Stop and Think. That’s all I’m asking.

I get angry-tired like a toddler who’s awake three hours past bedtime every time I hear comments about Covid-19 like the ones below:*

“The science keeps changing.”
“All the experts are saying something different.”
“The rules are confusing and don’t make sense.”
“So many statistics are overblown/confusing/don’t tell the whole story.”
“The whole crisis is being exaggerated for headlines.”
“It’s impossible to tell what’s true, there’s too much hype.”

No. No, no, NO. ALL WRONG.

The science is NOT changing, and it ISN’T contradictory, and it isn’t exaggerated. If you feel like the news is overwhelming, confusing, and full of hype, you are not filtering out the crap and only absorbing the facts.

There is a LOT of crap information in the world. Always has been, always will be, and it gets worse all the time. Blame conspiracy theorists, the news media, arguing scientists, the way social media works, human nature…I don’t care.

What I care about is stopping the spread of defeatism that goes along with those complaints. So, then. How to do that?

There are two systems of crap-filtering: do the critical thinking work yourself, or farm it out.

The second one is the easier and historically proven system. People routinely base their practical, everyday life choices on advice from a set of trusted, knowledge-having, opinion-dispensing friends.

Word of mouth recommendations. They’re the gold standard. Ask anyone.

In modern life, we have an alternative that also works well: find and collect a few–a VERY FEW–information sources known for rigorous fact-checking and analytical, easy-to-understand reporting, and only base your actions on them when all those sources agree. But that’s a little harder.

Either way, I strongly suggest farming out your info-filtering unless you are a wonky, information-obsessed, research specialist trained in scientific analysis, critical thinking & education. (Hi. It me.)

Prefer to do all the work yourself? Don’t trust any research you haven’t done yourself? Cool. Then DO IT & stop pretending the problem is in the information being too confusing. Here are some tips from your neighborhood wonky, information-obsessed research specialist trained in scientific analysis:

  • The words “forget everything you’ve learned” mean “ignore this, it’s bunk.”
  • The more times an article about anything medical refers to “poisons” & “toxins,” the more likely it’s bunk.
  • Never trust any data provided in an article unless it comes with citation links.
  • When provided links, follow them. If I had a dollar for every time I discovered the original study said the opposite of the what it was being used to prove…I could feed all my friends steak for dinner every night for a year. Not exaggerating even a little.
  • Never assign the same persuasive weight to opinions as to analysis.
  • Never trust an expert’s degree or fields of study alone. Dig deeper. Are they experts in the field they’re speaking on, or only something that makes them look relevant? What do they do for a living NOW? (Example: whose opinion should you believe about cloth mask effectiveness, someone w/a phD in industrial design who works for a company selling respirators, or surgeons & nurses who can confirm they’ve remained unharmed despite decades-long careers wearing masks for hours at a time?)
  • Learn the difference between expert opinion and expert analysis. (Hint: are they asking about their own research, or someone else’s? Some people are willing to pass judgement on studies they haven’t even read. investigate the expert’s background, determine how current their credentials are, etc. And again, check for “further research citations and check THOSE!)
  • Don’t dismiss a new analysis because it contradicts an older one–or because it contradicts someone else’s opinion. (Are you seeing a trend here?) In rapidly changing environments, older information becomes obsolete.
  • Example: in early March there was ZERO data to support wearing basic masks. No public studies had ever been designed, and in the medical field, the results were 50/50. Sooooo, I was all-in with Team No-Mask in March. But GUESS WHAT? That was months ago, and the Grand Uncontrolled Experiment that is Pandemic 2020 has produced a LOT of data that confirms mask use helping.

Does that list sound like a lot of work? Does it make you tired just reading it? The people shoveling bullshit information into the world on purpose count on that. They know very few people want to do all that filtering just to get a little useful, practical advice. They rely on that defeatist reaction to spread self-serving spin and outright lies. They make money off it. GAJILLIONS OF DOLLARS.

Meanwhile, I look at that list of techniques and think, “Oh, look, another day ending in y, another new topic to chase back to its primary sources.”

The current mask situation as I see it stems from the collision of America’s Two Big Twitches: its fetish for personal responsibility and its distrust of intellectuals. But that’s a topic for another post, and maybe one best left to someone else.

My wonky friend recommendation, gleaned from way too much research & analysis: if you’re going out of your home to face other people, put a mask on, keep your distance, and don’t touch your face. And don’t let anyone INTO your home if they won’t abide by those safety guidelines.

