Sep 022014

The ALS ice bucket challenge has dominated social media for the last few weeks and has raised tens of millions of dollars for ALS research. Countless more people have now at least heard of ALS and have a basic understanding of the disease’s effects on those who have it. This is all good news, right?

Maybe. Slate points out that the ALS Association is no closer to finding a treatment or cure after decades of research and it’s unlikely that a sudden influx of money will change that. And while ALS is a potentially fatal disease, it affects relatively few people. Does it make sense to throw $100 million (according to some estimates) at a single and rare medical condition? Would that $100 million have otherwise been spent on other charities that are more likely to achieve immediate results with the money (like feeding the hungry or developing new sources of clean water for poor communities)?

I won’t be giving money to the ALS Association. To be clear, I also don’t give money to charities related to spinal muscular atrophy (my disability). Medical research is a decades-long process that isn’t going to yield results any faster because of my $100 dollar contribution. I certainly don’t begrudge the ALS Association for its sudden windfall and I hope it puts the money to good use, but there must be a better way to fund and coordinate research in “orphan” genetic diseases that otherwise attract little attention from the private sector. It would be great if the ice bucket challenge kicked off a more thoughtful conversation about that very topic. Unfortunately, thoughtful debate isn’t a strength of social media. What’s more likely is that donations to the ALS Association will fall off a cliff before long and the long-term benefits of the ice bucket challenge will be ambiguous at best.

Aug 282014

Earlier this summer, my mom made some worried comments about the violence in Ukraine. I told her that things would calm down soon because Putin would realize that further intervention wasn’t worth the risk of tougher sanctions. Silly me. Putin has been far craftier with his Ukrainian strategy, engaging in a kind of slow-motion invasion that has has sown confusion and hesitancy among Western leaders. I still doubt that a shooting war will erupt between NATO and Russia, but tensions could easily escalate if either side misread’s the other’s intentions.

World affairs have been something of a horror show this summer and it would be nice if the human race could spend the rest of the year not bearing witness to a slowly unfolding global crisis.

Aug 152014

My family was in town this week for a low-key reunion, so posting has been particularly light. But here are a few stray thoughts for a Friday:

  • The news of Robin Williams’ death was a terrible shock. I loved his manic form of comedy that sometimes became a deluge of pop culture references. His humor channeled the Internet before the Internet was a thing. But I was also saddened by the harassment inflicted upon his daughter Zelda after she posted a tribute to her father on social media. I understand that even sociopaths have the right to express themselves, but it should be far easier to mute their toxic chatter on timelines and newsfeeds. The Internet is supposed to be a self-regulating platform, but that regulation seems to be lacking even as we become more dependent on the platform.
  • On a lighter note, I’m thoroughly enjoying Divinity: Original Sin. It’s a throwback to the isometric role-playing games of the 90’s such as Fallout and Baldur’s Gate, which are among my favorite titles. Divinity doesn’t offer much hand-holding, but I appreciate the opportunity to figure out things for myself. Between this and the forthcoming release of similar games like Pillars of Eternity, my gaming calendar should be booked through the winter.
Dec 122013

Megyn Kelly of Fox News wants to make damned sure that the children of America know that Santa Claus is a white man. Any suggestion that this mythical figure, who defies the laws of physics and spacetime once every year, could not be white is both silly and quite possibly subversive. Santa was, is, and always will be a white man, just like his pal Jesus.

You really must watch the video; it’s priceless. These are actual adults who are, presumably, paid to be on national television:

Dec 052013

My cousins in South Africa came of age at a time when apartheid threatened to tear the country apart. Thanks to the monumental efforts of Nelson Mandela, they and their children know a country at peace. Much work remains to be done before South Africa can be called a truly equitable nation, but Mandela assured that work could begin.

Aug 302013

I’ll preface this by saying that that plenty of other blogs can provide much more intelligent commentary on the events unfolding in regards to Syria. But what exactly would we accomplish with military intervention? I understand that chemical weapons are horrible, but is it any more acceptable for civilians to be slaughtered with bullets and mortars? This distinction between conventional and nonconventional arms may have made sense fifty years ago, but it seems archaic when modern conventional weapons are perfectly capable of killing thousands in seconds. If we only sit up and take notice of civilian deaths when chemical weapons are used, we’re hardly the defenders of justice that we claim to be as a nation. We’re like cynical cops who only venture into a bad neighborhood after someone sprays gunfire into a playground.