Reader Request Week 2009 #11: Wrapping Up

And now, the short bits that aren’t related to writing:

David Hill:

Is the Zombie Apocalypse a likely occurrence?

It happens every morning when people drag their ass out of bed to go to work. We seem to survive it.

Brendan:

We’ve heard about your preferences at In-And-Out and for Coke Zero… how do you prefer your hot dogs?
Ohio style (ketchup, mustard, relish) Chicago style (mustard, relish, onions, peppers, sauerkraut, celery salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, pinto beans, a pickle wedge and one Spanish olive) or California style (salsa and sprouts)?

Actually, none of the above: I like me a chili-cheese dog. And the first person who says “Oh, you mean a coney!” will get beaten. Coneys are fine for what they are; they are not chili cheese dogs, and if you can’t recognize the difference, well, I feel sorry for you, is all.

ytimynona:

Can a person live happily on minimum wage?

Sure, if they’re fifteen, it’s their first job, and they’re living with their parents who subsidize their basic necessities like food, shelter and clothing. Outside of this: no, not really. “Minimum wage” should not be understood as “the minimum amount someone needs to be paid to live in the US,” it should be understood as “the minimum amount we allow employers to pay someone.” There’s a difference.

Yuval:

Immunizations. Do you think parents should have the right not to immunize their kids?

I think parents have that right; I also think parents are generally stupid not to immunize their children, since in doing so they risk their children’s health and the health of other children. The peril of immunization has lately been plumped by various people for various reasons, and the primary end result seems to be a rise in children getting very ill and suffering lasting effects from easily preventable childhood diseases. To which I say: Well done, idiot parents. Well done indeed.

Steven desJardins:

Is it true that Harlan Ellison stapled your arm to a pig and shouted, “NOT SO FUNNY NOW, HUH, SCALZI?” And, in general, what’s your reaction to fans making up preposterous stories about celebrities?

Second answer first: it’s silly, and an indication that fans in some way don’t equate celebrities with actual human beings, but with figures from myth, to whom legends must be attributed and their exploits shared. This is really depressing if you think of Kim Kardashian as being the equivalent to some sort of low-grade mythological creature, like a dryad or a troll, but on the other hand it makes a bit of sense in how humans work psychologically (and to be sure, lots of “celebrities” go out of their way to encourage such myth-making, so it’s not that they’re always entirely blameless).

I’m not aware of any particularly preposterous stories being told about me, which is a reflection of a) my overall low notoriety in any field outside science fiction and b) the fact I’m fairly boring, but I decided long ago that my response to any rumor about me would be not to deny it but to confirm it, i.e., “So, Scalzi, is that story about you and the goat true?” “Of course it is! Is there really anything so wrong about the love of a science fiction writer for a goat?” and so on. Confirming everything has pretty much the same truth value as denying everything (which is to say, very little), but it’s more fun.

Which bring us to the answer to the first: Hell yes, Harlan did it. And then the pig and I went on a multistate crime spree with Harlan in the backseat adding color commentary. And then we all held hands as we drove into the Grand Canyon to our deaths. Man, you should have been there.

Joel:

Do you, in fact, have issues with poor balance, as the picture of your foot would suggest?

Joel is talking about this picture, in which you can see my big toe is shorter than the toe next to it, which apparently suggests balance issues (my foot is the one on the left; the foot on the right belongs to Alethea Kontis). The answer is no, my balance is reasonably good, although I think in my case it might have helped that I took a couple years of dance in high school, where I actually learned balance. But even before that I was not notably clumsy. I am not notably unclumsy either; I do my fair share of fumbling about, as does any person. But no more than my fair share.

Rembrant:

Extraterrestrial life? Intelligent extraterrestrial life? Space fairing intelligent extraterrestrial life? Terrestrial exploration by space fairing intelligent extraterrestrial life?

In order: Almost certainly, most probably, possibly, almost certainly not. It’s a big universe, people, it’s not easy to get around in it.

Stefan Llewellyn Smith:

Why do British actors get to play the bad guys in Hollywood blockbusters so often (Alan Rickman is the first notable example in Die Hard)? Are they just cheaper? Or does their accent sound evil to the average teenage boy?

