May 2020

My back hurts, and I’m tired, and there definitely was an anxiety spike, but I managed to get up, have a quick bowl of cereal, get to the post office, figure out how to finish packing the old laptop I sold, figure out where out back of the post office they wanted parcels dropped off, and got in the minor grocery errand I’d wanted to do and hoped I’d have the resources to add to this trip out of the house. Exhausting and stressful, but no panic attack, no sense of suffocation (so the Braddock masks, although I need to replace the elastic ear loops with head-ties secured with cord locks, are comfortable enough to not be an extra stressor), and now I can just be at home to have my one coffee for the day and see if Crew Dragon launched.

Animals Live: An Open Letter To The Oregon Zoo

My new Posted Today page tells me that it was on May 30, 2018, that I sharply criticized the Oregon Zoo for only publicly caring about animals dying when they are marquee animals. Its first line: “Animals die.”

Animals also live, which is why my current point of contention with the zoo is its seeming focus only on certain animals in the public communications during its coronavirus shutdown.

Most zoo visitors likely have a favorite animal or exhibit. I get there are only so many hours in the day, especially with staff reductions and other challenges, but I honestly do not see a valid argument against simply having someone make the rounds to give us updates.

There are six exhibit areas (PDF) at the zoo. At one per day, the zoo could give an update from every exhibit in less than one week. Just walk the route. It doesn’t have to be an entire Facebook Live event; you have a YouTube channel.

Consider this a request from a dues-paying member who until March made a visit each and every week, on behalf of all the other supporters of the zoo, members and non-members alike, who have been waiting three months to hear about their favorites.

He’s right. Once again, Trump has led the US out of an international agreement that we used to dominate. Just two days ago, president of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass said that Trump’s foreign policy doctrine should be called the “Withdrawal Doctrine.” Trump has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact designed to pressure China to meet international rules; the Paris climate accord; the 2015 Iran nuclear deal; the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, limiting nuclear weapons; UNESCO, the U.N.’s educational, scientific, and cultural agency; the Open Skies Treaty that allowed countries to fly over each other to monitor military movements. He pulled U.S. troops away from our former Kurdish allies in Syria, and has threatened to leave the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—NATO—that ties 30 North American and European countries into a military alliance.

From May 29, 2020 by Heather Cox Richardson

Well, shit:

As unrest spread across dozens of American cities on Friday, the Pentagon took the rare step of ordering the Army to put several active-duty U.S. military police units on the ready to deploy to Minneapolis, where the police killing of George Floyd sparked the widespread protests.

Soldiers from Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Drum in New York have been ordered to be ready to deploy within four hours if called, according to three people with direct knowledge of the orders. Soldiers in Fort Carson, in Colorado, and Fort Riley in Kansas have been told to be ready within 24 hours. The people did not want their names used because they were not authorized to discuss the preparations.


The person said the military units would be deployed under the Insurrection Act of 1807, which was last used in 1992 during the riots in Los Angeles that followed the Rodney King trial.

Face mask use is a social contract. My mask protects you; your mask protects me. But face masks are not perfect and they need to be used in conjunction with other measures to lower risk of infection such as physical distancing and hand washing. There is ample evidence to suggest that widespread use of masks results in significant reductions in the transmission of respiratory viruses. Mask use is grounded in biology and can have a real world and meaningful effect on slowing the spread of infection, protecting your coworkers, and those vulnerable members in your community.

From What’s the deal with Masks? by Erin Bromage

When cobbling together my Locus books post, I experienced another time dilation, wherein the length of time that had passed since I read certain books did not make any sense at all to me and surely it wasn’t a year ago that I read The Raven Tower and surely it wasn’t November when I read A Memory Called Empire — but it was, and I’m unnerved.

Ed Pilkington’s excoriation of the ways in which “America’s deep and brutal fault lines […] rendered the country ill-prepared to meet the challenges of this disease” easily can be read by the light cast by Venkatesh Rao’s exploration of how the Black Death “brought a bunch of strong historical forces, which had been building up pressure, to a crisis point”.

It’s absolutely baffling to me how the Bureau of Transportation managed to tell restaurant-owners that their sidewalk permits had been revoked until October without providing sufficient reassurance and guidance regarding the new Healthy Businesses initiative to open up sidewalks, curbs, and traffic lanes. How in the world in this environment do you just up and scare people like that? I get that they’ve since owned up to the mistake in method and messaging, but I’d really like to know exactly how it went down this way.

Riffing off an observation on Twitter that coronavirus is no longer the story but the setting, Venkatesh Rao explores the idea, noting, for example, that “social distancing is an element in protests”. Rao goes on to try to “unpack what it means to for a big, all-subsuming condition to evolve from story to setting” by revisiting the Black Death, exploring the phases of our own pandemic so far, and suggesting bleak comparisons between our present circumstances and how the Black Death “brought a bunch of strong historical forces, which had been building up pressure, to a crisis point”.

Now here’s the thing about the Phase 2 of the Black Death: it’s clear that everything basically broke at a very deep level, which is a very strong statement coming from me. I don’t like to call complex systems broken very often. Usually when people say that, they are just complaining that the system is working for somebody else rather than for them. But when the system doesn’t work for any of its human individual or institutional parts, or even to preserve and perpetuate itself, I think it is safe to say it is actually broken.

Locus Awards finalists I’ve read (via Arkady Martine): The City in the Middle of the Night, The Future of Another Timeline, The Rosewater Insurrection/The Rosewater Redemption, The Raven Tower, Gods of Jade and Shadow, Pet, Destroy All Monsters, A Memory Called Empire, Gideon the Ninth (current read), A Song for a New Day, Waste Tide, The Haunting of Tram Car 015, This Is How You Lose the Time War, The Deep, The Ascent to Godhood, and A People’s Future of the United States.

Finalists still on my to-read or to-buy/borrow lists: The Starless Sea, Dead Astronauts, and “Binti: Sacred Fire” (if I can find it without having to repurchase all the Binti books in a collection).

Designers and engineers: where are the better design ideas than Saran wrap on PVC frames? (Don’t get me started on the Cone of Silence.) We’ve got to do better than this.

The woman running the Oregon group stoking false fears of voter registration shenanigans also says she believes the Secretary of State is paying the Facebook and Twitter’s fact-checkers who keep shutting down her campaign.

It’s not at all the point of the thing but in the latest edition of Why is this interesting? there’s a paragraph about kids crying that sent me to a very particular place.

This kind of fits one of my long-standing theories about kids: that they’re mostly right about things. It started with observing my children when they were little babies and trying to avoid the urge to do root cause analysis every time they cried. I’m not sure whether this was more for me or for them, but I eventually came to the conclusion that the most likely reason a baby is crying is because something is just weird. Wouldn’t you cry a little the first time you felt something pushing on your face that you couldn’t see if you didn’t know it was called wind? Few places is this theory more apparent than on an airplane. On flights, kids whine about being bored, wanting to move around, and being hungry, which, if any of us were being honest with ourselves, would be exactly the same list of complaints we have. We’ve just learned to shut up and deal with it.

Think about this idea that kids are “mostly right about things” the next time someone complains about an autistic person’s “tantrum”. There’s a stimulus there, and it’s real to the person reacting, even if your own mental makeup, or even just cultural acclimation, hides it from you.

Interesting point at the end of this opbmusic piece about the plight of Oregon’s music venues during a pandemic: when venues can re-open, there could be more emphasis on prime slots for local musicians.