Your Weekend Reader for Dec. 31-Jan. 1

by | Dec 31, 2022 | Weekend Reader | 2 comments

And so much for 2022. Won’t it be nice, at the end of some year way in the future, to be able to say, “Gosh, this has been a pretty good year. I’ll be a little sad to see this one go?”

To be fair, 2022 was better than some recent years — but it does not quite fall into the category of a “pretty good year.” But New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day is all about optimism, so here’s hoping 2023 can clear that lofty standard.

Maybe a better option heading into 2023 might be to dial back that optimism just a bit. At least that’s what Erin Monroe, a New York state resident who works in human services, thinks: She posted a TikTok video this past week in which she outlined her expectations for 2023:

I think we need to set some expectations. I don’t need 2023 to be my year; I need it to not be a soul-sucking drag through earthly purgatory. I need 2023 to come in, sit down, shut up and don’t touch anything. I need a palate-cleanser year.

Erin Monroe

It turns out that Monroe speaks for many of us — the video racked up more than 2 million views in a week and prompted this story in The New York Times about how lowering your expectations might be a smart move for 2023. But it is telling that even Monroe can’t resist a touch of that new year’s optimism: “Maybe 2023 will be a primer for the best year ever.” (The story is available only to Times subscribers, but I can send you a free link to the story or any other Times story; just leave your email address in the comments section below.)

Speaking of lowered expectations, Nicholas Kristof — biding his time, apparently, until his next shot at elected office in Oregon — is back in the Times with a new column arguing that 2022 was a better year than you might have thought. It’s worth reading — and it may cheer you up — but it’s also worth noting that Kristof usually writes a year-end column claiming that the year just past was the best year in history. “I can’t do that this year,” he writes. “But I can suggest that broadly speaking, much is going right and this may still be the best time ever to be alive.” (In passing, Kristof mentions something that I always have thought — that the human brain is hardwired to pay more attention to bad news than to the good.)

And speaking of good news: It was about a year ago when NASA blasted the Webb Telescope into space on a mission that could have gone wrong in any of literally hundreds of ways. It all worked. Now, the telescope is exceeding expectations — and it’s only getting started. The Times has an account of the telescope’s stunning first year.

And there’s more (mostly) good news: In many ways, 2022 was a watershed year for environmental progress, both nationally and in Oregon. Alex Baumhardt of the Oregon Capital Chronicle hits on the high points in this wrap-up of the year’s biggest environmental stories.

A week or so after the U.S. Census Bureau made news by reporting that Oregon has lost population over the last year or so, it has stripped away “urban” status from 13 Oregon towns, including Harrisburg in Linn County. Kristine de Leon of The Oregonian/OregonLive explains that a 2020 rule change from the Census Bureau doubled the requirement for an area to be considered urban, to 5,000 people or a minimum housing unit threshold of 2,000. Potentially, the move could affect an area’s ability to qualify for various types of federal funding. The new criteria doesn’t much change the national urban-rural split: About 80% of the nation’s population lives in urban areas.

Here’s a shocking — but, upon reflection, not particularly surprising — story from The Oregonian: Fueled largely by a “stunning” supply of fentanyl, deaths from opioid overdoses increased nearly threefold in Oregon between 2019 and 2021. The good news, such as it is, is that Oregon’s overdose death rates are relatively low compared to other states. But the growth in deaths during the pandemic was among the highest of the states for which comparable federal data is available. The story is exclusive to Oregonian subscribers, but that online subscription is still a bargain at $10 a month.

As I write this, California is being soaked by a storm system that’s fueled in part by what experts call an “atmospheric river.” Oregon gets hammered by these from time to time. Here’s a 2017 explainer from The Associated Press about this weather phenomenon.

Speaking of natural disasters, did you notice that Haystack Rock makes a cameo appearance in the trailer for M. Night Shyamalan’s new thriller, “Knock at the Cabin?” Kristi Turnquist of The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that the trailer has a moment when a TV shows a tsunami approaching Cannon Beach. The movie (shot mostly in New Jersey) opens Feb. 3.

Perhaps you had the same reaction I did when I read this story, from the Gazette-Times, about the mild controversy that followed the opening of a new cookie store in North Albany: I was happy to learn that Albany apparently has solved all of its other problems.

Looking for a New Year’s Day experience that doesn’t involve watching football games on television? Consider one of the free guided hikes planned for Jan. 1 in Oregon’s state parks, including sites in the mid-valley and on the coast. Here’s a list of the scheduled events.

And here’s the kind of story that makes me happy that I produce the Weekend Reader: Football fans know, of course, that the official mascot of the Texas Christian University football team is the horned frog. That’s fine; frankly, nobody who lives in a university town where the mascot is the beaver has any right to criticize any other mascot. But what’s great about TCU is that the team’s unofficial mascot is the Hypnotoad, a character from Matt Groening’s somewhat underrated “Futurama.” Billy Witz, who covers college football for The New York Times, is all over this one. Hypnotoad followers will particularly enjoy the treatment the Times’s web crew gave to the photos for the story. With that said, I think TCU may need more than the Hypnotoad to knock off Michigan in today’s College Football Playoff semifinal game. (The only bad news here is that Disney, which now owns the rights to “Futurama,” is moving ahead with a revival of the show; the last revival was, to put it mildly, a disappointment.)

That’s all for this weekend. See you next weekend. In the meantime, Hypnotoad orders you to have a happy new year.

Correction

An earlier version of Your Weekend Reader misidentified the mascot of the Texas Christian University football team. I blame Hypnotoad for the error. As for the crack about TCU needing more than Hypnotoad to get past Michigan in the College Football Playoff semifinal game — well, that was wrong, too.

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2 Comments

  1. Constanace

    Thanks for compiling all these different perspectives for your readers, Mike. Erin Monroe’s is closest to mine, but I benefited from perusing the views of other thinkers. Hope 2023 brings more Just Peace to us all.

    Reply
  2. Rachel K Kirby

    Hi! Good morning. Thanks for your weekly review. Can I please see the NT Times story written by Kristof?

    Thanks

    Reply

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