What am I doing here?

Huh, wha-? I have a blog? It’s Thursday? I’m supposed to write something?

Sorry. It’s one of those sleep-deficit mornings. Thursday is Kate’s jazz-band rehearsal, which means I have to get up extra-early, and today it was extra-extra-early, because my neighbor, an extra-extra-extra-early riser, was up shoveling snow under our bedroom window. I could tell the depth of the snow (a dusting) from the sound of the shovel: scraaaaape…scraaaaape…scraaaaaaape. Very thin snow can turn to glare ice, so I don’t blame him for keeping things tidy, but it was just, criminy, 6 a.m. So I resolved to skip the morning coffee and go back to bed after dropping her off.

It was the right idea. You know you’re sleep-deprived when your emergency-deficit catchup sleep contains vivid dreams. It was my house dream. I always dream about houses when I dream at all, and it’s always the same one — I’ve recently taken possession of a new house, one that looks ordinary until I find a door within that leads to many more rooms I haven’t seen before, whole wings of neglected fabulousness, with grand dusty furniture and sometimes even an indoor pool. I think I have an idea what this dream is about, but if any of you armchair Freudians would like to weigh in, feel free. Let’s stipulate up front: The house is me. Most things in dreams are reflections of our selves, I’m convinced. We are born, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out why we exist. Apparently I’m missing my calling as a home-rehabber. Or maybe I contain an indoor pool.

Since we’re late today, and scattered, let’s just make it a mixed grill today, shall we?

Because I expressed disappointment with the pilot, and because I think good work should be recognized, I have to take back my earlier comments about “Detroit 1-8-7.” From a rocky start, the show has markedly improved. No, it’s not “The Wire.” It’s not “Southland.” It owes too large a stylistic debt to “NYPD Blue.” but it has shown real improvement over the course of its first season, and the last couple of episodes have been a pleasure to watch; the writers, the crew, even the actors getting a real sense of the city. I’d like to see what they can do with a second season. Of course, having said all that, I have now bestowed Nance’s Kiss of Death upon it, and whaddaya know, prospects for a second season are growing dim. Nevertheless, Michael Hodges’ story about the locations manager’s thoughts on the city’s look are worthwhile if you’ve ever been here. (Although I don’t know how he managed to, in a citation of city-based TV shows, throw “LA Law” in there — one shot almost entirely on stages in the showbiz capital of the world — and leave out the David Simon portfolio. But I’m not his editor.)

“Detroit 1-8-7” has also been a boon to the city’s creative community; it seems a week doesn’t go by that someone I know or sorta-know doesn’t have a speaking part, and that’s cool. Maybe, if the show is on the bubble for renewal, the drastically lower costs of shooting here, thanks to the tax credits, will play the deciding role. Here’s hoping.

This was, of course, one of the big stories on the health-care news farm last night — the vaccine-autism link, long discredited on a scientific basis, is now revealed as something worse than just bad scholarship, but actual fraud. I know some of you are alternative-health care enthusiasts, and I don’t want to cast aspersions on whatever works for you. (Yes, even coffee enemas.) But this movement away from one of the modern age’s great medical triumphs has been especially pernicious, with its victims the people who most need our care and protection — children. The fact that twits like Jenny McCarthy, and her great enabler, Oprah Winfrey, are still walking around raising questions and offering alternative theories just galls me.

A couple years back, “This American Life” did a show with the theme “ruining it for the rest of us,” and featured a story on a measles outbreak in some flannel-and-Birkenstocks outpost in the Pacific northwest. One of the interviews was with a mother whose baby had gotten measles just before he was supposed to get the vaccine, thanks to vaccine protestors in his daycare facility. There were complications, and while the child lived, he ran a sky-high temperature for days, and didn’t really shake it for weeks. It was a terrifying story for anyone who’s nursed a sick child, and the la-de-da attitude of ignoramuses like McCarthy and her confederates is simply appalling. Someone needs to be punished for this. Start with Andrew Wakefield, the original perp, but don’t forget the blonde, too.

And with that, I think I’m finally up and at ’em. Good rest of the day to all.

Posted at 11:14 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

78 responses to “What am I doing here?”

  1. Colleen said on January 6, 2011 at 11:22 am

    OH. MY. I have the SAME dream on a fairly regular basis! So I’m interested in what all the dream analysis people have to say about it. It sure beats the radio anxiety and final exam/never attended class dreams on the enjoyment scale.

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  2. alex said on January 6, 2011 at 11:23 am

    As an analysand who’s had the exact same dream a bazillion times (different house, though, I’m sure), I’d say your instincts are dead-on, Nance. It’s about exploration of the self.

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  3. Mark P. said on January 6, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Hey, I want to go with you the next time you visit your dream house.
    (On edit) I have never had that kind of dream. Do I know myself, or do I not want to know myself? I’m going for Door Number 1. But I’ll let any of you choose the door if I accompany you into your dream house.

    I tried to watch Detroit 1-8-7 but the jerky, fakey, handheld camera crap puts me right off. I hate it. It’s intended to give a sense of immediacy, as if it were being filmed as a documentary, but documentaries do not have multiple cameras and multiple takes of the same scenes. All the camera work does it call attention to itself in a “look at me I’m a film school graduate” kind of way. For me, it detracts seriously from the kind of immersion into the world of the story that good storytelling requires. It keeps reminding me that there are some guys with cameras standing around and those people we’re watching are actors. Just put the damned camera on a stable stand and let the story tell itself. Dammit.

