Monthly Archives: April 2020

Why I hate hay fever reason #6529 (plus reason 3786 & 3113 & 2488 & 2149 & 1364, and don’t forget #47)

Except I’m too grumpy to remember to say please.
I was going to have a new entry in my why I love sf/f series today, but I needed to have time and energy to finish it Wednesday night, and that didn’t happen. I felt rotten all day Wednesday. I don’t want to get into all the symptoms, but not all of them are the sorts most people would associate with hay fever, and while some of them might happen if one has contracted the novel coronavirus…. and many weren’t. I didn’t have what any medical person (except my GP of more than 2 decades) would consider a fever—normally my body temperature ranges from 94-point-something to about 97-point-something if I’m not sick. My temperature very rarely goes above 98 unless I’m sick.

So for the last few days I had some weird symptoms, and yesterday they intensified and my temperature kept running above 98. And, as I said, I just felt bad overall. Very early after waking up I got some very stressful (and irritating) news at work, and the work day just kept getting more and more stressful. Wednesday is what I usually call my meeting hell day, anyway, with three half-hour meetings and two one-hour meetings every Wednesday (frequently running over), plus another one hour meeting on alternate Wednesday. Yesterday had the biweekly meeting plus an urgent extra meeting. And it was a day I was supposed to release a documentation set. Which means I’m trying to keep working during every meeting.

All of which contributed to the stress. And since the stress started so early in the day, there was no way to know how much of my feeling rotten was because of yet another day of moderate-high pollen count kicking my allergies up, how much because I had caught some kind of bug, and how much was because of the stress.

I got through the day. I hit my deadline. Some compromises were agreed to for some of the infuriating issues. And I was exhausted and still feeling rotten. I had planned to attend the Virtual Silent Reading Party again. What I actually did, after the takeout my husband picked up for us for dinner, was log into the party, then curl up with pillows and a blanket where I could hear the piano music…. and slept for a bit over four hours.

When I woke up, my temperature was back down to 97.3. I didn’t feel good, but I felt a whole lot less awful. I was awake for a while and tried to finish the blog post, but I just couldn’t string words together. This morning when I woke up, many of the symptoms had subsided. My temperature was 96.1. I felt much, much better.

The pollen count today is much lower today than yesterday.

The game that I usually wind up playing for the ten-ish months out of most years that pollen, spore, and/or mold counts are high enough to trigger my hay fever is “Cold or Allergies?” The first few days of even a severe cold are impossible to distinguish from a bad hay fever day. Because on a bad hay fever day I won’t just have sinus congestion and itchy eyes. I can have a cough. I can have gastrointestinal symptoms.

This year the game is “Cold, COVID, or Allergies?” And it’s just about every single day since early February. And it’s exhausting.

I still don’t know what was going on yesterday. Did I catch a bug when I went out to pick up a prescription a few days before? A minor virus that only took my body a couple of days to defeat? Was that plus the hay fever and the stress the whole explanation? Did I catch something worse than a minor virus, one that made me feel sick for a few days and now the symptoms are subsiding not because I’ve completely over come it. So am I contagious with whatever it is?

I don’t know. Fortunately since I’m already working from home, washing my hands a bazillion times a day, wearing a mask whenever I go out, and so forth, I’m not likely to infect anyone if I do have something, whatever it is…

Knock wood.

Watch the skies! — and keep your terminology correct

I googled ‘crackpot UFO books’ and this picture of the cover of one of the books someone one gave me in middle school came up.
I’ve been a science fiction fan for Longer than I can remember, thanks to my mom being a big sf fan who read whatever she was reading at the time aloud to me from the time I was an infant. And so from a very early age I was familiar with the idea that there might be life on other planets. Was it something like we saw in movies like Forbidden Planet or The Day the Earth Stood Still? Or was it something more like The Blob? Or—as I read more science fact articles and the like—it began to seem much more likely that if we encountered alien life, it was going to be something like single-cell life living in the soil of Mars or under the methane clouds of Saturn’s moon, Titan. Which may seem less exciting than saucers descending on various national capital cities, but would be a pretty big deal for science!

During my late elementary and middle school years, because of my interest in science fiction, lots of people who weren’t very versed in the science part of sf always assumed that I believed that UFO sightings were always proof of aliens buzzing the planet. And just as more than one adult in my life felt compelled to loan me a copy of Chariots of the Gods—other books about flying saucers, alien abductions, and the like would be handed off to me when it would turn up in a pile of used books and the like. Including, yes, the one pictured above.

And the sorts of adults who would grab such a book with the intention of giving it to a kid they knew are exactly the sort who do not listen when to that kid when they try to explain that this isn’t really the same thing.

But I’m going to try to do the equivalent type of explanation about a related issue that came up in the news this week.

