“Doing Nothing” is a Vital Part of Work

Recently, I saw a video of a construction worker hanging from a crane in Toronto. They’re okay, suffering minor injuries to a hand (though, no one talks about mental health, and I can imagine this was a rather terrifying experience). Their hand became stuck in a cable, which is how they ended up in this position, but I have to ask how there wasn’t another person with a radio present to command the crane operator to put this pallet back down immediately after it became apparent there was a problem (or even earlier, before it became dangerous).

No one has an answer to that question at the time of writing, but it brings my attention to an important part of construction work.. doing nothing. There is a trope of seeing construction workers standing around, apparently doing nothing, and this is often used to justify calling them lazy, and construction overpriced.

The beginning of the following video covers what’s actually going on in these situations very well, but the tl;dw of it is: Things don’t always go according to plan, everyone needs breaks, and looking out for problems is very important. Why wasn’t someone standing around to notice a stuck hand before it became dangerous?

While keeping a watch for safety is a specific job that is only employed for certain activities at certain times, everyone who is standing around is another set of eyes that can notice a problem before it becomes dangerous (or even just.. a problem that will hinder the construction effort), or who can respond in the event of an emergency.

Breaks are important, and supervising takes less effort than physical labor. People standing around to take a break are also supervising the work. They may not have the documents or job title to say they should be watching, but everyone with experience watching activity onsite is helpful.

The above was written in July, shortly after the publication of the embedded video. I have much more to say about work, but it has been half a year without publication. I feel it is important to not leave this draft lying around.

Nihilism, The Ubermensch, & Garfield

If you want the short version, skip to watching this video, or: Nihilism is the belief that life is meaningless. But why settle for that? If life is meaningless, then the only true meaning is what you bring to life. Do what you can to the fullest you possibly can. Embrace all of life, its good and bad, because it is all you have. The Ubermensch is an idealized future super-human who does this. While impossible to achieve, it is possibly the only escape from nihilism.

Garfield is horrifying once you realize the majority of the comic is about Jon suffering eternally. But that horror comes from within – or from a cosmic demon cat. It can be taken to represent a mental trap where one sits lost in their own suffering. I am very prone to nihilist feelings, but that video feels inspirational to me. While it wallows in hopelessness and otherworldly horror, to me it speaks only of the demons in my mind that I’ve lived with for as long as I can remember.

Every bit of horror displayed there just looks like a Tuesday to me. It also reminds me of the first video I linked to. I discovered it a few years ago, and keep coming back to it because it feels so significant to my personal issues:

I’ve felt lost and hopeless for a long time because my depression feels everlasting, because it feels like the only time I’ve ever be free of it is when I am dead, and because that feeling leads to wanting that death to come as soon as possible. I also fear death immensely, because I don’t believe in any kind of afterlife – I don’t want to not exist.

This idea gives me some hope and solace that while I may never escape my personal demons, I may be able to enjoy my life regardless.

I started writing this because I want you to know how Garfield is horrifying, and I want to share videos that are personally significant. Somehow these goals aligned with thinking about depression and how to keep living when life has a lot of pain in it. But, really, just.. watch this:

Edit: Oh, and I get the impression that Garfield is actually supposed to be much darker, but Jim Davis keeps being prevented from publishing the darker stuff.

Fuck Windows ..and Ubuntu (A Rant)

My OS History

I started with Windows 95, and it was okay. Upgrading to Windows 98 helped a lot and I still love that OS. My next experience was with Windows XP, and it was good. When Windows Vista first came out, I tried it and had several problems with it. (No, I don’t remember what they were.)

Somewhere around this time I was introduced to Linux and tried a few distributions. (My favorites were Ubuntu, slax, & Antergos. Later, my absolute favorite would be CrunchBang. I still miss all of these, including old versions of Ubuntu.)

After Windows 7 came out, my experience with Windows started to go downhill. Nonsensical errors (why does an administrator not have full disk access?), rebooting my computer without consent (no matter how many times I disabled this “feature”), running slowly despite good hardware.. the list is long. This is when I first thought about using Linux for things besides programming.

I again skipped Windows versions until Windows 10, mainly due to free upgrades being offered and hating the UI changes in Windows 8 that were partially walked back. At this point, my hatred started. Default applications I can’t uninstall or even hide, advertisements built-in, a virtual assistant I could not disable or remove always running in the background.. and they even removed the pretense of controlling updates.

