Who made this &*%$#@?
How often do we scream this?
I do, every time water dribbles on my feet from the dispenser on our refrigerator.
I do, every time one of our imbalanced knives or forks goes clattering to the floor.
I do, every time I have trouble with coding or design on my not-totally-smart-phone.
Fortunately, I have found the perfect tool for one of those problems. Hint: you probably have a dozen under your desk.
First: the refrigerator. (I sometimes say “icebox” to annoy my wife.) Fairly new, and functional, except for the cheap pieces of plastic in all recent household appliances, designed to break after the warranty runs out.
The main problem is the gadget that dispenses ice (crushed or cubed) or water (allegedly cleansed by a pricey little filter.)
To get water or ice, you push in a curved bar with a glass; the H2O comes out of the innards; when you have enough, you take the glass away – and another few seconds’ of water, solid or liquid, falls to the floor.
Infuriating. No adjustment or fast hands can solve the problem.
My theory is that the people who built this device never, ever, tested it. Just built it.
Out of innate politeness, I will avoid mentioning the maker. Let me just say: Kamsahamnida.
* * *
Then there is our dinnerware, sleek and silvery, only used when we need a full set.
So pretty to look at. But the tines do not hold much, and when you lay the knife or fork down, the handle is so top-heavy that it performs a one-and-a-half gainer onto the tablecloth and thence to the floor, with rice, salad or fish splattering on the rug.
They never tested the thing. Just built it.
Out of innate politeness, I will avoid mentioning the maker. Let me just say: the imprint on the silverware reveals the country where it was made. Hsieh-Hsieh
* * *
Then there is my smartphone. I’ve only had it a few years – resisted a long time, but now I am hooked. Check for emails every 60 seconds.
It works pretty well, but the other day I could not fit the charger into the rectangular slot. My wife’s charger did not fit, either.
Oh, great, I thought, those blankety-blankers will tell me I need a new super-duper 12A phone, or whatever series they are up to. This is a costly little malfunction.
Then I had a thought. Nature’s wonder tool. Should be hawked on late-night TV.
The humble paper clip. Good for what ails you. Cures the common cold.
I opened one segment of the paper clip and inserted it into the slot where the charger no longer fit.
I wiggled it gently. And out tumbled a pound or two of what we New Yorkers call schmutz -- detritus from my pocket, my desk, my yard, my jogging shorts.
The charger now fit.
* * *
I don’t think the paper clip will help fix the spattering water dispenser or clattering silverware.
I have given it a permanent place of honor on my desk.
(PS: the paper clip has heroic implications in Norway. (Check it out.)
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.