Beyond Problematic: Dr’s lying to patients in Kansas

I don’t have any special expertise in politics and even less in medical ethics, but thankfully some issues don’t require it.

“Arizona and Kansas are considering bills that would ban lawsuits in cases where doctors fail to warn their patients about birth defects… the Kansas provision, part of a sweeping, 69-page anti-abortion bill, would allow physicians to lie to women who might otherwise terminate their pregnancies.” Full article here.

They are attempting to make it consequence-free (read: legal) for doctors to lie to their patients about their health without oversight or fear of consequence.

This law is beyond problematic for many reasons (it decimates the patient-client relationship in ways that fall along gender lines; in practice it will have class implications; even people who are extremely anti-choice probably don’t want there doctors to deceive them), but here is one of the less intuitive ones:

It literally prioritizes the fetus over the baby. Many anti-abortion efforts have this effect, but here it is particularly stark. Imagine a fetus that will be born with a defect that will only allow it live outside the womb for a brief period of time in extreme pain.

This provision is aimed at making it possible for that fetus to be born at all costs, irregardless of what that means for the actual baby (let alone the uterus-possessing person who will then be responsible for it).

Plus there is this: Cobbs v. Grant, “The patient, being unlearned in medical sciences, has an abject dependence upon and trust in his physician for the information upon which he relies during the decisional process, thus raising an obligation in the doctor that transcends arms-length transactions.”

Courts, gender issues and legislators aside here is an article that thinks more deeply about the issue of lying to patients from a medical perceptive: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2673833/

Twitter Thoughts

I was considering changing my status message in my chat client to “My heart is in the highlands”.

Most of the people who would see it would ignore it. Some of my friends would either look it up, or know instantly that it is an allusion to a sprawling song epic by Bob Dylan.

But the selfish, grasping part of me thought “I like my old status message – I am creating story-telling arc through my messages and the old one has not been up long enough yet. How sad it will all just disappear. How can I share this arc with the world?”

Twitter.

Being a good tweeter is a marketing act. That does not invalidate it. It simply is a selection of all the possible things one might do – and choosing the ones that fit into the norm and goals of that medium.

If you care deeply about me already, then you may find the allusion to the song interesting.

If you don’t, the inevitable onslaught of nonsense from my default take on twitter would be a cacophony of noise and song lyrics.

All social interactions are presentations of self, and my preferred mode of self presentation is through narratives that allow me to pretend that I’m not talking about myself.

So what to do with twitter. Be smart? Pretend like only real life friends are reading it? Use it as a promotional vehicle for my brand?

Time will tell.

Insanity is smashing up against my soul
You can say I was on anything but a roll
If I had a conscience, well, I just might blow my top
What would I do with it anyway
Maybe take it to the pawn shop 

Highlands by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

 

 

The Power is Yours For the Taking

Greetings Stumblers,

A Purple GoatA purple goat

You hold the power in your hands. You can change the course of a life.  Lives. If you walk away, nothing happens. But if you click the thumbs up button… If you share this link…

then others will see it.

And if they do the same. My friends, you might start a movement.

That is, until you crash my servers, because I use cut-rate hosting.

That’s not the end. It’s the beginning. It will force others to act. I will need to decide how dedicated I am to this.

Until I realize it’s not a decision. You will inspire me. How can I, or anyone stand in your way?

I know some of you are thinking: “Well this is kinda fun, and I liked the goat picture. But someone else will surely hit the ‘like’ button.” Someone else will make it happen.

But there is nobody else except for you.

That’s it. All society is, is a collection of you’s.  When we band together  social structures are formed but without your active participation it all falls apart.

Some of us live in an attention based economy and you are the taste-makers if you choose to stand up and claim your right.

And if you don’t feel like making some random blog a temporary blip on the internet famous scale, consider joining EFF. Or something else all together.

Insightful Commentary

So far I’ve managed to moderate all the comments to my blog posts without resorting to a Captcha service. This gives me access to the full range of spam bots.

Given that my posts so far consist almost entirely of my rants and almost no valuable information they look particularly out of place. For instance:

“Thank you, I have just been searching for info about this topic for ages and yours is the greatest I have discovered so far. But, what about the bottom line? Are you sure about the source?”

I can even see how that might work in a different context.

Below are a few more of my favorites:

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Disclaimers; Non-Canonical Editions and Drafts

Disclaimer: I’m cheating, or at least playing a different game.

I am using distribution channels (Kindle, Nook, Diesel etc…) to push out something that is not quite what people expect from them.*

When I give my book away in the gift economy feel some guilt because I worry that I might be undermining others. Not just those who charge money, but also those who give away their creations as part of a larger plan.

I wrote some words because it brought me happiness to do so. Avoiding Space Madness was the result of those efforts.

I truly believe that grammar is the etiquette of the written word, and poor grammar is the written equivalent of showing up for a formal dinner party dressed like Radagast the Brown. You look incompetent and nobody knows what your doing. More importantly you make things awkward for everyone else (especially those who want to like you).

So before putting it into the world, I edited it to the best of my ability (to my dismay, I am not a very good copyeditor).

