Happy New Year! Here’s hoping that 2022 brings you nothing but good news — and, now, let me set about breaking that particular resolution. (I promise this edition gets happier as it goes along — and be sure to scroll to the end for a nice surprise.)
A new study from the University of Oregon finds that nearly 1 in 5 Oregonians has no plans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus — even though half of all Oregonians know someone who has died from the disease. Most of the resistance to vaccination occurs in the state’s rural counties — exactly the same counties that are leading the fight to secede to “Greater Idaho.” The study also concluded that education level is the most reliable indicator of whether a person has been vaccinated; that is, the higher the education level, the more likely it is that person has been vaccinated. Fedor Zarkhin of The Oregonian/OregonLive has the story.
Scientists at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality say that they’ve been able to detect so-called VOCs (volatile organic compounds) — chemical compounds known to be hazardous to human health — in the smoke from wildfires. This adds a new twist to our thinking about wildfire smoke; in the past, the main health concern about this smoke has revolved around the particulate pollution from these fires, particulates so small they can absorb into the bloodstream from the lungs. Jes Burns of OPB has the story.
While we shiver through the heart of winter, some scientists — including an Oregon State University climatologist — are focusing on our increasingly hot summers. Last June’s “heat-dome” event should serve as a wake-up call about how climate change is shaping our lives. “What we’re seeing are warning signs of things to come and we need to start preparing to deal with these events that we call unusual now becoming more and more commonplace,” OSU climatologist Chris Daly told OPB’s Monica Samayoa in this story.
As Diane and I were cleaning up the house for the holidays, she came across the girls’ old Nintendo Game Boys, complete with Tetris game packs in the back. Shockingly, the batteries still worked, and so I fired one of them up and played a game or two of Tetris. I still wasn’t very good. But I had a new appreciation for this story from The New York Times, about competitive Tetris (you read that right) and the two teenagers (you read that right as well) from Texas who are among the game’s best players.
To help celebrate the 125th anniversary of its Book Review, The New York Times asked readers to submit their choices for the best book published in the last, well, 125 years. This week, the Times released the results. Stop reading now and just click this link if you want to go to straight to the source to learn which book won top honors. If you don’t want to bother with the Times right now, I’ll name the winner in a few paragraphs.
Maggie Gyllenhaal’s adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s novel “The Lost Daughter” debuted Friday on Netflix. That promoted Portland writer Lydia Kiesling to wonder whether the movie — along with other recent efforts such as “C’mon C’mon” and “Maid” — marks a turning point in how cinema regards mothers and motherhood. Kiesling’s essay appeared in The New York Times Magazine.
Another Times story looks at how a citizen ballot measure in Michigan took redistricting out of the hands of partisan legislators — and apparently has resulted in political districts that actually are competitive. As you might recall, a similar ballot effort has been brewing in Oregon, but hasn’t yet qualified. That could change in 2022. In the meantime, a similar proposal in last year’s legislative session went nowhere — and, in fact, top Democratic leaders refused to even let the proposal get a hearing, and why would they? Competitive political districts could jeopardize the Democratic advantage in Oregon politics. And, after all, why shouldn’t Democrats do the same thing that Republicans are doing in other states? Well, I bet you can come up with some answers to those questions.
Here’s a timely story, if you’ll you’ll excuse the pun (and you shouldn’t): The New York Times’ Elizabeth Dias has a long, but fascinating story about how the pandemic has changed our sense of time. It’s a particularly appropriate read on a day like New Year’s Day, when we take stock of the year just finished and look ahead to another year.
Finally, here’s a good resolution for 2022: Have more fun! OK, I can hear your mocking laughter now, even over here on the other side of the internet. But here’s a Times piece that actually has some decent suggestions for how to increase your fun quotient — and, apparently, binge-watching more TV doesn’t count.
The winning book in that Times survey? “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Runners-up included “The Fellowship of the Ring,” “1984,” “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Beloved.”
Finally, a gift from Corvallis cartoonist Jack Compere, whose work I was pleased to feature from time to time in the pages of the Gazette-Times. Here’s the drawing that Jack sent out last year as his holiday card. It made me smile — and it made me think about the passage of time.
That’s it for this edition. See you next weekend.