Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Homeless - Homeless Alcoholics Need A Wet House

homeless, wet house, doc gurley's urban health beat, reporting on healthHomeless alcoholics need a wet house.

When you sleep with your bottle, you've passed a milestone in your addiction. You've got to have it against your chest, all night, easy to reach. Your relationship to it is like other people's relationships with their smart phones; it's crucial to your existence, always clutched in your hand. You feel unsettled when you can't see it, until it's easier to just sleep with it.
But there are other, worse stages to come. As I ask my clinic patients about them, I hear a ding in my mind, like an elevator does each time a door opens, each time a patient answers yes.
Do you wake with the shakes? That means that you're so addicted that you begin to withdraw every night as you sleep. Ding.
Do you wake up in the night to take a drink? Your brain must be bathed in alcohol, awash in the acrid sea of it, at all times. You can no longer make it to morning. Ding.
Do you seize if you stop drinking? Deprived of alcohol, your tender brain begins to crackle and sizzle, and then ignites like a gas-explosion - ka-whoom - as a depth charge of neurons fires. Ding.
Can you remember how this happened? It looks like something hit you pretty hard, sir, the way your cheekbone is caved in here under all this blood. Do you remember? You never remember what happens when you're drinking. Ding. Ding. Ding.
At what point does society decide that someone has become a danger to himself because of his addiction? And what can be done about it?
The large numbers of public inebriates on our sidewalks represent a financial, ethical, and moral crisis in cities across America. These suffering humans also represent a public health crisis. Mortality rates are sky high, with life expectancies equal to, or worse than, those of people living in the most devastated, violence-riddled pockets of our globe.
The issue of people drinking themselves to death on a sidewalk is one that unites and divides us in unpredictable ways, crossing "normal" divisions of politics, compassion, and fiscal conservatism. There are those who want a person slowly dying in plain sight to at least have a roof over his head. There are the more law-and-order, throw-the-bums-out types, who just want public inebriates off the streets. And no one can look at the eye-popping cost of this public, drawn-out suffering and death without thinking that, at $8 million dollars a year in health care costs for 100 people, there has to be a better - and cheaper - way.
Disclaimer: Identifiable patients mentioned in this post were not served by R. Jan Gurley in her capacity as a physician at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, nor were they encountered through her position there. The views and opinions expressed by R. Jan Gurley are her own and do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the City and County of San Francisco; nor does mention of the San Francisco Department of Public Health imply its endorsement.
Photo credit: George Erws via Flickr

PBS Website Hackers LulzSec Praise Zennie62, Media Misses Message

LulzSec is gaining fame for hacking into the website's of Fox, Sony, PBS, and it seems AT&T, by reading their Twitter tweets. Of course, the actions of the group of what Parmy Olson at Forbes.com says are four people (I think more) are lost on the mainstream media.

While the LutzSec folks say they're out to just have fun, their real intent in much greater, and necessary.

It was that observation I arrived at after reading a vast number of Twitter tweets, articles, and blog posts about LulzSec, then writing my own take that appears on Zennie62.com and on SFGate.com. After seeing it on Twitter (because I shared it with them), the group issued this tweet:

LulzSec The Lulz Boat
A fine article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/abraham/detail?entry_id=89990 @Zennie62
13 hours ago


Now at this point you might get the idea I'm egging LulzSec on. No, I'm not. They're going to do what they do regardless of my take. But, as a person who has intense disagreement with the way much of the media operates online, and an overall lack of understanding or interest in the Internet on their part, I see this as a much-needed cleansing.

What should come from these efforts are better and more secure website systems, and a lesser degree of corporate arrogance when matters of Internet operations are considered. What should also happen is the media should devote more time and effort to understanding and explaining what groups like LutzSec do.

Any one who thinks it's just for fun only sees what LutzSec wants them to see. The truth is, they do it because the website systems of many large companies allow them to do so. That goes for many news organizations.

If you think the PBS website hack was just playing around, don't think so. Every news website should look at what LulzSec has done and make sure their systems are secure so it doesn't happen to them. To think the unthinkable, imagine if the group had simultaneously hacked into three major news websites and posted the same Tupac story? Given the connections to Google News and other news aggregators, the damage to the media system would have been tremendous.

Yet, for now, this is possible.

It's possible, in part, because Google itself has subordinated blogs in favor of news websites, thus opening the public to such an effective attack. It's possible because a number of news websites are arguably not as secure as they could be.

This is a real problem. And look at it another way, LulzSec's not attacking websites where data exists that can really harm innocent people if it's compromised. These folks have a plan, and it's not about hurting society.

I'm not supporting what LulzSec is doing, I'm only explaining it's true implications to a public and a mainstream media that seems clueless. This idea of the hackers just having "fun" is only pablum, and the media's eating it up.

Stay tuned.

Subway Fights, NYC Naked Man Rants - How To Avoid Both

If you live in an urban area with a subway train system, chances are you've seen it, a subway fight. And maybe you've seen a naked man go on a rant on the subway system, as was true for a number of passengers on the #6 train in NYC in early May of this year. Well, if you've wondered what to do to avoid such calamities in the future, this video blog is for you.

Let's use three recent, real World examples - two from New York City.