A whole lot of people on social media were sharing this headline: Pentagon declassifies Navy videos that purportedly show UFOs. And a lot of those people were making the same snarky comment, pointing out that since the videos show something that is unidentified, that it is incorrect to say “purportedly.” Because everyone knows that UFOs are unidentified.

That isn’t correct, for two reasons.

First, true the initialism UFO is from the phrase “unidentified flying object”, but you have to look at the entire phrase. It’s not just any unidentified thing. It is an unidentified thing which is flying, and the most common definition of flying is “the action of guiding, piloting, or travelling in an aircraft or spacecraft.” The next most common definition is “move through the air with wings or other propulsion.” In other words, it’s a loaded term. The other issue is the word object, “a material thing (that can be) seen or perceived.”

Which is one reason why the term used by scientists and aviation experts and military analyst use to describe things like those shown in the three de-classified videos is “unidentified aerial phenomena.” Because we don’t know if it’s a physical object, and we don’t know that it is actually being propelled. Some of the unidentified phenomena could be rare electromagnetic phenomena that is visible to human eyes or cameras and registers are radar and similar devices as if it is a physical thing. We really don’t know.

The other reason why using the term “purportedly show UFOs” is because not all readers interpret the collection of letters UFOs as the initialism I mentioned above. As more than one science writer I read back in the day liked to point out, a lot of enthusiasts and crackpots are convinced that the object is not unidentified at all.

But it isn’t just the crackpots and alien enthusiasts. Language isn’t logical. Human brains don’t process language like an algorithm acting on a string of numbers. I’ve pointed out in other contexts that “any sequence of one or more sounds or morphemes (intuitively recognized by native speakers as) constituting the basic units of meaningful speech used in forming a sentence or sentences in a language.” UFO isn’t just can initialism, it’s a word. Think of it that way for a moment, as if it were spelled euephoe. Words have multiple meaning, not simply one. Sometimes one meaning is much more prevalent than others, and sometimes not.

Again, lots of people think of a euephoe as a physical machine designed by someone to propel itself through the sky. And a substantial fraction of them think that it comes from another world.

Headline writers have to take into account various common meanings of words.

Other news sites used UFO in their headlines, and once you get into the article it is clear that they are using it as a synonym for unidentified aerial phenomena. Which is a legitimate choice, though one I’m less sympathetic to.

Even though I am not an enthusiast who believes that aliens from across interstellar space have been regularly visiting us, I have to acknowledge that there are people who do. But I also have to acknowledge that even among those who think anyone who believes in the possibility of life on other planets is just like the crackpots, the term UFO means a physical machine that came to Earth from somewhere else and was built by someone. So I think the headlines that used the word purported got it right.

But it’s language. So there’s never only one right way to do something.

Tuesday Tidbits 4/28/2020: Skipping pants is better than pants on fire, I suppose

“Americans will accept 50,000 dead and 20,000 lies from a white president but not healthcare from a black one.”
“Americans will accept 50,000 dead and 20,000 lies from a white president but not healthcare from a black one.”

A Republican effort to sabotage Obamacare was just rejected by the Supreme Court.

40,000 Missing Deaths: Tracking the True Toll of the Coronavirus Outbreak.

Front of the New York Daily News. Photo of Trump wearing a protective mask with the headline “If only it were a muzzle.”
“If only it were a muzzle.”

Scarborough Calls Out Pence Statement On Tests As ‘Blithering Idiocy’. “Vice President Pence is learning from Donald Trump that when you’re caught dead on something, point back at the reporter and blame the media for misunderstanding it,” the Morning Joe host said.

“The venn diagram of people protesting shelter in place orders because they don't like 'the government telling them what to do' and people who think the government to tell pregnant people who want abortions what to do with their bodies is one giant f-ing circle.”
“The venn diagram of people protesting shelter in place orders because they don’t like ‘the government telling them what to do’ and people who think the government to tell pregnant people who want abortions what to do with their bodies is one giant f-ing circle.”

Coronavirus lockdown protests expose a far deeper sickness.

Trump and Darwin: Make America Sick Again.

“Trump said that 'HUNDREDS' of governors are calling him.' We only have 50. Think about that. Take all the time you need.”
“Trump said that ‘HUNDREDS’ of governors are calling him.’ We only have 50. Think about that. Take all the time you need.”

Cooper: Trump just lied about something we all witnessed.


A single Trump tweet sums up his media strategy: Confusion – He can’t make his disinfectant remarks go away. So he’s trying to douse them with doubt.

Tweet by reporter Will Reeve: “I have ARRIVED*  *in the most hilariously mortifying way possible” attached is another tweet showing how Reeve failed to get away with not wearing pants during broadcast.
“I have ARRIVED* *in the most hilariously mortifying way possible”

I don’t know about you, but I really needed the chuckle this evoked: Reporter Almost Got Away With Skipping Pants On Good Morning America.

