Friday, March 29th, 2024


Absent Elementary

None of us will ever forgot the surreal scenes of empty streets, ghosted public spaces, and cardboard cutout fans in stadiums during the early days of the pandemic. In most cases, people have returned to the scenes of their lives. But there are some places where the return has been more sluggish. The office is one obvious example. Schools have also been hit hard. The reasons given are varied (anxiety, less connection with school, rips in social fabric, kids more likely to stay home with colds or coughs) but the numbers are remarkably consistent. Did your school open quickly during the pandemic or stay closed? Do you live in wealthy or less wealthy area? What's your race and gender? Doesn't matter: absenteeism is up. "The increases have occurred in districts big and small, and across income and race. For districts in wealthier areas, chronic absenteeism rates have about doubled, to 19 percent in the 2022-23 school year from 10 percent before the pandemic, a New York Times analysis of the data found. Poor communities, which started with elevated rates of student absenteeism, are facing an even bigger crisis: Around 32 percent of students in the poorest districts were chronically absent in the 2022-23 school year, up from 19 percent before the pandemic. Even districts that reopened quickly during the pandemic, in fall 2020, have seen vast increases." All this means the learning lost during the pandemic will be more difficult to make up. And it's a lesson, as if we needed one, of the longterm impact of a trauma that continues to change the world. NYT (Gife Article): ​Why School Absences Have ‘Exploded' Almost Everywhere. "The trends suggest that something fundamental has shifted in American childhood and the culture of school, in ways that may be long lasting. What was once a deeply ingrained habit — wake up, catch the bus, report to class — is now something far more tenuous." Let's face it. Our relationship to all of society's institutions has become far more tenuous over the past decade of pandemics and politics.

+ WaPo (Gift Article): Covid changed how we spend: More YOLO splurging but less saving. "Just like the Great Depression ushered in decades of frugality and austerity — with an entire generation reusing plastic bags, jam jars and aluminum foil — there are signs the coronavirus crisis has had the opposite effect: nudging Americans toward spending more, especially on experiences." (I'm pretty sure these numbers are skewed by the amount I paid for my Springsteen tickets last night.)


Kingdom Kong

"When Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, the city's people accepted, in good faith, Beijing's promises that its capitalist system and way of life would remain unchanged for 50 years and that the city would move toward universal suffrage in the election of its leader. Not anymore. Now Hong Kong people are quietly taking precautions, getting rid of books, T-shirts, film footage, computer files and other documents from the heady days when this international financial center was also known for its residents' passionate desire for freedom." Maya Wang in the NYT (Gift Article): Hong Kongers Are Purging the Evidence of Their Lost Freedom. "The Chinese government wants the world to forget about Hong Kong, to forget what the city once was, to forget Beijing's broken promises. But Hong Kong's people will never forget. Don't look away." Americans shouldn't look away, either. Democracy is fragile. Life can change in a blink of the historic eye. It can happen there, here, and everywhere.


The Days Are Long, The Years Are Longer

"The Wall Street Journal Russia correspondent was set to stay in an Airbnb in the edgy Neukölln neighborhood, a base to explore the city's cobble-lined streets with his tightknit crew of journalist pals exiled there from Moscow. He was going to drink coffee in hipster cafes and chat into the night over glasses of beer. It was the start of his stolen year." Evan Gershkovich's Stolen Year in a Russian Jail. "The Wall Street Journal correspondent has been deprived of 12 months of normal existence; a year of missed weddings, reporting trips and travels with friends." Why? Because Putin wanted another pawn to bargain with. And because he is a journalist. Authoritarians Threaten Journalists Around the Globe.

+ Indeed, one of the core tenets of authoritarianism is to threaten, jail, and otherwise harm journalists. So when a sitting US president calls the press "the enemy of the people," it's probably not a good idea to re-hire him.


Weekend Whats

What to Hear: Unless you've been off the grid, you've heard that Beyonce has a country album that just dropped. It's got some excellent covers, including a re-worded version of Jolene. Do yourself a favor and ignore all the political hogwash about who gets to be in country music. It's art. Rock on. And a bonus, and less obvious, music pick, check out Last Dinner Party.

+ What to Doc: Whenever my son is watching Only Murders in the Building, I find myself unable to explain what Steve Martin used to be, and just how remarkably huge he was. At long last, I've got some help. On AppleTV, Steve! (martin): A documentary in two pieces.


