Disaster Snowballs

Delay of game for coffee and a little Christmas shopping this morning. You see… no, let me back up a little. This has been an interesting year. You know that. For me, it’s been oddly normal with an underlying foundation of pure stress. I go to work five days a week, wear a mask, deal with what was incipient asthma that has bloomed into full on why-can’t-I-breathe-that-hurts asthma, and on the way to work I dictate stories. At lunch, I make art. After work, I clean up dictation, write more if I can, and do promo marketing stuff (lamely, more on that in a minute). On weekends, I make more art, lay out publication projects, and work on client design projects.

So, Cedar, why can’t you reduce the stress in your life? Huh. No idea. Also, why have you become a cranky angerball who can’t seem to mop up the dripping sarcasm well enough to keep it from leaking on social media. No idea. Look, these days I’m powered by caffeine, sheer determination, and spite. The sunshine will come back when I can actually see it again. Which will be a few months.

In the meantime! I’ve got a novel to format and upload this weekend. I probably shouldn’t do two launches so close together, but what the heck. I’ve already delayed The East Witch several times. I want it out in 2020. So it’s coming out. The Cute Moose was a labor of love that has become a little ray of joy in my life through seeing how many people love the story I wrote for my sister. My sister loved it, too. My heart is full. Messing up the publishing schedule was so worth it.

And this morning, I checked on the outstanding orders for Christmas (most stuff is already under the tree) and realized that I’d ordered something for my son, over a week ago, and it hadn’t even shipped. It wasn’t going to be here in time, if ever. I try to be cautious, even when ordering through the ‘Zon, about the actual seller. You have to be, in this day and age. There are, always have been, and always will be, people who just want to take your money and run. They promise a product, and then don’t deliver. (this is related to writing, I promise) Now, my Little Man has been a trooper this year. It’s the first year he’s had the experience of being an only child, after almost 15 years of being the baby of four. That’s been rough on him. He’s lonely, and losing school on top of that has been hard. We are homeschooling, and he’s got some buddies he can video chat with, but that’s the extent of his social interactions. I worry about his long-term adjustment to this… anyway, the Little Man (who wanted to keep that nom-de-blog as he is now six inches taller than I am and finds it deeply funny) is very unhappy to look forward to a Christmas morning with only him opening a stocking. His sisters are both working, and we plan a get-together before the end of the year but…

It’s the little things that snowball into big deals. So I am trying to find a replacement for his gift that I can have under the tree Christmas morning. However that morning goes, this year, the year that traditions die. And I am thinking about 2020 and how we have broken the postal service in this country this year. The First Reader was shipping for me (art! and some Christmas gifts) and the lady at the post office told him that in 27 years, this is the worst she has seen it. I’m hearing from friends all over the country that packages are going wildly astray, disappearing, or showing up slit open and looted. Now, I have been doing a lot of my shopping online for years. I frankly loathe going to the mall, and flat won’t do it during Christmas season. I’d rather just have the gift delivered to me. Or the recipient, since it’s less expensive to have it dropped direct to them rather than ship it myself. Most people, though? Are suddenly discovering that they have to do it this way.

Catastrophic ripples follow small course changes. We’ve had, in this global pandemic situation, major course changes. Following the ripples outwards, and plotting their collisions with the new ripples formed at those intersections… will be the work of generations to come. I’m going to avoid talking about why, in favor of looking at ‘what next?’

It’s been too crazy to even write into a fiction plot. But we’ve lived it, and it’s been ugly real. That, and it’s not over yet. Yes, there are now two vaccines available here in the US. That’s an amazing feat of science. It really is. However, they are not a panacea, for so many reasons. One, this is a coronavirus. It is not, contrary to media hysteria, actually that lethal a disease, and it is already adapting in favor of even less-lethal strains. Which is great, and not a surprise. However, it means the vaccine may not be effective for very long. Which frankly is not a big deal. If it can calm the hysteria, it will be a useful tool. Sadly, I’ve been watching the usual anti-vaxx hype frothing into overdrive for months, and I think that’s going to be a problem. When people are saying ‘it’s gene therapy!’ I’m over here doing the sinal salute and reminding myself that over half the population is below average. In intelligence, in education…

