about how to physically prevent guns from getting into the building – okay, sure, that’s a start. BUT it’s not the end, because – remember school? Remember all the ways around the rules and standards, because the place was so big, or because you had friends that would open a side door, or because you knew the gym door didn’t latch right and nobody paid attention, or or or, etc?

There’s not enough done in terms of identifying potentially problem students, and what to do about them. There’s not enough about limiting access to guns, for people with violent histories. There’s not enough early intervention for kids who are lonely, abused, bullied, ostracized, violent.

So sure, let’s put in metal detectors. But we damn well do the other things, too.

Edited to add:

Most of this research—and there have been several dozen peer-reviewed studies—punctures the idea that guns stop violence. In a 2015 study using data from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University reported that firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in the states with the most guns versus those with the least. Also in 2015 a combined analysis of 15 different studies found that people who had access to firearms at home were nearly twice as likely to be murdered as people who did not.

… More than 30 peer-reviewed studies, focusing on individuals as well as populations, have been published that confirm what Kellermann’s studies suggested: that guns are associated with an increased risk for violence and homicide.

-Scientific American, “More Guns Do Not Stop More Crimes, Evidence Shows

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This artist will make you happy (<– intentional clickbait!)

February 22, 2018

GUYS MY FRIEND MADE A THING! Seriously, go take a look. She’s a talented, award-winning author, artist, fiber artist, AND database administrator.

How can you NOT love this woman?

Go check out here Patreon overview, and the kind of things you can expect at each patreon level.

 

How to adult: Scratchpad

February 13, 2018

I had a talk with one of my kids last night, and I said that one of the major issues is not knowing how to do all the weird, random, adulty stuff.

“Like what?” my kid said.

“Well…”

“Can you make a list?”

Well, yeah. I can.

So, here it is: Random Things You Must Deal With as an Adult

Income tax

Every year, if you make over a certain amount of money, you have to file your taxes with the federal government. This cutoff amount can change every year, by the way, so check with the IRS or a reputable website. If you’re still living at home/paid for basically by your parents, you’re a dependent: 

“All taxpayers who are claimed as a dependent on someone’s tax return are subject to different IRS filing requirements, regardless of whether they are children or adults. Since a dependent is unable to claim their own exemption, a tax return is necessary when their earned income is more than the standard deduction for a single taxpayer, which in 2017 is $6,350…” – From Intuit.com

So in 2018, you do your “2017 taxes” (you report on the income you made/income tax paid for 2017).  When you’re young, your financial situation is pretty simple, and so you can get away with doing your own taxes and using a 1040EZ (“easy”) form, or a simple software like TurboTax or FreeTaxUSA.com.

As you get older, your financial situation tends to get more complex: you start to have investments, debts, and tax deductions. All of those can affect how much tax you owe, and how complicated your tax return is. I personally like using a service – an accountant, or H&R Block – for doing my taxes. But other people do their own tax returns!

Recommended reading:

Finances

An excellent basic plan to stick with is Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps…this is for getting out of debt, sure, but if you start out with no debt, so much the better! You’re ahead of the game:

  • Baby Step 1: $1,000 cash in a beginner emergency fund
  • Baby Step 2: Use the debt snowball to pay off all your debt but the house
  • Baby Step 3: A fully funded emergency fund of 3 to 6 months of expenses
  • Baby Step 4: Invest 15% of your household income into retirement
  • Baby Step 5: Start saving for college
  • Baby Step 6: Pay off your home early
  • Baby Step 7: Build wealth and give generously

For financial literacy, read MrMoneyMustache.com especially, and maybe some NerdWallet.com. It’s never too soon to start savings, and to start saving for retirement. Also to understand the way credit card companies work, and why it’s so vital to avoid payday loans.

Cars

Maintaining cars: Cars need gas to run, you know that much. They also need periodic maintenance. While sometimes, you can get away with going a really long time without any maintenance, it’s a bad idea. Lemme show you with just one extreme example:

I had a car that burned oil, actually burned it. Not on purpose. Anyway, I went too long without adding oil, and on the freeway one day the engine seized up – the pistons just STOPPED – and I threw a rod. You don’t get your car back and working again once this happens….you’ve effectively slightly melted your engine block, and it won’t ever run again. Now, are you likely to seize your engine if you don’t do oil changes? Well, after a few thousand miles, yes!

There are other things you’ll need to do, or to have done, to your car, including tire alignment, buying new tires as they wear out, replacing brake lights and headlights, tune-ups, brake work, etc. A lot of that stuff will show up during your regular oil changes, or during your annual auto inspection.

Recommended reading: Lifehacker.

Cars – inspection and registration: You have a car, great. Many states in the union require a state inspection every year or so. It’s pretty simple: type in “auto inspection near me” into Google, take your car there, pay a fee, get a pass/fail report back. If your car fails inspection, the report will tell you WHY the car failed. So you have to get that fixed, and get it inspected again. (Many places will re-inspect your failed car for free!)

Every state requires your car to be registered. Search for “auto registration [your state]” to get information on registering. (Here’s Texas.) Lots of states let you register your car online now, as long as you do it before the deadline! I highly recommend doing it before the deadline, so that you don’t have to schlep in to some random tax office and wait in line forever only to realize that you were supposed to bring your insurance and 3 other things along and and and…anyway.

Cars – getting a ticket: I don’t have a ton to say about getting a ticket. Try not to. Decide before the deadline whether to just pay the fine, or to dispute it. (I’ve never disputed a ticket, but that doesn’t mean much.) Don’t let a ticket go, or they can actually issue a warrant for your arrest. (I’ve never had that either.)

