Scatternotes

Inspired by Brad’s recent post, here’s a scattering of thoughts I had about things other than conferences (I already wrote about those.)

***

Amsterdam runs in idle, but it runs. That is good to see. As far as I know all cities run in idle right now, but are still running.

Civilization, society, and probably the economy as well, will not collapse. This is no extinction event, just a very bad spell. We will recover.

***

We can give up on the rest of the school year. In Holland the central examinations are cancelled for the first time since 1945. I am in touch with a bunch of 15- and 16-year olds, children of friends and their friends, that I play D&D and board games with. I mainly think of them in this item. I also think of the students I’m currently teaching (online) at university, who are around 20 or so.

Once social distancing is over they will likely go into party mode for months on end. It will be very difficult to get them to pay attention to school or studies, and in my opinion we shouldn’t try. They’re right.

(Note to self: figure out how the people born around 1330 fared after the Black Death. Re-read Froissart.)

Also, I predict a slight uptick in teen abortions during summer.

***

I’m teaching at university right now, and it really goes remarkably well. Still, this is the web faculty, which is the one faculty that’s most likely to adapt seamlessly to the current situation, since not only the students, but also the teachers are well at home on the web. Other faculties might likely have more problems — think a classics professor who never clicked on anything because Aristotle and Cicero didn’t either.

***

Twitter is a cesspool. I don’t go there any more. I get very tired of all the enraged Americans in particular, who think that the specific problems of their country are the most important ones in the world. Not fair, maybe, but that’s how it is. Deal with your orange monkey yourself, we don’t have the time for it.

***

I am supposed to be writing a book. I am currently not writing a book. But last week was very hard (teaching while cancelling a conference for the first time is not my favourite mix of activities), this week will be moderately busy, and we’ll see next week.

***

Eric said websites should get static, because the React monstrosities that rule the web now are too fucking slow and expensive on mobile devices, and people need information right now.

We should rule that important government websites are not allowed to use JavaScript at all. That’ll solve the problem.

Sure, reality is more nuanced, good JavaScript use is possible yaddah yaddah, but right now is not the time for nuance. We need one simple rule that actually does away with the problem and that even idiots understand.

So skip the JavaScript entirely. It’s just fluff. Do away with it.

***

I stopped paying taxes for the first time in my freelance career. Without taxes, I can probably hold on to November or December even without any extra income beyond what I already invoiced. This is definitely better than I initially thought, when I had to say goodbye to 1/3 of my annual income.

***

My first online D&D session was an astounding success. I use Whereby and I swear by it. (Install app for iOS; rest just works in the browser.) I have a Pro account, so my room accepts 12 connections simultaneously.

I used two devices as cameras on the battle mat and the initiative tracker (I use a slightly modified version of this initiative system), and my laptop for an image of myself and to see the players. Rolz for die rolls, Whatsapp for private communication between DM and one player, and that’s it, really. I occasionally added a fourth hand cam with an extra phone, but I could do without if necessary.

The only problem is that it turns out to be impossible to turn off sound entirely on the iPad. There are online instructions that claim otherwise, but they don’t work. Still, just now I realised I should kill all video feeds to the iPad except for its own; I only use it as a glorified web cam.

***

A lot is being said about mental health, and it’s all true. I also suffer a little bit — on average I get Corona about three times per day, but when I forget about it for five minutes my symptoms mysteriously disappear. I assume others have the same problem.

Many good points have already been made, and I’m not going to repeat them. The historian in me wants to make another point entirely.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, this feeling of permanent stress and helplessness, multiplied by two, three, or even four, was the natural state of being of just about all humans. Plagues, wars, famines, too-high taxes, they could all arrive at your doorstep, and in an average year at least one (most likely taxes) did.

People lived like this all the time. They were not aware that it is possible to live in any other way. The stress you’re feeling now is about one-half to one-quarter of what everybody felt all the time during most of human history, and before. As a result, all of them had PTSD. All of them. That’s why assholery is so widespread during all of history (except, in some parts of the world, for most of the people, for the last sixty years or so).

This is what we’re fighting for. We fight for our children to have the chance to live as we did, without constant fear.

Remember that. It gives you a goal to shoot for.

***

Jeremy is right. Writing helps. I feel better already.

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, web developer, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter or Mastodon.
Atom RSS

Categories:

Monthlies: