The Flu…

… or is it a cold?

It started in a relatively benign manner. Tuesday morning I awoke with a slightly sore throat and a minor headache. I suspected I was infected by the same bug that struck JB on Sunday. But, as far as bugs went, this one didn’t seem so bad.

I went to work and shortly after lunch was telling a co-worker that I wasn’t feeling so hot. “Go home,” she suggested. “There’s not a lot going on here. You do look a little wan.”

I realized she was right. My work is very cyclical and we’re entering the slow part of the year. I’m rarely ill and so have sufficient sick leave. I shouldn’t be hanging around taking the chance of infecting my colleagues. I should go.

And so I left. That afternoon was pretty sweet. A free afternoon off work, and, while my throat was sore and the mild headache persisted, I wasn’t so sick I couldn’t have stayed at work. And, if I had had classes or meetings, or a pressing deadline I probably would have.

“I guess it’s not affecting me as badly as JB,” I thought. By Tuesday she was deep in the bowels of flu hell.

Wednesday the soreness in my throat was sharper, the headache a little stronger. Still, I could read, and I worked a little on my story. I napped. Low energy, didn’t feel great, but not bad. I felt confident that the next day I would be on the mend.

And then Thursday struck. What had been a minor sore throat turned into blistering pain. No amount of ibuprofen would kill the splitting headache. What had been a minor fever that would sneak up and then flee, came on strong and persisted. I ping-ponged between hot and sweaty and chilled and shivering. That night I couldn’t sleep. Someone was extinguishing their cigar on the back of my throat. Each cough felt like a serrated knife dragged across the blistering sore. I tried to breathe shallowly to reduce the chance of coughing. My body, however, wanted to belch, which triggered coughing. Sometimes the tears were just one of the symptoms of the flu, other times they were a response to the unrelenting pain.

Did I mention the farting. Early on in this process I noted my level of gas skyrocketed. Really amazing, tremendous farts that went on forever. And then another within moments. Where does all that gas come from? I don’t know, but I imagine it is the waste product of the invading army. My defense mechanisms were waging an all-out war to save my life, and the corpses of the enemy were vaporized into great clouds that had to be expelled. The enemy was mighty and multitudinous.

Friday I lost the ability to speak above a whisper, but I didn’t want to speak anyway because it might trigger a cough. The headache was intense and persistent. No amount of ibuprofen dulled it. There was no more reading. Even watching TV was too much to bear. I did my best to nap, but mostly I lay on the couch and suffered.

Now it is Saturday. The dark night of flu misery has passed. The throat is still sore, but nothing like it was. The head still hurts, but now ibuprofen seems to have some effect. The coughing is productive, no longer dry and painful. There is no more farting, but my left nostril will not stop dripping. In fact, dripping is too picayune for what it is doing. It is constantly streaming without stop, like a faucet turned on. I must hydrate myself or at this rate I will be a dried out husk by midnight.

I am optimistic that the worst is behind me. My weekend will be given to rest, relaxation, and re-hydration. And by early next week I will return to my preferred life of not having the flu all the fucking time.

Weasel Words

A key strategy for identifying ‘fake’ or misleading ‘news’ is to look for weasel words. I put fake and news into quotation marks because weasel word writing is common in the most prestigious news sources, especially in the op-ed columns.

Wikipedia has a good list of weasel phrases to watch out for.

