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Guest Post - Valuing a "canon" (SF edition)

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.08.20

Nick S. writes: John Scalzi has written well about the process of reckoning with the problems of historically significant figures. He is writing about the field of science fiction, but I have been reminded of the concluding paragraph from his essay on John Campbell by various controversies.

Campbell is and will always be part of science fiction's history. But history isn't static, even if the facts of history stay the same. Anyone notable enough to be part of the historical record will find themselves the subject of reassessment, for however long they grace history's record. It is, weirdly, a privilege not many people get. Campbell was never guaranteed a pedestal, or an award, or a conference in his name, even if he got them for a while. He was never guaranteed to keep them. No one is.

He has a new post about the SF canon which, again, has some broader applicability.

Should these canonical writers and works be tossed aside merely because they are old? Well, no; if they are to be tossed aside, it should be because they are not relevant to the particular reader. But: that also does not oblige the reader to pick up those works for any purpose but their own; if they don't have such a purpose, down to and including mere idle interest, then it's all right to let that book sit. "Not picked up" is existentially different than "tossed aside."

Moreover, the days of certain works and writers being accepted more or less uncritically as "the canon" are well and truly gone. I mean, let's face it, these "canonical" writers and works were always being called on their bullshit -- see the New Wave of Science Fiction for that, which these days has its own bullshit to be called on as well -- but the last few crops of writers, with no fealty to the canon or its makers, are especially not here for it. This is deeply uncomfortable for a lot of people! The whole point of having a canon is that it's supposed to be more or less settled!

Heebie's take: Just to add in a prompt, then: pick a canon. Who do you toss, and who should maybe just not necessarily be picked up?

It occurs to me that I don't know any area well enough to answer the question.


 

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Semi-Weekly Check Ins, Reassurances, and Concerns, 8/7

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.07.20

This is intended to be our system for checking in on imaginary friends, so that we know whether or not to be concerned if you go offline for a while.

Episode 39.


 

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Testing

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.07.20

Omg, this is the thing that I just heard about last week in Texas:

Revised guidance on COVID-19 tests from the Council on State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) expected next week could pave the way for dramatically expanded statewide COVID-19 case counts across the country
.
The group will emphasize that positive rapid antigen tests should be counted in daily tallies, which many states such as Texas and California currently do not include.

I hadn't realized how widespread it is. I know that locally, free testing had switched to cheek swabs over the past month, and I know that about 2000-3000 positives had been subtracted from San Antonio and Corpus Christi each, about a month ago, leading to maybe a 15% drop (by memory). If that is statewide, it's enough to wipe out the apparent progress we've made since we peaked.

Asked if he fears that some states may choose not to report antigen positive test results for COVID-19 in their case counts because it won't make their state look good, Engel replied: "I suppose that's possible but we'll deal with that one state at a time."

Anyway: I think that case numbers will rise significantly as states comply with this recommendation, in the next two weeks or so.


 

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Speculation

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.06.20

Our school district is postponing F2F instruction until October, and nobody has mentioned how it will be accomplished if and when it happens. What I've wondered specifically is about the remote learners: will teachers be expected to simultaneously teach their F2F and remote students? Or are we hiring a dedicated set of remote teachers?

I can't imagine that we could afford extra teachers, but I also couldn't understand how an elementary teacher could possibly monitor and instruct these two groups over such different modalities, simultaneously. Also I had visions of the remote kids staring at their ipads sadly, watching all their friends joyously frolic in person.

I posed this question to a friend, who said she'd asked the same question to a friend in a different district, and that friend said she hadn't heard either, but that there was a rumor circulating, and the rumor goes like this:

Semester starts remote. Teacher trains their class on how to learn remotely, and they all get to know each other. When F2F instruction resumes, teachers have their students split between home and school. From school, teachers teach exactly the way they've been teaching during the first all-remote month. F2F students sit at their desks, with their ipad or computer, and learn remotely, just like their peers at home.

