The pleasures of short stories

I’ve been working my way through some science fiction short story collections while on holiday. Short stories require discipline to write well, and because they’re short they give me a sense of accomplishment because I actually manage to finish reading something!

I recommend this one by Sarah Gailey if you’re in search of somewhere to start – Drones to Ploughshares

Scientists rename human genes to stop Microsoft Excel from misreading them as dates

there has been some dissent about the decision, but it mostly seems to be focused on a single question: why was it easier to rename human genes than it was to change how Excel works? Why, exactly, in a fight between Microsoft and the entire genetics community, was it the scientists who had to back down?
— Read on

School in the time of Covid

Provocative article on school closures – worth a read. 

Suppose, as a thought experiment, that a company named Anredom had developed a different “vaccine” by April 2020. The difference is that theirs doesn’t work, it’s just some chemical that likely has has little effect on Covid-19. Suppose moreover that the chemical can cause brain damage when injected into humans. For many, the damage is minor and and short-lived. Others experience more serious damage and require medical intervention, but they ultimately recover within a few months or a year. But for a few—say, 1%—the damage is permanent and substantial: it renders them less able to navigate life and so lowers their life-time earnings, life-expectancy, health indicators, and other quality-of-life measures. Suppose, finally, that in April 2020 we knew enough about the chemical to predict all this, both its inefficacy against Covid-19 and its harmful effects. Nonetheless, Anredom requests that we skip clinical trials and start injecting the chemical into school-aged children right away. Should we? Of course not. The idea is sickening. I claim that extended school closures are the same in all morally relevant respects.
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Maintenance Is Sorely Needed In The Fight Against Global Warming

The incentives get even more distorted when stretched across industries and use cases. Here, again, maintenance distinguishes itself rhetorically from sustainability. Sustainability is a state; maintenance is a process. It requires work, and work of a certain type. Whatever its ultimate goal — safety, material efficiency, reducing carbon emissions — practical know-how and repetitive labor come first. This kind of pragmatism is sorely needed in the climate debate, which is so often preoccupied with end-states that it has no earthly or humanly way of achieving. 
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Loss of Abortion Rights Will Send Shockwaves Through US Health System – Commonwealth Fund

Unplanned pregnancies are most common among people with low incomes, or with jobs that do not provide health care coverage. In a post-Roe world, it will be these women, disproportionately women of color, who will no longer be able to choose an abortion, and will be unable to access the health care they need throughout their pregnancies and postpartum period. The health care workforce also will suffer, as states that ban or restrict abortion coverage are less likely to invest in training and employing reproductive health care providers who can counsel people on their full range of options in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. It is also likely that fewer providers will be trained in the reproductive health procedures that are needed to save women’s lives or in the aftermath of trauma or assault.
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The public health playbook: ideas for challenging the corporate playbook

We propose an initial eight strategies for this public health playbook: expand public health training and coalitions, increase public sector resources, link with and learn from social movements to foster collective solidarity, protect public health advocates from industry threats, develop and implement rigorous conflict of interest safeguards, monitor and expose corporate activities, debunk corporate arguments, and leverage diverse commercial interests.
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I’m curious about whether some version of PeerTube and… other things… could be used to cobble together a federated and more open version of an online learning environment.

A free software to take back control of your videos! With more than 100 000 hosted videos, viewed more than 6 millions times and 20 000 users, PeerTube is the decentralized free software alternative to videos platforms developed by Framasoft
— Read on