    (On second edit) The idea of ill-informed, under-educated (at least in the right area) people like McCarthy and OW “raising questions and offering alternative theories” galls me even more. I’m a scientist, but I know better than to spout idiot theories in fields I know nothing about. These people are not scientists, and yet they feel qualified to criticize the work of specialists who have spent a significant portion of their lives educating and training themselves and doing real, actual research. It’s the same thing you see in global warming deniers. A bunch of halfwits start pointing out things (like the effects of clouds on radiative transfer) that the scientists already know about and take into account. All the information is there if the idiots could ever muster the strength of will and character to actually read the literature.

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  4. LAMary said on January 6, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I have dreams about being mugged and I wake up shouting. Wonder what that means?

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  5. John said on January 6, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I have a similar house dream, but my door opens to an area of the house that has a horrendous roof with water dripping and ruined insulation everywhere. Please e-mail me your indoor pool neuron paths.

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  6. coozledad said on January 6, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I’ve got that dream too, only I don’t have a swimming pool. We buy this old house without knowing they built it around an old Howard Johnson’s. I forget this until I wander into the restaurant section and start to play with the cookware, the deep fryer, and the range. There’s a hallway in bright blue carpet(that shit’s gonna have to come up) that leads to the hotel, which is still carrying on active business, and I can’t confirm with any of the staff if they actually understand the whole thing is mine. Mine! dammit.
    I try and avoid going upstairs in one section of the house, because it gets a little closer and there’s obviously some bad juju, and not just because the furniture sucks.

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  7. Sue said on January 6, 2011 at 11:42 am

    My dreams are so bizarre I don’t try to analyze them. The extra rooms house dream I have is very similar, except the area I find is what you describe but also haunted.
    Yeah, work on that one for awhile.

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  8. Peter said on January 6, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Oh brother. I’ve had those dreams as well; my secret house is usually found going up some abandoned stairs, has a lot of dust, and some huge rooms full of boxes, and I always think of how I didn’t notice this when I bought the place.

    Re: the vaccine study – You know, this country is just chock full of whack jobs, and we’re cranking out more by the minute. Lewis Black will never run out of material.

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  9. alex said on January 6, 2011 at 11:48 am

    In a recent dream, I was the back seat passenger in a driverless car. It was actually quite an enjoyable ride until the car began accelerating and heading into a tunnel toward a giant “road closed” barricade across both lanes. In my dream, I lept into the front seat to take control of the car.

    I awakened with a bloody knee, having flung myself over the foot of the bed.

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  10. nancy said on January 6, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Your sexual orientation makes the obvious joke too…obvious, Alex. Reject the dark tunnel!

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  11. adrianne said on January 6, 2011 at 11:51 am

    As a mom of an Aspie kid, that story about the scientific fraud involved in the autism-vaccine link just kills me. I’ve had to explaint to well-meaning idiots over the years that autism is something that kids are born with – it’s a brain/developmental disorder that has a genetic basis. Not something we moms have control over. So we didn’t “cause” it by having our kids vaccinated and protected against childhood diseases (and, by the way, protecting your kids, too).

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  12. Suzanne said on January 6, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I have had the house dream over and over, too. Mine is almost always a house that we used to inhabit and during a visit, I discover that there were vast numbers of rooms that we never used because we didn’t know they were there. Not sure the deep meaning of that.

    I used to work at a seminary full of well educated men who routinely feared vaccines for their children (and public schools, and just about everything else in the world, especially Democrats). The very real possibility of their kid suffering from whooping cough or measles, I guess, seemed more sensible than the very tiny possibility of the unproven link between the vaccine and autism.

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  13. Connie said on January 6, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    I too have the house dream. I recently read “Life would be perfect if I lived in that house” and she too had the dream. Until I read her comments and the stuff about her house dream research, I thought I was alone.

    My favorite dream house turned out to have a canoe rental business operating out of the other side with a long porch on a river.

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  14. prospero said on January 6, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    The whole vaccine/autism business grew out of the money-grubbing practice of big Pharma to refuse to provide vaccines in single or double doses. As a result, the multi-packs were fortified with a preservative (thimerosal, necessary for extended efficacy, but, unfortunately, containing a significant mercury load. Clearly, mercury ingestion is bad for any living organism. Since, when the brouhaha started, everyone was being vaccinated but the children of Jehovahs and Christ Scientists, how this all ended up connected to autism specifically is not clear to me. Why not other afflictions?
    Boby Kennedy Jr. got involved, lending credibility to the anti-thimerosal crowd:


    Here’s one debunker (who seems to have a problem first of all with Bobby’s being a pretty good writer):


    I’ve read this stuff and can’t find any real evidence of links between thimerosal and autism, ADD or any other childhood condition. Kennedy points up genuinely furtive and questionable behavior by the Pharma companies (who obviously had not considered possible ill-effects of using the preservative, other than those affecting profit margins) and their government angels, and makes a smoke and fire connection. And of course, the specter of Hg is enough to cause people to swear off tuna salad and subject themselves to cleansing regimens and high colonics. It certainly is enough to make this whole thing believable on its surface.

    One way or another, the problem has never been with the vaccines themselves, but with the manner of their preparation for the inflated American market to maximize profits. Like the 7-11 telling you you have to buy a six even if you only want one brewski. This is clearly a case where intervention by government regulation would have been a good thing. Pharma would have jacked prices for single or double doses (arriving at something like 5x the cost in the rest of the developed world, undoubtedly, and further driving the deficit).

    One way or another, this is a case in which the “necessary and proper” clause requires government action. If thimerosal had been banned, this whole fracas would have been obviated at the pass. Every unvaccinated kid presents a risk to God knows how many other children, and corporatist politicians have shirked responsibility in the face of corporate greed. But you know, the midterms were a clear referendum indicating that Americans want their elected officials to kowtow to, and government regulators to “serve”, not American citizens, but the industries from whose avaricious predation they are supposed to protect us.

