SL 784

Have you been staring at the title of books behind public figures as they work from home? I have. If you care about these things, here’s info about Prince Charles’ bookcase. (More pictures of his books here.) Mostly because I am estimating how much I could sell those book for on my weekend Etsy shop. Do have the “credibility bookcase?

I’m appalled at the politicization of social distancing. Here are a couple of articles on the topic.

How to cook dried beans.

I making stuffed jalapeños for Cinco De Mayo/Taco Tuesday. Steve is putting pork should in his Insta-Pot for pulled pork tacos.

Is this pandemic making you think about your favorite Stephen King novel? If so, I suggest his memoir about writing.

The New York Times’s updates have become part of my daily routine.

37 thoughts on “SL 784

  1. I don’t have bookcases in my background. 😦 Almost 7 years in this house, and I feel like we still decorate like college students.
    But if I had bookcases behind me and was asked to go on tv, I would have my romance novels and African American literature books behind me and I would dare anyone to criticize me for them.


  2. Spouse has bookcases behind him (because that’s where he keeps his books). He recently did a zoom call with friends (his work is done without video, though it has been remote from his location for years, with a cross-national team) and everyone said he looked all fancy. His room and desk are a mess, but, it looks good on zoom!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When I sit at my desk, the wall with the bookcase is to my side, not behind me. I guess if I were going to be filmed regularly, I’d have to reconfugure the room. But if I did that, my bookcase would be pretty credible, since it’s all boy books: the top 3 horizontal shelves are science fiction, but you might not see that on screen, and the rest goes soft science (i.e., bio) one shelf, hard science (i.e., physics and math) one shelf, history (8 shelves), local history (1 shelf), genealogy (1 shelf), and biography (3 shelves). The girl books (mysteries and chick lit) are consigned to the maid’s room.



    “On Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) announced an extension of Washington State’s stay-at-home order through May 31. But he also detailed plans to begin reopening some businesses in mid-May—and confirmed that, starting this week, outdoor recreation like fishing, golf, and hiking in state parks will be allowed again with some restrictions.”

    “The governor unveiled a four-phase plan for easing restrictions on Friday. The state will stagger each one by at least three weeks to allow the time needed to evaluate the changes and make any necessary adjustments, based on several models and metrics, including counts of confirmed cases, hospitalizations, testing capacity, case and contact investigations, and social distancing trends.”


    “It’s a delicate task with high stakes and experts and local insiders hope it will mark a sharp contrast with how things began playing out in Texas, where cases surged as restrictions were eased.”

    This is INSANELY stupid. The Texas easing has not been going on long enough for it to be the explanation. Our retail easing only started Friday. Before May 1, we had one week of state parks opening (with lots of restrictions). Some other stuff opened up on April 27, but I can’t recall what it was. May 1 (literally 3 days ago) was the big reopening day, and it was mainly retail.

    I think there’s a coronavirus narrative in the national media of “blue state good” and “red state bad,” which seems to be quite disconnected from the actual policies and events on the ground.


    1. I wasn’t out and about on Friday May 1, but I was grocery shopping on Saturday May 2 and it seemed like unusually heavy traffic even around 8:30 AM. I think there was genuinely a surge of activity around then, but that wouldn’t be generating a spike of COVID-19 cases two days later.


      1. y81 said, “I think you can omit the word “coronavirus” from your last sentence rather comfortably.”


        It’s especially irritating in this situation, though, where it’s literally a matter of life and death to get the details right.

        Relate: Dan Foster had a tweet today where he said, “We had a lockdown policy driven by the worst effected areas and we’ll have a reopen policy driven by the least effected areas. Bob, it’s not great.”

        That’s pretty close to the truth.

        Some other people have noted that Colorado (blue governor) and Georgia (red governor) have very similar reopening plans–which really messes with the partisan framing of the reopening issue.

        “Gov. Jared Polis announced a relaxation of his state’s stay-at-home edict two weeks ago, permitting curbside retail sales, real estate showings and voluntary or elective medical, dental or veterinary procedures.”

        Two weeks ago!

        “On Friday, a wider reopening was permitted, as retailers can allow in-person shopping. Barbershops, salons, personal trainers and tattoo parlors were allowed to restart, too — all must observe strict social distancing guidelines. And on Monday, offices will be allowed to reopen with up to 50 percent of their workforces.”

        “Of the 24 states reopening early, 17 are led by Republicans and seven by Democrats, according to the NBC News state tracker. Colorado and Montana were the two Democratic states moving most quickly to begin to get back to normal.”

        Colorado has had roughly the same number of COVID-19 fatalities as TX (both in the neighborhood of 840 deaths)…despite having 1/5 of TX’s population.


      2. About Colorado, the outbreaks were mainly in the resort areas and Denver. In the early days, wealth was a definite vector.


