Where in I Get an HIV Test

Well, today I got my first HIV test in, oh, about 15 years. Indeed. Why rush, after all? I delayed not because I was afraid of a positive result (and for the record, I am negative), but… well, I hate needles. I really hate them. I know there’s one where they swab your cheeks and I planned to do that one a few years ago, but didn’t. Since then I haven’t exactly been motivated.

But then one of my friends started asking me to get one, and I poked around for options. I found a few options for home testing (including the only one approved by the FDA), but they looked too cumbersome. I also didn’t want to have to wait any length of time for the test, as I’m cursed with a vivid imagination and a paranoid streak. Then I found out there’s a place here in Phoenix that does them for free and gives you results within just a few minutes.

So I went down there today. I filled out a paper, waited about five minutes and was ushered into a room. There they took a blood sample using a lancet that wasn’t like any I’d seen before. I was used to the ones that were basically a pointed bit of steel and you or a friend had to jab your finder hard to get it. In this case it was a small, spring-loaded device that didn’t really hurt at all. The blood was sucked up with a pipette and put into a small testing device with another bit of fluid. I chatted with the tester for less than ten minutes and got my result: negative. The whole thing was quick, mostly painless and surprisingly easy.

And there we are. I know now for the first time in many years exactly what my status is. This is reassuring. I shall get retested annually now, like I know I should. A friend of mine gets tested on his birthday each year, but I won’t do that (positive result = worst birthday present ever), but I will be more responsible and do it more.


An Easter Video

Celebrate the day a Jewish zombie turned up to give God permission to forgive people for their sins! Enjoy!

Bad Times at a Restaurant

A transgendered woman was rather brutally beaten at a fast food restaurant the other day. My birthday, in fact. I’m not going to mention the restaurant because, unlike many people who are moved to blog on this, I don’t find it even remotely relevant. Besides, you can figure it out easily on your own. The video of the beating is here for those who wish to view it.

Now, then. From what I can tell, the employees and the manager were handling this correctly. I couldn’t understand most of what anyone was saying, much less the people behind the camera, but the manager seemed to be trying to stop the fight, and the employees were staying out of it, as they are doubtless required to do by company policy. We can discuss if that policy is good or not, but I understand why it is in place. Praise to the woman who tried to intervene on this, too. Both her and the manager seemed to be just interested in stopping this “fight”.

This of course brings up a larger issue which centers around what restroom someone who is transgendered should use, since that seems to be what started the problem. I’m inclined to say that if someone believes they are a particular gender, dresses like they are, and acts like they are, then fuck it. Let them use the bathroom they want to use. I can 100% promise you any truly transgendered person is not doing this for sexual kicks.

Besides, ask yourself this: If you think that person should have to use the mens’ bathroom because they have a penis, even though they dress, act and believe they are a woman, what of female-to-male transgendered people? Suppose some big biker guy came into the womens’ bathroom, beard and all, and tried to use it. Even if they sported a vagina, you can damn well bet the women inside would likely not be comfortable.

So again, if someone dresses, acts like and believes they are a particular gender, let them use the bathroom for that gender. There’s absolutely no reason not to.

Television Review – Doctor Who – “The Impossible Astronaut”

Series six of the long-lived BBC program has began, and it’s… hard to judge, actually.

See what we saw was part one of the series opener. Part two is going to air next week (while I’m at Leprecon, but you can bet I’ll be watching it on my laptop). There’s not a lot of resolution in this episode, just a lot of set up. But that’s ok, because the set up is quite good.

Our story opens with Amy and Rory relaxing at home talking about the Doctor. They then receive a message from him. Somewhere across time, Professor/Doctor River Song receives one as well and promptly breaks out of prison. All three end up in Utah and from there… a lot of things happen. There’s shooting, there’s shouting, there’s slapping, there’s Silence and there’s Nixon. It’s really hard to describe without giving away much of the plot. In fact I couldn’t use the opening line from A Christmas Carol in this review as I’d wanted to.

So it’s good, but it’s hard to judge just how good until I see part two. I will say it was great to see Amy, Rory, the Doctor and River again. Seeing the footage that was shot in the USA was great and it looked spectacular. Mark Shepperd did his usual great job as a former FBI agent and the aliens were really creepy (but not as much as some in the past have been). Really the show was firing on all cylinders.

And yet… I can’t escape a fear of mine. Given the plot point that was set up at the beginning, I have a horrible feeling we might end up with another paradox resolution to the plot. I hope we don’t. The set up is really good and I hope the payoff is worth it.

On a side note, this episode contained a tribute to Elisabeth Sladen at the beginning, which was fine, but I’d hoped there’d be some mention of Nicholas Courtney as well. Also CBBC aired a great tribute video to Elisabeth, and I really recommend trying to see it if you can. It’s sweet and wonderful, just like she was.

Droning On

Not an unmanned arial drone.

We have started using unmanned drones in Libya. Or to put it in a more alarming way “Terminators to Tripoli!” (note: exclaimation point added for obnoxiousness)

I know these vehicles are a problem for those on the right and on the left. I can kind of understand this, because basically everyone has seen The Terminator and we all “know” that the robots are out to destroy us (see here, here, here and just about every major science fiction film of the last twenty years).

