SL 814

I’m juggling three depressing, but important articles right now. (I have never worked on a project before where so many people end up crying on the phone with me.) I have to prepare a large shipment of books that are going to a library in a winery in Napa Valley. But I am about to walk away from the computer for a good long hike in the woods with the reward of pizza and wine at a restaurant afterwards. Yes, schools are closed here, but restaurants are open.

The NYT’s Best Books of 2020 list is here.

I’ve got to change my newsletter over to Substack. Right now, I’m using the Mailchimp platform, which isn’t the best platform for writers. Since Substack has a comment feature, I’m think about making it the permanent home of Apt. 11D. Bad idea? Opinions? Some people don’t like this newsletter movement, but it’s just another form of blogging.

On the tube: Finished The Crown. Watched King of Staten Island. Need something new. Hillbilly Elegy is getting back reviews from the woke twitter types, but my local friends are loving it. I might check it out. How can anything with Glenn Close be bad?

Reading: Nothing at the moment. Before I started this article, I was reading up famous disabled people from the past, like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s older sister who went blind. I read one romance novella, too. Once I get to the other end of the mess of interviews and notes, I’ll tackle something new.

Lots of food happening here.

32 thoughts on “SL 814

  1. Kitchen looks nice!

    Mailchimp just sounds dumber than substack, and substack seems to be doing very well right now.

    Maybe keep both your current blog platform and start a new substack one–if it’s not too much trouble? I feel like there are a lot of issues with platforms these days, so keeping multiple “addresses” is a good idea. (Case in point–can you believe that Caitlin Flanagan got put in twitter jail? I love twitter’s functionality, but twitter has the dumbest modding of any online entity I know.)


    1. Doug said, “I’m probably an outlier, but I am not a newsletter reader. They just sit there in the mailbox, unread.”

      I don’t think that’s outlier-ish at all.

      I’m signed up for The Dispatch (Jonah Goldberg and David French’s new outfit). I read Goldberg’s Wednesday and Friday G-Files pretty religiously, and I read or skim most of their Morning Dispatches over breakfast, as it’s a convenient news digest, but I definitely don’t read everything they send me and I don’t want more mass email.

      If I were to sign up for more newsletters, it would definitely be @politicalmath (the amateur COVID twitter guy who does a lot of in-depth pieces) and possibly jesse singal, as I often see that they’ve written stuff that I would like to read that is subscriber-only.


  2. Is a newsletter easier to monetize than a blog? Is that the main reason for switching? I don’t subscribe to any, partly because I don’t have an active paypal account or any other newfangled method of payment, and I don’t like having my credit card out there with every little business. I guess some of them are free but I’m tired of all the email anyway, and I assume some would share it and I’d get a lot more ad email.

    I can’t believe some states are allowing restaurants to be open with indoor seating. And why on earth risk going if they are? Our town has a massive project to support local ones by buying gift cards (there’s a whole FB page with 5000 members, and a town leader who runs gift card drawings), and we do takeout a lot. And a few are still doing outdoor seating when the weather is decent.


    1. I don’t really do this for the money. No, I thought that I would be able to reach a broader audience, if content just appeared in a mailbox, rather than having to go to a website to seek it out.


    2. My email is enough of a mess that the delivery of newsletters doesn’t make them accessible to me. I subscribe to yours & Emily Osters and I don’t see them. I might need to set up an email for subscribing to newsletters if that became the main mode.


  3. Have you read Prairie Fires by Carolyn Fraser? I learned so much from this book, especially about agriculture and how the cards were stacked against the homesteaders because the land in much of the Dakotas was more suited for grazing than wheat. Hence Charles Ingalls was never able to make his fortune as a farmer and ended up working in town in De Smet. But the homestead act meant lots of money for the railroads.
    The book covers Mary Ingalls’ education at a school for the blind and sadly the fact that a lot of letters at her house were thrown out after her death.


  4. It always struck me as odd, that a family who were on the verge of poverty so much of the time, should have spent the money on an expensive 7 years of college for their oldest blind daughter. After all, it was *highly* unusual for any frontier girl from a farming, working-class family to be sent away to college at all. It certainly wasn’t expected.
    I’ve always wondered how her sisters felt about this. Laura basting shirts (which she hated) for 25 cents a piece to help send her sister to college – has always struck me as an incredible sacrifice.
    I’ve always wondered if she married so young to get out from under the shadow of her older sister, and the pressure of expectations (to which she could never live up) from her parents.


