Tag Archives: technology

What if you left your kid alone with YouTube

crazyyoutubevideos

Google Image search for “crazy youtube videos”

YouTube is the educator entertainer that never sleeps. One video leads to the next, literally forever. (YouTube does have a kids channel which is supposed to be a safe space for kids.) They have “YouTube Kids,” which was supposed to help reassure parents. But if your kid is at a random computer and just goes to YouTube.com, or clicks on a link and ends up there, they’re off down Recommendation Alley.

In response to fears that YouTube was promoting bad things to children, unintentionally or not, and thinking about a possible sociology class exercise, I decided to do an exercise where I start from a Disney princess video and then select from one of the top-10 recommended videos on each page to try to get to things that are bad for children. (In the possibly-vain hope that my experiment wouldn’t be contaminated by my own use history, I used an incognito window without logging in to Google.) My goal was Nazi propaganda, and my strategy was to aim for adult stuff, then look out for disturbing, racist, or violent content. As children do.

I gave up after 113 videos, without getting to Nazi stuff. I would love to know — as YouTube surely does — how children really use YouTube when no one’s looking. I know from limited experience they click around a lot — covering a lot of videos in a short time — and they don’t vet their “content” carefully. So this seems like a plausible browsing session. Anyway, still thinking about how to do something like this, and thought I’d share my notes here:

How fast can I get to Nazi stuff from “Disney kids” using videos from the first 10 recommended? (Spoiler, I couldn’t, but still.)

After searching for “Disney kids,” I chose this innocent Disney Princess video, and starting clicking on recommendations.

  1. Kids Makeup Disney Princesses Pretend Play with Cleaning Toys & Real Princess Dresses https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yl-dYcHTAYg
  2. Emily Became a Princess-Real Princess Dresses https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euGnK3OGU_A
  3. PRINCESS SCHOOL TEST 🎓 Lilliana Helps Isabella To Cheat! – Princesses In Real Life | Kiddyzuzaa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dD-bDjWwtjA
  4. Kaycee and Rachel in Wonderland # 26 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhuGyvxZb3Y
  5. 24 Hours in Box Fort Jail Challenge! 24 Hour Challenge with No LOL Dolls https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noJv8tV0FF8

By #6 I’ve gotten as far as icky

  1. Father & Son PLAY DON’T STEP IN IT! / Avoid The Poo! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoNBU6alsjA
  2. Escaping Hello Neighbors Maximum Security Box Fort Prison / Jake and Ty https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BPdjI697GU
  3. 9 Weird Ways To Sneak Food Into Class / Summer Pranks! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99n2OLtIUwY

A reference to a shooter video by #9. This leads into family conflict…

  1. FORTNITE DANCE CHALLENGE !! In Real Life With Ckn Toys https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k96FHPngnwU
  2. FORTNITE Dance Challenge! IN REAL LIFE | NINJA KIDZ TV https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBR0onumDq4
  3. Sister VS Brother Battle! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8AERX2Rolw
  4. Katherine is a Barbie! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK7idnorApQ
  5. How To Remove White Marks From Your Baby Alive! Commercial Style https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOOWYej1KNc
  6. Lalaloopsy school adventure episode 1: bullying! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvJIODxOTeo
  7. Sketch Smell Challenge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bjj8O8rhedU
  8. NEVER HAVE I EVER!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ix5_v8uLiuk
  9. Older Siblings vs Younger Siblings!! Sisters Trinity and Madison https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqX3nnL2fOE
  10. EXPECTATIONS vs REALITY of Having a Sibling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U88fcNfrKXQ
  11. EXPECTATION vs REALITY OF BEING A PARENT!!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SIXQjkf4Y4
  12. Amelia and Avelina beach vacation adventure https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m80SpeAncyI
  13. HOTEL HOUSEKEEPER CHASED BY COPS AT RESORT!!! POLICE UNDERCOVER https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44bft2AfUWU
  14. A CREEPY STALKER FAN STALKS ME OUTSIDE MY OWN HOUSE *HE HAD MY PHONE NUMBER* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrNLHlL2OEE
  15. Is Nicole a Zombie, Forever? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDouUbA4oME
  16. The Girl Who Collects Cockroaches | My Kid’s Obsession https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9W7J7iW39E
  17. QUEEN BABY: Bath Time https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arSknXl8sko
  18. Power Tool Wins and Fails https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2bAlONGEPw