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  15. ROgirl said on January 6, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    The anti-vaccine folks would rather leave the fate of their children to “God’s will” instead of letting science eliminate their suffering or death.

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  16. Hattie said on January 6, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    None of my grandkids are autistic. All of them have had all their shots. Somehow, the experience of almost dying at age five of the measles makes me feel very grateful that my children and grandchildren have not had to suffer from “normal” childhood diseases.

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  17. beb said on January 6, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    The article on “Detroit1-8-7” was a nice read.

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  18. kayak woman said on January 6, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I never have the house dream but I’m wondering if my recurring shoreline dreams are a variant. The L. Superior beach that my family has owned since the 1920s morphs in all kinds of different ways with extra islands or rivers or bays showing up.

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  19. Sue said on January 6, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Off topic, but I see that Gerry Rafferty has died. I’m not a musician and I’m not good at getting music, but I know there are musicians here and others with good understanding of music. Just wanted to say that in this girl’s totally uninformed opinion, “Baker Street” was one of the most beautifully arranged songs I’ve ever heard. Great lyrics, too.

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  20. prospero said on January 6, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I’ve had versions of the house dream. In one that recurs there is a pool table with a game in progress without players or cues, but moving balls and audible clicks. Outside the back door is a clearly recognizable childhood backyard in Birmingham, with a pool staked out (this is accurate memory) which never became a pool but served well as a rink. I’ve had this dream probably 100 times. In another, it’s my gramma’s house in Malone, NY, and I’m looking for a specific room I know is there but I can’t locate.

    I believe architectural dreams are related to John Crowley’s idea of the Art of Memory (in Little, Big). I guess this is not his invention after all:


    I think that’s entirely consistent with a lot of scientific thinking about the uses of dreams: mnemonics, organizing acquired knowledge.

    I’ve never had a nightmare, that I remembered, anyway. I think waking memory is necessary to qualify. Scary dreams, sure. But always aware I’m dreaming. I find dreaming extremely enjoyable in general, and have recurring dreams with variable, cohesive plots and resolutions. Contining to try to get things right? Of course, I’ve had the skipped class dream. Did it enough in real life it’s ingrained, I suppose. I always talk my way out of it somehow, as in reality, or I wake with a wonderful feeling of well-being knowing I never have to have anything to do with school again. Strange, because I loved school.

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  21. Mark P. said on January 6, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Prospero, there may or may not be reason to ban thimerosal, but that has nothing to do with the fraudulent claims made by a charlatan that vaccines cause autism. Those claims never had any validity and have been demonstrated multiple times to have been wrong. Wakefield, the discredited, former British physician (his license to practice medicine in Britain was revoked), was shown to have been incompetent at best some time ago, and is now shown to have perpetrated a fraud on the public, a fraud which caused preventable diseases which had been under control in Britain to reappear in high enough numbers that measles was declared to be endemic in the British Isles a few years ago. I am no defender of big pharma, but Wakefield and his ignorant, gullible followers were the biggest cause of the decline in vaccination of children.

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  22. LAMary said on January 6, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    I have to wonder how much time and money was spent trying to prove the vaccination/autism connection rather than truly searching for causes or therapies for autism.

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  23. beb said on January 6, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Yahoo announces that Elizabeth Edwards’ will has been read and there is nary a mention of John. Harsh.

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  24. Kirk said on January 6, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    You’d think Mrs. Edwards could at least have included a line that said
    ” . . . and not a damned thing for my bastard husband.”

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  25. Julie Robinson said on January 6, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Yes, Beb, I just heard that on the radio. Apparently she wrote him out in the last few days of her life. I have no pity for the man.

    In my book, science is a gift of God and I’m stupefied by those who would not give their children the best possible chance of a healthy life. There was an article in Time that had an interview with an ex-no-vaccine-Mom, whose child has almost died from one of the preventable childhood diseases. She now campaigns for vaccination.

    I almost never remember having dreams, but when they are bad I use a technique my hubby has perfected: refuse to wake up and continue the dream while changing the plot line to a better outcome.

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  26. coozledad said on January 6, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Sue: I always thought this was a sweet little pop tune. Nearly the same harmonic environment as Eleanor Rigby:

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  27. Snarkworth said on January 6, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Julie, sounds like lucid dreaming.


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  28. prospero said on January 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Gerry Rafferty. Terrific songwriter. Baker Street is wonderfully tuneful, great lyrics a shining light in the murky, polluted sea of 70s disco. (inimitable sax by Raphael Ravenscroft.)

    My favorite Gerry Rafferty song, for sure, is the greatest Dylan homage ever, Stuck in the Middle, Stealers Wheel. And a funny video in the pre-MTV years. I know people that insisted years later that it was Bob Dylan.

    Night Owl is also very good, when GR was teamed up with Billy Connoly.

    Rafferty’s parents were a Scots mom and an unreconstructed Irish separatist dad, which fact I’ll use as an excuse to borrow a clever joke from a gereat Irish fiddle player whose name is on the tip of my tongue:

    Me mum was Irish, me da was Scots. So I know I want a drink, I just don’t know if I want to pay for it.

    Sorry about all the links, Nancy.

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  29. moe99 said on January 6, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I dream of houses frequently, but they are all different kinds in different neighborhoods, but they are always my house, the one I own and live in. It’s very perplexing when I wake up because I have to add a new type/style of house to the collection.

