Saturday, January 08, 2022

Some Weekend Reading and Some Books I Read

We're through our first week back at school and so far we're all healthy (knocks furiously on wood). My kids report that a few kids were out in each class and that a lot of kids and teachers have upgraded their masks. My kids are still wearing their KF94s. I don't think it is reasonable to think they could keep a fit-tested, sealed N95/KN95 on for an entire day - they have to take the mask off for water breaks, eating lunch, etc. So, even if we "upgraded" to an N95 I don't think we'd actually get more protection. My reading is that a KF94 is roughly equivalent to a non-fit tested N95 (here's an article with a little more detail) and I just find the KF94s more comfortable and easier to put on and off.

We've had cold temperatures (leading to this unintentionally hilarious article in my local paper about our long string of sub-70 degree days) but sunny skies, so lunch has been outdoors.

Petunia also went back to her ballet class this week, but we got an email at the end of the week saying class would be on Zoom next week. The school had three kids report COVID cases (none in my daughter's class) and decided it would be better to go back to Zoom for a week or two. I am feeling really happy that Santa brought Petunia a home barre this Christmas....

I am going to mostly stay out of the raging online argument about whether schools should go back online for a few weeks, except to say that if the choice was between online school and what I'm reading about in NYC, I'd pick online in a heartbeat. That is of course easy for me to say as someone who works from home and has kids old enough to mostly handle online school on their own. 

My only comment - and strongly held opinion - is that if we, as a society, want to be sure schools stay open, we should provide all teachers and students with high quality masks, make sure schools have good air filters and ventilation, give families a way to let their kids do school remote or asynchronously if they suspect exposure, and most importantly take steps to bring down community transmission rates. It is nonsensical to me that the only thing we're talking about closing is schools. 

If you want to prioritize kids staying in school, you actually have to prioritize kids staying in school not just yell at teachers online.

I'm pretty lucky in that my district put air filters in all school rooms early on and our climate is such that doors and windows can be left open without turning everyone into icicles. We have a mask mandate and staff are required to be vaccinated. The district's attempt to mandate vaccines for students 16 and older is tied up in court, but they continue to push for vaccination and they are running clinics at the high schools to try to make it easy to get shots. They also offer free tests at school for students (and apparently any parents who want a test) once a week.

And now that boosters are authorized for 12 and up, we'll be getting Pumpkin boosted (Petunia will have to wait until late March since she only got vaccinated in October). We have an appointment for Wednesday after school. 

But our case rates continue to go up here so I still think we'll be lucky to get through January without getting COVID.

In other news...

Derek Lowe wrote up a pharma chemist's take on paxlovid manufacturing. As he and others had pointed out earlier on Twitter, the availability of the starting materials is likely to be a big factor in how quickly the drug can be manufactured, and these days those starting materials are probably made outside of the US, overwhelmingly in China. 

It is easy to lose faith in our fellow Americans right now, but this tweet was a good reminder that the overwhelming majority are OK. The problem is just that the 25% who aren't are so loud and obnoxious:

Chrysler says it is going to be an all-electric brand by 2028. Does this mean we'll get an electric minivan? A lot of us really want an electric minivan.

And my original plan for this post was to write a short update and then talk about books I liked in 2021, so let's end with some books I liked.

I didn't read as much as I would have liked because I'm having a really hard time with anything that makes me tense (or, as most people would call it "the plot"). But here are some I read and liked:

Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata. This is a translation from Japanese. It is about a woman who doesn't really fit into society's expectations for her.

Wilding, by Isabella Tree. This is a book about a British land owner's decision to "rewild" their estate. I found it fascinating.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors, by Kawai Strong Washburn. I struggled a bit with parts of this one because there are definitely people making some bad decisions (one of the biggest triggers of tenseness for me...) but it is a beautiful book about a Hawaiian family with one extraordinary member and how that both helps and hurts the family.

Sourdough, by Robin Sloan. A fun novel about a sourdough starter that changes a woman's life. 

I have found that sci-fi novels don't trigger that same "I can't handle a plot" reaction in me, so towards the end of the year, I started Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu. I really liked it and am still thinking about it. I'll probably read the next book in the trilogy soon.

I also have a couple of books I read aloud with Petunia that I can recommend:

Weird Kid, by Greg van Eekhout. I have enjoyed all of his middle grade books and this one was no exception. It is about a kid who is actually an alien and his struggles to find his place in life.

Here in the Real World, by Sara Pennypacker. Petunia and I both really loved this story of two kids on the edges who make themselves a sanctuary in an abandoned lot.

Finally, I've been reading poems before bed some nights and I really like that. A book of poems I read this year that I loved was Goldenrod, by Maggie Smith (of Good Bones fame).

And that's all I have today. I think it is time I get started on my to do list for the weekend. First up - take down the Christmas tree!

Have a good weekend, everyone!


  1. Anonymous1:52 PM

    Thanks for the book recommendations! I wonder if you would like Becky Chambers? She is a sci-fi writer with a progressive bent, and I find her work thoughtful and fun.

  2. Anonymous10:39 AM

    Sourdough was really a nice read and fun story. Thanks for the other book recommendations!
    ALWAYS appreciate your writing and your observations on and about the pandemic situation as your family deals with it.

  3. Unfortunately, I believe the vaccinated # for Americans is closer to 60%... Anyway, thank you for the book recommendations. They all look amazing and I'm definitely going to have to read them all! Wilding sounds especially cool!


Sorry for the CAPTCHA, folks. The spammers were stealing too much of my time.