1

The Fault In Our Star

There was an amazing moment during the finals of the 2021 US Open when Novak Djokovic burst into tears. It was clear that he would fall one match short in his valiant effort to complete a calendar year grand slam. But the tears were not caused by sadness. They were caused by the relief that his stressful run had ended, and even more, that after years of being seen by many as a tennis villain and by many more as the third favorite among the unthinkably great tennis trifecta (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic), Novak had finally earned the unbridled love of a crowd that had withheld it for so many years. And his reaction to the moment, breaking down on the world's stage, showed he was human, which made his achievements to date all the more remarkable. In defeat, a fresh chapter had opened in the career of one of the all time great athletes.

Novak could finally have it all. But Novax wouldn't let it happen. Instead, held temporarily in a hotel by the Aussie government over a vaccination dispute, Djokovic's new chapter began with him as perhaps the world's most famous antivaxxer. Over the weekend, in a decision that could aptly be described as, — Tennis? Anyone! — an Australian court ruled in Novak's favor, allowing him to enter the country and participate in the Australian Open regardless of his refusal to get vaccinated (although the saga might not be over). According to Aussie rules, Djokovic was relieved of his vaccination requirement because he had recently contracted Covid, which likely left epidemiologists around the world yelling, "You cannot be serious!"

So we have a non-science based rule, poorly implemented, disappointingly (though fairly) enforced, related to a vaccine we should all be thankful we have access to. Traveling the world sans vaccine is like playing a tennis match with a stringless racket. Don't take my word for it. Just look at Novak, he's the one who keeps getting (and and possibly spreading) Covid. Of course, I don't mean to suggest that Novak will be fan-less in his pursuit of the all time grand slam career lead. Among anti-vaxxers, he's become an outright hero. Sadly, this stubborn movement and its heroes are what makes us all a soft target for a hard winter. And the controversy is far from over. In the latest twist, Novak's mom suggested her son was subjected to torture. (In fairness, if it were me being held and the hotel had fewer than three stars, my mom would probably argue the same.)

At one point during the hearing in which he allowed Djokovic to enter the country, Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly exasperatedly asked, "The point I'm somewhat agitated about is what more could this man have done?" Answer: The right thing. (Hey, give me a lob and I'm going use my overhead smash.)

2

Skate and Switch

America's Erin Jackson was the top ranked speed skater in the world in the 500 meters, but a slip during the Olympic trials meant she would be left off the US team, having come in third in an event in which the top two qualify. That changed when her teammate, Brittany Bowe, gave up her spot.

3

Spike Punch

I'm no expert on the science. But I am an expert on sensing news momentum, and the optimism when it comes to omicron is starting to give way to the reality that the sheer number of patients could be disastrous for already stretched hospitals. And because of America's vaccine and booster shortfalls, the death count could still soar. NYT (Gift Article): Early Data Hints at Omicron's Potential Toll Across America.

+ This headline from the SF Chronicle worries me a lot, especially given the fact that SF is one of the more boosted places in the country: Coronavirus-infected hospital staff without symptoms can stay on the job in California.

+ The truth remains true. The Atlantic: If you are vaccinated, boosted, and wearing a well-fitted N95 or similar indoors, your risk is extremely low. The key is that it has to be a good mask and it can't be worn improperly. Wearing a mask around your chin is like wearing a condom on your balls.

+ For some good data on the spikes, follow Eric Topol on Twitter.

4

The Comedian’s Comedian

Bob Saget, who was found dead in a hotel room at the age of 65, was one of the most loved and respected comics among his peers and fans. He was both the nice guy dad on Full House, and one of the dirtiest comedians around. The Ringer: The Duality of Bob Saget Is What Made Him Special.

5

Bottom of the News

"Imagine a world in which your neighborhood, as shown to you on an app, resembles an entirely different neighborhood than the one on your street, where storefronts have nothing to do with what's available for you to eat. "Eventually the word ‘virtual' is just going to be dropped," hopes Alex Canter, co-founder of the virtual restaurant platform Nextbite. 'It'll just be restaurants that live online the same way that when you shop online for clothes, you don't call it a virtual store.' The draw of a virtual restaurant is that of online shopping: The same products no matter where you are, or sometimes products exclusive to the virtual world. It's fast food on an even grander scale." Jaya Saxena in Eater: Is the Future of Food the Future We Want?

+ This is definitely the future of food no one wants: World's potato shortage affects french fries from Japan to Kenya. No, really. In Capetown, McDonald's ran out of hash browns and fries.

+ Dogs Can Distinguish Speech from Gibberish—and Tell Spanish from Hungarian. (I just tried to get my beagles to stop barking in Spanish and Hungarian. Nothing.)

+ WaPo: They bought a blender. Three weeks later, their cats continue to hold it hostage.

+ True, I probably missed a cat smoothie joke, but instead I wanted to note that I'm trying a new shorter format today. Let me know what you think. (There's a chance this could result in some layout or technical issues in the newsletter or app. If so, apologies.)