Examples
“A growing body of evidence…”[13] (Where is the raw data for your review?)
“People say…” (Which people? How do they know?)
“It has been claimed that…” (By whom, where, when?)
“Critics claim…” (Which critics?)
“Clearly…” (As if the premise is undeniably true)
“It stands to reason that…” (Again, as if the premise is undeniably true—see “Clearly” above)
“Questions have been raised…” (Implies a fatal flaw has been discovered)
“I heard that…” (Who told you? Is the source reliable?)
“There is evidence that…” (What evidence? Is the source reliable?)
“Experience shows that…” (Whose experience? What was the experience? How does it demonstrate this?)
“the person may have…” (And the person may not have.)
“It has been mentioned that…” (Who are these mentioners? Can they be trusted?)
“Popular wisdom has it that…” (Is popular wisdom a test of truth?)
“Commonsense has it/insists that…” (The common sense of whom? Who says so? See “Popular wisdom” above, and “It is known that” below)
“It is known that…” (By whom and by what method is it known?)
“It is recommended that…” (Who is recommending it? Upon what authority?)
“Officially known as…” (By whom, where, when, and who says so?)
“It turns out that…” (How does it turn out?[e 1])
“It was noted that…” (By whom, why, when?)
“Nobody else’s product is better than ours.” (What is the evidence of this?)
“Our product is regarded as…” (Regarded by whom?)
“Award-winning” (What type of award, when was it given and by whom?)
“A recent study at a leading university…” (How recent is your study? At what university?)
“(The phenomenon) came to be seen as…” (by whom?)
“Up to sixty percent…” (so, 59%? 50%? 10%?)
“More than seventy percent…” (How many more? 70.01%? 80%? 90%?)
“The vast majority…” (75%? 85% 99%? How many?)

When writing, be specific. When reading, look for writers who use specific language and avoid generalizations and vague pronouncements.

Why don’t we have colorful streets?

Why are all of our streets concrete gray or tarmac black or, occasionally, brick red?

I’d like to drive down streets that are rich saffron orange, or the kind of blue you only see in the middle of the Caribbean in the heart of a tropical winter. I want peach streets and viridian streets and pale pink streets with celery edges.

Bush-Era Assault on Reason

I feel like I’ve seen this show once before.

Twitter was breathless with astonished outrage that Trump supporter Scottie Nell Hughes could say something as audacious as “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.” (You can read her clarification here.)

I think it’s pretty easy to see that as an inarticulate moment, but we saw something more substantive in 2004 when Karl Rove told Ron Suskind:

“The aide [Rove] said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ … ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'”

Al Gore was so distraught after the 2000 election that one of the first things he did was teach a journalism class (Covering National Affairs in the Information Age.)

Then he launched Current TV (a progressive news network and TV channel).

Then he wrote The Assault on Reason.

“Our systematic exposure to fear and other arousal stimuli on television can be exploited by the clever public relations specialist, advertiser, or politician. Barry Glassner, a professor of sociology at the University of Southern California, argues that there are three techniques that together make up “fearmongering”: repetition, making the irregular seem regular, and misdirection. By using these narrative tools, anyone with a loud platform can ratchet up public anxieties and fears, distorting public discourse and reason.”

Gore argues that TV is the problem and the Internet is the solution, but much of what he did after the 2000 election was a Cassandra-like prophecy for the events of early November 2016.

It feels weird to see so many of the same concerns, critiques, and anxieties weave their way through the post-election conversations, seemingly without recognition that we’ve had these conversations before. I suppose we’ve been able to spot the problems for years, but have yet to find the solutions.

It’s probably time to visit my local library and check out the following titles:

The Reunited States of America : how we can bridge the partisan divide by Mark Gerzon

Polarized : making sense of a divided America by James E Campbell

Social psychology of political polarization by Piercarlo Valdesolo & Jesse Graham

and

The phantom of a polarized America : myths and truths of an ideological divide by Manabu Saeki

They may not be full of solutions, but it’s a place to start.

Headlines are part of our news problem

No one has time to read every article. We read synopses, abstracts, tweets, and headlines to get the gist of what’s happening. To save time and space we take a pernicious short-cut. We say Republicans when we mean many or some Republicans. We say ‘the left’ when we mean many, most, or some on the left. We say women when we mean some-but-not-all women.

This is the fallacy of composition.

Description: Inferring that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole. This is the opposite of the fallacy of division.

Logical Form:

A is part of B
A has property X
Therefore, B has property X.

Until we can be more specific and accurate with our civic language we will never cross the communication divide. If I want to get a better understanding of conservative arguments, I reject them immediately when they that something is true of ‘the left’ or liberals, that I do not believe.