First real violence by #27. Not that bad, just a skateboard injury, which introduces the people-behaving-badly-in-real-life genre

  1. Skateboarder Crashes into Kid https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ec4LNeV4CTQ
  2. Lady Yells at Kid on Alpine Slide in Winter Park CO (Fight) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7c82c7ay5s
  3. ex-wife acting out in front of kids https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toz-JgqhI94
  4. Baby Mama manipulating again (Arizona) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcwFYTN_w7o
  5. CPS NOT WANTING TO GO ON CAMERA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juahHP_xYDc
  6. CPS murdered my family https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpIihXia0Yo
  7. CPS Supervisor Calls Parents “White Trash”!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnPmQgekBog
  8. Crazy lady at skate park https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zRmrIG3ehk
  9. Crazy lady yells at kids for standing on table https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJkXQvuTG1A
  10. Lady yells at kids https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C141zVXqrY0
  11. Super mad bus driver and kid trys to escape https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0hhaCVP1Uc
  12. BUS DRIVER REFUSES TO LET CHILDREN ON BUS!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDJOmzwBQv4
  13. Bus Driver Kicks Girl Out of Bus.Miles Away from Home https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xvj4Kg6Ll9I
  14. Mean bus driver https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSrMgZe5UC0
  15. Creepy little girl brings me to bathroom stall and locks the door https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjyb1IMeEpA
  16. My humps remix (Barbie and crazy) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZX150oaD2H0
  17. Two girls fighting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNpq1GnCaCc
  18. Two boys and two girls fighting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0czg5hVzld0
  19. This wat happen when a 2nd and 4th grader fight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8vn7wEQ_Lk
  20. 3rd Grade fight in school https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDAcnde8P3s
  21. Bullying 3rd Grade https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6uOT-A3ZaE
  22. WORLD’S MEANEST LITTLE GIRL – IDIOTS ALWAYS ASK #12 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V22Xw0y7LsY
  23. Little kids fight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h50amm_gXCY
  24. 8 vs 10 year old fighting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amovxJrgZx4
  25. 8 year old vs 13 year old fighting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNLqypr2Xuc

Trying to get out of the kids-fighting loop, I chose this one, which led to stuff for parents…

  1. Kid Pukes at Dentist after Getting Mold Removed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tT6pw58CWKU
  2. 10 year old Isabella shouldn’t know The ‘C’ Word #LyttleFight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcIVTZxnTkU
  3. Slap Her https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6CDvSDkeAM
  4. Doll test – The effects of racism on children (ENG) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRZPw-9sJtQ
  5. Disturbingly Racist Moments in Cartoons https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cftUIdSr_T8
  6. Top 10 Insanely Racist Moments In Disney Movies That You Totally Forgot About https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKWGQyz-oLw
  7. 10 Dark Theories About Dead Disney Characters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbfpJ7gZl44
  8. Sausage Party: 10 Important Details You Totally Missed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSiQkslhg7A
  9. 15 Moms You Won’t Believe Actually Exist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OlmYhaGkGI
  10. Most Inappropriate Children Coloring Book Drawings! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UD81kn5L7O0
  11. Bunk’d Stars ★ Before And After https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhm01EsBEkU