    1. That is such an interesting question! She attended the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School and from what it says on Wikipedia it wasn’t really a college degree that she got, as it says:

      “ Instruction was provided in specialized areas of core curriculum for students with visual impairments, which include compensatory skills, orientation and mobility, social interaction skills, independent living skills, career education/work experience, use of assistive/adaptive technology and visual efficiency skills”

      After she finished she returned home and helped support the family with various types of handiwork.

      I have heard that schools were sometimes called “colleges” in those days. But I agree, there seemed to be a way in which Laura was worked pretty hard by her family. I’m not sure how fair it was.


      1. I was just starting this research, when I had to put it down for a paying gig, so I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that the Ingalls family made choices similar to those of the Apt.11D family and every other family with a disability. We put the money into the disabled kid, because without training, his life will be horrible. And everybody else within the family has to sacrifice.


      2. Marianne said, “I have heard that schools were sometimes called “colleges” in those days.”

        My great-grandmother was a frontier kid on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in the very early 20th century. (The frontier lasted a lot longer in WA.) She went to school locally probably until 8th grade. There was no local high school at the time, so she went to high school at Washington State in Pullman, nearly 500 miles away, which is far away today, and would have been even further given the transportation issues of the time. Not sure what WSU was called at the time or why she couldn’t do high school in the Seattle area, which was closer.

        Great-grandma didn’t stick it out, came home, and got married at 18 in 1915 to a guy 10 years older than herself–which is virtually identical to Laura Ingall’s timeline, just 30 years later.

        I’m vaguely recalling that in Anne of Green Gables, Anne also has to leave home in order to get a high school education, which was a pretty big deal at the time. Anne’s (fictional) timeline, cribbed from Wikipedia:

        –Anne finishes school in Avonlea and goes to Queen’s Academy and gets her teaching certificate in one year, not two
        –Anne teaches at Avonlea from 16-18
        –Anne gets a BA and gets engaged to Gilbert Blythe.


      3. Indeed, there’s an outsider’s tendency to imagine that families will “cut their losses” for some of their children and move on (the advice given to families in the 50’s, to institutionalize their children) that does not fit with how fiercely many families love all of their children. I don’t think we should be surprised that the Ingalls did what they could to help the child who they thought needed help the most and, also not surprising that this was required to be a family enterprise.

        It is clear that it was a significant burden on Laura. Folks mention the basting, but, I always remember how the courtship of Almanzo & Laura deepened. In her teaching gig, she is boarding with a family where the subtext is that she feels unsafe. Almanzo picks her up every weekend and brings her home.


    2. I have a copy of Prairie Fires that I got halfway through before the allure of romance novels kicked in again. I just skimmed some passages about Mary, and it looks like they got some state aid to pay for Mary’s tuition, plus the work Laura did.


      1. I’m in a serious reading rut now due to unimaginable piles of grading, but I hear that Loretta Chase has a new historical romance out today called 10 Things I Hate About the Duke, and it sounds good. Alyssa Cole’s How To Catch a Queen is out tomorrow.



      My guy @politicalmath comments:

      “Contact tracing is broken. It’s a theory that does not work in practice.
      Public officials should stop complaining about and lecturing their constituents and start thinking up new things that actually help.”

      “Additional thought on contact tracing:
      The best way to make contact tracing work is to go back in time 5 years and develop an extremely aggressive approach to phone scams.
      I’ve gotten 3 phone scam calls TODAY!”

      “This is an ongoing theme with the COVID crisis.
      Almost all the potential solutions require living in a society that hasn’t had it’s institutional trust dangerously eroded over the past 10-20 years.”

      It’s very bad that the backbone of the Asian success stories has been such a flop in the US. I have yet to hear of a region in the US that has successful contact tracing. (Some US colleges may be successful with contact tracing, but I suspect them of using thumbscrews to get results.)


    2. Lyman Stone has a much more sympathetic read on the good people of NJ, and a much less sympathetic read on the NJ state government.

