2:00PM Water Cooler 12/9/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 12/9/2022 1

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I got wrapped around the axle on the New School strike. More Politics in just a bit. –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Lazuli Bunting, British Columbia, Canada. “Singing from the top of a Ponderosa Pine.”

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“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“Here’s food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels” –Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles


“Has Sam Brinton’s story always been too good to be true?” [LGBTQ Nation]. “Sam Brinton, a nonbinary LGBTQ+ activist and outspoken opponent of conversion therapy, has been charged with felony theft. They allegedly stole a woman’s suitcase worth $2,325 from a carousel at the Minneapolis Airport…. The criminal case against the activist is damning. Brinton had no checked luggage, precluding this being a case of accidentally taking the wrong bag. Video surveillance captured Brinton removing the suitcase from the carousel and putting the bag’s tag in their handbag before leaving ‘at a quick pace,’ the police complaint read.. Brinton should never have been given a platform by national LGBTQ+ organizations without having crucial details of their story confirmed. LGBTQ+ groups were sloppy, ethically negligent, and shockingly unprofessional, choosing expedience over prudence in turning Brinton into a national spokesperson. They were warned but didn’t listen.” • But why a woman’s suitcase? One theory. NOTE I’m filing this story here because it seems to me that one or another, successor ideology will be a 2024 issue, and it’s gonna get ugly.

“Donald Trump allies aim to capture his philosophy in policy book” [Florida Politics]. “[A]llies have translated [Trump’s] often loosely defined philosophy into a 246-page policy plan released Thursday — the ‘America First Agenda’ — that they hope will codify what has already become the party’s dominant ideology and serve as blueprint for lawmakers at the state and federal level, whether or not Trump wins another term….. “How do we capture that set of ideas? And how do we create a movement that will last for the next 100 years?” said Brooke Rollins, president of America First Policy Institute, the group behind the effort. ‘This book, in a way, is really a culmination of the last bit of policy work we did in the White House and the policy work we did in the last 500 days to really build out the substance of what an America First policy looks like.’ The plan focuses on 10 key areas, ranging from the economy to health care along with voting issues and government corruption. It calls for measures such as requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote, finishing construction of Trump’s border wall, opening new federal land to drilling, and prioritizing ‘working with nations that contribute their fair share to our alliances,’ while expressing skepticism toward multilateral institutions.” Not seeing that working class appeal. Nor Trump’s gift for saying that which cannot be said. More: “The America First Policy Institute, which is headed by Rollins, Trump’s former domestic policy chief, is often described as an ‘administration in waiting’ should Trump be successful in his bid to win a second term. The group is made up of 20 former senior Trump White House officials, as well as eight former Cabinet members and dozens of others who worked in the administration, and has spent the two years since the former president left office building on the policy agenda Rollins and others had begun to map out in 2020 for Trump’s second term.” • Since Trump faced a professional services strike in his first term, an “administration in waiting” would be a useful thing this time around.

Democrats en Déshabillé

Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert

I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:

The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). It follows that the Democrat Party is as “unreformable” as the PMC is unreformable; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. If the Democrat Party fails to govern, that’s because the PMC lacks the capability to govern. (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.

Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.

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Lambert here: Eric Topol has called a winter surge (or “wave”) of Covid. I am but a humble tapewatcher, but I’m reluctant to do so. (Partly because I know my temperament, and I have strong priors. So “I won’t because all of me wants to,” as Sam Spade says.) Topol’s view is the establishment view: Hospital-centric. Mine is infection-centric. I do not see the acceleration or doubling in cases that I would expect to see based on past surges. So we’ll see. Let’s wait and see what the remainder of the holiday season brings. Reader discussion on this important point is welcome. Nevertheless–

Stay safe out there: High transmission (CDC), the elevation of positivity (Walgreens), the steady takeover of BQ.1* (CDC; Walgreens), along with elevated hospitalization in BQ.1* hotbed New York are all more than a little unsettling (as is the apparent proliferation of variants). As one might expect at the beginning of a holiday surge, wastewater in Queens County, NY (JFK/LGA), Cook County, IL (ORD), and Los Angeles County (LAX) continues to be elevated. If you are planning to travel on Xmas, do consider your plans carefully.

