Archive for the ‘Arms races’ Category

Guest Post: Herd Immunity

June 28, 2014 - 3:28 pm 13 Comments

This is a guest post from my friend Indy, currently working on her master’s in public health after her first in biostatistics and genetics. Who is also rather fed up with seeing the concept of herd immunity abused, usually in service of justifying Why My Kid Doesn’t Need To Be Vaccinated. She’ll be around in comments to answer questions, too. Take it away, Indy.

As most of you have probably noticed, there’s been a lot of coverage in the last decade and a half about what’s politely termed “vaccine non-compliance.” What you might have missed, however, is that the tone of that coverage has started to change rather dramatically in the last few years. Media coverage in the 2000’s focused on isolated cases, the uncertainty about adverse events, vaccine schedule spacing, the theoretical link (and the disproving of said link) between vaccines and autism, and, in some cases, what the future might look like if vaccination rates continued to drop. The coverage in the past few years has been about that future – we are now living in an era of major communicable disease outbreaks. Measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and whooping cough are all making a comeback in a big, flashy way; Google any one and you’ll find at least several cities with major outbreaks going on at the moment. The World Health Organization (WHO) just declared an international state of polio emergency. These outbreaks have become international in scale and are impacting every other continent (save Antarctica) in addition to the US. (If you’d like to explore this further, check out the map here: interactive vaccine map. Start out in 2008 and then jump forward in time to 2011 and beyond. Or just look at the contrast between “all” and 2008.)

In addition to billions of dollars in health care costs, they’re taking lives; in the US, this number is currently just shy of 1400 for deaths between June 3, 2007 and June 14, 2014.1 This may not seem like many, but consider that it’s about half the number of deaths from the World Trade Center bombings. This is also approximately double the number of unintentional firearm deaths in children (ages 1-14) between 1999 and 2010, and there are massive public policy campaigns currently going on to reduce that number.1 Furthermore, this number is isolated to the US. I’m a US scientist and I work with US data sources, so I’m pretty dependent on the CDC; some countries in Europe have death tracking systems similar to those we have in the US, others don’t, and in Africa, we have to rely predominantly on WHO data. In short: given infrastructure constraints, there are decent ways of estimating how big outbreaks are in other world regions, but not great ways of carefully tracking the number of vaccine preventable deaths on a global scale. But we can conclusively say that got a very, very big problem on our hands.

This brings us to the multi-billion dollar question that’s really the point of this post: why are we suddenly seeing such massive outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases when, in most places, the majority of parents are still vaccinating their kids? The answer, in a nutshell, is herd immunity. You’ve probably heard this term before, and many people have a general idea of what it means, although sometimes the colloquial definition is just flatly wrong. Herd immunity, in a very broad sense, is the protection granted to a few individuals without immunity when the majority of the population has immunity. In order to talk more specifically about it, though, we’re going to have to use some nitty-gritty disease science.

There are two concepts that are central to the workings of herd immunity. The first is an R0 value (pronounced “R-nought” in the world of biology and disease) and the second is an SIR model (pronounced as an acronym (S-I-R), although epidemiologists might have more fun if we’d called it “sir”). These provide two similar but slightly different ways of understanding herd immunity. Let’s start with the SIR model. SIR stands for susceptible-infected-recovered – in short, the three categories a person can fall into. You can either lack immunity to a disease, be infected with a disease, or be recovered from a disease (and thereby have immunity to it). If a disease has never been introduced to a population, everyone sits in the susceptible class. If we’re looking at what scientists call a “metapopulation” (a large population made up of small populations) a disease might have moved through some small populations but not others, so some people might be recovered, some people might be immune, some people might be susceptible. The general idea behind an SIR model of an outbreak is that eventually, every susceptible person will contract the disease, move into the infected category, and then either move into the recovered category or die. Once a disease has swept its way through a population, there’s simply nowhere else for it to go in human hosts and it dies out in that particular population. So why do we see diseases persisting over time? Firstly, because of that whole “metapopulation” thing – a disease might have burned its way through one population, but it’s probably still working its way through another, and secondly because of this pesky tendency humans have toward reproduction. When humans have babies, they’re effectively putting people directly back into the susceptible population. When that number climbs high enough, the disease is able to gain a stronghold in the population again, and you see another epidemic. This is why infections in populations tend to have a cyclic nature; time elapses and the susceptible category rebuilds itself. If you’re interested in a real world example, San Juan Pueblo in New Mexico can provide one.3 (Full disclosure: this example and the citation are from a human biology course I took a few years ago.) Smallpox first broke out in San Juan Pueblo in late 1700s (around 1780). Another major epidemic occurred about 35 years later – enough time for the susceptible population to have built up again. So what does all this have to do with vaccination? Vaccination performs a neat trick – it moves people in the susceptible class directly to the recovered class, completely skipping the infected stage. In this way, we can move babies and children directly from susceptible to “recovered” (or immune) and the susceptible population never moves above a certain level. The majority of our population is immune, the susceptible population is too small for diseases to move in, and we’re safe. Phew. But why does the size of the susceptible population matter? Here’s where we get to R0’s.