      Lyman Stone (who was until recently living in Hong Kong) points out that NJ is not even trying to reach about a third of contacts and that people who aren’t reporting contacts may not have any contacts.

      Also, he notes that there is a way to strengthen the value of contact tracing. He suggests doing what they do in Hong Kong and publicizing where COVID positive people have been (maybe with a bit of anonymizing fuzzing up of details), so that people can check for hot spots and decide which places to avoid for a bit or maybe independently decide to go for testing.


  5. I just got a call purporting to be someone from the CDC gathering info about childhood vaccinations. I didn’t pick up, of course – only the number showed up and they left a voice mail asking that I call back. I went online and looked up the number, and it took me straight to the page where there was information about the survey and a confirmation that it was legit, so I answered when they called back just a few hours later. I wonder if all of the contact tracers have a similar process with clear backup. I would hope so, but the lack of a coordinated national strategy makes me doubt it.


    1. One of my children was chosen for that survey years ago. Maybe 7 years ago? At any rate, when it’s a minor, they call a parent. They got my cell # from the pediatrician.


  6. Family all activated the contact/reporting on our phone (200K after the release was announced today). Youngest kiddo did it first and without any consideration whatsoever, saying, yup, I’m tracked all the time. Next kiddo installed it though she finds it a little bit disturbing. Next me, with the same sentiment (and I had to upgrade my operating system to do so). Then spouse, who did it a bit reluctantly.

    Why was I willing? I actually know the person who lead the development the app, and have a certain amount of personal trust in both his ability and his beliefs. Pandemics challenge our notions of privacy, and success in mitigating the effects relies on taking some chances.

    Kiddo has a great deal of trust with the people he actually hangs out with, saying that he thinks they would certainly tell him if they tested positive (i.e. he expects personal contact tracing). And, we hear that the first batch of medicos might be getting a vaccine in mid December (a parent of a friend).


    1. bj said, “Kiddo has a great deal of trust with the people he actually hangs out with, saying that he thinks they would certainly tell him if they tested positive (i.e. he expects personal contact tracing).”

      My husband has mentioned that possibility, too–that people (especially young people) do tend to announce stuff on social media or group texts, so friends and family are likely to get tested. (But probably not likely to isolate?) But public health people wouldn’t necessarily see this activity happening.

      At this point, our points of close contact with the outside world are pretty limited and involve people or entities that would alert us. My husband and our college freshman are done with in-person class for now, we’re keeping the 10th grader home for the week, so (at least this week) it’s down to the 2nd grader being in school in-person and me yakking with my BFF out on her porch.


  7. My state doesn’t have a contact tracing app yet.

    The number of scam calls definitely make it difficult to contact people. At this point, the cyber security advice I’ve been reading and listening to is saying, “don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize.” The emerging etiquette is to LEAVE A MESSAGE so I can call back.

    Of course, I’m sure there are scamsters calling, claiming to be contact tracers. And I search for this, and find out, sure enough:

    There’s no question, contact tracing plays a vital role in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. But scammers, pretending to be contact tracers and taking advantage of how the process works, are also sending text messages. But theirs are spam text messages that ask you to click a link. Check out the image below. Unlike a legitimate text message from a health department, which only wants to let you know they’ll be calling, this message includes a link to click.

    Don’t take the bait. Clicking on the link will download software onto your device, giving scammers access to your personal and financial information. Ignore and delete these scam messages.

    So, each tracing authority should have a central phone number people can call that routes them to their particular tracer, for example, “if you know your party’s extension, dial that now.” (So I’d dial 1234 for the contact tracer who’d left that extension on my voicemail.)

    It has to be a number people can check online and call directly; otherwise, of course, scamsters will leave their own numbers.


  8. I need to provide more gift guides and regular content here. I’ve just been totally slammed with work. I’m going to take a breather for an hour or two and come back here. Sorry for the delays.


      1. That would be great. If someone first clicks on one of my links, they get a 24-hour cookie. So, if they end up buying something from the comment section, after clicking on some Amazon link that I’ve provided, I’ll get a kick back from the sale.


  9. I’m subscribed to some Substack-driven newsletters and I’d migrate over. I’m thinking of starting one myself, but I’m waiting to build some content first – for all three readers I’d have. 🙂

    Those teary articles are intense, but can’t wait to read the results.


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