Note 11: 🎶 I'll be OCD for the holidays! 🎵
We'll unpack last week next week, and focus on conducting holiday missions instead.
While it’s all and good that Biden’s been elected and will replace Donald Trump as the fellow calling the shots on behalf of America, this is the best news of the week:
As Ars has reported previously, Pfizer and BioNtech’s vaccine, BNT162b2, is an mRNA-based vaccine. Like Moderna’s vaccine, BNT162b2 uses a fatty nanoparticle wrapping to deliver a fragment of genetic code—in the form of messenger RNA, or mRNA—from the pandemic coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, into human cells. Specifically, the bit of code delivered is a snippet of the virus’s blueprint for the infamous spike protein, which is what the virus uses to latch onto human cells and initiate an infection.
Once delivered inside human cells, the genetic snippet of the spike protein is read by cellular machinery, which then produces the protein fragment. From there, the fragment is used to train the immune system to detect and destroy the virus. Setting the immune system’s crosshairs to the spike protein is thought to be the most efficient way to defeat the virus, since the spike protein is an extremely conspicuous protein on the outside of the virus—and one critical to initiating an infection. Most vaccines under development focus on the spike protein, and the most potent antibodies known to defeat the virus—neutralizing antibodies—also attack the spike. (Ars Technica)
(Now that’s out of my system…) I’ve been accumulating links all week for a discussion about the real problem in America - it’s not Left vs. Right, but Tribes vs. Braves - but I’m still waiting on some more solid election and exit poll data before jumping into that argument. Instead, this week, you’ll hear my the first of my plans for the next month and a half in our household, because the holiday season is sneaking up on us like a soon-to-be-former President (and his Scotch-stained Boy Wonder) behind a contestant at a beauty pageant.
I’m not a very sentimental person and don’t take a lot of pictures of friends and family to mark occasions. This deep-seated aversion is a combination of not quite being used to the fact that I’m officially middle-aged, I don’t want to give AIs more data to train visually to recognize me, and having watched Poltergeist III a wee bit earlier than I should have as a lad:
The one thing that I will do to mark time, make memories, etc. is to go all-in on the holiday season. For me, the holidays kick off with a bang with Thanksgiving, run along an elevated festive plateau until Christmas, and the week leading up to New Year’s Day is for getting all the holiday cheer out of my system, so that I’m back to being a normal functional (boring) human being on January 2nd.
Other than shopping for folks and doing prep work, I try to keep the holidays bottled up between the fourth Thursday in November and first day of the New Year. Roughly every other year, we’ll end up traveling to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving and staying home for Christmas, swapping those trips every alternating year. However, due to COVID and our national inability to demonstrate any form of basic personal discipline, we’re sticking around Chicago until folks get vaccinated.
(And speaking of prep work, I failed to remember that the best time to shop for booze advent calendars is September, so by the time I remembered that, the one I was most interested in was sold out. GRRR. Fortunately, I have an awesome wife who has ordered one going through Jack Daniels’ product line, so expect some tasting notes over at Instagram next month.)
This year, I’m breaking out my Chicago Thanksgiving playbook and inviting friends who will be sticking around to our place. We’ve invited about half our usual crew this year due to the pandemic, but I’ll still be cooking a traditional Thanksgiving meal, trying to check off all the culinary boxes except for that one that insists that marshmallows in Jello is still a legitimate dish after 1979. And when I say “cooking”, I mean that I buy a bunch of stuff from the grocery store and follow the directions on the boxes. For the stuff that doesn’t come in boxes, Google is my recipe book, as will be the case with this year’s deviled eggs.
As the holiday chef, I have three main objectives that I’m trying to achieve:
Get the meal roughly finished up by the time the holiday parade is finishing in Chicago and be cleaning up by the time WGN is airing Bozo, Gar, and Ray after the parade. Since the Chicago parade is canceled this year, I’ll be timing this with the televised parade from New York City.
Cook food that’s edible enough that guests eat enough to put them into a nice Thanksgiving food coma later in the day. Bonus points are scored when diners fall asleep before they go home. (You know who you are.)