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• ”Fact Sheet: Departments And Agencies Commit To Cleaner Indoor Air Across The Nation” [The White House]. This is, more or less, the case for the defense. Frankly, it looks like an interagency process, to me, with all that implies about cumbersomeness, infighting, speed, etc. For example:

Under the Biden-Harris administration, Departments and Agencies collectively commit to:

1. Establish the Federal buildings portfolio (approximately 1,500 federally owned facilities across America) as an exemplar of innovation, implementation, and standards for indoor air quality through the following actions by the General Services Administration (GSA):

  • Established MERV-13 filters as minimum filtration efficiency requirement in Federal building Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems….
  • Advancing a national program to verify proper ventilation in federally owned buildings and to align with current CDC recommendations and EPA’s Clean Air in Buildings Challenge. GSA has completed verification in approximately 20% of its federally owned physical footprint and will now begin a second phase of the program which will increase that to 60%.
  • Partnering with Federal experts and researchers to conduct a real-world implementation study on how the design and operation of ventilation systems relate to indoor air quality for building occupants….
  • Convening a working group of subject matter experts to suggest further improvements to the P100 facilities standards related to the design and operation of ventilation systems in GSA-controlled Federal buildings based on lessons learned from the verification and implementation research efforts.
  • Sharing leading practices from research and indoor air quality improvement programs as a training resource for Federal and non-Federal building managers.

Weird flex on “collectively,” but that’s OK. I don’t see who or what is in charge of this effort. If Nixon had decided to clean the water or the air with this structure, if structure it be, I don’t think much would have been done.

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Lambert here: I think this material is important, so I’m leaving it up for today

• Still in humble tapewatcher mode, let’s assume that wastewater is a good proxy for real case numbers (see next link). Here is Biobot’s chart of wastewater and clinical cases from the beginning of the pandemic:

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(NOTE I don’t run Biobot regularly because I don’t like their unexplained backward revisions. But “assume”). If we look only at wastewater (the blue curve) we see would assume that clinical case numbers are now, and have been for some months, more or less at a plateau, and in fact at the same level as every peak before Biden’s climactic, Omicron-driven peak of December 2021, as the grey “Fauci line” shows. And now the curve is rising.

• For all the peaks up to March 20, 2022, clinical case numbers and wastewater tracked very closely. Now they no longer do; they have radically diverged. I’d need to dig into why, but I’m not sure it’s home testing, because home test kits were available in 2021. It might be that Administration messaging changed. “Airlines, travel groups ask Biden administration to drop Covid testing before international flights” (CNBC, February 2, 2022). “States Lead the Way to ‘New Normal’ With Biden Administration Mum on Coronavirus Guidance” (US News, February 10, 2021). “The politics of getting to the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic” (NPR, February 17, 2022). “Are we really done with masking?” (CNBC, March 2, 2022). “National Nurses United ‘outraged’ over CDC’s rolled-back mask guidance” (May 17, 2022). Perhaps, in their totality, the administration’s move to “Let ‘er rip” messaging also conveyed to the public that Covid was, indeed, “just a flu.” Hence, no clinical cases. (It’s also expensive and dangerous to get involved with the health care system.)

• And still in humble tapewatcher mode, another CDC chart I don’t run regularly because it’s confusing. CDC explains how to read it: “If more area on the chart is shaded light or dark blue, it means virus levels were decreasing at more sites at that point in time. If more area on the chart is shaded red or orange, it means virus levels were increasing at more sites at that point in time”:

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(The data is smoothed over 15 days.) At the bottom of the chart, you will notice that the number of sites in red — those with large increases in virus levels — has the kind of accelerating curve I’m concerned about. However, at the top, you will notice a black line dropping precipitously: This is the number of sites sampled. So, just when we need to have the best data, our sample is going bad (thanks, CDC). If you go down to the map in the Wastewater section, you will also see that the large number of sites — grey dots — that are not sending data at all (thanks again), as well as vast swathes of the country in the South, the border states, the plains states, and the mountain states that are not sending data at all (thanks once more).

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• ”‘Heartbreaking’ and ‘Pathetic’: US Obstructs Patent Waiver for Covid Tests and Treatments” [Common Dreams]. “Experts have long argued that pausing enforcement of the corporate-friendly TRIPS Agreement for the duration of the pandemic would remove the intellectual property barriers standing in the way of increased generic manufacturing. However, in June, Big Pharma-aligned policymakers—most of them from highly vaccinated rich countries—defeated a popular proposal to waive coronavirus-related patents to boost the global supply of jabs, diagnostics, and therapeutics. Instead, the WTO, which operates on the consensus of its 164 members, adopted a watered-down alternative pertaining only to vaccines—described by critics as worse than the status quo—and vowed to decide whether to extend the decision to cover tests and treatments within six months. The Biden White House’s new demand for a delay—in which they joined the European Union, United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Switzerland—comes just days before the December 17 deadline.”