I’ve already survived one plague… part 2

I had planned to write something else today, but then I saw this post on tumblr:

“You'll notice that LGBT pride parades are being cancelled, and LGBT people are not complaining and calling it an injustice. Meanwhile, Christians are calling it an injustice that churches are being closed, and conservatives are calling it an injustice that stay at home orders exist. That's because LGBT people actually experience injustices, so they know when an injustice is happening. They face way too many injustices to label everything they don't like as an injustice. And they're not defying social distancing orders to have the parade anyway.” “We also know the consequences of an unaddressed pandemic.”
(Click to embiggen)

“You’ll notice that LGBT pride parades are being cancelled, and LGBT people are not complaining and calling it an injustice. Meanwhile, Christians are calling it an injustice that churches are being closed, and conservatives are calling it an injustice that stay at home orders exist. That’s because LGBT people actually experience injustices, so they know when an injustice is happening. They face way too many injustices to label everything they don’t like as an injustice. And they’re not defying social distancing orders to have the parade anyway.”

“We also know the consequences of an unaddressed pandemic.”

A couple of other things worth noting. The U.S. stock market started going down in response to pandemic concerns the week of February 20, many weeks before the first stay-at-home order. The Dow Jones officially crashed (prices dropping so fast it triggered an automatic suspension of trading) on March 9th. There were no stay-at-home orders in place anywhere in the U.S. at that time. Companies were already laying people off and cutting back hours in anticipation not so much of stay-at-home orders but the fact that simply having lots of people sick, lots of other people afraid of being sick, and so forth was already causing people to cancel travel plans and so forth.

My employer, for instance, in early February cancelled most schedule employee travel (for sales, installation, and trade shower appearances, for instance) out of an abundance of caution.

Personally, in mid February I woke up with a fairly severe cough on a day that wasn’t scheduled to be a work-from-home day, and decided since I didn’t know if I had a something that I shouldn’t go into the office. The following week, again out of an abundance of caution, upper management encouraged everyone who could work from home to do so full time. Again, this was weeks before stay-at-home orders had been issued in any of the states where my employer has offices.

And when people are working from home, a lot of small restaurants, coffee shops, and the like in the vicinity of office buildings have a sudden significant drop off in business. So employees at those businesses get their hours cut. And so they have less money to spend on anything, and that means they cut out (first) non-essential spending, which causes more small businesses to cut hours, and it becomes a self-perpetuating downward economic spiral for everyone.

Lifting stay-at-home orders isn’t going to make everything spring back. It’s going to put a lot of people in the position of deciding to risk getting infected or starve, because if the order has been lifted not working is no longer involuntary and therefore they can’t collect unemployment. The science of the virus tells us that when people stop doing the mandated social distancing, infection rates will start rising again within a couple of weeks. And they will spike if we don’t have adequate means of testing people and a system for tracking down other people who have recently come in contact when an infected person, and so on.

Which means people will get scared and will cut back on activities that put them in contact with others and we continue to have places like restaurants, bars, theaters, and so forth not making enough money to pay their employees, et cetera.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to read a much better (and scary) analysis, check out this article: We Cannot “Reopen” America – No matter when government stay-at-home orders are revoked, the American economy will not reopen. Because the source of the economic shock is not government orders. It’s the pandemic.

Note: My cough went away after about two weeks and I never had a fever… but the cough has come back several times. So far, still no fever. I have long suffered from severe hay fever and sometimes when the pollen count has been high for many days in a row, in addition to sinus congestion and typical allergy symptoms, I also get a cough. And we’ve had a lot of really high pollen days during the last two and a half months, so that’s probably what it is. Probably.

But we’ve had a bit of a scare because yesterday my husband was running a fever and had some non-repiratory symptoms that sometimes occur with the coronavirus… today his fever is gone and the other symptoms are subsiding, but that’s not necessarily proof that he’s well.

Weekend Update 4/26/2020: Bleach Bum and Son of a Mitch

The New York Daily News has been on FIRE lately!
Once again here we are looking at news stories that either broke after I finished the most recent Friday Five, or bring more information about a story included in that post, or that expand upon a story which I have linked to in some previous post—and upon which I want to make more extensive comments than I usually include in a Friday Five blog post, or otherwise didn’t quite make the cut before. Which ought to be a big surprise, but since we are all living in a dystopian timeline, maybe it oughtn’t be a big surprise that some of this didn’t make the cut when I’m trying to limit myself to no more than five stories to each of no more than five categories and trying not to let bad news outnumber the neutral and good news stories. Unfortunately, we are living in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, so any attempt to exclude all the depressing news can be construed as delusional. And I don’t want to be delusional, so…

Before I comment on anything else, please absorb this fact: U.S. hits 50,000 deaths from coronavirus – just as many states announce plans to ease social distancing. Some people have trouble with numbers. So let me give you a couple of comparisons: for every person who was killed in the 9/11 attacks, more than 16 Americans have been killed by COVID-19… so as of Friday afternoon, COVID-19 represents more than 16 9/lls… and yet there are people who think the precautions many states have taken are an overreaction…

