My Life, Part 2, The Trailer Park

By Dr Zak –, CC BY-SA 3.0, — Representative, not the actual trailer park

My first strong memory after my mother and father separated was living with another man I called “Dad.” I don’t have continuous memory of that period so I don’t really understand the transition.  I was…four maybe.  Later my mother said that she didn’t “count” him as a husband because he had still been married to a previous wife and thus his marriage to her was null.  Today, given other things I have learned over the years (not related to this, but to other things) I don’t know how much of that to believe.  In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter.

I remember we lived in a trailer park.  Now, these days that comes with all kinds of connotations, but I remember it as a happy time.  I had toys.  I had friends to play with.  Apparently the social anxiety and awkwardness that would plague me in my later life had not cropped up at that time.  There were places to explore.  We had fun.

While we were there I got my first bike.  It was a little thing, appropriate to a four or five year old, with training wheels.  I rode it all over the park.  Well, sort of.  You see, the roads were rife with speed bumps.  I’d ride up to one, hit the speed bump, and over the bike would go.  Over the speed bump, yes, but also over onto its side.  However, with the dauntless fortitude of an explorer barely out of toddlerhood I’d get up, pick up the bike, and set off again.

I remember winter there.  I have vague memories of Christmas decorations but the clear memory was of building a snowman.  My mother asked if we wanted it to be a snowman or a snow woman and I said snow woman.  So instead of being just three giant snowballs piled one atop another, it was actually a crude snow sculpture, with breasts.  I remember being disappointed about it growing increasingly distorted over the next few days until, with the next warm snap, it became an unrecognizeable lump of snow before finally melting away.

We didn’t stay here long, nor did my mother stay with this man for long.  I was no older than five when my mother was single again and we moved into the next place.  I’ll get into that next time.

Censoring Anti-Vaxers.

Over on the Book of Faces, a friend shared a link about FaceBook removing “anti-vax” content.


As I’ve said before, my stance is fairly straightforward in several ways, but there’s two things going on here. First: vaccinate your kids people. The “scare stories” are just that, stories. The “awareness” they’re talking about is empty headed foolishness by people so deep into Dunning Kreuger to make it negative knowledge–more misinformation than information. The whole “anti-vax” (or as they’re trying to rebrand now “vaccine awareness”) started because a fraud, the never to be sufficiently despised Wakefield, lied about it in an attempt to sell his new vaccine formulation.

The “injuries” caused by vaccines–which don’t even have to be proven to any scientific standard but just have to be enough of a “just-so” story to sound plausible to someone not knowledgeable in the field, are fewer in an average year, than the deaths from a single “harmless childhood disease. The benefits vastly overwhelm any possible risks. Yes, there are certain individuals whose personal or family history might indicate that certain specific vaccines might be better off delayed or even skipped entirely (thinking of a particular friend and her daughter, mother had an allergic reaction to a particular vaccine and so wanted to separate that vaccine out from others to give her daughter separately to be ready to handle a possible reaction) but that’s a reason why everyone else should be vaccinated so they don’t get exposed to the disease in the first place.

That said, as folk who read this blog should know, I am close to a free speech absolutist When a forum like Facebook, with an overwhelming share of the market, starts censoring based on content, that’s concerning to me. It’s concerning when they censor people, groups, and topics with which I agree. It’s concerning when they censor people, groups, and subjects with which I disagree.

My position on speech with which I disagree is more speech expressing that disagreement and arguing why the disagreement is there. I can unbend a little on the absolutism when you get to the point of deliberate slander and libel (defamatory, untrue, and known to the person or persons spreading it that it’s untrue or spread with a reckless disregard for the truth), and direct incitement to violence. But not beyond that.

There’s actually a straightforward “fix” that uses existing law–the difference between a public carrier and a publisher. The one does not control content and the other that does. If FaceBook wants to be a publisher, picking and choosing the content that is allowed, as opposed to a communications medium where they don’t control content, then they should be held accountable as a publisher for that content. Which means FaceBook should be sueable for for any actionable content that they allow–after all, if they’re censoring content then that content is there because they want it there.

In any case, vaccinate your kids.

Guess What? Ice Follies

Started this week sore, but it’s a good sore.

Saturday afternoon I spent a good 45 minutes–solid–ice skating. It was too crowded to do much technique work (I really need relatively clear ice to do backward skating or work on the circles). Still, lot’s of one-foot glide work and conditioning. That evening in the nighttime session I got another 35 minutes in (cut short because my daughter got her fingers caught in the door–for which we saw the doctor Monday morning: soft tissue damage and maybe some spraining but not too bad). Still, 80 minutes of skating in one day is pretty good.

Sunday, according to the schedule I had there was no class so I decided to take advantage of it to get more conditioning in during the public skate. Usually I keep the public skate practice shorter on class days giving me time to rest up before class. As I get tired, my balance starts getting flaky.

The rink wasn’t so crowded and I got in a little bit of practice work and some work on edges on the circle. 40 minutes or so into the public skate session, Athena skated out to me to tell me there was class after all. (She’d run into one of the instructors.)