Look, if you want to buy me a glass of wine, I’ll grab my soapbox and I can rant (at length) over Zoom about the nature of science, evolving bodies of knowledge, the dangers of being “fair & balanced,” and the unintended consequences of using analogies instead of facts… but I warn you, it will end up with me saying, “JFC, do the math. Wear a mask anywhere indoors and outside where you can’t keep your distance, keep your distance when you can, and follow basic hygiene. Look at the infection rates in every country that’s done those three things–and in some cases, nothing else!–and it’s fucking obvious. Do the easy things, nobody has to shut down again, everybody wins.”

Stay safe, amigos. That’s it for now. Until later.

*I grant there are worse things to declare & share than the comments up at the top of the post. There’s ACTIVE disinformation. But refuting false statements has a way of giving them more weight than they deserve, so I will NOT be indulging in an exhaustive & exhausting debunkery post. I have more Valerie & Jack scenes to write.

PS: I mean, in person I burst out laughing at people who think masks can make their blood toxic, scoff at people who feel oppressed by being asked to stand back six feet and give the Mom Stare Of Doom to anyone cold-hearted enough to say Covid won’t be serious for them, so their grandparents deserve to die from a preventable disease…but I don’t have the time to get into online arguments.

So. That’s a long explanation of why I’m not taking comments on this post.

A low-priority request

Hiya friends! I hope StayAtHome Spring 2020 Day X (where x is an integer value greater than zero) is treating you well.

If you have perchance ordered paperback copies of Novices from Big River Online, could you let me know when the book reaches you?  I’m collecting data for science! I expect it will take a lot longer than usual, with books being in the non-essential column compared to a lot of things BRO is shipping right now, and also I’m made of curiousity.

(Big hat tip to Seanan McGuire for my new favorite search-engine-dodging alternative for a certain retailer’s name.)

Note 2: If you care to leave a review for Novices online somewhere, that would be beyond fabulous and I would be ever so grateful, but…well.  I know reviews are hard. True confession, I’m behind on them too. Three reviews on my Habitica to-do list are bright red for being late-late-late.

**Note 3: Also remember that when you alert ME (privately, thx) to any typos/proofing glitches in any of my books, you get entered in a raffle for a free copy of the next book.

On the other hand, if you report typos & errata to Big River Online, the book gets pulled off the website & the creator gets penalized. Just an FYI for those who didn’t realize that.

And that reminds me, I owe someone a free copy of Novices. I do love giving people free things when I can.

AND I need to change the cover picture and add the paperback link to the book page on my website and ask Author Central to link the paperback & ebook entries…ah, all the authoring details. Never-ending fun. (for some values of fun)

Until later, all!

A blog post about my blog posts

My author website started getting a ton of re-directs from my old blog address recently, so I of course looked into it. Bots, I thought, or maybe someone following up on old contact information.

Nope! The activity on all come from search term hits that once led to writing process posts.

What a total blast from the past.

Back in the day, I wrote a lot of process posts, sharing discoveries I made while writing  books and then about all the work that came after writing them.  I wrote a LOT about all the issues that have to be tackled before and after hitting “publish.” Book design. Marketing. Merchandising. Publicity. Finances. Distribution channels. ALL THE THINGS.

Basically I wrote little guides to all the different facets of working as an independent author as I came across them. 

Here’s one I re-read and updated Monday: Little Details: font choice

Another of my favorites: Books are pyramids

I wrote process posts like those because writing things down is how I process everything. When I need to learn new skills, methodologies and systems, I researching how other people do them, then test by trial and error (and error and error) then analyze the successes and failures until I know exactly how and why I ended up choosing one over all others.

Even if I’m only explaining things to myself, writing out the facts helps me codify, clarify, and set in practice whatever personal system I’ve cobbled together.  And it made sense to me, back then, to share what i was learning in case it might help someone else.

Somewhere along the line I stopped writing those posts. Not because I stopped learning, no. Life got complicated, and I ran out of energy needed to put private thoughts into a sharable, coherent public format. When that little voice in my head convinced me I wasn’t saying anything other people couldn’t say better, well, it was easy to drop writing about writing.

(I know,  it’s a liar, that voice, but it was loud, and I was tired, and it was easier to curl up in my shell and cling to story writing instead.)

I want to get back into sharing opinions about this indie authoring gig. Recent experiences have convinced me anew that I have plenty to contribute. First I’ll do some posts with links to updated older posts on perennial topics. (There’s one earlier in this post, even!)  And when I think of a new interesting topic, or someone suggests one, I’ll write about that.

It’s a start, and that brings us to the end of this post. In a way I suppose this was a process post about process posts.  A very meta way to begin.

Until later.