How can anyone believe that we are “after the pandemic”?

The other day, a local organization sent me an email which had a recap of their first in-person event “after the pandemic.”

Um, what?

I’m not against outdoor gatherings. Heck, I considered going to this organization’s outdoor gathering (and decided not to for reasons unrelated to covid). But… “after the pandemic”?

In San Francisco (where both I and this organization are located) official covid case counts are rising, hospitalizations are rising, test positivity rates are rising, and wastewater covid levels are rising. One testing location in the city reported a 19% positivity rate this month.

How is this compatible with being ‘after the pandemic’?

Deaths aren’t rising—yet—but that’s a lagging indicator. Long covid data sucks so bad we can’t track it.

Anecdotally, among locals I talk to… covid still makes people sick.

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I’m now a columnist at The Writing Cooperative. Also, I’m giving away books (international shipping available)

First, here’s the book giveaway. Yep, it’s international.

These books aren’t famous. They’re only popular within a particular niche, or not popular at all. To explain why people would want these books cluttering their bookshelf space, I wrote reviews. I submitted them to The Writing Cooperative to get extra exposure.

I didn’t expect Justin Cox, the editor, to like my reviews so much that he invited me to become a regular columnist.

I said yes.

Here are anti-paywall links to the book reviews which have already been published. More are coming.

“Publishers (Including Self-Published Authors) Need This Book’s Message”

“Even This Book’s Mistakes Show You How to Write Better Blurbs”

“This Book Flopped. Seize Its Bestseller Insights Anyway.”

I hope these reviews bring you something of value (the books themselves contain much more value).

I start out talking about a fun song, then this post gets dark.

For over a decade, I’ve been a person of good taste who didn’t fall for that Kpop crap. Yes, I may have stared at the Kpop music videos playing in the electronics stores a little long (this was in Taiwan, where all the electronics stores use Kpop music videos to show the quality of their screens), but I chose music based on what sounded good, and the local Taiwanese pop music sounded better.

In the past year, something in me snapped.

Here’s the evidence of my downfall:

That’s right, I watched a music video for a debut Kpop group as soon as it dropped.

That’s a screenshot of me watching “Shut Down” when it had only one official view on YouTube

If the person I was ten years ago saw that, she’d be ashamed of her future self.

I’ve even… horror of horrors… bought the album. But only one copy.

I like this group’s mix of voices. That’s how I justified the purchase. But I’ll be honest. There’s more.

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Black & White Morality Blended with Cynicism: The Downfall of Abortion Rights in the United States

I’ve tried to understand the anti-abortion perspective in the United States, particularly the thinking behind ‘crisis pregnancy centers.’ Even in California, I’ve stumbled upon two (in small towns) without making any attempt to find them.

This is an excellent description of American grassroots anti-abortion activists:

For many of these women, supporting the Right to Life movement had become a means of defining and expressing their femininity. Giving to the baby center reinforced their beliefs and allowed them to put their faith into action. Acting on their beliefs demonstrated to others their love, generosity and kindness. Actively opposing abortion could not be separated from their sense of self as loving Christian women.

I came to realize that these true believers were embracing Christian values by giving to others, loving babies and publicly opposing what they saw as sin. Volunteering at the center enhanced their social standing in their church community. It was a public declaration of faith and was the quintessential statement of self-worth. It was ladylike and appropriate. How could I suggest anything to the contrary that might challenge or endanger that?

– Kathleen A. Coakley, Huffpost

Yes, the woman who wrote that supports abortion rights, but it’s consistent with what I’ve read on anti-abortion websites (no, I don’t want to link them).

The True Believers have a binary mindset in which babies are Good and abortionists are Evil. This makes it easy to decide what to do, figure out who are your allies and enemies, and feel like a hero in a Hollywood movie. It justifies lying to pregnant people about their options. It justifies bullying pregnant people. It justifies murdering abortion providers.

