Computer Troubles

Since Monday I have been dealing with a failing computer.  It stopped charging and since then only charges when the cord is in a very specific position. There is obviously something wrong with the charging port. This is always the weak link on PC laptops. I don’t like MACs but their power cords are magnetic and make much more sense.

My computer is a Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus and it has had problems for a while.  When I have a browser open and have another window open as well like my email it can freeze when moving the cursor from one window to another. The only way to fix it is to reboot.  At other times Firefox will just freeze and go to a blue screen with a black box on the top.

When this first started happening, I reinstalled both Windows and Firefox. That didn’t help so I called Samsung because  I had owned it for less than a year. They wanted me to do a full recovery which I did. That also didn’t help.

Since the problem was intermittent I decided to ignore it. This spring it started getting worse and I called Square Trade since I had bought an extended warranty from them. They wanted me to send them the computer. I didn’t want to do that so I once again ignored the problem.

Now my power port is broken and I have to send it to Square Trade. I am reluctant to do this for two reasons. One I am afraid they will wipe out my data and I will have to reinstall all my programs and settings. The other reason is that it is hard to be without a computer for at least five days.

I don’t think I would buy a Samsung computer again. I also used to have a Samsung phone and that wasn’t a very good product either. I would like a laptop that will last at least three years and maybe four. If anyone has a suggestion please let me know.

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Alcohol Task Force Sub Group

On Wednesday, I attended the first meeting, via Zoom, of the Alcohol Task Force sub group on Public Health, Safety and Prevention. The chair, Lisa Wong, laid out the areas we will focus on in making our recommendations to the State Treasurer. They include education, data, college drinking, funding of prevention including an alcohol tax, advertising and the role of technology.

Much of the discussion focused on the role of education and the level of awareness of the general public about some of the harmful effects of alcohol.  The group includes people from the liquor industry as well as public health advocates. It will be interesting to see how the chair and the committee balance the economic imperative  of robust alcohol sales with the need to keep the public safe.

I will keep you posted about how the deliberations go.

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Not Remembering

I am sorry that I didn’t blog yesterday as scheduled. I was dealing with a family emergency in Virginia and just got home on Thursday. My father-in-law died there last Saturday at the age of 95.

Losing a parent is a very difficult thing to experience. When both are gone, you feel like an orphan, no matter how old you are.

My father died following heart surgery when he was 65.  I was 29. My mother developed Alzheimer’s when she was 68 and died ten years later.  When you mourn for your parents you are partly mourning for the lost opportunities and experiences. My father never saw my children which is one of my greatest regrets.

My mother having Alzheimer’s has left me with a fear that I will also get the disease. This is a poem I wrote about that fear several years ago:

Not Remembering

Not remembering frightens me.
Not remembering the spelling of a word is scary.
Not remembering what happened fills me with dread.

When someone is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s
They look in the mirror and do not recognize themselves.

I am afraid of not remembering.
Not remembering is painful.

I do remember my mother when she was whole,
When she spoke, laughed, cried.
She was beautiful and strong.

Then she stopped speaking, laughing, crying,
But she followed the baby on the bed with her eyes.
Was she still there?
Did she still know?

When I don’t remember
Remembering her is what makes me afraid.

 

 

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Book Review: Tidying Up

The life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo describes the author’s system, Kon Mari, for keeping your house clutter free. Her main claim is that by following her system, you will never have to tidy up again. You will do it once and never have to do it again. This does not seem realistic or practical. She does acknowledge that it could take six months.

Kondo wants you to start with clothes and move on from there. You are supposed to take out all your clothes, look at and hold each one and determine if it brings you joy. You would follow the same process for books, mementos and miscellaneous items.

It is easy to mock her concept of inanimate objects bringing you joy. The recent revival of Gilmore Girls did just that when it portrayed Emily Gilmore in a frenzy throwing out most of her furniture and possessions because they did not bring her joy.

Some of Kondo’s processes make more sense and seem easier to put into practice. She believes you should have a place for everything which is something I agree with.

More fundamentally, Kondo believes you must visualize what you want your space to look like before you start the tidying process. This is because tidying is not a goal in and of itself but rather part of the journey.