As a fiction author, I could write this as ‘then they lived happily ever after once they had their jabs.’ As a scientist, it’s more like: coronavirus are a known quantity. This one, having been novel, ripped through the population like a wind-driven wildfire. Sadly, that meant that a lot of the vulnerable population, already weakened by other conditions, was felled. In twenty years? This will be another ‘cold virus’ (there are a lot of them, and we almost never test deeply enough to differentiate) and it won’t be noticed. It is not a virus that we can eradicate, like smallpox was. Coronavirii have animal populations it can ‘hide’ in and re-emerge again. That’s how we got this one in the first place, along with quite a number of pathogens. Again, this is normal and expected if you have any knowledge of infectious disease. What I worry about? And should probably try to explore in my fiction? Is the next one. After the terrible mismanagement of this pandemic, which was a pandemic on the easy setting, what happens when the next one emerges. It is coming. It’s been overdue for some time.

We’ve had generations to forget what the scourge of disease really looked like. Pray that we are not about to be reminded. This wasn’t that. This was a panic. Go back and look, really look, at history. It’s not pretty. We still have it cushy, packages being delayed and everything. Sure, there are some shortages in the stores. But not like it was. Not like it could be, if the sprockets really do jam in the machinery of society. I’m bleak these days, not from looking at where we are, but as a result of knowing what might be on the horizon.

So I’m going to celebrate Christmas and the meaning of ‘gift’ in that context. And may the New Year bring you joys.

And to end on a more cheerful note. The cover for The East Witch, which I hope will be released in time for you to gift it for Christmas! Ebooks don’t have to rely on the post office for delivery, so they make fantastic last-minute shopping gifts.

22 comments

  1. When people are saying ‘it’s gene therapy!’ I’m over here doing the sinal salute and reminding myself that over half the population is below average. In intelligence, in education…

    Here, this’ll help, maybe.

    My thought line:

    Treating a told with gene therapy=> Star Trek curing a cold with a shot to edit Barclay’s genes=> the entire crew of the Enterprise “devolving” and poor Reg turned into a spider thing, because Drug Interactions Happen.

    https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Barclay%27s_Protomorphosis_Syndrome

      1. Oh, in seriousness it’s probably the same false-flag guys who make memes about “baby DNA in vaccines” to try to make those who object to harvesting humans to create vaccine cultures in look bad.

        Call it the “every sperm is sacred” response to those who see intrinsic value in sex.

          1. Heh. The playbook the anti-vaxxers use involves finding every possible button to push in the emotional illogical brains of the weak-minded. So of course they are going to say that aborted babies are included. And that it will genetically modify you. The demonization of science is a long, slippery slope back to their target: reducing if not eliminating all humans.

            1. I haven’t heard those from actual “anti-vaccine” folks except in one or two cases, and in those cases they listened when I explained how fetal stem cell lines work and accepted that they’re not used for all vaccines. It helps that the Moral Option vaccination groups like COG for life keep updated lists of how various vaccines are produced, and answer concerns that people express.

              I’ve gotten them a lot from the magic-wand “science believer” types who are currently posting nasty fantasies about forcibly vaccinating people as a good thing. (*shudder* How the F can a scifi writer DO something like that?)

              I do outreach (pretty effective, so far) for folks who have concerns about vaccination– they’re the ones that these folks drive into rejecting all vaccines because they start screaming, or filing child abuse reports*, when parents follow the instructions they’re handed to sign at the time of vaccination about not doing it if the kid’s had a cold, etc, for certain shots. Much less things like the Orthodox in New York having no issues with vaccination, but many issues with even remote cooperation with evil. No-one can be allowed to walk away from Omelas.

