April 2020

Well, shit. I am trying to put things in order to return to my actual blog from my “vacation” blog, but as I add posts to my test blog here (my plan was to add them there, export, then import them here) and then edit them to make the dates correct apparently the URLs don’t update to reflect to correct posting date. They remain with today’s date in the URL. That’s no good. I wonder, will everything be correct on the eventual import? Like, as long as the dates in the exported entries are correct, they’ll be created here with the properly-dated URLs?

How and why in the everloving fuck did my blog theme here gert all fucked up. I’ve been doing work on my -test blog but somehow my actual blog here is all wrong? And my last post isn’t even published? What is happening.

While both Amazon and Kobo are relatively good at suggesting books for me to read based upon books I’ve already read (although the latter mostly recommends to me other books I’ve already read), I do also make sure to browse Kobo for sales.

Tonight, then, I picked up The Invention of Yesterday by Tamim Ansary (link goes to Bookshop, as usual) because it popped up on the Kobo store for $3.99. I’d not heard of it before, but I’ve read his Destiny Disrupted , back when I was on an Islamic history kick.

Many thousands of years ago, when we existed only as countless small autonomous bands of hunter-gatherers widely distributed through the wilderness, we began inventing stories—to organize for survival, to find purpose and meaning, to explain the unfathomable. Ultimately these became the basis for empires, civilizations, and cultures. And when various narratives began to collide and overlap, the encounters produced everything from confusion, chaos, and war to cultural efflorescence, religious awakenings, and intellectual breakthroughs.

It will be a bit before I get to it; I try to read books in the order in which I bought or borrowed them, and at the moment this one is fifth in line for my nonfiction reads.

Another month, somehow, under our collective social distancing belts, and here at least April departs on two positive notes: there was a Parks and Recreation pandemic special, and I’ve already placed my regular breakfast order online for tomorrow morning’s takeout re-opening of Johns Street Cafe . After breakfast, I need to decide what to pursue first (since each choice means spending money): getting one of those vacuum units into which you sweep your floors, because I’m pretty sure it will bring me to sweep more often; or getting that screen door to work on trimming down and hopefully install, so that my mother-in-law cottage becomes more pleasant in the warming weather (and so my cats can see me if I’m sitting outside on the landing reading a book).

I accidentally walked backwards into tinkering, so here’s another Hugo question: is there a way to hack together a datestamp display that checks the time of the post, and if within range X prints “the morning of”, or within range Y prints “the afternoon of”, etc. — leading to datestamps such as, “The Morning of April 29, 2020”?

Catching up on my very few podcasts, Monday’s edition of Social Distance from James Hamblin and Katherine Wells — “Will the Restaurants Come Back?” — is a conversation with fellow Atlantic writer Derek Thompson, who recently argued a fairly pessimistic answer to that question.

Near the end of the discussion, Wells took issue with something Thompson wrote about the nature of time during the pandemic.

Because the pandemic pauses the present, it forces us to live in the future. The question I asked myself walking east through D.C. is the question so many Americans are all pondering today: Who will emerge intact from the pandemic purgatory, and who will not?

Wells explained that she at first thought this had to be an error. “I keep thinking that the pandemic obliterates the future,” she countered, “so I’ve had the experience of only being able to live in the present”.

I feel like Wells’ experience likely is more reflective of that of most people, while Thompson’s view might be more reflective of culture writers, who by the nature of their jobs pretty much must examine the present through filters both past and future.

(This is nothing against Wells’ own output , which is more pop cultural versus Thompson’s… cultural context ?)

Certainly for me, all this flattening of the curve mostly also has flattened time itself, and that’s speaking as someone whose days didn’t vary overly much even before the pandemic. Are most people really thinking that much about the future beyond grocery needs or the potential for another federal stimulus check?

All the missiles intercepting missiles meet
All the broken republics breakdown
All the centuries of cities crash
I’ll meet you on the other side of now
I see you on the other side of now
I want you on the other side of now

—Nina Hynes, “The Other Side of Now”

Link Log Roundup For April 29, 2020

In this edition: dashed hopes, wolves, mental health, reopening the South, corporate liability, excess deaths, a new blue, power company wifi, pet distancing, autistic voices, a Colorado quarantine, muscular Christians, letting industries fail, canceling the rent, keeping cars out, and bias in testing.

My mind has some kind of viral malaise which prevents me from having anything worthwhile to say — or, really, even think about. That’s the truly unnerving part: I’m not really having thoughts. It’s entirely possible this blog-away-from-blog shortly will collapse further still, becoming nothing but daily Link Log Roundup posts. My inner life seems spent, my outer life mechanical. This maybe helps explain why lately I’m not anymore out of bed before noon; read some things, watch some things, listen to some things, eat some things, sleep, repeat. I see people expressing their way through this particular now and I wonder how, and I wonder how they aren’t just empty and listless.