Somehow this led to freaky or scary images and general danger…

  1. 10 STRONG KIDS That Can Lift More Than You https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoG5_LWChVQ
  2. World’s Strongest Kids Girl https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EV39CR7v7gA
  3. Remember This Viral Photo Of A Nigerian ‘Witch’ You Should See Him Now https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7zN75E7rOg
  4. 10 SHOCKING Incidents When Kids Left Alone With Pets https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B56hVR8QhoE
  5. 10 Times TOYS Got Kids In TROUBLE With Police Officers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-XH7ylO5ls
  6. ILLEGAL and BANNED Fidget Spinners https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLG4sL_MF5Q
  7. WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS FIDGET SPINNERS!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZiRxVFdDsw
  8. NAUGHTY BABY DOES SECRET TOY RITUAL AND SUMMONS GHOSTS FROM CARTOON!! || Baby Hands Gameplay Part 15 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rb0wgPFYAIQ
  9. Creepy texts from babysitter.. | TEXT STORY REACTION https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRFccgkGQ9w

No idea why this Trump parody was here but I thought it might lead to more political content. Instead it took me into a video game loop, which I only got out of by going back to bad parenting…

  1. SAVE TRUMP! \ Mr. President https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ClhcQYRqig
  2. Realistic Minecraft – Highschool Girlfriend ❤ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR98shYOpYo
  3. You Can’t Say No To Ella! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F66gmHWTks8
  4. CAN PARENTS GUESS WHAT THEIR KID DOES WITH 100 DOLLARS? Ep. # 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVjHOyKQn3M
  5. What would your kid do if they found a gun? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkcfQTavqyk
  6. Kids found home alone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cM7a_BppUIE
  7. 19 kids found alone in filthy, hot Kentucky home https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_i-7BbEr9YI
  8. Baby Buried Alive https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_1ykYYRcyI
  9. Newborn baby found abandoned near Tampa intersection https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDwkUG0qQNI
  10. angry lady yells at kid for no reason… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNv-ToebU8U
  11. Man slaps crying baby in it’s mothers arms on Delta airline flight, calls it n-word https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrhZuG3zAGM
  12. Boy Passes After Putting Blue Stain In Carpet. 14 Years Later Mom Floored By Real Meaning https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTCaZzsQPMg

Then we’re back to freak shows, and from there to child brides, poverty, and then – fake poverty…

  1. she was born with an elephant’s trunk, this is what they did to her… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WflgtnSvtMs
  2. Worst Bug Invasions Ever https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Wl7aF4qUyI
  3. Mom Thinks She’s Having Twins, But Drs Quickly Learn She’s Making History With Rare Delivery https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfVdG6crFAg
  4. Child Marriage in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region HD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYk37j9g300
  5. Mamoni’s Story: The Child Bride https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCxcfEOEMoI
  6. The Ugly Face of Beauty: Is Child Labour the Foundation for your Makeup? (RT Documentary) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOpZkstB5jc
  7. The Poorest of the Poor – On the Edge of Europe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEZSjtpHo44
  8. Fake Homeless People CAUGHT On Camera And EXPOSED! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbYRqSeqJIg

Fake stuff leads to the “what would you do” genre…

  1. White Woman Introduces Asian Fiance To Disapproving Parents | What Would You Do? | WWYD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kom9wMpLIzE
  2. Christian Discrimination for Praying in Public | What Would You Do? | WWYD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4SkVFrQFW4
  3. Foster Care Cruelty | What Would You Do? | WWYD | ABC News https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bvn91N92VCw

And from there back to suffering children.

  1. Foster Care Support – They Come In The Night – With Nothing! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7hICHJOiAI
  2. Annie’s Story (Neglect) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lB2iujfv5A
  3. Russian Orphans – Master Thesis Documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adPF39ozmMs
  4. Inside AK Orphanage https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSy6vc7Jijo
  5. Nigeria Beggar Abandons 3 Babies on Street https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyeE1K6yziU
  6. Hungry Kids In Africa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_Zt_J0UEb4
  7. child survival in Africa | survive a tout prix https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrDuVwCSF94
  8. AIDS Orphans in South Africa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oSR9SM0Se0

Don’t know why sassy girl was here, but it got me away from sad orphan stories and back to bad parenting…

  1. Sassy little girl blocks the slide at the zoo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ8VPezlOg0
  2. MOST SPOILT BRAT KIDS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BqTmuuzXek
  3. Most Spoiled Kids Compilation 6 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bexSD2uD3Ms
  4. Kids Who Are Crying For The Most Ridiculous Reasons https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzrqyB62IVA
  5. What Would You Do: Mother Uses Harsh Punishments on Son | What Would You Do? | WWYD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpiSeuSU8EE