Meanwhile, Coronavirus is spreading fast in states that may reopen soon, study finds. I don’t know what to say on this. I know that a fraction of the population doesn’t believe any of the facts we show them. And I know the politicians believe the facts, but they also believe that the people who die don’t matter… I don’t know how to get the idiots who don’t realize that their leaders want them to die to keep the economy moving to see what’s happening…

And maybe there isn’t a way, because while the president is spouting nonsense like this stuff: President Trump’s batsh*t crazy coronavirus ‘cure’ theories are not just shockingly senseless and stupid – they’re going to kill people, which you would expect anyone with a lick of sense to recognize as nonsense. Bleach is poison! Lysol is poison! It kills the virus on inanimate objects, sure, but if you put it in your body it will kill you. Everyone knows that, right?

Apparently not: Conservative radio host agrees with caller that vaping bleach might cure COVID-19: ‘You’re not crazy’ and American health hotlines have been swamped by anxious callers following last week’s bizarre suggestion by Donald Trump that researchers try using disinfectants to cure Covid-19 patients.

So apparently no, a lot of people really are that ignorant. Wow. Which is why pretty much every company the manufactures home use disinfectants came out with statements warning and even begging people not to do it: Trump’s Suggestion That Disinfectants Could Be Used to Treat Coronavirus Prompts Aggressive Pushback.

It is still boggling my mind. Have none of these people been responsible for raising or taking care of small children? When I was a kid I had it drilled into my head that bleach and lysol and ammonia and other cleaning chemicals we kept in the house were poisonous. Once I had a younger sibling, it was emphasized that I should keep an eye out to help make sure my sister didn’t drink any of the poison. And so on. Aaaagggh!

(Yes, I have been reduced to yelling incoherntly at the screen)

All of that craziness led to this: New York Daily News Hits Donald Trump With A Caustic New Nickname – The president’s comments about disinfectant and the coronavirus inspired the tabloid’s scathing moniker.

I’ve included an image of a front page of the New York Daily News above where they use the new nickname, but that’s not the big headline. The big headline goes to another corrupt Republican! McConnell says giving aid to states to help ease the pain from the pandemic would be a ‘blue state bailout.’ But most states were doing the right thing before the coronavirus hit. Which prompted a whole lot of people to point out that McConnell’s state has been leeching off far more federal tax dollars than it generates for decades, and in fact most of the so-called Red States always have, while it it so same Blue States who are carrying the load: Cuomo Swings At McConnell Again: ‘Just Give Me My Money Back, Senator’.

I could link to a whole lot more, including a lot of McConnell’s fellow Republicans, but thankfully our dear friends at the Wonkette have already gathered a bunch of those along with their own snarky commentary: It’s A ‘Kick Mitch McConnell In The Dick’ Contest, And Everyone Is Playing!.

Oh, and did you hear that the President fired the health expert in charge of coordinating vaccine development because he would jump on the chloroquine bandwagon? Ex-FDA Head: Ouster Of Vaccine Chief “Sets Us Back”. I mean, I’m sure that whatever sycophant that Trump chose to take over will do a fine job. Vaccines are hard, are they?

Meanwhile, the rest of the Republican crooks are started to get worried that maybe getting on the Trump train wasn’t such a good idea: Nervous Republicans See Trump Sinking, and Taking Senate With Him – The election is still six months away, but a rash of ominous new polls and the president’s erratic briefings have the G.O.P. worried about a Democratic takeover. Note that they aren’t worried about tens of thousands of Americans dying, or the tens of millions unemployed. No, they’re just worried about keeping control of at least one house of Congress so they can keep lining their pockets and the pockets of their billionaire buddies…

Maybe I should just let Randy Rainbow take us out on a lighter(?) note?

A SPOONFUL OF CLOROX – A Randy Rainbow Song Parody:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Confessions of the child of rednecks, or, not all kids had access to the same resources

This first dictionary I ever owned…
I want to talk about a personal sore point. Many times over the years I have made disparaging remarks about things other people did not know which I thought were common knowledge. I realize that I really shouldn’t. Especially because I get my own dander up when people are dismissive of any comments I have made about certain deficiencies in my own education which I am well aware of. One specific phenomenon is that there are words that I encountered in various books I read as a child, but it was many years later before I ever heard another human speak them outloud. I had been able to infer the meaning of the word from the context in which it was used. In my head I pronounced it based on what I thought the spelling implied. But sometimes I was wrong about that.

On more than one occasion when I have explained that (and trust me, I feel super embarrassed when I realize I have reverted to the incorrect pronunciation), someone has pointed out that the pronunciation is available in dictionaries. And that just makes me feel even more embarrassed but also more than a bit angry.

