Thursday Required Reading

1. Hiking Is an Ideal Structure for Friendship. Love stories like this.

“As soon as we complete one hike, we immediately establish when the next will be. We rotate the organization and planning duties, eeny-meeny-miny-moe style.

That person has complete authority and responsibility to organize the hike, select the location, provide the beer and other refreshments, and make any other side-trip plans. We’ve done breakfast, dinner. We sometimes hit various local watering holes, or we just plop down with a cooler in the woods somewhere. The organizer is responsible for setting up all the logistics, soup to nuts, and is not questioned on the decisions made.”

2. This game has surpassed League of Legends, Fortnite and Valorant as the most-watched gaming category.

3. 2021’s Best States to Retire. I know, I know, how can any state known for the blog ‘PressingPause’ be ranked 31st? Spurious methods.

4. Inside a Battle Over Race, Class and Power at Smith College. Don’t know where to start on this one.

5. Mean tweets may take down Biden nominee. If only Neera Tanden had shown the same tact and diplomacy as The Former Guy. Has nothing to do with “civility” and everything to do with political power. It’s a tad bit ironic that the R’s are channeling Malcolm X. “By whatever means necessary.” (credit: DDTM)

6. The most important Western artist of the second half of the twentieth century. (credit: Tyler Cowen)

‘A Pretzel And A Soda At The Pool’

“Mr. Goldberg, 75, then came across a stranger’s post in a neighborhood Facebook group: ‘If anyone has a family member, friend or knows someone who is elderly and needs help pre-registering or registering online for the Covid-19 vaccine, I am happy to help,’ it said. The person was not asking for money and said, ‘I don’t care how long it takes.’

Mr. Goldberg wanted to contact the stranger immediately, but Ms. Goldberg was more skeptical. ‘You have to give your personal information to make appointments,’ she said. ‘A lot of people get targeted for scams when they are elderly.’

But Mr. Goldberg won the debate and reached out to the stranger, Harriet Diamantidis, a 36-year-old executive assistant who lives in nearby Merrick. Within a few hours, Ms. Diamantidis had procured appointments for the couple at Abraham Lincoln High School in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Ms. Goldberg, 73, remained skeptical until she and her husband showed up at the high school, she said. ‘But we both got our vaccine, and we even have follow-up appointments for the second dose on Feb. 27.’

The Goldbergs have stayed in touch with Ms. Diamantidis, who, it turns out, visits the same community pool they do in the summer. ‘I told her I wanted to send her something, but she wouldn’t accept it,’ Mr. Goldberg said. ‘So now I’ve decided I will buy her a pretzel and a soda at the pool.'”

Faith in humanity restored.

Pence’s Luck Runs Out

White House reporters say Trump is livid with Pence. The President’s public comments lend credence to that. And now we’re learning many Republicans in the White House and Congress are repulsed by the President’s treatment of the most loyal of Veeps.

But no one whose been paying even a little attention should be surprised. The surprise is that the political partnership lasted as long as it did. In Trumplandia, four years is forty.

What I find most fascinating about the President is the stories we never hear. Specifically, about close friends, whether childhood, college, or more recent. Sure, people partner with him in business and politics, and they appear chummy until they don’t. No one ever talks about him as a close, personal friend. When he said his older, overweight friend died from the ‘rona, I was left wondering how “his friend” would have described their relationship.

Friendship requires one to put other’s interests before their own on occasion. To listen, to help them move, to make them food, to celebrate their successes, to support them through difficult chapters of life. Most importantly, it requires reciprocity. Friendships mature as people learn to put other’s interests before their own.

More simply, narcissism is friendship kryptonite.

What Do You Say We Unplug The Giant, Cosmic Scoreboard?

These days, as I watch and listen to political pundits on right and left-leaning cable news programs, and their “man/woman on the street” interviews, and as I scroll through my Twitter feed, I recognize a familiar pattern.

Everyone is lobbing political grenades at one another as if there’s a giant cosmic scoreboard with “Democrats” on one-side and “Republicans” on the other.

My friends and I do the same thing. We try to couch our grenade-texts in humor, but we’re definitely scorekeeping.