An R0 value is the basic reproductive number of a virus or bacterium – it’s the number of people an infected person will infect provided that no one around them has immunity. It’s a shortcut for understanding how rapidly a disease can spread through a population. There are a lot of parameters that go into this value, depending on things like population density and disease dynamics, but the long and short of it is that some diseases have higher R0 values than others. Most of the “big bad” diseases that are vaccine preventable have really high R0 values; measles can be as high as 18, mumps can reach 14, rubella’s high is 16, and pertussis’ (whooping cough) is 18. The 1918 flu (as bad as it was) had a maximum R0 somewhere around 3, so even diseases with relatively low R0 values can be major problems if the majority of the population is susceptible.2 It’s worth noting that similar data aren’t widely available for many common domestic animal diseases, but rabies has an R0 of around 2 (not surprising given that its method of transmission is the rare act of biting). Scrapie (a sheep disease which involves, well, the delightful case of sheep eating other sheep bits) has an R0 around 4.5 It’s reasonable to assume based on human diseases that spread in similar ways that respiratory viruses such as distemper and viruses that are spread via surface contact (such as canine parvovirus and feline panleukopenia) have higher R0 values than these; these types of diseases are referred to as “highly contagious” across veterinary literature. A Swedish study in the 1980s on canine parvovirus infection found that epidemics of parvo could continue as long as there was a concentration of 6 unvaccinated dogs per square kilometer.6 Given this, it’s starting to seem obvious how big outbreaks can start. One person infects 18 others? That’s a fast moving disease. So what do you do with a disease like measles? How do you stop an R0 of 18? (How do you solve a problem like rubella?) In short: you make sure every person the infected case has contact with can’t catch the disease. This is herd immunity. If a person with measles would infect 18 people, but all 18 of the people who might become infected are immune, the chain of infection stops with that individual. No one else gets measles, and there is no outbreak. This is a great thing from a public health perspective, but it’s a really crappy thing from a vaccine compliance perspective. In order to achieve herd immunity for diseases like measles, mumps, and polio, vaccine rates have to be above 90%. (Sometimes it’s more in the neighborhood of 95% – diseases with high R0 values are incredibly hard to stop in their tracks.4) (As an aside, this number is the “critical proportion”, “pc”, or the minimal immunization coverage needed in a population to eliminate infection. It’s found as the simple equation [MATH] 1-1/R0. [/MATH] Sorry for the equation.) As vaccination rates have dipped, diseases are able to gain a foothold. We have a two-fold problem on our hands: the susceptible population is too high, and we have diseases with really high reproductive numbers that can infect very large numbers of people. Diseases jump back into populations, find a big, thriving susceptible population, and start infecting away. Voila: you have yourself an outbreak.

So why is herd immunity such a hot topic, given all of this crazy disease math? It’s because most people have very mistaken ideas about susceptible population sizes, R0 values (if they know what they are at all), and needed vaccination rates. Most people think that if we vaccinate the majority of people (oh, say, 50-60 percent) then their kids (or themselves, or their dogs, or their pink flamingo lawn furniture) will be protected by the nebulous “herd immunity.” (This, by the way, is why when Amanda Peet called parents who didn’t vaccinate “social parasites,” I agreed with her. Sure, it was a rude way to phrase it, but it’s exactly what’s going on – people are relying on others in the community to keep themselves safe and to derive benefit.) But sadly for them and even more sadly for everyone else, that’s just not how it works. When we need vaccine compliance rates of 95%, everyone has to vaccinate to keep the susceptible population low enough. But, but, but, someone out there is starting to say, there’s still 5%! Can’t I be in that 5%? Firstly, everyone thinks they can be in that 5%, then we end up with really low vaccination rates and the same problem to begin with. And secondly, the medical community needs that 5% buffer because not everyone can be vaccinated. People with compromised immune systems. (See: children with leukemia.) People who are actually allergic to vaccines. People who have chronic infections. Cancer patients. Some AIDS patients. That buffer is being used, and it’s being used by people with a significant need to avoid vaccination. So in short: herd immunity is not going to provide protection, and lack of vaccination has lead to its failure over the last decade or so.

