The future of COVID: Multiple waves, multiple infections even within a year

Great. From The New York Times ($; emphasis mine):

A virus that shows no signs of disappearing, variants that are adept at dodging the body’s defenses, and waves of infections two, maybe three times a year — this may be the future of Covid-19, some scientists now fear.

The central problem is that the coronavirus has become more adept at reinfecting people. Already, those infected with the first Omicron variant are reporting second infections with the newer versions of the variant — BA.2 or BA2.12.1 in the United States, or BA.4 and BA.5 in South Africa.

Those people may go on to have third or fourth infections, even within this year, researchers said in interviews. And some small fraction may have symptoms that persist for months or years, a condition known as long Covid.

“It seems likely to me that that’s going to sort of be a long-term pattern,” said Juliet Pulliam, an epidemiologist at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

I’ve always had a lot of issues with the nation of my parents' origin. But I’ve never been so embarrassed about the place as I am now. And after the past six or more years, that’s saying something.

And thank you, John Oliver, for your praise of adobo (at 7:40 in this video) AND the wonderfully ridiculous Jollibee mascot.

Needed this. And I need more video for when I am feeling “Quiet and Numb.”

It’s a depressed Wilco kind of day.

I crave
Crazy times again
Our nights, our nights
Would never end
I’m ashamed
Of who I am
When I’m in pain

So I strive
To the nearest star
Street light
Over an idling car
Move across the seat
I’m going to need
You to drive these last few miles
‘Cause I’m tired of taking it out on you

The use of “family” as a metaphor for one’s workplace increasingly annoys me. Joe Pinsker addresses the “dark side” of all this in The Atlantic ($); emphasis mine:

But as a journalist covering work and families, I can’t help but notice another, entirely unintended meaning in this common corporate metaphor: Work is like family—in many unhealthy, manipulative, and toxic ways. When I hear something like We’re like family here, I silently complete the analogy: We’ll foist obligations upon you, expect your unconditional devotion, disrespect your boundaries, and be bitter if you prioritize something above us. Many families are dysfunctional. Likening them to on-the-job relationships inadvertently reveals the ways in which work can be too.

(I’m also impressed by how well he captures the nature of actual [dysfunctional] families.)

Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic ($) rounds up a wide variety of views on abortion (and is of course rather top-heavy with pro-choice views). But this statement from an abortion opponent states far better than I could my view of faith’s role in the public life of the individual (emphasis mine):

I am a devout Christian in a culture where it seems everything except my faith is considered a part of the public domain. My sexuality, I am told, is public but my faith is to be private. This constitutes a fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity. My faith is not a weekend hobby that I indulge within the confines of my private life for the purpose of emotional comfort. It could be argued that my sexuality is exactly that. Rather my faith is a way of ordering the whole of both my private and public selves. To exclude my faith from the public debate is to exclude me from the public debate.

Nuance, people. Why can’t people grasp this? From a Pew Research survey published this month:

There is evidence that many people are cross-pressured on this issue. For example, more than half of Americans who generally support abortion rights – by saying it should be legal in “most” or “all” cases – also say the timing of an abortion (i.e., how far along the pregnancy is) should be a factor in determining its legality (56%).

The same share of people who generally support legal abortion say abortion providers should be required to get the consent of a parent or guardian before performing an abortion on a minor (56%).

And about a third of Americans who generally support legal abortion (33%) say the statement “human life begins at conception, so a fetus is a person with rights” describes their own view at least “somewhat” well.

As for those on the “other side” …

At the same time, large shares of those who generally oppose abortion say it should be legal in certain situations or say their position depends on the circumstances. For example, among those who say abortion should be against the law in most or all cases, nearly half (46%) say it should be legal if the pregnancy threatens the health or life of the woman. An additional 27% say “it depends” in this situation, while 27% say abortion should be illegal even in circumstances that threaten the health or life of the pregnant woman.

More than a third of abortion opponents (36%) say it should be legal if the pregnancy results from rape, with 27% saying “it depends” and 37% expressing opposition to legal abortion even in this situation. And four-in-ten abortion opponents (41%) say the statement “the decision about whether to have an abortion should belong solely to the pregnant woman” describes their own view at least “somewhat” well.

Sadly, algorithms don’t capture nuance very well.

What is right is very rarely what is convenient.

Matthew Walther, “Overturning Roe Will Disrupt a Lot More Than Abortion. I Can Live With That.,” The New York Times ($)

I’m honestly not a big fan of this pro-life piece. (If you want a far more thoughtful pro-life essay in The Times, Tish Harrison Warren came through with one on Sunday.) But Walther’s kicker may be my quote of the day.

There is dignity in Dementia if we say there is. There is wisdom and humor and radiance if only we can see it. I make the effort because my mother does and because it is what she deserves after a long life well lived, harming no one.”

What a great piece Justin Chang has written in the L.A. Times ($): “From ‘Turning Red’ to ‘Everything Everywhere,’ the Asian (North) American mom goes mainstream.”

