Saturday, January 23, 2021

"Wired" Magazine dedicates issue to excerpts from "2034: A Novel of the Next World War" by Ackerman and Stavridis

Aerial view of Woody Island


The February 2021 issue of Wired (Conde Nast: I have both print and digital subscription) offers, as its entire issue, excerpts (Chapter 1, 2, and 4) from a new novel “2034: A Novel of the Next World War” by Elliot Ackerman and James Admiral Stavridis (USN), with illustrations by Owen Freeman, from Penguin Press, 320 pages, ISBN 978-1984881250.  The magazine issue titles itself “A History of the Next World War”.  Ackerman has an earlier contribution in Wired, Oct 30, 2020, "A Navy SEAL, a Quadcopter, and a Quest to Save Lives in Combat". 

The novel appears to start with the capture of a Chinese boat called the WenRui, based on the name of someone associated the Maoist 1960s Cultural Revolution. It seems to have a lot to do with Chinese intentions regarding Taiwan, territory around Hong Kong, Iran, and parts of the Middle East.  (Chapter 1 is titled “The Wenrui Incident”.)

The narrative seems to start on March 12, 2034 (a Sunday) and one of the domestic characters in Washington is Dr. Sandeep Chowdhury, who apparently lives with his mother in middle age (bachelorhood?)  That evening (in Chapter 2, titled “Blackout”), a complete blackout of much of the US occurs, as he flies to Beijing.  Apparently service (including cell and Internet) gets restored in a few days. 

Chapter 3 is called “Blinding the Elephant” and Chapter 4 is “Red Lines”.

I believe there is an issue of cutting transoceanic cables.  But it isn’t real obvious what causes the total blackout, other than compounding of effects of hacking such was what happened recently with “Solar Winds” and “Fire Eye”.  One major possibility would be the widespread use of non-nuclear magnetic flux weapons that can produce an EMP effect (and they may wipe out unprotected [Faraday cage} electronics.  The US had considered this kind of attack on North Korea in February 2018 before the Winter Olympics and saner voices calmed Trump down.  Another possibility could be attacks on utilities that break “air gaps”.  None of these things have actually happened to civilian facilities in western countries so far.  But the US military has used such weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan in some circumstances.

At least we have a new president who will take normal responsibility for the military (and intelligence services) now. 

 I don't think this novel is quite the equivalent of an another "One Second After".  I wonder if my own novel ("Angel's Brother") would make for an interesting issue of Wired ("LOL"). 

I don’t know of this is in the book or not, but I’ve embedded a Wikipedia picture of Woody Island, which China and two other countries claim now, in the South China Sea (click for attribution).

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Lewis Leary's "The Book-Peddling Parson" and George Washington biographer Mason Locke Weems


Weems Bott Museum Dumfries VA

Author: Lewis Leary

Title:The Book-Peddling Parson

Subtitle:An account of the life and works of Mason Locke Weems- patriot, pitchman. Author, and purveyor of morality to the citizenry of early United States of America

Publication: Chapel Hill, NC, Algonquin Press, 158 pages, hardcover, Introduction, 9 chapters, Appendix, Index.

Saturday, January 2, 2021 was a mild day in northern Virginia, and given the circumstances of social distancing, I went on a short day trip,.alone, to Dumfries, just off I-95, and visited the outdoor area of the Weems Bott Museum.

discuss G W biography

There is a sign that talks about the first biography of George Washington, authored by a pastor Mason Locke Weems (which is an expensive collectible on Amazon) who in turn gets a biography by Lewis Leary, which is bookbound in colonial style.  It’s pretty easy to imagine it being assigned in an English class in high school in eleventh grade (American literature). Maybe this year for online school.

The parson made bringing, selling and distributing books to rural areas away from the coastal cities, which had few bookstores, a life priority.  That’s rather ironic for me.

The book has a silly middle chapter “To all the singles … the pleasures of the married state”, which in rather verbose flowery manner preaches and lists family values, in an era when people needed to have many children.

Blacks, who were usually slaves, are spoken about with some deference in Weems’s own writings, as were native Americans, who were (incorrectly) viewed as not well socialized.

This is a very curious little book.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Atlantic: Many of the rioters were privileged and "respectable", and thought they could get away with this

July 4, 2014

Two important pieces in the latest “The Atlantic”.

Adam Sewer writes that “The Capital Rioters Weren’t Low-Class”.  He refers to them as small-business owners, real-estate brokers, and former military service members who thought they had the “inviolable right to rule”.  He gives many examples for comparison from the Reconstruction and early 20th Century, almost out of “Gone with the Wind”, the second half of which depicts many clandestine meetings early in the Reconstruction while Scarlett rebuilt Tara.

Worse still, David A. Graham writes “Why the rioters thought they could get away with it.”     Indeed, they didn’t wear masks, rather Halloween costumes (the one guy with the medieval tattoo had the left side of his chest shaved for the body art), and rather behaved like spoiled white boys supporting Antifa in Portland.

