Archive for October, 2009

Dispatches from Oinkfluland

October 25, 2009

As I battle what my doctor thinks is almost definitely the swine flu (alias H1N1) I make various rude gestures to factory farms in general and the one in Perote, Mexico, where the sickness first began, in particular.  Apparently this possible connection between factory farming and the swine flu was not widely reported in the US media (surprise!) with some exceptions but as I play reluctant host to the virus I can’t help but think (in my less-exhausted moments) about human greed and stupidity and how this greed an stupidity seems to bite us back, again and again.  I feel a visceral sympathy for the pigs who go through hell in those factory farms (and for the intelligent, emotional animals they are, it must truly be hell) and the humans who are the victims of this sickness. 

In the meantime various things accumulate, as they do when one is not much good for anything but being horizontal and wishing one had another head, preferably a pain-free one.  Apart from responsibilities to the household there are papers piled up for correction, an interview, responses to comments on my blog, and a bunch of iou’s in walks and treats to the dog, who really can’t understand why I’m being such a bore. 

In the rare moments of relative clarity and energy (induced mostly by masala tea and Tylenol) I’ve managed to read Terry Pratchett’s new book, Unseen Academicals, although I think I may have imagined parts of it that he didn’t write when I was particularly feverish — my recollection of it has a weirdly four-dimensional feel — and am now reading a Himalayan travelogue by Ruskin Bond, called All Roads Lead to Ganga.  It is bringing back memories of Garhwal, 1980, so many years ago.

One thing that I am very pleased about is that the International Day of Climate Action, which was this Saturday, October 24, was a great success, with over 5000 events in 181 countries.  The slide show on the 350 site is inspiring.  There was an event in my town but for obvious reasons I couldn’t be there. 

And now it’s time for more tea.

Racism in SF: Two Articles

October 20, 2009

The first article is a great interview over at WorldSF: Charles Tan interviews the provocative Ashok Banker who had the gall (bless the man) to turn down a NYT interview on matters of principle.  Ashok says a lot of interesting things that need to be said, without pulling any punches whatsoever.  I don’t agree with him on everything but the man’s experience is different from mine, and who am I to deny his experience?  For instance he accuses big publishers in SF of pretty overt racism.  If that’s his experience, that is not to be denied.  I’ve had a pretty mixed experience of bias (mostly of the subtle kind) but I’ve also had the good fortune of coming across fellow writers and editors here in the US who are genuinely interested in listening to what I have to say through my stories.  But I have no doubt that a sort of institutionalized racism does exist here in America and therefore in the SF world, which, without its vocal POC critics, probably wouldn’t spend too much time in self-examination.

The other article I’d like to point to is one by Anil Menon about Simpson’s Paradox in the Slush Pile, as he so elegantly states it.  This is the sort of article I love because it shows us how careful we have to be in a) backing what we have to say with data and b) interpreting it correctly.  I do have a response to it below, which will make sense after you read the article.