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It’s A Gas, Baby (An Article From 2051)


Among trust fund babies and other overindulged scions of the upper classes, a trend minor in actual practice has sparked a major wave of online vids, memes, and partisan taunting. The taunting, as is par for the course, is not all in fun and there have been arrests for the usual foolish actions in these situations: harassment, assault, sundry hacking offenses, death threats, and a couple of incidents of actual swatting.

A few arrests have been for the unusual. These have been arrests of the ones who actually practice the act of “gassing.” And like trust funders and suburban princes and their equivalents throughout history, there are few consequences for them. A few hours of community service time, a fee that isn’t a gnat bite to the wealthy, a span of minutes spent in a holding cell waiting for the family lawyer – and not a holding cell full of the little people, but a private one so the department bears no risk of being on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Brutality, after all, is for the poor.

But, why the class division at all? Why are the threateners and memers coming from the poor and the pedestrian middle class? Why are the wealthy the only ones doing the gassing?

Why have the efforts of gassers to make gassing a widespread phenomenon failed despite verified purchases of trending content status and featured vid placement? Why have purchased social media content crews failed to produce excitement and action like they have with previous successful trends?

One reason is the petty and vapid nature of their motivations. We’ll get to that.

The other reason: gassing is expensive. And in the tradition of the wealthy young, most gassers have displayed a vast and frankly off-putting ignorance of what “cheap” or even “possible” means for people whose mommies and daddies haven’t given them transuranic-branded debit chips linked to enormous family accounts, much less for people who have no choice but to comprehend realities like rent payments and budgets and having to know what things cost.

Gassing is often presented in gasser memes as “only fifty bucks for gas.” But it’s not anywhere near that cheap. Search traffic reveals that there was a peak of interest in gassing, much of it in the form of “how to be a gasser” queries. It quickly faded, probably because half of the top ten results for that search tell you that the first thing you need is your own working petroleum-fueled internal combustion automobile. It’s possible to rent time in one at a few historical theme parks and thrill-ride tracks, but they’ll hardly permit you to modify the cars. So you have to buy your own.

To buy one, you’ll need to find one of the few licensed restorer-dealers, or one of the slightly more common hobbyists willing to sell. You’ll have to search very hard to find one in working order for less than $100,000. That should fit right into the average family budget.

But wait! There’s more. You’ll also have to obtain a license to own and operate a petroleum engine. To do that you’ll need $5000 in most states, and $2000 where it’s cheapest (Alaska, Louisiana, and Nevada). You’ll need to renew it every 2-5 years if you want to keep it, too.

Your fuel pump’s flow is required by federal law to be monitored in realtime, and it’s a felony to disable it. That’s so you can pay a pollution tax of $17.32 per liter of fuel burned. It’ll be more next year – the tax is indexed to the official inflation rate of the year before previous.

Buying the fuel will set you back $23 per liter on average. You’ll also have to invest your own time and travel to obtain it, and that’s not simple either. The state of Texas boasts the most fueling stations at seven statewide. Twelve states have zero.

After buying it, more complications. It’s illegal to transport gasoline by mail, drone, or unoccupied autodrive vehicle. You’ll have to travel to collect it in person and escort it home.

Surely, that’s the end of the costs, as colossal as they are and as obviously impractical even for a single person with no attachments or debts earning a median income or less – or even earning in the bottom 95%.

But there are still more expenses in this seemingly endless list. Gasoline cannot be transported or stored in anything but an approved anti-combustion container. The cheapest one available is $750 for a 10-liter capacity. They’re impressive things, double walled with nonflammable expanding foam inbetween, and the filling and decanting apparatuses virtually bristling with an array of solvent-resistant gaskets and safety devices. Finally, you have to put your containers in a reinforced external cargo cage or on a trailer for transport – another $1000 at least.

Petroleum-burning hobbies like gassing are the province of the rich, like horse racing. That the gassers were mostly oblivious to the plain fact betrays an enormous ignorance, arrogance, or both.

I said I’d return to what makes gassy petty and vapid, qualities that even the few who can afford it want to shell out north of a hundred grand for.

The goal of gassing is to expel the darkest, densest possible exhaust smog, laden with greenhouse gases, unburned petroleum, and plain old soot. Why? As one gasser meme puts it, to “piss off the granolaheads.” The granolaheads, of course, being the 90% of us who want our air and water kept clean and climate change to maybe begin to reverse by the time their grandchildren retire.

Plenty of people enjoy trolling and like to annoy people with differing views. But who is going to go deep into debt to do those things?

Nobody, that’s who.



Exoskeletons And Cyborging vs. Wheelchair Access: No Arguing Necessary

Exoskeletons v wheelchairs  Disability advocates clash with futurists over  offensive  solution

Apparently, there’s a bit of a tiff going on between at least one advocate for expanding and maintaining access in public spaces for those who use wheelchairs, and at least one advocate for not maintaining that accessibility, and instead spending funds for accessibility on developing exoskeletons and implants to make wheelchair ramps and the like obsolete.

