Monday, March 30, 2020

"The Erosion of Deep Literacy", big essay by Adam Garfinkle

In the (I think conservative) periodical “National Affairs”, Adam Garfinkle offers an extensive essay “The Erosion of Deep Literacy”, which David Pakman called to everyone’s attention on Twitter this morning. 
He discusses the books “Reader Come Home” (2018, Harper) by Maryanne Wolf, and “The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr.

He sees the awakening of “deep reading” as an accumulated skill, built by the culture, not necessarily hardwired into humans the way oral language is (as it may also be in dolphins). The literacy tradition taught in academics (your years of English in high school and college) led us through “awakenings” that would include, for example, the Civil Rights Movement. But the capacity for consistent abstract and critical thinking gets diluted by the “multi-tasking” required by today’s digital world and social media.  With “deep reading” goes “deep writing”.  This essay does remind me of John Fish. 
I see that with all the culture wars raging around the Internet. Even in my own blogs, I put material online that to some people that seems random, yet some people, because of the acculturation, may think they are supposed to do something about an item in an isolated post, as they are not aware of larger context in blogging, but are wired to react socially. That is something that has contributed to radicalization.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

"This is the Bleak Heart of the World's Largest Coronavirus Outbreak", NYTimes

The New York Times has a major panel insert booklet “This is the Bleak Heart of the World’s Largest Coronavirus Outbreak”.

That refers to Bergamo, Italy, north of Milan, as well as a few surrounding towns, with 68% of the coronavirus deaths.
The panel and narrative speak for themselves.  The images are harrowing.
Wikipedia attribution: 
By Anton00 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Sunday, March 22, 2020

New York Times Special Section does illustratives on hand-washing, housecleaning for COV2

The New York Times has a Special Section, “The Basics”, in the print edition about practical advice for dealing with COVID-19.  It can’t find the exact document in the online edition.

Here are two important parts of it.  An illustration and video on hand washing, and a brief article on home cleaning.

Back in 2016 the Times had compared CDC and WHO handwashing techniques, and WHO’s is a little more elaborate. 

Mike Hansen’s video above emphasizes you don’t have to do a surgical scrub, which might create abrasions.  Also, these methods work for SARS-Cov2 but not for norovirus or “clostridium difficile”.
Fingernail trimming is desirable (but then so it is to play piano).  I hope that’s all.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

How do independent bookstores survive coronavirus? Could Booktube help?

Bookbub has an important article on how independent bookstores deal with the Covid19 crisis. 

A bookstore in Brooklyn NY offers free delivery online, and a cookbook author delivers her own craft on a bike in Greenwich Village.

Of course the spoiler question would be, why not just order from Amazon or BN (and most books are there) or download to a Kindle (the fastest).

One idea that comes to mind is to wonder whether  Booktube conferences could be done online with participants meeting from home.  Booktube is a collection of “You Tune Original” channels (somewhat curated by YouTube as credible) of people who make videos about important new books, and it can be a way to have an online booksigning party.  On Feb 7 I included a video where John Fish (Canada) and others interview Bryan Stevenson.  Maybe we could set up more events like these strictly online, even internationally.

Picture: Roscicrucian books 

Friday, March 13, 2020

Tomas Pueyo: "Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now", mathematical paper on Medium

Tomas Pueyo, a 33-year old Silicon Valley executive (I think he is connected to Linked In) gives the public a very stern warning in a detailed and mathematical (implicitly using a lot of calculus) article,  “Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now”, dated Tuesday March 10 (one day before WHO declared a global pandemic, and I wonder if this article was the trigger), updated today, and subtitled, “Politicians, Community Leaders and Business Leaders: What Should You Do and When?” 
I must say that the tone of this is a bit like my article on Medium on EMP from Aug, 2018 (link here ).
Pueyo provides a lot of bar graphs in terms of “real cases” v. “reported cases” upon which authorities acted.  He discusses some extrapolations (which would involve some infinite series and calculus) on how to predict the overall death rates, taking into account that it takes a long time for some deaths to show up, and also that many mild or asymptomatic cases have not been counted.  The overall conclusion seems to be that in a well-managed outbreak the death per infection is likely to be a little under 1% .  But once the health care system is overwhelmed, it goes up quickly.

He also notes that when Wuhan was locked down, the rate of real new infections leveled off, even though the reported cases continued to rise sharply for some time.
The value of this very long paper is that you can read it  (26 minutes according to Medium), rather than watch a long video (like Chris Martenson and Peak Prosperity).
 Art work: A park near Frederick MD (2020/3). 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Atlantic: "The Do's and Don'ts of Social Distancing"

Kaitlyn Tiffany follows up on the “cancel everything” meme in The Atlantic: “The Do’s and Don’ts of ‘Social Distancing’”, where “experts weigh in on whether you should cancel your dates, dinner parties and gym sessions.”
This article is part of the Atlantic’s free coronavirus coverage, outside the paywall.
Really, the experts come down on regular socials, although there is some toleration if people stay six feet apart.  They think it’s all right for little tribal segments to may pacts with one another to exclude everyone else.  This does not work well for the personalities of a lot of people. 

This is not the time to start dating someone new.

The interpretation of quarantine is really quite strict.

They don’t ask people over 60 to ground themselves just because they are more likely to steepen the curve if they do get sick.
Picture: near Frederick MD on I270.

Friday, March 06, 2020

Capitalism and self-publishing

I haven’t done a long periodical piece here for a while, but Maya MacGuineas leads off the March issue of The Atlantic with “Capitalism’s Addiction Problem”.  The writer is the president of the Committee for a Responsible federal budget.

I’m struck by the way the writer analyzes the way tech’s algorithms addict users to seeing more stuff they can’t refuse.  Right now, I get served the next doomsday article on coronavirus and quarantine threats.  The writer points out that governments have typically restrained addictive products in the past, over eras, like tobacco.

That all depends in large part on persistent identifiers, which (considering COPPA etc) are becoming an increasingly less sustainable way to sustain the digital economy, because of the impossibility of privacy being respected (which may matter even more right now, to trying to avoid the dragnet of quarantines).

A more healthful market depends on consumers paying a “fair market value” for what they consume.  We’re seeing that clumsily attempted with paywalls – and publications could do better at this – by encouraging companies to be formed to bundle the subscriptions, or by selling single articles or single “issues” (monthly magazines) as people can’t afford all possible subscriptions – more or less like buying a periodical monthly magazine at a bookstore.
We also see this problem with the book business, especially for self-published, POD authors.  Is an author supposed to sell book copies (“instances” in OOP language) as consumer items, subject to price points and volume discounts, or is the writer really selling intellectual content that can be consumed interchangeably on multiple media platforms – that is a big problem for POS publishers right now, who see cookbooks as competing with political treatises only as appealing to the “needs” of consumers.