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• Eradicating an infectious disease! Are such things possible?!

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• Australia’s cabinet down the tubes:

Covid is not “like any other respiratory illness,” given its endothelial effects.

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• Maskstravaganza:

Williamsburg, VA.

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• ”Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Mental Health and Brain Maturation in Adolescents: Implications for Analyzing Longitudinal Data” [Biological Psychiatry]. n= 163. From the Abstract: “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant stress and disruption for young people, likely leading to alterations in their mental health and neurodevelopment. In this context, it is not clear whether youth who lived through the pandemic and its shutdowns are comparable psychobiologically to their age- and sex-matched peers assessed before the pandemic…. We found that youth assessed after the pandemic shutdowns had more severe internalizing mental health problems, reduced cortical thickness, larger hippocampal and amygdala volume, and more advanced brain age. Thus, not only does the COVID-19 pandemic appear to have led to poorer mental health and accelerated brain aging in adolescents, but it also poses significant challenges to researchers analyzing data from longitudinal studies of normative development that were interrupted by the pandemic.”

• “Discriminatory Attitudes Against the Unvaccinated During a Global Pandemic” (unedited manuscript) [Nature]. “We quantify discriminatory attitudes between vaccinated and unvaccinated citizens in 21 countries, covering a diverse set of cultures across the world. Across three conjoint experimental studies (N=15,233), we demonstrate that vaccinated people express discriminatory attitudes towards the unvaccinated, as high as the discriminatory attitudes suffered by common targets like immigrant and minority populations3,4.5. In contrast, there is an absence of evidence that unvaccinated individuals display discriminatory attitudes towards vaccinated people, except for the presence of negative affect in Germany and United States. We find evidence in support of discriminatory attitudes against the unvaccinated in all countries except Hungary and Romania and find that discriminatory attitudes are more strongly expressed in cultures with stronger cooperative norms. Prior research on the psychology of cooperation has shown that individuals react negatively against perceived free-riders6,7 including in the domain of vaccinations8,9. Consistent with this, the present findings suggest that contributors to the public good of epidemic control (i.e., the vaccinated) react with discriminatory attitudes against perceived free-riders (i.e., the unvaccinated). Elites and the vaccinated general public appealed to moral obligations to increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake10,11 but the present findings suggest that discriminatory attitudes including support for the removal of fundamental rights simultaneously emerged.” • And we ended up mandating what should never have been mandated (the vaccines), and not mandating what should have been mandated (non-pharmaceutical interventions). Thanks, elites, good job on the “moral obligations.”

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Here is CDC’s interactive map by county set to community transmission (the “red map”). (This is the map CDC wants only hospitals to look at, not you.)

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Lambert here: The powers-that-be don’t even see transmission as a problem, obviously. But you might!


From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published December 5:

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0.2%. Distinct slackening (remember, this data is smoothed). Perhaps now that the holidays are over, people don’t feel such a need to get tested? Then again, as the grey Fauci Line shows, we are at the same level today as we were in the last peak (except of course this time the pandemic is “over”).


Wastewater data (CDC), December 5:

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JFK/LGA, Queens County is still red; ORD, Cook County just turned red; LAX, Los Angeles County now red. I would bet that speckling of red in Utah is sky country. Stay safe when travelling.

December 4:

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• California data point:

And MWRA data, December 7:

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Lambert here: Still falling.


Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. Does nobody in the public health establishment get a promotion for tracking variants? Are there no grants? Is there a single lab that does this work, and everybody gets the results from them? [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk]. UPDATE Yes. See NC here on Pango. Every Friday, a stately, academic pace utterly incompatible with protecting yourself against a variant exhibiting doubling behavior.

Variant data, national (Walgreens), November 28:

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Lambert here: BQ.1* first on the leaderboard. XBB charging.

Variant data, national (CDC), November 19 (Nowcast off):

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BQ.1* takes first place. Note the appearance of XBB.

• As a check, since New York is a BQ.1* hotbed, New York hospitalization, updated December 9:

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Lambert here: I see a continuing increase, but not acceleration.


Death rate (Our World in Data):

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Total: 1,109,394 – 1,108,815 = 579 (579 * 365 = 211,335 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease).

It’s nice that for deaths I have a simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job.