So I stopped to rest some before class. They have two sessions of Learn to Skate, each 30 minutes long.  During those sessions they have a lane at one end of the rink marked off so folk on the other session can get in a little practice.

During the first class session (which is mostly the kids’ classes) I took about ten minutes to do some additional backward work in that “practice lane” mostly working on backward one foot glides and backward stroking. Then there was the class itself, another half hour, most of which we spent working inside and outside edges on the circles and then some backward pumps on the circle.

Finally, a bit of work with two-foot turns–this done standing trying to find the “sweet spot” of the rocker to minimize the drag in the turn.

I’ve mostly finished Basic 3, and a good chunk of Basic 4. (The “Learn to Skate USA” program has six levels of basic “learn to skate” progression).

Put together, over the weekend, I ended up with a total of more than 2 and a half hours of actual ice time. So, yeah, I was a little sore the next day.

And that’s a good thing.

Ice Skating, Romantic Goth Attire, and Jordan Peterson’s First Rule

Although I will be talking about ice skating a bit here, it’s not an “Ice Follies” post.  Still, hang on.

Friends of mine recommended I read Jordan Peterson’s “Twelve Rules for Life:  An Antitdote to Chaos.” I didn’t read it but I did get it on audio book and listen to it so…close enough.

While I don’t agree with everything he has to say (I don’t agree with everything anyone has to say, including me–after all, I have been known to change my mind, occasionally while I’m in the middle of saying something) I do think that what he has to say is definitely worth thinking about.

His first rule was to “stand up straight with your shoulders back.” And in the course of the chapter covering that rule he described it in ways where he meant it both literally and metaphorically.

When I was growing up, I was a “late bloomer” physically.  My voice changed late.  I was always the “runt” in school, well behind the other boys in phys ed class (also well behind most of the girls, which for a pre-teen or teen boy can be truly mortifying).  Add in that I was into “geeky” stuff long before “geek” became socially acceptable and, well, I was bullied through grade school and most of high school.

As a result, I had serious self-confidence problems.  And, while I’ve mostly learned to deal with those issues, they can still raise their ugly head from time to time.

A lot of that showed up in my posture, the way I walked, the way I stood, the way I carried myself in general.  Oh, not all of my peculiarities of carriage stemmed from that self-confidence thing.  I walked nearly everywhere and I fell into walking with a slight forward lean.  Apparently that got me an extra inch or so in my stride length which adds up over three or four miles.  The forward lean was really pronounced and just habitual.  While marching in formation in basic I heard the person behind me note to the person next to him that my shoulders were right smack in line with the others in my rank, but my feet were back there getting in his way.  I tried to “straighten up” but I was so used to that lean that it felt straight.

Also, I went everywhere head down.  No great surprise there.  Whenever possible, I had my head buried in a book.  At least that I could consciously correct when doing things like marching in the military, but the natural tendency was, head down at a convenient angle to read, even if I didn’t have a book at the moment.

So even without the self confidence issues, I tended to a posture that exuded insecurity.  Add in that I really did have insecurity issues and, well, it rolled off me like fog off dry ice.

Fast forward many years.  I discover my goth side and start dressing accordingly.  Mostly more “goth lite” at first–black T-shirts and jeans, hair dyed and grown long, and some nice boots that I wore when I wanted to dress up (which I can’t wear now because my feet have changed shape, darn it). Interestingly enough, as I mentioned before in my “Dark Armor” post, this matching of my outward appearance to my internal “true self” started making me feel much more comfortable both with myself when with the world around me.  Oh, I still had all my various issues with social awkwardness, and what not, but they caused less stress.  If nothing else, I was much more comfortable in my single state than I ever had been being married (which, perhaps, says something which we need not get into here).

However, run things forward a few more years and I take up ice skating.  Now, one of the things about ice skating is my “natural” (or rather learned from long habit) posture is a good way to end up falling…a lot.  As the skaters point out in the video up top you need to have a straight line from your head down through shoulders and hips, to ankles, and finally the blades.  That forward lean with head down?  Disaster.  So, to break myself of the habit in question I started doing specific exercises.  Partial squats in front of a wall so that if any part of my torso starts to stick back (which simple balance will require if any part bends forward) I’ll know and can correct.  It worked.  It worked well.  It worked well enough that my instructors have complemented me on my form. (Usually right before I do something stupid and fall on my face–well, that involves Peterson’s 11th rule, which we won’t talk about today.)

A little farther forward and I start shifting from the rather generic “Goth lite” to a more “Romantic Goth” which I do believe is yet a better fit for me.  And while out and about, again dressed in my “Dark Armor” I find myself walking with a straightness that younger me would never have dreamed of.  And it draws positive attention.  I’ve had people, complete strangers, come up to me and comment on how sharp I look.  And I’m sure the appearance of confidence that comes from my new posture and general carriage plays a significant part in that.  And this actually helps feed into the feelings of confidence.