    2. “cases surged as restrictions were eased” is carefully worded to imply correlation (without stating causation — which could have been written, “cases surged because restrictions were eased”). My concern about other states is if there is testing a data keeping. When I looked last week, I saw sparse data at the Texas DOH, but now, you can download the case counts & deaths & hospitalizations.

      Comparing Texas and WA, there are 30K cases in TX, out of about 400K tested, and about 900 deaths, for a positive rate of about 7.3% and a fatality rate (of known cases, and we know this isn’t a complete number and depends on how many tests are administered and how states classify cases as COVID deaths) of 2.7% in TX and 5.4% in WA. WA has tested about 2.6% of it’s population to TX’s 1.4%.

      My worry for Texas is that TX is still detecting 800-1000 cases per day (a plateau) and that there are 1500+ hospitalized patients and that the deaths skew slightly younger than in WA (where the majority of deaths are in the >80 population). But, the fatality is 20-30 (WA is at 10-20, but the last week of data is always lagging), and TX does not seem like it has any shortage of beds/ICU.

      I think that everyone should avoid the politicization as much as possible, but also follow the data. We will get data, if it is being collected and analyzed and I have higher hopes for that data availability seeing the TX site more recently.


  5. The Titania McGrath parody Twitter account is a fave of mine: background bookshelves!!

    Titania McGrath

    The best thing about these Skype TV interviews is we can be on the lookout for problematic material on politicians’ bookshelves.

    I’m compiling a database of MPs who might be reading beyond the scope of permitted opinions.

    Report any suspicious books to me. I’ll do the rest.


  6. Colorado appears to have let local jurisdictions make their own decisions — Denver extended the order until May 8th, though it seems like it will expire then.


    1. While we will note that Georgia’s governor expressly prevented localities from making other choices.

      I think there are good arguments for local differences, especially in big states with naturally separated populations. Colorado, Washington, New York (the state, while I think the New York Metro area including Connecticut, New Jersey, etc. needs to make a common decision). WA has a natural boundary at the cascades, if people respect it (but that means they can’t come to Olympia to hold protests).


  7. We just got an email from school announcing senior college picks. It looks like slightly over 60% of our small 2020 graduating class (less than two dozen kids) is going to Hometown U. I haven’t had a chance to talk to people and I know that there would be a substantial number going to Hometown U. no matter what, but I wonder if there has been a shift in preference toward local colleges this spring? Six other kids are going to out-of-town TX colleges, one is going to a private CA college you’ve heard of and one (Hispanic and an excellent “life story”) is going to Harvard.

    I personally feel very happy about not having to think about the logistics of getting a kid back and forth from a distant college during the plague.


    1. I think a lot of parents feel this way, that they want to hold their child close. But, that solution only works for some young adults (because, really they are not kids any more). The transitional independence really matters to some of them (and some of them use it well).

      But, even though I am a big fan of books like How to Raise an Adult, I do think some kids benefit from more measured and parented transitions.


  8. Here’s a history of Sesame Street:

    “For kids who were under six in 1969, watching “Sesame Street” had a measurable effect on what is known as “grade for age” status: they entered school at grade level, and, in elementary school, they stayed on grade level, an effect that, the study concluded, “was particularly pronounced for boys, black, non-Hispanic children, and those living in economically disadvantaged areas.” And it cost only five dollars per kid per year.”


  9. Laura tweeted, “When do you think we’ll blow past the 100,000 death count? Next week?”

    If the current death toll is roughly 70k, it’s physically impossible to get to 100k by next week with current mortality levels (unless we’re switching counting methods midway).

    But yes, we do get to 100k no matter what.


    1. No, we did not need to get to 100K no matter what. I couldn’t with any degree of humility suggest that we could have certainly mitigated the number. But, other countries have potentially done better.

      Looking at the COVID forcasts and IHME, TX’s curve looks flat and stretched out, with numbers of deaths not outsizes for its population, as long as TX stays on the predicted average and doesn’t blow up. It looks a bit like Sweden, and, could work out OK (i.e. with no blow up, as in NY and NJ).


    2. And, yes, the current rate of deaths/day would have to double to reach 100K in a week (which even the high projections at IHME do not predict). But, at May 1’s rate, we would reach it in 2 weeks, and with the predicted decrease in deaths in 3 weeks (May 21, according to IHME). Worth remembering the date and the milestone as a test of the prediction capabilities of the model.


    3. bj said, “No, we did not need to get to 100K no matter what. I couldn’t with any degree of humility suggest that we could have certainly mitigated the number. But, other countries have potentially done better.”

      I think you may have misunderstood me. What I mean is, given where we are now, the US will eventually get to 100k.

      I’m not saying that 100k was unavoidable 4 months ago, just that it is inevitable now.