Cook enough food that there are plenty of leftovers that packing the fridge is difficult. If we can go a week or two into December on leftovers alone, I’ve done my job.
After folks are finished eating, I try to see if guests want to watch a movie (food coma!) or play a card or board game of some sort. (If guests are expecially lively, then it’s time to teach them Liverpool Rummy.) It’s fun hanging out until people are tired of us and head home.
If guests bring kids, I’ll often try to draft the kids into helping me get some of the Christmas decorations out and putting up (but not yet decorating) the tree, placing wreaths, getting my Christmas droids and Peanuts situated outside (stay tuned for pictures), and going full Clark Griswold and getting the month-long light show ready. Since we don’t have any kids scheduled to come over, I’ll likely be handling those duties on my own this year.
Toward the end of the night, before bed, it’s always entertaining to see how long the Black Friday lines already are and prepare for the next morning’s newscasts to talk about chaos at Walmarts and Targets hours before. (Antifa has nothing on the folks fighting over cheap TVs and limited-stock talking dolls.) In past years, I’d often take a bus ride or walk down to Chicago’s Magnificent Mile to see how crazy it was with shoppers there and to see some of the holiday lights that went up since I was last paying attention. If I was feeling like dealing with kids and crowds, I might sneak off and catch a movie at a nearby movie theater.
Needless to say, due to COVID, Black Friday 2020 will look a lot different than past ones, and I’m not sure how this year’s will unfold. Fortunately, Holly and I have just discovered Rick and Morty (“Snuffles was my slave name.”), so if there are any episodes left to watch, we may just do binge that show. (By that time, the new season of The Crown will also be on Netflix, and that will have me covered if I find myself flying solo.)
In an upcoming newsletter (depends on when the exit poll data is more complete), I’ll pick up from Black Friday and discuss the month-long celebration / craft fair that is Christmas at my house.
America’s Danger Level: Yellow
During the past week, I was a bit more engaged on Facebook and other social media channels so that I could chat about the election with friends and family in a more real-time fashion than these weekly missives. I decided to hop off when I was able to wrest my attention from the ongoing TV news coverage, and one of my last posts was telling my Biden-supporting friends to chill out:
Just throwing this out to everyone getting worked up over the Trump administration not granting Biden transition authorization and funds this week.
In 2000, due to the Bush v. Gore case, the Clinton administration did not sign off on Bush's transition until December 12th, more than a month after the election. Folks like Senator McConnell are correct that the Trump team has the right for recounts (in some states), court cases, etc. We call this Due Process and everyone is entitled to it.
So, chill out for now, and let this stuff work its way through the courts. The more $$$ Trump and Co. spend on it, the poorer they'll be, and if you're a Democrat, those will be dollars not spent in the Georgia runoffs. It's too soon to let this take your good mood down, so wait until *after* the states certify their election to start pounding this drum. At that point, the folks that have to release those funds / provide authorization will be placing themselves in legal jeopardy, and will be much more willing to bend to the the expressed will of the American people.
In the meantime, let Four Seasons Rudy continue to light the GOP's money and attention on fire.
I was hoping to leave any extensive thoughts on politics there, with full faith that the states will certify Biden as their winner, at which point, Trump is legally out of options. While I still think that this is the most likely outcome, yesterday’s news that the Trump administration is freezing the Biden team out of intelligence briefings that they’ve been receiving all through the campaign is pretty concerning. I can recognize how having the U.S General Services Administration recognize the Biden win could be construed as an implicit admission that the Trump administration believes that they lost, but to halt important national security briefings while President Joffrey throws a tantrum from the Oval Office is just goddamned stupid. I’m 100% for Trump getting all the due process he is entitled to as he explores shaky theories of voter fraud in the courts, but freezing the next likely administration out of vital information is not only reckless, but dangerous. Note that in 2000, while the Bush team did not have the sign-off from the GSA for transition resources, they still received intelligence briefings while the issues were litigated in court. I’m usually a fan of the let’s just move past this philosophy of transitioning, but in this case, I’m looking forward to current Cabinet members and their deputies being punished for being complicit in this rank idiocy.