I am obsessed with dictionaries. I own more than five bookshelves of various dictionaries, for instance, and a rather large number of unabridged dictionaries. But here’s the thing: that’s me, as an adult pushing sixty who has had the luck to work in the tech industry for decades and make a decent living. I have access to dictionaries now, yes, but I didn’t always. And I am not, by any means, the only kid for which this is true.

I’ve mentioned before that my father worked in the petroleum industry, one consequence of which is that I attending ten different elementary schools in four different states. My dad’s specific job title throughout my elementary years was “roughneck.” The pay wasn’t great. It was a heavy labor job with no union benefits.

In second grade we moved from a town in central Colorado that had a really well-funded public school system to a town in southwest Nebraska which had a less advanced school system. The first day I got to go to the school library I saw that they had a large unabridged dictionary on a pedestal that was too tall for me to reach it. When I tried to get to it, the librarian stopped me and explained that only kids fourth grade and up were allowed to use that dictionary, because it was printed on very delicate paper that us clumsy second-graders would surely tear if we tried to use it.

I was so incensed that I wasn’t allowed to use the dictionary in the library, that I complained about it for many days after to anyone who would listen. My Sunday School teacher was so moved by my righteous outrage that she found the dictionary pictured up above. When she brought it to me, the spine was gone, but all the pages were there. She told me that this way I would have my own dictionary.

Mom helped me patch the broken spine with masking tape. The dictionary was not as thorough as the unabridged dictionary at the library. There are just a lot fewer words in that dictionary than the other. Also, most words had one simple definition, which means that for some words a lot of the less common meanings of words just weren’t included. Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic to have a dictionary of my own. Unfortunately, many of the times I needed to consult it (when I found a word in something I was reading where I couldn’t deduce the meaning from context) the word I was curious about wasn’t in the book.

Mom bought this dictionary at a used bookstore.
A bit over a year (and three towns) later, Mom decided to get her GED. I’ve mentioned before that my parents were only 16 years old when they married. Mom dropped out of school after her junior year, because she was pregnant by then. Anyway, for the GED classes she was taking she needed a dictionary, and she decided that she should have one of her own, rather than swiping her son’s, so she bought that dictionary. For the next many years there were two dictionaries in the house. The one Mom bought wasn’t much better than the one I owned. But sometimes when a word wasn’t in one, it was in the other, so that was an improvement.

I didn’t get access to an unabridged dictionary until the second half of fourth grade. But even then, it was only when I could go to school library. The town we lived in for the next couple of years did not have a public library. So the school library was the only option.

And I know that there are many, many kids who had less access to those sorts of educational resources than I had. And on some level it doesn’t matter that many of us got better access when we are older, some things we learn as kids will occasionally surface when we get older.

So, sometimes our childhood deficiencies continue to bite us in the butt for decades later.

Back to the two dictionaries pictured above. Many years after getting that first dictionary, I carefully removed the horribly deteriorated masking tape and constructed a new spine with acid-free book tape. That’s my handwriting on the spine. Specifically, that is me trying my best to write legibly. Infer from that what you will about how sloppy my penmanship is.

Many, many years later, Mom mentioned that the dictionary she’d bought herself was the only one she owned, so for her next birthday I bought her a much more comprehensive Merriam-Webster dictionary. Some time after that, when we were visiting for a holiday or something, Mom brought out the old dictionary and said she never used it anymore because the newer one was much nicer. She was thinking of getting rid of the old one, but before she did, she wanted to offer it to me. Of course I took it.

I sometimes wonder just how much that incident in second grade when a librarian told me I wasn’t allowed to touch the unabridged dictionary has contributed to my obsession with dictionaries.

Who knows?

Friday Five (typhoid mary-onettes edition)

Typhoid Mary-onettes
Cartoon by Steve Sack, Star Tribune.
It’s already the fourth Friday in April!

It has started raining again, and the pollen count has gone down a bit. So I am a bit less miserable and the last couple of days haven’t been quite so anxiously playing the “are my symptoms extreme hay fever or have I finally caught the COVID-19 virus” game? Which, may I say, might qualify as the worst game in the history of games!

Meanwhile, welcome to the Friday Five. This week I bring you: the top five stories of the week, five stories of interest to queers and our allies, five stories about the pandemic, and five videos (plus notable obituaries and some things I wrote).

Stories of the Week:

Poll: Don’t stop social distancing if coronavirus will spread – Only 10 percent of voters surveyed in a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll support ending social distancing to stimulate the economy.

Cecily Strong on Grieving a Loved One While Quarantined – I Don’t Know How to Tell This Story.

With humans shut in by the coronavirus, nature sees an opportunity.

Unemployment checks are being held up by a coding language almost nobody knows – States have been starved of modernization funding for years.

Archeology latest: Treasure trove of Assyrian kings discovered in ISIS excavated tunnels .

