2:00PM Water Cooler 9/20/2022

2:00PM Water Cooler 9/20/2022 1

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Bird Song of the Day

Chestnut Sparrow, Manyara, Tanzania. “Calls of a large group.” This is very short, but I like the burst of wings at the start.

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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

“You can’t really dust for vomit.” Nigel Tufnel, This is Spinal Tap

Biden Administration

“Biden’s ‘pandemic is over’ comments muddle COVID messaging” [Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy]. • No, it doesn’t. It is the message, and is perfectly consistent with Administration messaging throughout the pandemic. I find it really hard to believe that Biden’s “it’s over” remark will hurt him at the polls; and it may help him. Propaganda works!

“GOP leaders say approving Covid aid will be even harder after Biden ‘pandemic is over’ remark” [CNN]. “Top Republicans, who were already skeptical about approving more Covid-19 relief money, said Monday that President Joe Biden’s comments that the ‘pandemic is over’ essentially shuts the door on the slim chances of more money getting approved. ‘It makes it eminently harder for sure,’ Senate Minority Whip John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, told CNN. ‘It also begs the question as to why (he’s approving) other pandemic-related measures, like student-loan forgiveness, cancellations.’” • Yes, it does, and Biden knows this. I doubt that this figures largely in Administration thinking, but zeroing out Covid funding could cut those pesky nasal vaccines off at the pass — at least for benighted America — and how is that not a good thing?

“HHS Sec: ‘The president is correct’ about the COVID-19 pandemic” [Yahoo News]. U.S. Health Sec. Xavier Becerra supported a surprise comment over the weekend from President Joe Biden, who declared the pandemic over. ‘The president is correct,’ Becerra told Yahoo Finance Monday.” • A pliant creature of the California oligarchy springs into action and plays his part. (A creature withi no background in health care policy at all, no doubt a qualification for his job at HHS.)


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“Scoop: McConnell’s closed-door confidence” [Axios]. “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expressed cautious optimism in closed-door remarks Monday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that the GOP can win back control of the Senate, Axios has learned…. McConnell also said he expects the election to be close, with a 50/50 Senate reflecting a 50/50 country that remains starkly divided.”

AL: “Kemp widens lead over Abrams to 8 points in Georgia governor race: poll” [The Hill]. “Half of likely Georgia voters in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released on Tuesday said they would support Kemp, while 42 percent said they backed Abrams. In late July, Kemp led Abrams by 5 points, 48 percent to 43 percent. The new survey differed substantially from a Quinnipiac University poll last Wednesday that showed the two competitors locked in a tight race, with Kemp holding a slim 2-point lead over Abrams. Kemp beat Abrams in the state’s 2018 gubernatorial race by less than 2 points.”

MD: “You Never Really Felt Safe”: Resistance to Far-Right Maryland Sheriff Builds in Election Lead-Up” [BOLTS]. Under [Republican Sheriff Chuck Jenkins], Frederick County became home to one of the most draconian anti-immigrant local law enforcement regimes in the country. Working hand-in-hand with ICE, Jenkins’ police force deported more than 1,500 immigrants and detained countless more. The sheriff has ridden his anti-immigrant platform to the summit of small-town stardom, becoming a darling of Fox News and making an appearance at political gatherings held at the White House by former President Donald Trump and later at his Mar-a-Lago beach home. But that joyride might soon come to an end. Jenkins is up for reelection in November, and immigrants’ rights advocates hope this is the moment their longstanding efforts to reverse local policies finally pay off. Jenkins faces Democrat Karl Bickel, a former sheriff’s deputy and a retired policing analyst at the Department of Justice, who says he would curtail the sheriff’s department’s relationship with ICE if he wins. ‘It’s just not the place of local law enforcement to get involved in immigration enforcement,’ Bickel … told Bolts. ‘It’s time to start the hard work of rebuilding trust with the immigrant community.’”