I can understand this, but keep in mind: these aren’t robots. They are remote controlled vehicles. They are under human control flown by human pilots in a room in, I believe, Missouri. This is no different than a human pilot flying an airplane over enemy territory except, oh, wait, you don’t have that human pilot’s life in danger.

To me that is an important thing. While I don’t want us to have the hugely bloated military that we have right now, I do want the people in it to be as safe as possible. This is why I haven’t any problem ethically we us using these remote controlled vehicles. Why should I? I’m quite happy that we have a way to fly missions that doesn’t endanger the lives of the people flying them. I think that’s a good thing.

Now I know these things are a PR nightmare and have accidentally killed civilians. But that happens when we have real pilots and when we have people on the ground who have been known to even accidentally kill people on our side from time to time (side note: god, I’ve always thought that hat looks so stupid). Accidents happen in wartime no matter who is behind the controls. But frankly if we can at least keep our side safe, I’m happy with that.

Now I suppose the next question is: what if we do develop autonomous robots that can engage in combat? Should we send them into battle? Is the Pope a Catholic who covered up decades of child rape by priests? Yes. So yes. As long as there is oversight by a human, why not? This not only eliminates the physical danger to our troops, it also lessens the psychological nature and, frankly, makes the conflict just that much more terrifying for whomever we are fighting, thus making them more likely to surrender sooner and saving their lives, too.

The use of robotic devices and remote controlled vehicles in warfare is likely to only increase, and I’m just fine with that. Saving the lives of our soldiers is more important than giving into the fears of people who think those movies and TV shows linked to above are documentaries.

Some Thoughts on NASA

Should NASA be a priority during a national budget crisis? That’s the question Jack Cafferty was just asking on CNN. He then read off the usual collection of replies from people about the issue, most of whom probably think NASA gets upward of $100 billion a year. They don’t. According to Wikipedia they got about $17 billion in 2007, which was .6% of the US budget. Cutting funding to them is about as silly and pointless as cutting it to Planned Parenthood with perhaps even nastier consequences.

You see, students in the USA are way behind other developed nations in things like math and sciences. Our students are at the forefront of thinking they’re the best, like most of America, but they aren’t, like most of America.

If anything we should be spending more, way more, on NASA and space exploration. I’d be happy if we did spend $100 billion a year. First, that money isn’t shot into the sun. It goes to creating and sustaining jobs here on Earth. Second, imagine the inspiration to our children today if they knew that, ten years from now, we were going to Mars. How many kids currently in high school would want to be a part of that, and would bust their asses to get into science degrees? Third, if it was $100 billion, that would be only about six times the current amount, and would be about 3.6% of the budget, if my math serves me. If we cut the defense budget in half, as I’ve suggested before, we’d save about $350 billion. Surely funneling about $83 billion of that savings to NASA wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Besides, we really do need space exploration. We learn a lot about the universe by doing it, and learn quite a bit about our Earth and were it came from. Plus, it’s just fucking cool to think we’ve had people on the Moon, may send them back some day and will hopefully go on to Mars and beyond. We need to learn more about the wider universe. It’s just smart.

TV Review – Game of Thrones – “Winter is Coming”

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I’d heard HBO was adapting George RR Martin’s fantastic “A Song of Ice and Fire” series into a TV show. Only HBO could do the series justice, I thought. Now I’ll admit in theory Showtime or Starz could as well. But consider the nightmare possibilities had SyFy gotten their hands on this. *shudder*

The first season of the series (already renewed for a second season on the back of a huge audience watching the first episode. One wonders what will happen with HBO when the inevitable drop-off happens with episode two), is based off the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones. I read it once about two years ago, along with the other books, and was immediately hooked. Martin has created a world with great detail and imagination and one that feels every but as real as anything in world history.

The story of the first episode centers around Eddard Stark (Sean Bean), and his family. Stark has been asked by the King (Mark Addy), to become his new Hand (basically the King’s Bitch). It’s a position that carries great prestige and it’s probably no surprise that the previous Hand seems to have died by, as it were, accidentally brutally cutting his head off while brushing his teeth. Stark is not happy at the idea of being the new Hand, but knows he needs to do his duty. Interweaved among this is the Lannister family, including Queen Cersi (Lena Headey), her son Joffery and her brother Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).

A parallel story centers around two people whose names I cannot spell. Wikipedia says they are Viserys and Daenerys. They are brother and sister and the girl is about to marry a fellow with the fun name of Drongo. Ole Drongo is basically Conan, and is played by Jason Momoa, who will be seen this summer playing… er… Conan. This is part of a plot by Viserys to retake the throne of Westeros on behalf of his family. His plot is somewhat complicated by the fact that he seems to have a hard on for his sister, which is not uncommon in these stories (and, while not mentioned on the TV show, it is in fact their family’s custom to marry brother to sister).

If this sounds like a lot of people to keep track of, it is, and I haven’t even touched on the likes of Jon Snow or Tyrion Lannister. While the pilot is somewhat confusing in the “let’s get everyone some face time” kind of way, at no point did I have trouble keeping up and knowing who was whom (though the fact that I’ve read the books likely helped).

I must say that I was very impressed with the pilot. The acting by everyone was superb, and the sets looked amazing. It was filmed on location in places like Ireland and Malta and it really shows! HBO clearly spent a lot of money on this show and it’s money well spent. There was nothing about this episode that did not work for me and I cannot wait to see the rest. HBO is off to a fantastic start with this series!