Oh, and the default malware included to spy on your usage, again, without consent.

But the problem is that I was running a mildly successful gaming YouTube channel at the time, I needed Windows because no video editor on Linux was good enough, and games only work on Windows.

Then Steam announced Proton, and reviews were good. Over time, Linux seemingly became viable. There was even a hot new video editor called daVinci Resolve, and it runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux!

What Happened to Ubuntu?

I ran various versions of Ubuntu as a secondary OS or on a USB drive from 8 to 18 without problems. Common problems like networking, video card support, and audio issues were never difficult – and often did not even occur. Ubuntu was a good choice because its popularity made it more often supported, and it was usually stable.

Not this time. I spent weeks trying to get it working, and while I was eventually successful, it was only through stubbornness and a lot of reading.

I started with a new SSD, as my old one only had 128 GB of space, and I was going to need a lot more for video editing and running games that require better disk streaming. First, the install failed because a disk I wasn’t even using is corrupted. Then, it failed to install the bootloader. Then it failed because of a partially completed Ubuntu install. I moved on to trying elementary OS (a derivative of Ubuntu) because it has several improvements and is still widely supported, but this also failed.

Turns out, since version 14.04, there’s a bug where Ubuntu won’t install a bootloader if you select any disk besides the first. There is no warning of this anywhere, and I had to find a bug report from half a decade ago to even learn this. So, I removed all disks except my new SSD, and moved it to first SATA port on the motherboard, and Ubuntu .. still didn’t install.

Time to try again, except I accidentally booted into Ubuntu from the SSD.. you know, the OS that failed to install? So, it turns out that not only does it fail to install a bootloader under most possible conditions, but a success crashes the installer. Oh well, at least I now have a working system, time to update!

Ubuntu Prominently Publishes Broken Versions

I run updates, and find out there’s a new OS version. I’d started with version 20.10 because it was what was out when I started this, and version 21.04 had released since then. I run the upgrade.. and now I can’t boot anymore. This has never happened to me before, and this is a brand new system.

Turns out, version 21.04 shipped with a bug that breaks the bootloader on any system, whether it be a fresh install or through an upgrade. Here’s the fucking problem: They only disabled update notifications, instead of pulling the faulty update or OFFERING ANY WARNING WHATSOEVER.

There is no reason I couldn’t have been notified not to update. There is no reason to keep a broken release public. There is no reason for any of this to have happened the way it did.

This is unacceptable, and even since fixing the problem on my system, Ubuntu has just been a completely different system than what it was. They added ads/spyware to the base OS and pushed updates that break configuration & uninstall apps. It’s just not good anymore, and it makes me sad.

Fluoridated Water & Toothpaste Are Not Dangerous

Is fluoride bad for you? No. (Updated 2023-04-19. See footnotes for update history.)

I am not a medical professional, this article is the result of personal research, and it should not be considered medical advice. Additionally, this article is written for American audiences who are concerned with fluoride in drinking water. Unfortunately, fluoride exposure is far more common in less privileged countries (especially India and China)1, 15. In these countries, it is not from drinking water.

I’m going to get straight to the point: The worst possibility for the average person is exceedingly rare joint pain and brittle bones. This is called skeletal fluorosis1, and is caused by the body absorbing too much fluoride into bone tissue, which causes it to be brittle. It is difficult to consume enough fluoride to cause skeletal fluorosis – unless you’re eating toothpaste.

For children/teens (6-17)2, there is an increased risk of dental fluorosis, which is discoloration of teeth, and very rarely structural damage can also occur (in less than 0.25% of the population3). This is because children and teens are more likely to swallow toothpaste, and more likely to use too much toothpaste. See “How To Use Toothpaste” for more information, and please do read it because most people use too much toothpaste and don’t know it (including me before researching this article).

My Bias & My Sources’ Bias

I choose to use the worst possible case as presented from available data, because that level of caution tells me if danger is even a possibility. As a result, most of the sources I am using are from organizations against the use of fluoride in drinking water4, 6, 15, 17, and likely includes conspiracy theorists.