As far as mementos go, if you can’t tell right away whether an item brings you joy it is either because “you have an attachment to the past or a fear of the future.” I found this to be very insightful.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. I don’t think I will follow the overall process but I may apply some of the individual principles to specific situations. My goal would be a clean, pleasing to look at and peaceful home.

 

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World’s Fair

One of my goals for 2017 was to work more regularly on my book on faculty wives. Recently I have been able to do that and I have run across an interesting subject. Various World’s Fairs have come up in my research because the fairs have often been contested spaces.

The chapter I am working focuses on African-American wives and their clubs. Beginning with the Chicago Exposition of 1893 and going on until at least the NY Fair of 1939, African-Americans sought a seat at the table. Women, both black and white, also sought representatives.

The fair that is most interesting to me is the St. Louis Louisiana Exposition of 1904. Josephine Yates, President of the National Association of Colored Women, (NACW) negotiated with the Fair managers to have a World’s Fair Day for the organization. Other African-American groups also arranged for days.

Hallie Q. Brown, a member of NACW sought employment at the Fair and was refused. This prompted Margaret Murray Washington to urge the NACW convention to boycott the planned event. This became the official position of NACW, however many convention attendees did visit the fair. Interestingly, Booker T. Washington disagreed with his wife, feeling that cries of racism were over stated.

Over 10,000 people picketed the offices of the NY World’s Fair in 1939 demanding employment for black people. The women had more success, happily attending  a National Association of Colored Women Day at the Fair.

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How to Behave at an Academic Conference

I recently attended the ADHS 2017 conference. I have attended many conferences over the years and chaired many panels. These are my observations about how to have a successful panel at an academic conference. As chair you have to keep time to insure each panelist speaks for the same amount of time. Unfortunately there is now way to compel someone to stop talking. People have to police themselves; in my experience some are better at this than others. If the chair does not keep good time it is unfair to everyone. The speakers and the audience all suffer. It is rude if you are one of the speakers and you go way over time.

The chair should definitely have all the speakers talk and then have questions and answers at the end. Allowing questions after each speaker exacerbates the time issues and very often leads to the final speaker either getting very few questions or the whole session goes over. Making sure there is time for questions and answers is  important for two reasons. Without some interaction between the speakers and the audience the session becomes a completely passive experience. Also speakers like to engage with the audience.

Four speakers at a session is too many and makes time more of an issue. To maximize time the chair should not make a statement. Maybe panels should have only two speakers but that would probably lengthen the conference.

The ADHS conference at Utrecht did have some time issues at some sessions but as always it was a very interesting experience. Utrecht is a great city and I had a very nice time.

 

 

 

 

 

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Schedule Update

My faithful readers may have noticed that I have been blogging a little more frequently recently. I have been blogging every Friday since the beginning of 2017. I have deviated from the pattern for two reasons. I did a bunch of interesting things in a row and I wanted to write about them while they were still fresh in my mind. The second reason is that I will not be able to blog for about three weeks so to keep my total the same I front loaded a few posts. I will resume my Friday blogging schedule on July 14. Have a nice June.

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Understanding Addiction

Last Thursday I attended a seminar on “Understanding addiction.” The Institute for Natural Resources sponsored the one day seminar which was a way for nurses and other medical professionals to collect continuing education credits.

Much of the material was familiar to me and I don’t think I learned that much that was new. One interesting thing is that alcohol, tobacco, and even caffeine are now seen as drugs with psychoactive properties similar to the illegal drugs such as opioids or cocaine. In fact the legal drugs cause more societal problems than the illegal drugs. The seminar handout states that alcohol and tobacco costs the United States over $400 billion a year  due to crime, lost work productivity, and healthcare. Costs associated with Illegal drugs are about $181 billion a year.

There is an opioid crisis but the speaker did not spend that much time on it. He made the point that at different times different drugs are in fashion. Unfortunately heroin seems to be in vogue right now. It is clear that the War on Drugs has failed and we need to invest much more money on treatment. We also need to find a balance between maintaining pain medicines for people with chronic pain while reducing the more casual prescribing of opioids.