This Week in News for Queers and Allies:

The law “subjects all female athletes to the possibility of invasive genital and genetic screenings,” an American Civil Liberties Union attorney said.

Americans Aren’t Polarized on LGBTQ Equality, Survey Finds.

Actor J. August Richards Comes Out as Gay.

School allowed anti-gay abuse of teen, lawsuit claims – The suit alleges that the bisexual teen’s Detroit-area school district did little after he was subjected to persistent bullying and abuse.

Coronavirus closed down colleges – now some LGBTQ students fear an abusive “war zone” at home.

This Week in the Pandemic:

The rightwing groups behind wave of protests against Covid-19 restrictions- Protesters in Michigan and other states claim to speak for ordinary citizens, but are also supported by street-fighting far-right group specifically: 3 Far-Right, Pro-Gun Brothers Behind Anti-Quarantine Protests in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.

First US COVID Death Was Weeks Earlier Than Thought – Autopsy Reports Date First COVID-19 Bay Area Deaths to February.

More deaths, no benefit from malaria drug in VA virus study.

CDC director warns second wave of coronavirus is likely to be even more devastating.

Hospital delivers bodies to Philly medical examiner in the open back of a pickup truck. At Daring Fireball, where I found the link to this post, John Gruber noted: ” These aren’t bad people. No one wants to see dead bodies piled in the back of a pickup like bags of sand. This is the result of a system that is overwhelmed by the pandemic’s death toll.”

In Memoriam:

5-year-old daughter of two Detroit first responders dies from coronavirus.

Married Gay Couple Dies of Coronavirus Within Hours of Each Other, Leaving Live-in Mother to Deal with Grief Alone in Quarantine.

Things I wrote:

Weekend Update 4/18/2020: manbabies, misinformation, and racism.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it….

Talking to myself – it’s how some of us think, okay?

Tuesday Tidbits 4/21/2020: Discrediting, denying, and deceiving.

Invert the advice, see what happens?

The Stuff of Legend – loving sf/f and the illusion of logic.


Meanwhile… The “I Need More Beer” Lady Rocks The Internet:

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Coronavirus IV: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO):


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Jimmy Kimmel’s Quarantine Monologue – Trump & Vegas Mayor Compete for Who’s Crazier:

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Lady Gaga – Stupid Love (Official Music Video):

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Orville Peck – Summertime (Acoustic):

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The Stuff of Legend – loving sf/f and the illusion of logic

"It's only logicial," Spock says.
Spock assures us, “It’s only logicial.” (MemeGenerator.Net)
The stereotype of the logical sci fi nerd who doesn’t understand emotions is an exaggeration… except when it isn’t. There are plenty of science and sci fi fans who live up to that particular stereotype. Not only do they live up to it, many of them embrace some aspects of it—insisting that they are rational beings who follow logic and are not swayed by the chaotic currents of sentimentality or emotion or social convention. I ought to know, because I have sometimes deluded myself in the same way.

As more than one study has shown, emotions are actually necessary to processing logical problems. Our brains have evolved as a system to process information from our senses to evaluate our environment and make decisions about how to survive and succeed, and that processing involves hormones and emotions on at least an equal footing with what most people would think of as pure data. And as a social species, we are hardwired to take in cues from other members of our species into account, as well. This is true whether one is neurotypical or not. How a non-neurotypical person processes some of that input is what’s different, not that they don’t process it at all.

That biological need to take into account the feelings of others isn’t an accident. It’s part of a fundamental aspect of what has made our species successful thus far. Survival of the fittest means the fittest species to fill ecological niches, not the fittest individuals. Social animals, including humans, are fit for the environment because they take care of each other. Not because of a transactional obligation, but because a particular social unit benefits from having many members, sharing the burdens of keeping an eye out for danger, finding food, raising offspring, and so forth. Taking care of each other shouldn’t be thought of as a matter of charity—it should be recognized as necessary to the survival of the species.

And that’s just one of the reasons why feelings are important. Keeping track of each other’s physical and emotional health—maintaining each others’ goodwill and trust—are vital parts of our survival strategy.

But I most often encounter myths about logic divorced from emotion in certain fannish arguments where some people want to assert that there are objective criteria by which one can determine the definitive quality of a particular work. This is usually used as a cudgel to bludgeon fans who like things that the self-proclaimed logician dislikes, as well as fans who do not care for the favored thing of the logician.

And that’s just incorrect.

We’re talking about being fans of something. Since the logician is making a claim of definitive determination, let us turn to the Oxford Dictionary definition of fan which applies: “an enthusiast for a particular person or thing.” This sense of the word is derived from the word fanatic, which Oxford further informs us means: “A fanatical person, a person filled with excessive enthusiasm.”

Enthusiasm is an emotion, specifically a “strong intensity of feeling in favour of something or someone” and a “passionate eagerness or interest.”