Ironically, the worst case data presented is that fluoride is not dangerous to the average person, and the benefits of fluoridated water outweigh the risks. This is despite several of my sources not distinguishing between dental and skeletal fluorosis4, 6, 15. Dental fluorosis is almost entirely harmless, while skeletal fluorosis can be crippling.

How Much Fluoride is Dangerous?

This is a difficult question to answer, and the average person does not need to worry about it. If you have poor kidney function, you should probably talk to a doctor about it. It is also more likely to affect you if you have a calcium or vitamin D deficiency5.

Most studies I looked at are of populations with medical problems that leave them susceptible to fluorosis. The lowest consumption I can possibly link to the average person developing any kind or amount of fluorosis is 10mg/day every day for 6 months4, 15, and this estimate is based on the most rapid onset fluorosis study I could find combined with a more reasonable estimate for the magnitude of consumption required6.

In order to consume 10mg/day of fluoride, one would need to drink 8 liters of highly fluoridated water7, 14, or eat 4 liters of raisins8, 17, or eat around 3-5 times as much maximally fluoridated toothpaste as should be used per day9And you would have to do these every day for 6 months or longer.

How Much Fluoride Am I Consuming? A Worst Case

Dental fluorosis occurs while teeth grow, and is the most common risk of fluoride. I set out to figure out the worst case consumption for a child around age 6, but these numbers can be easily extended to older or younger people.

Children 4-11 years old consume 2-2.2mg/day fluoride, of which 0.2-0.3mg is from toothpaste10. Assuming the worst case in these factors, this means children are getting 1.9mg/day from non-toothpaste sources, and spitting out 2.4mg/day from their toothpaste. But this is not the worst case. This estimate means children are drinking less than a liter of water per day and no food with fluoride in it, which is definitely not true.

A child 4-8 years old should be consuming 1.18 liters of water per day11, and is definitely getting fluoride from food as well8, 17. To make the worst case, I’m going to add 1.18 liters of maximally fluoridated water (1.42mg), a liter of the most fluoridated food (raisins, 2.34mg), and assume they’re using twice as much toothpaste as they should, using maximally fluoridated adult toothpaste, brushing twice a day, and swallowing it all. That’s 6mg/day from toothpaste alone!

Altogether? 9.76mg/day of fluoride, which is not good, but amazingly, is still below the worst threshold I could possibly link to fluorosis (10mg/day).

The most important take-away from this is: Don’t swallow toothpaste. Don’t use too much toothpaste.

How To Use Toothpaste

This is actually fairly simple, but please consult with a dentist, especially for young children. A “pea-sized” dollop is all you need. Children are at the highest risk of having dental problems, and so the right balance for them is most difficult.

If one has a hard time spitting or rinsing out toothpaste, consider finding a toothpaste with lower fluoride concentrations. This is more common in children’s toothpaste, but there is significant overlap in fluoride concentrations between adult and child toothpaste12.

(I was under the impression that children’s toothpaste should have lower fluoride than adult toothpaste, but lower concentrations are associated with worse dental outcomes, while higher concentrations are more likely to only cause mild fluorosis. Additionally, fluorosis matters far less for a child’s first set of teeth – and its presence or lack thereof can be used to guide changes in their fluoride use.)