So, stand up straight with your shoulders back.  Perhaps you don’t feel confident right now, but if you act like you do, and present a posture and carriage that indicates confidence, you might be surprised and find your emotions changing to match.  At the very least, you’ll be more likely to get positive reactions from the people around you, particularly if the “confidence” is paired with courtesy and consideration.

It can be a devastating combination.

Santa Clause is Real

When I explained “Santa” to my daughter (as she was getting too old to buy into the guy in the red suit who lived at the North Pole) I explained that Santa was real, but not a guy in a red suit.  “Santa” is that part of the human heart that gives for no other reason than to bring someone else joy.  By giving her presents as “Santa” her enjoyment of them was the sole reward we would get.  Not even “thanks” as a reward.  She didn’t know they were from us so she couldn’t thank us for them.  Her enjoyment of the presents was the sole reward.  I went to considerable effort to make sure she couldn’t trace them back to me–using different wrapping paper kept stashed at work so it would be different from our own and having a co-worker sign the tags on the presents so she wouldn’t recognize my handwriting.

Worked too, she came in to get presents once and pointed at some of them saying “those must be from Santa!” because of the different paper.

So, yes, Santa is real.  He’s the enjoyment I got from seeing my daughter’s pleasure and excitement on seeing and opening presents that she did not know were from me.

There’s a meme on the Book of Faces on that theme that’s been going around but, really, I used this explanation years before I ever encountered it.

And for those who still do not believe in Santa Clause, may I present the United States Marine Corps Reserve:

“Ah-hah! Statistics”


In his book “The Vision of the Anointed” Thomas Sowell wrote about what he called “Ah-hah! Statistics.” This is where one starts from a proposition, then search through mounds of data until one finds something, anything, that seems to support that proposition.  One then holds up that set of figures and goes “Ah hah!”

It has been said that one can prove anything if one is allowed to make up ones data.  This should be obviously true with very little thought indeed.  However, it has also been said that one can prove almost anything if one is allowed to simply exclude data that does not fit.  Indeed, if the situation is at all complicated, one is almost certain to find something that fits a given proposition, any given proposition.  You can always, if you wish, pare away the data that doesn’t fit until you have something that does.  Then, it becomes a matter of saying “Ah-hah!” and you’ve “proven” your case.  Except you haven’t.

Take, for instance, proponents of gun control.  They point to other countries with strict gun control that have strict gun control and that also have low violent crime (or even more restricted, low “gun crime”) and go “Ah-hah!  Gun control saves lives!” They ignore the many countries with strict gun regulation that, nevertheless, have very high violent crime rates.  Ninety-three countries, for instance, have higher intentional homicide rates than the US.  The one with the highest rate.  Wikipedia (I know, I know, but it’s just a publicly available source for a first cut) provides listings of countries both by homicide rate and by civilian gun ownership. Take the ranking from both those listings, exclude only the ones where a country or region isn’t included in both lists, making as complete a list as is readily available, and plotting the ranking of gun ownership against the ranking of homicide rates, and one would expect–at least so the anti-gun folk would tell us–that the fewer guns in civilian hands the lower the homicide rate.  However:


You can “prove” nearly anything if you exclude data that don’t fit.  Oh, they’ll claim reasons why this data that doesn’t fit isn’t “relevant.” They’ll say they’re limiting to the “developed world” (except some of those nations over on the right hand side are quite well developed), but that’s only another way of saying that other factors are more important than gun ownership in driving homicide rate.  If that were not the case, there would be no need to exclude nations because they’re not “developed.” And if there are differences between those on the right hand side from those on the left causing them to have much higher homicide rates, then how can they say that there are no other differences between the US and those on the left likewise causing the US to have higher homicide rates than those other nations.

This is a simple illustration.  I could have gone further and used actual homicide rates and actual estimated gun ownership rates but the basic principle would not have changed.  The point remains that “statistics” can be used to paint a false picture depending on what is included, and equally if not more important, what is left out.

The whole point of statistics is to take large amounts of data and render it into an understandable form.  The “exceptions” the data that don’t fit, they are an important part of the overall picture.  They represent how much data can vary or possible places to look for experimental or data collection error.  Simply dismissing them because they don’t fit the theory is bad science and bad math.

But it does seem to be “good politics” in many people’s view.  At least, it’s a weapon they can use to hoodwink the unwary and push their own agenda ahead.

In the Spirit of the Season (an Annual Tradition)


An annual tradition:

If you’re an Atheist or Agnostic who doesn’t like “Merry Christmas.”
If you’re a Christian who doesn’t like “Happy Holidays.”
If you’re a Jew who doesn’t like “Blessed be.”
If you’re a Wiccan who doesn’t like “God Be with you.”
If you’re a Muslim who doesn’t like “Gud Yule” or “May Thor hold his hammer between you and harm.”

I have one thing to say to you: Grow. Up. Take these things in the spirit they are offered, one of well wishing, and leave it at that. And on that note, may I wish you a very merry Christmas and may Thor hold his hammer between you and harm.

Gud Yule, everyone.