They are in fact relatively cheaper (at least at first), but the real answer is because the ones Hollywood uses are classically trained stage actors (Rickman, for example, was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and was nominated for a Tony for Les Liaisons Dangereuses) who can make shit dialogue seem brilliant and therefore make the movie seem better than it is. Also, yeah, Americans seem to think that anyone with a British accent is inherently smarter and more interesting, so that helps too. Also, in point of fact, Die Hard isn’t the first example of the “British Bad Guy” syndrome — remember all those British folks in the Star Wars films, stomping around as bad guys. In that case, the fact that the original trilogy was primarily filmed in Britian had something to do with that. But there were British Bad Guys even before that.

Neal-with-an-“a”:

With some real medical breakthroughs seeming on the horizon, what do you see as the major impact of humans living significantly longer lives? Let’s say that kids of Athena’s age are likely to live to be 100+ and possibly be active, energetic adults well into their 90s. How does that change the world?

Well, Athena may very well live to be 100 even without medical advances, because our family is relatively long-lived when we take basic care of ourselves. I had a great-grandmother who lived to 102 and was active and energetic right until the moment she took a fall down her stairs (moral of that story: single level dwelling after the age of 80). I don’t think people living to 100 or so is going to be the thing that changes the word in any event; what’s going to change the world is when gene therapies and other procedures allow people to be younger significantly longer than they ever had before. When you have sixty year olds whose bodies are functionally 30, and 90 year olds functionally middle aged, it will make a huge difference in how things get done. One casualty of this: Social Security, because a functionally 45-year-old nonagenarian is not someone who needs to be retired. This may not be a horrible thing.

And we’re done! Thanks again everyone for sending in questions and reading the ensuing blather. Reader Request Week is one of my favorite things to do here on Whatever, so I appreciate you playing along. But remember you don’t have to wait for a Reader Request Week to suggest a topic; if there’s something you’d be interested in my blathering about, send me an e-mail. I like those kinds of e-mails.

61 thoughts on “Reader Request Week 2009 #11: Wrapping Up

  1. Can we get a tape of Harlan’s color commentary on your multistate crime spree? Because color commentary from him has just got to be awesome!

  2. I don’t get this ‘olive with a hot dog’ concept. Where does one put the olive? Sliced up and spread out? Do you cut the dog in half and put it in the middle? Does one eat it immediately before, or perhaps immediately after? I must know.

  3. ” Is the Zombie Apocalypse a likely occurrence?

    It happens every morning when people drag their ass out of bed to go to work. We seem to survive it.”

    So I can stop panicking and trying to hit people over the head with a cricket bat during rush hour? They’re starting to complain.

  4. ““British Bad Guy” syndrome — remember all those British folks in the Star Wars films, stomping around as bad guys. In that case, the fact that the original trilogy was primarily filmed in Britian had something to do with that. But there were British Bad Guys even before that.”

    Wasn’t Lucas playing the same car as the one used by Kubrick in “Spartacus?”
    In “Spartacu” All the salves were has American accents, except Jean Simmons, and all the Romans had British Accents. (They loved Jean Simmons performance I heard and broke the rule for her.)
    In “Star Wars” (the original 3 films) all the Imperials had British accents and all the rebels had American accents. The exception being Vader and Obi-wan, which I think was done on purpose to show that represented a different time and order. A pre-empire time.

  5. Follow up question, do you think parents who refuse to vaccinate their children should be allowed to send them to public school?

  6. How about a chili cheese char Polish? You can usually get them wherever you get a true Chicago dog, which does not generally include an olive, sauerkraut, or pinto beans but does include tomato wedges and 2 or 3 sport peppers in addition to the other ingredients above. And a poppy seed bun.

    Darn, now I have to go get a hot dog for lunch.

  7. My second toe is longer than all the rest, too. If you are born with such a trait then you get used to balancing that way. I didn’t take dance but I have taken Tai Chi, although I was in my 30s by then. And when the pointy toed women’s dress shoes were in fashion, I had fewer problems wearing them. My problem is with high heels but that’s in my ankles and knees.

  8. Ever had a Sonoran hot dog? A friend of mine from Arizona swears by them. I can’t get my wife to agree to try it, but I would think the whole hot dog wrapped in bacon thing would have some appeal in the Scalzi household.

  9. Brendan seems to have a very skewed impression of what a Chicago hot dog is…

    a kosher style hotdog on a steamed poppyseed bun. Toppins include mustard, tomato slices (or wedges), pickle wedge, onion, relish, celery salt, sports peppers (optional).