 

 

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Our Revolution MA and the State Democratic Convention

June 2nd and 3rd I was in Worcester, attending the State Democratic Convention. I attended all of the events that Our Revolution MA held. They had eight amendments to the platform of which four passed. Our Revolution also had two charter amendments which failed. The convention did not actually passed any resolutions due to the lateness of the hour.

I think Our Revolution did a great job given that it was their first time being involved in the Convention. They were a big presence and they helped pass a very progressive platform. Four of five amendments passed the signature threshold and then were adopted by the convention. The one amendment that failed had to do with housing and I think the convention felt it went too far. The chair prevented three amendments from being voted on. All concerned foreign affairs which the chair ruled was out of the scope of the platform. The most controversial one was about the Middle East and affirmed the right of Palestinians to a peaceful existence. I am sorry that it did not pass.

The  two charter amendments that failed had to do with party mechanics and procedures. The party, as represented at the convention, did not seem ready to fundamentally change  how the party operates to make it more open, democratic, and responsive to citizens. As part of a national movement to move the Democratic Party to the left and away from corporatist policies, Our Revolution’s performance at the convention was an auspicious beginning.

 

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Massachusetts Alcohol Task Force

Tuesday I attended a public hearing of the Massachusetts Alcohol Task Force. Deb Goldberg, the State Treasurer, created the task force to look at the laws and regulations governing the alcohol beverage industry. About fifteen people were present and about eight people spoke.

Three groups of stakeholders were present. The largest group, more in numbers than in influence, were people  from the public health community. All of these speakers were women and focused on prevention of underage drinking. Their basic demands were for public health to have a seat at the table, more funding for compliance checks, and controls over advertising if possible. Several of the women mentioned tax increases but this was not a major demand.

Viewing alcohol use and abuse through a public health lens is a relatively new phenomena. Before Prohibition, temperance and prohibition advocates saw alcohol use as a moral issue which affected all of American society. During Repeal and after, both the liquor industry and the medical community refashioned alcohol problems as problems of the individual requiring an individual medical response.

Inspired by the anti-smoking movement which saw smoking as having a societal cost, public health advocates began to see drinking in a similar light. The tightening of drunk driving laws, raising the minimum drinking age to twenty-one, and not allowing spirits advertising on television are all examples of the public health approach to alcohol problems.

The liquor industry has been careful to not directly contest public health demands but has continued to present options around alcohol as solely an individual’s choice. Two industry representatives spoke at the hearing. One was from the Distilled Spirits Council which is a longstanding trade association representing seventy-five percent of distilled spirits producers. His focus was on creating a level playing field for distilled spirits and limiting any legislation which works against a free market.

Such an approach has been standard for the liquor industry since Repeal. Distilled spirits producers have long resented the preferential treatment beer has received on both the state and federal levels. In the 1980’s  the Distilled Spirits Council had a very effective ad which showed that “Alcohol is Alcohol is Alcohol. The DSC spokesperson repeated this mantra at the hearing.

The other person representing the liquor industry has a farmer-brewer license and owns a very small brewery. These two speakers revealed a reality of the liquor industry which is that it is highly segmented. There are multinational corporations that produce distilled spirits and mega brewers but there are also very small breweries in many local areas and micro distillers in many counties in the country.

The final stake holders in  alcohol legislation and regulations are municipal officials whose primary concern at the hearing was the licensing system. Massachusetts distributes liquor licenses for various retail operations using a quota system based on population. The Mayor of Northampton, David Narkewicz has more requests than he has licenses and therefore wants a streamlined process for getting over-quota licenses.

Alisa Brewer, a member of the Amherst Select Board, wants the flexibility to issue different types of licenses depending on the needs of the community. Because all-alcohol licenses are the most expensive many restaurants want the more narrow wine and beer license. Amherst has less of those but has not used all of its all-alcohol licenses. Keeping the number allotted the same, she would like to locally determine how many of each the town distributes.

The hearing revealed a tension that has been present for governments regulating alcohol for a long time. The alcoholic beverage industry and the role it plays in the entertainment industry  provides a great deal of revenue for  state government. However the state must balance the economic benefits of encouraging alcohol production against the goal of providing public health and safety.

The Alcohol Task Force will wrestle with determining the right proportions for regulations. I will try to keep you posted on further developments.

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