Don’t go under Duntsch’s knife!


If this man is your doctor, run away. Christopher Duntsch is terrifyingly incompetent.

Duntsch arrived in Dallas in 2010 to start a neurosurgery practice. In the course of the next three years he would work at several different hospitals, earning infamy for his haphazard surgical technique wherever he went, according to the Texas Observer. His colleagues described him in the harshest superlatives: “worst surgeon I’ve ever seen,” “sociopath.”

“I couldn’t believe a trained surgeon could do this,” Robert Henderson, another surgeon at Dallas Medical Center, where Duntsch performed several operations, told the Observer. “He just had no recognition of the proper anatomy. He had no idea what he was doing. At every step of the way, you would have to know the right thing to do so you could do the wrong thing, because he did all the wrong things.”

In one case, authorities allege, Duntsch operated on his roommate and friend after a night of using cocaine. The man emerged from the operation a quadriplegic. In another, he purposefully left a surgical sponge inside a man’s body. During that surgery, a fellow doctor forced Duntsch to stop operating because of his “unacceptable” technique, the Dallas Morning News reported, citing a search warrant affidavit.

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What’s the buzz in Seattle?



I imagine everyone must have read the NY Times article on the working conditions at Amazon — it’s interesting that the article actually tries to be objective and lay out the good and bad points of working for weird out-of-touch slavedriver Jeff Bezos, yet the reaction from Amazon has been flat denial. Unless they’re going to show that there isn’t high turnover, overstressed executives, and blue-collar workers treated as machines, which I don’t think they can do, the guy at the top declaring that he simply doesn’t recognize the sweatshop he runs is not particularly persuasive.

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I have returned to civilization


And now I want to go back. It was a deeper journey into the wilderness than I expected — we left my brother’s house in Hoquiam and headed north, and after leaving wifi behind, we were a little surprised to learn we were also abandoning all of our cell phone carriers as well. We’ve been almost completely out of touch with the rest of the universe most of this week. We’d occasionally find a small trading post with slow, flakey wireless, and we’d fire off short Shackletonian missives to friends and family letting them know we still existed.

We also had slightly peculiar weather. It was lovely — fog and mist rolling in and softening the view everywhere.


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A day in a time machine


I attended my 40 year high school reunion last night. It was interesting and strange. When I was a kid, we moved around a lot…but always within the Kent school district, which meant I attended most of the feeder elementary and junior high schools that funneled students into my high school, so I’d known some of these people since kindergarten. It’s not that I was particularly noticeable, since on top of being transient I was also the shy bookish type who didn’t speak up much, so I suspect most of them haven’t thought of me in decades. Then there was this giant gap when I left this area after graduation and didn’t come back, while many of my high school buddies stayed right here and kept in touch with each other.

I felt a bit space-alienish, wafting in from out of nowhere and encountering these strange old people, and after a moment of peering at each other’s faces (and our name tags), suddenly saying, “I remember you! We played tag at recess in 3rd grade!” Or the inevitable memorial slide show, and you learn about everybody who has died in the last 40 years, and you are ransacking your memory trying to place that person’s face, and there’s that warm glow when you remember that good day or that birthday party or that time in the bleachers when…and suddenly it sinks in that they’re dead. You just hoisted up that nice memory and now it’s never going to be anything more, and you’re not going to clink glasses with that old friend and reminisce about it, because they’re gone.

So it was all a little weird.

But mostly pleasant. I know many people have horrible memories of their school years, and all too often public schools are nightmarish mills of cliques and bullying and ugly social oppression, but I was lucky. I was the wimpy nerd, I would have been the easy target for bullying, but it didn’t really happen, and I had friends among all the little petty in-groups — the jocks, the cheerleaders, the stoners, the AV weirdos, everyone — and they were always pretty porous and accepting. Dang it, I don’t have any good horror stories to tell from those years! I went through high school without getting beat up (which, I know, is a low bar to set, but still…)

I think the thing is my high school class was generally just a decent group of people. I was lucky that way.

