Saturday Linkages: Let Them Eat Cake

Coronovirus plans: stay home and make a cat cake.

Coronovirus – Things You Can Do

Our Economic Model Is Making Us More Vulnerable to Coronavirus

How to Make a Garden Fountain Out Of, Well, Anything You Want

You Already Live in Quarantine

The One Defense Against Weaponized Memes

‘The best thing about Wellington’: Mittens the cat has paws all over New Zealand capital

Visit the Chocolate Shop

Plague Times

There are two images that keep floating around in my head in this time when we genuinely seem to have a worrisome contagion at the door. One is of the 17th century beak masks worn by plague doctors.

The other is the plague infected ship in Werner Herzog’s version of Nosferatu. Thanks to a fascinating website called Vessel Finder, you can track the real life COVID-19 infected plague ship Grand Princess, which is just off the coast of San Francisco.

A very unfortunate ad.

How do we respond to the Coronavirus crisis? Frequent hand washing seems sensible. But should we prepare to hole up in the house? Should we make a panicked run to Costco for a month’s worth of ramen? Should we stop going to public events and spend our hours at home entertaining ourselves with Vessel Finder? Kelly and I have the luxury of quarantining ourselves but most people do not.

While I can’t articulate what I think our response should be I do know one thing, that some folks in the press don’t understand non-linear threats. I’m far from the best person to weigh in on statistics, but there’s a huge difference between a communicable disease like COVID-19, that has the potential of exponential growth, and deaths from heart disease or cancer. For similar reasons I don’t think most people understand the “black swan” threat of climate change. Things can be fine for a long time before suddenly everything we know collapses. As Mike Tyson once put it “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Let’s Win This

I’m exhausted. I’ve spent the last three weekends knocking on doors for Senator Sander’s presidential campaign. During the week I phone bank.

I live a comfortable life. Many of the people I’ve spoken to, as a volunteer for this campaign, do not. They deal with unemployment, the threat of having relatives deported and a future of debt and uncertainty. And we all have, hanging over us, a climate crisis. California experienced the driest February on record. In some places there was no rain at all.

The last time I phone banked (reaching out to other supporters and volunteers around the country) I became overwhelmed, choked up with emotion and had to stop. What got me was the level of commitment of working people and students to this campaign–people with a lot fewer resources and time than I have.

No other candidate has a ground force as committed as Senator Sanders. No other candidate has been as consistent throughout his life in support of working people. His message is no more radical than saying that this country should offer the level of services that other developed countries have.

Some of you may not agree with all of his policies. If that’s you I respectfully ask you to consider a strategic vote for Sanders if just because no other Democratic candidate has the team in place to win this election.

We have one chance to make this happen. Not me. Us!

If you are still on the fence, read this article, “The Liberal-Conservative-Socialist Case for Bernie Sanders.”

Saturday Linkages: Cat Hugs

A Quick Primer On Poultry Vaccines

You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus

Fresh Hell from the Baffler

Here’s the File Clearview AI Has Been Keeping on Me, and Probably on You Too

Our intersections are too dangerous. Here’s how to fix them

Cyclist gets hit by car, then sued for $700 [editors note: this happened to me except it was $900]

Listen: The Sound Of The Hagia Sophia, More Than 500 Years Ago

The pungent legacy of Axe Body Spray

Solar Class

Join me at the Bernie rally tomorrow!

Worst of NextDoor

It began innocently enough. What could be wrong with a website that reunites people with their lost cats, offers crowdsourced suggestions for plumbers and operates as an ongoing garage sale? But as is usual for anything coming out of Silicon Valley, NextDoor, has gone full Lord of the Flies except instead of kids it’s mostly old folks beating dissenters to death with their keyboards.

I’ve used NextDoor to get rid of furniture, give advice on humanely removing bees and publicize events. But, like so many other social media websites, NextDoor has devolved into a toxic stew of hatred tapped out by lonely, late night keyboard warriors. Here in my Los Angeles neighborhood, topics on homelessness and gentrification seem, in particular, to bring out the trolls. NextDoor has become 4chan for old homeowners.

Here’s a typical discussion on my neighborhood’s NextDoor, in this case about a homeless encampment at our local park:

If there’s one good thing about NextDoor it is that it has disabused me of the idea that my community is somehow more “open minded” than other parts of the country or that urban people are more progressive than rural people. These are stereotypes that I’ve been guilty of harboring in the past. We are all, myself included, easily sucked into the sort of hateful trolling that Silicon Valley has found a way to monetize on social media. How do you keep people glued to a website like NextDoor? Just offer the spectacle of your elder neighbors tearing each other apart in a text-based reality show. Best of all you can join in on the mud slinging!

There’s an easy solution to all the hate and trolling: paid moderators. Such moderators could limit the discussion to the things NextDoor is good at: the aforementioned and uncontroversial pet reunification and plumber recommendations. Maybe those plumbers could be vetted too! Of course, paid moderators would make the website unprofitable. Instead NextDoor crowdsources the moderation to both get around paying any employees and to absolve themselves of the responsibility of dealing with the mess they’ve made.

I’m curious if any of you, our dear readers, use NextDoor? What have you used it for? What are the controversies raging in your neighborhood on the site? As for me I still peek at the site periodically, mainly to see if anyone needs bee help, but I’ve become really turned off by the vitriol. And I feel sorry for the people I see most engaged in these NextDoor debates. I suspect they are both lonely and suffering from depression.