There are a lot of reasons to vaccinate your kids, self, dog, and pink lawn flamingo. Some of them are medical. (You don’t want polio.) Some of them are logical. (There is no link between autism and vaccines, and vaccine side effects are exceedingly rare – the likelihood of having an adverse event is much lower than your likelihood of getting measles if you don’t vaccinate.) Some of them are ethical. (You don’t want to give measles to a childhood cancer patient.) Some of them are social. (Most public health professionals, myself included, believe that we have an ethical obligation to the communities that we live in to vaccinate.) But this one is, simply put, mathematical. We have to keep the susceptible population low enough to prevent outbreaks, and we’re not doing it. It’s putting people in very real danger for no real benefit. So vaccinate your kids, yourself, and your pets. (And now that you understand all this epidemiology math, explain it to people on airplanes. You’ll be doing the world a favor, and they’ll leave you alone with your book.)

1a. There are a couple of sources for vaccine mortality data. I’m using anti-vaccine body count, which is calculated from CDC’s weekly morbidity and mortality reports, but CDC Wonder’s Mortality database would provide the same data. And would be named after a slightly less inflammatory celebrity.

1b. Gun death statistics are from CDC Wonder.

2. Data here are predominantly from our friend the CDC again, with the exception of the 1918 flu number which is from Fraser et al. 2009. “Transmissibility of 1918 pandemic influenza”. Nature 432 (7019): 904–6.

3. Aberle SD, et al. 1940. “The vital history of San Juan Pueblo.” Hum Biol 12: 141-87.

4. http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~daw/teaching/c79-s13/slides/0319-diseases.pdf

5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1689932/pdf/10380685.pdf

6. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0167587783900326

A Simple Request

November 26, 2012 - 12:41 am 10 Comments

Now that the stupidest part of the year is well upon us, I have a request for those of you who must endure the bullshit that is air travel in the US this season.

If the blue-gloved stasi at the metal detector/lookey-loo machine tries to touch you, insist on fresh gloves.

In my wildest moments of optimism*, I can hope that this will catch on like gangbusters and be a lever applied at the fulcrum of budget as the demand for more and more gloves skyrockets, and the TSA comes crumbling down and joy returns to the land and nobody demands papers please and….

Yeah, and maybe I’ll get that letter of marque, too.

More realistically, you’ll at least have the peace of mind that the dimwitted goon about to grope you didn’t just grope Brittni Ambir’s active herpes outbreak ’cause hey, look at the cans on that one huh with the same gloves, and cause them some annoyance in the process.

*Usually called “christ, cheer up once in a while would you?” by friends

KTKC: Final Results

October 1, 2012 - 11:40 pm 4 Comments

…are here.

Three.
Fucking.
Dollars.

Right. More importantly, thank you all for every last cent of your donations. I know everything sucks big rocks off the ground for everybody right now money-wise, and that the blatherings of a semi-anonymous goober in New Mexico* were able to convince you all to part with that much money awes me. Awes me and makes me think I should finally get around to using my Powers for actual evil.**

The various promised rewards of dubious value will go up as soon as I’m able to get them. I’m sorry I can’t have everything ready the second Blogorado is over or whatnot, but the pressures from my work and social lives at this point have me honestly grateful that the drive is over for the year, so maybe I can have time in the day to do the little things like eat or acknowledge LabRat. It’ll be at least a week though, probably a bit more. I will actually have time to go through the song raffle before then, since most of you had the good sense to stay way the hell away from that offer, and I’ll let the two unlucky folks know on Wednesday, but the actual mp3s won’t be ready until… yeah, you get the idea. If you’re demented and still want in on that but just didn’t get around to sending in the receipt, I’ll still take them right up to that point. Just throw raffle somewhere in the subject.

Those of you going to Blogorado, I suspect there won’t be any shortage of recording devices, but if you have something with particularly decent audio pickup, I’d be obliged if you’d bring it along.

