Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Seven - Part One

This chapter promises to show us how parents can help young women during their wait for Prince Charming.  I'm skeptical about this chapter since the King and Queen have provided precious little support or help to their daughter so far in the book.

In the last chapter, we found out that the Princess is now at least 19 years old and is moping about not being married yet.  This chapter begins with the Princess crying in the courtyard because she's become an old maid.  The King tells her that God wants her to learn to be happy at home now before she moves into the next phase of her life.

I find the King and Queen's lack of any empathy or attempts at comforting their daughter disconcerting.  I was a high-strung child who grew into an anxious teenager.  I remember many times where I was worried or upset about a small issue that seemed huge to me.  My parents always attempted to comfort me before helping me put the issue I was worried about in proper context.  

The Princess settles down a bit when she remembers that she wanted to ask the King about doing something that would allow her to have a bit more autonomy for a period of time.

"Remember that time we talked about the Spring Fair? You said it was permissible for me to go, but explained how I must be a candle and a rose."

" Yes, I remember. You met Sir Eloquence there, " replied the king.

" Um, yes, " she said, not wanting to be reminded of him. Then she continued with her question. "I was wondering, thinkest thou that I should attend the Merchants' Fest in Carnalville? I realize it is not the manner of event which we approve-- " (pg. 124)
  • I am so sick of the damned "rose and candle" metaphors.  The metaphors are not deep or original to start with - but Mally's staid and heavy-handed use of them in every chapter drag the narrative to a halt each time.
  • The King's not-so-subtle reproach of the Princess' last attempt at being a normal teenager is trite.  
    • For those of you who have forgotten Sir Eloquence,  here's a plot summary:  Sir Eloquence meets the Princess and likes her.  He talks to her when she's in town.  He comes to the castle and asks to marry the Princess.   The King scares him off.    Nothing terribly remiss happened.  The Princess didn't give a hunk of her heart away let alone do something really scandalous like meet with him alone, kiss him or have sex.
    • The King is reproaching the Princess for Sir Eloquence's behavior - not the Princess' behavior.  I guess that's the natural outcome in a society where women are held responsible for men's attraction - but it makes no sense.
    • The Princess went to the Spring Fair when she was 16.  She is now at least 19 years old.  Most 19-year-olds are substantially more mature than they were at age 16.  The Princess may not be - but if that's the case, her parents have a lot to answer for in how she was raised since the Princess seems to be a dutiful daughter.
  • Let's talk about the newest plot hole.  The Princess has spent the last few years reaching the level of master craftsman in baking, painting, weaving, candle-making, dyeing and goldsmithing.  We know she made these levels because she's been allowed to teach the other young women of the village these skills.  (Who'd of thought the anachronisms still burn every time I read this....).  Why is anyone surprised that she'd want to go to the Merchants' Fest?  She's been working as a merchant for years now!  And yet - instead of having the King freak out about the fact he's been letting his daughter do work well below her station in life - Ms. Mally needs to clobber us with the fact that the real problem with the Fest is that it's in Carnalville.  
    • In terms of destroying her marriageability,  having her train as a dye master was a far more severe problem than worrying about a potential flirtation with Sir Eloquence.
The Princess concedes that the King told her that the Fest would be dangerous because there would be dancing and evil talk at the big party, but the Princess promises to stay away from trouble and mentions that she thinks she should be meeting more guys.  (Personally, I am deeply disappointed that the dangers of CARNALville are dancing and gossip. )  She also mentions that she's nearly 21 years old.

The King freaks out.  He tells the Princess that she has no idea what she's talking about and implies that if she goes to Carnalville now, she'll be immediately swept up by an unsuitable guy because the Princess has the audacity to admit she's lonely.

Personally, the King's overwrought protection of the Princess' virtue has gotten old by this point in the book.  The Princess wants to go somewhere that may expose her to "adult themes".  Let her go!  She's more than old enough to hold her own.

For the first time in the book, the Princess tries to press her point after the King has expressed disapproval.

"The alligator speaks of the festivities and the social banquets to be enjoyed, " she continued.

