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.

Today as a list: a calming exercise.

It’s been a long day. I’m tired, I know I did things because I’m tired, yet I’m filled with the uneasy belief I’ve done nothing significant with all that time.

This is a familiar problem. I have a little trick: write down everything that feels significant so I can see that in fact Things Did Happen. Not in chronological order. Just as the thoughts come to me.

(Hey, I didn’t say it was a brilliant or original trick.)

Today’s high & lowlights:

  • Assembled couch bits that will live in my office
  • Wrote new words in Sharp Edge of Yesterday. Not many.
  • Avoided & procrastinated all the correspondence or reviews I planned to do.
  • Wrote a long rant about herbicide shaming which I will not post anywhere.
    (You’re welcome.)
  • read too many news stories & did WAY TOO MUCH research journal surfing.
  • Took two accidental naps
  • Took two lovely walks with Spouseman in a Work From Home win.
  • Ordered a crapton of garden supplies for quick pickup tomorrow.
  • Lost multiple tea mugs multiple times.
  • Received new, tight-fitting cloth masks made by a wonderful seamstress friend.
  • Made more lists of plants to order tomorrow.
  • lost track of time puttering around with garden stuff & missed both an open mic Zoom event AND almost all of a live online reading by a friend.

Now it’s past time for supper, and I’m feeling unhelpful & frustrated. And aggravated with myself for both feelings.)

ANYway.  It’s an even more mixy mixed bag than usual. I was flaky & achy & kept forgetting what I was doing in the middle of doing it. Which is not a rare thing.

It’s what happens when my brain is working so hard to ignore stressors that there’s no processing power left for Regular Things.

So I’m gonna give myself a break I’ve done nothing to earn, lock down the news media & the social media for 12 hours minimum & go watch TV.

Because that’s a valid choice. Even if I do feel all self-defensive and prickly about doing it. 

Until later!

 

A bit of daily This & That

Mid-February is made of Gray & Cloudy

My brain is on rebound from extraverting all weekend. My Third Capricon was a BLAST, but experience will get its own post a bit later, after I’ve had time to sift through impressions and let them settle. Right now all I have to offer are a couple of Thinky Thoughts.

One observation gleaned from cleaning out my Facebook post closet: I use online media to micro-blog. That is, I post personal updates as a life archive rather than to build a public scrapbook. My review of past performance confirms Facebook used to be excellent for mini-blogging but has grown progressively suckier in that role on a curve sorta like this:

Screenshot 2020-02-12 10.38.38

I would be fine with my posts disappearing fast from public view if they were easy to retrieve and curate. I would be fine with posts being hard to curate and retrieve if they had enough visibility to compensate for the hassle.

Facebook wants me to pay for visibility AND makes older posts nigh-impossible to review and remove or search?

NAH.

I’ve been doing more here and shifting the more random short musings or angsty outbursts to Twitter. Pictures of neat things I see or food I want to share? Those post to both FB and Twitter via Instagram.

And book stuff? That I do everywhere. Revisions to Sharp Edge are moving along at a good clip now, so…keep fingers crossed for release or at least pre-orders by late summer.

Gen Con. I want books or at least something to put in people’s hands by Gen Con. I know someone investigating the idea of reading chapters aloud to post  YouTube. There’s something strangely appealing about this idea.

But that’s enough for now. Happy reading, and enjoy this springy picture.

willow-catkin-1184812_1280
fluffy willow catkins against a black background.

Until later!