There Will Be No Fast Recovery

Published at 09:00 on 22 April 2020

There is much debate among pundits as to whether we are now in a “V-shaped recession” or a “U-shaped recession.” The answer is neither, but particularly not the wished-for (short duration, quick recovery) V-shaped recession.

The reason is that this is not a typical recession. It was instigated by a pandemic, not by the more typical operations of the business cycle. There is no cure for the coronavirus, nor will there be for twelve to eighteen months at least.

The initial lockdowns will end, but that will not prompt a return to the old normal. The disease will still be out there, and it will keep flaring up from time to time, in various places. Each time that happens there will be a cycle of negative, confidence-sapping news stories followed by spate of necessary but costly social-distancing measures. Those measures won’t be so widespread as the present ones, but they will still be disruptive. There will be some recovery in the next six months (so, not U-shaped), but it will be only partial; the economic downturn will be far from over (not V-shaped, either).

There are whole categories of businesses whose models depend on large numbers of people congregating in one place that are not by any stretch of the imagination essential: sports stadiums, movie theatres, music venues, and so on. These are the last businesses that will be allowed to reopen; odds are that many of them won’t be allowed to do so until a vaccine is available.

By that time, the damage will have been done. Most of those businesses in the previous paragraph won’t be able to survive their prolonged shutdowns. They will fail, and after they fail, most will not come back. Cinemas, for instance, may become as unusual as coffeehouses once were in the USA: a cultural attraction that larger cities may have a few of, but which are absent from the vast majority of the country.

This is not a normal crisis that we are living through; this is a major crisis, on the scale of the two world wars. When you have a crisis this big, you don’t get the old normal back, ever. You get a new, different, post-crisis normal.

It’s not all gloom-and-doom, either. Two more likely victims of the coming permanent changes are urban gentrification and the decline of many small towns. Many of the professional class whose demand is responsible for skyrocketing urban real estate values don’t particularly even like the big cities their careers compel them to reside in. Widespread telework has been possible for well over a decade; the only thing stopping it was management inertia, and that inertia has now been dislodged. We’re unlikely to get the old normal of mandatory in-person office work back.

This will likely both take the pressure off urban real estate prices and act as an economic shot in the arm to many struggling rural areas, as formerly urban professionals relocate to them. (But not all of them, and not equally. Rural areas with abundant scenic and recreational opportunities will disproportionately benefit; Wyoming will fare better than Kansas. West Virginia, a scenic state not far from the Boston/Washington megalopolis, may be the biggest winner of all.)

Not just local economies will change in these states: politics likely will, as well. Those newcomers will take their politics with them, and will help their new home states become less right-wing over time. It’s already happened in Nevada, which used to be a reliably conservative state, and which now leans Democrat, thanks to millions of Californians moving to Las Vegas. (And if you think it far-fetched it might happen in Wyoming, check out how the county there most affected by people moving in for scenic and recreational opportunities, Teton, votes right now.)

The big cities, by contrast, will probably become affordable to many of those who have long been in danger of being priced out of them. This will happen at the expense of many real-estate speculators, who will find out that speculating in real estate is not a sure thing. Many of today’s upscale apartment buildings will become tomorrow’s downscale and affordable ones. It may become as much of a cultural trope for urban artists to reside in battered apartments that were once luxurious (possibly large funky ones created by knocking down walls from adjoining units) as it once was for them to reside in lofts converted from industrial spaces.

But, whether the changes are for the better or for the worse, they are coming. What is not coming back is the old, pre-COVID normal (and it is certainly not coming back quickly).

Ubuntu LTS 18 “Bionic Beaver” Font List

Published at 16:20 on 18 April 2020

There’s no shortage of resources out there listing the standard fonts on various versions of Windows and MacOS, but references for the the same information about Linux seem to be very scarce. For the record, here’s what fonts are present on a freshly installed Ubuntu LTS 18 system (a “typical” install, which includes Libre Office):

Abyssinica SIL
Bitstream Charter
Century Schoolbook L
Courier 10 Pitch
DejaVu Math TeX Gyre
DejaVu Sans
DejaVu Sans Condensed
DejaVu Sans Light
DejaVu Sans Mono
DejaVu Serif
DejaVu Serif Condensed
Droid Sans Fallback
Khmer OS
Khmer OS System
Liberation Mono
Liberation Sans
Liberation Sans Narrow
Liberation Serif
Lohit Assamese
Lohit Bengali
Lohit Devanagari
Lohit Gujarati
Lohit Gurmukhi
Lohit Kannada
Lohit Malayalam
Lohit Odia
Lohit Tamil
Lohit Tamil Classical
Lohit Telugu
Manjari Bold
Manjari Regular
Manjari Thin
Mitra Mono
Mukti Narrow
Nimbus Mono L
Nimbus Roman No9 L
Nimbus Sans L
Noto Color Emoji
Noto Mono
Noto Sans CJK HK
Noto Sans CJK JP
Noto Sans CJK KR
Noto Sans CJK SC
Noto Sans CJK TC
Noto Sans Mono CJK HK
Noto Sans Mono CJK JP
Noto Sans Mono CJK KR
Noto Sans Mono CJK SC
Noto Sans Mono CJK TC
Noto Serif CJK JP
Noto Serif CJK KR
Noto Serif CJK SC
Noto Serif CJK TC
Padauk Book
Phetsarath OT
Samyak Devanagari
Samyak Gujarati
Samyak Malayalam
Samyak Tamil
Standard Symbols L
Tibetan Machine Uni
Tlwg Typist
Tlwg Typo
Ubuntu Condensed
Ubuntu Light
Ubuntu Mono
URW Bookman L
URW Chancery L
URW Gothic L
URW Palladio L

