Men need to

(ETA: I have no idea why the template formatting is so screwed up on this entry. Possibly because I had to re-edit the pictures and then re-upload. It’s making me crazy.)

I ran across a fabulous AdWeek story today, about the UN Women campaign using actual results from Google autocomplete searches — which are aggregated from actual Google searches done. 

Unwomen hed 2013

 So I of course said, “Huh. Well, maybe it’s just the same if you do the searches only with ‘men’ instead of ‘women’.” 

Or, not so much:





Yeah, yeah, I know: “Men use the interweebs more, and this is just what they search for.”

Good to know.



Visions of the future


You’ve probably heard about the remark presidential candidate Rick Santorum said recently about Barack Obama:

“President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.”

Let’s assume Mr. Santorum is quoting Mr. Obama correctly. Mr. Santorum himself has a bachelor’s, law degree, and MBA, for what it’s worth, so it’s safe to say that he doesn’t think a college education is snobbery. This quote tells us a lot about Santorum’s vision of the future.

With all the brouhaha of late over the factories in China building our electronic gadgets (almost all of our electronic gadgets, not just the one brand name that we hear over and over again), what seems to get lost a lot of the time is that while these factory jobs are mind-numbingly boring with long hours and living on in corporate dormitories, they are a huge step-up from second-rate factories (which aren’t getting the big inspections and Nightline specials), which are themselves a huge step-up from the backbreaking rural agricultural work that would be most of these workers fate without these factories. This isn’t to say I want to work in this factories or I want you to work in them; just that they are, in fact, relatively better than the alternative.

Thirty to forty years ago China was fighting for its right to live in the Middle Ages (no, thank you, Mao and the Gang of Four), and now it’s  pushing forward as fast as possible to live in the future. China doesn’t want to be the land of manufacturing, it wants to be the land of innovation.

The Chinese government’s latest five-year plan emphasizes the need for long-term investment in research and development, to shift China from being “factory to the world” to being an innovation-driven, knowledge and service economy. The Chinese understand that being an innovative brand-owner like Apple or Nike is much more profitable than being an original equipment manufacturer. They have Japanese and South Korean examples such as Sony and Samsung to follow. The five-year plan also calls for doubling the percentage of gross domestic product from creative industries. Young people born after the “opening” in 1989 are leading vibrant arts and fashion scenes in the major cities.

Their vision of the future is quite different than Santorum’s.


Here in the US, we have lots of types of jobs: we have agriculture (by and large this is all BigAg stuff now; family farmers are a convenient myth), unskilled labor (mostly going overseas), skilled labor, and what Richard Florida calls “the creative class.” The creative class are the people who companies fight over to hire and retain. They’re the innovators, the people who are not just cogs in the machine and who can’t just be replaced by a warm body.

The flight of the creative class

In Flight of the Creative Class, Florida analyzes why certain places have attracted more than their fair share of the creative class — and what other places have to do to get them (and keep them). He argues quite strenuously that the US, particularly post-9/11, is going out of its way to discourage innovators and creators from coming here.

You may have heard about two British travelers recently denied entry to the US after they tweeted about coming here to “destroy America.” If you have a choice of two relatively equal destinations, and one of them denies entry to people who have made jokes on Twitter, you might just decide to go to the other one.

If that happens too often, people who have a choice of places to go to stop coming to ours. In which case, we’re massively screwed, because a huge reason the US has continued to be so successful is because it has welcomed immigrants and innovation. It’s welcomed the strange and offbeat. These days, when other countries ratify gay marriage and our government refuses to recognize those marriages as legal, where do you think those married couples are going to go?

(The creative class, by and large, has learned to think around corners, because they put a and b together and get wxyz. If you belong to a minority outside the mainstream, like gays or Jews or ethnic minorities, you learn to think around corners a hell of a lot faster than people who live happily in the middle of the stream and think that’s the only way to be. Which is why it’s important for the creative class to know how we treat our minorities.)