“Texas sheriff investigating how migrants were ‘lured’ on flights DeSantis arranged” [Politico]. “Texas law enforcement authorities said Monday they are opening an investigation into how 48 Venezuelan migrants were ‘lured’ last week to board flights from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha‘s Vineyard under a plan orchestrated by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for ‘nothing more … than a photo op.’ ‘Our understanding is that a Venezuelan migrant was paid what we would call a bird dog fee to recruit approximately 50 migrants from the area around a migrant Resource Center … in San Antonio,’ Bexar County, Texas Sheriff Javier Salazar told reporters.” •

“Trump discovers he’s not in Cannon-land anymore” [Politico]. “Donald Trump put the Justice Department on its heels, courtesy of a single federal judge who gave him the benefit of almost every doubt as he fought against the FBI’s probe of documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate. Now, his team of lawyers is preparing to test whether they can replicate their fortune in front of a potentially more skeptical audience. And the first indication, offered in a filing on Monday night, suggests a tougher road ahead. The court-appointed ‘special master’ reviewing documents the FBI seized during the Aug. 8 search has asked the former president to disclose details about any materials he claims to have declassified before calling them his property. In a court filing Monday, Trump’s attorneys urged Raymond Dearie, the senior federal judge based in Brooklyn, to drop a component of his plan that includes asking Trump for those details. Disclosing those during the review, Trump’s attorneys said, was not a requirement of U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s order appointing Dearie as special master. And, they added, it could harm Trump’s defense against any forthcoming criminal charges.”

“Trump lawyers oppose Justice Department request to keep classified information from special master” [Los Angeles Times]. ” In a court filing Tuesday, former President Trump’s lawyers again questioned if the classified documents recovered by the FBI during the Aug. 8 search of his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida were actually classified, but provided no proof that Trump had declassified them….

‘The government again presupposes that the documents it claims are classified are, in fact, classified and their segregation is inviolable. However, the government has not yet proven this critical fact,’ the filing states.” • I confess I am not master of the detail on this case, so I don’t know if this is a mere debater’s point. But yes, surely the burden of proof is on the prosecutorial side to prove that the documents were classified in the first place? (And just because a document has “Top Sekrit” written on the cover doesn’t mean it actually is; there isn’t an office in the government charged with putting new covers on declassfied documents.)

Democrats en Déshabillé

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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• “Disrupt the social order.” At NIH last week, via:

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That was the question from the very beginning, as I show here (and under capitalism, the “social order” means the wage relation). Fauci’s remarks on vaccines and variants are also very interesting; elites talking among themselves don’t sound like they sound on TV.

• “‘Very Harmful’ Lack of Data Blunts U.S. Response to Outbreaks” [New York Times]. “The federal government invested heavily over the past decade to modernize the data systems of private hospitals and health care providers, doling out more than $38 billion in incentives to shift to electronic health records. That has enabled doctors and health care systems to share information about patients much more efficiently.” That’s ***cough*** “share information about patients billing ***cough***. I mean, that’s what so-called medical coding is for. See NC here, here, and here on “upcoding” and EHRs generally. More: “Decades of underinvestment in public health information systems has crippled efforts to understand the pandemic, stranding crucial data in incompatible data systems so outmoded that information often must be repeatedly typed in by hand. The data failure, a salient lesson of a pandemic that has killed more than one million Americans, will be expensive and time-consuming to fix. The precise cost in needless illness and death cannot be quantified.” Two reasons nothing will be done. And then there’s this: “But almost two years after the first Covid shots were administered, the C.D.C. still has no national data on breakthrough cases.” • But that’s because CDC decided not to collect breakthrough data! You’d think that Walensky and Jha, who are the main sources quoted in the story, would have mentioned that. Guess not.

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“UMD Researcher Develops Nasal COVID Vaccine” [Maryland Today]. “Xiaoping Zhu, a professor of veterinary medicine, has developed an inhalable coronavirus vaccine that goes directly to work in the parts of the body—like the nose and sinuses—where even those fully up to date with shots can be vulnerable…. ‘[The shots are] wonderful vaccines that protect people from hospitalization and death, but don’t prevent transmission,’ Zhu said. ‘The nasal vaccine produces an antibody that stays in the upper respiratory tract to stop transmission, which the intramuscular vaccine does not.’”• Zhu’s vaccine is beginning clinical trials. Thing is, though, I thought Covid was supposed to be “endemic,” like the flu? But if we stop tranmission, what happens to Pfizer and Moderna? Will nobody think of Big Pharma?

