Saturday, March 20, 2021

Weekend Reading: The Big Weekend Edition

This week, my county opened up vaccine availability to people with a list of medical conditions, including asthma. I took me a few days of trying, but I managed to get an appointment for a shot. I am getting my first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this afternoon. My husband doesn't qualify yet and obviously the kids are still unable to get vaccinated. 

We got an email yesterday with the details of our school's back to school plan. We'll have air purifiers that can replace the air every 12 minutes and windows will be open. Masks will be required. When the weather permits, lunch will be outdoors with kids six feet apart. The only thing I would have liked to see done differently is testing. Staff will be tested every two weeks and kids can optionally be tested for free every two weeks. I think more testing would be better, but oh well. Teachers will be teaching to the in person class and the online class at the same time, so kids will have to bring their computers to school everyday so that the kids at home can hear their questions, etc. I don't envy the teachers having to deal with the muting/unmuting but this seems like the best option. 

We have to make our binding decision this weekend. We are planning to let the kids go back to in person school. They both want to, even after reading the details of how it will be. 

And so, things will be changing around here. I am glad that I will be partially vaccinated before school starts. I wish my husband could be, too, but we think the school's plan is good enough that we can allow the kids back, anyway. 

It is so surreal to be sitting here in a county in which vaccinations are limited by supply and read about places like Alaska and Mississippi that have opened vaccinations to all residents over 16 due to lack of demand. We have a long road ahead with a lot of different obstacles to navigate through to get to herd immunity. 

Meanwhile, some states are seeing rising cases again. There are worries about a new surge in Michigan, and the Washington Post's tracker has cases high in New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island, too.

It is particularly distressing to see cases going up again now, when vaccines are available and we are so close to getting them to everyone. I am watching our local numbers nervously. We've moved to Calfiornia's "red tier" which allows for indoor dining at 25% capacity and some other indoor entertainment (like movie theaters) also at 25% capacity. I hope that non-vaccinated people still choose to do things outdoors as much as possible! Twice before we have gotten close to opening our schools only to have plans canceled by a surge in cases. I hope we don't do that again.

OK, on to some links:

This is a good summary of the concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe. Regulators have since allowed vaccinations to proceed. We don't know what caused the clotting issues in the affected patients but I can see why regulators were worried. I am particularly interested in the theory mentioned in the article that perhaps the affected people were already infected with COVID-19 - if that turns out to be a factor, it would at least give us a way to further reduce risk. 

Speaking of vaccines... this article about what messages helped sway vaccine hesitant Trump voters was interesting.

I haven't had a chance to read David Wallace-Wells' piece about how so many rich countries got things so wrong on COVID, but I hope to get to it this weekend. I think we really need to try to learn the lessons from this experience, not just for future outbreaks of novel viruses (which will surely come), but also for how we can get our governments to act on climate change.

Speaking of climate change... This is good news from Microsoft. Your move, other tech giants.

Adam Serwer's latest piece is really good and I'm failing to summarize it so just go read it.

Read about the victims in Atlanta. I have a long list of things I want to read from Asian Americans this weekend, to learn about how I can better support them right now. I will try to share some links on this next week.

Here are some things that made me smile this week:

I posted a new Where in the World quiz at Adjusted Latitutdes.


What a cool photo:

This story!

You really need to watch this video and be patient!

OMG the drone footage in this video is just stunning. I've enjoyed all of Patrick Dexter's cello videos but this may be my favorite.

More fun from Ireland:

And now for something ridiculous:

Here's your rabbit of the week:

Happy weekend, everyone!

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Weekend Reading: Better, Not Great Edition

This week was decidedly better than last week. I learned something interesting from my bad week, though. I had been trying to post a daily "good thing" on my Instagram account as a way to remind myself to find things to appreciate each day. That fell by the wayside last week. It turns out, that what I need isn't a reminder to appreciate something each day. That only works on my good and so-so days. I need a repository of good things I can go to for a pick-me-up on my bad days. I scrolled back through my old Instagram pictures a bit, and that helped but it wasn't quite what I wanted/needed and now I am pondering what would be and if I could make it.

I am sure you've seen the new CDC guidance on what fully vaccinated people can do. It was good to hear President Biden say that he's going to direct states to make all adults vaccine eligible on May 1. We will get our vaccinations as soon as we can. Our kids go back to in person school on April 12, and so soon we will not be able to keep our family in its protective little bubble. We will have a few weeks between the end of our protection by isolation and protection by vaccination - and even then, the kids won't be able to be vaccinated until later. 

They are still projecting vaccines for ages 12 and up by fall. Petunia turns 12 in October. This summer - the summer that we are all hoping will be a bit more normal - depends so much on adults taking the vaccine when it is available to them. COVID-19 is usually milder in kids, but some kids do still get sick and some die. Our kids need us to protect them until the vaccines are ready for them. Unfortunately, based on our performance in this pandemic to date, I am not optimistic that arguing that adults should be vaccinated to help protect children will be a useful thing to do. I am glad to see the vaccine promotion campaigns ramping up and I hope they work.

Despite the increase in risk to those of us who are not vaccinated, I am glad in person school is starting. School from home has been OK for us, but it has taken a toll on all of us, especially Petunia. So we filled out our survey to choose the hybrid in person option San Diego Unified will be offering, even though we have no real details on what that will look like. I hope they plan to take advantage of the fact that by mid-April our weather is pretty uniformly nice and use the outdoors a lot. I know they are getting good advice (they have been working with some experts from UCSD) and so far, I think they have navigated through this pandemic reasonably well. So I will wait and see what the plans are and hope for the best.

