Author Archives: Kelson

Wondering About Age and Food Allergy Deaths

OK, this is a bit morbid, but bear with me.

Most news stories about deaths from food allergies feature children or teenagers, maybe young adults in their twenties. You read about grieving parents. You rarely read about the 40-year-old who leaves behind a grieving spouse and kids.

Food allergies send a lot of people to the emergency room: 200,000 annually in the US alone according to FARE. Almost all are successfully treated. But people do die from anaphylaxis, roughly 63–99 each year in the US according to AAAAI.

So why are the fatalities we hear about so young?

Is it just demographics? Allergy prevalence has been increasing, after all, so kids are more likely to have food allergies than adults are.

Newsworthiness? A three-year-old dying at day care tugs at the heartstrings in a way that a 38-year-old dying from takeout doesn’t.

Is it onset age? A reaction is more likely to kill you if you don’t know about the allergy yet, don’t know you need to carry epinephrine, and don’t know that the warning signs mean “hospital now!” and not just “lie down and try to get through the asthma attack.” By the time you’re an adult, you’ve probably already encountered everything you might be allergic to, so you’re less likely to get that surprise first reaction. It happens – I’ve known people who developed shellfish allergies as adults, and I found my own nut and peanut allergies expanding their range in my early 20s – and there’s the Lone Star tick – but it’s less likely.

Are adults more careful? Teenagers take more risks. Children often have to rely on secondary caregivers who don’t always have the training or understanding that their parents do. And of course, the longer you deal with something, the more it becomes second nature. Is it that we’ve gotten better at avoiding triggers, keeping our medication on hand, and seeking treatment faster?

Are you more likely to have died of something else in the meantime? According to one NIH study, “Fatal food anaphylaxis for a food-allergic person is rarer than accidental death in the general population.” So the longer you live, as long as you’re taking precautions with the allergy, chances are that something else will kill you before the allergy can.

I suspect all of these are factors, but I do wonder how they balance.

Long-Form Twitter: WHY OH WHY?

Twitter is suited for short statements and back-and-forth conversation.

It’s terrible for anything long-form.

Long Twitter threads* and images filled with text remind me of the old tech support days when users would paste screen shots of error messages into Microsoft Word documents and email me the document. It was a terrible tool for the job, but it was the one they knew.

Once you get past two or three tweets (doesn’t matter whether they’re 140 characters or 280, it’s the structure that matters), your ideas will hang together better and be better understood if you write an actual article somewhere. Sadly, Twitter has trained people to stay in Twitter instead of going outside to read the %#$ article**, because you won’t be able to get back to where you were in your timeline, and besides, that’s just too long to read right now.

And that would require you to have, like a blog or something, and what sort of weirdo has one of those? 🙄

So people use what they know, and we get screenshots of long paragraphs that are awful for accessibility. And we get 40-tweet threads that people only see fragments of and take bits out of context. And they’ll reply to tweet #5 complaining about something that’s addressed in tweet #12, but they didn’t see it, because that was hidden behind the “read more” link, and how long does this thread go, anyway? (Scroll bars solved this problem decades ago.) And we get links to articles that people don’t read, but they reply to them anyway — or rather they reply to what they assume was in them.

Which I suppose is what we had in the old days, I mean “nobody reads the articles” was a joke on Slashdot 20 years ago. But it’s still frustrating.

Update: I realized I don’t see this so much on Mastodon. I wonder if that’s one of the ways the culture is different, or if I just happen to not be following anyone who writes/boosts long threads on a regular basis, or if 500-character posts give people enough room to breathe that they don’t feel like they’re already writing a long chain, so why worry about keeping the number of posts down, what’s the difference between 10 tweets and 15?

*To clarify, I’m talking about long threads that are effectively one piece of writing, not a series of “oh, and another thing” follow-ups, live-tweeting as things come up, actual conversations, etc.

**This part is true of Facebook as well.

Going Somewhere, Solo?

Construction site with movie posters for Solo: A Star Wars Story

Another building under (severe) renovation near LAX. The Solo movie posters are still up on this side of the construction wall, more than a month later, though the posters around the corner were replaced with ads for Mamma Mia today.

Update (Monday): The posters on this site were replaced over the weekend. Still, it was a long tenure for the first Star Wars movie to disappoint at the box office.

California: Vote this November!

Californians: If you can vote this November, don’t sit this one out.

We have a governor to choose. We have representatives to select. And we need to shut down the 3-Californias plan hard. It’s a terrible, outlandish, unpopular idea…but in a midterm election (low turnout already) with the specter of voter suppression? Don’t rely on it being too outlandish to pass. No one expected Brexit to happen. No one expected Trump to even be nominated, never mind win the election. Outlandish doesn’t mean impossible.

So check your voter registration status. Make sure it hasn’t been cancelled or otherwise lost, because that does happen.

Breaking up California’s economic and electoral power isn’t going to help California much. And if you think the water situation is bad now, wait until everything’s split across three states, one of which doesn’t touch the Sierras or the Colorado…

Looking Back at Kilauea

Back in 2005, we visited the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii. There were active lava flows at the time, but the main caldera was only venting gases (this was before the lava lake formed in Halema‘uma‘u).

We followed the road around the main caldera, then down to the coast to see where lava flows had obliterated the road and look at active flows waaaay off in the distance.

With the current eruption transforming the area, I’ve just uploaded an album to Flickr. You can look at the full-sized images there, or look back at my original blog posts in which I describe the trip.