Whos your city book cover

I like all of the stuff by Florida I’ve read, by the way, like Who’s Your City, which comes up with a reasonable explanation for why, in the age of the Internet, you still live in Silicon Valley if you want to do computers and you live in Milan if you want to do fashion and you live in New York City if you want to do finance.


InThe Great Reset, Florida compares the current depression to immense economic upheavals of the past — the Great Depression and the Long Depression of the 1800s — and asks if we can’t learn something from those difficult, society-changing experiences and apply it to what we’re going through right now. Each of these economic disasters led to a fundamental shift in how we worked and lived, and he is fairly certain we’re in for this now as well. If we can prepare, we’ll be that far ahead of the game.

The great reset book cover

When Kansas or Texas or (insert name of state here) seriously starts arguing about teaching creationism in schools, I joke that “there’s another state of kids who won’t be competing against my kids for spots in college!” Only it’s not a joke. We can either teach our kids to face the future with an ability to handle complex scientific thoughts, or we can stick our fingers in our ears and chant “La la la” a lot. Everyone who thinks the second one is a great vision of the future, please identify yourselves so we can make sure not to involve you in any of the grownup discussions.

When politicians talk, they are telling you about the future they think about. What kind of society they think we should aim for. What kind of people are going to meet the challenges of the post-2008 depression. The general theory behind getting a college education is that the person has learned enough about a variety of subjects — history, math, literature, science — that they can understand what’s going on around them. The object isn’t to burden students with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, even though that’s definitely one of the side effects. I agree wholeheartedly there isn’t anything you can learn in college that you can’t learn elsewhere. But one of the things college is supposed to do is expose you to people and ideas you might not otherwise run into in your own insular little world. So that you can learn to put two or three crazy, unrelated ideas together…and create a new innovation.

The future is hard and scary and unknown and nothing is a given. You can dig in and work, or you can give up and pretend it’s all going to work out if we just hunker down over here and don’t let scary foreigners in with their scary ideas.

When Rick Santorum refers to a dream of a well-educated populace as snobbery, it tells you something about what he sees.


That pain in my chest

Monday morning I was sitting in bed, reading the news on the iPad, when I felt a pain on my left side. Not a sharp pain. Much more like the pains I used to get when I was younger and my chest would constrict and I would have to take very deep breaths to expand the muscle.

I ran some errands and then I went to the gym to lift weights. My chest felt fine…except when I lay down to do the chest press. Mind you, actually doing the chest press felt fine — in fact, the pain went away when I did lifted the barbell. When I was just laying there, though, the pain intensified.


I made dinner (fish fillets, cheesy orzo, and salad). We watched Buffy. I went to bed. The pain was worse, but I figured a good night’s sleep would help.

At 3am, I woke up with some of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life, and I’ve had two babies. A couple of times I actually felt my heart beat arrhythmically (not the first time I’ve felt that — my heart can be a little weird), but combined with the pain it was terrifying. Getting out of the bed was excruciatingly painful. I wondered if I should drive myself to the ER. I decided that wondering if I should go to the ER without waking Darin meant I still thought I had a choice in the matter, so I dug through the medicine cabinet, found some five-year-old Vicodin, and went back to bed.

In the morning the doctor’s office told me to come in immediately. The doctor asked if I was having shortness of breath, and I said the problem I was having with breathing was that it hurt to expand my chest, not that my breathing was impeded in any way. Then she asked me if I’d been on a plane recently (“Um…early January?”) or if I’d had a cold recently (“Nope”). The nurse gave me an EKG. The doctor read it and said, “The good news is you haven’t had a heart attack. The bad news is your heart is really angry about something, so I’d like you to get a CT scan.” The nurse scheduled the scan for me at a local MRI/CT place.

On the form the doctor had written “Pulmonary embolism?” The question mark did not reduce the anxiety I was having.