Extra, Extra

Paris the Thought: "The two-bedroom penthouse comes with sweeping views of the Eiffel Tower and just about every other monument across the Paris skyline. The rent, at 600 euros a month, is a steal." What gives? Well, it turns out that a "quarter of residents in the French capital live in government-owned housing, part of an aggressive plan to keep lower-income Parisians — and their businesses — in the city." Might be a good idea for your city, too. NYT (Gift Article): How Does Paris Stay Paris? By Pouring Billions Into Public Housing.

+ Non the Less: "Over a decade, more than 1,000 people died after police subdued them through means not intended to be lethal, an investigation led by The Associated Press found. In hundreds of cases, officers weren't taught or didn't follow best safety practices for physical force and weapons, creating a recipe for death." A special investigation of how non-lethal force can be lethal.

+ The Obsession: "The request goes into detail in seeking internal discussions around Spirit's efforts to create a diverse workforce 'and whether those commitments are unlawful or are compromising the company's manufacturing processes.' Paxton asked for a breakdown of Spirit's workforce by race, sexual orientation and other factors, and whether the makeup has changed over time." The Texas attorney general is investigating a key Boeing supplier and asking about diversity. Every time we think were out of this bullshit, they pull us back in. CNN: Michigan GOP legislator posted about ‘illegal invaders' at Detroit airport. It was Gonzaga's March Madness team. We need more diversity in government, starting with more sane people.

+ Scif Only: There are "plugs for as many as eight different secret connections at each desk, providing a full complement of options for secure and nonsecure communications. There are plenty of shredders with specially marked 'burn bags' for sensitive documents." Am I describing Mar-a-Lago? Nope, it's a new kind of co-working space for spies like us. In This Coworking Space, Only the Cappuccino Isn't Classified.

+ Saluting Louis: "Louis Gossett Jr., the tough guy with a sensitive side who won an Oscar for his portrayal of a steely sergeant in 'An Officer and a Gentleman' and an Emmy for his performance as a compassionate slave in the landmark miniseries Roots, died Friday. He was 87." The line "You better stop eyeballing me boy" has been stuck in my head for decades.

+ A's Effort: "Thousands of fans protested at the Oakland Coliseum for the Athletics' 2024 MLB season opener Thursday night, refusing to step inside the stadium." Good for fans to protest the team's move. Major bummer for players—especially those making their major league debuts in a crappy, empty stadium.

+ Big Dinghy Energy: "Pete Davidson and Colin Jost‘s decommissioned ferry boat may be docked silently in Staten Island right now, but the vessel is headed for a $34 million renovation that features multiple bars, restaurants and a hotel." This will either be a popular gathering spot or the most expensive joke ever. (Not counting the purchase of Twitter.)

+ Why Fi? "The idea that Wi-Fi actually means 'wireless fidelity' has been circulating on the internet since at least 2005, when Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing debunked that myth. In reality, the term was created by the marketing firm Interbrand, which also came up with the brand names for the anti-depressant Prozac and the computer company Compaq." Wi-Fi Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means.


Feel Good Friday

"Capturing a boom in women's sports exemplified by the University of Iowa's Caitlin Clark, bars showcasing only women's sports are having a marquee moment, one that's building into a trend." Fans are flocking to bars that show only women's sports on their TVs.

+ "Mason, now 49, attempted to vote in Fort Worth in 2016 even though she was ineligible because she was still on supervised release – which is like probation – for a tax felony. She has always maintained she had no idea she was ineligible and only tried to cast a ballot because her mother urged her to." Texas woman sentenced to five years over voting error acquitted. What say we stop trying to jail innocent voting cheats and start jailing actual voting cheats?

+ "Yale's marching band wasn't able to travel to the game in Spokane, Wash., due to previously scheduled spring break plans, according to ESPN. Upon hearing this, the marching band from the University of Idaho — which hosted the first two rounds of the tournament — volunteered to fill in." Why the University of Idaho marching band members are heroes in Connecticut.

+ "The superstar and her mother, Maggie Baird, were stunned by the music industry's lack of environmental action — so they've integrated their own into every element of the artist's business." Why Billie Eilish Insists on Sustainability in Her Career.

+ Tefillin groovy: "The neo-Nazi who inspired Edward Norton's skinhead character in 'American History X' has revealed he is now an observant Jew after turning his life around — and discovering his heritage through DNA testing."

+ They were each other's first crushes. 70 years later, they said ‘I do.'

+ Well, my SF Giants lost their opening day game. It's probably good news for you, as hours later I went to see Springsteen in SF. If the Giants had won and I got see the Boss on the same day, I very likely would have self-actualized and wouldn't need to do these daily roundups anymore. In the end, I got a lot closer to Bruce than to self-actualizing.