There is no marketing plan around giving away the book. I am not engaging in the same dynamics as most other authors.

I am giving away the book to stop myself from continuing to edit it with diminishing returns and diminishing joy. This enables me to have time to write more and bring myself joy.

It is my hope that it brings entertainment to others. It is amazing to think that other people have read my words.

*To highlight this, the book is labeled thusly:

“non-canonical edition disclaimer:

This is a draft. This is only a draft. If this were a real book, all of the sentences would have both subjects and verbs.

If I ever have a publisher or access to a copyeditor, I will publish a canonical edition. Until then, I wrote something approximating a book and put it out for the world to take as much pleasure in it as the world would.

Then I wrote this disclaimer to answer some questions I received about what my intentions were.

I hope it helps.

Et tu Amazon?: Meet the new boss

I am contractually obligated to have an opinion on the amazon controversies (here and here), so I thought awhile and got one.

My first instinct is to side with the small startup ebookshops (yay Diesel) and local businesses.

But why I wondered? I want to say that this is about power, about Amazon leveraging it size, distribution chain, and capital reserves to unfairly hurt its competition. And certainly that’s true. That is what this is about.

But that dynamic is also standard operating procedure. It’s why Amazons items are routinely cheap; it’s why they operate at as close to a loss in the short term as they can.

So what makes this a bridge too far?

Well, I don’t know that it is. I think some of the fuss is just old anger at leftover at the above battles.

But if it is too far, here is my stab at why:

1. It’s rubbing the losers nose in it.

By way of analogy: It’s one thing for the tall handsome football star to be elected class president. Sure he had some advantages handed to him, but he also worked hard at football, and he is basically a nice guy.

In this scenario Amazon went from just winning the election against the bookish policy wonk it ran against, to taunting the loser afterwards.

Amazon said in effect: We aren’t content with the hidden ways we have advantages over you, we want to flaunt it too. Then it drove away splashing sales tax and overhead costs at the nerd’s shoes.

2. The whole thing makes explicit the advantages Amazon has long enjoyed.

This bothers me. I want to think of the online retailers I shop at as wonderful and unproblematic. This makes it harder to do so.

3. It’s unsustainable. I’m often willing to accept that sometimes Starbucks going to come in and destroy the local coffee shop. After all I like my Frappuccino’s a certain way.

But the kinds of promotions listed above are clearly aimed at the competition and will not survive them. It’s not sustainable savings. The logical endgame is a monopoly where the discounts all go away once they are done using your local Target as showcase.

You could make the case that the same dynamic is true of big boxes stores in general, but again it’s largely hidden (see #1).

4. I had at least one more point in mind when I started this, but I can’t recall it anymore. Sometimes I think this economic stuff is complicated.

Does my free novel devalue entertainment? OR Why do I hurt the ones I love?

Note: This post was originally conceived of as a forum topic here.

Exhibit A: I believe that creative/intellectual endeavors frequently bring value into the world, even when they are digital objects.

Exhibit B: I have decided the best thing (for me) to do with my novel is to give it away.

Providing my novel for free meets a variety of my goals (I am not convinced that it alone maximizes my readership, but that’s a topic for another day).

But doing so puts me in a precarious position vis a vis exhibit A.

In theory, some readers will hopefully enjoy the book and think that it was of value to them. It will be value they did not pay for, which could contribute to the general devaluing of electronic entertainment.

Once people are used to getting something for free, it loses value. Similar to the race to the bottom (read 99 cents) in the iTunes store, where many people no longer even consider purchasing a 5-dollar game, I wonder and worry if giving away my book does not help train people to think they should be able to get e-books for free.

I finesse the problem slightly by mentioning gift economy a few times, encouraging people to share the book with friends and so on. But even that has problems, because it can lead a fan to assume that I am simply operating within a successful business model that they simply do not understand.

That model does not exist. For me at least.

That’s ok for me (except inasmuch as it means people don’t bother to try the book because of perceived value problems) but I wonder if it wouldn’t have been the moral thing to do to charge something as show of solidarity to my fellow authors.

All of this is probably taking the impact of a single book by an unknown author too seriously, but the larger question seems worth considering.

Thoughts?

Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney died a few months ago. Today I came across the column of his that made me fall in love with him. I loved that created a solid, entertaining column about his love of wood. I came to his work with irony in mind. I wanted his job. To simply absorb life’s details and report them without pretension.

In retrospect that column was not his best work perhaps. For his best you really need to grab a copy of one of his books. Even then what he was after was something that doesn’t link well. It was not flashy or attention grabbing.

But in his own way, like Roger Ebert and Miss Manners he was so good for so long that he came to define a genre, and the quality of his work hovered on being taken for granted. The joking was usually in good fun, but if you look his work with fresh eyes it holds up on its own.

 

Life – Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Media Images and so on

Eventually this post will resolve into a minor point of media criticism. But it starts with…

I just finished “reading” the Keith Richards “autobiography” Life.

Whew, that was a lot of hyperlinks.  The word reading is in quotations because I listened to the audiobook rather than using a print copy (and the link goes to Stephan King’s thoughts on the practice).

