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Corona Vu

This article was in yesterday’s Independent. I felt like I had travelled back in time to last May:

Crucially, the report, which was written by independent experts, concludes that NHS guidelines failed to consider airborne infection, a key way the virus is transmitted.

It further says:

But research now suggests that airborne transmission – where tiny droplets of saliva from people talking, calling out or coughing can remain suspended in the air – can be a particular problem in poorly-ventilated rooms.

Now’? Research now suggests that it’s airborne? We’ve known that since at least June of last year. In fact, I first posted about masks, and about going out with a rudimentary one, in early April!

How can NHS guidelines be so ludicrously far from what we understand? It would be comically far if it wasn’t so serious.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (Books 2021, 3)

My thoughts on Celeste Ng’s debut novel, as suggested by one of my tutors at Birkbeck.

This book is infuriating. At times, and in certain ways, at least. Or not the book, but some of the characters.

For example, the parents, especially the dad — are so fucking pathetic it makes me angry. He can’t even boil an egg for his kids’ breakfast when his wife’s away.

And throughout the early part you’re wondering why do they both love Lydia much more than their other two kids? Even before she dies, I mean?

Oh, yes it’s a dead girl story, did I mention that? Lydia is fridged in the first line, so it’s not a spoiler. It’s totally a fridging, though. That page tells you that the term means killing a female character ‘often as a plot device intended to move a male character’s story arc forward.’ Lydia’s death drives the whole plot, including the actions of her father and brother, so it definitely qualifies.

Her mother and little sister too, but that doesn’t lessen the truth of it.

It’s a very good exposition of a family with secrets at its heart. Though in the case of some of the secrets, there’s no very good reason for the person to keep them secret. A lot of problems could have been avoided — including, probably, the death of Lydia — if people had just talked to each other. That’s part of what’s so infuriating about it at times.

But maybe that — the difficulties people, families, have in communicating — is the point.

I also wondered why she chose to set it in the time she does. The present day parts are in 1977-8. I think it’s so that she can write about the particular immigrant experience she does: second and third generation Chinese immigrants to the US.

I picked this up because one of my tutors recommended it to me, due to its use of an omniscient narrator. I’m trying something similar with something I’m working on at the moment. This article in the New York Times practically credits Ng with bringing omniscient narration back into fashion. I don’t feel that it ever really went away, but maybe it has remained more common in SF than in literary fiction. Though as I write that I’m not sure I could cite an example from recent SF either, so maybe I’m wrong.

Here’s a good article by Ng herself about her decision to use the device. It’s been useful to me, anyway. And I actually enjoyed the book, aside from being annoyed at times.

No Project, Plenty of Fear

All through the Brexit debate, and after, people warned that it would cause problems in Northern Ireland. And now here we are:

Loyalist paramilitary groups have told the British and Irish governments they are withdrawing support for the Good Friday agreement in protest at Northern Ireland’s Irish Sea trade border with the rest of the UK.

Brexiters dismissed those concerns as fearmongering.

I don’t know what the end result of this will be, but I can’t imagine it being good.

After the Money’s Gone

Nothing to to with the Talking Heads song the title alludes to, but musing on death and the destiny of websites.

Robin Rendle raises a concern we should all (who write on the web) have:

But if my URL is dead, my website dies with it.

My work shouldn’t be presented in the Smithsonian behind glass or anything, I’m just pointing at this enormous flaw in the architecture of the web itself: you’re renting servers and renting URLs. Nothing is permanent because on the web we don’t really own any space, we’re just borrowing land temporarily.

What happens to our websites after we’re gone? There needs to be a way to memorialise them, make sure they’re still around in some form. Archive.org is great, but it doesn’t keep the canonical URLs alive. Famously, Tim Berners-Lee wrote, ‘Cool URIs Don’t Change.’ Disappearance is the biggest change of all.

Although I see from there:

Pretty much the only good reason for a document to disappear from the Web is that the company which owned the domain name went out of business or can no longer afford to keep the server running.

Hmm, is that a good reason? and it’s surprisingly slanted towards companies, considering the origin of the web, and TBL’s place of work.

(And speaking of cool URIs — or domains — home.cern? That is fantastic!)

A Year Passes Like Nothing

It’s exactly a year since I last went out to an event.1

I referred to ‘being out on a cold, virus-infested night’ to see Glen Matlock in Leytonstone, and it seems really weird now that I did it.

What were we thinking? Gathering together in a small hall, where people were singing and shouting. And not a mask to be seen! Masks? who had masks? How would we have drunk our beer while wearing a mask? You probably wouldn’t have been let in if you had turned up wearing a mask.

Although I had good social distancing at the start, when I was almost the only one there.

Memory, eh?


  1. I actually thought it was on the last day of February 2020, which was the 29th, not the 28th, making it hard to hit the exact anniversary, but my blog and calendar both tell me I was wrong.