“Nasal and inhaled vaccines may be the best hope to finally stop COVID transmission, but the U.S. isn’t funding them: ‘It’s just unacceptable’” [Fortune]. “[Eric] Topol has been pushing the U.S. government to adopt an ‘Operation Nasal Vaccine’ to fund the development of nasal vaccines similar to how Operation Warp Speed helped fund the first generation of COVID-19 vaccines. Over the summer, the U.S. government hosted a ‘future of vaccines’ summit that discussed government support for nasal sprays and other new vaccine technologies. But additional funding for vaccine development has been held up in U.S. Congress for months, and it’s unclear if the government will allot additional vaccine funds. ‘We’ve waited and waited and waited,’ says Topol. ‘It’s just unacceptable.’ Of course, vaccine makers like Pfizer (which spends more than $10 billion annually on research and development) do not need necessarily government support to fund the development of new vaccine technology. Morgon says large firms have refrained from nasal vaccine investments because they already have a product that works. ‘Big companies tend to be pretty conservative,’ he says.” • Asking Pfizer to develop a sterilizing vaccine is like asking Gilette to develop a self-sharpening razor. Why would they?

“Explained | How does a COVID-19 nasal vaccine work?” [The Hindu]. “A nasal vaccine is delivered through the nose or mouth and it is expected to work on the mucosal lining, prompting an immune response at the entry points of the virus in the human body. It likely prevents the infection right there, thereby also blocking its spread. Scientists have called this sterilising immunity, where the virus is prevented from causing infection in the host effectively…. ‘Exactly how successful these vaccines will be is unclear. Expecting a vaccine to stop transmission of a virus or prevent even mild illness — achieving what is called sterilising immunity — is a high bar. Bharat [Biotech] and CanSino [Chinese vaccine maker that has secured a licence to use another nasal vaccine] won’t know whether their vaccines can achieve this until they have conducted further efficacy studies,’ explains [science writer Emily] Waltz. Both Bharat Biotech and CanSino have announced that their trials have been successful but have not released data. She points to two other nasal vaccines that have reportedly been deployed in populations, one in Iran and the other, an intra-nasal version of Sputnik V in Russia, but says scant data is available from either of them.” • Hopefully we’re not going to repeat history on the data….

• “Preclinical evaluation of safety and immunogenicity of a primary series intranasal COVID-19 vaccine candidate (BBV154), and humoral immunogenicity evaluation of a heterologous prime-boost strategy with COVAXIN (BBV152)” (preprint) [Research Square]. “We performed preclinical evaluations of BBV154 in mice, rats, hamsters and rabbits. Repeated dose toxicity studies presented excellent safety profiles in terms of pathology and biochemical analysis. [Intranasal (IN)] administration of BBV154 elicited robust mucosal and systemic humoral immune responses coupled with cell-mediated immune responses dominated by Th1-like cytokine expression. Heterologous prime-boost vaccination with intramuscular (IM) COVAXIN-prime followed by BBV154 intranasal in rabbits elicited superior immune responses compared with the homologous COVAXIN/COVAXIN schedule. BBV154 is now being assessed in both homologous and heterologous combination schedules in ongoing human clinical trials.”

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• Maskstravaganza: Trying to get through to the Hospital Infection Control Community:

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Case Count

Case count for the United States:

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Cases are undercounted, one source saying by a factor of six, Gottlieb thinking we only pick up one in seven or eight.) Hence, I take the nominal case count and multiply it by six to approximate the real level of cases, and draw the DNC-blue “Biden Line” at that point. The previous count was ~62,400. Today, it’s ~60,600 and 60,600 * 6 = a Biden line at 363,600. (Remember these data points are weekly averages, so daily fluctuations are smoothed out.) The black “Fauci Line” is a counter to triumphalism, since it compares current levels to past crises. If you look at the Fauci line, you will see that despite the bleating and yammering about Covid being “over,” we have only just recently reached the (nominal) case level of November 1, 2021, and we are very far from that of July 1, 2021. And the real level is much worse.

Lambert here: The fall in case count looks impressive enough. What the Fauci Line shows, however, is that we have at last achieved the level of the initial peak, when New York was storing the bodies in refrigerator trucks. So the endzone celebrations are, to my mind, premature. Not that anyone will throw a flag. Of course, the real story is in the charts for California and the South. See below.

Regional case count for four weeks:

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The South:

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I wonder if Florida’s weird reporting is what causes the odd “lumpiness” in the national case count during this “high plateau.” Earlier, the curves are much smoother.