Autobiography is in quotes because the book’s creation process strains the word “autobiography” without quite breaking it.

Overall the book was well-written enough to offer some insight into Keith Richards, the human being, despite the fact that it never quite escapes being based on interviews with someone who has spent years cultivating a very limiting media image (and potentially a limiting self-image).

For instance, the book manages to capture the contradictions and insanity of the junkie logic Keith still uses to defend his past addictions even as it also includes his protestations that heron is bad.

How much you will enjoy these ramblings may depend on your tolerance for an insightful portrait of a rock and roll star who defines a certain kind of “cool”.

Or more to the point of this post, the book conveys some of the depth and breadth of the complicated relationship Keith has with Mick Jagger (his co-song writer in the band the Rolling Stones), without actually spending that much time on it. It captures the sense of two men who have the capacity to create something greater than themselves even as they are weighed down by years of history and very petty infighting.

Certainly Keith comes out looking better than Mick in his telling, but again, the book is good enough that a careful reader will notice the broad outline of why Mick may not be the only villain in their story.

This doesn’t answer the question of why you should care about their petty infighting. But it does offer some insight into to how small it must be to have to be Keith Richards all the time.

The most limiting factor of the book is that it’s written by someone who knows in his media-savy bones that of all the nuanced, spiteful, loving, and childish things he says about about his relationship with Mick, the headlines will boil it down to a particularly juvenile penis joke.

If not that, then something like that was always going to be the cage. And it was one he played into. Maybe he did that to himself, and maybe it’s not a problem for him, but the willingness of the world around him to reduce and celebrate that kind of nonsense probably didn’t help to broaden anyone’s horizons.

I wrote the rest of this to give me an excuse to actively avoiding perpetuating the myth that the worst thing he says about Mick is that joke. Because the media seems to think it is, and this does a disservice to everyone involved. The book portrays the man as something much worse, and more nuanced, even within its severe limitations.

The book is a glimpse into the mind of someone who knows they live in in a cage made of gold and beauty and myth. But can also make music like this.

The Value of Publishing

“Anybody who likes writing a book is an idiot. Because it’s impossible, it’s like having a homework assignment every stinking day until it’s done. And by the time you get it in, it’s done and you’re sitting there reading it, and you realize the 12,000 things you didn’t do… And when you’re done, people tell you “Well, gee, I’m not interested.”

– Lewis Black

Everything I write is a reflection of me (yes – even a genre fantasy novel). The relationship may not be intuitive or straightforward, and it may not be the relationship you assume, but it exists.

Every author in some way portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will.
– Goethe

Towards the end of Avoiding Space Madness, Darwin starts ranting about how hard it is to find a truly comfortable chair. This is a minor scene, but it does a few things. It illuminates Darwin’s temperament and history; it fills in some details about the world he inhabits, and it was fun to write. It’s a good solid piece of writing.

I wrote the first draft of it over four years ago, and I am no longer same author now that I was then. I would not disavow it, it is a scene that I fully stand behind, but my mind now understands that interaction in subtly different ways.

The last time I edited Avoiding Space Madness, I was tempted to cut the scene out. Not because there is anything wrong with it, but it’s no longer how I would solve the problems it solves. Alone that is an edit, but the ranting about chairs scene does not exist in isolation. Every part of the book affects everything else and I could not simply delete it without doing damage to the rest of the book. The problem is not the scene. The chair rant fits perfectly fine into the book I wrote.

The problem is that I probably would not write the same kind of chair rant anymore (instead I might write a sophisticated diatribe about lawn art).

Art is never finished, only abandoned.
-Leonardo da Vinci

To truly get at the heart of the changes I’ve undergone as a writer large parts of the book would need to be gutted and re-written. Which would be worthwhile if it would produce a better novel, but it wouldn’t. It would simply produce a different novel. And that novel is the one I am now working on.

At the same time I want to honor the book I wrote. Trying to work on the sequel with an unpublished manuscript in the same series in the drawer was apparently more trouble than it takes to just put it out into the world. So I did.

Part of the story is that I worked on and off on a sequel for a few years. But progress slowed and then stalled.  It didn’t help that every year or so I took a couple of months to go back and revise Avoiding Space Madness.

What it really needed more than anything I could provide, was a copy editor. Since I could not give it that, I kept flailing away at it with the talents I have, rather than the talents it needed. But when book 2 fizzled under the weight of my excitement for what I wanted to do in book 3 I knew I had to change something. Writing for me is a slow process, made slower by the fact that I actually enjoy my day job. It also requires a certain sustained passion for the story I want to tell. I need to care enough about what I am creating to write the boring scenes, to walk away from my partner and write for an afternoon. One day I had to admit to myself that I had been living with my ideas for book 2 for too long, and it had proven fatal. Time to move on.

Time to throw the dead weight overboard.

Putting any work out to the world provides a snapshot, a definitive moment captured. It is the final step in the authorial process.

More importantly, I was shocked to discover that nobody had registered Fantasyofanovelidea.com and had to capitalize on my good fortune.

My first priority for any profits I receive from my donation button is to purchase fantasyofanovel.com and fantasyofanovelideal.com as redirect sites.