There’s no need for argument. The ‘tiff’ seems to come from the futurist saying that societies shouldn’t be investing in accessibility and the disability advocate seeing a different solution than the present one as implying that the disabled are ‘broken’.

Again, there’s no need for it to come to an argument. They’re both trying to make their cases in strong terms, because these are visceral issues to them. And as so often happens — we’re on the internet, folks, you know what I mean — people get all hyperbolic and troll-y in those circumstances.

But let’s be real.

Ending spending on accessibility for the disabled abruptly because tomorrow we might have improved means of mobility for those who need it, is ridiculous. We need to provide for today’s needs today, even as we progress toward different future needs. Because when you need to go to the supermarket or a government building or… you know, anywhere people go, you need to go today. And if you need to go today, and you need a wheelchair ramp to be there to accomplish that, you need a wheelchair ramp today, not an exoskeleton ten years from now. You should have to wait? No, you should not.

Nor should talking about walking exoskeletons or cybernetic versions of same be taken to imply that a person who needs a wheelchair for mobility today is ‘broken’ and needs to be ‘fixed’. A wheelchair, or leg braces, or crutches, and so forth, simply represent the technological capabilities of the era they were invented in. They’ve been improved: lighter materials, stronger materials, better bearings for wheels, clever construction for foldability to enhance portability, and so forth. Improving that technology wasn’t a commentary on the user, it was a commentary on the technology. We’re humans — we like to tinker and find improved ways to do things. An exoskeleton that allows a person who uses a wheelchair today to walk tomorrow is a technological advancement, just like a lighter and stronger wheelchair. And like a lighter and stronger wheelchair, it is not a means to insult the user — unless, of course, someone wants to be enough of an ass to make it an insult. And while humans are nearly infinitely clever in making devices to do just about anything, we are equally clever in making anything into an insult. You know this. If you’re highly intelligent, someone has insulted you for it. If you’re not highly intelligent, you’ve been insulted for it. Tall, short: someone has insulted you with that fact. Same for pretty much any trait you care to name.

Improving mobility for those who need those improvements is not innately an insult — though some asshole might make it into one. All we can do about the assholes is attempt to either educate or ignore them. But a wheelchair ramp is no more, in and of itself, of a slur against a person who needs to use one to enter a building than is an exoskeleton that allows one to walk up that ramp or up stairs, or a walker, or a cane, or a hypothetical nano-procedure that reconstructs or constructs nerves, bones, and muscles to allow one to walk into that building, or a frickin’ jetpack.

I suspect the wheelchair and its ramp will coexist with the exoskeleton and the nano-procedure for quite some time; the enthusiastic futurist’s 25 year horizon for technology making the ramp obsolete is probably a product of enthusiasm. The wheelchair will remain less expensive to build and maintain than exoskeletons and exotic procedures, and so we’ll need those ramps for years to come. Maybe we’ll still need them 100 years from now, for when someone’s exoskeleton breaks down.

Or maybe we’ll invent a wheelchair that’s way better for the needs of a person who can’t walk than the exoskeletons are, for reasons we don’t know yet, because those wheelchairs haven’t been invented.

All we can do is move forward as best we can, and try to be as good to each other as possible, and try our best to forgive the trolls who make the non-insulting things into insults.

Eulogy For An Internet Badass –OR– Why I Cut Arguments Short And Don’t Hesitate On The Block Button


A 13 word story:

Decades arguing at strangers

Found dead on his laptop

Stroked out on trollrage


I’ve had my share of internet arguments. Some of them were lengthy, acrimonious, and frankly, in hindsight, utterly ridiculous. Happily, I haven’t gone full ridiculous in quite some time, and I don’t think I’ll be going back in the future.

I still don’t hesitate to disagree online, or even to argue. But these last few years, I have come to understand that no matter how outrageous I find the other person’s position or statements to be, there’s no profit in giving in to anger. “Argument” doesn’t have to be about rage. It’s possible to argue with a bit of sense. And when it’s apparent that the other person is trolling and raging, well, that’s what the block button is for. Just about every place you can have an internet argument has some version of blocking.

I used to avoid using block functions, as if doing so was some badge of open-minded honor. Well, I do take some pride in maintaining an open mind in general. But that doesn’t mean I have to waste my time dealing with abusive people, or with people whose primary or even sole recreation is making other people angry on the internet, or with people who just want to argue to argue.

There are enough trolls online that the trolls can find their own kind to bother after I’ve blocked them, and enough reasonable people, even reasonable people with whom I have deep and fundamental differences of opinion, to find good conversation online no matter how many thousands of people I block on social media and elsewhere.

For as long as I can remember, I have been quick to anger, and my anger can burn very hot. My father was the same way; some of it is my disposition, but it is also a behavior reinforced by his example in my childhood. Later in life, he began to learn to step back from his anger and engage his brain before his temper got him in trouble.

As I recall, he started to really ‘get it’ in his 40s. Well, that’s where I am now.

I guess the apple only fell so far from the tree.

Anyhow. I have no intention of ending up stroked out from rage in front of my computer — because I know how easy it would be for me to end that way if I were to give in to the troll side of the Force.