Meanwhile, I decided the kids need better masks. I bought some KF94 masks for us to try out and I like them. They fit me and the kids well (Mr. Snarky hasn't tried them yet) and they offer more protection to the wearer than a cloth mask. Pumpkin and I both find that they don't fog our glasses. Pumpkin, who has a thin face, has to tie a knot in the earloops so that the mask fits, but with that small and easy modification it fits her fine. The advice I read suggested looking for an option made in Korea as a way to help protect against counterfeits. These are the ones I have. I've bought a few packs for the kids to use at school, and I sometimes use one for situations where I need to be inside and/or near people for more than a few minutes. Other times, I double mask, since I still have some procedure masks to use up. I am not sure what I'll do once I use up my current stash of procedure masks. 

Anyway, on to the links. Better doesn't necessarily mean that I had time to read a lot of things... but to be honest my memory for that sort of thing is hazy these days, so I'll just go through the various places where I store things to share with y'all and see what I find.

The Novavax trial readout is encouraging. The world needs more vaccine. 

The news that the latest Ebola outbreak seems to have originated with a survivor of the 2014-2016 outbreak is stunning and worrying.

New archeological finds about the O'odham peoples, who are native to the place I grew up.

Ezra Klein's conversation with Dr. Nadine Burke Harris about toxic stress in children is really good.

And things that made me smile:

This poem, Autobiography of Eve , by Ansel Elkens, which ends with:

Let it be known: I did not fall from grace.

I leapt
to freedom.

I like this sculpture:

I think I need to take a trip somewhere to see mumurations of starlings. I am fascinated by them.

Your rabbits of the week posing for their latest album cover:

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Weekend Reading: Running on Fumes Edition

I had a tough work week, which ended with a couple of particularly tough days. I mean what can you say about the work week when one of the better days is the day in which you had twelve meetings? So I think this will be a short post this week, both because I didn't have a chance to read many things so I don't have much content and because I am a bit wiped out by the week - but still have a long list of things to do this weekend, made longer by the fact that I didn't get much beyond work done during the week.

One good thing did happen this week, though! Lagoonfire, by Francesca Forrest came out. It is the second book in the Tales of the Polity series, but although it is obviously set in the same world as the first book, The Inconvenient God, and it shares the same protagonist, it really does stand on its own. In the world of the Polity, gods can retire and in fact there is a government bureaucracy to help them retire. Decommissioner Thirty-Seven works in that bureaucracy and takes her work seriously. But she also befriends some of the gods she has helped retire and so when one of them is suspected of causing trouble at a new development in his old haunts, she gets involved... and quickly finds herself facing a past she'd rather forget and possibly some trouble of her own. 

I love the world Forrest has built, and I love the character of Decommissioner Thirty-Seven. The manuscript for this was the first book I was able to really read after the stay at home order came just about a year ago. It pulled me in and let me forget about the problems of this world for a little while. I hope it will do the same for you!

Oh, and hey - there is a launch event TODAY for this book. Check it out!

In other good things, I posted a Something Splendid over at Adjusted Latitudes. It is a picture from the trip to Mexico we took roughly one year ago.

Now, let's see what links I have for you:

Derek Lowe has a good write-up of where we're at with vaccines. I would happily take any of the three vaccines approved here in the US. However, I won't have that option for awhile unless I decide to start hanging out at pharmacies at closing time, hoping to luck into a dose that would otherwise go to waste.

I think the Senate should get rid of the filibuster (listen to Adam Jentleson's interview on Chris Hayes' podcast for the history of the filibuster and also Jentleson's argument about how getting rid of it would actually encourage more bipartisanship than keeping it and that will give you my reasons for getting rid of it) but if Democrats in the Senate don't have the votes to eliminate it, maybe they can at least reform it.

As an aside - that podcast link is to YouTube which I had never seen before! But you can also find Chris Hayes' podcast at the usual podcast places.

I didn't read much, but I did listen to a few podcasts. I like it best when I can take a walk after work and listen, but some days there isn't time for that and so I listen while I make dinner. Anyway, one of the ones I listened to this week was Krista Tippet's interview with poet Naomi Shihab Nye. It was a wonderful conversation. One thing that has stuck with me was a story Nye told about teaching a class in Japan, and one of the students telling her about the Japanese word yutori:

She said, “Well, here in Japan, we have a concept called ‘yutori,’ and it is spaciousness. It’s a kind of living with spaciousness. For example, it’s leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there, you have time to look around.” Or — and then she gave all these different definitions of what yutori was, to her. But one of them was: “And after you read a poem, just knowing you can hold it. You can be in that space of the poem, and it can hold you in its space, and you don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to paraphrase it. You just hold it, and it allows you to see differently.”

I also listened to a really interesting episode of Vox Conversations about psychedelics in early Christianity and the ancient world in general.

Somethings that made me smile:

These pictures of starlings in Ireland.

These boots! I looked at them and thought "I wish I were the type of person who wore funky shoes like that" and then I thought, why can't I be? So maybe I'll buy some boots when I have a chance to catch my breath.

This art:

Here's your bunny for the week:

Have a good weekend, everyone!