              Actually talked about the mRNA vaccine with my mom the other day– she understands vaccines fine, animal husbandry for the last half century, but wasn’t sure how this works.
              Told her my understanding was that it works like a police sketch artist giving enough detail for the immune system to (hopefully) recognize the virus, without actually involving the virus directly at all.
              We’re both still not interested in beta-testing anything, but we also never buy the first year run of a vehicle, or early adopt anything if we can help it.

              *That one was a bit of a news-spike, as a pediatrician who bragged in a newspaper about having filed multiple child abuse reports when parents didn’t vaccinated on his schedule, and to hell with what the correct medical procedure was. That he still has a license is a freakin’ scandal.

          2. That was an actual “argument” I got in high school when I suggested that abortion as birth control might not be compatible with intrinsic human dignity. (Still not sure how the Cool Girls saw Monty Python enough to hear the song and remember it.)

            It was memorable, but not for being good!

            My estimation of their moral standing wasn’t helped by one of the girls coming to oppose abortion the next year– for healthy children, because she saw newspaper ads offering to adopt any baby. See, disabled kids should still be dead before she had to see them because that’s disturbing, but if there was a demand for kids then it’s OK for them to live, even if the mother didn’t want to be pregnant anymore.

            I actually not caricaturing the arguments, either, just trimmed down the word-count and accusations of bad faith to the tune of “not nice.”

            The utilitarianism still creeps me out, and it’s been almost 20 years.

  2. Yeah, snowballs. The large current of underlying stress this year is revealing itself in a humongous surge in my eczema. Plus our plans to move have been thwarted multiple times. I keep thinking I’m handling things well but then i look at my hands and arms…damn. I’m also having a hard time writing and editing. I can’t seem to focus for any appreciable amount of time on anything. I wanted book 2 to come out in time for Christmas, but that’s not happening.

    Last night I *think* I finally gave in and accepted that all these things (new job for hubby, move) will happen in their own time. I will go back to editing, plotting, and writing starting today and do what I need to do to keep things moving in a favorable direction. At the very least maybe the eczema will go away?

    Either way, it will be a good Christmas. We’re together, we’re not shuttling between my in-laws (ha), and we will be okay. And, in the new year, we will get where we need to be.

  3. I’m definitely not a life scientist in any way shape or form.

    Does that mean I can not have any sort of relevant informed opinion?

    I would assert that there are two aspects that I might know enough about to base a valid opinion on.

    a) What can we say about the reliability of the human institutions through which the biological expertise is acting? If we can extrapolate one scientific institution from another scientific institution… I am less than confident that the difference in applying principles of fluid mechanics to climate science problems and to other problems is to the credit of the institutions.

    b) These vaccines, a computing center used for parallel processing of big data, and a two cylinder internal combustion engine are all examples of designed human artifacts. i. Designers use information to approximate the real world as a model which a human can use to make design choices from. The information used for a mechanical design is relatively simple, and tractable, but still something that has problems that really require an expert. ii. Without being a life scientist, I can know that biological design problems are very complex, and potentially much more challenging than mechanical and electrical design tools are suited for. iii. It isn’t rare for educated but inexperienced mechanical designers to make errors that experienced laymen would have known enough to avoid. IQ also very much is not automatically better than common sense. iv. Experts may do the mechanical design, but the proper judges of the design are the public, the customer, and physics. Which means that the work of a 170 IQ PhD with all the postdocs to be solving a weird problem might be fairly judged and found wanting by a 80 or 90 IQ highschool drop out.

    That might be rare, but it will be less rare when the academic study of the specific design problem is driven mainly by aesthetic considerations, which will itself be less rare when the problem space is much too complex for human comprehension.

    1. aesthetic considerations, which will itself be less rare when the problem space is much too complex for human comprehension.
      I think this could go either way. If it’s that complex, all the solutions are ugly, so aesthetics don’t get considered. Or, it’s so complex that ANY comprehensible explanation/solution becomes the most aesthetic one and the “baseline” for all solutions.

  4. WRT Little Man. When Younger Son was born, he swiftly became Bunny. He’s still Bunny, despite being six foot two with eyes of blue. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one.