Just on the push from the one month, we raised very nearly double what it took the better part of 2011 and part of 2012 to raise. I suspect the final number will creep up some, but so far just for 30 days we took in $22,475.55, and we did it without global megacorporations kicking in x% of however much a roll of paper towels the guys in accounting decided would buy good advertising. Suck it, Komen (and, y’know, keep saving the boobies and all. But still, suck it.).

Thank you all.

*Hey, Kelly? Y’think since I was the third highest fundraiser we can get New Mexico colored in on that coverage map now? ;)
**Actually most of you would probably approve of the ends I’ve in mind. We’ll talk later. Somewhere private.

Fundraising: Hard Mode

September 28, 2012 - 9:31 pm 7 Comments

Right off, y’all are flat amazing. I want to deeply thank every one of you who donated. By hitting the $2000 mark, that’s four times my original goal, which based on last year’s efforts I thought was fairly ambitious. I am utterly blown away by this.

But there’s still 55 hours left in this to go. This party don’t stop until the cops come.

So if y’all are going to insist on blowing my mind every step of the way, then all right, motherbitches, it’s nightmare-hard mode time. If at 23:59 Central time on September 30, my fundraising total is higher than Jay’s, I will take my freshly waxed self over at Blogorado and Jay is gonna get a lap dance whether he likes it or not, and video goes up. Think of it as a victory teabagging after a come from behind win. I haven’t discussed this with him, so it could get interesting.

Donate here. You’ve got…fifty five hours and thirty minutes to kick the total up by another $2,890 as of current standings. Ambitious? Oh hell yeah. Let’s do this.

Uh…

July 10, 2012 - 5:18 pm 7 Comments

Seen in banner format above the main Los Alamos National Laboratory sign at the Otowi complex:

LANL Quality Assurance: Let’s all do it right the first time.

I see. That is exactly what I want to see as the quality control initiative of a high-powered science laboratory whose main mission is creating and implementing advanced weapons technology. It’s so comforting I could just wet myself.

What She Said

June 5, 2012 - 8:26 pm 8 Comments

So tired. My sinuses objected most strenuously to the steep changes in altitude during allergy season, plus starting the new regime as soon as I started to feel better have wiped me out.

So instead go read Farmgirl on the subject of open vs. concealed carry, or rather opinionating on the matter. She said pretty much what I would have.

NRA Convention Already?

April 13, 2012 - 11:21 am Comments Off

Well this one just managed to sneak right up on me, but apparently it’s time for the annual NRA Convention again. And while I’m not going, those of you who are, might I make a request?

Drop by the HS Precision booth, and ask about their choice of “celebrity” endorsements. I mean for fuck’s sake, even if you’re a “Yay government they do no wrong!” jackboot cheerleader, and you don’t consider Lon Horiuchi a murderer excused by federal fiat when justice came looking for him, then at the very least he’s a spectacularly bad shot.

What sane company would use either of those options to endorse their product?

Oh wait. HS Precision isn’t sane.

So yeah, if you’re going to the NRA Convention, please drop by the HS Precision booth and find out if they’ve perchance seen the error of their ways. But I wouldn’t bet on a friendly response.

Flagged

March 28, 2012 - 4:24 pm Comments Off

Not inspired by anything in particular, other than that I noted I seemed to be building a collection of observations of behaviors that throw up a little red flag for me. Stuff people do, or say, that indicates trouble might be coming later down the line. Mostly centered on ways people act in intimate relationships because intimate relationships tend to be where we find ourselves most vulnerable, but certainly applies to family, friends, bosses… Most of them are relatively innocuous as a one-time thing just because people are human, but as patterns… flag.

- Makes fun of you in public. This doesn’t apply to good-natured ribbing or giving of shit, though goodness knows that can get fairly intense in some groups or dynamic. This is stuff actually designed to get under your skin, to make you a little (or a lot) angry or hurt or embarrassed. Justification, if called on it, is usually some variant of “just a joke”, or “lighten up”, or “you’re too sensitive”. Actual friendly jokes in an actually light atmosphere aren’t designed to wound, even a little bit; the correct response to saying something to give a friend/lover a good-natured ribbing that turns out to be hurtful is contrition, not demands to develop a sense of humor. In general, someone who finds you being upset intrinsically amusing is to be avoided.