Sources, References, Footnotes

  1. Wikipedia states this with a dead link to an article from UNICEF. However, multiple sources of similar information can be found via search. In the interest of time, I did not research more details.
  2. I am combining data from many sources to state the range of “children” at increased risk. Different sources give different ranges, and are primarily focused on pre-teen ages. Dental fluorosis can occur any time teeth are growing, and thus this includes teens.
  3. Prevalence and Severity of Dental Fluorosis in the United States, 1999-2004. (CDC)
  4. Fluoride Action Network discusses and links to many studies. However, they do not distinguish between dental and skeletal fluorosis – instead claiming that all fluorosis cases are dangerous and crippling. Additionally, they do not clarify which studies are of a sub-population (such as the many studies on kidney disease and kidney failure), and they do not clarify the difference between very rare occurrences and reasonable risks to the average person.
  5. Fluoride does not replace calcium in enamel (for teeth) and bone, but a lack of calcium increases how much fluoride is absorbed by enamel and bone.
  6. Estimated Thresholds For Fluorosis. Warning: This page appears to be misleading, as it is part of the Fluoride Action Network4, and intermixes studies across a wide range of locations & causes without clearly distinguishing between types of fluorosis.
  7. Water has been fluoridated to 0.7-1.2mg/L. At the maximum concentration, one would need to consume 8.33 liters per day to receive 10mg/day, which is not really possible14.
  8. FoodData Central. (USDA) (Originally, I used a different source17, but they are not reliable.)
  9. Adult toothpaste contains 1,000-1,500mg/L fluoride, adults should use no more than a “pea-sized” amount of toothpaste (approximately 1mL)citation needed, which means that swallowing adult toothpaste gives 1-1.5mg fluoride per swallow.
  10. Fluoride – Health Professional Fact Sheet. (NIH)
  11. HealthyChildren.org’s page about hydration.
  12. Study highlights fluoridated toothpaste use in children.
  13. 1 ppm is equivalent to 1 mg/L. For consistency, I used mg/L within this article.
  14. Drinking more than 1 L/hr of water for more than 2 hours leads to water toxicity. It is likely one could die from water toxicity before they could consume enough fluoride to cause harm.
  15. Most studies “linking fluoride to negative health effects” are in India and China and based on high levels of contamination of multiple materials. These do not distinguish between lead, arsenic, and other toxins more likely to be the cause of these issues. Note: I did not do this analysis myself, and am relying on Professor Dave.
  16. In 2015, the US Department of Health & Human Services recognized that fluoride should be limited to 0.7mg/L for an optimal balance between dental protection and risk of causing dental fluorosis.
  17. Largest List of Foods That Contain Fluoride. Warning: This website is promoting pseudoscientific claims. Specifically, they claim to be able to remove fluoride from one’s body in 28 days, which is impossible due to how it bonds with bone and how slowly bone is reformed.

2022-01-20: Additional sources, footnotes; minor corrections/edits.
2022-02/03-??: Title changed to reduce likelihood of misunderstanding/spread of false information.
2023-04-19: Grammatical corrections, better word choice.

Impostors (Fiction)

I don’t remember when this was originally written, but it is another very old piece of fiction from me. Short and to the point, but leaving you hanging.. enjoy!

They had been attacked by canids already, and Grissom knew his captain was behind him a little ways with the other member of the landing party, so he snuck up behind the canine and struck with his sword.

He hears the captain’s voice grunt in pain and smells her scent coming from the canid he just stabbed. “C-captain? I’m so sorry. I-“

She cuts him off, sputtering, “It’s okay. Just, get the biofoam.”

“Grissom. She’s an impostor.” The captain comes down from a rock to their left.

He raises his laser pistol towards her. She stops approaching. Another appears from the right. “And so is she.” it says.

He turns to look at her, his pistol still aimed at the second one. From behind them, another steps out, “Grissom, come here.”

“Sorry captain.” he says looking between them, the laser pistol slightly lowered, “Not until I know which one is actually you.”

Another walked in from the path they had been taking through the caves. She stood silent for a moment looking between each of them, “Grissom.”

They all looked at her, “Grissom, I’m hoping you’re the one with the sword stabbing the other one.” she pulled out her own laser pistol and shot the two on her left. They fell to the ground.

Grissom aimed at her as she started to approach, “Not another step.” He let go of the sword, the other Grissom falling as the weight of the sword suddenly started cutting down. He pulled out his scanner and scanned the captain in front of him, the scanner read her as the captain. He turned it to the one still standing, it read alien DNA, he shot it.

At the same time he scanned the other one, the captain pulled out her scanner and scanned him and the one he’d stabbed, reading the true Grissom…and herself.

Grissom scanned the one he stabbed while the captain gently placed her laser pistol on the ground and rose her hands slowly. When he saw the readings as the captain’s, he quickly turned on her, but saw she was slowly backing away.

“I don’t know what your readings say, but mine say that you are Grissom and that one is me. Get the biofoam out for her, and take us both back to the ship now. We need to sort this out and staying here any longer will probably get us both killed.”

“Alright.” he says, picking up her laser pistol. “Back up.” She complies and he goes through his medpack, grabbing the biofoam.

The stabbed captain is unconscious, he carefully pulls the sword out, trying not to do any more damage, and applies the biofoam to seal the wound as he slips the sword the rest of the way out.