COVID Near You

Over at his web log, Jim Macdonald posts a useful link to something you can do at home:

Madhouse Manor

Modeled on Flu Near You, this is a crowd-sourcing site for COVID-19 infections.  Sponsored by Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, it seems like a good idea.  The more people who participate the more useful it will be.

vidnearyou.org/#!/”>https://covidnearyou.org/#!/

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Random Pandemic-Related Thoughts

When this is all over, I suspect that what most people who weren’t directly hit by COVID-19 are going to remember isn’t the virus, it’s going to be The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020.

Also, what a whole lot of primary-school kids are going to remember is The Spring When There Wasn’t Any School and We Got to Watch All the TV and Play All the Video Games We Wanted.

My younger daughter adds, “And a whole lot of Millennials are going to turn into the kind of grandparents who end up ranting at their grandkids about how Nobody Washes Their Hands Properly Anymore, Dammit!”

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There’s also been some speculation around here about what kind of fiction is going to be popular in the next year or so. My own theory is that dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories are going to see a decline in popularity – that shoe we were waiting for while we were reading those has dropped, and people are going to be ready for something more upbeat. Remember, the first Star Wars movie came out in 1977, just two years after the end of the Viet Nam war and all the other awfulness of the late sixties and early seventies.

So maybe swashbuckling space opera will come around again. I’d like that.

In Light of Current Events…

…Jim Macdonald and I have, in a spirit of reluctant responsibility, abandoned our tentative plans to attend this year’s Heliosphere convention, since we had so much fun at the last one. We hadn’t yet bought memberships or gotten a hotel room (we’d been planning to stay at a cheap offsite hotel for economy’s sake), which means at least we aren’t out any money. But the Tarrytown Doubletree is uncomfortably close to the hot spot in New Rochelle, and we don’t want to be the folks who bring the virus home with us to Colebrook, so there it is.

FYI

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Or, shameless self-promotion time.

Right this moment, and I don’t know for how much longer for one day only, the first volume of our Mageworlds space opera series is on sale at Amazon for $2.99.

(This is the e-text reprint, of course.)

Also, a hat tip to our younger daughter, the fearless reference librarian, for spotting this and calling it to our attention.  Everyone should have a reference librarian in the family.

Cliff, Shag, or Marry: The Romantics Edition

Or, I was feeling silly this afternoon, and had some thoughts on the subject.

First off, Wordsworth and Coleridge are out of the running completely, because I can’t imagine having sexual thoughts about either of them. Which leaves, out of the major figures, Byron and Shelley and Keats.

Looked at that way, it’s obvious.

Cliff Shelley. Shag Byron (“mad, bad, and dangerous to know” is pretty much the textbook description of your classic Jazzy Weekend.) Marry Keats, and get him some good 21st century medicine to take care of that consumption thing.

Others’ mileage may vary.

A Celebratory Dinner

Because today is Jim Macdonald’s birthday, we drove down to Littleton, NH, to the Little Grill, a Brazilian restaurant whose food Jim – who’s been to Brazil, because during his youth his dad worked there for several years – vouches for. (One of the co-owners has Brazilian roots; how he or she ended up in Coös County, NH, I don’t know, but the oddest people sometimes do.)

Anyhow, on Fridays and Saturdays they have Brazilian Barbecue Night. This is “barbecue” in the Australian, or “things cooked on a grill,” sense of the word, not the American “things smoked or slow-cooked in a pit” sense. The way it works is like this: For a flat price you get your choice of sides from a buffet, and then the waiters keep coming around to your table with grilled meats of all kinds on skewers until you tell them to stop.

The grilled meats tonight were slices of lamb, slices of beef, slices of pork, chunks of steak wrapped in bacon, chunks of chicken wrapped in bacon, chunks of chicken covered in herbs and garlic, chunks of pork covered in herbs and garlic, grilled pork sausages, and also slices of grilled pineapple. Also grilled beef short ribs, but only Himself had those, because by then I had cried “Hold, enough!”

If you’re ever in Littleton, NH,on a Friday or a Saturday night, give it a try. But not if there are any vegetarians or vegans in your crowd, because this is not a place for them.