    Sauerkraut is something New Yorkers put on hot dogs. And the rest I’ve never head of people putting on dogs, but what he describes is definitely not a Chicago dog.

  10. That’s pretty much what I think. I would add that not only is the universe big, it has also been around for a long time. Saying it is big and old is more than a bit of an understatement.

  11. sauerkraut usually goes with a bratwurst and not a hot dog (go to austria or germany and a brat is usually server in a pair with a roll and some kraut.)

    i wouldn’t be surprised that kraut had kinda wormed its way onto a chicago-style dog, but to my knowledge, it’s not part of the original line-up.

    coney dogs are pretty much the grand-daddy of american hot dogs (going back to the ‘coney island red-hots’ of the post-civil war era), but aren’t proper chili dogs (i don’t care what people say — a chili dog without both beans and meat is an abomination to my palette!)

    …and now i’m craving a proper chilli dog something awful.

    (and if only there was a place in portland that sold bagel dogs. sigh!)

  12. To agree with John on the difference between a chili dog and a coney dog: I fight this battle often with people who don’t understand that putting chili on a hot dog is *not* a coney dog. The difference is in both the chili and the hot dog. A coney is what would better be described as chili sauce on a thinner hot dog, usually in a casing.

    For example, we have a restaurant in Troy, Michigan called Hippo’s that serves true Chicago-style hot dogs. They offer a Vienna Beef frank with chili on it and call it a “coney,” and I have explained to my not-from-Detroit wife that the item sold is not a coney, but a chili dog.

    John, the obvious follow-up: Skyline or Gold Star?

  13. Given that I am a Canadian with a German background, my fave are what we call Kraut dogs. Split the hot dog lengthwise most of the way through, stuff with sauerkraut, wrap with bacon, secure with toothpicks and cook. BBQ if you like slightly charred bacon, or bake if you like non-charred.

    The best hot dog I ever ate was when I was fifteen, out winter camping where we had to cook our own food, and I hadn’t eaten for two days. Frozen hot dogs are like food from the gods at that point. Like, they’re pre-cooked, ya know…

  14. British Bad Guys: I think it also has something to do with associating the accent with upper class snobs who think they can do as they please and generally treat the “little people” with disdain.

    A variant on the theme – east coast aristocrats. Dustin Hoffman once said he based his Captain Hook character on William F. Buckley, who he considered a “frightening” person.

  15. Steven @12 — Exactly
    Kurt @14 — As far as I have seen, while many hot dog places in chicago offer some kind of kraut dog or sausage, that is a whole different thing, most definitely not part of the standard dog.

    Of course, there is no need to mention that the relish must be dayglow green and ketchup is for fries and should never ever sully the hot dog of any person over the age of about 8.

  16. I’ve lived in California my whole life, and I’ve never heard of “salsa and sprouts” being a California style hot-dog. I have no idea where that’s from.

  17. Yeesh, I’m with Kurt. Who in the world puts salsa and sprouts on a hot dog (blech!), and why are they blaming it on my state?

  18. Here’s another Californian saying salsa and sprouts? On a hotdog? WTF? As far as I am concerned the equivalent of a california hotdog is in fact a carne asada burrito. I am not talking about any of that Americanized crap trying to pass itself off as mexican.

  19. Actually, people having productive lives LONGER is more likely to SAVE Social Security than to destroy it.

    Thanks to the timing of the crash of 2001 and the current Great Oppression (it’s not a DE pression, so it must be something else, no?) … I expect to be working until I hit 75 or 80 at the earliest. If I can get the physiology to function more optimally I should be working at the fun stuff I enjoy, and fortunately they’re improving the anagathic drugs.

  20. “…and the primary end result seems to be a rise in children getting very ill and suffering lasting effects from easily preventable childhood diseases.”

    Indeed. I had the measles when I was 8 years old (I’d been immunized, but the batch was bad, and it resulted in a widespread outbreak in the county where I lived.) There was no question about immunizing my own child, because I would do anything to keep him from suffering the way I did.

  21. Hey John, it tickles me you picked my question, hah. Love the response too! I picked up a copy of Zoe’s Tale last Friday at Borders! Can’t wait to read it.

