Wednesday, October 20th, 2021


Name Your Poison

Once, when I was at Beyonce concert, she was hoisted from the main stage and placed on a round platform in the middle of the crowd where she performed the song, Say My Name. At one point, she paused, held the microphone towards a guy pressed against the circular stage and asked, "What's your name, honey?" And in a breaking, excited, and borderline hysterical voice, the guy answered, "N..n..n...i..g..e..l." She pulled the mic back and said, "Ok, Nigel. Say my name." And Nigel said, "Beyonce." And in a state of otherworldly reverence that has barely dissipated in the many years since that moment, so did I. So I beg to differ with Shakespeare's take, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Instead, I tend be more aligned with Confucius who argued that, "The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name." (Ironically, using social media could mark the end of wisdom.) This all leads us, naturally, to news from The Verge that Facebook is planning to rebrand the company with a new name. My first thought was that they should change the name to Philip Morris. Or maybe Enron, or Lehman Brothers. But then I realized it would be even more timely and awesome if the company just changed its name to Ye. Of course, our current displeasure with Facebook is more related to its algorithm than its name. Or as Beyonce and Destiny's Child foreshadowed so many years ago, "Say my name, say my name. You actin' kinda shady." The company apparently wants to create a new brand to account for its move into the metaverse business. Because of this, and the company's population (which towers over nation states), maybe they should change the name to Facebook Universe. The initials would certainly be on brand.


Not Kidding Around

"The administration has procured enough vaccine for 28 million children of that age group, which will be given by more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care providers, the White House said. The Department of Health and Human Services is also teaming up with the Children's Hospital Association to set up at least 100 vaccination clinics to administer the shots. In addition, tens of thousands of pharmacies will offer the vaccine, and the administration will work to make the shots available at hundreds of schools and community health centers." White House rolls out plan to vaccinate kids ages 5 to 11 against Covid. (Let the school board crazy games begin!)


Immigrant Song

"He was one among thousands lost at sea during what has been a record year for migrant drownings in Spain. And he might have been sent with the other unclaimed dead to an unmarked grave if Martín Zamora had not figured out that the body had a name, and a life." NYT (Gift Article for ND Readers): The Body Collector of Spain: When Migrants Die at Sea, He Gets Them Home. "Sometimes, I get the feeling that some years ahead — in 30, 40, 50 years, I don't know how many — they will look at us like monsters ... They'll see us all as monsters because we just let people die this way." (Thanks to people like Zamora, not all of us...)


When Pigs Fly

"Surgeons attached the pig kidney to a pair of large blood vessels outside the body of a deceased recipient so they could observe it for two days. The kidney did what it was supposed to do — filter waste and produce urine — and didn't trigger rejection." Pig-to-human transplants come a step closer with new test. (With the amount of bacon the average person eats, how could pig organs not work?)


Seed Investment

"Icarda houses more than a hundred and forty thousand accessions, or samples of seeds and other genetically significant plant material. Over three decades, Shehadeh had collected most of the original seeds himself, hiking through grasslands and forest. He is an expert in pulses—the family of grain that includes chickpeas and lentils—and together with his colleagues, who focus on legumes, cereals, viruses, and pests, he has used untamed versions of domesticated crops to breed varieties capable of withstanding harsh and changing conditions. The goal of this work was to help the world's poorest farmers. But, as climate change has accelerated, Icarda's seeds have proved useful to plant breeders working on large-scale farms in wealthy countries." The New Yorker: Scientists have raced to safeguard a newly precious resource: plants that can thrive in a changing climate.

+ And they better hurry. BBC: Fossil fuel production set to soar over next decade.


The Trill is Gone

The $3.5 trillion spending plan is now a $2 trillion spending plan. But it's a lot closer to getting done. It's not enough considering some of our challenges and the raging economic divide, but $2 trillion is better than no trillion. Biden touts middle-class values of his $2T spending plan. (Hopefully Manchin still gets a few million for Yacht upkeep.)


Thunder Roadmap

"Now, for the first time, you can see one of these firestorms up close. Using high-resolution radar data, which picked up ash particles from smoke plumes and water droplets from clouds, The New York Times reconstructed a 3-D model of the Dixie fire's first massive thunderclouds." NYT with a remarkable visualization that let's you See How the Dixie Fire Created Its Own Weather. (Mother Nature just created her own weather, and at long last, it's raining in NorCal and fire season should be coming to an end. Time for the floods and mudslides!)


Pantry Hosed

"The Program was marred by a structure that prioritized industry over families, by contracting practices that prioritized cutting corners over competence, and by decisions that prioritized politics over the public good." Sound familiar? It should by now. ProPublica: The Trump Administration Used Its Food Aid Program for Political Gain. Shocker!


Chappelle Grants

"We value our trans colleagues and allies, and understand the deep hurt that's been caused. We respect the decision of any employee who chooses to walk out, and recognize we have much more work to do both within Netflix and in our content." That's a Netflix spokesperson on today's planned walkout over Dave Chappelle's latest show. And here's Ted Sarandos: "I'm firmly committed to continue to support artistic freedom for the creators who work with Netflix and increase representation behind the screen and on camera." NPR: Netflix employees are staging a walkout as a fired organizer speaks out.


Bottom of the News

"In-N-Out acknowledged the enforcement violation, calling San Francisco's indoor vaccination requirement 'intrusive, improper, and offensive' governmental 'overreach.' 'We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government.'" (When I was underaged, my friends and I used to look for liquor stores that refused to become the police for any government and would let us buy up. Next time I go to In-N-Out, I think I'll go with no shoes, no shirts—and no pants. Rules are made to be broken. P.S. I often refill my drink without paying for it, so I hope In-N-Out also refuses to be the carbonation police.)

+ Flipboard has a new podcast called the Art of Curation. I was on it. I am the algorithm. A conversation with the "internet's managing editor." (I have no idea why they put my official title in ironic quotes.) There will be more of these. And some of them got VERY personal. Whatever it takes. I'm selling a damn book, people.