Five Things: July 22, 2020

Having spent my morning plugging away on the web site, I now turn my attention to what’s going on (waves abstractly) out there:

Ohio’s Speaker of the House is in some deep shit: Turns out you’re not supposed to (allegedly) take bribes! Which I suspect Larry Householder probably knew, but I guess he thought that maybe just this one time either no one would notice or that they wouldn’t care. Turns out, maybe they do? Almost as a side note, the bribery scandal is about Ohio helping to prop up old and/or dirty energy sources at the expense of newer and cleaner sources. I am not so naive that I do not think Democrats cannot get caught with their hand in the cookie jar as much and as often as Republicans, but certainly the dynamics of this particular bribery scandal seem ready made for the GOP. There are calls for Householder to resign his speakership; I’m curious as to how long he’ll try to hold onto it.

Speaking of the fair state of my residence:

Ohio finally gets a statewide mask order: As of tomorrow at 6pm, if you’re out in the world, or at least the Ohio part of it, you have to be wearing a mask. I gave Ohio Governor Mike DeWine a fair amount of praise early on, and then slack later, for how he handled the plague crisis here, but honestly he should have made a mandatory mask order a long time ago. The state’s infection numbers have been headed up for a while now. I live in the part of the state where mask use has been, shall we say, spotty at best, so I’ll be very curious as to a) how this will be taken up, and b) whether there will genuinely be any enforcement of it. I’d like to think that between retail outlets like Kroger and Walmart requiring masks and the state itself backing them up, we’ll finally get more than 50% of people masking up. I guess we’ll see.

Author bulk buys his book to get on a bestseller list, gets dropped from the list: Which is not a real surprise, since the organizations that create the bestseller lists (in this case the Sunday Times in the UK) frown on people so very obviously gaming those lists for personal gain. Personally I’m mildly surprised that the bulk buy worked at all; over on this side of the Atlantic the list-makers have been hip to that tactic for years; you have to really work at it more than just buying a whole bunch of your own books from an obliging local retailer (and then talk about it in public almost charmingly guilelessly, as this author apparently did).

Back in the day, when my haters were particularly exercised about me, they liked to pretend that I got on bestseller lists because Tor bulk bought my books; aside from being wrong, it was charming how little these dudes knew about how the listmakers are on the lookout for nonsense like that.

Volcanoes on Venus, maybe: This is cool because all the smart scientific money was on Venus being volcanically dormant, but it appears that maybe it’s not, or wasn’t fairly recently (“recently” in this case being within a couple of million years of the present). This is a reminder that even now we’re learning new things about celestial bodies we already thought we knew so much about. The universe keeps throwing us curve balls, and it’s great. Venus is even more of a hellish deathtrap than we thought! How awesome is that?!?

Whatsername (Susannah Hoffs): For honestly and genuinely no reason whatsoever, this mashup popped up in my head, mixing up “Whatsername” from Green Day with “Manic Monday” from the Bangles. It’s tremendously good. And now it’s also more than a decade old, because Internet Culture isn’t new anymore, folks, for better and for worse.

29 Comments on “Five Things: July 22, 2020”

  1. I’d love to say that a gubernatorial order would have major effects, but I just got back from the store (I live in Kentucky) and a good 30-40% of people were not wearing masks. And a good 25% of those “wearing” masks were not wearing them correctly, either from laziness, apathy or just being ignorant.

  2. Good for Ohio getting the statewide mask mandate. Over here in Indiana, our Gov. Holcomb just announced one too. I pretty much feel the same about our state leadership as you do about yours (e.g. better late than never, but should’ve done it a long time ago).

    As for whether it’ll go over well with the citizenry, I’m not terribly optimistic. My very rural neck of the woods leans more toward the “MaH fReEdOmS/COVID IS A HOAX” mentality than I’d care to admit. People are gonna be pissed for a bit.

  3. I think the best thing about mandatory masks is that it makes it much easier for people to comply. If you are the only one wearing one it looks awkward and there is social pressure not to; if most everyone is wearing one, then there is some pressure to comply (angry anti-maskers aside). We here in NY have been wearing them for some time, and you notice when a person is NOT wearing one in public.

  4. Is it just me, or is Householder a dead ringer for W. C. FIelds? Rosacea and all.

  5. I read the blog on a laptop connected to a large display. I find the amount of space allocated to the graphic a bit much … this might also be related to the graphic being on the left side of the layout which breaks the left-right flow of my standard laptop to external display. Wish I could reduce the screen footprint.

  6. I didn’t get the Venus article. I’ve taught astronomy for decades, and one thing we are dead sure about is that it has the least cratered surface in the solar system by a country mile. That pretty much means frequent resurfacing which pretty much means ongoing volcanism. That’s backed up by the detection of radio whistlers, a lightning artifact, but without any water the lightning is not associated with thunderstorms, and pretty much the only other source is volcanoes. The Magellan probe revealed evidence for comparatively recent volcanic activity at Venus’s highest volcano Maat Mons, in the form of ash flows near the summit and on the northern flank. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an astronomer. I’m just, as a relativity theorist, the next best thing most places I’ve taught. But that was my understanding of the previous conventional wisdom.