Now today Mary and I pile into the rental car and cruise west until we collide with OCEAN. We’ve got undisclosed locations stacked up along the coast of the Olympic Peninsula, and will be relaxing in splendid isolation.

I am now officially on vacation

And you all know what that means, right? Cowards will try to sneak into the comments and leave asshole remarks, thinking they can get away with it. Just so you all know, while post frequency may diminish, I will be checking in every day, and kicking jerks out will be my prime priority. So if you try to take advantage of my distraction, all you’ll get is that I’ll be fucking pissed at you wasting my time, and the banhammer will be on a hair trigger.

So play nice, and use the report link on the left at anyone who tries to disrupt the flow of good conversation.

I have one thing in common with Ta-Nehisi Coates


He has a Horde? One difference is that he was more ruthless in culling that horde. And that made it difficult to sustain — this resonated with me.

He doesn’t sound optimistic about the future of the comment section. Instead, he sounds tired: of deleting and banning trolls, of trying to police and curb an online community’s worst—and, it often seems, most natural—instincts, all in the name of a goal he doesn’t feel he’s ever achieved. “To be honest, I can’t say how long this will go on for,” he told me, addressing the possibility that he might someday close comments entirely, like his colleague James Fallows. “It never quite became what I wanted it to be. I never really figured out how to get people from different perspectives in a place without defaulting to these usual conversations.”

Sometimes comments work, sometimes they end up being self-destructive. It’s a hard thing to balance.

It’s also the case that those damned trolls have a strategy that is sometimes effective — no matter what you do, there are assholes who make it their obsessive, petty hobby to tear it down.

We aten’t dead


I’ve been reading the obituaries. So many people, friends and foes alike, have expressed their confidence that Freethoughtblogs is dooooooomed, because Ed Brayton has left. It’s all going to fall apart without his iron hand ruling this motley crew! Without him, no one could possibly be interested in reading anything on this network! They only ever read the old white men here anyway, so losing one is an irreparable loss!

Let me explain a few things about how FtB works. These people don’t have a clue.

  • Ed never actually “ran” this place — no one did, or does. This is one of those pinko commie anarchies. He managed the books, arranged for the ad services, that sort of thing, but all of the blogs here are autonomous. No boss. Get it? If you’re an authoritarian, maybe not.

  • The kind of minimal, managerial oversight needed to keep the lights on has fallen into the hands of the executive committee, a small subset of the people here who handle mundane issues that affect the whole network. Just to let you know how busy the executive committee is, we initially proposed to meet once a month. I don’t think we’ve met in over a year.

  • The network is not a vanity project for the white men who set it up. It’s an anti-vanity project. The whole purpose of the network was to leverage our traffic into creating a space for a diverse group of bloggers. They’re still here! Ed and I could drop dead on the spot, and it’ll still keep ticking along.

  • Building a diverse network also produces a robust network. There is no single point of failure. By design and by diffusing the leadership all along, there’s no way to take it out with loss of a single blogger (we’ve lost and gained bloggers all along, you know).

  • We do have to worry about maintaining a volume of traffic to maintain ad rates. But this is a group that does not prioritize making money off their writing (although it sure would be nice…) but on maintaining independence. I’d be writing for free — I was writing for free years ago — and what money we do make is distributed among the bloggers by traffic. There is no central authority skimming off the profits.

  • I do have one serious worry about an ongoing failure. That’s all you people who say you only came here for the PZ and Ed show. You’re doing it wrong — I’m not going to object to you reading my stuff, but the whole point of the network is to give all those other voices a platform. You should go read them.

So here’s some suggestions.

Go look at the main page. See all those bloggers?

Go look to the left, at the sidebar. See all those bloggers?

Scroll down on the sidebar, and look for the “Latest Posts Around FtB”. See all those bloggers who have recently posted stuff?

Broaden your horizons a bit. Go read one or more of those links.

Don’t trust me. Go read Miri, who is saying exactly the same thing.

You can also stop annoying us all with the ill-informed doom-talk.