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Shiny Happy Scalzi

What’s a good day in the life of John Scalzi? Well, I’ll tell you.

1. The sun is shining.

2. The birds are singing.

3. The clouds in the sky are of the nice, fluffy “we’re just like your four year old would draw” variety, not the dark, brooding “we’re going drop hailstones the size of Volkswagen Beetles on your roof” variety you’ve been seeing so much recently.

4. You’re listening to Sam Bisbee’s “Miracle Car.”

5. You just got a bigass check for work you’d completely forgotten you had done for an amount which quite capably pays off the quarterly estimated tax payment you have to mail off at the end of the week.

6. And you didn’t need that bigass check to pay your taxes.

7. And now you have to decide: Start another chapter of your novel? Or work some more on that book about ridiculous people doing ridiculous things?

8. And in a few hours, your wife and kid will be home, and you’ll go outside and play on the swing set, and be that happy all-American family you’ve heard so much about in all those political ads.

Thankful? Oh, yeah. Happy? You bet. I imagine that life could actually get better. But right off the top of my head, I’m hard pressed to figure out how. It’s a good day.

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Like War of the Worlds in Reverse

Your bit of zany science for the day: Scientists suggest SARS came from outer space! Interestingly, this news brief is not from Weekly World News but from National Geographic. The idea here, as I have gleaned from my quick read, is that a group of scientists believe the SARS virus is morphologically different enough that rather than being a mutation of an existing virus, it comes from “outside” — which is to say, from space, possibly carried by a comet. These scientists also believe space viruses may have appeared before — they might have been the cause of the Influenza epidemic of the early 20th century, for example. It also raises the spectre of the idea that life (or at the very least, the building blocks thereof) ultimately did not originate on Earth, but landed here in very simple form through impacts and evolved from there.

It’s an interesting hypothesis, although I think it’s probably too elaborate an explanation for a virus that probably jumped from another animal species to ours. The fact that SARS is substantially different from other coronaviruses we know about doesn’t require that we postulate an arrival from space so much as it requires us to recognize that until a virus exhibits a detrimental effect on humans or one of our livestock animals, we probably simply don’t know it exists. This is one of those Occam’s Razor moments in which simplest explanation is probably more correct, and that pretty much dispenses with space viruses.

There is some mild irony here in that Toronto, which had recently been under a WHO travel advisory thanks to the presence of SARS, is home this year to the World Science Fiction Convention. Normally, the attendees of that convention would be exactly the folks you’d think would be thrilled to hear about space viruses. But in this case, they might be willing to make an exception.

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Making Partner

Hey, how about that: My cover story for JD Jungle magazine is now online. It’s called “Are You Partner Material?” and it’s a quiz that presents a number of lawyer-related situations where you can compare your response with the responses of partners at some of the nation’s biggest and most respected law firms. Have fun finding out if you’ve got what it takes to make hundreds of thousands each year! Personally, I think I’d probably fail. Fortunately, I’m not a lawyer. So it works out well.

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Lies Lies Lies

Leaving aside the central issue of whether the Bush administration lied (or at least overstated) about the Iraqi weapons of mass destructions, there’s the tangent but still compelling issue as to why people are so willing to believe the Bush administration lied (or at least overstated) about the Iraqi weapons of mass detruction. From my point of view, there are two not mutually exclusive explanations.

1) The people bitching about Bush hate him with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, and will use any excuse to bring him down. This is naturally the position of the conservatives and most people who supported the war. It also has the virtue of being true: People who hate Dubya really hate Dubya. It would be interesting to find some way to gauge whether people who truly hate Dubya hate him more intensely than the people who truly hated Clinton hated him; possibly the best way to discover this would be to lock them all in a very large box, toss in some bludgeoning implements, and see who eventually crawls out of the box’s bloody interior. Naturally, I’m for doing this right this very second.

2) The Bush administration appears to many people to be patronizing, guarded and stingy with the truth, an appearance based on fact that the adminstration is patronizing, guarded and stingy with the truth; it’s not even so much that the Bush folks lie as it is about the overall impression that they don’t feel obligated to share what they know with the likes of us. Let’s face it, any presidential administration that wants to classify information already in the public domain is not an administration that engenders many feelings of trust and goodwill.

The first of these is of course nothing the Bush people can do much about — Bush haters would hate Bush even if he were to up the top marginal rate to 80%, line the pockets of the poor with gold, and ban oil drilling within 1000 nautical miles of the United States shoreline. But the second of these is definitely of their own doing. If you want people to trust you, don’t give them the distinct impression that their role is to shut up and unquestioningly do as they’re told, because you know what’s best for them, and that should be enough.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m entirely at peace with our having gone to war with Iraq. It was the right thing to do, and I’m glad we did it, and I’m glad that Bush decided it needed doing. But I’m also perfectly peachy keen with the Bushies being accused of dishonesty and duplicity regarding what was the primary reason for going to war, and taking their lumps therein. I don’t expect it’ll make the Bush administration any more open — rather the opposite — but I think it’ll remind people that we should be able to hold our government accountable not only for its actions, but for the stated reasons for those actions as well. Despite the whining of Conservatives crying foul, this expectation of accountability is not a bad thing.

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