Tuesday, December 1st, 2020



It was the best of times, but not before the worst of times took its toll. That could be the way history remembers the next few months in America. In short, scientists are doing their jobs but the rest of us aren't. "The nation now must endure a critical period of transition, one that threatens to last far too long, as we set aside justifiable optimism about next spring and confront the dark winter ahead. Some epidemiologists predict that the death toll by March could be close to twice the 250,000 figure that the nation surpassed only last week. 'The next three months are going to be just horrible.'" Donald G. McNeil Jr. who has covered this pandemic as accurately as anyone (mostly by talking to the experts who have been remarkably right): Vaccines Are Coming, but Pandemic Experts Expect a 'Horrible' Winter. Consider this stat: Six million Americans took flights over the Thanksgiving weekend.

+ It takes a village. But it also takes the next few villages over. One of the biggest problems is that we have no national plan. So even if your state or county leaders are doing a good job, it doesn't provide much protection. ProPublica: States With Few Coronavirus Restrictions Are Spreading the Virus Beyond Their Borders.

+ OK, maybe it's a little misleading to say we don't have a national plan. WaPo: White House planning a packed season of holiday parties.

+ "Moncef Slaoui said he signed on to co-lead Operation Warp Speed as chief science adviser under two conditions: there would be no political interference in his work and no bureaucracy to slow him down. Both conditions were met, he said, and science, not politics led the way." USA Today: Deliver a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine in less than a year? Impossible. Meet Moncef Slaoui.

+ While most of the pandemic news is mixed, this news is undeniably 100% positive. Dr. Scott Atlas, Special Coronavirus Adviser To Trump, Resigns. (Dr Kevorkian had a better life-saving track record than this guy.)


Shock and Jaw

Kids won't be the only ones saying that all they want for Christmas is their two front teeth. "A virus that is bad for respiratory health is, apparently, bad for dental health, too." SF Chronicle: Bay Area dentists spot 2020 stress in clenched jaws and cracked teeth.


Homelessness is in the House

"The rules were simple: don't leave, don't host guests, and don't talk to anyone—not contractors, property managers, real-estate agents, or prospective buyers. If you were working a 24/7, only short trips to the market or the laundromat were allowed. The premises had to be kept clean at all times, or pay would be docked. The driver supplied Evans with a mini-fridge, a small microwave, an inflatable mattress, and plastic floor coverings to protect the carpet." Francesca Mari in The New Yorker: Using the Homeless to Guard Empty Houses. This is about a trend in LA, and a whole lot more.


Pointed Clicks

"A 64-year-old woman weeps, hugging her husband as he lay dying in the COVID-19 unit of a California hospital. A crowded refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece, engulfed in flames, disgorges a string of migrants fleeing this hell on Earth. Rain-swept protesters, enraged by the death of George Floyd in police custody, rail against the system and the heavens." The first of what will be many unforgettable collections marking an unforgettable year. In 2020, AP photographers captured a world in distress. (To capture a world in distress in 2020, you could basically aim your camera almost anywhere at almost any time.)


Giuliani Jerk Reaction

NYT: "Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump's lawyer who has led the most extensive efforts to damage his client's political rivals and undermine the election results, discussed with the president as recently as last week the possibility of receiving a pre-emptive pardon before Mr. Trump leaves office." (I need a pre-emptive pardon for what I'm gonna write when this inevitably happens.)

+ There will be a lot of pardons in coming weeks. The big question: Will Trump try to pardon himself. The Atlantic: The One Word That Bars Trump From Pardoning Himself. (Hint: Grant.)

+ Trump Campaign Lawyer Joe diGenova Says Former DHS Official Chris Krebs Should Be "Taken Out at Dawn and Shot." (Jan 20 can't come soon enough...)


Hold My Cheer

"The lucrative opportunities for Andries came because of her fame and a social media following in the cheerleading world — she is one of the top 'cheerlebrities,' as such stars are known — and because the N.C.A.A. and its universities do not regulate cheerleading in the same ways they do other sports." NYT: The College Athletes Who Are Allowed to Make Big Bucks: Cheerleaders.


Fish School

"The average can of tuna drags behind it a tangled net of wrecked ecosystems, definned sharks, debt bondage, child labor, human trafficking, physical abuse, and murder. By the time I finished The Outlaw Ocean, I couldn't open a can of tuna without imagining a trickle of human blood oozing out. And it's not just tuna. Swordfish, snapper, mahi mahi, mackerel, sardines, squid, and anchovies are all tainted by slavery. So are farmed salmon, farmed shrimp, and cat food, which relies on meal made out of small fish caught in fisheries rife with human suffering." Meatless meat, meet the new wave of fishless fish.


Todo Toodaloo

"Virtual assistants are one click—but often one continent—away. A new industry for bringing order to our work lives could shift the order of our workforce." The New Yorker's Nathan Heller: What if You Could Outsource Your To-Do List? (I outsourced my to-do list years ago. I just didn't outsource it to anyone in particular.)


Tower of Scrabble Babel

"Top players aren't interested in words for communication, just for maximising their score. Indeed, believe it or not, some of the top players don't speak very good English; they're from Thailand or Malaysia and have memorised all these non-words with one goal in mind — winning tournaments." The dark art of playing world-class Scrabble. (Queen's Gambit, but for Scrabble, coming soon to Netflix.)


Bottom of the News

Most cities plant only male trees because it's expensive to clear up the fruit that falls from female trees. Male trees release pollen, and that's one of the reasons your hay fever is getting worse ... All of the ten best-selling books of the last decade had female protagonists ... The inventor of the pixel died in 2020 aged 91. He always regretted making pixels square, describing the decision as "something very foolish that everyone in the world has been suffering from ever since." These and more interesting facts and findings are on Tom Whitwell's always fun list: 52 things I learned in 2020.

+ You loved Rogan, The Weeknd—and gardening playlists. Here's what you played on Spotify in 2020.

+ Grünten statue: Mystery over missing phallic landmark. (I'm pretty sure this is a metaphor for something having to do with me, so I'm just gonna start looking for tomorrow's stories...)