Civic communication, on a broad scale, will improve if we, and the headline writers of the world, follow the simple maxim — Be Specific.

The Prescience of Ursula K. Le Guin

It may be time to revisit Ursula K. Le Guin’s acceptance speech at the National Book Awards for her Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

“I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.”

“Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. … Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I’ve had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. … The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.”

Indigenous Futurisms

Miriam C. Brown Spiers’s scholarly essay “Reimagining Resistance: Achieving Sovereignty in Indigenous Science Fiction” popped up in my email this morning. As I dug around on the web for more information about indigenous science fiction I came across a really cool new media SF piece titled TimeTraveller™ (You can watch the episodes here.)

In her post about indigenous futurisms Denise Wong gives some background to help put TimeTravellerTM into context.

“The movement towards self-determination in cyberspace by Indigenous communities is best illustrated by the CyberPowWow project (1996) produced by Mohawk artist Skawennati Fragnito and a group of Aboriginal artists and writers. The project eventually led to the creation of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC) community, which seeded Skawennati’s TimeTravellerTM, a nine-episode machinima film series created in a virtual environment. The protagonist, Hunter, is a young Mohawk man who uses a fictive TimeTravellerTM edutainment system to travel between the 22nd century and moments of historical conflict dating back as early as A.D. 1490. He encounters the female Mohawk character Karahkwenhawi who also journeys through time using TimeTravellerTM. The two characters not only interact with a breadth of characters in the past, present, and future, but their presence becomes a part of the reality on screen.”

A substantial portion of Spiers’s essay is given over to an analysis of Trail of Tears by Blake M. Hausman.

“A surrealistic revisiting of the Cherokee Removal, Riding the Trail of Tears takes us to north Georgia in the near future, into a virtual-reality tourist compound where customers ride the Trail of Tears, and into the world of Tallulah Wilson, a Cherokee woman who works there. When several tourists lose consciousness inside the ride, employees and customers at the compound come to believe, naturally, that a terrorist attack is imminent.

“Little does Tallulah know that Cherokee Little People have taken up residence in the virtual world and fully intend to change the ride’s programming to suit their own point of view. Told by a narrator who knows all but can hardly be trusted, in a story reflecting generations of experience while recalling the events in a single day of Tallulah’s life, this funny and poignant tale revises American history even as it offers a new way of thinking, both virtual and very real, about the past for both Native Americans and their Anglo counterparts.”

I added that, and Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction by Grace L. Dillon, to my “buy soon” list

More Poetry!: For the Anniversary of My Death by W. S. Merwin

I think poetry makes the world a better place. To this end I occasionally post a poem because we all need More Poetry!

For the Anniversary of My Death by W. S. Merwin

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

Cultivating Designer Meat in Tampa

It’s no secret that Tampa’s culinary star is rising. Tampa’s demographics are also nearly identical to the demographics of the US as a whole. This is one reason restaurant chains often test here before going nation-wide.

This means Tampa is the best place to test the in vitro meat market.

In vitro meat is meat grown in a cell culture rather than cut off an animal.

If this idea pushes your entrepreneurial buttons let me recommend the In Vitro Cookbook and its accompanying site which imagines a Bistro in Vitro.

“Bistro In Vitro is a fictitious restaurant with a menu of in vitro dishes that may one day end up on your plate. We prepare exclusive cuts of meat, cultured and prepared with surprising flavours and textures that you would never encounter in the wild. By exploring and pushing the boundaries of our food culture we want to do away with the idea that cultured meat is an inferior meat substitute. That is why we serve you a digital selection of sustainable, animal friendly, exciting and delicious dishes that will prompt thought and discussion on in vitro meat.”

invitrocookbookcover

From the desert menu:

“Forget autographs and posters on the wall. Show you are a true fan by literally eating your favourite celebrity. These Celebrity Cubes are made from celebrities’ stem cells. Bistro In Vitro serves the stars dipped in a whiskey glaze. A deliciously addictive dish.”

Embrace the future, Tampa!