In the first one, a young girl, black, is eating pasta out of a container, much to the displeasure of an adult white woman sitting across from her. Race is noted here, because the adult white woman uses racist terms and insults to verbally assault the obviously young girl. That alone was horrible, and some measure of understanding must be offered to the girl, who calls the woman by her overweight status.

But the best way for both to avoid these situations is, for the adult woman, to stop trying to control others. If she didn't like it, she could have moved - no one was stopping her.

The girl's not supposed to eat on the train, but let's face it, many people do. And I've seen some patrons and the police on San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit System make an issue of it if a person of color was doing the consuming of even a cup of coffee; it's OK if the person happens to be white.

But today, BART allows the sale of Starbucks Coffee in two stations: Berkeley and Powell Street. So, the BART Police should not even enforce such a "no eating" law and the BART Board should take it off their books, because it's not fair to maintain it, and sell food at the same time.

But I digress.

In the second example, an older Latina woman is singing on the Hollywood Subway. A man standing next to her doesn't like it. But rather than walk away, tries to control what she's doing. Another man takes offense to the, as I call him, "Angry Man's" behavior, and steps between them. The Angry Man sucker punches the other man and a fight breaks out.

The Angry Man had a problem and I personally hope he was charged with assault. He should have just walked away. The woman has a free speech right to sing on a public train, and at least one of the passengers enjoyed it.

Racism Is A Mental Illness

In the final example, a man in the video, obviously nuts, strips naked while yelling racial insults. What to do? Well, first get a camera or camcorder! Seriously. YouTube, for one video distribution company, pays well for viral videos. Second, get away from the guy and call the police, ASAP. Third, unless you like danger and think you can take him down without putting your hand in the wrong place, leave him alone.

The guy in the video had to be on something to act like that. Plus, he disobeyed a police officer, and then in one of the other videos it was said he tried to grab the cop's gun.

So this guy's looking at a bit longer than the standard penalty for disorderly conduct.

BART Is Safer - But Not By Much

Thankfully the BART system doesn't have as many happenings like these, even though they do occur. Take the guy blowing his horn in the passenger's face after the Giants World Series Game last year:

That passenger did the right thing: he just went with it, and the drunk guy walked on.

One reason for the fewer fights than in Eastern cities, I think, is simply because the trains are much nicer than their New York counterparts.

But the quiet, clean, nice BART of the 20th Century, is giving way to a dirtier, louder version in the 21st Century.

If this is a budget issue, and it must be, then given the state's overall revenue problem, we're in for trouble. One way BART should mitigate that is to have a sponsored train. Here, revenue is generated by allowing a train to have logos of a sponsor.

Something has to be done. Else, BART's degeneration into the next venue for urban fight clubs will continue.

Stay tuned.

YouTube's Statement On Harrassment And Cyberbullying

As this blogger's effort to have YouTube install a channel filter to block, for me, the unwanted N-word continues, we have to look at what Google and YouTube say about this problem, which is called "Harassment And Cyberbullying.

But before we press on, here's my video message:

Now. Why examine what YouTube and Google say about the problem?

Because some commenters on my video don't get the problem. Here's one comment that illustrates my point:

What I don't understand is how this word is so hurtful. It's just a word, and I guarantee you that 95% of the people that use it aren't racist at all, they're just trying to make you angry, and you're letting them.

I don't think that they should add a word filter. What are they going to do, remove all the videos such as rap and movie clips that have the word too? It's not going to happen and your complaining about it is just going to make more people do it because they know it ticks you off.

In other words, according YouTuber CelebO1996 (well, YouTube account holder, since he or she doesn't post videos) I should just take it, right? Continue to be harassed, right?

This is what YouTube and Google explain in their policy statements, starting with a definition of harassment:

Harassment is when someone persistently troubles or attacks another. Online, this is called cyberbullying and is commonly seen in text comments, messages and videos. People who harass others are usually doing this to get attention or reactions from others online or in real life. Harassment can be mildly annoying or can pose very serious safety issues. It's important to know the differences between the two to know when you should just ignore the user or report to a trusted adult or authorities.

So people who use the N-word fall into this category, obviously. Well, er, it doesn't seem to be obvious to some people.

As to how to stop it, this is the Google / YouTube statement:

Not everyone online is nice. Comments can get pretty rough sometimes. One thing nearly all haters have in common is that they are trying to get a reaction out of you. If a user's comments are bothering you, it's probably not a good idea to reply back. Instead, try deleting the comments and blocking the user so they can't view your other videos or leave more comments. You can also turn comments off for any video or manage comments by requiring pre-approval before they get posted.

Now for a person who has 1,468 videos, and counting, and thousands of comments, deleting and blocking the N-word has become a job onto itself. As I've said, and will continue to say, I've had it.

YouTube has something called the Help & Safety Tool, but it's designed to report a single YouTube account holder. If I used that, YouTube would get about 30 to 50 reports from me per month. Does YouTube want that? 

Why not just save everyone the trouble and add a word filter?

I'm not saying I don't believe in free speech, but if this wasn't a problem, Google and YouTube would not bother to install pages and write procedures for how to deal with Harrassment And Cyberbullying.

So, since the organizations have gone that far, why not go the extra mile and add a word filter?

It's not too much to ask for.