      With regard to other countries doing better–our deaths per million population are comparable to a number of Western European countries, worse than some (Germany) and better than others (Belgium, Italy, France and the UK). Our numbers do looking shocking when compared to many areas of East Asia–but so do typical Western European numbers. Heck, even a Western European model like Germany (around 7k) looks really bad next to South Korea (250ish). Places like Taiwan and Hong Kong have somehow had only single digit deaths so far, despite heavy exposure to China.

      “Looking at the COVID forcasts and IHME, TX’s curve looks flat and stretched out, with numbers of deaths not outsizes for its population, as long as TX stays on the predicted average and doesn’t blow up. It looks a bit like Sweden, and, could work out OK (i.e. with no blow up, as in NY and NJ).”

      We have the uncomfortable situation locally that our county has done really, really well compared to TX generally. Our county has had fewer than 100 cases total and several deaths over the last 7 weeks. The shutdown has worked really well. The county has very slow linear growth in cases and currently over 85% percent of people who’ve had it have recovered. That’s the good news.

      The bad news is that the state of TX has much faster linear growth than our county and as things open up, I expect that our local bubble is about to be swamped. But we may be headed for a summer pause…

      (Comparison of county and state linear growth provided by my husband.)

      Hair salons opening Friday and gyms May 18! They’re still working out the details of bar reopenings.

      If I had my druthers, the openings would be staggered a bit more, but here we go.


  10. Here’s a big problem with the current situation:

    We were told that we needed to “flatten the curve” and keep hospitals from collapsing. Northeastern hospitals (and a handful in other places in the US) have had a rough go of it, but the flattening the curve goal has been largely achieved. At the national level, COVID-19 has not overwhelmed US hospitals.

    The problem is that there has been some noticeable goal post-shifting from “flattening the curve” to a much murkier, further off goal. Waiting for the vaccine, etc. While there is some very hopeful news about vaccines (I saw something today about September), keeping the economy closed down until there’s a vaccine is not a reasonable goal.

    It is possible to have more reasonable goals (like Fauci’s “checkpoints”), but in some states, there really hasn’t been very clear communication as to the path forward. Lack of a path forward and clear goals is going to hurt (and is hurting) public compliance.

    Another problem: we went from NO MASKS! IF YOU WEAR A MASK YOU ARE STUPID AND SELFISH! to MASKS ARE MANDATORY! so fast that many of us have whiplash from it. There have been radical changes in official and media messaging, accompanied both by incompetence and by unassailable self-confidence in their right to tell people what to do. This is annoying, even to somebody like myself who is a COVID-19 hawk and was pro-mask before masks were cool.

    Lastly, there are too many of us and this is going to take too long for various safety measures to be imposed on the public by fiat with brute force–especially when the guidelines aren’t well thought out. Safety measures have to be reasonable, there has to be room for discussion and input from the public, there has to be an easy to understand plan, and they have to be something that WE are doing together, not something that the authorities are trying to enforce on the public.


    1. Another thing: a lot of closures and restrictions were because it was “easier for them” as opposed to the things being forbidden being dangerous.

      See, for example, banning yard services from operating, not permitting curbside pickup of non-essential retail items, closing state parks, closing beaches, banning fishing, forbidding golf and tennis, etc. Those things were done not because the activities were dangerous (they’re not), but because it’s easier to police if everything is closed down.

      “Easier for them” works in the other direction, too. See, for example, the NYC subway. It’s much more dangerous than beaches, but it has been kept open (and filthy) because it’s “easier for them.” The MTA is only now in May, now that the epidemic is starting to ebb in NYC, starting to do substantial subway cleaning and disinfecting.


    2. Washington state has a strategy that is not murky: test, trace, isolate (catchy and has a hashtag). The strategy requires shared resources, since it depends on the availability of tests, decreasing the number of reported cases down to a level that is traceable, and the tools and investment to isolate (including among those who will need resources to isolate).

      The state is ramping up testing substantially and hiring tracers. I’m less confident that the numbers of cases will reach a traceable level — if the case load plateaus at too high a level with essential services (grocery stores) tracing might not be possible. And, isolation costs money, including the motels/hotels for those who cannot isolate in their own homes. It’s a slow slog and potentially economically costly, but is a strategy motivated by science.

      Assessing the economic and political cost and accepting 130,000+ deaths, with the possibility of uncontrolled outbreaks raising that total (or unknown factors mitigating it) is also a strategy. And I am not caricaturing this strategy — all choices have costs and benefits and minimizing COVID deaths cannot be our only strategy.

      I am not finding the miracle medicine (drugs, vaccine, immunity cards) to be the ones being pushed in WA (which I think is a model of the politically progressive COVID approach).


      1. bj said, “I am not finding the miracle medicine (drugs, vaccine, immunity cards) to be the ones being pushed in WA (which I think is a model of the politically progressive COVID approach).”

        The West Coast and East Coast have been pretty distinct, haven’t they, despite both being politically progressive?

