COVID-19

The epidemic has really put a dent in my blogging.

I’m amazed at the people who have been able to maintain their usual steady, productive output. For my part, I feel like I’m running on about half my usual emotional / mental capacity. I make lists and set priorities early in the day, acknowledging that at some point in the afternoon I am likely to be left with all the motive power and creativity of a potato.

In terms of input, I’ve been following Emily Dresner for slice-of-life diaries and well-informed snark, Elizabeth Bear for sensible advice, context, and practical tips to make food go further, Amal El Motar because hearing a poet’s voice in a dark time is a godsend, and Gareth Powell for his tenacious commitment to helping creative people get through this together.

The only news outlet that I trust to not nuke my state of mind is Stat News. They focus on the biotech industry, and are subscription based, which keeps the screaming-terror alerts to a dull roar. Eric Topol aggregates high quality information on his twitter feed, including the sensible metrics on the spread and human toll of COVID-19. Beyond that, honestly, I treat the internet with caution.

Thomas Pueyo put a post on Medium back on March 10 that is, for my money, still the best entry-level explanation of the challenges in measuring and reporting on the spread and impact of the disease. If you only have mental energy for one mid-length article, read that one. It’ll inoculate you against the major sorts of misunderstanding and disinformation that we’re being peddled these days.

Speaking of which, I’ve muted the president and his cronies on social media, and I won’t read so much as a summary of his news conferences. The office of the president, shamefully enough, is nothing more than a fountain of disinformation, grandstanding, ego, and bullying. That was painful and damaging before the epidemic hit – and now it’s going to get tens to hundreds of thousands of us killed.

Through it all, there are bright spots:

I attended the very first virtual meeting of my city council, and even thought there were rough spots with the technology – it gave me hope. If you work with local politics at any level, you quickly become aware of the challenges in providing access to, and soliciting input from, the entire community. There are so many barriers, and they all point in the same direction. Political access is inequitably allocated to able bodied people who speak english fluently, have the time and energy to attend meetings, are in “good standing” with the law, and so on. In this virtual meeting, I saw the glimmerings of a possible future where things could be substantially more accessible, open, and fair.

Along the same lines, I think that we can all see that internet connectivity is at least as much of a life-essential utility as a twisted-pair phone line … and perhaps even on the order of gas, electricity, and water. The outpouring of offers of aid on my various neighborhood groups and lists has been incredibly heartening. My various social groups, after taking a bit of a pause, have self-organized around virtual coffees and happy hours.

I’m also super glad to see some shred of dawning recognition that the (traditionally) low-prestige jobs like driving trucks, preparing and delivering food, keeping spaces clean, and so on are actually incredibly critical to keeping our society running.

I hope we get to keep that.

Stay safe and well out there, everybody.


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