    As far as the autism/thimerosol fraud, that doctor is still proclaiming his innocence and CNN gave him a platform to do so without pointing out the lack of basis for his claims. I find that to be on a par with most of their shoddy reporting these days.

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  30. Dexter said on January 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Dream fodder from Iggy

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  31. prospero said on January 6, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I think Detroit 1-8-7 is far better than most of the dross on TV. I like Southland a lot, but mostly for characterization. I don’t get all the “it’s so edgy” business, compared to a network masterpiece like Homicide, which was also brilliantly city-centric. Is Southland better than Boomtown was? More “gritty”? Nope. I never thought Michael Imperioli was all that great on L&O or Sopranos, but he’s damn good here. And Lt. Fancy as a plain old Italian-spouting detective is sublime, particularly in dialogue with his materialistic partner. I particularly love any shot of the Ambassador Bridge, which I’ve crossed many times in both directions, travelling to and from school.

    Increasingly I find myself spending time with shows I know are too intelligent, and way too subtle, to last: Rubicon, Terriers, Life (a season ago) in particular. I am so pissed off that Terriers won’t continue, I may skip Justified and Sons from here on out, and encourage others to do the same. Paudeen assholes at FX. Caprica is better than BG was, the acting far superior. Gone. So, the maxim is, make it good and smart, but don’t hurt feelings of people too dumb to get good and smart.

    And people still consider Horatio “Shades of Justice” Cain appointment TV.

    Mark, I certainly said as much about the vaccine contoversy. Fact is, if Pharma wasn’t pushing multi-pack vaccine buys to enhance immediate profits, there would never have been any preservatives in the vaccines in the first place. That’s pretty much incontrovertible. No thimerosal, no mercury, no problem. The architects of the marketing scheme most certainly must have been aware of potential problems with Hg, and the FDA should have had the influence to force testing. They sure had the responsibility. Mercury is unquestionably inimical to the health of living organisms. Pharma wasn’t trying to limit costs. They were manufacturing sales beyond actual demand by packaging strategies.

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  32. mark said on January 6, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I realize that trashing conservatives and business is at all times appropriate here, but the autism-vaccine fraud was primarily motivated by lawyers/litigation, not Bible thumpers and straight ticket-Republicans. http://blogs.forbes.com/danielfisher/2011/01/05/thimerosol-autism-link-was-a-legal-theory-in-search-of-science/?boxes=businesschannelsections Blaming “Big Pharma” for not having the foresight to remove the harmless substance that would be fraudulently identified as harmful seems a bit of a stretch.

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  33. coozledad said on January 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    I love how Ron Fournier’s crew is giving the latest iteration of Republican cosplay a big sloppy hummer.
    What’s next? When the senate convenes will we get Miss Lindsey’s Blanche Dubois? Or will he stretch and give us his best George C. Scott from Patton?
    I want videotape of Boehner trying to work his way through the soliloquy from Carousel.
    “I never knew how to get moneeee
    But I’ll try, by God, I’ll tryyyy.
    I’ll go out and make it
    Or steal it or take it
    Or Dieeeeeeeeee!”
    (weeps copiously)

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  34. Dorothy said on January 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    If I dream about a house, it’s the one I grew up in from birth to age 11. It was a 3 bedroom house and there were 12 of us living in it. On my first day of school (6th grade) we left the old house, went to school, and walked home to the new house when school was out. I thought that was about the coolest thing EVER. I always interpreted that to mean the house had great significance for me. In what way I have no idea, but even though it was crowded and I had to share a room with my five sisters, it was still home. Having my aunt and uncle and 6 cousins next door certainly made it more fun, too.

    Hubby had his surgery yesterday and he’s doing pretty well. I think everyone knows that when you have that kind of surgery, they want the plumbing to be back in working order before you are allowed to go home. Fingers crossed that it kicks into gear tonight or tomorrow. His surgeon came in to visit yesterday afternoon and he was in a chair instead of the bed, and she deemed him a “rock star” due to how good he looked. There’ll be no living with him now!!

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  35. Deborah said on January 6, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    I’m a big dreamer, I have lots of them and I remember many of them. This can be a problem if it’s a bad dream I’d like to get out of my head. My house dreams have to do with closure, I think. I dream about all of the houses I’ve lived in through my life, or my grandfather’s house which no longer exists. When I left my marriage I left a house and I often dream about that, but I’m with my current husband in it usually and there’s often no longer a stair to the second floor and we have to gerry-rig a rickety ladder to get up there, and of course I hate ladders, and have a pretty severe fear of heights in real life. Another variation on the house dream is that I’m living in the house as a squatter and I’m afraid I will be found out by the new owner. Sometimes I unexplainably think of myself as an imposter in real life, not really qualified to do what I do even though I’ve been doing it for 30 years, so I think that dream is me trying to work through those feelings. I have recurring tornado dreams too, they usually occur before I’m starting an unknown venture, like a new job, or moving to a different city.

    Nancy, I once had a dream that you and your husband came to visit us. It was weird because I could clearly remember your voice when I awoke, and I’ve never heard you speak before, of course I have no idea what you really sound like and I’ve only seen you from the photos you post here. I thought it was odd that my virtual life had entered my dream life.

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  36. mark said on January 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm


    Companies do lots of things to enhance profits. If what they were doing was both lawful and harmless, I think it is a stretch to blame them, completely or partially, for the vaccine-autism debacle.

    Coke came out with little 6 oz cans, undoubtedly because they think they will make money by doing so. Much cheaper for the consumer to buy the 2 liter, but the little cans are convenient and cute as hell. If some scientist gins up a theory that the little cans are harmful, and aggressive lawyers sue like crazy, knocking all little cans (of anything) off the market before the fraud is discovered, I’ll be hard pressed to blame the situation on Coke’s greed.