Bad parenting is related to sappy family stories, like soldier homecomings, which led to family separations…

  1. Soldiers Coming Home || Emotional Compilation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oT8j2Vm8PaY
  2. Military Homecoming – Meeting Baby Elijah https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIOkrjMrW_I
  3. Babies Behind Bars – Part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWaZ34Vmaf4
  4. Mom Puts Baby Girl To Bed. Hours Later Hears Screaming & Realizes Hidden Danger In Her Room https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvg1nSpmdIE

Which led to bad parenting again…

  1. Police officer finds pregnant mom and toddler asleep on sidewalk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cHzrUBtnZg

And finally back to Disney Princesses. Phew!

  1. Moms Dress Like Disney Princesses For Maternity Photos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW15sbLH-Ts

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Me @ work

Philip Cohen at 50, having been 14 in 1981

This is a sociological reflection about life history. It’s about me because I’m the person I know best, and I have permission to reveal details of my life.

I was born in August 1967, making me 50 years old this month. But life experience is better thought of in cohort terms. Where was I and what was I doing, with whom, at different ages and stages of development? Today I’m thinking of these intersections of biography and history in terms of technology, music, and health.

Tech

We had a TV in my household growing up, it just didn’t have a remote control or cable service, or color. We had two phones, they just shared one line and were connected by wires. (After I moved out my parents got an answering machine.) When my mother, a neurobiologist, was working on her dissertation (completed when I was 10) in the study my parents shared, she used a programmable calculator and graph paper to plot the results of her experiments with pencil. My father, a topologist, drew his figures with colored pencils (I can’t describe the sound of his pencils drawing across the hollow wooden door he used for a desktop, but I can still hear it, along with the buzz of his fluorescent lamp). A couple of my friends had personal computers by the time I started high school, in 1981 (one TRS-80 and one Apple II), but I brought a portable electric typewriter to college in 1988. I first got a cell phone in graduate school, after I was married.

The first portable electronic device I had (besides a flashlight) was a Sony Walkman, in about 1983, when I was 16. At the time nothing mattered to me more than music. Music consumed a large part of my imagination and formed the scaffolding of most socializing. The logistics of finding out about, finding, buying, copying, and listening to music played an outsized role in my daily life. From about 1980 to 1984, most of the money I made at my bagel store job went to stereo equipment, concerts, records, blank tapes for making copies, and eventually drums (as well video games). I subscribed to magazines (Rolling Stone, Modern Drummer), hitchhiked across town to visit the record store, pooled money with friends to buy blank tapes, spent hours copying records and labeling tapes with my friends, and made road trips to concerts across upstate New York (clockwise from Ithaca: Geneva, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Saratoga, Binghamton, New York City, Elmira).

As I’m writing this, I thought, “I haven’t listened to Long Distance Voyager in ages,” tapped it into Apple Music on my phone, and started streaming it on my Sonos player in a matter of seconds, which doesn’t impress you at all – but the sensory memories it invokes are shockingly vivid (like an acid flashback, honestly) – and having the power to evoke that so easily is awesome, in the old sense of that word.

Some of us worked at the Cornell student radio station (I eventually spent a while in the news department), whose album-oriented rock playlist heavily influenced the categories and relative status of the music we listened to. The radio station also determined what music stayed in the rotation – what eventually became known by the then-nonexistent term classic rock – and what would be allowed to slip away; it was history written in real time.

It’s like 1967, in 1981

You could think of the birth cohort of 1967 as the people who entered the world at the time of “race riots,” the Vietnam and Six Day wars, the Summer of Love, the 25th Amendment (you’re welcome!), Monterey Pop, Sgt. Peppper’s, and Loving v. Virginia. Or you could flip through Wikipedia’s list of celebrities born in 1967 to see how impressive (and good looking) we became, people like Benicio del Toro, Kurt Cobain, Paul Giamatti, Nicole Kidman, Pamela Anderson, Will Ferrell, Vin Diesel, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Matt LeBlanc, Michael Johnson, Liev Schreiber, Julia Roberts, Jimmy Kimmel, Mark Ruffalo, and Jamie Foxx.