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I Don’t Want to Write Bestsellers. I Want to Write Evergreens.

I’m currently re-reading The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers. Such a thought-provoking book. It reveals things about reader behavior few others discuss—and which some people refuse to believe despite the evidence. Maybe that’s why only computer algorithms could dig up those truths.

The book is also a failure.

It promised a system for predicting which manuscripts would become New York Times bestsellers with 80% accuracy. But it doesn’t deliver. It hints at which features predict a bestselling manuscript—to be fair, the hints are strong—but it falls short of giving an editor the tools to make the predictions at 80% accuracy themselves. It teases the reader about the ‘code’ without sharing it.

The book never made it to the NYT bestseller list itself. Over five years after publication, acquiring editors don’t use the system to evaluate manuscripts. This book has fallen into obscurity. It didn’t deliver on its promise.

It’s a failure, yes, but it has much to teach .

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History Curricula Aren’t Cheat Codes for Changing Other People’s Worldviews

Many people talk about changing history curricula, especially in grade schools, to instill their preferred worldview in the population. This has been a thing for as long as mass education/schooling has been around, though the temperature of the debates is currently higher-than-average.

Does changing history curricula actually change students’ worldviews? A little, but not nearly as much as proponents think it does.

Most of you have been in a grade school history class. Did it always interest you? Do you remember all the history facts the class covered? Did you uncritically absorb your teacher’s point of view with no resistance, not even resistance confined to your own mind?

I’m going to go out on a limb and claim that the answers to all those questions are ‘no.’

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Can Anyone Know That They Are Free of ‘Co-Morbidities’?

In the United States, as well as some other parts of the world, it’s now common to see/hear comments about how it’s time to ‘open up,’ that covid is only dangerous for people who are ‘immunocompromised’ or ‘have co-morbidities,’ that individuals should ‘choose their risk level’ and that any group larger than a household—such as a workplace, or a government—isn’t responsible for keeping its people safe from the virus.

I miss the days of ‘my mask protects you, your mask protects me’ public service announcements. There was a time, earlier in the pandemic, when many more people (including many public health authorities) felt a public responsibility to take care of each other. Not to say ‘I’m safe and it’s okay for me to put you at risk because freedom.’

You know who’s had the most freedom during the pandemic? People in societies with zero-Covid policies. With strong border controls and the infrastructure to smash outbreaks, people can go about their lives WITHOUT covid risk. When people in power put the onus on individuals to ‘manage’ our covid risk, they are taking away MY freedom.

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What Admissions System Would I Choose for a High School?

Aceadmiral’s comment from last week’s post made me wonder: what admissions system would I design for Lowell?

I’m NOT the one who should make this decision. I’m not a Lowell alum, I’ve never worked at Lowell, I’ve never shared a household with a Lowell student. Heck, nobody elected me to the school board. True, I attended a public high school in San Francisco, but that means I might be a troll. Rivalries between different public high schools exist, and there’s a risk I may want to trash Lowell.

But since there’s zero chance I’ll influence this, there’s no harm in me putting out this thought experiment: what if current Lowell students controlled admissions?

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How Can Changing Admissions Ruin a School?

Lowell High School’s admissions policy based on ‘academic merit’ has been a school-board level political issue for as long as I can remember (and I attended public schools in San Francisco from elementary school through high school). In recent years, now that Lowell has finally replaced ‘academic merit’ admissions with a lottery system, it’s become national chatter, or at least I find people outside of the San Francisco Bay Area writing commentaries.

I won’t discuss the legal issues (if you’re interested, you can learn about that here), or even the racial politics. I’m going to discuss: how does changing admissions affect the quality of education?

I’ve run into many comments like ‘the school board ruined Lowell’ just because of the admissions change. Not because they changed teachers. Not because they changed the curriculum. Just ‘admissions based on academic merit’ -> ‘admissions by lottery.’

How can changing admissions criteria ruin a school?

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