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  37. Mark P. said on January 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    mark: Don’t blame the lawyers. If you want to be rude to lawyers (which I don’t – you never know when you’re going to need one), then compare them to vultures. Vultures don’t kill the animal, they just eat it after it’s already dead. It was intentional fraudsters and the whackjobs and the ignorant who stirred up the thimerosal-autism scare. Lawyers came afterwards.

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  38. Sue said on January 6, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    mark: aluminum cans cause alzheimers. Keep up, man.

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  39. Heather said on January 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    If you all can stand another house dream, for years I had one in which I was exploring a giant mansion, usually five or six floors. As I went higher, the surroundings would get spookier and spookier, and I was terrified of running into ghosts or other scary things. I heard somewhere that the house is your mind, so I wasn’t pleased that there were apparently aspects of my psyche that scared the hell out of me. More recently, the dream has changed so that the upper floors are not as scary, which makes me think all the therapy I’ve done is actually working.

    I’ve also had the dream where you discover new rooms in your house, and my reaction is always, “Well, how could I forget about these?” as if they’ve always been there. I love those.

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  40. prospero said on January 6, 2011 at 3:29 pm


    How should it be legal to market a product for human consumption that contains mercury? How is it not moronic from a marketing and PR standpoint? The multi-pack-only supply of vaccines required introduction of a substance containing something more neurotoxic than arsenic. Nobody foresaw a problem with that? I don’t know this for certain, but were pharmaceutical companies creating faux demand by deviating from a tried and true distribution model? This is not a matter of cost/unit. It’s forcing care providers to buy supplies they really don’t need, which requires a preservative. Is there no preservative that does not contain neurotoxic substances? Were patents running out on vaccines? My point is that industry cannot be relied on to assess anything but bottom line, including inevitable settlements. written off as cost of doing bidness, human costs be damned.

    Oh, thimerosal is a licensed product of Eli Lilly containing enough mercury to cause dangerous exposure during recommended vaccination schedules. I’d hope the FDA would prevent Coke from adding thimerosal to my cherry cokes, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Using this potential chemical weapon in childrens’ vaccines was brutishly stupid to begin with. Just a look at a chemical structural diagram with Hg in it should have prevented it from ever happening. My point is that proper regulation and oversight is a Constitutional responsibility of the federal government. We’re on the verge of letting bought and sold legislators trample on safeguards like this. If I were an Eli Lilly stockholder, my question would be, “How in hell could you incompetent aholes do something so bone stupid and irresponsible.”

    Mixing a neurotoxin into vaccines and keeping it more or less hush-hush is a civil tort. Now that this FUBAR is fait accompli, expecting people to trust to the good faith of the pharmaceutical industry is asinine. Nobody’s proved a causal link to developmental disorders. Nobody’s disproved it. Mercury’s a heavy metal that accumulates in the human organism. It’s reasonable on it’s face to think it might cause problems. Thimerosal was a component of a plan to sell more vaccine faster than could possibly be required. Maybe Lilly just wanted to get rid of the stuff at a profit. Who knows? Shouldn’t the FDA have been on top of this in the first place?

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  41. Julie Robinson said on January 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Dorothy, glad to hear your good news. Let’s hope Mike is soon normal at both ends!

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  42. mark said on January 6, 2011 at 4:15 pm


    Maybe we are just talking apples and oranges. I don’t hold the companies responsible for the autism-vaccine claims and the vaccines don’t cause autism. Whether the thimerosal causes other problems is something I don’t know and I don’t have a basis to dispute your concerns.

    I did a fair amount of toxic exposure litigation at one time and I only know a couple of things pertinent to your points: 1) mercury is nasty stuff; and 2) with even the nasty stuff, dose or amount of exposure is a necessary part of calculating risk. This isn’t to dispute your point, as the exposure may be dangerously high- I don’t know. But Benzene is pretty nasty stuff too, and it spews in tiny quantities from every auto exhaust.

    And yes, the government needs to regulate these things and do that job well. There are, however, few things more heavily regulated currently than drugs/vaccines. If the regulation is failing, it’s not for lack of government authority and control.

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  43. LAMary said on January 6, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I think there probably are some chemicals in things we consume which we’ll someday realize are toxic. Remember when everything from toothpaste to soap had hexachlorophene?
    MMR vaccines weren’t in that category, but just now at lunch one of the co-workers still was insisting vaccines should be avoided. She generally ignores instructions from her own doctor or her dog’s vet and uses holistic rememdies. She and the dog drink distilled water to which they add Pedialyte to provide the missing minerals.

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  44. MaryRC said on January 6, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I had the house dream for many years and I miss it. I really got a kick out of it. It always felt like fun, exploring my new domain. No indoor pools or anything grand, though — just empty rooms or else shabby old-fashioned furniture left behind by the last owners. Who knows what that means!

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  45. Carolyn said on January 6, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Last night, in my dream, was racing to file a story on deadline. Need to get out more.

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  46. alex said on January 6, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Not to put a damper on fragrances, but I stopped using them after a New Yorker article several years ago that profiled a cancer researcher who said they’re loaded with carcinogens and we have to be crazy to apply them anywhere near our lymph nodes, which is where fragrances usually go. He had a list of about five hundred carcinogenic substances that he feels should be banned; these are commonly used in many household and personal hygiene products.

    I’ve seen people pitching fits about mercury in dental fillings and thimerosal in contact lens solution, but I’ve been told by physicians of my acquaintance that the levels are so insignificant as to be harmless. Hope they’re right, as the FDA has allowed all sorts of dangerous drugs on the market that have been pulled in the last few years when problems became too manifest to ignore.

