Friday, May 14th, 2021


About Face

The pandemic began with the hoarding of toilet paper and it's ending with a run on toothpaste and mouthwash as the CDC unexpectedly announced it was time to unmask. You weren't the only one surprised by the policy change. The NYT surveyed epidemiologists over the past couple of weeks, and "just 5 percent said people would no longer need to wear masks indoors by this summer." What changed? Here's the science that convinced the CDC to lift mask mandates. I'm not sure I see the downside of continuing to wear masks in public indoor settings for a bit longer. And I'm not just saying that because I look more charming with most of my face covered.

+ WaPo: Many retailers will still require masks — at least for now — even with new CDC guidance.

+ Nancy Pelosi will still require masks on the House floor because a ridiculous percentage of the leaders of a hijacked party haven't gotten their shots yet. (Maybe they're afraid it's truth serum.)

+ The CDC's Free-Your-Face Guidance Is Wonderful, Welcome, and Weird.


Faker’s Dozen

One of the goals of lifting mask requirements is to motivate people to get vaccines. On the other side of that equation are the falsehoods spread on the internet. And those falsehoods come from a small number of disinformation super-spreaders. Just 12 People Are Behind Most Vaccine Hoaxes On Social Media.


Weekend Whats

What to Watch: HBO is getting smart. Jean Smart. The excellent and versatile Smart has already done great work in Watchmen and Mare of Easttown. Now she's leading her own show, Hacks, about legendary Las Vegas comedian forced to team up with an entitled, outcast television writer. The show is off to a great start.

+ What to Hear: St. Vincent is out with her latest album. It's got an experimental 70s vibe and the unique sound you'd expect from Annie Clark. It's also got a title that defines my life for the past 18 months or so. Daddy's Home.


Polar Vortex

"A source familiar with talks aimed at ending this latest round of fighting told the BBC that there have been real efforts in the last few hours to reach an agreement. The source, who refused to disclose his name, added that intensive Egyptian, Arab and international efforts are taking place. And in the meantime, there are some positive signals that mediation is bringing results." The signals aren't visible on the ground as fighting has now spread to the West Bank. Here's the latest on the Middle East situation.

+ How complicated is all of this? For some background, here's Bernard Avishai in The New Yorker: Hamas and Netanyahu Are Gambling Dangerously in Jerusalem. "Forces in Israel and in Gaza are seeking to exploit the polarizing violence."

+ Sadly, the polarization is occurring in some of the few places where people used to get along. NYT: In Mixed Israel Cities Proud of Good Relations, a Sudden, Explosive Division.


The Plot Against America

"The campaign shows the obsession that some of Mr. Trump's allies had about a shadowy 'deep state' trying to blunt his agenda — and the lengths that some were willing to go to try to purge the government of those believed to be disloyal to the president." NYT: Activists and Ex-Spy Said to Have Plotted to Discredit Trump ‘Enemies' in Government.


Oil Rigged

"In a message from a cybercrime forum, the group said it had lost access to the infrastructure needed to carry out its extortion operations and that a cryptocurrency account it uses to pay its affiliates had been drained." DarkSide claims it's shutting down after Colonial Pipeline hack. (Mess with big oil, end up with a grease fire?)

+ "The group could be taking advantage of President Biden's statements as cover to shut down its infrastructure and run away with its affiliate's money without paying their cuts—a tactic known as an 'exit scam' on the cybercriminal underground." Darkside ransomware gang says it lost control of its servers & money a day after Biden threat.


Juana Talk About Legal Pot?

"The evidence at trial indicated that he had somewhere between 43.71 and 79.5 grams of marijuana in his blue jeans. If his jeans had contained only 30 grams of marijuana, it would have been treated as a civil infraction punishable by only a small fine." This 38-Year-Old Man Will Spend Life in Prison Over 1.5 Ounces of Marijuana.


Lexicon Job

"Many of us have a secret language, the private lexicon of our home life. Perhaps you have a nickname from a parent that followed you into adulthood. Maybe you have an old joke or a shared reference to a song ... During the pandemic, we've spent dramatically more time in those quarters, and our in-group slang has changed accordingly." The Atlantic: Why We Speak More Weirdly at Home. "When people share a space, their collective experience can sprout its own vocabulary, known as a familect." (In my house, it's known as a f**king familect.)


Forecast Calls for Drizzle

"The TikTok effect is significant: Owen, a barista in Nashua, New Hampshire, told BuzzFeed News that there was a time last summer where a viral TikTok drink — iced white mocha with cold foam and caramel drizzle — was so popular that it accounted for about 1 in 5 drinks he made during the afternoon shift." The Rise Of The Appuccino: How TikTok Is Changing Starbucks. "Viral (and complicated!) custom drinks are the future of Starbucks, where iced drinks now outsell hot coffee."


Feel Good Friday

"U.S. restaurants and stores are rapidly raising pay in an urgent effort to attract more applicants and keep up with a flood of customers as the pandemic eases. McDonald's, Sheetz and Chipotle are just some of the latest companies to follow Amazon, Walmart and Costco in boosting wages, in some cases to $15 an hour or higher. Desperate for workers, US restaurants and stores raise pay. (If this trend continues, the person flipping your Big Mac may be able to afford one...)

+ "I was very happy that I won and that I got the title. I really love that I finally got it." Tanitoluwa Adewumi finally became a Chess Master. He's ten. He started playing while living in a homeless shelter.

+ "This week, the academic community provided a rather impressive example of the promise of neural implants. Using an implant, a paralyzed individual managed to type out roughly 90 characters per minute simply by imagining that he was writing those characters out by hand."

+ "Tucked under a highway overpass in West Oakland, just beyond a graveyard of charred cars and dumped debris, lies an unexpected refuge. There's a collection of beautiful, small structures built from foraged materials. There's a hot shower, a fully stocked kitchen and health clinic. There's a free 'store' offering donated items including clothes and books, and a composting toilet. There are stone and gravel paths lined with flowers and vegetable gardens. There's even an outdoor pizza oven." Homeless Oaklanders were tired of the housing crisis. So they built a ‘miracle' village.

+ 'This is just where I belong': Drew Robinson's return to baseball after suicide attempt. Plus, Giants' Drew Robinson crushes home run year after losing his right eye. An eye for an I.

+ "I whittled 182 pieces from March 'til September," Adkins says. "Then after that, I done 62 paintings." NPR: During The Pandemic She Whittled Away At The Isolation By, Well, Whittling.

+ A cat jumps from fifth-floor of burning Chicago building, bounces once and runs away. (Meanwhile, a dog was like, "I wonder why it seems so warm in here?")