    I hope your mask wearers don’t cheat by wearing it on their chins like people are doing around here.

  7. Speaking of Susanna Hoffs and Green Day, did you see that Green Day released a cover of Manic Monday recently, and Hoffs is in the video? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5qPCKxlw2M

    (Green Day has been on a covers kick. I’ve also had covers by them of “Dreaming” and “I Think We’re Alone Now” pop up in my Spotify, and they’ve all been good.)

  8. I wish our governor would mandate mask wearing. But again, who will enforce? The cops here are completely on strike to Do Anything At All, other than beat up BLM protesters. The police unions are all in favor of the DHS (remember how many of us said such an agency with its own ‘enforcement’ could not lead to anything but we’ve got?) and ICE without I.D. and uniforms to grab people off the streets and shove them in unmarked vans.

  9. New Mexico has had a face mask requirement since May but our governor has recently upped the ante by requiring masks even when you are outside exercising (regardless of the six foot rule). She has also made it enforceable with a $100 fine if you refuse to put on a mask when ordered to by a police officer. I was recently told that the charge will be a misdemeanor assault charge, something that could get someone like me and my co-workers fired from our jobs. Yikes. That’s serious.

    Getting that fine is a last resort. however, and the offender would have to be openly defiant. If a cop sees someone without a mask, they’ll tell them to put one on. If that person does not have a mask, they’ll give that person one. If the person still refuses – after being repeatedly told they must wear a mask – that’s when they will get fined/charged. I’ve heard multiple citations have been issued since the order went into effect last week.

  10. Love the site redesign, the only thing I would bring up is the colors of the pictures, namely the moon shot. Having a large black box on one side of the monitor and then a large white box with text on the other half kind of made my eyes hurt a bit. I’m typing this right now with a pretty orange flower and greenery as the picture it and it’s fine!

    So yea just something to think about for the future. Great work and keep it up.

  11. Dear John,

    50% masks would be good. The current models indicate that if people were good about maintaining social distancing and masked at the 50% level, it would suppress R(t) well below one and we could wipe out this pandemic.

    A bit of tooting my own horn. This is a column I wrote about masking a week back. I’m pretty proud of it. If anyone wants permission to reprint, please inquire:

    https://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2020/07/birds-and-bad-science-ot.html

    Currently, we are in trouble. My cautious optimism of a month or so back has been replaced by moderate gloom (with a chance of severe thunderstorms). We hit the minimum on the national death rate around the beginning of the month. Since then the increase in hospitalizations has exceeded improvements in treatment and the death rate has climbed from around 600 a day to around 800 a day.

    The tracking studies have shown that the majority of infections are coming from indoor gatherings. Also, the majority are caused by people who are infected but either presymptomatic or asymptomatic.

    Outdoor gatherings, regardless of what measures people do or don’t take, are less risky. Singular events, like the protests, have had a very small effect on the number of cases, too small to filter out from the noise.

    Lest people view that as a political and partisan statement, I can throw a sop to the Trumpists – his Tulsa rally also had a minimal effect on the total case/death numbers.

    Really, it’s people’s ongoing behavior, en masse, which is the problem.

    Tracking and containment isn’t working anywhere as well as we need, because the testing labs are swamped. Even with sufficient T&C personnel, which most jurisdictions don’t have, we can’t get test results fast enough to be useful. This is a national problem, as a lot of the tests go to labs that serve the whole country.

    On the most-minimally-positive front, Our Dear President has been doing one of his regular “just ignore what I said last week” things and is starting to talk about masks as being a good and even a “patriotic” thing to wear. May not help, certainly won’t hope. Heck, he might even get desperate enough to create a national mandate, if he thinks it will improve his chances for reelection.

    Well, I said it was “post-minimally-positive.” Best I can do today.

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  12. Re: Venus – why don’t we ever talk about building floating cities on Venus?

  13. 1. Republicans certainly haven’t cornered the market on dirty hands. May he leave on his own power rather than further humiliating himself.

    2. Mitigation come latelies annoy me. Still, here’s hoping Ohioans pull their heads out and put the masks on.

    3. BBAs going to BBA! I vaguely recall another hack doing a similar style of footwork in order to get her screenplay turned novel to the top of the BSL. The deserving title (the hack knocked this book out of the spot) was Angie Thomas’s The Hate You Give, so you can imagine the furor that caused. I hope he enjoys internet justice.

    4. How coooooooooool!

    5. Catchy but not really my style. Still, glad to see you vibing to music; it’s a much more enjoyable pastime than stressing about teh stupid.

    Also, I’m loving the New Mexican crackdown on covidiots/never-maskers; the right to “murican” freedom ends at others’ immune systems.

    Also also, I’m glad to see the site in navigable shape again. 😊

  14. Because we’re not the Nazis? More likely, because sulfuric acid and molten lead temperatures don’t seem like party time, and if you’re above the mess, I assume you’ll get bombarded with UV and the winds will be unfun.