Emotions, by definition are not rational.

While it is possible to evaluate a particular work of art (whether a novel, movie, television episode, graphic novel, short story, et cetera) in terms of craftsmanship, it will never be an entirely objective analysis. Feelings, preferences, and expectations will always color these evaluations. That doesn’t mean the evaluations are meaningless, we just have to recognize that there will always be subjectivity involved.

Also, craftsmanship isn’t the be all and end all of art. I might well agree that a particular story employs clever use of language and high skill at plotting and dialogue and characterization, I may also still not like the story for reasons complete separate from craftsmanship. Which is a perfectly valid part of the evaluation, review, and critique process.

Fan are passionate. Many of us love talking about the things we passionately like, and sometimes the things we passionately dislike. Some fans love to debate. Others just discuss. And the level of enthusiasm some of us feel make it sound like we are debating when we think we’re discussing.

Art, story telling, and the appreciation of those things are inherently non-rational. Which means that there is no formula or algorithm to settle upon a definitive, objective, or categorical determination of the relative quality of different works. Because, again, we’re talking about passion, enthusiasm, enjoyment, and satisfaction. All non-rational things.

When who plug in a bunch of non-rational ingredients into a purely rational process, you’re not going to get a meaningful answer.

And that’s simply logical.

Invert the advice, see what happens?

“There are only so many plots in the world. It's how they unfold that make them interesting.”— Lauren Beukes
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I have been working on a couple of posts (on various not-related sf/f things) that keep not gelling. I was working on one such post while also starting to feel drowsy and decided it was close enough to bed time that I should just pack it in. I fell asleep really quickly. I half-expected to dream about the post I had been wrestling with. Instead I had about six dreams that were all variations of the same story. Most of the dreams weren’t about me, though I and Michael were supporting characters in one variant of the story. And while processing this (and waiting for my coffee to perk), I realized that there was a piece of writing advice I have repeated (and sometimes expounded upon) which my be useful to revisit and reconsider.

Before I jump into that, one weird digression. I saw recently on one of the social media platforms a question: When you dream is it like you are inside the story reacting to whats happening to you, or is it more like you are watching a movie about something happening to you? And I wanted to answer, “Those two choice assume that my dreams are always about me.” Because sometimes my dreams are, indeed, like an immersive experience, and other times as if I’m watching a movie or play… but I don’t always dream that I am me. And in all six of the ones that led to this post, the main character/who I was wasn’t Gene, at all. And in most of them none of the other people were anyone I know in real life.

When I was in school, I had more than one teacher covering English or Literature make the assertion that there are only four plots: person vs person, person vs nature, person vs themself, and person vs society. I wasn’t the only member of the class who didn’t quite buy it—when we came up with counter-examples, the teacher would find a way to shoehorn it into one of the four. In the years since I have seen it much more common for folks to list seven plots… the problem is, I’ve seen at least four variants of the list seven which don’t map to each other very well. Which is probably why other people have written books about the 20-something or 30-something fundamental dramatic situations you can build a story from. And so on.

All the dreams I had that night were variants of: being taken to meet the parents. And specifically, being taken to meet the parents who are not yet comfortable with their child being queer.

I know one reason that my sleeping brain easily cooked up six very different versions of that story is, in part, because being a queer person myself I have (in addition to having some personal experiences with the situation) listened to, read, or watched many, many, many variations of that basic situation.

And that’s the point of the Lauren Beukes quote above: what makes a story is the execution, not the plot.

Which brings me to the piece of writing advice I talked about earlier. It has been observed many times that every person is the protagonist of their own story. Therefore, it is useful for the writer to keep the motivations of all of the characters in a story in mind. If you write yourself into a corner, the advice goes, try re-writing some of your scenes from the point-of-view of another character. In a novel-length story if you find yourself needing a subplot to intercut with the main plot, a great source of sub-plots is to pick some supporting characters and ask what is going on in their lives off screen.

And that’s good advice.

But it may also help to actively invert the usual advice. Everyone is the protagonist of their own story… but also everyone is the supporting character or villain of someone else’s story. That might seem to be implied when someone advises that you re-write scenes from other character’s viewpoints to look for ways to move your plot forward, but I’m not sure we all actively think about it that way.

Especially about your hero. Sure, you know that your protagonist is the villain in your antagonist’s story… but is there anyone else who see your protagonist as an irritant, or a burden, or an obstacle… or maybe a villain, just in a different way than your antagonist does?

And in which of the supporting and otherwise background cast of your main story is your protagonist a supporting player, or even merely a superluminary? If you can’t imagine who might look at them this way, maybe you haven’t made your protagonist as well-rounded as you think?

It’s worth thinking about, at least!

