Tuesday, July 20th, 2021


How to Have Better Organisms

I'm on the road for the rest of the week. Delivery will be sporadic.

For years, there's been a pretty heavy backlash against genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But what if some GMOs could make it easier to grow food in heat and drought conditions. Or, in the case of purple tomatoes, what if they were used to promote an increase of beneficial nutrients that can actually benefit our health? Is this really an attack of the killer tomatoes, or just a subtle shift that benefits people? "Since their introduction in the mid-1990s, G.M.O.s have remained wildly unpopular with consumers, who see them as dubious tools of Big Ag, with potentially sinister impacts on both people and the environment. Martin is perhaps onto something when she describes those most opposed to G.M.O.s as 'the W.W.W.s': the well, wealthy and worried, the same cohort of upper-middle-class shoppers who have turned organic food into a multibillion-dollar industry. 'If you're a W.W.W., the calculation is, G.M.O.s seem bad, so I'm just going to avoid them,' she said. 'I mean, if you think there might be a risk, and there's no benefit to you, why even consider it?' The purple tomato could perhaps change that calculation." Jennifer Kahn in the NYT Mag (gift article): Learning to Love G.M.O.s


Long Story Short?

I'm fully vaccinated. I know that means I have very little chance of getting an extremely serious, life-threatening case of Covid. But what about long Covid? That's been one of my big questions. So far the answer is that experts are pretty sure I'd be in good shape, but they don't have enough data to to know. Bob Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF: "I personally do factor the possibility of getting a mild case of COVID that leads to persistent symptoms ... into my own personal calculus that guides my behavior. I still don't want to get it, both because of this unknown risk of long COVID, as well as the small but non-zero risk that I could get a mild case and transmit it to a vulnerable person." SF Chronicle: If you're fully vaccinated, what's your risk of 'long COVID' as delta variant spreads?

+ All of this would be less of an issue if people would just accept the scientific miracle that has been served to a lucky slice humanity on a silver platter. But, "with every passing day, the pace of vaccinations only seems to drag a little closer to the gutter. As of July 12, it had fallen off by half again. The Great Vaccine Decline now appears to be an ugly force of nature. If it continues, further horrors are all but guaranteed to follow. Sadly, those horrors may be the only thing that stops it." Daniel Engber in The Atlantic: Vaccination in America Might Have Only One Tragic Path Forward.


Bootleg Warmer

"The fire has scorched more than 606 square miles -- an area larger than Los Angeles and about half the size of Rhode Island. It grew to more than 388,350 acres overnight from Monday to Tuesday and is 30% contained, according to data from InciWeb.
It's one of at least eight large fires burning in Oregon and one of at least 83 burning across 13 states." The Bootleg Fire in Oregon is so large, it's creating its own weather.

+ Extreme weather fuels Oregon wildfires; outside help sought. (The problem is that potential outside helpers increasingly have their own fires to fight. And it's still early in the season.)

+ Heat and fires out west. We get it. OK, how about this? "Northeastern Siberia is a place where people take Arctic temperatures in stride. But 100-degree days are another matter entirely." NYT (gift article): As Frozen Land Burns, Siberia Fears.


Money Shot Dead

"His last purchases—beer, cigarettes, pot—occurred 18 years ago, he says, on his 31st birthday. He claims he hasn't spent any money since. It's true, his friends have told me. No money at all." David Johnston won't touch money, except to destroy it. (I'm pretty sure this guy was my stock broker in the early 2000s.)


Kevin McCarthyism

"Of the five, three -- Banks, Jordan and Nehls -- voted to object to the to the 2020 Electoral College results despite the fact that there is zero evidence of any widespread voter fraud or major irregularities. Both Banks and Jordan also signed on to a Texas lawsuit aimed at invalidating votes in several key swing states." Kevin McCarthy picked Jim Jordan for the Jan 6 commission. Enough said.


Origin Story Has Happy Ending

"Wearing a cowboy hat under the West Texas morning sun, Jeff Bezos crossed the bridge to enter the capsule made by his company Blue Origin. He was accompanied by three others – his brother Mark Bezos, female aviation pioneer Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen." Liftoff! Jeff Bezos And 3 Crewmates Travel To Space And Back In Under 15 Minutes. (I'm sharing this lede in particular to illustrate how many of today's top stories are essentially ads for Blue Origin.) But the good news: The rocket launched. The trip is an advance for consumer space travel. And, luckily for those on-board, space took advantage of Amazon's generous return policy.

+ WaPo on Wally Funk: In 1961, she lost her chance to go to space. Today, at 82, she finally got her shot.

+ Bezos and team went to the edge of space. But from the looks of his rocket, they seemed to be headed for Uranus.


Olympics Torched?

I'm looking forward to watching the Olympics as much as the next person. But the Tokyo Games really do seem more like a metaphor than a sporting event. Because of early Covid cases among participants, the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee chief won't rule out last-minute cancellation of Olympics. That's the pandemic angle. There's also a heat angle. "Beach volleyball players have already found sand too hot for their feet during practice." Fears athletes could face hottest Games on record. That's the climate angle. All we need now is the, just when you thought this story couldn't get any weirder angle. Let me see. Aha! Found it. Rogue oysters threaten to disrupt Tokyo Olympics.


Lactose Intolerance

"Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the head of Unilever on Tuesday that Israel will 'act aggressively' against Ben & Jerry's over the subsidiary's decision to stop selling its ice cream in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and contested east Jerusalem. When a guy who runs a country in the desert threatens a guy who sells ice cream, it's worth taking notice. But seriously, if Ben & Jerry's wants to take this political stand in Israel (and I'm pro peace and anti-settlement expansion), will they take similar stands in much less democratic countries that still have massive slave populations or currently commit genocide? As with any discussions involving the Middle East, before we discuss, make mine a double.


Just a Peak

"Paralympian Matt Stutzman, born without arms, has become a world-class archer by shooting with his feet. He trains in remote Iowa, where his only competition is in his mind. So he imagines matches in extreme detail, from the feel of the wind to the sound of a crowd — a technique scientists have shown can register in the brain as if he were physically there." How An Armless Archer Trains His Brain To Win Olympic Medals. (Back in the day, we used to call this visualization. I'd visualize for hours the night before football practice, and then I'd show up and find myself lined up against my Samoan teammate who would go on to play in the NFL. Practice was never how I pictured it.)

+ The Real Key to Peak Performance, According to NBA Star Giannis Antetokounmpo. "Focusing on the past is ego. Focusing on the future is pride. Focusing on the present is humility."


Bottom of the News

Tom Brady and the Bucs visited the White House today. "Not a lot of people think that we could've won, in fact I think about 40% of people still don't think we won," Brady said. "I understand that," Biden replied.

+ Feel like getting frisky? You're not the only one. In The U.S., Google Searches For 'Dating' Have Reached A 5-Year High.