  22. British bad guys: It’s not just the accents and it’s not just the Brits. There is a strong correlations between serious bad guy-ness and foreign cars: a Merc or a BMW, or even a Jaguar, is an instant sign of evil. Porsche is sometimes an exception. If the accent is very British and the car is both large and German, you are pretty much guaranteed to have found the villain.

  23. I’m guessing the “California style” was a dumbfuck attempt to make fun of California’s tendency towards healthy-veggie-hugging and its high Central American population.

  24. Hope @ 8: “do you think parents who refuse to vaccinate their children should be allowed to send them to public school?”

    … or anywhere else in public for that manner? Scalzi’s stance indicates that they are idiot parents for endangering their own kids, however an unvaccinated kid who picks up measles abroad and brings it back endangers the whole community, including infants who haven’t had a chance to be vaccinated yet. “This American Life” had a great piece (Episode 370 from last December) about a completely preventable outbreak in San Diego.

  25. MuleFace wrote: “I think it also has something to do with associating the accent with upper class snobs who think they can do as they please and generally treat the “little people” with disdain.”

    For example, Doctor Smith from the 60’s Lost in Space.

    John wrote: “One casualty of this: Social Security, because a functionally 45-year-old nonagenarian is not someone who needs to be retired. ”

    Weeelll, it depends on what they did for a living. If Athena ends up as a coal miner, her working life isn’t going to last until she’s 90, even if her peers in white-collar jobs are still cranking.

  26. I think parents have that right; I also think parents are generally stupid not to immunize their children, since in doing so they risk their children’s health and the health of other children.

    I’d like to take umbrage with this statement.

    The second part of your statement is important here–they are risking the health and lives of not just other children, but other individuals.

    Vaccination works on the principal of “herd immunity” you vaccinate everyone who is capable of being vaccinated, because 1) not all individuals are capable of being immunized (immunocompromised individuals cannot be vaccinated) and 2) vaccines do not work on all individuals, or have greater or lesser degrees of effectiveness. Vaccines do not work in all individuals (WVU lost a student earlier this year, who had gotten the meningitis vaccine, but contracted the disease anyway because she was part of the 20% of the population for whom the vaccine does not work) or have a reduced efficacy in some individuals (this is especially true of the elderly.)

    When a parent refuses to immunize their child, they are not just placing their own child at risk, but are jeopardizing the health and safety of the entire community.

    If a parent refuses to vaccination a child, then that child must not be allowed into the public school system, and the parents should refrain from taking that child to public playgrounds or other areas where children gather.

    Someone’s ignorant refusal to accept scientific evidence–evidence that has been repeated through multiple studies–should not allow them to place the health and lives of others at risk.

  27. Random Michelle: While I agree with you, many people are irrational about science.

    We’re currently having a small measles outbreak here in Pittsburgh because some people have been STUPID and failed to vaccinate their kids!!!

  28. Laurie Mann@31

    I think you could have ended your first sentence at “irrational.”

    There is some slight risk associated with vaccines. Oddly, those real (though small) risks aren’t the same as the faux-risks that most parents who fail to vaccinate say they are worried about. I confess though, that I don’t have a well thought out answer for a parent who asks “Why should I put my child at risk, no matter how small that risk is, for the good of other people’s kids?” All I can think is “Well, if everyone thought the way you do, we’d all be fucked, wouldn’t we?”

  29. Zombie apocalypse: you provided a good example of it above. Why, why, oh why won’t the myths about a connection between vaccines and autism DIE? I spend way too much of my own time putting bullets in the head of that one, and yet it constantly comes lurching back. No amount of scientific evidence is enough to kill it. Even the fact that the original “vaccines cause autism” publication turns out to have been FAKED will not convinced distraught parents that a needle stick didn’t cause their child to develop autism. For me, this is conclusive evidence that human beings are descended from pea-brained proteoprimates. My dog’s theory about the great tennis ball factory under the couch is more rational than this.

    Nonetheless: the government forcing needlesticks on people who don’t want it (or their children)? Extremely uncool.

  30. #32 hope

    The answer to that is that the risk of not having the vaccine is greater than the risk of having it–and that risk increases the more “objectors” there are. This is also the problem with some newer vaccines, such as hpv, where, if you do the math, the lifetime risk of cancer is pretty close to the inevitable risks of the vaccine, and you really DO have to ask yourself if it’s worth it. But for a vaccine like polio–no brainer. Srsly.