- Tells you your experiences are wrong/mistaken. Often this is just the result of being young and inexperienced enough not to have grown out of I Am The World syndrome, but it’s still a flag, especially in someone old enough to know better. In its worst form this is the foundation of gaslighting. Normally when two people’s experiences of the same event don’t line up, the normal reaction is to find out why someone else saw it a different way- not to tell them their perceptions are simply wrong/mistaken/totally out of line. It’s possible to be wrong or to misread situations, but someone who constantly tells you you do, or that you’re incapable of reading situations because of (reason), is waving a flag.

- Hates your friends and family and doesn’t bother to hide it in front of them. Love and friendship aren’t transitive, but the polite thing to do when you can’t stand a friend or family member of your partner/BFF/whoever is to try and avoid being in situations with that person and to let your partner/whatever know your feelings and why, and grin and bear it when it’s simply not avoidable. Actively doing stuff to drive them off is an isolating move as well as just being rude. That, and one’s friends and family are part of what make us who we are; we can’t pick and choose all of them and they won’t all get along, but someone who can’t stand ANY of your friends and family is making a statement that all the people who like you for who you are are awful/unlikable. This also combines with the first point- someone who makes fun of your friends and family in front of them is showing that their own amusement trumps your anger/embarrassment over poor treatment of people you care about.

- Acts entitled to your time/space/movement. This is a fuzzy one as expecting a loved one to spend time with you isn’t unreasonable, but getting upset over any plans you make that don’t include them, or plans you made for yourself without their input, or going places without them/their say-so is a flag.

- Things get really intense, really fast. Being swept off your feet can be a lot of fun, but eventually you need your feet back on the floor. Someone who tries to keep you constantly swept off your feet or bowled over is often someone who’s trying to keep you off your balance, period.

- Values you for your “innocence” and “vulnerability”. Remember that innocence means being innocent of knowledge and experience. Again, it isn’t intrinsically awful to find a lack of cynicism and an enthusiasm for life as though it were new appealing- but someone who doesn’t want their partners/employees/whatever to know what the world is really like is also giving themselves the experiential upper hand. In order to recognize a manipulative asshole when you see one, you generally need to know something about bad things and the people who do them.

- This one really does only apply to lovers- tells you your preferences in bed are wrong/unacceptable. If your major turnon is something the rest of the world broadly agrees is an active turnoff (like poop, or vomit) except for a few fellow fetishists, this doesn’t apply, but someone who tells you all men/women like oral, or don’t like something else you want, or otherwise presents your desires and requirements to get off as you Doing It Wrong is waving a flag. If they’re willing to ignore your boundaries, wishes, and needs in an intimate, private setting and substitute their own preferences and ideas of how Others Work, odds are good that behavior won’t stay completely confined there.

- Constantly mixed messages. In fiction this is grist for the plot and fodder for comedy. In reality this is sometimes someone who likes you better when you are confused. Again, this can be innocuous and can come from someone who is maybe a little unskilled at communicating; as a pattern, and especially as a pattern that persists after you make efforts at establishing crystal clear communication, it’s a flag. Relationships that have “suspense” as a norm after the getting-to-know-you period are not fun.

- Tells you you’re not like other (category of people you belong to), with the implication that you are awesome and somehow all the rest are not. This is not a behavior that deserves a lot of benefit of the doubt; someone who holds your gender/race/class/salsa dancing hobby categorically against you (and they will, as soon as you displease them) has not just waved a flag, they’ve waved a starter’s flag for you to sprint over the horizon. This behavior can be the result of inexperience/some other flavor of recoverable dumbassery, but it’s not your job to recover it if so. If it happens it’s probably going to be their own gender/race/class/merengue dancing group that does the bulk of the work on the perspective change.

- Frequently creates cognitive dissonance in how you feel about/after spending time with them. If you find yourself frequently having to justify to yourself why X was actually being friendly/well-meaning/innocuous when you felt crappy or nervous in their presence? They’re not really friendly and well-meaning. It’s theoretically possible it’s you and not them, but unless you know you have a PTSD history strongly triggered by white-bearded men and they happen to be a white-bearded man, if you find yourself frequently rationalizing the way someone makes you feel, that’s a flag. People that like and support us and make us feel good with that generally don’t have to do it by code.

- Here’s a REALLY fuzzy one: seems to be in a relationship with a script and not with you. Some people run their interactions with other people through a script or template of How This Goes and pay more attention to it than to other people. Everyone plans to a certain extent how to deal with others based on their expectations and what they have previously experienced; but everyone healthy is ready to throw the script out the window when contact with the other person reveals a flawed assumption or guess. For the people that are REALLY attached to the script, there’s going to be confusion at best and punishment at worst when serious deviations occur. And they will.