But maybe it makes more sense to think of us as the people who were 14 when John Lennon made his great commercial comeback, with an album no one took seriously – only after being murdered. The experiences at age 14, in 1981, define me more than what was happening at the moment of my birth. Those 1981 hits from album-oriented rock mean more to me than the Doors’ debut in 1967. My sense of the world changing in that year was acute – because it was 1981, or because I was 14? In music, old artists like the Moody Blues and the Rolling Stones released albums that seemed like complete departures, and more solo albums – by people like Stevie Nicks and Phil Collins – felt like stakes through the heart of history itself (I liked them, actually, but they were also impostors).

One moment that felt at the time like a historical turning point was the weekend of September 19, 1981. My family went to Washington for the Solidarity Day rally, at which a quarter million people demonstrated against President Reagan and for organized labor, a protest fueled by the new president’s firing of the PATCO air traffic controllers the previous month (and inspired by the Solidarity union in Poland, too). Besides hating Reagan, we also feared a nuclear war that would end humanity – I mean really feared it, real nightmare fear.

173042_940043902348_3109330_o

A piece of radio news copy I wrote and read at WVBR, probably 1983. The slashes are where I’m going to take a breath. “Local AQX” is the name of the tape cartridge with the sound bite (“actuality”) from Alfred Kahn, and “OQ:worse” means that’s the last word coming out of the clip.

On the same day as Solidarity, while we were in D.C., was Simon and Garfunkel’s Concert in Central Park. They were all of 40 (literally my mother’s age), tired old people with a glorious past (I’m sure I ignored the rave reviews). As I look back on these events – Reagan, the Cold War, sell-out music – in the context of what I thought of as my emerging adulthood, they seemed to herald a dark future, in which loss of freedom and individuality, the rise of the machines, and runaway capitalism was reflected in the decline of rock music. (I am now embarrassed to admit that I even hated disco for a while, maybe even while I listened 20 times, dumbstruck, to an Earth, Wind, and Fire album I checked out of the library.)

I don’t want to overdramatize the drama of 1981; I was basically fine. I came out with a penchant for Camus, a taste for art rock, and leftism, which were hardly catastrophic traits. Still, those events, and their timing, probably left a mark of cynicism, sometimes nihilism, which I carry today.

1937404_725426252838_6822157_n

About 1984, with Daniel Besman (who later died) in Ithaca. Photo by Linda Galgani.

Data aside

Maybe one reason 1981 felt like a musical watershed to me is because it really was, because pop music just got worse in the 1980s compared to the 1970s. To test (I mean prove, really) that hypothesis, I fielded a little survey (more like a game) that asked people to rate the same artists in both decades. I chose 58 artists by flipping through album charts from 1975-1984 and finding those that charted in both decades; then I added some suggestions from early respondents. To keep the task from being too onerous, as it required scoring bands twice from 1 (terrible) to 5 (great), once for each period, and some people found it difficult, I set the survey to serve each person just 10 artists at random (a couple of people did it more than once). The participants were 3/4 men, 3/4 over 40, and 3/4 White and US-born; found on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. The average artist was rated 11 times in each period (range 5 to 19). (Feel free to play along or share this link; I’ll update it if more come in.)

The results look very bad for the 1980s. The average change was a drop of .59, and only three acts showed noticeable improvement: Pat Benatar, Michael Jackson, and Prince (and maybe Talking Heads and the lowly Bryan Adams). Here is the full set (click to enlarge):

Technology and survival

I don’t think I would have, at age 14, given much weight to the idea that my life would repeatedly be saved by medical technology, but now that seems like business as usual, to me anyway. I guess as long as there’s been technology there have been people who owe their lives to it (and of course we’re more likely to hear from them than from those who didn’t make it). But the details are cohort-specific. These days we’re a diverse club of privileged people, our conditions, or their remnants, often hidden like pebbles wedged under the balls of our aging feet, gnawing reminders of our bodily precarity.

