Weekend Thoughts - 8.15.15

I  mage by  Alan English , courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Image by Alan English, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Happy Saturday y'all! Below, I have rounded up some things for you to think about this weekend:

1. The Washington Post published an article that tackles the issue of how inaccurate drug-sniffing dogs, sometimes known as K-9 Units, are when attempting to detect the presence of drugs. It turns out that drug dogs are about as reliable as a coin toss, in many cases successfully identifying drugs less than 50% of the time. Dogs may be trained sufficiently to identify drugs, but there are many complications when they are working on the beat. Dogs are able to sense the hunch that a police officer has about a suspect, leading to many false identifications. In addition, some officers give their K-9 Unit a treat every time the dog alerts, because the cops are able to use an alert from a dog to use civil asset forfeiture to take money from the citizen (who does not need to have committed a crime, be arrested, or found guilty in court) for themselves or their police department. This form of legalized highway robbery for police officers has been reinforced recently by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which ruled in favor of allowing dog alerts to be sufficient for searches in the U.S. v. Bentley case. It begs the question—why not just allow police officers to flip a coin to decide whether they will sic a dog on you, conduct an illegal search, and steal money from you, without any evidence of or actuality of criminal behavior on your part?

2. Rolling Stone published a pretty solid overview of the major harm reduction practices and organizations in Kristen Gwynne's piece Meet the People Who Want to Make It Safer to Take Drugs at Festivals. It's good to see a more mainstream and well-known publication like Rolling Stone tackle this issue, and frame it in an open-minded an honest manner.

3. I've been fascinated with the struggle that many homeowners face when wanting to present a wild ecosystem or garden in place of a traditional lawn. Township officials in Ohio have accused this homeowner of presenting a nuisance in the form of a wild-grown ecosystem instead of a manicured lawn. The officials threatened to slap her with a fine of $1,000 if she refused to mow her lawn, which she has opted to pay rather than succumb to the officials' wishes. Many of the issues of this debate are presented here, including the fact that manicured lawns are harmful to the ecosystem in many ways and that a homeowner should have the right to decide whether or not to float with the mainstream on this issue. I encourage all homeowners to let their lawns grow freely or to start a garden, rather than work on another useless, environmentally-unfriendly, ecosystem-preventing mowed lawn.

4. An article titled "Why It's Time to Shut Up in a World That Can't Stop Talking" on High Existence covers the issue of the general noise level of modern life. As a fan of silence, I really enjoyed this one.

5. The data collected concerning the use of force by police in the United States is essentially worthless. Some police departments don't even collect the data, others only partially collect it, and some won't hand it over even when asked. Do we need a standard method for collecting data about use of force by police? Judging from the stories that have been in the news recently, I vote yes.

6. The Huffington Post office tested a new vape pen that allows for the vaping of caffeine. Although not FDA-tested or certified, all ingredients in the Eagle Energy Vapor caffeine e-liquid are FDA-approved. Quotes from testers included "Oh my God, my heart is racing so fast. Am I going to die?", "If you blow it out your nose, it tastes just like Red Bull", and "The Eagle Energy has successfully replaced my morning coffee and is definitely better for focusing. Downside, it feels like I'm smoking at my desk, which is definitely considered 'rude' in the office space." I find this pretty interesting, because I've been following the alternative methods of ingesting caffeine for several years now, and although I've known about insufflating (snorting) caffeine, I wasn't aware that it was possible to vape it. Definitely an interesting development in the caffeine industry. Being someone who is extremely sensitive to caffeine, I doubt I would purchase one of these, but I would give it a try for testing purposes!

7. Here is a humorous article that describes the steps necessary to write a contrarian thinkpiece.

That's all for this week's edition of Weekend Thoughts. Until next week, keep thinking wilder.