More Banal Than Fiction

Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang

Science fiction writer Ted Chiang explains the difference between our current reality and a well-plotted disaster novel,

While there has been plenty of fiction written about pandemics, I think the biggest difference between those scenarios and our reality is how poorly our government has handled it. If your goal is to dramatize the threat posed by an unknown virus, there’s no advantage in depicting the officials responding as incompetent, because that minimizes the threat; it leads the reader to conclude that the virus wouldn’t be dangerous if competent people were on the job. A pandemic story like that would be similar to what’s known as an “idiot plot,” a plot that would be resolved very quickly if your protagonist weren’t an idiot. What we’re living through is only partly a disaster novel; it’s also—and perhaps mostly—a grotesque political satire.

Electric Lit, Ted Chiang Explains the Disaster Novel We All Suddenly Live In.

Photo © 2011 Arturo Villarrubia. Licensed under cc-by-sa-2.0.

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For Your Zoom Seder

Making the rounds (wish I knew the original author, I’d credit):

The Torah Speaks of Four Kinds of People Who Use Zoom:

The Wise
The Wicked
The Simple
The One Who Does Not Know How to “Mute”

The Wise Person says: “I’ll handle the Admin Feature Controls and Chat Rooms, and forward the Cloud Recording Transcript after the call.”

The Wicked Person says: “Since I have unlimited duration, I scheduled the meeting for six hours—as it says in the Haggadah, whoever prolongs the telling of the story, harei zeh ‘shubah, is praiseworthy.”

The Simple Person says: “Hello? Am I on? I can hear you but I can’t see you.”
[Jerusalem Talmud reads here: “I can see you, but I can’t hear you.”]

The One Who Does Not Know How to Mute says: “How should I know where you put the keys? I’m stuck on this stupid Zoom call.”

To the Wise Person you should offer all of the Zoom Pro Optional Add-On Plans.

To the Wicked Person you should say: “Had you been in charge, we would still be in Egypt.”

To the Simple Person you should say: “Try the call-in number instead.”

To the One Who Does Not Know How to Mute you should say: “Why should this night be different from all other nights?”

You can find an all-too-serious discussion of a Zoom (pre) Seder here but it will take you over an hour to listen to all of it.

Posted in Completely Different | Leave a comment

Florida’s Evil Policies Become More Visible

I hate to quote Politico, which I tend to think is both biased and given to the worst horse-race journalism, but when they’re right they’re right: ‘It’s a sh– sandwich’: Republicans rage as Florida becomes a nightmare for Trump:

Already anxious about Trump’s chances in the nation’s biggest swing state, Republicans now are dealing with thousands of unemployed workers unable to navigate the Florida system to apply for help. And the blowback is directed straight at Trump’s top allies in the state, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott.

Privately, Republicans admit that the $77.9 million system that is now failing Florida workers is doing exactly what Scott designed it to do — lower the state’s reported number of jobless claims after the great recession.

“It’s a sh– sandwich, and it was designed that way by Scott,” said one DeSantis advisor. “It wasn’t about saving money. It was about making it harder for people to get benefits or keep benefits so that the unemployment numbers were low to give the governor something to brag about.”

Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters was more succinct: “$77 million? Someone should go to jail over that.”

With hundreds of thousands of Floridians out of work, the state’s overwhelmed system is making it nearly impossible for many people to even get in line for benefits.

The new online system was part of a series of changes designed to limit benefits. The ultimate goal — which it delivered on — was to lower unemployment taxes paid by Florida businesses. A 2011 analysis done by the Florida Legislature estimated that the changes pushed by Scott would save businesses more than $2.3 billion between 2011 and 2020.

Now, as thousands of people try to get help, the system crashes or denies them access. Nearly 400,000 people have managed to file claims in the last two and half weeks. It’s not known how many have tried and failed.

Most of those who do submit applications won’t qualify for aid, and the benefits that are paid out are among the most meager in the country — a maximum of $275 a week.

Posted in Econ & Money, Florida | Leave a comment

When an “Emergency” is Not an Emergency

David Oscar Marcus, local federal courts blogger extraordinaire, brings us this self-explanatory tale of Judge Milton Hirsch1 denying a self-styled “Emergency Motion”. Along the way, the eloquent jurist manages to invoke the ghosts of the late Judge Edward Davis and of Shakespeare. Not bad for a three-page order!

View full document in Scribd.

Law students take note. Don’t let this happen to you.


  1. When local lawyers see this name they know it’s going to be good. []
Posted in Law: Ethics | 1 Comment

MiamiLaw COVID-19 Webinar Now Available Online

You can now get the whole COVID-19 and the law webinar, and it’s free as in beer.

They did have a couple minor technical glitches in the original, but I gather they edited them out to make this a seamless production.

Posted in Law: Everything Else | Leave a comment

Our New Normal

Webinars!

UM Law put on a good one today about Law and Cornavirus.  Announced only a few days ago, it drew over 500 viewers. They’re likely to do a sequel. Meanwhile, I gather a recorded version should be online Real Soon Now.™

Posted in Coronavirus, Law: Everything Else, Talks & Conferences | Leave a comment