Whenever we score-keep, we focus more on our team—whether Democratic or Republican—than on problem solving and trying to improve everyone’s quality of life. I’m afraid it’s gotten to the point where we want to defeat the other team more than we want our cities, counties, states, and country to flourish.

Among many other examples, Republicans ran up the scoreboard with their rushed Supreme Court appointment bullshit. This week, Democrats are running up the scoreboard by saying everyone that voted for Trump is responsible for the siege of the Capital Building.

Who is going to unplug the giant, cosmic scoreboard first? I will try to by remembering what my mom taught me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Imagine the silence that would descend on the country if everyone followed that maxim.

Monday Required Reading

Administrivia. Every time I write critically about the President, a humble blog regular and close friend whose opinion I care about, rips me for spreading “hate” and sowing “division”. Given that predicament, I guess I shouldn’t link to any of the numerous articles about our President’s Saturday phone call to Georgia’s Secretary of State which Carl Bernstein called “way worse than Watergate”.  

1. The Plague Year: The mistakes and the struggles behind America’s coronavirus tragedy. Lawrence Wright’s damning deconstruction of “America’s coronavirus tragedy” details the President’s complicity which my friend might think of as hateful and divisive. Not to worry though, it’s WAY too long for him. Everyone writing books about this simultaneously let out an “Ah shit!” upon finishing Wright’s piece. I could excerpt endlessly from it, but there’s other reading to get to.

2. The challenge of chess – learning how to hold complexity in mind and still make good decisions – is also the challenge of life.

3. Walk, run or wheelbarrow: We moved our bodies forward during the pandemic. Our second born walked 153 miles in December!

“. . . my eldest walks. She carries a backpack loaded with her journal, a beanie, whatever book she’s reading. She dons her mask and canvasses our Atlanta neighborhood at New York speed, striding purposefully as if she has somewhere to be. When the sun starts to set, she sits on a patch of grass or a park bench to catch her breath and stares into the sky, tracking the light until it bleeds into darkness.

She does this every evening because, as she explains, it gives her ‘something to look forward to.’

When she comes home, cheeks flush, hair windswept, my daughter does seem happier, lifted. The simple act of walking underscoring her autonomy, reminding her that she is still a human capable of breathing fresh air, of shuttling from point A to B, that she is still a human at all.”

4. Shearing Sheep, and Hewing to Tradition, on an Island in Maine. Love, love, love the pictures. They have the same effect as an engrossing foreign film, they totally transport me across the country to the island. Long live the Wakemans and their way of life. 

Tuesday Required Reading and Viewing

1. Bet you can’t guess the top global health story of 2020.

2. Bet you can’t guess the ‘secret’ to longevity.

3. Bluetits and Bluebells: Essex’s open water swimmers – a photo essay. Remember, I don’t write the headlines, I just share them.

4. It’s not that hard to buy nothing. After reading the top comments, a suggestion. Dear wealthy people, advertise your minimalism at your own risk. The non-wealthy are (still) not having it.

5. The future of electric cars. This really good ‘free’ advice proves you don’t always get what you pay for.

‘Rona Silver Lining

Americans exercised more in 2020, according to data tracking service, Strava.

“In addition to jumps in running and cycling activity in the U.S., Strava also saw booms in walking, hiking, indoor cross-training activities such as yoga and weight lifting, and water sports like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.

‘There was just so much uncertainty surrounding COVID […] it was great to see people deal with that by finding some sort of certainty and an everyday routine,’ Megan Roche, an ultra-runner and epidemiologist, told ESPN.

Women drove the increase in fitness — both in the U.S. and all over the world. Between April and September, women aged 18-29 saw a 45.2% increase in the median number of activities uploaded compared to a 27.3% increase by their male counterparts, the Strava data shows. Women were also biking more, logging a 72% increase in bike trips compared to 2019.”

Case in point, none other than one of my twenty-something daughters. Summer spent lake swimming. Migrated to the pool in the fall. Cycled with friends in the summer. All the while, she turned into a certifiable WALKING machine. 120 miles in November.