        There’s also the uncomfortable question–what if people don’t want to be isolated? What legal machinery is available to make people stay put?

        In the good old days, they would lock you up if you had TB and not let you out until you were cured or dead and that’s more or less how Asian countries do it with COVID-19–but do we have the guts for that? And have we even had that conversation yet? The up side of this is that the period of isolation wouldn’t be long (especially compared to TB), but are we ready and willing to do it?


      2. We’d have to test enforcement but I do believe there are still fairly broad powers to force people to isolate if they are deemed infectious.


    3. I really agree that the goal of shutting down was to flatten the curve. We’ve accomplished that, but it seems unclear where to go next. There’s no way for it not to be controversial now. Getting people to buy in when it isn’t an urgent emergency is much harder.

      I feel like a very slow reopening to something economically sustainable needs to happen, but the timeline is unclear and probably regionally dependent. At the same time it’s undeniable that there will be increasing spread and danger involved in anything that involves more social interaction. We can’t get down to zero cases, but what are we willing to tolerate?

      There’s also the added factor that making slow steps soon will be needed to have any chance to be ready for any kind of physical school in the fall which has to be a goal for so many reasons.


      1. Dana said, “There’s also the added factor that making slow steps soon will be needed to have any chance to be ready for any kind of physical school in the fall which has to be a goal for so many reasons.”

        That’s a fair point.

        We can’t open schools in August or September without having done some smaller scale trials.


    4. ” See, for example, banning yard services from operating, not permitting curbside pickup of non-essential retail items, closing state parks, closing beaches, banning fishing, forbidding golf and tennis, etc. Those things were done not because the activities were dangerous (they’re not), but because it’s easier to police if everything is closed down. ”

      “They are not [dangerous]” is not something anyone should say. Less dangerous? Worth the risk? Low risk?”

      Yes, in an emergency, broad strokes are applied both because they are easier to comply with and because they are easier to enforce and mean less nit picking about details (and, beaches and parks were closed in our state because people were using the places to gather).


      1. “In an emergency, broad strokes are applied . . . .” Yes, but always shaped by the interests and ideology of those in power. So Democrats ban gun sales, and Republicans ban abortions.


  11. Run a news search for “county will not enforce stay at home order” and “in defiance of governor’s order.” Many governors have forgotten about that obscure concept, “the consent of the governed.”

    I believe that consent is being withdrawn. Authority, once lost, is difficult to reestablish. People will not consent to lose all their possession, the roof over their heads, and starve, especially when the difference between “essential” and “non-essential” is whimsical. Such a shutdown has already been maintained longer than I would have thought possible.

    I see signs that businesses are opening up, with or without permission. At a certain scale, it’s not possible to put the genie back in the bottle.

    I recommend you read this. IANAL, but I believe if the government were to order landlords and banks holding mortgages to forgive mortgage or rent payments, that would be a taking. There isn’t an infinite supply of money.

    The general trend to moving to Florida and business-friendly states will only strengthen. If you had a young relative who wanted to start a business this year, would you send them to New York City, Miami, or to Texas?


    1. Takings just have to be paid for, which would mean that we would all pay. And, the “freedom” argument plays for me when it is an individual relationship with people making personal choices, but less so when it is an attempt to pressure or coerce people who feel that it would be dangerous for them to work to work (i.e meat packing plants) while I am free to make as restrictive social distancing as I choose (as long as people still keep making food for me, since I am growing my own food and have not stored lots of protein).


    2. I’m sure compliance is incomplete and we do need to grapple with reasonably different choices to be made in different areas (in WA, there was a report that counties would be allowed to open up after some period of 0 cases, even if there were not 0 cases statewide). But, perfect compliance cannot be the requirement for the reasonability of any requirement. People will speed, for example, and yet, reasonable restrictions can reduce traffic fatalities.


  12. “Even with the smartest people in the universe — quite a number of whom live right here in Washington state — that does not mean they have a crystal ball,” Inslee said in an interview. “We’ve had to make assumptions recognizing that there’s a high level of uncertainty.”

    This is what I’m hearing from our leaders and scientists and what I also believe.


  13. This is really good:

    “UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said Tuesday that the university is going to begin mass testing students for the novel coronavirus as a major step toward resuming on-campus courses in the fall. The school’s experimental “Return to Learn” program will begin May 11, when UC San Diego starts giving self-administered tests to 5,000 students who are living in campus housing.

    “If the program works, campus officials plan to test about 65,000 students, faculty and staff on a monthly basis.”

    “UC San Diego will become the first campus in the University of California system and one of the first in the U.S. to broadly test students for the coronavirus — an undertaking it is well-suited to do. It operates UC San Diego Health, which includes two major hospitals and many clinics, all which are tied to one of the largest medical research programs in the U.S.”


Comments are closed.