- To paraphrase Maya Angelou: When someone tells you who they are, believe them. Someone says they’ll hurt you? They almost certainly will. Someone says they can’t handle a relationship/relationships in general and always sabotages them? They’re telling the truth. Feel sorry for them if you will, but from a distance, because this isn’t even a flag, it’s a hand-written signed and damn near notarized declaration. You’re not going to fix them; maybe a therapist, who is not you, can fix them if and when they decide they need it. Do take into intent context; someone sobbing they’re so stupid and they always screw everything up is definitely sad and upset and feeling helpless, but that’s qualitatively different from telling you that they are destructive to people close to them. This is also different coming from someone you’ve known for ages and know has depressive episodes, as opposed to someone you’re eight weeks into a relationship with who is not actively melting down. Especially if this is coming from a Mixed Message Master.

- In converse to the above: is on a mission to “fix” you. Everyone has flaws, and part of intimacy is dealing with your partner’s flaws and supporting them in their own efforts to deal with their flaws, but even a relationship between two completely normal flaw-having people will run into unhealthy waters when one partner sets themselves up as there to improve and repair the other. Taken to further extremes this is a well-trodden path for gaslighters and abusers- convince the other person they’re so broken they are nothing without their fixer.

- Turning the above around again: believes it is your job to fix THEM and makes it clear you are being interviewed/maintained as Chief Emotional Support. Everyone has problems, and friends do help with problems, but the job of fixing so and so is always primarily on so and so, even if they have to hire some trained staff to facilitate it. And not even a paid therapist can help someone who isn’t working at it.

- Everyone in their life they no longer have a relationship with is EVIL. You can be friends with exes, or not, and it’s okay to be friends with none of your exes, but someone who only has EVIL, CRAZY exes/ex-friends is waving a flag around. Taken literally it means they only associate with crazy evil people and that therefore you two are probably not compatible- but more likely, it means either they see people as all-good or all-bad, or that their own contributions to conflicts are absent in their own minds. Often both. This doesn’t apply as much to family, given crazy and evil tend to spread through family and it’s entirely rational to want to get away from a crazy/evil family, but you still might want to pay attention to *why* the family is described as evil and crazy.

- Tries to argue you into or out of entirely subjective feelings. Argues you should have had a good time when you didn’t; a bad time when you had a great time; tries to make a rational argument why you should date them or hang out with them. This is a pretty common phase of immaturity, especially with people whose interests or field largely rely on everything being objective, but again, it is not your job to help someone out of a destructive idea or phase unless you are a trained therapist and they are giving you money.

- Believes boundaries are unnecessary, cold, or mean in an intimate/family relationship or “true friendship”. This is another starter’s flag: RUN.

- Treats relationships as transactional. Obviously this does not apply to employers and employees, who explicitly ARE in a transactional relationship, but someone who extends this attitude outside of work is waving a flag. While it is true that relationships shouldn’t be all give or all take, keeping an accounting ledger in your head- this favor for that favor, this gift for this act, this uninvited gesture for this demand for quid pro quo- shouldn’t be a normal thing.

- All of your decisions need to be justified to them. If you are a minor child this is one thing, but otherwise? You can do things solely for the reason that you want to do them. Someone who constantly makes you prove that something is justified before you do it without taking a large ration of grief from them is waving a flag. This has some realms of the reasonable- a partner might have legitimate concerns about your health or losing you or whatever- but again, there are limits. “I don’t want you to ride a motor cycle without a helmet” is a different thing from “I don’t want you to eat that donut”. This is another flag that is defined more by the pattern than by the single incident; someone who is really hung up about one small thing has a hangup, someone who makes you justify your food, friends, drinks, career path, and choice in cars is a controlling asshole.

- You find yourself constantly in conflicts you were not actually aware of. It is at least polite to send a declaration of war before the siege starts. This is another pattern-makes-it flag; sometimes we think we’ve been really clear about a feeling or priority or whatever and we haven’t and the other person is oblivious nonetheless. However, someone who is constantly initiating the silent treatment or passive-aggressive note or whatever else based on slights you had NO IDEA about until they are, grudgingly and resentfully, explained later, is flagging.