The South (minus Texas and Florida):

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The West:

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What’s going on out there?


SITE DOWN Wastewater data (CDC), September 13:

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Lambert here: I added all the dots back in. The number of grey dots really concerns me. How can all the sites for international air travel center New York be grey (“no recent data”). And California’s pretty gappy, too.

For grins, September 11:

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From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, September 10:

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-3.3%. Good news!


NOTE: I shall most certainly not be using the CDC’s new “Community Level” metric. Because CDC has combined a leading indicator (cases) with a lagging one (hospitalization) their new metric is a poor warning sign of a surge, and a poor way to assess personal risk. In addition, Covid is a disease you don’t want to get. Even if you are not hospitalized, you can suffer from Long Covid, vascular issues, and neurological issues. For these reasons, case counts — known to be underestimated, due to home test kits — deserve to stand alone as a number to be tracked, no matter how much the political operatives in CDC leadership would like to obfuscate it. That the “green map” (which Topol calls a “capitulation” and a “deception”) is still up and being taken seriously verges on the criminal. Use the community transmission immediately below.

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

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Lambert here: Clearly, the pandemic is over. Holy [family blog], even if somebody shoved CDC’s reprehensible “Community Levels” chart (see above) under Biden’s nose, even he could see that only half the country is still medium or high:

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How does that translate into “over”? 50.73% “low” is first past the post?

• “The end of the pandemic” [Noah Smith, Noahpinion]. “At some point, we simply collectively stop thinking of diseases as pandemics and start thinking of them as endemic — as diseases that are now simply present in our world rather than as special, unusual threats. At some point this happened for HIV, the other great pandemic of our times. So it seems to me that Biden’s declaration that the pandemic is over is as good a place as any to bookmark this transition.”

NOT UPDATED Rapid Riser data, by county (CDC), September 16:

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I suppose that if case counts are indeed level, it’s likely there would be few rapid risers.

Previous Rapid Riser data:

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NOT UPDATED Hospitalization data, by state (CDC), September 16:

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Sea of green!

NOTE: Rapid Riser and Hospitalization data are updated Wednesdays and Fridays.


Lambert here: It’s beyond frustrating how slow the variant data is. I looked for more charts: California doesn’t to a BA.4/BA.5 breakdown. New York does but it, too, is on a molasses-like two-week cycle. 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? Additional sources from readers welcome [grinds teeth, bangs head on desk].

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (Walgreens), September 1:

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Still no sign of BA.2.75 at Walgreens, despite its success in India and presence in Bay Area wastewater.

NOT UPDATED Variant data, national (CDC), August 27 (Nowcast off):

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Two highlights: BA.4.6 has assumed a slightly greater proportion (more in the NowCast model, which I refuse to use). Also, first appearance of BA.2.75. So where is it, you ask?

The above chart shows variants nationally. I have gone through the CDC regions and made a table. As you can see, BA.2.75 is prominent in Region 2 (New York and New Jersey), followed by Region 5 (Midwest), and Region 1 (Northeast). Hmm.

Table 1: CDC Regional BA.2.75 Data, Sorted by % Total

CDC Region % Total States in Region
Region 2: 0.8% New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands
Region 5: 0.7% Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin
Region 1: 0.7% Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont
Region 3: 0.4% Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia
Region 4: 0.4% Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee
Region 7: 0.3% lowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska
Region 6: 0.0% Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas
Region 8: 0.0% Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming
Region 9: 0.0% Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands….
Region 10: 0.0% Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington

Let’s see if BA.2.75 starts doubling.

• A long thread on immune escape. I’d be interested to hear what the Brain Trust thinks:


Death rate (Our World in Data):

Lambert here: Not sure why World in Data changed the color to red.

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Total: 1,078,938 – 1,078,018 = 920 (920 * 365 = 335,800, which is today’s LivingWith™* number (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, thought they can talk themselves into anything. Fluctuates quite a bit, but even the low numbers are bad). I have added an anti-triumphalist black Fauci Line.

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

Housing: “United States Housing Starts” [Trading Economics]. “Housing starts in the US unexpectedly jumped 12.2% month-over-month to an annualized rate of 1.575 million units in August of 2022, beating market expectations of 1.445 million. It is the biggest increase since March last year, although figures for the previous months were revised lower to showed starts fell at a faster 10.9% in July.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 34 Fear (previous close: 37 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 39 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 20 at 1:55 PM EDT.