The Unified Doyle and Macdonald Boskone Sked

DOYLE

Worldbuilding Within Epic Fantasy at the Dawn of a Modern Age
Format: Panel

14 Feb 2020, Friday 17:00 – 17:50, Marina 1 (Westin)

Fantasy is real, but so is scientific discovery. When an epic fantasy is set during the transition from a rural society to an emerging, world-transforming industrial age, how does the setting help define the parameters of the story? How does it affect the creation of characters? Is a Victorian-Era feeling inevitable? What other examples can be used as models? When magic is at play, how might it alter the evolution of an industrial revolution?

Reading: Debra Doyle and James Macdonald
Format: Reading

14 Feb 2020, Friday 20:00 – 20:25, Griffin (Westin)

The Future of Libraries
Format: Panel

15 Feb 2020, Saturday 10:00 – 10:50, Marina 4 (Westin)

The card catalog is already kaput. How long can stacks, carrels, and tome-laden tables last? How soon till the world’s One Big Library is seamlessly interconnected with everybody’s local, a collaborative sharing space with digital pipes to every seat and a helpful robotic assistant “manning” the “desk”? Any room left for the most systematically refined information storage technology of all: the book?

MACDONALD

Reading: Debra Doyle and James Macdonald
Format: Reading

14 Feb 2020, Friday 20:00 – 20:25, Griffin (Westin)
Editing from Agent, to Editor, to Publisher
Format: Panel

15 Feb 2020, Saturday 14:00 – 14:50, Marina 2 (Westin)

Writing is only half the work when crafting a story, novel, or article. Once the words are on the page, what happens next? Our panel discusses the review, revision, rewriting, and more needed at each stage of the process before the finished piece lands in the hands of a reader.

Seeing Through the Tech Hype
Format: Panel

15 Feb 2020, Saturday 16:00 – 16:50, Marina 3 (Westin)

With so many new innovations and discoveries, it’s easy to get carried away by the possibilities of what a shiny new technology can actually accomplish. What questions should you ask to see through the tech hype surrounding everything from driverless cars, gene editing, and artificial intelligence to VR gaming and 3-D printing? What’s really possible? How do fiction and entertainment media affect the writing, publication, and understanding of actual scientific and technological advances?

More Magic!
Format: Children – DragonsLair

16 Feb 2020, Sunday 11:00 – 11:50, Galleria – Dragonslair (Westin)

Jim Macdonald does stage magic.

When Is Death?
Format: Panel

16 Feb 2020, Sunday 14:00 – 14:50, Burroughs (Westin)

Death is as intrinsic to the human experience as life, but what does death really mean in fiction … or in reality? Do we pass on to another existence? Will we be written back into the sequel? Will we be uploaded into a quantum network to exist as long as the hardware doesn’t fail? How has our imagination affected our understanding of death over time?

No Kidding, It Was Cold Last Night.

The overnight low in our back yard was -27°F (that’s -32.8° Celsius, for those of you in metric climes.)

It was so cold in our kitchen that the water in our teakettle froze.

So cold, that taking the trash to the dump sounded like a good idea because it meant we could drive around in a well-heated Subaru Forester for a while. (If you live in a cold and snowy country, try to buy cars made in cold and snowy countries. The people who make them Understand.†)

Tonight’s supposed to be warmer, with a low of around 17 above. Which doesn’t sound warm, I suppose, until you realize that it’s about 44 degrees warmer than last night.


According to Google, the temperature in Hokkaido right now is 16°F, which is four degrees colder than I am.

On the Variability of Symbols

It’s always dangerous to assume that the meaning another person attaches to a word or a picture or a gesture is the same one that you do.

Consider, for example, the hand sign made by folding down the middle two fingers of one hand while leaving the index finger and little finger extended. Depending on who and where you are, this can mean, variously:

  • I worship Satan.
  • I like heavy metal rock music.
  • Your spouse is cheating on you, ha ha!
  • Bad luck, go away!
  • I am from Texas and am a big fan of the University of Texas Longhorns football team. Shorter version: “Hook ’em, Horns!”

With regard to the last one, there was much confused commentary (outside of Texas, anyhow) about the well-attended and televised funeral service of proud and much-loved Texan Lady Bird Johnson, where the choir and congregation sang the UT fight song “The Eyes of Texas” at the conclusion of the service, accompanied, as is traditional, by the “Hook ’em, Horns!” gesture. Yes, even on the part of the officiating clergy.