Stats Watch

Inflation: “United States Producer Price Inflation MoM” [Trading Economics]. “The Producer Price Index for final demand in the US rose 0.3% month-over-month in November of 2022, the same as an upwardly revised 0.3% increase in October and above market forecasts of 0.2%. Cost of services went up 0.4%, the biggest gain in three months, led by securities brokerage, dealing, investment advice, and related services, which jumped 11.3%.”

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Tech: “Google, ChatGPT and the challenge of accuracy” [Charles Arthur, Social Warming]. “what’s that misleading bilge going to be used to do? Creating partisan anger, for sure. My recommendation?” But wait for it: “Donate to Wikipedia. At least they’re sticking with humans. Who knows, the LLMs might prefer that content over their own. As Google already does.” • Oh no. Not Wikipedia. See Michael Olenick at NC here and here. AI is bullshit:


And much, much more.

Tech: Oh no, not Raspberry Pi:

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 57 Greed (previous close: 57 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 67 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 9 at 1:50 PM EST.


“Arrest affidavit unsealed in Club Q shooting case” [Colorado News Online]. Final paragraphs: “Documents pertaining to that case remain under seal. There is no record that any member of Aldrich’s family or law enforcement agency filed for an extreme risk protection order under Colorado’s ‘red flag’ law following the 2021 incident. A spokesperson for Colorado Gov. Jared Polis told the AP that the details of the 2021 incident made clear that the state’s red flag law ‘could have and should have been utilized, which would have removed the suspect’s firearms and could very well have prevented this tragedy.’”

Our Famously Free Press

“Taibbi Agonistes” [Ross Barkan]. “I told Taibbi I disagreed with his decision to publish the Twitter files as a tweet thread and not as a full-fledged story on his Substack. I told him what I’ll tell you here: no source should dictate to a reporter where the story is placed and what form it takes. All reporters make compromises when information is leaked and the leaker can have significant influence over how a story appears in print. Though Taibbi did not confirm this publicly, the conditions placed on his reporting were clear enough. Musk wanted the story as an exclusive for Twitter. Taibbi complied. His own reward seemed to be massive engagement on the platform, with his initial tweet liked almost 400,000 times and retweeted more than 150,000 times. Each tweet racked up tens of thousands of retweets and Taibbi’s own Twitter following soared. He added hundreds of thousands of new followers in less than a day and quickly surpassed 1 million on the platform…. I told him the problem, again, was that the source had the power to dictate the form and venue of publication, and his explanation to his readers was too vague. He said it was vague because he was honoring an agreement with a source. We agreed to disagree and moved on.” • I think it was worth getting the story out. Was Taibbi really supposed to insist that the story go to the Times?

Class Warfare

The New School:

“Students Occupy the New School After Administration Cuts Off Pay and Health Coverage for Striking Faculty” [HellGate NYC]. “At 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon, on the 23rd day of the New School’s part-time faculty strike, now the longest adjunct faculty strike in United States history, a throng of people—part-time faculty, full-time faculty, alumni, and, overwhelmingly, students—packed the block of Fifth Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets in front of the University Center building, banging on drums, cans, pots and street signs, chanting, “If we don’t get a contract now / We’re gonna shut the school down!”… At 3:14 p.m., that’s exactly what the students did…. The occupation comes the day after the school’s administration announced that it would be suspending pay and health coverage for faculty that refuse to cross the picket line. The move affects faculty, said Cooper Sperling, a New School sophomore and member of the Alliance, ‘many of whom are caretakers primary insurance holders, some even pregnant or have upcoming surgeries. And this is all happening in New York City to the COVID-19 surge with over 40,000 cases as of the last few weeks.”” • Immediately after the negotiation, the administration mailed out this offer:

“12/9: Progress, But No Deal Yet. The Strike Continues!” [New School Part-Time Faculty Union]. “Last night, the New School’s lead negotiator presented our bargaining committee with an updated “last, best, final offer”. We were encouraged by this movement and worked through the night reviewing management’s offer. This morning, we are meeting with the university to share our response. President McBride’s email, sent just moments after we received the university’s updated offer, used the word “compensation” to mean salary. While we are encouraged by these gains, under the latest “last, best, final offer”, some of our members would still lose healthcare, and those who are on the healthcare plan might see all their raises wiped out by increases in the plan’s costs. We hope to resolve this as soon as possible, but until we have a deal that ensures members’ access to affordable healthcare, we remain on strike.”

The New School administrators are fully-paid up members of the Black Misleadership Class:

(See Adolph Reed’s brilliant essay, “The Trouble with Uplift” if you have not already.)