As Mother’s Day nears – my first since my mom’s passing – it kind of hits me in the gut in a sad and complicated way. These paragraphs (with my own emphasis added) especially linger for me right now.

Maybe you too were raised by an Asian American (or Asian Canadian) mom with some resemblance to Ming, a mom who only ever wanted the best for you and never let you forget it. And if you will allow me to generalize further, in hopes of getting more specific: Maybe she wanted you to enjoy the material benefits of a Western upbringing while still upholding the strict cultural traditions of an Eastern one — and to that end, she rigorously policed your academics, your extracurricular activities and your sorry excuse for a social life. Maybe she skimped on verbal and physical affection, favoring a love language that expressed itself in steamers full of dumplings or plates of sliced fruit.

Maybe she didn’t mind embarrassing you in public since your family, being of Asian descent and therefore of perpetual outsider status, didn’t really belong to that public in any meaningful sense. And maybe she’d blanch if anyone dared call her a “tiger mom,” a term popularized by Amy Chua’s 2011 memoir, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” and disavowed by many as offensive. Then again, if she’s anything like my mom, maybe she embraces the “tiger mother” label and wears it proudly. …

Asian American moms, in other words, are not a mom-olith. And it’s been gratifying to see so many recent mainstream movies arrive at that conclusion, several of them by way of richly imaginative premises that happily dispense with realism in favor of fantasy, science fiction and even horror. And why not? (Whose Asian American childhood wasn’t, at some point, a horror movie?) In “Umma,” Iris K. Shim’s muddled but intriguing ghost story, [Sandra] Oh plays Amanda, a quietly anxious Korean American mother whose lengthy estrangement from her emotionally abusive mother has sinister implications for her relationship with her own teenage daughter. Shim’s attempt to meld parental trauma and boogey-mom shivers isn’t entirely successful, but Oh’s performance sounds a resonant echo of her very different work in “Turning Red”: In both movies, a cycle of generational pain can be broken only when a controlled and controlling mother learns to relinquish her tight hold on her own kid — and, ultimately, herself.

Whether you like baseball or not, here's the kind of viral stuff we all need

I really needed a good kind of viral moment lately, and two baseball fans in Toronto gave me that.

And it led to this moment earlier today.

The Toronto Star spoke with the guy who caught the ball, who seems to be as cool as you hope he’d be. Also a great back story about the kid, who emigrated to Canada from Venezuela with his family and was named after Derek Jeter.

I just really hate that a Yankee made me cry in a good way.

(Also, the Blue Jays' George Springer gave the ball guy two signed jerseys for his kindness. Lots to love about this whole thing.)

New Wilco album out next month. New single out now. I’ve missed countryfied Wilco.

"It's time to talk about our billionaire problem"

Kevin Clarke writes in America magazine:

It is perhaps not a shock to discover U.S. oligarchs are generally interested in promoting policies that protect their wealth or allow them to accumulate more of it while countering legislation or social campaigns that promote income-building or wealth-equity efforts, or that protect the environment but add to industrial production costs. Is it time this collective power were restrained by sensible tax policies aimed at reducing the billionaire class’s accumulating economic and political might?

In a word, yeah.

Pope Francis has in recent years regularly dressed down the world’s wealthiest for not only declining to do their part to mitigate ecological and human suffering but for elevating the care and feeding of their personal fortunes as the primary good. In these pandemic times, Francis has talked a lot about building back a better world, one that includes a thorough examination of conscience of the role of finance and wealth in human economic and spiritual development and the protection of creation.

In doing so, he turns not to Marxist or Peronist economic doctrine for inspiration, as his many critics like to allege. His source material is simultaneously deeper and more simple. Despite what America’s prosperity gospelites prefer to believe, Jesus was not shy about his distaste for wealth accumulation and the personal and social imbalances, long before Marx, it seemed to produce.

Reconsidering the lesser (for now) of several toxic hellholes

Greg Bensinger in The New York Times ($) describes a Twitter nightmare scenario under Elon Musk:

Certainly, Twitter could benefit from some improvements to its service. Its rules are enforced unevenly; it is filled with racist trolling, harassment and misinformation. Politicians and celebrities also seem to enjoy a lighter touch from Twitter’s enforcement of its policies against misinformation, despite the evidence that they are more likely to be believed than regular users. Twitter’s usual approach to moderating content has been to slap warning labels on tweets, which are easy to ignore and don’t mitigate the damage done by misinformation.

Before and after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Donald Trump used Twitter to whip his followers into a frenzy. The company rightfully barred Mr. Trump from Twitter for his role in that shameful episode, but it had turned a blind eye to similar behavior for years.

Into that toxic stew comes Mr. Musk. He has called someone he disagrees with “pedo guy,” made jokes about women’s anatomy and was forced to delete a union-busting message aimed at his factory workers — all on the platform he’ll soon own.