The top of my list of errands was: go to AAA, tell them I’d bought a new car, ask what rates they were going to offer me. But I didn’t feel much in the mood. I sat in the AAA office and did searches on “embolisms.” After a few minutes I decided that my current insurance would cover the new car until I could work out the messy details and headed home, had some lunch, and waited for my appointment.

CT scans are slightly different than MRI machines — you’re not totally encased in a scary coffin (I’m not claustrophobic and the MRI machine scared the crap out of me), but you’re inserted in this giant tube that whirls around you. The technician puts a catheter in your arm to inject you with the fluid that shows up on the scan. You have to hold your breath. It’s a deeply unpleasant experience all around.

When I got on the table I told the tech I needed help lying down. He asked me when the last time I ate was, and I said, “About an hour ago.”

“You have to fast for this. We can reschedule.”

“Can you find out if that’s true?” I asked. “Because I really need this test done today.”

The doctor in charge said I could do the test, but I should have a basin nearby in case I tossed my cookies. Then the tech said I needed to raise my arms above my head. I couldn’t do it. Raising my left arm was incredibly painful; letting it drop by my head felt like someone was knifing me in the side. He tucked a pillow under the arm so it wouldn’t have to drop all the way back. We did the test and at the end the tech had to lift me off of the table. Had I really gone to the gym and done my full workout on Monday? I could barely move.

I called the doctor’s office an hour after the test. Then an hour and a half later. Still no word. The pain in my chest was much, much worse, possibly because of the whole left-arm-over-the-head thing. The nurse finally called me back at 4:30.

“The scan was clear,” she said. “We’ll phone in a prescription for Vicodin.”

“Could you ask the doctor to look at it again? Because I am having the worst pain of my entire life.”

She said she’d call me back.

She did and said the doctor was absolutely certain about the scan. Chances were very high I had a pleurisy (an inflammation of the lungs), the kind of thing you usually get when you have a cold.

This pain was much worse than I could remember having from a chest cold. “Is there anything else could it be?” I asked.

The nurse said if the pain continued I would have to come in again and run some more tests. Awesome.

I went to the pharmacy, where I got my five dollar bottle of Vicodin pills (which might have greater efficacy than the five-year-old kind). The pharmacist had to give me a consult, so she could explain how to use it and what to be cautious of. “Any questions?” she asked.

“Yes. Why is this drug considered ‘fun’? I’ve taken it before, I don’t get get why it’s fun.”

“Neither do I,” she said. “It just puts me to sleep.”

We got Chinese takeout last night and I took my drugs. Generally painkillers don’t work for me (which is why I never think to take them), but I could definitely feel the difference when I took the Vicodin. We watched Buffy and then the series premiere of Angel, and I remembered how much I didn’t like Angel as a character on Buffy, but loved him on his own show.

There’s a scene where Doyle explains why he’s there helping Angel, and his speech includes a recap of everything we know about Angel’s life.

“Why is Doyle telling Angel stuff he clearly already knows?” I asked the kids.

“Because viewers might not know about it,” Sophia said.

“That’s what I was going to say!” Simon said.

My kids are awesome.

After that I went to bed, which was difficult because moving too suddenly brought the pain back. I woke up in the middle of the night and took more Vicodin.

This morning the pain has lessened a great deal. If it had felt like this yesterday, I wouldn’t have called the doctor in such a panic. I’ve taken my Aleve (the Vicodin can wait until I’m sure I don’t need to operate a car). And I am really grateful I have access to such great medical care when I need it.

Not a few times yesterday I wondered what I would have done if I didn’t have insurance. Or if I’d been afraid of being fired because I was going to miss a day of work. Heck, lots of employed people are experiencing the joy of no health insurance. I’m guessing I would have put off a visit to the ER until I’d been sure I was dying. And if it had been a pulmonary embolism (which you need to deal with immediately), I probably wouldn’t have gotten that far.

Our society needs to figure out what our priorities are.