  31. JS: an indication that fans in some way don’t equate celebrities with actual human beings, but with figures from myth,

    Back in college, I took a course about Heroes in Greek mythology (from the department head). Later, I got the chance to chat with him over dinner, and discuss my theory that modern celebrities are indeed functionally equivalent to those heroes, even down to breakdown by type! (Our sports stars correspond to the war heroes, the musicians and singers match the poet-heros, and actors and actresses (plus some of the singers) mostly matching the “lover heroes” such as Adonis and Narcissus.)

    This discussion led to him playing Twisted Sister videos for a later iteration of the class…. There were also more “technical” correspondences involving details of the myth-patterns, but it’s been 20+ years, so I’ll leave those aside for now….

  32. Hope @32 “…a well thought out answer for a parent who asks “Why should I put my child at risk, no matter how small that risk is, for the good of other people’s kids?””

    My answer is, we all enjoy the benefits that modern society has to offer with regards to increasing human health, including clean water and inspected produce at the grocery. People rightly get bent out of shape when something happens, and people get sick from eating contaminated spinach. We have a remarkably stringent system in place to ensure that these things rarely happen.

    Childhood vaccinations have worked singlehandedly to essentially eliminate a huge list of infectious diseases that were endemic in the US 50 years ago. I teach Microbiology to pre-allied health students, and when I go through the litany of infectious bugs, most of the students haven’t even heard of most of them, because people don’t get sick from them anymore in this country. I ask them to raise their hands if they’ve had a smallpox vaccination, and invariably I’m the only one with my hand up in the air, because it works.

    I view this debate in much the same light as why you can’t go swimming in the municipal water supply reservoir down the road, or drive your car around here without getting your brakes inspected once a year. Yeah, the risk is pretty low and it impinges on civil liberties, but when something goes wrong other people can die.

  33. I confess though, that I don’t have a well thought out answer for a parent who asks “Why should I put my child at risk, no matter how small that risk is, for the good of other people’s kids?

    “False dilemma. You’re putting your child AND everyone else’s child at risk when you don’t vaccinate.” There, that was easy. ;)

  34. @ mythago at 37: You’ll probably appreciate the Michigan Law Review’s answer to the question: “You might get sued if Your Darling starts a measles epidemic!”

  35. Ah fame at last, having my question chosen.

    Indeed Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin. Then a whole host of unnamed British actors getting choked by Darth Vader when things weren’t going well. I felt a little sorry for them: they weren’t the ones who clearly couldn’t shoot straight, that was the Stormtroopers.

    In a similar vein, poor David Prowse gets to do Episods IV-VI under Darth Vader’s mask, then they dub over his voice, and right at the end, it’s not his face under the mask.

  36. Joel – Is this something that I have missed – some urban myth about bigger 2nd toes – ’cause I too share that wonderful trait, the (dare I say it) evolutionary advantage of a longer 2nd toe (2of them infact one for each foot no less) and I have no issue with balance.
    In anycase I think that this is the more important issue – Vaccination ha! Toe-ism is the real issue here. Is Joel really just hiding his Toe-istic nature with such a innocent question? Or is it the fear that us 2nd toer’s with rise up and take our place as leaders of the world… Mwhahahaha!
    (if you look at my blog you will see that toes are not the only thing that Scalzi and I have in common when you take our photo do we not turn into demons???)

  37. Not just bad guys, but the Old Mentor type is often played by a Brit as well (unless Morgan Freeman’s available).
    Reasons could be:

    Heroes don’t have to be very articulate in American films – taciturn and physical is generally the way to go – so you don’t need someone who’s good at soliloquies. The bad guy has to have a plan, which needs explaining. The hero just has to disrupt the plan, which requires action.

    Yes, the accent.

    It’s good to have a foreign bad guy because foreigners are bad. But you don’t want him to speak in a foreign language because audiences hate subtitles. Therefore he’s got to be an Anglophone bad guy. That doesn’t leave you many options: Canadians are too nice and Australians are too dumb to be villains, South Africans barely speak recognisable English and Indians sound funny, like Apu (plus, you wouldn’t want to be racist, would you).

  38. “I’m not aware of any particularly preposterous stories being told about me”

    How about the one where you smoke crack and sodomize cats?