Buying cars: New cars are bullshit, a scam. (Ask me how I know.) If you buy a brand new car, it costs X. If you buy a 1 year old car, it costs X – 25%, give or take. (A 2017 Prius costs 21k right now. A 2018 Prius costs 28k.  ONE YEAR DID NOT ACTUALLY REMOVE 1/4 OF THE CAR’S VALUE.)

So, don’t buy brand new cars. Whatever car you DO have, drive it until it falls apart. There does come a point where it’s more expensive to keep an old busted car, than it is to buy a new-used one. We’ll do that math later.

Don’t have a car? Need one? Can’t do almost new? Bummer, because I have found used beater cars to be somewhat bullshit, too. More on his soon….

I want to…get off of added sugar!

January 30, 2018

I might do a handful of these “I want to” blogs, around various food goals: vegetarianism, veganism, whole food-ism. Today we’re talking about getting off of added sugars!

First off, as an introduction to the topic you might want to watch Jamie Oliver’s TED talk on sugar. For a step further, see the documentary Sugar Coated. One step more? Okay, go read the outstanding book Salt Sugar Fat, by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Moss!

But what we really want to get to is some great tips for getting off of added sugar.

Everything processed, has added sugar

First thing’s first: the easiest way to get off of added sugar is to go for a whole foods diet. Eat almost nothing that’s been processed at all: no snack bags, no meals from restaurants, no sodas or sweetened drinks of any kind… nothing like that. ALL of that stuff has added sugar.

We’re talking hamburger buns (almost any kind bread, really), pizza sauce, BBQ sauce (of course), dry cereal, yogurt, salad dressing, instant oatmeal packets, etc etc.

So you’re going to be eating a lot of whole foods, and foods that have been barely processed. Fresh and frozen fruits and veggies (though, lots of frozen fruits have added sugar!), rice, oats, simple-ingredient breads and crackers (think Triscuit), beans (but no Heinz or BBQ beans), corn tortillas, and the like.

Lots of stuff counts as added sugar

Get used to looking at ingredient lists! Food companies know that “sugar” has become a bad word, and so they’re using other words to describe the actual sugar in their products. See this page for a list of 61 names for sugar. Some common examples:

  • beet sugar
  • cane juice
  • coconut sugar
  • corn syrup
  • fructose
  • fruit juice/fruit juice concentrate

And so on.

Tips and tricks time!

Already know all this? Just here for the tips? Sure, here you go.

  • We love dried fruit for sweetening oatmeal/porridge. One CAN argue that dried fruit is a source of “added” sugar, since the sugar is concentrated. Our philosophy is 1) don’t eat too much, and 2) it’s still the whole food, and not something processed. So we don’t count this as added sugar.
  • Make your own sugar free jam. Take any bunch of fruit – frozen is fine, but watch for added sugars in frozen fruit! Put in a pot with 1/2 cup of water, cook down for maybe 20 minutes, and blend. Lovely, fresh, whole food, no-added-sugar jam!
  • Bananas are your friend. I didn’t used to like bananas for anything but eating straight. No bananas-IN-things. I have changed my mind!
    • Make banana cookies: 2 bananas + 1.25 cups rolled oats, bake for 20 minutes or so at 350F. Mix it up by adding cinnamon, nuts, cocoa, and/or dry fruit before baking.
    • Make banana ice cream: So simple, and so, so good. This is a hit with my “omnivore” friends and family, too.
    • I’m sure there are other applications. They’re just not springing to mind.
  • Stevia, not agave, when you just have to have some sweet. Stevia is non-nutritive, while agave will still cause your blood sugar levels to rise. We eat Lily’s vegan, stevia-sweetened dark chocolate as a treat!

 

Questions? Comments? Thoughts? More recipes?

How to save a life

January 24, 2018
Empty hospital bed. Photo by Martha Dominguez on Unsplash

So to start with; everything is fine, seriously.

Today I went to urgent care (and they admitted me to the emergency room instead) for chest pains I’d been having since like Sunday. I’ve had this before, but never so bad and never so LONG. It’s been getting worse instead of better. It turned out to be completely non-serious, and now I know what to do for it.

But it got me thinking. I felt kind of stupid going in in the first place, because I FIGURED it would turn out to be nothing…even though it hurt like hell, and was getting to the point where it was going to make me start crying. And I thought….this is me, deciding to go in, WITH insurance and a decent savings account.

THIS is what people mean when they talk about how poor (or no) health coverage costs LIVES. Yeah, THIS time it was nothing. But eventually I’ll have to make this decision when it’s really SOMETHING. And I’d be far, FAR less inclined to go in and risk paying hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars if I were uninsured, or living paycheck to paycheck.

The people who don’t understand this, are well out of touch with reality. I suspect sometimes they’re out of touch on purpose.

In any case, that’s all. It just got me thinking. Also, the meds they gave me to help are wonderful. With my insurance, the prescriptions were about $3 total. Privilege, man.

Call or text help if you need help, okay?

January 19, 2018
Hands holding lights; Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

When someone on social media sends out really scary warning vibes, we’ll call that a “self harm alert“. If folks are paying attention, they’ll do the who-can-get-to-them-in-real-life scramble, and hopefully everything will turn out okay. But, sometimes people miss the message. Sometimes it’s not enough to go quiet and hope folks will notice.

There’s more you can do, if you find yourself sending out those updates, or wanting to, or deciding not to. Please, please, consider:

And listen: I may not know you, but I see you. I see you, and I’m sorry it hurts. Stick around for a while, okay?

Petition: Defend Net Neutrality, again!

January 17, 2018