Friday, January 21st, 2022


Data Dump

Get your mind in the gutter. Actually, let's go even deeper than that, into the sewer. It turns out that's where many answers reside. For now, it's giving us clues about the ebb and flow of Covid infections, but the data can be used for other health trends as well. In an era when half the people we hear from are full of crap, it's nice to know that at least their shit can't bullshit. As a bonus, in the sewage analysis industry, there's no debate about whether to wear a mask. NYT (Gift Article): In Sewage, Clues to Omicron's Surge. "According to Biobot Analytics, a company tracking the coronavirus in wastewater in 183 communities across 25 states, viral levels have already begun to decline in many big cities but are still rising in smaller communities." (Wait until Zuckerberg finds out someone has more invasive data about us than he does...) While the science of sewage analysis is improving, the government use of that information could still use some work. "There is still no centralized public dashboard where all of the nation's wastewater data is collected and displayed. The Netherlands, by contrast, has a national wastewater surveillance system that covers nearly all of the country's residents; the public-facing dashboard is updated daily." In fairness, they don't call them the nether lands for nothing. But still, even when it comes to sewage, America can't get its shit together.


Veneer Death Experience

"The claim that the Justices' opinions are politically neutral is becoming increasingly hard to accept, especially from Clarence Thomas, whose wife, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas, is a vocal right-wing activist. She has declared that America is in existential danger because of the "deep state" and the "fascist left," which includes "transsexual fascists." Thomas, a lawyer who runs a small political-lobbying firm, Liberty Consulting, has become a prominent member of various hard-line groups. Her political activism has caused controversy for years. For the most part, it has been dismissed as the harmless action of an independent spouse. But now the Court appears likely to secure victories for her allies in a number of highly polarizing cases—on abortion, affirmative action, and gun rights." The excellent Jane Mayer in The New Yorker: Is Ginni Thomas a Threat to the Supreme Court? (Short answer: Yes. But its scarier than that, and scarier than the fact that one of our lifetime-appointed justices is married to a dangerous extremist. It's this scary: The court is moving in the direction of Ginni Thomas.) David Dinielli, the visiting lecturer at Yale Law School, who was a deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center: "The Justices sit literally above where the lawyers are. For these people to do the job they were tasked with, they have to maintain that level. But this degrades it, mocks it, and threatens it ... Since the Court doesn't have an army, it relies on how it behaves to command respect. Once the veneer cracks, it's very hard to get it back."


Tong Tied

"Every single station picked it up. It's the biggest thing that we've ever seen." That's Ronan Le Bras' description of the size of Tonga's volcanic eruption. And that's saying something because Le Bras is "a geophysicist with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization in Vienna, Austria, which oversees an international network of remote monitoring stations." A nuclear-test monitor calls Tonga volcano blast 'biggest thing that we've ever seen.'


Weekend Whats

What to Watch: Yes, I doubted all the people who were saying that Pig with Nic Cage is one of the best movies around. I was wrong. It's awesome. And after you watch that, you can't go wrong rewatching Moonstruck.

+ What to Hear: John Mellencamp has a new album. Sounds good.

+ What to Family: The first half of Ozark's final season has dropped. Their family business is laundering money for a drug cartel, and still, their kids behave better than mine.


Extra, Extra

Pandemicania: Even though we're still dealing with the pandemic, the pandemic stock run has taken a big hit. Nowhere is that more evident than Peloton and Netflix which both just suffered big losses. Maybe everyone just switched to Wordle.

+ Dam Nation: "Using a 2,000-pound bomb against a restricted target like a dam is extremely difficult and should have never been done on the fly...Worst case, those munitions could have absolutely caused the dam to fail.' After the strikes, dam workers stumbled on an ominous piece of good fortune: Five floors deep in the dam's control tower, an American BLU-109 bunker-buster lay on its side, scorched but intact — a dud. If it had exploded, experts say, the whole dam might have failed." NYT: A Dam in Syria Was on a ‘No-Strike' List. The U.S. Bombed It Anyway. (It's hard to sugarcoat the fact that the US military is on a pretty bad losing streak, harming civilians, not winning.)

+ Genocide Effects:: U.S. lawmakers call Tesla expansion in Xinjiang 'misguided.'

+ Frat Chance: "After a series of suspensions over allegations of drugging and sexual assault, fraternities at the University of Southern California can start hosting parties again in March — if they hire security guards to keep people out of bedrooms." (Stay tuned for the "drunk security guard sexually assaults student" headline...)


Feel Good Friday

"'We should be angry about climate change and the destruction of ecosystems ... But without optimism, that outrage goes nowhere.' Examples of people restoring land give us all something to root for, and now there's a spot to find a whole bunch of them — tens of thousands, actually." Vox: This map may make you feel better about the state of the planet.

+ "A 57-year-old Tongan man being hailed a real-life Aquaman for surviving 27 hours at sea after Saturday's devastating tsunami struck his island said he went under nine times before latching onto a log and making it to safety."

+ "Maddie said she received a lot of support during her time at St. Jude, and she just wanted to give back." 16-year-old high school student donates over $30,000 to St. Jude's.

+ While a Denver restaurant is undergoing renovations, its owners are paying employees to do community service.

+ "I wanted to make sure teens have access to books that they can personally relate to or have interest in and not to let groups in our community dictate what we can and cannot read." Kutztown 8th-grader creates Teen Banned Book Club.

+ A 10-year-old girl survived a blizzard in Russia ... by hugging a stray dog for 18 hours. (I've done the same with my beagles during mild weather.)

+ And since we're heading into the most fun weekend in the NFL, let me say this: From the off-season through the playoffs, Jimmy Garoppolo could not have handled things with more humility, grace, and good cheer. During the same period, Aaron Rodgers could not have been more of a jackass. The footballs gods know this. 49ers will upset the Packers. (Also, the 49ers have the most innovative running game in football and the Packers aren't that good against the run. But the football gods thing is the key.)