    It’s true. I’ve seen pictures. ;)

  39. Steven @ #12: Brendan seems to have a very skewed impression of what a Chicago hot dog is…

    I grew up in a ketchup-mustard-relish town, but I came to love the served-with-everything style dog while I lived in Chicago – a decent-sized frank, piled up with whatever the cart had. You could always count on the chili peppers, relish and onions. Most carts had pepper and celery salt, many had the pickle spears, some had sweet gherkins.

    I can’t recall any that had tomatoes, or any that had Spanish olives or pinto beans. That was intended a joke, but if they’d been on the cart, I’d have tried them.

    Now, I live where it’s common to put mustard on a pretzel, but people look at you funny if you put mustard on a hoagie. Trust me on that one.

    Oh, for the record, I have no idea if people in California put salsa and sprouts on their hot dogs, as I’ve never lived there. That was another joke. Still, once you’ve seen people put mustard on a pretzel and consider it normal, just about anything’s possible.

  40. I guess I’m addressing the original post as well as comments when I say this:

    It always gives me pause when people who generally seem intelligent, thoughtful, and well-considered dismiss non-vaccination (and usually by extension of their logic, alternative vaccination schedules) outright with the kind of anecdotal evidence and/or “good horse sense” reasoning usually reserved for decrying evolution or global climate change. I’m not necessarily arguing against vaccination, but to me, such outright dismissal gives the appearance of being uninformed when not even the barest of mention is given to this being a large and complicated issue. And, if I may say so without being insulting, it seems arrogant to cast aspersions on the intellect, competence, and intentions of such parents. Within the US healthcare system, it certainly requires more time, energy, and consideration to pursue any kind of alternative vaccination schedule. To denounce all such parents willing to do so as “idiots” or similar seems illogical at best.

    I’m not some kind of anti-vaccination crusader and I’m not trying to be coy or clever or deliver a back-handed compliment by my first sentence. I genuinely find it surprising. Hopefully my comment doesn’t convey a “No offense, but you’re a [pejorative]” tone.

  41. I knew it! Californians DO put salsa on hot dogs: “Street vendors in Los Angeles also serve a popular Mexican style bacon-wrapped hot dog with grilled onions, jalapeño or bell peppers and salsa as condiments.” Thanks to Josh Jasper @#4 for the linkage.

    Wait a minute…

    Each of [Huntington, West Virginia]‘s several hot dog stands feature a slightly different variation of sauce (ranging from a pinto bean-based paste to a thick pile of well-seasoned ground beef).

    But also…

    The Sonoran hot dog, found in Tucson, Metro Phoenix, and in neighboring Sonora, Mexico, is a hot dog grilled in a processor or on a griddle, wrapped in Mesquite-smoked bacon, topped with freshly-chopped tomatoes, onions, shredded yellow or cotijo cheese, tomatillo salsa or red chile sauce, pinto beans, mayonnaise, ketchup and/or mustard, and served on a bread.

    The all-American hot dog – a poster child for ecumenical flexibility. And now, as lunch is fast approaching, a chili-cheese dog is calling my name.

  42. MT@39,

    Hey, I use ketchup and mayonnaise as well. You’re not alone.

    On a related topic, what was Der Wienerschnitzel thinking that they got rid of the ‘Der?’

  43. I’d completely agree that not vaccinating children against deadly and easily communicable diseases like measles, mumps, polio, etc is dangerously stupid, both for the children involved and the community at large. But I think there’s some reasonable risk-balancing to be done for other diseases.

    For instance, we thought it was pretty unlikely that my kindergartner was at risk for Hepatitis B. Heb-B is transmitted mainly by via bodily fluids: semen (sex), blood (sharing infected needles), and from mother to fetus). It seemed pretty unlikely that a kindergartner would engage in unprotected sex or needle sharing. And the immunization may last for as little as a decade, so we decided not to immunize our kids against Hepatitis B at age 4. So far the “gamble” has paid off. When my older son hit 5th grade, we did get him the vaccine. (I still don’t think those bad behaviors are likely, but by middle school they’ve entered the realm of possibility.)

    Chicken pox is another vaccine we skipped. My wife suffered through chicken pox as an adult. Giving our kids a vaccine that might put them at a higher risk for that seemed like a bad idea. So we didn’t.

