Editorial – Oct 2020: Reality over maps. Where no computer model goes.

October 4, 2020 | By | Reply More

Hello everyone,

Looks like we’re back to realworld talking this month with so much happening in our isolating and distance world.

I have to confess some confusion when the media says covid-19 is having a second spike when the first one wasn’t really over and the numbers only dropped when people had kept their distance to reduce infection. It just meant distancing was working not that it resolved the problem. When you change this, let people holiday and travel, go back to university, open up social areas, et al, is it any surprise that the number of infected goes up? It only takes a few people to be relaxed about distance and facial protection and we are seeing the result. Even if it certain groups have less fatalities, less is being said in the press about the recovery rates and persistent side-effects that carry on after initial recovery. When the people who are giving the rules under similar stress patterns, clear thinking is needed not obvious mistakes.

Granted there is a problem of economic needs for any country and some protection is better than none but you do have to wonder at what computer model politicians are using to pick the better options from. Then it comes into our geek territory. After all, you would think not questioning a computer model simply by the belief that computers are always right forgets that computer programs are written by fallible humans that depend on various research that no one questions or sees.

Computer programs from when they were first designed are number-crunchers. When it is applied to statistical data, it can only work by statistical percentages not whether it matches real life. Ask a computer what the data and results means and it wouldn’t have a clue. Garbage in, garbage out. It needs human interaction to look at the results and see if all options had been covered and at least dismiss the implausible or hard to implement. Sometimes, running the results along a particular direction that hadn’t been thought of might reveal something that hadn’t been considered but it needs human interaction and a great deal of common-sense to make sense of the information and look at different scenarios.

Planet Stories Pulp.

To believe the results without thinking is a dangerous reliance to depend on something or someone else to make the decisions for us. At least no one has asked for deity intervention or they might be surprised by the indifference. It goes back to my old General Semantics idiom, ‘The map is not the territory, only a representation.’ Reality is always different. Humans do not always act logically or rationally and no one takes into account how different people as a collective react to stress or multiple stresses. The latter has rarely been explored. How humans react cannot be reduced to a few choices. Most humans are capable of coping with several different stresses but too many can cause all kinds of problems of which to handle first and this is for conventional humans, not those suffering stress already.

We all live in a life of stress. Family. Job. Social activities. Each with multiple problems and most people keep on top of some of them until they become troublesome and need resolution. Hopefully, a good resolution.

Depending on the individual, that’s you by the way, shows how capable you are of coping can differ quite radically. When you have a stress problem already, the last thing you need are extra stresses. When you have a series of extra stresses, even the most ‘normal’ person can be unprepared for how it might affect them. I couldn’t help wonder that those who ran off on holiday, ignoring precautions they had been applying until then, aren’t also showing stress problems and thinking things have changed. If stress or its relief doesn’t come out one way, it finds another. You can only placate such stress for so long. If you give permission to break a stress boundary, then you find a percentage of the public going too far. Where does that come up in any computer program algorithm?

In fact, how can you program any computer software to understand the variables for one stress let alone a combination of several types across an entire population? There are certain common denominators but one basic fact remains, multiple stresses pull the human psyche in far too many directions at once and that leads to more breakdowns. It only needs a few poor examples in the press for some to think they can push the limits more than they should. The winter months where colds and other bugs propagate the most means covid-19 has more chances to spread. We haven’t quite met the worst situation yet this side of the globe.

There is far too little information given out in how to cope with such problems. Oddly and paradoxically, the people who think they aren’t being stressed are probably the ones who are being affected the most, probably by suppression and not understanding what is happening to them. Having a safe release valve can at least reduce the stress over-whelming you. The real problem is what do you use to relax a little within what is safe to do? As geeks, we have interests that don’t need people but others aren’t going to be so lucky unless we encourage them to find non-social hobbies.

Even so, I’ve noticed the number of stresses that mount up can still take people by surprise. When I became agoraphobic and having some of the basic things explained to me, they didn’t cover some things. I learnt early that I would have to avoid most drugs because I got more side-effects than benefits. Later, it also affected my diet and now have a long list of food intolerances, mostly from parts of their ingredients. I did wonder why I wasn’t told that aspect but think they probably thought it would never go that far or giving advance warning would make me over-cautious. Hah! I’m very good at self-control but I wouldn’t deny that there are limits and surprises.

Although I don’t think most people will have specific mental illnesses, unless they have been lurking below your mental covers, they aren’t a precise science. Knowing that there are side-effects is one thing, whether you will get them is something totally different and nothing you can prepare for other than hoping you can cope. It is better to hope if anything is affecting you that it doesn’t get that extreme.

It might seem an impossible task to control levels of stress and I can only offer solutions to ponder on. Welcome to stress management 101.

Probably the simplest way is to list all the things that are currently stressing you and put them in the order of which stresses you the most. Look at them and see if you can resolve any of them so they stress you less or decrease their importance. That doesn’t mean the stress will go away, but it will reduce their priority in your mind. Finding a solution for any stress will also taking thinking time and several options to mix or work out which is best. Don’t settle on the first answer. Ingenuity can help and if one way doesn’t work, find something safer to try. If all else fails, distraction even for brief intervals is better than nothing.

