Wednesday, December 29th, 2021



We're pretty much all thinking about the same thing. The same thing that's been bumming us out for a couple years. And we'll definitely get to that. But let's take our minds off it for a few minutes with a story that has nothing to do with new variants, a tsunami of new cases, or booster shots. It has to do with another kind of shot and an animal you probably don't want to judge by its size, because it can drink you under the table. Sarah Zhang in The Atlantic: You Have No Idea How Hard It Is to Get a Hamster Drunk. "'You just put a bottle of unsweetened Everclear on the cage and they love it,' says Gwen Lupfer, a psychologist at the University of Alaska Anchorage who has studied alcohol consumption in hamsters. They regularly down 18 grams per kilogram of body weight a day, the alcoholic equivalent of a human drinking a liter and a half of 190-proof Everclear. In the wild, hamsters hoard ryegrass seeds and fruit in their burrows, and they eat this fermenting store as it becomes more and more alcoholic over the winter. In the lab, well, they're pretty happy with Everclear. Given the choice between water and alcohol, they go for the booze." (Sounds like humans during quarantine.)


Chile Con Stitution

"Convention members will decide many things, including: How should mining be regulated, and what voice should local communities have over mining? Should Chile retain a presidential system? Should nature have rights? How about future generations?" What factors would you consider if we could have a constitution do-over? Chile is set to have just that opportunity. NYT (Gift Article): Chile Writes Its Constitution, Confronting Climate Change Head On. "Chile has lots of lithium, which is essential to the world's transition to green energy. But anger over powerful mining interests, a water crisis and inequality has driven Chile to rethink how it defines itself."


When Will It All Endemic?

"Here's one big question you'd probably like the answer to: Does omicron push endemicity farther off into the future? Or could it actually speed up our path to endemicity by infecting so much of the population so swiftly that we more quickly develop a layer of natural immunity?" Experts would like the answer to that question too. Despite omicron, Covid-19 will become endemic. Here's how.

+ U.S., U.K. and other nations shatter Covid records amid omicron surge.

+ Delta's CEO asked the CDC for a 5-day isolation. Some flight attendants feel at risk.

+ Yes, the virus is spreading faster than ever. But hospitalizations are not going up that quickly, if, and this is a big if, you live in a place where the vax rate is high. To some extent, that's been true since we had vaccines. Barry Ritholtz looks at the maps. After Vaccines: Where Covid Death Rates Have Risen. If these trends don't convince folks to voluntarily get vaxed, nothing will.


The Doctor Will See You Now

"'I felt like I was crazy, that I was at fault for what was happening to me. I thought everyone was just tougher than me. But I've come to realize I'm one of the toughest people I know.' In the four years since her diagnosis, she has joined the small ranks of doctors in the country specializing in Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and opened a clinic in Silver Spring devoted to the condition. 'Having a chronic illness has been a gift in some ways. The fact that I'm usually not in pain anymore and get to help people like me,' Zingman said. 'I consider my story a happy one.'" WaPo (Gift Article): A doctor struggled with a rare, incurable syndrome. Now she helps others overcome it. (For patients, walking into her office for the first time and being seen, understood, and believed must feel like a miracle.)


Home Bound

"Like covid-19, the assaults became part of her new normal. 'I know how the world looks at someone who is suffering in this way," said Umm Zeid, speaking in August on the condition that a nickname be used to protect her identity. 'But I can't talk to anyone,' she said. Her voice cracked. 'It's better that I carry the burden myself, rather than burden the whole family.'" WaPo (Gift Article): The pandemic caused a global surge in domestic violence. For victims with few options, abuse has become the new normal.


The Bus Stops Here

"Yes, he had a light hand when it came to discipline; he rejected the authoritarian role of the traditional NFL coach, treating players more as equals than subjects, and seemed to encourage, or at least allow, lives of misdemeanor. But he was no pushover. If he had only three rules—be on time, pay attention and 'play like hell when I tell you to'—he was nevertheless very much in charge. Players complained rarely, except to note that his practices were far harder than the game they played." For today's generation, he's a name on a video game. For the generation before, he was the unrivaled voice of the NFL. But before all that, he was one of the greatest coaches in league history. SI: John Madden's Revolutionary Impact, Style Will Never Be Replicated.

+ Inside the legacy of John Madden. (I used to be a local TV sports reporter and I once used a press box urinal next to Madden. I suppose that was my legacy.)


I Am Leaving But the Fighter Still Remains

"He was an accomplished amateur boxer who'd rather dance. But Harry Reid was fond of reminding his opponents that he knew how to fight, too. That skill took him far — from poverty in Searchlight, Nevada, to the pinnacle of the U.S. Senate." Harry Reid remembered as a fighter, skilled Senate dealmaker.

+ Reid's last op-ed was published a few months ago. Abolishing the filibuster would pay dividends for Nevadans.


Baby, It’s Warm Outside

"The coldest US state of Alaska has recorded its hottest-ever December day, amid an unusual winter warm spell. Temperatures soared to a record 67F on the island of Kodiak on Sunday - almost seven degrees warmer than the state's previous high. But elsewhere in Alaska temperatures have been plunging to record lows." Alaska 'Icemageddon' warning follows heat record.

+ In the Bay Area, it won't stop raining. In Tahoe, it may never stop snowing. Lake Tahoe's massive snowfall shatters 51-year-old record.



In "a staunchly conservative state with a history of drawing people in search of wealth from the land, a new kind of crop is taking over old chicken coops, trailer parks and fields where cattle used to graze. Next door to a Pentecostal church in the tiny town of Keota, the smell of marijuana drifts through the air at the G & C Dispensary. Strains with names like OG Kush and Maui Waui go for $3 a gram, about a quarter of the price in other states." How Oklahoma Became a Marijuana Boom State. (They'll be voting blue in like six weeks.)


Feel Good Wednesday

I'll probably only do a couple editions this week, but when I do, let's keep this area feeling good. These Sackets Harbor teenagers became frontline emergency responders during the pandemic. (My teenagers became gaming addicts.)

+ Virginia family gets keys to Habitat for Humanity's first 3D-printed home in the US. (Does this mean we're living in the dot Matrix?)

+ In Canada, crisis response teams achieve 70% reduction in people taken into custody under Mental Health Act.

+ And a Gift Article from WaPo: A teacher learned one of her students might go hungry over winter break. She now feeds thousands of kids each year.