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.

Passing thought

Some thoughts on body comfort & dealing with aging and generally coping with the reality of being a lump of replicating cells that creep daily toward death.  Inspired by all the “oh, body, how you betray me as I age,” posts all over the social sphere on the one day a week I’m allowed to surf.

The bleak humorous posts come mainly from people in their 20’s and 30’s. I can sympathize with their shock and unhappiness, oh, yes. It’s aggravating to discover you can’t do something as easily as you once could.

There’s often a sense of resentment about it, though, and I can’t fathom the bitterness.

First, I don’t remember ever having an expectation of navigating daily life without pain or risk of injury. Maybe as a toddler? No, there was the top bunk incident and the 16 stitches in my chin (blood swirling down the drain, my parents talking over my head with the doctor about possible facial scarring… I was 3, I think?) I knew life was a contact sport wherein any action could bench me with injuries before puberty hit. Tying my shoes and “sitting wrong” have always been hazardous. No biggie. Deal & heal.  I honestly never realized it wasn’t like that for everyone until college. (There are reasons I was teased for being The Oblivious Child)

Second, resentment springs from a sense of betrayal, and that relies on an adversarial relationship with physicality I can’t grok. My body isn’t an enemy or even a frenemy. It’s a housecat.

No, really. It cannot care for itself without my help, it wants lots of things that will do it harm, it’s always finding new and creative ways to break things, and there’s no ignoring it when it needs attention. It’s my responsibility to monitor its behavior and keep it from hurting itself, and we are both happiest when I give it extra pampering. It’s totally a cat.

And yeah, sometimes I’m displeased with my body. (I REALLY didn’t like that phase in my teens when my neck and spine grew first and my legs took time to catch up so I felt like a teeny, clunky giraffe, but hey. I did even out. eventually.)  I’m sometimes displeased with my cat, too. Like when he decides my bedside is just the place to vomit up hairballs.

But I digress. My body is mine, and sometimes it purrs, and it tries to be good, and so I can’t imagine resenting it for things it can’t help.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with resenting your body. I’m an all-out supporter of doing whatever works to keep yourself going. No such thing as a One True Way etc. I can’t see that it would ever work for me, that’s all I’m saying.

Anyway. Gonna go give myself a treat and a brushing now.

Is it a staycation if you’re only staying home because someone is ill?

This is Night 2 of “Spending the weekend as a couch potato because Spouseman has the stomach flu.” I’d planned to get some work done, but I am not great at splitting my concentration between creativity & caregiving.

So instead of writing fiction, we’re both hanging out in the living room with Scooter McNursecat, listening to the epic rainstorms outside, and watching TV. Spouseman has Vitamin Waters and saltines. I have plenty of Unhealthy Snax I picked up while getting his meds and Vitamin Waters. Life is pretty good, when it comes right down to it.

Yesterday I watched most of the series Into the Badlands. Spouseman was there, but he was feeling so ill I doubt it made much of an impression on him.  We wrapped up season 2 today. I have feelings about it,  mixed and murky ones that are very much tied up in my twtichy dislike of messy post-apocalyptic futures.  I don’t mean the gritty aspect of violence. I mean the part where the creators give no thought to systems needed to support the societies they design.  And this show, like SO MANY others, just doesn’t add up. And the dialogue was often so clunky it made me wince.

ANYway. End rantlet.

Brain-free TV for tonight and tomorrow: Lost in Space 2018. 40 minutes into episode 1, I’d already seen more character development & better science (not perfect, but TRYING) than in the whole 1990’s movie. It’s more serious than the original but still very family-friendly. And the family tensions feel authentic, not the Typical Space Show batch of walking tropes at all.

Fab worldbuilding & reveals, fine acting, plus relationships and dialogue that all ring true. My favorites so far: teen girls who talk like teens, and the chicken.

There. Is. A. Chicken.

This show is a keeper.

It was an eventful week, so I’m not going to beat myself up over a couple of extra rest days. Nope. Going to enjoy TV.

What events? I’m so glad you asked.

First, it was National Library Week, and since I’m on the NLW planning committee at work (at a library, for those just now joining the show) I spent most of one shift being a perky greeter and letting kids & adults spin the library wheel for prizes (like fines-forgiveness, mini-slinkies, and ice cream coupons. Also pencils and other loot) and another shift helping pass out popcorn at the trivia contest night.

The contest was the culmination of many meetings’ worth of discussion over questions, potential problems, presentation, snacks, prizes and coordination with other committees.

It was over in an hour. Worth all the planning. Everyone had a grand time.

I ate too much popcorn and have a page of notes to make next year’s event even better.  It was fun but still exhausting. Wednesday I made progress on various work things and also got to take a walk in short sleeves & sandals & lie in the sun.

That recharged me enough to face The Big Adventure Day. Thursday I went downtown by train and El, and thereby learned a whole new section of Chicago By Transit. I can navigate to & from Lincoln Park now, adding that to the short list of Loop, Museum campus & McCormick Place.

The point of the exercise was getting to the Galway Arms to meet Tina Jens for dinner and later attending my first Gumbo Fiction Salon. It’s a monthy reading series I hope to make a regular part of my schedule because it’s a great group and tremendous fun.

How fun? OMG OMG OMG fun. Yet also phenomenally scary. (I talked to a whole lot of strangers in a conversational setting AND SURVIVED)  DInner with Tina was fantastic because I love getting to know friends better. Later I read from Rough Passages and people laughed in the right places and clapped at the end. I listened to a lot of great fiction, some genre, some poetry, some memoir, and I even made it out in time to catch the 11:30 Metra straight home instead of needing a pickup at the Rosemont Blue line.

I am energized to really dig into some writing projects. Friday was to be a chores & shopping day, then  write on into the weekend.

Yeah. Well. Best laid plans.

Hanging out is good, tho. Snax all day & chili for supper (I made a huge batch. It freezes well, and it’s a good hot meal when the weather is cold & yucky like today)  cuddles with cat and snuggles with sleepy, sleepy healing Spouseman.  Words are patient. I will get to them. Maybe even tomorrow.

Why the cat picture? Because “cozy kitty” is how I feel night now. Ta!