Your Weekend Reader for Nov. 4-5

by | Nov 4, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 0 comments

This is the weekend when we all fall back to standard time, so don’t forget to pad through your household tonight, setting back by one hour every device that tells the time so that you’ll be on schedule for whatever you have planned Sunday morning. But, as you know, you always forget to reset one or two timekeeping devices during this twice-yearly feature. Which ones will it be this year? The microwave? The coffeemaker? The clock in your car? Now that I’m thinking about this, why do we need the microwave to tell us the time in the first place? We don’t need the microwave to serve as a clock; we just need it to not burn the popcorn kernels.

Maybe this is a function of getting older, but I’m increasingly irritated by our twice-yearly time-adjusting ritual. The evidence is mounting that daylight saving time doesn’t do what it was intended to do — save energy — and the time switch increasingly is linked to serious health issues. I used to be in favor of sticking with daylight time year-round, but sleep experts make a compelling case for standard time. Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me anymore: Let’s just pick one and stick with it year-round. Meanwhile, here’s an almost unbearably cheery story from The New York Times about how to embrace the switch to standard time.

Oregon’s media has done a pretty good job of covering the state’s rollout of psilocybin — perhaps you know it better by the term “magic mushrooms.” But sometimes it’s good to be able to back up and take a broader look at the issue, and this story from Mike Baker of The New York Times is a good way to catch up on Oregon’s experiment with legalized hallucinogens. (To be honest, I’m very intrigued by psilocybin therapy and would consider taking one of these guided trips — but I’ll probably wait until the price tag, currently estimated at around $2,000, comes down. But I also think that it’s possible that the price never will come down much, because the overhead that goes along with psilocybin treatment is — justifiably — pretty elaborate. Maybe insurance companies will start to cover these treatments — oh, who am I kidding?

The big news this week in the Pac-12 Conference was fairly predictable: The University of Washington filed a court motion on Thursday opposing efforts by Oregon State University and Washington State University to take control of the conference. You’ll recall that OSU and WSU will be the only members of the conference after every other school leaves after this academic year — and OSU and WSU have argued that, as the remaining members, they should control the conference’s assets. The University of Washington motion says that’s an incorrect reading of the conference bylaws. Judging by the motion, UW (and, probably the other departing members of the conference) seem mostly concerned about current-year revenue from the conference’s media-rights deal, which ends in 2024. That money, the University of Washington argues, is intended to be split among all 12 current conference members.

Interestingly, the University of Washington motion also claims that OSU and WSU will control roughly $200 million in conference revenue after the other schools leave the conference. Maybe that’s true, but I think I would wait to see what the accountants say about the state of Pac-12 assets and liabilities before spending that money. A court hearing in this matter is coming up next week in Whitman County (Washington) Superior Court.

Meanwhile, Cal coach Justin Wilcox — who has deep Oregon roots — is the latest coach to share his thoughts on the demise of the Pac-12. This column by Oregonian/OregonLive sports columnist Bill Oram is worth reading, but I can summarize it for you: “It sucks,” Wilcox told Oram. “It just shouldn’t have happened.”

Danny Hayes, a professor of political science at George Washington University, examines why journalists continue to lose their jobs in record numbers in this new piece. Part of the reason why, he says, is “the Trump slump:” Researchers have found that when people are worried or upset, one response is to consume news. Anger also may increase news consumption. As Trump left office and the pandemic waned, Hayes writes, “a reduction in news consumption would have been a predictable consequence. A greater sense of normalcy may be good for people’s mental health, but not news profits.” When I was working in a larger newsroom, we often would joke about endorsing candidates who weren’t necessarily the best for the job, but would provide a steady flow of “good copy.” Let me reiterate an important point here: We were joking. We were joking.

Overall, this wasn’t a great week for newspapers and their First Amendment rights: In Alabama, a small-town newspaper publisher and reporter in Alabama were arrested after authorities accused them of publishing an article that revealed information about a grand jury investigation involving the local school system. And in Illinois, officials in Calumet City have issued municipal citations to a reporter who, according to one of the citations, sent 14 emails over nine days to officials asking questions about recent flooding in the suburb of Chicago. Imagine the gall — a reporter asking questions.

Finally this week, here’s an opinion piece from The New York Times by Damon Linker in which he surveys the current crop of what he calls conservative “intellectual catastrophists” — that is to say, writers on the right making the case that the country is on the verge of collapse. And, as Linker argues, if you believe the country is on the verge of collapse, you may also come to believe that democracy is a luxury we no longer can afford.

The country may not be on the verge of collapse — but it certainly has earned the right to be grumpy as it prepares to “fall back” an hour — or, maybe, a century or two. See you next week.

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