    As for 2020, you are so right. We’ll be seeing the ramifications and repercussions for decades to come. This year was a watershed, a clear dividing line between one era and the next.

    The entire ‘Covid-19 is the Black Death’ is particularly annoying because anyone looking at the historical record should be able to see that this disease is, for most people, background noise.

    What will happen because of that false equivalence is the same thing that happens with storm warnings. You get enough ‘the next storm is the end of the world for the entire country!’ warnings and you quit believing weathermen. A given area can still be devastated and people’s lives ruined by a given storm but everyone else who was supposed to be affected and didn’t get a drop of rain? They quit believing.

    Until the storm really does show up as forecast (or worse, it moved and the forecast didn’t) and rips your house off the foundations and drowns half your family.

    I think we’re going to see a lot of anger.

      1. I also remember the “Of course we’re not doing contact tracing because homophobia” outrage.

      2. Well, given that AIDS is fundamentally a disease of hedonism, and hedonism was THE greatest value of the liberals and youth culture of the ’70s-’80s, having a disease that would kill you if you acted out your baser desires was unsettling, to say the least. Especially after the heady “freedom” of the ’60s and ’70s.

        Of course, AIDS/HIV has killed more people thus far in the United States than has WuFlu. Which says something truly sad about human nature, because it is far, far easier to AVOID AIDS than WuFlu.

        1. True that! AIDS was not the kind of disease you could get at the Sunday School picnic, unless you attend a *very* different kind of church than I do. You could come home with food poisoning or flu, but not AIDS.

          You or your lying spouse (i.e. my sister’s lying, cheating weasel of a husband and thank God he didn’t give it to her) have to go out and look for AIDS, enjoying all those behaviors your mother told you to avoid.

  5. Strange Christmas indeed. Like Cindy Lu Whoo, I might enjoy the roast beast and the spark lies and the gifts… But if I can have TBE family and the beloved friends and the singing… It’s Christmas!

    This year the Grinch got those in his bag and the Whis are locked up in cells with masks on.

  6. Re: the cruddy mask thing, you might try wearing one of those nose strips to work. I mean, usually people wear them to bed, but the only argument for not using them to enlarge nasal passages in daytime is that they look weird. And if the mask covers your nose anyway, you can artificially flare your nostrils all day.

    1. Also, if you think it is the paper fibers or the restricted breathing space that is setting your asthma off, maybe you can get some better designs of mask. My baby bib design might help, because it wicks away a lot of moisture and gunk, and you can wash the bleep out of them.

      Obviously no mask at all would be best, but….

  7. Last year I went over to my mother’s the week of Epiphany with a package and said Merry Christmas. Fortunately they were a hit, but Amazon HAD said they would be delivered before Christmas even shipped oversea.

  8. Regarding “Little Man”, my daughter (the oldest) started calling her (first) little brother that when he was 3 or 4.
    He passed her in height when she was 10 and he was 8. He’s now 6’5.

    Regarding shopping at the mall. I’d MUCH rather shop at the mall (i.e. in person) than online. If, that is, a few factors align. Am I shopping for myself? Mall/in person. Is what I’m looking for likely to be available from a B&M retail? Does size/fit matter? Most significant: Will I be taking delivery myself, or does it have to be mailed? Unfortunately, most of that has gone out the window because of the WuFlu Theater. The combination of my conscience (I object to being forced to endorse a pack of lies AND cater to the irrational fears of others) and the fact that high CO2 levels REALLY stress me out means that I won’t wear a mask unless there is no other option. And I’m tiring of the hassles from retailers. So I’m using online far more than I would like….

    I suspect that a great deal of the free floating stress is simply a low, simmering anger against the foolishness of the WuFlu Theater. Oft overlooked fact: gaslighting uses gas, and enough burned gas in a confined space is toxic. The first symptom is crankiness, then headache induced homicidal rage. Just how much gaslighting can Earth, a VERY big confined space, take before we move to the homicidal rage? I’m beginning to fear that we may find out….

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