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  47. brian stouder said on January 6, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Dorothy – excellent news about your Rock Star! (I suppose that makes you one of those beautiful and carefree groupies, eh?)

    Today, I went to McDonald’s, and spent $4.32 thusly: $1 drink, $1 chicken sandwich, $1 cheeseburger, $1 for three cookies (I have a sweet tooth; so shoot me!). The young lady behind the counter took my money, placed my cup on a tray along with the receipt, and seemed to be holding the tray close to her. I began to reach for my cup, and she pulled the tray slightly away, causing me to look up; whereupon she explained that I couldn’t have it!

    She explained that when they let people have their drink cups, the soda dispenser gets crowded, and then there’s mass confusion when people come back for their food.

    This gave me pause. (I think I dropped my chin, a bit)

    For a second there, I considered arguing my case; but then, the whole thing seemed like a scene from The Office, and it made me chuckle! As I backpedaled away fom the counter (the better to announce to her that her verdict had been accepted) I protested to her that I was really thirsty – which illicted a slight chin-drop from her, and then a polite (if somehat cold) chuckle (as if to say “Oh, uh huh”).

    But forget about that.

    As I sat there in McD’s, reading the Journal Gazette, I came across this editorial –


    which includes a segment – including a photograph – about a paroled rapist named Brian Mast.

    And I mention this because on the way home from work, I heard THIS story on the news:


    It seems that the rapist went down to the Fort Wayne Newspapers building today (probably right when I was reading about him), and wanted to tell “his side” of his sorry story to a Journal Gazette reporter. The folks down there quite understandably ended up having him arrested and taken away.

    By way of saying, if my biggest work-a-day worry is whether or not they’ll give me my drink cup at the burger joint, as opposed to whether a mentally unbalanced convict (for example) will come through the door at any moment and want a word with me (as you newsies may have to deal with), then life ain’t so bad.

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  48. Scout said on January 6, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    I’m yet another loyal reader who has had the house dream. I too thought I was the only one. (I’m unique! Just like everybody else!) Mine always start with rooms with lots of windows and window seats looking out into a wooded area but as I explore the further I get into the house the more the rooms are closed and windowless. When I toured Taliesen in Spring Green I realized the design and decor of it came very close to the first rooms of my recurring dream. Now when I wake up after having it, I have this whole FLW connection sense.

    The vaccine issue recently came up among a group of people I was doing some volunteer work with, one of whom is a chiropractor/alternative therapy doc. She was talking about the mercury in the vaccines and telling everyone to warn their children about having their kids vaccinated. I stayed quiet, but it was interesting how many people were buying in.

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  49. Jeff Borden said on January 6, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    First, they came for Mark Twain. You’ve all probably heard about efforts to scrub the “N” word from Twain’s classics and replace it with “slave.”

    As the Constitution was being read in the House of Representatives, the sections referring to slaves equaling “3/5ths” of a human being were omitted from the readings. Clearly, a trend is emerging here.

    I fail to see how rewriting one of the greatest American novels ever written or self-editing the Constitution by self-serving politicians serves any purpose other than to pretend we aren’t really a nation that for many, many years allowed humans to be be bought and sold under the rules of our laws.

    History is often unsightly, but isn’t it healthier to acknowledge our darker chapters along with our triumphs?

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  50. Linda said on January 6, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    The truth is, the language of Mark Twain in his book reflects a particular attitude, time and place. Scrubbing away racism in it is like scrubbing the bawdiness out of Shakespeare (even though we find it more appealing) as happened in the 19th century. Things should look like they are, or were.

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  51. Little Bird said on January 6, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Why bother trying to pretend we (as a country) weren’t racist and cruel way back then, when we aren’t a whole hell of a lot better now? Who is next on the list Alice Walker? Zora Neal Hurston?

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  52. alex said on January 6, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Re: Twain, I saw a quote yesterday that put it quite well. To paraphrase:

    Taking the N-word out of Huckleberry Finn is like taking the Holocaust out of Anne Frank’s diaries or the adultery out of The Scarlet Letter.

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  53. coozledad said on January 6, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Or the peephole scene out of “Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure.”

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  54. coozledad said on January 6, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Sorry. Not the strongest analogy.

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  55. Jolene said on January 6, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Somewhere on the web, someone said that, aside from the idea of changing Twain being stupid, the particular change was stupid too–that as bad is being called a nigger is, being a slave is much worse. People call each other bad names all the time and dislike each other based on racial or ethnic characteristics, but none of that amounts to being held as property and treated like livestock.

    I’m curious, though, whether any of you have had kids who dealt w/ this issue in school. If so, how did the teachers handle it? It’s one thing to be a white kid learning about how the world used to be, but it might be quite another to be a black kid having to discuss this topic.

    The school I went to in Our Nation’s Heartland was, at the time, entirely white and mostly still is. Whatever we learned about slavery was just something in books that happened a long time ago and, probably, made us feel good that we were Northerners. Of course, the civil rights movement came to the fore later, but that, too, was something that was happening far away, and I was still pretty young. And, having not raised kids of my own, I haven’t had the experience of having to talk with or teach young kids about race.

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  56. coozledad said on January 6, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    But definitely the strongest part of that book.

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  57. nancy said on January 6, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    My 9th-grade English teacher explained that, for people of that time and that region, “nigger” was a slurred (as in lazy-tongue, not evil) version of “negro.” I’m not sure he was correct, but it certainly was a factor. And there was no more discussion after that.

    However, big factor: All-white school.