See if you can you rotate some of the stresses so you can put them on different days. That in itself seems a little crazy but if you’re only dwelling on, say, 6 stresses as opposed to 10 stresses a day, then they are at least manageable and might make it easier to tolerate a seventh stress if it suddenly rears its head.

Reward your good behaviour to controlling your stresses. Something to make you happy or smile is a great way to calm you down. Sometimes, it doesn’t cost you much at all.

Putting things into perspective and knowing other people are having a similar problem and you can stay relatively calm can have benefits to others. It isn’t as though we all aren’t in the same fix. Better that than go down with coronavirus.

Thank you, take care, good night and at least, as geeks, we have plenty of distractions. At least I hope we do.

Geoff Willmetts

editor: www.SFCrowsnest.info

A Zen thought: People imagine more than what reality presents.

What Qualities Does A Geek Have: Geeks can imagine reality.

The Reveal: Only 6 people together from 6 households and 6 feet apart. 666. Thw number of some beast or other.

Observation: Following on from my ‘Aliens In Isolation’ article last month, something I hadn’t figured on is face masks could be the perfect way to disguise aliens walking amongst us. Well, the humanoid ones anyway.

Observation: Going back to ‘Aliens’, we know towards the end that in the xenomorph nest, apart from rescuing Newt, a cut scene was to show Burke cocooned but why did no one consider what happened to Hudson? I mean, the xenomorphs dragged him underground and it didn’t look like they killed him. Would he have been waiting for implant, implanted or chestburster?

Observation: There is an odd thing about the 1973 film, ‘Enter The Dragon’, why would Han send an invitation to his tournament to a member of a Shaolin temple that he disgraced? It could hardly have been to recruit than as fodder. Mind you, no one from the temple had accepted the invitation until then.

Feeling Stressed: Repeat to yourself every day that you are a survivor and won’t be beaten.


I did think that having a lot of text about submitting material to SFCrowsnest would attract those with a compulsion to read and understand things the geek way. The main problem with the Internet is that it tends to encourage less reading, so time to take a different approach. The original notes will be left on July2009 editorial although the links aren’t likely to work.

With your cover email, tell me something about yourself so I don’t work in a vacuum. The boss in the tower, also called Stephen Hunt, describes me as a ‘Dutch Uncle’ in that I’m good with advice and can explain when I see something that is wrong. Egos should be left at the door as I’m only interested in your talent and how to improve it.


I always have a clarion call for new reviewers and if you have the yen to learn, you’ll quickly get the ropes if you’re never done it before but you must show me a sample, especially if you can follow my guidelines. We can usually get paper-based books in the UK but if you live abroad, then you might have to stick with ebooks. If you’ve picked a book we haven’t reviewed, then it stands a better chance of being used so use the SFC search engine to see first but I need to see how you would write for us.

The obvious qualification is a desire to read regularly and like to tell others about the book without giving away too many spoilers. The benefit is access to free books for the price of a review.

I want to give you the opportunity to get things right so look up the Review Guidelines link: https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/so-you-want-to-write-reviews-for-sfcrowsnest-what-you-need-to-know-by-geoff-willmetts/


Although we can’t pay for submissions, what we do make up for is exposure. Only the Sci-Fi Channel gets more hits than us so it’s worthwhile getting us on your writer’s CV. Please avoid samplings from book’s you might be writing or have had in print elsewhere as I do check. New original work is best and whether I accept or reject, you will be told of any problems I see so you look your best and a grammar check that is equal to the pro-world. Even the boss finds me scarily accurate.

Flash or One-Page Fiction:-

Speaks for itself. The shortest fiction possible is also the toughest to write as no word must be wasted.

Link here for details: https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/one-page-stories-or-flash-fiction-submissions-instructions-by-gf-willmetts/

Short Stories:-

The definition of a short story is anything up to 30 pages and then it becomes a novella. Bear in mind you want other people to read it on-line, stay somewhere between 5-20 pages. At least digitally, you don’t have to go double-line as HTML will do that automatically but think about being concise. If you want to send an attachment with these, then ask first and send as a TXT file as it removes most tetchy virus codes.

Look up the Short Stories Link by linking here: https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/so-you-really-want-to-write-an-sf-story-an-update-by-gf-willmetts/


The worse problem I see any samples is poor grammar. Although I don’t want you to think I seek perfection, the less work I have to do, the easier it is to focus on other problems you might have. It will also serve you in good stead if you ever approach paper-based publishers because they will send back any bad grammar samples because it’s not worth their time.

Good grammar is the tool of any writer. Don’t just depend on what you remember doing at school. There are plenty of decent grammar books out there, so remind yourself of the rules. If you think there are far too many to remember, get the major ones right before moving to the next so it becomes second nature.

This link, www.sfcrowsnest.info/the-guide-to-better-grammar-from-the-harrowed-hand-of-gf-willmetts/ will show you the common problems.

To submit, use our email address by joining the spaces as shown here: letters @ SFcrowsnest.info and use the subject matter as to what you’re submitting.

If you have any pastimes that can be used to pass the time in captivity, let me know and we’ll see if it can be turned into an article.

Comments directly to reviews should still work as before.

Good luck



Category: Culture

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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