Bensinger predicts toxicity if Musk makes good on his promise to loosen content moderation, and expresses the fear of many of us that he’ll reinstate Donald Trump. I don’t credit Joe Biden with the sweet, sweet civilized silence of the past year and a half so much as I credit Trump’s banishment from corporate social media.

Charlie Warzel, who “used to chronicle the way that Twitter’s product inaction created a ‘honeypot for assholes,'” is less downbeat about the platform’s Musky future in The Atlantic ($) – but not by much:

This timeline—the most plausible of the three—is a blend of the dark and the weird ones: In it, he reinstates some accounts like, say, Trump’s, the platform is fundamentally worse for it, and after a few early wins, he loses interest in the day-to-day operations. His early efforts will be exciting for him and maybe even consequential for us but, if 10 years of following Twitter’s content-moderation and management decisions have taught me anything, I am not sure the things he implements are going to yield the kind of results that can compete to keep his attention alongside everything his other companies are doing. And so some small things change but it’s not nearly as dramatic as we envision now.

I have chosen to be ignorant of Elon Musk, largely because my gut tells me his news coverage would make my stomach churn in the same way Trump’s coverage almost killed me for years. But I know enough to sense that it’s probably time for me to start backing away from Twitter in this new “free speech” era, broadcasting there periodically from my platform and doing little else.

Most of my direct activity on Twitter has involved carefully curated circles revolving around faith and baseball. I like interacting with people I choose to face there, mainly other Catholics who aren’t insane. They comprise a de facto community that I’ve needed, and I hope not to chuck it entirely. Because of that community, Twitter – for me, anyway – has become much less of a toxic hellhole in recent months compared with other corporate social media platforms.

It strikes me as a healthy thing, though, to reassess how much I really want to support what could devolve into an even worse toxic hellhole.

Random linkage: April 25, 2022

When you can’t really write about what’s weighing on you, go to God. And then go to Google. (Links in some kind of order, but I’m not sure what it is.)

Finally getting to see this: Jack White playing the National Anthem at a Detroit Tigers game. I think I actually like this more than Jimi Hendrix’s version.

The Sesame Street Word of the Day with “Ted Lasso’s” Brett Goldstein starts with “F.” And no, it’s not the one you’re thinking.

Logging this here for later viewing: Fr. Matthew Schneider, an autistic priest, has posted video of a Wheaton College presentation on autism in religious groups along with his review of it.

Been seeing a lot of ads lately on about Jesus. The “He Gets Us” campaign is “designed to createcultural change in the way people think about Jesus and his relevance in our lives.”

Relevant asks what the deal is with the ads. Christianity Today says the anonymous funders of this nondenominational campaign are willing to shell out up to $100 million to make Jesus as big a brand as Mercedes Benz.

Random linkage: April 19, 2022

Random linkage: April 13, 2022

As always, in no particular order.

A high-profile transgender psychologist is concerned about the recent spike in adolescents coming out as trans:

The people on the right … and on the left don’t see themselves as extreme. But those of us who see all the nuance can see that this is a false binary: Let it all happen without a method or don’t let any pass. Both are wrong.

Trans activists feel betrayed. But Erica Anderson, who has helped hundreds of young patients transition, sees it differently.

As millions of teenagers across the U.S. went into quarantine in 2020, Anderson found herself meeting more and more parents who were startled when their children came out as trans. The UC San Francisco adolescent gender center where she worked saw a total of 373 new patients last year — up from 162 in 2019. …

“To flatly say there couldn’t be any social influence in formation of gender identity flies in the face of reality,” Anderson said. “Teenagers influence each other.” …

“What happens when the perfect storm — of social isolation, exponentially increased consumption of social media, the popularity of alternative identities — affects the actual development of individual kids?” Anderson said. “We’re sailing in uncharted seas.”

In The New York Times: For a certain segment of American evangelicals, “right-wing political activity itself is becoming a holy act.”

Ian Bogost explores how fixing Facebook may be a matter of just making its users pipe down. As the headline on his Atlantic piece says, “People Aren’t Meant to Talk This Much.”

A lot is wrong with the internet, but much of it boils down to this one problem: We are all constantly talking to one another. Take that in every sense. Before online tools, we talked less frequently, and with fewer people. The average person had a handful of conversations a day, and the biggest group she spoke in front of was maybe a wedding reception or a company meeting, a few hundred people at most. Maybe her statement would be recorded, but there were few mechanisms for it to be amplified and spread around the world, far beyond its original context. …

The capacity to reach an audience some of the time became contorted into the right to reach every audience all of the time. The rhetoric about social media started to assume an absolute liberty always to be heard; any effort to constrain or limit users’ ability to spread ideas devolved into nothing less than censorship. But there is no reason to believe that everyone should have immediate and constant access to everyone else in the world at all times.

Random linkage: April 11, 2022

I bookmark a lot and print things and stash stuff in Pocket, but I don’t always get around to reading things. Maybe if I park links here to look at later, that might help. Or not.

Listed here, in no particular order: