Monday, April 6, 2020

Discord Among Pals

I’m not a big online gamer, but with the new social distancing normal, a bunch of us have decided to start an online game every week. I set up accounts with platforms such as Steam and Discord. The chat functions are fun, and I’m now currently playing a cutthroat card game with people I’ve known since high school. Sure, it would be more fun to hang out in person, but one does what one can.

Next up, I set up Zoom on another device so I can have two running conversations while gaming and blogging. I am in a new, golden age of multitasking, though all of the tasks are frivolous.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Facepalm Sunday

There's an old adage that warns us that religion is the last refuge of a scoundrel, so one has to question the sincerity of a Mammon-worshiper trying to act in pious fashion:

I bet he had a tab open to a porn site while he was streaming the service...

The real surprise was Trump's post COVID-19 task force meeting presser. In a 'greatest hits' callback, regarding the antibiotic erythromycin, he once again asks, "What have you got to lose?"

What have you got to lose with this medicine which doesn't affect viruses? Well, for one thing, your beneficial bacterial symbionts.

Trump, predictably, also touted the wonders of the poorly tested (for COVID-19) hydroxychloroquine:

Then he tried to muzzle Dr Anthony Fauci, questioned about the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine:

Yeah, this Palm Sunday is more like a Facepalm Sunday:


Can some enterprising reporter throw a shoe at Trump? I'd pony up for a defense fund. and unlike Trump, I'm not a liar.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Can't Respond to a Crisis Without Dipping Into the Till

One of the most infuriating developments of this week was the revelation that taxpayer purchased medical supplies are being sent to the private sector for sale to the highest bidder. We hard-working Americans are buying supplies twice, the second time at a steep markup. I have no doubt that Trump and his horrible family are taking their vigorish from connected distributors.

The one individual in the country who knows the importance of honest, competent disaster relief is General Russel Honoré, the hero of the otherwise incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina, and the man is livid at the Trump Maladministration's handling of the COVID-19 crisis. The man's last name says it all, and he seems to have no tolerance for the dishonorable.

I can't see this situation remaining sustainable any longer. NATO allies are accusing the US of diverting medical supplies. The supplies sent to US hospitals are sometimes non-functional due to a lack of maintenance sparked by a dispute over a contract. The pandemic hasn't even crested in the hotspots, and it's going to hit the elderly-skewing populations of Florida and Arizona like a two-ton heavy thing.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Who's Zooming Whom?

Catastrophes bring out both the best and worst in people. For every story of noble medical personnel and doughty grocery employees, there are stories of hoarders and grifters and just plain shitty people. Now, with a lot of business being conducted over teleconferencing platforms, the trolls are out in force. In particular, the anime Nazi crowd is waging coordinated campaigns to bombard Jewish schools with antisemitic threats. Flooding conferences with violent porn and racist content is seen by the 3edG5U crowd as a prank, never mind the trauma it can cause the victims, including children at 'learn from home' sessions and individuals in recovery.

I go in to work every day, I receive my briefing in person from the gentleman working the shift before me, and I end my shift by disinfecting the company cell phone and placing it on the desk for the hand-off. I haven't used this teleconferencing software at all. Hell, I don't even Skype or FaceTime, preferring audio phone calls so my attention isn't divided. The poor security protocols for these teleconferencing apps makes me disinclined to start using them. There are a lot of disaffected people out there with poor socialization, and they are bored... that's not a recipe for good outcomes.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Attacking the Responders

Perhaps the surest sign of the rot infecting our society is the fact that threats against Dr Fauci, the individual best equipped to handle the COVID-19 outbreak, have necessitated additional security. The fringiest of the right-wing fringe is convinced that Dr Fauci, a technocrat who has served under Republican and Democratic administrations since the Reagan Era, is a Hillary Clinton supporter who is trying to undermine Trump. The true dead-enders actually believe that Dr Fauci created the coronavirus as a bioweapon... these out-of-work lunatics and Russian trolls are doing their level best to make Dr Fauci a victim of stochastic terrorism.

I see a parallel between the demonization of Dr Fauci and the demonization of climate scientists- these are people who tell 'inconvenient truths', and the cult members who are wed to the right-wing narrative would like to see them silenced, even if that silence is through violence. Ignorance and partisanship just might doom this country.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

No Stomach for April Fools' Day

Ah, yes, April Fools' Day, a day on which pranks and jocular hoaxes are pulled... I just can't play along this year, there's just too much foolishness and duplicity at a time when intelligence and candor is needed more than ever. What good is a day for japery when truth has pretty much gone on an extended vacation? We live in grotesque times, times in which great suffering is taking place in our very communities, yet whackjobs insist that it's all a sham. Sure, there are jokes, but they are appalling and horrific.

There's room for a certain grim humor these days, it's one of the few things that allows us to cope. With a whole lot of snarky people being stuck at home with little to do, it's a banner time for gallows humor:

So, now that every day is a 'fools' day', I'm not going to single out this one particular day.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

A Valuable Social Distancing Resource

In these days of social distancing, one has to derive one's entertainment mainly from solitary pursuits, of which reading is perhaps the best (no jokes, now!). Thankfully, the Internet Archive has instituted a National Emergency Library for great justice the common good.

Poking around the archive, I found a rare novel by my beloved Jack Vance. Written in 1965 and published under Jack's full name in 1967, John Holbrook Vance's The Pleasant Grove Murders is a murder mystery set in the fictional San Rodrigo County in northern California, a few hours drive southeast of San Francisco. It would seem that Jack Vance was in a 'mystery' phase of his career during the 60s, as even his Science Fiction tales, such as 1961
s The Moon Moth (one of my absolute favorites) and 1964's The Star King and The Killing Machine were mysteries. The Pleasant Grove Murders itself is a sequel to The Fox Valley Murders, published in 1966... which I foolishly found after I'd read The Pleasant Grove Murders.

Jack Vance didn't use quite so flowery an idiom in his mysteries as he did in his Science Fiction and Fantasy fiction. The long, flowery dialogues between amoral reprobates in decadent settings are absent from his contemporary fiction. Nevertheless, The Pleasant Grove Murders is unmistakably Vance- the novel begins with a long introduction to the cast of characters, providing a suitable array of suspects. There's the haughty girl from a wealthy family, the obsessive teenage boy who hates her as much as he years for her, the snobby aristocratic boy... all typical Vance archetypes. The protagonist, Sheriff Joe Bain, is a typically competent individual, but not a macho wish-fulfillment figure- his wife left him for a 'cowboy singer', he lives with his mother and headstrong teenage daughter, and lives in the shadow of his predecessor, the flamboyant Sheriff Cucchinello (the sort of showoff who'd ride a white horse in the county parade, but send his Deputy, Joe Bain, to handle a dangerous situation. Joe Bain fits well into the tradition of rural police officers thrown into incongruously violent circumstances, such as Marge Gunderson. Faced with a growing body count on a street populated by the town's wealthy and influential, he frets about the future of his electoral prospects. As he conducts the investigation, he contends with a hostile newspaper publisher, an alluring 'New Agey' type who fancies herself an alien, and a deranged ranch hand who precipitates a violent standoff (Vance uses this sideline to highlight Sheriff Bain's cool-headedness and guile in the course of duty).

If you are a fan of whodunits, I would suggest that you give John Holbrook Vance a try. His descriptive passages are gorgeous, his character studies well-sketched in economical fashion. For me, the book didn't reach the empyrean heights of his better-known SFF fiction, but my opinion is nuncupatory.