An Encouraging Development

Published at 15:54 on 13 April 2020

Two groups of states, one in the Northeast, and the other on the West Coast, have formed pacts to continue enforcing social distancing until scientific evidence (and not the wishes of the Trump regime) indicates it is safe to relax such measures. Good: such a strategy probably is necessary.

But, some words of caution: Trump is not going to like this, not one little bit. Those governors better be preparing for a confrontation with the Federal government, because odds are they are going to get it.

Red States Are Gonna Get It Bad

Published at 09:33 on 6 April 2020

Most (not all, there are noteworthy exceptions, see Ohio for example) of the so-called “red” states adopted a strategy of denial about the coronavirus. The bill for such a foible is coming true, and it will be a steep one, paid for in human lives as well as in dollars.

It’s tragic, because the line that big, dense cities are abnormally vulnerable to pandemics does have some truth to it, particularly in a world where cities tend to be ports of entry from foreign lands. The thing is, the advantages that rural areas have evaporates if they don’t make good use of their extra warning time to prepare.

We don’t live in a world where country-dwellers are mostly isolated anymore. The invention of the motor vehicle changed that. Rural people regularly drive to town for church, shopping, and other errands, interacting with numerous others.

The virus doesn’t care if it is passed from person to person in a small town or a big city. It took a while longer for infections to start getting reported from the more rural states, but here they are.

These later infections may even prove more lethal than the earlier big-city ones, for the simple reason that the best health care facilities are concentrated in the big cities. Those who get very ill in the hinterlands won’t have the same access to care.

The red states that are not sparsely-populated might be the worst off of all. Florida in particular seems to be a disaster in the making. Not only did you have a right-wing denialist government that refused to take the crisis seriously, you also had mobs of students congregating for Spring Break (without restrictions, thanks to that inept state government), and it all happened in a state with a huge concentration of elderly retirees.

Florida is also a barely-red state. (Obama won it twice.) The looming disaster there might prompt enough voters to politically recalculate that the Republicans will lose again this time.

A virus doesn’t care about your politics or your propaganda. It’s just hardwired to infect you.

Stop OSX Catalina From Shifting the Display

Published at 09:22 on 2 April 2020

Keywords: OSX Catalina, Macintosh, hide menu bar, display, screen, shift, feature, disable.

TLDR: It’s an accessibility feature called Zoom. Look in System Preferences… Accessibility… Zoom and disable any gestures or keyboard shortcuts pertaining to Zoom.

As soon as I upgraded my newer Mac to Catalina, it started happening: whenever the mouse cursor got close to the top or the bottom of the screen, the display would shift slightly, by 20 or 30 pixels or so.

It lent an overall air of sloppiness to the whole user experience, yet it was obviously an intentional (mis)feature of some sort, because implementing it is non-trivial in code (it requires moving a lot of data around in video memory). There simply was no conceivable way this could happen as the result of a common coding bug. Finally, it had never happened to me before I upgraded to Catalina, and now it always happened, but only on the newer Mac that ran Catalina. The old Mac (which cannot be upgraded, due to it no longer being a supported product) simply never developed this behavior.

So I started looking through the system preferences for the obnoxious new feature. It wasn’t in the “General” or “Desktop & Screen Saver” sections, and I couldn’t see any other obvious place where it might be; nothing else obviously controlled a display issue like this.

The next step was attempting to find an answer via a search engine, but I also kept coming up dry. I gave up, having pissed away well over an hour on the issue by that time, and decided to try living with the misfeature.

But it was annoying, extremely annoying. I like to keep track of the time by looking at the digital clock on the right-hand side of the menu bar, yet the misfeature meant that about half of the menu bar was not visible, which typically made the clock illegible. I could address this by moving the mouse cursor up to the top of the screen, but it’s annoying to have to do that. I shouldn’t have to mess with my pointing device just to see the time of day.

So, I kept revisiting the issue, hoping to come up with the magic keyword that would eventually come up with the solution. Nothing ever worked.

Eventually, I broke down and posted something to Reddit, making sure to be irate and whiny (past experience has shown that an irate tone is more likely to generate responses for such questions).

Sure enough, it was a deliberate feature, one related to an accessibility (for the disabled) feature called, of all things, “zoom,” which is why I had been unable to locate it, or even find out about it via a search. I would have never guessed that shifting the screen like that had anything to do with zooming or magnifying the screen.

So many modern user interface design techniques come across as completely bizarre and counterintuitive to me. I don’t think OSX would even be a usable GUI to me, were it not for how I’ve disable feature after feature in it in the settings over the years.