Sunday, November 29, 2020

notes from a time (4)

COVID-19 numbers for late November 2020:

  • WHO global numbers:
    • Current: ~61.87 million confirmed cases and ~1.45 million deaths
    • November 18th: 53.7 million cases / 1.3 million deaths
    • Early June: 6,535,354 cases / 387,155 deaths
    • Late April: 2,804,796 cases / 193,710 deaths
  • NY Times US numbers:
    • Current: 13,311,031 cases / 265,940 deaths in the US
    • November 18th: 11,439,304 cases / 248,462 deaths
    • Early June: 1,883,033 cases / 108,194 deaths
    • Late April: 938,590 cases / 48,310 deaths
  • colorado.gov:
    • Current: 228,772 cases and 2,521 deaths; 1,749 currently hospitalized
    • November 18th: 176,694 cases and 2,324 deaths
    • Early June: 27,615 cases and either 1,524 or 1,274 deaths

Earlier this year, I started a series of posts under the heading of “fragmentary notes from a bad time getting worse” (April 21, April 26, June 5). And then I thought well, that could pretty well just be this blog’s subtitle, so I guess I might as well ease up on the whole conceit.

I spent a lot of time reading the internet about the virus in those early months. For a while I bookmarked a lot of it. I was curious how much, so I checked:

$ cut -c 1-7 ./bookmarks-by-date.tsv | sort | uniq -c
     92 2020-03
    102 2020-04
     10 2020-05
     15 2020-06
      7 2020-07
      1 2020-08
      7 2020-09
      4 2020-10
     10 2020-11

I didn’t stop reading, but at some point it started to blur together and tracking my idea of what was going on and when started to feel hopeless: too unfocused and reflexive to carry any real signal. Around the time the bookmarking fell off at the end of April, I jotted a note about a call with my sister: It just says “the sense that we burned out on being terrified and have moved on to some form of resignation”.

In August I came down with something weird for a couple of days - the symptoms seemed right but a test by the time they’d mostly abated came back negative. No one I’d been in contact with ever got sick. My partner got an antibody test when giving blood a while later and it, too, was negative. I wrote that one off to “probably something random”.

Early on I had a lot of thoughts like: Shit, what do we do about feeding the cat if we both wind up in a hospital? Now I think that’s not very likely, and anyway I have a plan in place. Mostly what I’ve worried about is family and friends. My family is full of old people in rural middle America with the genes and lifestyle factors that get you heart disease, diabetes, and bad lungs. My friends run heavily to chain-smoking alcoholics with no health insurance.

So where are we now? I’m not sure I know. Cases are, as predicted, surging as we go into the winter. By mid-October I think I could have told you two people I knew personally who’d had it. A few days later I heard some extended family in the midwest had tested positive and now I’m sitting at maybe 17 plus some near misses.

I feel overwhelmed trying to write about the dimensions of the pandemic, nevermind the moment as a whole. I don’t think I have anything to offer a general reader on the subject. There’s been such an ocean of text about this. I’m not privy to any special perspective. I just now and then feel like there should be some index to memory of it amidst the other trivial crap I write here.

If I were trying to tell someone a few decades on a whole story about the strange dimensions of life on earth just now, I wouldn’t know where to start. I wonder what I risk forgetting.

Maybe how quickly and radically things can change. Not just at the scale of an individual life, that one I knew already, but at the scale of things generally.

How much relationships will bend and dissolve and reconfigure across the conceptual and epistemic fault lines that some system-level event reveals.

The strange paralysis that can seep through things when a polity and a culture are really riding the edge of decoherence and murderous collapse.

The way I start to see some of how my grandparents got the way they were.

How much of a self is contained and expressed in and through the places you go and the people around you. What happens when you stop going places.

p1k3 / 2020 / 11 / 29
tags: topics/america, topics/covid19, topics/politics

Friday, November 13, 2020

reading: a memory called empire

A Memory Called Empire, Arkady Martine, Tor Books, March 2019.

This evidently won the 2020 Hugo for Best Novel, which is not surprising. I thought as I was reading it “this is going to win some major awards”.

Space opera / vast empire / political intrigue in imperial capital city, elements of romance, some fairly well-handled mind/memory/identity stuff. Starts out kind of dry, works its way towards an emotional register that feels a little like Guy Kay.

First in a trilogy. I’ll be reading the followup.

p1k3 / 2020 / 11 / 13
tags: topics/arkady-martine, topics/books, topics/reading, topics/sfnal