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  58. coozledad said on January 6, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    I’d be willing to bet it was spoken with the hard G and the suffix “-uh” in the Mississippi basin, just as it is now in Mississippi, South Carolina, and Bahama, NC. “Negro” was almost always slightly corrupted to “Nigra”, in the tradition of regional passive-aggressiveness.

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  59. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 6, 2011 at 9:21 pm


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  60. prospero said on January 6, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Huckleberry Finn is as close to brilliance as you get. It is the Great American Novel So what seems to be the racist problem? You want to bowdletixe you are No zhit you ar3E N ISIOT, a moron. PWOPLW TLJ BOUT THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL, No joke, , That ws WAS PUT AWAY. it;s Huck Huck Finn. If I say it ian;nt, I will insist I aill hold hold my aide, As I aN HOLD MY AHIT, I QILL HOLSD NO MATTER WHAT, FRODO RULES. RE YOU MORON? ARE YOU N IDIOT?

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  61. basset said on January 6, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Peaked a little early tonight, did we, Prospero?

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  62. Crazycatlady said on January 7, 2011 at 12:11 am

    The Vaccine Conspiracy is kind of scary. I didn’t believe it caused Autism and had my kid vaccinated. But when I researched Gardasil, I had issues with it. The shot is so painful it has caused girls to faint and even become ill. I have decided not to get it for her for now. I know a lot of religious nuts have protested it as medicine for girls who are sexually active- as if they DESERVE cervical cancer! But my issue is purely safety oriented.

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  63. Rana said on January 7, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Jeff, though I think cutting that passage from the reading is a problem, the “3/5ths of a human being” thing is a misinterpretation of the clause.

    The full phrase is “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons.” The important context is that it was a calculation intended for the allocation of taxation and representation, not a statement about the relative humanity of slaves.

    Legally, slaves were not 3/5ths of a person. They were not legal persons, period. Without that clause, slave populations would not have counted at all, any more than dog or cattle populations count in our allocation of House representation today. Indeed, if anything, the common misreading of that clause is generous to their actual legal status.

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  64. Jolene said on January 7, 2011 at 12:42 am

    Also, Rana, isn’t it the case that it was the Northern states that insisted on the 3/5 clause because they did not want the Southern states to be over-represented in the House? That is, rather than slaveowners not wanting to count slaves as full persons, wasn’t it the non-slaveowning states that wanted this rule? When the constitution was written, the difference in population between the industrial North and the agricultural South would not have been as great as it was by the Civil War.

    Somebody tell me if I’ve got this all wrong.

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  65. Dexter said on January 7, 2011 at 12:43 am

    I read both Tom as well as Huck last summer. Again…at different stages of the reader’s life the emphasis seems focussed differently. The aspect of Huck’s transgression of helping Jim, Huck’s writhing angst, was lost on me when I read this is 1958. Now it is obviously the focal point of the book. Huck helped Jim but he knew it was a major violation of the law… he did it anyway.
    This new edition is going to be aimed at a certain age group, and most editions will still be published unabridged and will not contain these major edits.
    This wave of censorship and re-direction surfaces every few years. It won’t kill Huck and Tom .
    In discussing the matter last year, I discovered hardly anybody has read Tom and / or Huck since they were forced to in school.
    They are short reads, and they are worth the effort.

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  66. Jolene said on January 7, 2011 at 12:48 am

    Ta-Nehisi Coates on bowdlerizing Twain. He is offended as a writer.

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  67. moe99 said on January 7, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Jolene, you are right, but what I did not know is that untaxed native Americans are still not counted as part of the population following the 14th amendment.


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  68. coozledad said on January 7, 2011 at 1:53 am

    Coates is dead on re Twain, but he’s too generous with Lee. Lee wasn’t a good general. He had access to a lean, competent army that functioned in spite of an absence of supply lines, and he misused them. Fucker couldn’t read a map or draw a simple battle plan. One of the huge tragedies of that war is the starry devotion of the proles who gave it up for big cotton. Lee didn’t give a shit about those kids.
    Even the history the South chose not to suppress is marked by his coldness toward the undercaste, and that’s what it comes down to.
    If you hate your troops, you gonna lose.

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  69. prospero said on January 7, 2011 at 4:35 am

    Cooze, n don;t know dick about civil war strategy, but you seem to make a compelling argument. Grant was a butcher, so was :ee, These fucks were ego-driven and they were butchers, They were voth playing to media,

    Huck told the truth, Bowdwelizw Bd tou hve the idiot right, There is no excuse.
    It;w the great Amerian novel, as is.

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  70. prospero said on January 7, 2011 at 4:46 am

    What is wronfgwith people? Bowserlize Huck Finn? Are you a vubch of morobs? Seriously, when we have racist assholes like Haley Barbour singing praises about Citizens Councils, Racism is alive and well, WhT IS wrong with these sodiopathw? Why do they dominate the Republican party?

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  71. Linda said on January 7, 2011 at 6:29 am

    “One of the huge tragedies of that war is the starry devotion of the proles who gave it up for big cotton.”

    Does history ever stop repeating itself?

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  72. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 7, 2011 at 7:54 am

    Lack of compassion, absence of empathy — that’s the heart of social sin in any era.

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  73. Mark P. said on January 7, 2011 at 8:13 am

    I’m no expert on the Civil War, but I think it was probably the first semi-modern war, and as such its armies were able to fight efficiently. The railroads were part of the reason for that. The result was that a war of attrition became very effective in attritting. A lot of Southerners are still mad at Sherman, but although he was a flawed man, he did what needed to be done – bring the war home. Not having war brought home is what has allowed so many Americans to support unjustified wars like Vietnam and Iraq.