- Conversely: someone who is constantly obtuse and treats your feelings like some sort of chaotic force of nature they have no relationship or influence over. Someone who will not acknowledge your needs, feelings, or opinions until you scream, then treats you as all VOLATILE, jeez, is likewise flagging. Sometimes there can be other issues behind that problem, like being on the less neurotypical side of the autistic spectrum, but reasons aren’t excuses, they’re reasons for additional measures to minimize problems. Like really clear communication.

- Deliberately tries to scare you. Punches the wall next to your head, throws things when angry with you, threatens your pets, makes self-harm gestures in front of you when upset with you. This is another starter’s flag- run away, run now, run as fast as you can.

- Nothing is EVER agree to disagree. It is very important that you hash out every single issue logically and with passionate argument. Bonus flag points if it has to be done RIGHT NOW, DON’T GO AWAY ANGRY, LISTEN TO ME WHEN I’M TALKING TO YOU. Everyone wants to be right and prefers winning arguments to losing them; normal people know not everything should be an argument and not every argument represents a hill that someone must die on, and also that sometimes differences of opinion or preference aren’t that important.

- You don’t do stuff independently, everything is done at each other somehow. Everything you wear is a message! Every choice you make somehow relates back to them! Why are you not receiving my food and clothing related messages! Is it OK if I wear the purple top today?

Easter Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

March 27, 2012 - 11:21 am Comments Off

You there, step right up! Are you a parent upset at the cancellation of the easter egg hunt because that peroxide cunt with the Ford Suburban Subdivision kneecapped you before you could shank that snobby fuck from up the road and get your precious little Johnny Fuckaccident an egg rather than risk him doing it on his own and not finding one?

Holy shit are you in luck, Sparkles!

That’s right, this Easter Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! it’s Uncle Stingray’s all-adult egg hunt! Just sign this pain waiver that I totally did not rip off because Offdenson could kick my ass in his sleep and makes Ken at Popehat cry in the courtroom on a regular basis and step right up.

Here’s the rules, skippy. You wear eye protection, you wear a mouth guard, you find eggs. There’s 200 of them hidden about this field which may or may not also contain explosives, mines, booby traps, venomous snakes, and Justin Bieber. You want more pads? Well hey, maybe you’re not quite as dumb as Sally from the tennis club after all. Good thinking but that’s on you and I don’t really give a shit if you go in dressed in full medieval plate armor, but you get 30 minutes and at the end the top three people who can make it back to the entrance with the most eggs will win Fabulous Prizes(TM).

No, dipshit, I did not say whoever collects the most. Clean the Just For Men out of your fuckin’ ears and try using them for something other than your mistress to hold on to while your frigid wife cooks the books on her etsy shop. I said whoever makes it back with the most wins. Bonus prize if anybody finds and can craft a more lifelike puppet out of Bieber, and points are available for artistic style.

For the low low low entrance fee of $25 plus a small (large) surcharge to cover legal fees for the pain waver, you can get in there and get your spoiled little uterine dumpling all the Easter eggs they were denied by those uppity fucks who canceled the big egg hunt saying you over-obsessive pussyslimes were ruining things for people who have more personality and parental skill than a dead aardvark with gonorrhea! No kids in this, so when you grab that egg you can do so with the self-righteous justification that it’s FOR MY CHILD and shove that golf club so far up Dave’s ass if he even makes a move to that purple-speckled ovoid by the trip wire he’ll have to putt out before he can say good morning!

Break out the fire hoses and party hats folks, it’s Uncle Stingray’s First Annual Easter Egg Helicopter Hunt!

(h/t Salamander)

Bucked Stars

February 19, 2012 - 11:44 am Comments Off

So apparently there was something or other involving a burnt coffee superchain and something about gun folks, and no doubt a plethora of not only “guns r evil ’cause bad” opinions, but for icing on the mocha ventilated, plenty of back and forth on the pro gun side between our own that has slid far enough into stupid that I’m not even going to describe it. I was going to just let this whole thing slide as just too “Really? No, really?” to comment on. But I’ve seen one place too many trumpeting this as a victory to refrain comment further.

Moreover I would’ve bet that the overwhelming and deafening corporate “Meh” from last year wouldn’t lead to a repeat. I forgot that the overlap ratio between internet gun people and borderline-Asperger’s “You’re trolling me, right? No, really this is a troll.”-reaction generators is nearly 1.

So the sum total of all the hoopla for this year’s titanic victory? “LEAVE US THE FUCK OUT OF YOUR GODDAMN CRUSADES, WE MAKE COFFEE.“*

Yeah, we knocked that one out of the fuckin’ park.

*Paraphrased.