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Visiting the Pit
*it’s quite nice just before the Brimstone season
Sooooo I logged on to Twitter this morning for the first time in a few months, and it was interesting. Also (by chance) very nice. But secretly also a hellscape of human self-destruction. Same-old, same-old.
First of all, why?
Well, I was chatting with some friends and concerns were expressed about H5N1, which alas is not a Hanoverian boyband but rather a strain of Avian Flu that’s been in the news recently as the coming (bad) thing. Newspaper reporting of public health being patchy, my instinct is to go to the source, and during the early days of the Covid pandemic I put together a really good Twitter list of people who actually knew what they were talking about and read that instead of the papers. It worked, which turned out to be horrible. Watching Boris Johnson fuck up in slowmo while knowing the right choices were available did not contribute to my cool.
Anyway, I figured a lot of the same people would be talking H5N1 if it was a crisis. They were not, but in a way that suggested a giant cooperative robot dragon which is absolutely awake, but has only opened one eye.
Lots of juicy info beyond the links, but less alarming than the Science.org and NYT pieces you can find if you wish. TL;DR: H5N1 sucks bigtime and you do not want it, but at the time of writing so long as you do not lick a dead swan you are not going to get it. That could change, but here’s the good news: it’s flu, so there’s already a vaccine in cold storage for a previous (bird flu) variant which is cross-reactive with the one that’s causing the concern, and pre-existing drugs like Relenza do work. A UK team is working on a vaccine for this specific variant, and I doubt they’re alone; drop-in RNA vaccines have been, after all, something of a feature of the last two years.
In passing: China is vaccinating birds, which is commercially problematic because you can’t then export them (there being apparently no way to differentiate an infected bird from a vaccinated one). As with TB, so here: a possibly powerful solution is blocked by an industrial/agricultural glitch. Is that a biotech opportunity or a policy failure? Not sure.
Aaaaanyway, more interesting to me was my reaction to logging on: I really did not want to. It felt like being asked to eat something which had recently given me food poisoning - a visceral rejection of even proximity to the site. I’m going to be back on social media a bit this spring, inevitably, talking about the new book, so I was quite keen to push through that, especially with a narrow mission and clear completion criteria. So I did.
Twitter feels the same to me, broadly speaking, which is to say that any sane, sensible comment is only a few replies from a burning binfire of bullshit and stupidity. Professor Devi Sridhar being measured and sensible about a disease? Quick! To the heteropatriarchal conspiracist/denialism xenophobia machine! I made a concerted effort and didn’t get sucked in. It felt like walking on the crust of a lava flow.
The one thing I did see was the very lovely Lauren Beukes being very lovely about Titanium Noir. (Thank you!) Being Lauren, she also brought some added value: a relevant news piece. Billionaires and eternal youth…
I logged out smiling, having achieved what I wanted to. If I never had to log in again that would be fine, but I’ll be back occasionally between now and June, during which time I will actually interact.
I notice they’ve actually hidden the logout button now. Hotel California much?
And now: dolce far niente for as long as I can get away with it.
Wishing I was by a lake in the summertime or the Med in October. Missing places I’ve never been and the sound of rails.