    Considering how little people wanted the nuclear bailout and reduced renewables bill (I didn’t think even the Repubs were that eager to pass it), it’s unsurprising that the nuke people had to go to bribery; it makes sense to spend $100M to get $1B. I’m surprised it cost them $60M to get Householder, though; Royko had commented 50 years ago that for $200K, he thought the ERA people could have gotten Illinois to pass the ERA and get someone a named road. I’d like to hope Householder was a coordinator and not just really greedy so that more of the Ohio House members can get to enjoy our lovely federal facilities.

  15. Re: The NM mask enforcement, do any of their major cities’ police departments have open data to evaluate whether or not this is being used as yet another excuse to crack down on poor/minority residents?

    I remember being happy that Chicago was fairly tough on social distancing measures before we opened up a bit too much too soon, until data came out that the majority of the upper class/white neighborhoods had a large number of “warnings” (despite anecdata that they were being fairly blasé about actually distancing/masking) and a very low number of arrests/fines, while the majority of the lower class/black/hispanic neighborhoods had a much lower number of “warnings” and a much higher number of arrests/fines.

    I’m honestly not sure what the solution is – we clearly need some level of enforcement because selfish people are just going to fuck things up for everyone else without it, but any new tool given to cops seems to be immediately turned into yet another excuse to oppress.

  16. That whole Dean Gray mashup is great. The U2/Oasis/Green Day track is one of my favorite mashups of all time (behind Love Will Tear Us Apart).

  17. The European countries did not open up until certain bench marks had been reached. The BBC has an animated web article showing graphically that the US opened up before the bench marks were even reached: Hopeless in advance. In Canada they are public about their bench marks.

  18. California here and I still see people outside with no masks on every day I go out. The most mask compliance I have seen was at my HMO.

    The problem with this is that how do you enforce it? We see what’s happening to retail workers who try to get people to get masks. Are you gonna call the cops on them? Who’s gonna make them when people get murdered for asking someone to wear a mask?

  19. > I am not so naive that I do not think Democrats
    > cannot get caught with their hand in the cookie
    > jar as much and as often as Republicans,

    This is why the extreme and brutal nature of the Republican Party is especially dangerous: even if the party seem beyond the pale to enough people to generally keep them from power, any given Democrat might be corrupt or personally horrible, at which point a brutal extremist might not look so bad. (Working the other way, see Doug Jones’ getting to the Senate because for enough Alabamans near-pædophilia is still a deal-breaker.)

  20. In our state (CT), it’s semi-mandatory, in that if you enter a public building, you have to wear a mask. Outside in public, not so much. I do come across people wearing one in public, mostly when I’m hiking. When it happens, I try to find a spot some 7+ feet off the trail and wait for them to pass. Sometimes they’ll put their mask on when walking by. I do practice a lot of social distancing when I’m out for my daily walks (both from people and dogs).

    Like the new look. Always thought that when you can stick the avatar picture in the center of the header was cool. You can send so many subliminal and funny non-verbal messages that way.

  21. Being from Chicago, Illinois, I endorse Hap’s comments above. When I heard of the Householder bust, my first thought was that AT LAST here was a politician who had a proper understanding of the monetary value of policy. Generally in Illinois and elsewhere, the bribe amounts are so trivial in comparison to the actual value that one wonders why the transaction ever took place. Well, maybe it’s envisioned as an ongoing relationship: more money to come. But my suspicion has been that for many politicians the significance of the bribe is not so much the cash value of the transaction but the transaction itself: It demonstrates that said politician is the GO TO person to GET THINGS DONE, a reputation that brings a whole raft of rewards… until it doesn’t.

  22. I’m glad all of Ohio has gone to mandatory masking, since I live in Northern Kentucky and my wife crosses the river to work. I hope it’ll increase compliance, which has thus far been pretty terrible even though Hamilton County was already under a local mask order.

    If you enjoy musical mashups, one of the few silver linings of SDCC getting cancelled this year is that the good folks at BootieMashup have moved their cosplay dance party onto their twitch channel. DJs will start spinning at 10pm Eastern on Friday and Saturday this week.

  23. Nicholas:
    >>Re: The NM mask enforcement, do any of their major cities’ police departments have open data to evaluate whether or not this is being used as yet another excuse to crack down on poor/minority residents?

    No idea about the open data. Personally, I don’t think that will be a problem here. From what I’ve read and seen on the local news, only the State Police have been issuing citations for non-mask wearing. Several local enforcement across the state are saying they are deferring to the State Police and are not enforcing the order in their jurisdiction. This is despite the Governor promising that the order will be aggressively enforced. Non-enforcement appears to be an issue in Texas as well,

    Local stores are motivated to enforce the order because stores can be fined even if the police find only one customer not wearing a mask.

  24. Volcanoes on Venus: One of these days, some SF writer much stronger on science & research than I am could write themselves a nice little SF adventure novel about an expedition on Venus, along the lines of Hal Clement’s Mission of Gravity.

  25. One thing I would rather like, if you’re messing with the blog look anyway, is a link to the comments at the bottom of the post in addition to the one at the top. My normal procedure is to read the post first, then want to read the comments, and some of your posts are long enough that it’s a pain to scroll back up.