Link Log Roundup For April 28, 2020

In this edition: the bus, black women, anti-vaxxers, autistic kids, governors, FilAm nurses, television production, first responders, trick photography, protests, Lithuania, Parks and Recreation, nightmares, slow streets, nannies, and retail.

CJ Eller quotes Sajesh on the matter of blog comments: “I feel like the old style of blog comments just don’t quite cut it for the modern web stack and ways we interact.” The reality is I agree, but one of the reasons I’ve taken a vacation from my actual, vanity-domained blog is because, hosted as it was on an indieweb-facing service I found that my current need for simplicity kept bumping up against the fact that the sought-after interoperability of the indieweb is far, still, from being a simple matter. I guess that I needed to retreat to a space which arguably actually is underdeveloped even in traditional terms let alone the terms of indieweb strivings. I needed somewhere away from the noise, and away from the inherent invitation to tinker.

Link Log Roundup For April 27, 2020

In this edition: the PennySaver, Oregon at one month, Oregon City, the unhoused, killing methods, beaches, the right to read, grocery workers, western states, Biden, vote-by-mail, and suffrage.

Link Log Roundup For April 26, 2020

In this edition: frozen steaks, immunity passports, car culture, the future normal, and quarantine fatigue.

‘Zoom Fatigue’ As Autism Analogue?

Max Sparrow noticed something interesting about a BBC story describing so-called “Zoom fatigue” (also noted by C. M. Condo about a similar National Geographic story): the strains and stresses people are experiencing as a result of all these video meetings is not unlike what actually-autistic people experience much of the time.

I’d be interested to learn if people experiencing Zoom fatigue also report any sensation of having to camouflage these reactions during the meetings themselves — in which case we’d also have a useful analogue to autistic masking.

Interestingly, the BBC article never mentions autism, but the National Geographic one does, although I’m suspect of its claims that “the sudden shift to video calls has been a boon for people who have neurological difficulty with in-person exchanges, such as those with autism”, as my particular autistic spectrum, at least, includes social and performance distress which quite easily would carry over from in-person exchanges to video meetings. I question Sparrow’s suggestion of an autistic “home-court advantage” for the same reason.

What might help is something touched upon in that same article, as observed by one of the autistic people with whom the article spoke, who notes that “video calls lead to fewer people talking and less filler conversation at the beginning and end of each meeting”. A reduction in small-talk certainly would lessen some of the stress on my brain, but I’m still not convinced it would outweigh the performance distress of being live on camera.

(Parenthetically, and only because this occurs to me as I write this, there’s a difference and distinction, for me anyway, between small talk meant purely as social signifier and small talk where there’s an actual expectation of interest or explication. The trouble comes from trying to recognize which is which.)

Setting aside, then, the suggestions that autistics somehow might have an advantage in video meetings, I’d love to see autistic or autistic-ally researchers examine these parallels, as we certainly could do with more ways for neurotypicals to reach an “a-ha!” moment.

Link Log Roundup For April 25, 2020

In this edition: Disinfectant, Soviet Russia, pseudoscience, hygge, Zoom fatigue, webcams in lockdown, architecture, strokes, email greetings, flu season, and March 11.

Today I read what I think was my first-ever Aeon post , and mostly I have to ask regular readers of the site if they’re all this terrible?

Set aside that it first uses Goodreads readership stats on dystopian fiction in books and then for its “study” switches over to showing people scenes from dystopian movies, it somehow manages to go from arguing that such fiction makes people “more willing to see radical and violent political acts as legitimate” straight to stating as plain fact that “it can also fasttrack some to violent political rhetoric – and even action” literally with no connective tissue whatsoever.

(I’m not even going to address at length the fact that this “study” uses mere decontextualized scenes from dystopian fiction, not complete works of dystopian fiction.)

Weirdly, though, that’s not even the part that first made me scrunch up my face. That was this bit.

Does this mean that dystopian fiction is a threat to democracy and political stability? Not necessarily, although the fact that it is sometimes censored suggests that some leaders do think along these lines. For example, Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) is still banned in North Korea, and even in the US, the top 10 books most frequently targeted for removal from school libraries in the past decade include The Hunger Games and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1931).

No. Just, no.

These books aren’t censored because leaders see them as a threat to democracy. They are censored because leaders see them as a threat to their own control. In that sense, I guess, yes: they are censored as a threat to political stability but only so far as that stability is serving leadership’s need for control.

I tried re-reading that paragraph over and over again — even now as I write this — to see if somehow I was misreading it, but no: they straight-up are saying that books about totalitarian dystopias are censored as threats to democracy.

The censorship is the threat, not the books.

Also the threat: any suggestion that books are censored by leaders to protect democracy. Also the threat: poorly-written garbage Aeon articles about poorly-constructed “studies”.

Addenda

  1. It’s interesting to me that, as near as I can tell, the authors don’t even bother to link their own study. It’s here (pdf) if you’re interested.