"The alligator eats the scum at the bottom of the moat, " the king added drily. (pg. 125)
  • This was the point I realized that I was making the book far more interesting by viewing the Alligator as a manifestation of the Princess' psyche.  After all, the Alligator never appears around others.  No one else has ever mentioned an Alligator living in the moat.  I enjoyed the idea of the creeping insanity that comes from solitude breaking out in the increasing frequency of visits of the Alligator who both comforts and torments the Princess.  Then, Ms. Mally ruins it by having the King casually allude to the Alligator that lives in the moat.  
  • Alligators do not eat scum.  Pond scum is a mixture of algae, phytoplankton, zooplankton and small invertebrates.  Animals that eat pond scum have mouths adapted for filter feeding.  Alligators have large, sharp teeth and powerful jaws.  This is because alligators are obligate carnivores and mature alligators are apex predators.  The fact that I have to explain this after reading a book written by an adult home-schooling graduate is not a strong recommendation for the Mally's home schooling methodology.
  • Turning the Alligator into an actual living reptile that skulks in the moat causes another gaping plot hole.  The King refuses to let the Princess go to any sort of social gathering for fear of corrupting her - but he lets the Alligator act as her sole companion.  Is he clueless, negligent or sadistic?  I'm starting to lean towards sadistic.
  • Random factoid: Alligators are native to two places.  One is China; the other is the southeastern USA.  This book is clearly NOT located in either place - so why is there an alligator living in the moat?

"The other maidens will all be going, and I will stay with them, " explained the princess as she began to wander slowly through the courtyard. "They mingle often with the young men in the village. The alligator says such relationships are healthy. "

" But you are forgetting that thou art a princess," said her father, following her. " Remember thou also that the alligator has dragon's blood in his veins."

"But, others - -"

" Others do not understand that a little foolishness ruins the testimony of one who has wisdom and honor. "

" But others - -"

" Others do not have me as their father. Others do not represent the royal family." (pg. 125)
  • The stage directions in this novel make no sense.  In the middle of a conversation with her father, the Princess walks away from him while still speaking as he follows her.  That's not how people interact in the real world.  It's plausible that the two of them would be walking together during the conversation - but having the Princess wander about as the King chases after her is an odd choice.
  • The Princess is forgetting that she's royalty - but we've established already that she's never acted like royalty before in the entire book.  This is one of those points where Mally would have been better off having the King reprove the Princess for acting inconsistently as a Christian (well, as interpreted through Christian Patriarchy).  Otherwise, the reproof about her testimony makes no sense; royalty have divine right of rule, not testimonies.
  • There are exactly two people who care about the Princess' testimony in the book - the King and the Queen.  If their nearly 21 year old daughter isn't into protecting her testimony, maintaining it through forced isolation is pointless.  After all, she's not a candle shining outwards if she's maintained her purity by avoiding all interactions with people her own age.  None of the young townspeople are going to look at the lonely Princess in the castle and think "Huh.  I should totally recreate that in my own life.  Let me go sit alone in my cottage for the next few years."
The King spends a long paragraph belaboring the point that when the Princess chose the way of purity no one said that it would be easy to follow through on.  That brings up an important point.  The Princess hasn't chosen the way of purity freely.  She might have picked to follow that way at some point in the past, but she's being railroaded into staying on the path now.  If she's never allowed to leave the path, that's coercion.

The King walks back into the castle leaving the Princess crying by the moat again.  This attracts the Alligator...again.  If Sarah Mally's life is as monotonous as this book is, I pity her.  The Alligator tells the Princess that she should go to the Merchant's Fest since her father never forbade her from going.  The Princess replies that her parents have given her good advice all her life so she prefers to obey the King's advice this time.  While I disagree with her choice, this is the first time she makes a choice and is able to coherently describe why she made the choice.

That's the end of the allegory for Chapter 7.  The advice portion is equally brief, thankfully.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Don't follow the Idiot off the Cliff: Nancy Campbell's Anti-Vaxx Stupidity

Hello all!

Nancy Campbell decided to crib a bunch of anti-vaxx shit from the internet to show why we shouldn't vaccinate children.

She's an idiot.

Let's look at some current statistics from the USA involving diseases that children are vaccinated against:
Measles: 

  • 1 in 4 people who contract measles will be hospitalized.
  • 1 in 1,000 will die.
Tetanus:

  • 13 in 100 sufferers will die. 
  • Cannot be eradicated since the bacterium lives in the environment
  • Half of all cases do not involve either a deep wound or puncture wound

Diphtheria:
  • For people between 5-40 years of age, the death rate is 10% or 10 out of 100 people who get sick.
  • For kids under 5 and adults over 40, the death rate is 20% or 20 out of 100 people. 
Rubella:
  • Fairly harmless in men and children, but women who get rubella are at a much higher risk for arthritis.
  • If contracted during pregnancy, the virus can cross the placenta and do severe harm to the developing fetus.
  • There is a large population of deaf people in the USA who were born between 1968-1970 during a massive rubella outbreak; they were the lucky one since rubella can also cause fetal death.
These are not minor illnesses; they cause real suffering, disabilities and death.