While this is going on, a good question is to ask why this is is happening, and more importantly, why aren’t people opposing the blatant stupidity we’re seeing today? After a conversation yesterday, I’m convinced that the people complaining the loudest about these things don’t understand how the government works.
I had a family member message me yesterday asking me - yes or no - whether I thought there was any fraud in this election. Since any is a pretty comprehensive qualifier, I replied that I thought that there were probably some ballots cast illegally, but (if you quote this sentence, include this part) a.) not enough to change the outcome that Biden doesn’t become president, and b.) not more than we’ve seen in past elections that folks seemed fine with. Any illegally-cast votes are vastly more likely the outcome of one-off mistakes instead of some vast Soros-funded conspiracy to steal the election. I also replied to my relative that if the Democrats did indeed have a conspiracy to steal the election, why just do it for Biden when Democrats were heavily favored to retake the Senate? Why stop there? All I got was a comment that Democrats were not know for their common sense. (Which is an ironic answer in this context.)
After that exchange, he then demanded to know why I voted against his guns. Ignoring the fact that his guns were not on the ballot, I asked him whether he thought his guns were in danger, and if so, why? When I didn’t get a good answer to that, I asked him how many guns Obama took from him. He replied zero. Then I asked what he thought was different about Biden this time. No good answer was forthcoming.
To wrap up the inane exchange, I made him an offer. If he thought that his guns were in danger of being taken from him, I asked him to count his guns, write it on the outside of an envelope. Within the envelope, he was to place a $100 bill. And then give it to me. If at any time during the Biden administration, and due to the Democratic administration’s actions, that number went down, I would return the envelope with his $100 bill within and add five $100 bills of my own. I told him if he was so certain that Biden was going to take his guns, this is probably the easiest way to make half a grand.
He didn’t take me up on that offer.
(In a future newsletter, I’ll write more about when I invite you to make a wager on a particular outcome, I think you’re Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, and I’m past the point of persuading you, and trying to either get paid for listening to your crack-pottery or make you go away and leave me alone. In the interest of full disclosure, there have been instances when I’ve lost those bets - see my faith that Trump wasn’t going to be a monster with respect to Dreamers earlier in his administration - so there’s a non-zero chance you may make money as well. Have your bookie call me.)
I apologize for going longer than I intended down this road, but I use it to illustrate that the root of many of our issues here is that too many people in our country are ignorant of how this country actually runs. In the case of my relative, he’s worried about his guns because he does not understand that a President of the United States cannot unilaterally take his weapons. That has to be approved by Congress, survive Supreme Court challenges, and be administered by federal agents before anyone shows up asking for his gun. It’s a bit better on the Left, but not by too much: as you can see above, I was explaining to my Biden friends that we have structures and processes for dealing with Trump’s shenanigans, and that contrary to what they were reading on the news, the Supreme Court wasn’t voting on Obamacare yesterday. Schoolhouse Rock needs to be brought back and made mandatory viewing before the next time we ask hundreds of millions of Americans to cast a vote:
I’m not as worried as some of my friends about the future of the Republic (at the moment), but I’m also not feeling good about it either. Hence today’s danger rating of yellow.
The Sweep: Don’t Trust The Exits. Do Trust the Vote! (The Dispatch)
The Good, the Brave, and the Ugly (American Progress)
Is There a Trumpism After Trump? (New York Times)
Mandates, Clowns, Oh My (The Dispatch)
Inside Donald Trump’s 2020 undoing (Politico)
Who are the real Shy Trumpers? (UnHerd)
Comfort Viewing: Why I Love Anything With Kathryn Hahn (New York Times)
The People of Las Vegas (The Believer)
America’s Next Authoritarian Will Be Much More Competent (The Atlantic)
If you’ve been enjoying unseasonably warm weather, I hope you continue to enjoy it. We’re roughly two weeks from the holidays kicking off in earnest, so take that deep breath while you still can, CMDRs!