Tuesday Tidbits 4/21/2020: Discrediting, denying, and deceiving

“Americans: We need sandwiches. Republicans: We agree you need sandwiches. Democrats: We agree you need sandwiches. Republicans: At 5 P.M. on a Sunday we will vote on this bill that gives us ham sandwiches and everyone else poop sandwiches. Democrats: Wait, we don't think poop sandwiches will help. Republicans: Democrats hate sandwiches. Media: BREAKING: DEMOCRATS VOTE AGAINST SANDWICH BILL. Americans: Democrats voted against giving us sandwiches of any kind! It's right there in the headline! Media: Actually here is information about exactly why Democrats voted against the sandwich bill, which would have given most Americans poop sandwiches only. Americans: LYING MEDIA!.”
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Shame on GOP senators for slipping hefty tax break for millionaires into coronavirus stimulus bill.

“These Republicans spent 8 years investigating the tragic deaths of 4 Americans in Benghazi.  On April 10, 2010, 4 Americans tragically died every 2.8 minutes due to this man's {Trump's} incompetence. Where are those investigators now?”
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GOP senators, starting probe, demand WHO turn over details on COVID-19’s origin – The Republicans say a main focus will be the WHO’s relationship with China.

Oh, for fuck’s sake!

Trump is playing a deadly game in deflecting Covid-19 blame to China.

“In 1918, Philadelpia prematurely ended it's quarantine from the Spanish Flue to throw a parade in order to boost morale for the war effort. Some 200,000 people lined the streets on that late-September day. Within 72 hours, every bed in Philadelphia's 31 hospitals was filled and the city ended up with 4,500 people dying from the flu or its complications within a matter of days. What is the proverb? 'Those who cannot learn from the past are condemned to repeat it...'”
The Spanish flu had a much faster incubation period than COVID-19. Wait two weeks to see the effects of the protests this weekend. (click to embiggen(

Without More Tests, America Can’t Reopen – And to make matters worse, we’re testing the wrong people:

“If we want to control the spread of COVID-19, the United States must adopt a new testing policy that prioritizes people who, although asymptomatic, may have the virus and infect many others.

We should target four groups. First, all health-care workers and other first responders who directly interact with many people. Second, workers who maintain our supply chains and crucial infrastructure, including grocery-store workers, police officers, public-transit workers, and sanitation personnel. The next group would be potential “super-spreaders” — asymptomatic individuals who could come into contact with many people. This third group would include people in large families and those who must interact with many vulnerable people, such as employees of long-term-care facilities. The fourth group would include all those who are planning to return to the workplace. These are precisely the individuals without symptoms whom the CDC recommends against testing.”

Historical photo depicting a crowd a protestors during the Great Depression holding a sign that reads “Capitalism isn't working. Another world is possible.”
Another world is possible

Capitalists or Cronyists?

“Modern-day “capitalism” in America is to flatten the risk curve for people who already have money, by borrowing from future generations with debt-fueled bailouts for companies. We have consciously decided to reduce the downside for the wealthy, thereby limiting the upside for future generations.”

“The billionaires in business tell the millionaires in politics to tell the working and middle class that the problem is poor people and immigrants.”
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Shake Shack to return small business loan after uproar.

“The ability of major companies to receive funding before smaller businesses has emerged as the latest flashpoint in a program that has left many involved dissatisfied since its hurried launch on April 3.”

“Snowflakes is a word used by sociopaths in an attempt to discredit the notion of empathy.”—John Cleese
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The coronavirus fight demands unity. But Republicans just want to own the libs.

“Medicare for All - But it will cost so much! Does it though?” Info graphic shows why only some people and some procedures are covered so the insurance company can get their profits.
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COVID-19 and the Myth of ‘Choice’ in American Healthcare – The insidious root of the problem is that healthcare as a market commodity simply does not work, and we’ve known this for decades.

“Our response to the epidemic is unethical and harmful to health, just like our health system is during normal times. Fundamentally, “choice” of health insurance creates a dizzyingly complex and inefficient morass that reaps profits for insurance executives and shareholders—while creating huge financial barriers to care.

The solution is straightforward: universal single-payer health insurance, or Medicare for All, would cover everyone with the same high-quality care, progressively financed.”

No, Italy Is Not the Case Against Medicare for All – The Americanization of Italian health care plays a part in the country’s disastrous coronavirus outbreak.

“When Covid-19 reached Italian shores, it found a country in the midst of a private-sector transformation that has been turning the country’s single-payer health care system into an Italian version of Biden’s beloved “public option”—and putting millions of people at risk in the process.”

“Only in America could a billionaire make US pay for HIS golf weekends and tell us WE can't have food, health, science, or art.”
“Only in America could a billionaire make US pay for HIS golf weekends and tell us WE can’t have food, health, science, or art.”

Trump rips CNN reporter for ‘self-congratulation’ question: ‘You don’t have the brains you were born with’.

Trump won’t rule out that his business will benefit from emergency coronavirus legislation.