So how did Nancy Campbell get so confused?  Well, a heaping dose of scientific illiteracy always helps.

Let's look JUST at the first paragraph.  She links to an article on healthfreedoms.org.  I decided to humor her since I wanted to read the actual study.  When I clicked on the link, I'm re-routed through Facebook - which is a tad annoying.  I do get to healthfreedoms.org eventually.
On the actual website, the article she cited is categorized under "Big Government" which is an odd category for a health site.  On the other hand, it sells organic goods in the header, too!  The article is titled "Vaccinated vs. Unvaccinated Children: First Study of It's Kind Shows Alarming Health Differences".  I generally don't trust writers who don't know that "it's" is a contraction for "it is" while "its" is the pronoun that should be used in this case.

The article links to a real published study from American Pediatrics.  The purpose of the study is to compare the health problems in publically insured vs. privately insured kids in the US.    The first problem with using data from this set for all kids in the US is that including publically insured kids will skew the number of severely ill kids in the set.  This is because any child who spends more than 30 consecutive days in the hospital automatically qualifies for Medicare - which brings all of the micro-preemies and children with severe congenital abnormalities.

Next problem: The study looks at 20 chronic health conditions plus two potential risk factors.  Nancy never bothers to separate the two - but the two potential risk factors are overweight/obesity and risk of developmental delay.

Let's take a look at the "chronic health conditions" that Nancy is freaking out about:
Over 20% of parents responded that their kids have:
1 )Overweight/Obesity (environmental risk factor)
2)Risk of Developmental Delay (environmental risk factor)
3)Environmental Allergies (excluding food)

Over 10% of parents responded that their kids have:
4) Learning disability
5)Asthma

Over 5% of parents responded that their kids have:
6)AD(H)D
7)Chronic Ear Infections (3+ in last year)
8) Conduct or Behavior Disorders
9)Migraines
10) Speech problems
11) Developmental Delays that affect learning rate

Over 2% of parents responded that their kids had:
12) Food/Digestive Allergies
13)Anxiety
14) Depression
15) Bone, Muscle or Joint Problems
16)Hearing Problems

Over 1% of parents responded that their kids had:
17) Vision Problems
18) Autistic Spectrum Disorder
19) Epilepsy

Less than 1% of parents reported that their kids had:
20) Diabetes
21) Brain Injury or Concussion
22) Tourette's Syndrome

Of the 22 conditions listed, only four are presumed to be caused by problems with the immune system: environmental allergies, asthma, food/digestive allergies, and type 1 diabetes.

To make any claims about the effects of vaccinations on those four conditions, Nancy would need to produce data that shows that the number/percentage of children affected by these conditions has changed after routine childhood vaccinations have started OR that the severity of the conditions has increased after routine childhood vaccinations started.  The study she cited doesn't include that type of information since the study was looking at a completely different area of interest.

Additionally, Nancy - or the researchers if I wanted to be accurate - would need to exclude the effects of changes in our environment and medical treatment before claiming that vaccines alone caused any increase.  To start, diabetes treatment was in its infancy in the 1950's and 1960's.  Reasonably purified insulin was available, but there were no methods for testing blood sugar at home except urine tests that showed a rough range of possible sugar amounts.  With nearly instant blood testing available at home, a variety of insulin types available, and medical equipment like insulin pumps that were non-existent then, the survival rates of childhood diabetics has improved noticeably over time.  This wonderful change in survival rates has also increased the percentage of kids who have diabetes since fewer kids with diabetes die.

On a personal note, I'm watching my son kick his chubby little legs with two bandaids on them from his 6 month immunizations.  When he was born at 26 weeks gestation and was the size of a single-serve pop bottle, he had a 1 in 10 chance of dying.   Within a month, he was down to a 1 in 100 chance of dying - or less.  I was willing to risk permanent liver and kidney damage to give my son a better shot at survival - and I feel angry that I couldn't trade damage to my body in return for less pain and suffering for him.   (I know that medicine doesn't work like that; Jack and I weren't two separate systems yet so damage to my organs would poison him.  I get it; I don't have to like it.)

What kind of mother would risk giving their child a 13 in 100 chance of dying from skipping a tetanus vaccine?   What kind of mother would risk a 20% chance of their child dying and 100% chance of a miserable hospital stay from diphtheria?

I want my son to live.  That's why I vaccinate.  That's why Nancy Campbell is an idiot.