    I’m not sure if this puts me in Scalzi’s “idiot parent” category. I don’t think it does. If I’m wrong, then I’d respectfully say “Nuh-uh! You’re the idiot, Mr. Stupidhead!”

  44. I feel a bit like one of those old tootsie-pop commercials, where there’s the kid asking the owl how many licks it takes to get to the center….

    Only in my case, it’s “how many times do you have to make inane comments/questions about Scalzi’s balance before he answers.”

    1…2…

    TWO!!!!!

  45. I’m all for vaccines, but that doesn’t mean you can’t apply some common sense.

    I’m not totally sold on the chicken pox vaccine, so we’re waiting. We’ve had the girls pumped full of all kinds of other things, but we’re waiting on chicken pox.

    That being said, I think the people who say “But vaccines are too danjerus for MY PRESHUS SNOWFLAKE! I shall rely on herd immunity (read: Your kids are a human sacrifice to protect my kids)” are flaming assholes. Not idiots. Assholes.

    If you believe that herd immunity works and is a greater good for society, I feel that it is ethically dodgy to refuse to participate in the herd.

  46. My big toe is smaller than my middle(?) toe, as well. I was once told that it means you have an outspoken, take-charge personality. Take it as you will.

    I can also point with my big toes. :)

  47. Laurie Mann@31
    I confess though, that I don’t have a well thought out answer for a parent who asks “Why should I put my child at risk, no matter how small that risk is, for the good of other people’s kids?”

    It’s not a perfect answer (I don’t think one exists) but there’s always this: “Well, all those other parents are putting their kids at a small risk in order to protect yours – you might at least consider returning the favor.”

  48. EthanH @45: usually the ‘you’re an idiot/asshole’ comments are in response to the prevailing mishmash of anti-vaccination arguments, namely that nice clean people like us don’t get those diseases, it’s all a scam by Big Pharma and anyway vaccines make your kid autistic.

    Jon @48: the reason an early Hep B vaccine is recommended is precisely because of the thinking you expressed in your post: hey, my kid isn’t old enough to sleep around, he doesn’t need it. Unlike you, most parents don’t then rush their kid in for a Hep B vaccine when he’s approaching an age where it’s a genuine risk. (Cf. arguments against vaccinating girls against HPV not based on safety or efficacy concerns, but on arguments that virtuous young women will never need to worry about such a thing.) So it’s more efficacious to just tell people to get it now, when their child is being vaccinated for other things.

    Re chicken pox, the vaccine is to protect kids from getting it ever, so they don’t get it as adults. Also, chicken pox really sucks. I had no problem getting it for our kids. Anecdotally, when I was last in the hospital, my roommate (an elderly woman admitted for suspected gallstones) turned out to have shingles. Naturally, the medical geniuses didn’t figure this out for a couple of days. So if my kids hadn’t been vaccinated, they would have been exposed when they visited me.

    (Reminder to self: you need booster shots for a whole bunch of stuff, dumbass. Call the doctor.)

  49. This has dropped off the front page, so I doubt anybody is reading the comments here anymore, but I thought I’d briefly respond to mythago @ 45:

    usually the ‘you’re an idiot/asshole’ comments are in response to the prevailing mishmash of anti-vaccination arguments, namely that nice clean people like us don’t get those diseases, it’s all a scam by Big Pharma and anyway vaccines make your kid autistic.

    Except that I’m encountering this argument here, where the initial question was “Immunizations. Do you think parents should have the right not to immunize their kids?” and the short version of the answer was “Well done, idiot parents.” Additionally, when it comes to painting the whole of alternative vaccination supporters with one broad brush, I can’t really accept “well, we’re only really talking about this one specific [and in my personal experience, rare] subset.” And in any event, it seems pretty clear here that this isn’t the case.

  50. I’ve got one and I couldn’t find the answer.

    I was recommending Old Man’s War to a friend of mine and I cam to a sudden realization. An Old Man’s War movie would be awesome. Is it plausible to hope for one in the possibly near future?

    You know there’s supposed to be an Ender’s Game movie coming out, I think that will be a hit as well. If that does well I think Old Man’s War definitely will.

    I love both books and I’m not generally a huge sci-fi person either. So, you should know you’re writing is well loved even outside the Trekkie sort of circle. (No offense to Trekkies, I live with one.)

    Hope equating your writing with Card’s didn’t offend.

    Christian

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