When members of the House hid, the Republicans didn’t wear masks, and at least one Democratic member now tests positive, and has gotten a monoclonal antibody shot, and seems to have few symptoms now. Yet, “those Republicans” acted as if, you’re old or infirm and vulnerable, it’s your problem. 

To me, in this Sun video, they seem like zombies. 

Here is the official Electoral College vote, as finally certified by 4 AM January 7. 

Monday, January 04, 2021

"The Lab-Leak Hypothesis": New York Magazine article by Rob Nicholson will revive the Wuhan lab controversy

Yangzi River - by Peter Morgan

An early January 2021 issue of New York Magazine has a book-length article (paywall, but they seem to allow this one) by Rob Nicholson, “The Lab-Leak Hypothesis”.  The tagline, “For decades, scientists have been hot-wiring viruses  in hopes of preventing a pandemic, not causing one.  But what if?....” (ir came from a lab?)

The article is in seven parts, looks at the “death by natural causes” idea, and sets up a scenario how a sample was stored from the Mojiang Caves accident in 2012.  The theory is similar to Chris Martenson on Peak Prosperity on May 4, 2020 (then the codon was called PRRA),  The article describes gain-of-function experiments with many pathogens with the US involved in many of them.  And with the safety concerns about the BS4-level Wuhan lab,’

The article pays a lot of attention to furin cleavage, but this can occur naturally when there are other infections in a person (it even happens with influenza). 

Still, it sounds like a pretty convincing “screenplay treatment” for what really could have happened. 

There is a recent update in Nature on the Mojiang bat cave incident in 2012.

None of this relieves Americans (and people in other western countries like especially the UK right now) of their new “moral” responsibility not to let the strong infect the weak.

Remember that New York and The New Yorker (often pubs Ronan Farrow) are different periodicals, but sometimes their styles overlap.  I wonder what Farrow would come up with on this topic.

Yunnan mountain scene, Wikipedia embed, click for attribution 

Saturday, January 02, 2021

The Atlantic offers "The Pandemic Endgame"

RNA vaccine-en


The January-February 2021 issue of The Atlantic offers a cover story “The Pandemic Endgame”, with two essays.

On p. 38, Jordan Kisner describes “The Committee in Life and Death”.  He draws a parallel between triage when patients pile up in hospitals (now in California) and decisions as to who should get the vaccine first.

Seriously, I understand that vaccinating long-term care residents first will cut the hospitalizations and deaths more rapidly and help flatten the curve again.  But there may be more social justice in vaccinating essential workers who must interact with consumers, especially those who must enter homes and apartments to do emergency repairs.  They should be near the top of the list, as well as first responders.

On p. 48m Ed Yong describes “The COVID-19 Manhattan Project” with the record speed development of vaccines.  The mRNA paradigm helps for rapid development, but all but two of the vaccines are conventional. 

 Embed of chart showing how mRNA vaccines work, from Wikipedia, click for attribution 

Monday, December 28, 2020

New York Times op-ed magazine, "Let's Start Over" after pandemic -- not so much as you think


Home-made pinball-baseball stadium from the 1950s

 The New York Times on Dec. 28 had a magazine-sized op-ed, “Let’s Start Over”.

The rag is in four sections.

One is Politics, Education, Feminism, and Work (Bruni, Mehta, Brooks, and Petersen).

Bruni says that Biden will test if we can bounce back from our floor of collective common decency.

Mehta pretty much echoes John Fish’s video “The Mundanity of Online School”, and notes that the point of education, getting beyond the obsession with SOL’s when I was subbing and regarding grades as a kind of cryptocurrency, has been in flux for decades.  But minority kids are doing poorly in online school.  You get the impression that school systems could hire a  (YouTuber) John Fish or Tyler Mowery, themselves not much older than high school students, to do all their online AP English for starters.

Feminism has been blown apart by the disruptions, as moms carry the heaviest loads of all.

The future of work will be flexibility, desk sharing, people renting their own little local offices, a certain decentralization away from the cities, and even more melding of entrepreneur, gig worker, and employee.

Part Two is Friendship, Conversation, and Sex (compare to the age of AIDS)

Part Three is Sports, Travel (Mzezewa), and Food.  I am particularly concerned about the crimp on personal mobility, so individualized as it was for my own life, as something that the virus evolved on top of.  (We just couldn’t keep it out of China.) You might need a good “reason” to fly personally in the future.

Part Four is Literature, Fashion, and Cities (Manjoo), which in western countries are going to seem even more challenged.  But that’s what I thought when I left New York City for Dallas at the end of 1978.

The end result of all these essays seems to be, not as radical as I would expect.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Non-profits distribute books in remote Arctic areas

Sheep Slot Rapids, Firth River, Ivvavik National Park, YT


 Here is another story about distribution of books to the needy, especially children’s.

It is “Special Delivery: Thousands of Books”, by Charlie Locke, describing “The Neediest Cases Fund”.

These books go to the small libraries in Alaska and the Yukon.

The two nonprofits assisting  were the Alaska Fishing Relief Effort and First Book.

Yukon scene, Wikipedia embed, click for attribution