“We Are The New School” [Verso]. “Like many full-time faculty, I’ve had a lot of interactions with the administration over the years, and watched it slowly expand and take over more and more functions from us. It also seemed be become, over time, less and less efficient, less and less accountable, less and less reality-based. One of the jobs of senior full-time faculty is assessing the scholarship, teaching, and service of colleagues as they come up, and that review is rigorous. Meanwhile, we interact with a revolving door of administrators who seem accountable to no one. Their positions, titles and supposed responsibilities pop up like mushrooms after rain and disappear as quickly. There’s plenty of administrators I like personally and respect professionally, but the thing is that it is up to the administration to structure their work in an efficient and accountable way. This they have not done. It doesn’t help that the current leadership of the New School hardly interacts with its faculty, even its full-time faculty. I’ve not even met the current president and provost. I know many others who would say the same. They live in a bubble.”

“Blue Collar/White Collar” [The Offing]. “The New School administration has emailed several threats to part-time and full-time faculty alike to stop the strike using the well-being of students as the reason. But the protests are the greatest lesson for students living in a democratic society. It shows them that they too have a voice, and that the campus and education they entrusted us with is led in good faith, and with equitable working conditions for all. And if not, they too can ask for and reimagine the university they want to see and believe in.” • Indeed–

“New School Strike: Students Occupy University Center Over Longest US Adjunct Strike” [Teen Vogue]. “The New School is making headlines as its part-time faculty, after going on strike on November 16, now comprise what they say is the longest adjunct strike in US history — and the conflict is consuming the institution as a whole. This is one of several groundbreaking academic-labor moves to conclude 2022, including the ongoing University of California strike involving more than 48,000 workers, and actions at other colleges like Rutgers…. On Thursday, December 8, Teen Vogue reported from 13th Street and 5th Avenue, where a group of university students aligned with striking workers announced an indefinite occupation of TNS’s University Center. A crowd of roughly 100 students, workers, and employees rallied at the University Center’s doors, as passing cars honked their horns in solidarity. When students announced their occupation, the crowd erupted…. ‘In light of recent attacks by the New School administration on all school employees including faculty and students, as well as the blatant refusal to meet [the union]’s demands or even negotiate in good faith, the students have decided it is the time to escalate direct action,’ reads a statement from Student Faculty Solidarity. The group plans to occupy the University Center ‘until the administration resumes pay, full health-care protection, and retirement benefits to all striking employees and a fair contract is reached with part-time faculty.’” • The whole thing is worth a read. I continue to be so amazed and pleased by Teen Vogue’s coverage of the labor beat. Who would have known?

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“Ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt on why in-office work is better: ‘I don’t know how you build great management’ virtually” [CNBC]. “Schmidt says it’s not just a matter of nostalgia: There are practicalities to working together in person. For example, he says that conversations about professionalism — which might be particularly necessary at companies full of young employees — are much harder to have virtually. When Schmidt started at Google, for example, the company had ‘an awful lot of college students who were behaving as though the workplace was like college,’ he says. ‘And I used to say to them, ‘This is not college. This is a professional thing, you can’t do that. And, or, it might be illegal. So please stop, now.’’ Younger employees, particularly those between the ages of 25 and 35, can also use in-office settings to more effectively develop their management styles, Schmidt says. For him, that includes learning about meeting etiquette, presentation skills, workplace politics and dealing with competitors, both internally and externally.”

News of the Wired

Readers, I think I need to settle in for the long haul on boosting my immunity. Mindful of Michael Pollan’s injunction to “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants,” can any of you make food suggestions for boosting immunity, based on your own experience plus a mechanism? CAVEAT: No pills, no powders, no supplements. Food, as Pollan says. Maybe plants. Meat — perhaps as a condiment, meat’s best use — possibly. But nothing processed. Thank you! (I have, so far as I know, no allergies or history of any kind, although I have recently lost some weight, mostly through avoiding sugar and substituting water for milk. Also, I am an inveterate coffee drinker.)

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From howard:

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Howard writes: “Symphiotrichum ericoides or white Heath aster. After a brutally hot and dry Texas summer, we just stumbled across this pollinator magnet growing on a never-watered berm. Sorry the resolution isn’t better, but it’s covered with dozens of bees, wasps, and butterflies. We have no memory of planting this: the map of its native range extends from Mexico to some of the arctic islands of Nunavut.” Really awesome. For any of you designing a garden over the winter, do think of being pollinator-friendly. It’s nice to have all these living things buzzing and flapping about, and also to help them.

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