Family lore says I was born with a bad case of jaundice, probably something like Rh incompatibility, and needed a blood transfusion. I don’t know what would have happened without it, but I’m probably better off now for that intervention.

Sometime in my late teens I reported to a doctor that I had periodic episodes of racing heartbeat. After a brief exam I was sent home with no tests, but advised to keep an eye on it; maybe mitral valve prolapse, he said. I usually controlled it by holding my breath and exhaling slowly. We found out later, in 2001 – after several hours in the emergency room at about 200 very irregular beats per minute – that it was actually a potentially much more serious condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. The condition is easily diagnosed nowadays, as software can identify the tell-tale “delta wave” on the ECG, and the condition is listed right there in the test report.

Rhythm_WPW

Two lucky things combined: (a) I wasn’t diagnosed properly in the 1980s (which might have led to open-heart surgery or a lifetime of unpleasant medication), and; (b) I didn’t drop dead before it was finally diagnosed in 2001. They fixed it with a low-risk radiofrequency ablation, just running a few wires up through my arteries to my heart, where they lit up to burn off the errant nerve ending, all done while I was almost awake, watching the action on an x-ray image and – I believed, anyway – feeling the warmth spread through my chest as the doctor typed commands into his keyboard.

Diverticulitis is also pretty easily diagnosed nowadays, once they fire up the CT scanner, and usually successfully treated by antibiotics, though sometimes you have to remove some of your colon. Just one of those things people don’t die from as much anymore (though it’s also more common than it used to be, maybe just because we don’t die from other things as much). I didn’t feel like much like surviving when it was happening, but I suppose I might have made it even without the antibiotics. Who knows?

More interesting was the case of follicular lymphoma I discovered at age 40 (I wrote about it here). There is a reasonable chance I’d still be alive today if we had never biopsied the swollen lymph node in my thigh, but that’s hard to say, too. Median survival from diagnosis is supposed to be 10 years, but I had a good case (a rare stage I), and with all the great new treatments coming online the confidence in that estimate is fuzzy. Anyway, since the cancer was never identified anywhere else in my body, the treatment was just removing the lymph node and a little radiation (18 visits to the radiation place, a couple of tattoos for aiming the beams, all in the summer with no work days off). We have no way (with current technology) to tell if I still “have” it or whether it will come “back,” so I can’t yet say technology saved my life from this one (though if I’m lucky enough to die from something else — and only then — feel free to call me a cancer “survivor”).

It turns out that all this life saving also bequeaths a profound uncertainty, which leaves one with an uneasy feeling and a craving for antianxiety medication. I guess you have to learn to love the uncertainty, or die trying. That’s why I cherish this piece of a note from my oncologist, written as he sent me out of the office with instructions never to return: “Your chance for cure is reasonable. ‘Pretest probability’ is low.”

pretest-probability-is-low

From my oncologist’s farewell note.

Time travel

It’s hard to imagine what I would have thought if someone told my 14-year-old self this story: One day you will, during a Skype call from a hotel room in Hangzhou, where you are vacationing with your wife and two daughters from China, decide to sue President Donald Trump for blocking you on Twitter. On the other hand, I don’t know if it’s possible to know today what it was really like to be me at age 14.

In the classic time travel knot, a visitor from the future changes the future by going back and changing the past. The cool thing about mucking around with your narrative like I’m doing in this essay (as Walidah Imarisha has said) is that it by altering our perception of the past, we do change the future. So time travel is real. Just like it’s funny to think of my 14-year-old self having thoughts about the past, I’m sure my 14-year-old self would have laughed at the idea that my 50-year-old self would think about the future. But I do!

8 Comments

Filed under Me @ work

Are we there yet?

This time I think they’ve really done it.

Maybe robots can do what “appliances” have failed to do: replace “women’s” work rather than assist it.

1 Comment

Filed under In the news