When I heard this, it clicked perfectly into place. Doing it this way - while dystopian and appalling - solves all the problems. No issues of equity, because all students get the same experience. You don't have to hire any extra teachers. Social distancing becomes much easier because your students at school are not being active, unless they're being active in isolated ways that match their homebound peers. Your teacher is there live to facilitate and troubleshoot for the in-person students, like a parent at home would do, but aside from that, it's all electronic. Kids can move seamlessly from class, to quarantine, back to class, and back again to quarantine, until there is a vaccine.

Who knows. But I bet this is how it goes.


 

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Glum

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.05.20

I'm feeling so pessimistic about this new foster kitty. At night, when everyone is asleep, I can pull her into my lap, and she'll purr and purr for as long as I'll stay in the bathroom where we're keeping her for the time being. That's what I want in a cat!

But outside of that one positive behavior, she still won't approach me when I come in and sit down a foot away from her, and just stay put. We got her on Sunday. That seems like a pretty low bar for a cat who trusts and can relax with a person.

There are still so many things she'd have to get used to, in order to feel comfortable in this rambunctious household. We are pretty noisy.


 

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Terrible things

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.04.20

This freaked me out, reading it at 3 am during a bout of foster-kitty* induced insomnia.

MarketWatch: One of the things I'm pretty interested in is the talk and the hope around a vaccine. Do you think we have misconceptions about what it means when we have a vaccine?
Michael Osterholm: Everyone is looking at the vaccine as being a light switch: on or off. And I look at it as a rheostat, that's going to take a long time, from turning it on from its darkest position to a lightest position. If you're anticipating a light switch, you're going to be concerned, confused, and in some cases very disappointed in what it might look like in those first days to months with a vaccine

and

MarketWatch: Do you think we're going to see distinct waves of outbreaks in the U.S.?
Osterholm: No, no. They're not waves. We've never had a pandemic due to coronavirus before. We've had influenza pandemics. With an influenza pandemic, you do get true waves, meaning you get a first big peak of cases, then the numbers come down substantially without any human intervention. It's nothing we do. We've never understood why that happens, and then a few months later you get a second wave. At this point, that's not what's happening here.
This is like a forest fire, full steam ahead. And wherever there's human wood to burn, it'll do it. What we see, though, are these spikes in cases where human mitigation strategies ended, or they're not adhering to them [....] It's like a fire crew. "I only put out half the forest fire but you know, I put out half so we're done." And then look what happened. It's burned more acres since we gave up than it did before we gave up.

At 3 am, it gave me the vertiginous sensation that it would be possible for us to never get a handle on Covid-19. Like it could permanently alter what "safe interactions" look like, the way AIDS permanently altered what safety entails. I tried to picture how my kids would transition to adult life after a decade of this.

via one of you, elsewhere

*I really want to adopt this kitty, because I want a super cuddly cat to offset our B+ cats, who often fail to complete their catly duties. This cat is incredibly complacent about being held and likes to cuddle, but so far is scared out of her mind from the noisiness of the household. It may be that she would be happier elsewhere, but I sure would like her to just relax a bit.


 

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News

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.03.20

If you do not bother following the news, you can mostly get through life just fine. I'm trying to think of situations, pre-Covid, where you might regret (in a concrete, short-term, almost-Pavlovian way) that you were not following the news. Tax day articles? You might need to have an alternate method for remembering to file your taxes? Maybe if there's a fire or hurricane in your area? I imagine many people only tune in for updates on natural disasters.

This pandemic has massively affected how much government is affecting everyone's life, in a very immediate sense: your gym will close on Friday. You must wear a mask. Etc. Your industry is going remote. (I suppose your job would communicate that, as well.)

Obvious the shitheels are paying close attention, and are aggravated, but I'm wondering about the truly silent majority who doesn't pay attention to the news. I'm wondering if there's a contingent who are finding out now, for the first time, that it directly affects them to get a heads up warning on what the government is doing, and consequently might be in the process of converting from uninformed to somewhat informed. Like, this may be a sea tide where many people start incorporating the habit of checking a newsource on a daily basis.

Or maybe that would have been the case 20 years ago, but now everyone who does not follow the news gets their most-urgent announcements from Facebook or other social media? I have no idea.

Are there any studies being done on this? If people are starting to follow the news for the first time, which news sources are they reaching for? Are they Fox viewers or .. what is the most digestible centrist equivalent?


 

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