The Gallery

Cubists not named Picasso (2):

Groves of Academe

“Taking Our Time: How Australian Universities Measure Academic Work” [Public Books]. “Teaching and research are what makes a university a university. So, unsurprisingly, with more managers and fewer securely employed academics and professional support workers, the demands on employees doing the core work have increased. As anyone who has been subject to an efficiency drive will know, the effort to do more with less either reduces quality or leads to overwork. Increasing student numbers and raising demands for research outputs, combined with decreasing appetite for investment in teaching and research, have led to stress and burnout. In addition, the managerialist devaluation and decentring of academic work in the institution—through both structural divestment and increasing precarity of academic professionals—is arguably one of the causes of the wider social devaluation of expert knowledges. Is it a coincidence that we have to make the public case for the trust value of scholarly knowledge (about climate change, vaccination, and the economic importance of frontline care workers, for example) when the institutions that generate the knowledge do not themselves trust and value the people doing this vital work.”

Zeitgeist Watch

“Most Adults Should Be Screened for Anxiety, U.S. Panel Recommends” [Wall Street Journal]. • Ya think?

“I Wish I Was a Little Bit Taller” [GQ]. “The promise of Dr. D’s [leg lengthening] institute is that, for a price, you too can increase your odds of becoming a Fortune 500 CEO. And people are willing to pay. Most patients will fork over from $70,000 to $150,000, depending on how many inches they want to gain. The majority opt for the standard three inches, which can be expected if you get only your femurs done—a process that takes about a year—but six inches is possible if doctors later do your tibias as well. You then have to get the nails surgically removed, which costs an additional $14,000 to $20,000. Money an issue? Personal financing is available through SoFi, the online bank. John took out a loan for his femurs—$1,200 a month for the next five years. It’s nothing short of a miracle that we can change something in the human body that was once unchangeable. A short king can transform himself into just a king—as long as he’s willing to subject himself to the kind of horrifying, life-altering injury traditionally associated with getting hit by a bus. It’s as if we’re playing God to appear slightly more boneable on Tinder. On some level it’s grotesque. It’s also a medical wonder. And it raises all kinds of thorny existential questions, like whether creations as fragile as us should be playing God at all.” • All questions the Jackpot will clear up….

Class Warfare

See Fauci’s remarks at the first bullet under #COVID19

News of the Wired

“Filling the Gaps” [History Today]. ” Considering the serious, intellectual, scholarly and often religious nature of most early modern texts, the majority of text-related annotations in these volumes constitute what historians term ‘aids to memory’. These aids came in many different forms and in varying degrees of intensity, which suggest the differing levels of engagement with the text itself. Most common, perhaps, were marks and symbols, such as an asterisk or a manicule (a pointing finger), in the margins of a page next to specific sentences or passages of particular importance. In some instances, readers summarised the contents of a page with a sub-heading, of sorts, at the top of a page. More often, these handwritten memory aids extended into verbal summaries or short commentaries on paragraphs or points those readers found significant or pertinent to their reason for reading. Sometimes marginalia filled up the entirety of the blank page surrounding the text, leaving very little white space. Occasionally small drawings could be detailed in the margins, illustrating the content of the text. A volume from the library of Anthony Higgin, Dean of Ripon from 1608 to 1624, contains a small illustration of a crocodile in the margin of one page, followed by a drawing of the sun (complete with a smiley face) and the moon adjacent to their textual descriptions.” • An early form of hypertext? Granted, not digital… .

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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 CG:

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CG writes: “I had a very good Sunday walk yesterday and saw that goldenrod was in bloom everywhere, from solitary stalks to large areas. I tend to think of goldenrod (in bloom from late summer through early autumn) as the coral reef of plants, since the goldenrod (in a healthy environment) supports innumerable lives, from bees and various pollinators, to butterflies, dragonflies, and other insects. Monarchs love goldenrod too: the late blooms help support them in their journey south.

The first photo is an overall area of blossoms; the second goldenrod photo includes a honeybee. (The black background is a pleasant photographic usage of setting the light for the foreground subject and the background, if in shade, becomes black.)

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