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  74. brian stouder said on January 7, 2011 at 8:35 am

    One thing about the 3/5’s Clause that I had not thought about, until a scholar on one of those C-SPAN panels pointed it out, was that in the post- (Civil) War era, the south got a political RAISE; the freed people then counted for 5/5’s, even as the institutions and societies there steadfastly continued to disenfranchise the people. The overt terrorism of the KKK, and the institutional and social racism of the whole society (including the “mindless glorification” of the terrible war) looms ever larger, when viewed from that perspective.

    A great book, which touches on the 3/5’s Clause – and which (if I recall correctly) credits it with Thomas Jefferson’s election to the presidency, is The Rise of American Democracy by Sean Wilentz. A book on my “to read” pile from Christmas is Madison and Jefferson by Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg (thanks, again, to C-SPAN). The hope is that it will take a nuts and bolts look at how things (including the 3/5’s Clause) got put together; no doubt I’ll let you know!

    edit – I agree w/Dexter; re-reading Twain was a joy; ditto Jack London

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  75. beb said on January 7, 2011 at 8:39 am

    A friend of ours is an author, wrote a very good young adult novel called Buddha Boy. My wife suggested it be added to the reading list of our daughter’s school. (This was a couple years ago.) The teacher was enthusiastic until she discovered that it had the F-bomb in it. Just one but apparently that’s all it takes. As if kids don’t know what WTF spells, don’t go around calling each other M-Fers and other things I don’t care to type out.

    Since the British apparently used nigger to refer to anyone darker than they were, whether from Africa, India or the South Seas I’m pretty sure it was a lazy speech slurring of Negro. And if we’re going to expurge nigger from literature (small-l) what are we going to do with all those Tarzan books where characters call the natives niggers? Do we get to protest the use of gyp (as in gypsy) as a verb, or do we welsh (from the welsh) on our promise to be nondiscriminatory?

    Boingboing posted an ad from the early of canned soda pop recently in which the Coca Cola company declared that the 12 oz can contained TWO servings! Supersize ny ass! But the recent introduction of 6 oz cans I think was for school lunches where a whole 12 oz might be too much for 1st or 2nd graders.

    The thing about mercury is that there is just enough science in it to be plausible. My wife and I both remember as kids playing with whole globules of mercury, rolling them around in our hands and everything. Nobody thought anything about it. Today a broken thermometer is a haz-mat clean-up. People aren’t just paranoid about the little bit of mercury used to preserve medicine but also the little bit of mercury in compact fluorescent lights. So it’s not surprising that people would believe that the mercury in vaccines caused autism because it was entirely reasonable from general principles, and not just because one study had found a correlation. There was another study that found that incidents of autism could be correlated to distance from coal-burning power plants. There’s a trace amount of mercury in coal, which is vaporized during combustion. I don’t know if the report was followed up or not. But it does suggest that the rise of autism can be linked to processes of industrialization.

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  76. Mark P. said on January 7, 2011 at 9:01 am

    I did a little research on “nigger” and, as you might expect, it derives from the Spanish for black, and ultimately from the Latin. It is not pronounced so differently from the Spanish. I suspect that originally it carried little or none of its current baggage, other than the assumed superiority of the lighter-skinned speakers. In the earlier part of the 20th Century in the South it was what I call a casual slur, one that simply expressed what the speaker assumed to be the natural order of things (white is superior to black). That assumption was always obviously wrong, even to whites, but it was never, ever allowed to be acknowledged (see To Kill a Mockingbird). I think it really began to be the intentional slur of today (considered by some to be the worst slur in the American English language) during the Civil Rights era.

    I am ambivalent about removing it from Twain. On the one hand, I think the work must speak for itself. On the other, given the current feeling about the word, its use should probably require some enlightened classroom discussion at least in certain age groups. If I were teaching it to the right ages and were forced to use the version in question, I would take the opportunity to discuss the removal of that word from the work, and what it tells us about the time in which the work was written and what it tells us about our own times.

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  77. Mark P. said on January 7, 2011 at 9:16 am

    beb, I am afraid you are falling into a trap. There are many possible reasons for the “rise of autism” if, indeed there is a rise. If might just be that it is recognized and diagnosed more often now than in the past. Studies like the one you mention (citation, please?) are always epidemiological, which means that they can almost never identify causes but only correlations. If you take a large enough pile of data and start looking for correlations, you will find them. They usually mean nothing, because they are essentially identifying the same trait. One made-up example: I would bet that there is a correlation between incidence of mental illness and family size. If such a correlation exists, it may or may not indicate that mental illness has a genetic component. It might simply indicate that if you choose larger groups of people, you are more likely to find an instance of mental illness. But it almost certainly does not mean that having larger families causes mental illness (some may choose to differ). If there is, indeed, a correlation between distance from a power plant and the occurrence of autism, it might well correlate with many other things, like the location of population centers with respect to power plants. Any such results require multiple, independent studies before any conclusions can be drawn. Consider saccharine. As a result of some early studies, it was declared to be carcinogenic. As a result of additional studies, it was removed from that classification.

    But I suspect a problem with such a finding. For one thing, the closer you get to a power plant in a local sense, the less likely you are to be exposed to any emissions from the plant. Those tall stacks are meant to inject emissions high into the atmosphere, where they can be diluted before they reach the ground. The cleanest air (with respect to emissions) around a power plant is at the base of the stack.

    None of which means that I like coal-fired power plant emissions. Removal of mercury is a big deal right now in the power generation business.

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  78. DEdelstein said on January 7, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Careful–Andrew Wakefield is litigious. Which might, come to think of it, be the kindest thing I can say about him.

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