Things are in the saddle/ And ride mankind. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Salinger is going digital. I read it in the Times.
This makes it possible to read the late and reclusive author on your device of choice, flicking words and sentences and paragraphs that the master put down on paper.
Perhaps this is progress, or perhaps not, depending on the reliability (the planned obsolescence, the health of the battery) of your particular device.
I say this with the cynicism of somebody who manages smartphones and laptops and TV remotes with perhaps better-than-average skill for somebody in my age group (that is to say, old.) I mean, I assemble this little therapy website.
Lately I have spent far more time than I ever could have imagined in the clean, well-lighted Apple place where they administer what I have come to consider electronic methadone.
There’s always something. As Salinger goes digital, here are two of my most recent adventures with gadgets:
1. I recently bought an iPhone 8 when my 6-Plus reached obsolescence, just as, I am sure, Apple intended. (It’s not the instruments, they tell you with a straight face, it’s the upgraded programs.) The adjustment has been easier than I expected, and there is one fascinating new feature involving robocalls, the price we pay for having a smartphone.
I’ve learned not to answer when I see numbers not already linked in my Contacts. This way I avoid conversations with “Billy” or “Betty” in some call center in India.
To my fascination, the new iPhone 8 categorizes unknown callers.
Potential Fraud. (Casey Stengel called some of his early Mets “frauds.” Nothing personal. They just couldn’t play.)
Potential Spam. (What a wonderful term – reminds an oldster of the vaguely meat product we ate during World War Two.)
Unknown Name (Thanks for the warning.)
Wireless Caller: (Could be just about anybody.)
They all get banished to incoming Limbo.
2. The down side of technology is, of course, that stuff doesn’t work. Back in the dark ages, that is to say, 2012, my wife obtained a Kindle device for storing books. A family member gave her a few books about Turkey for our upcoming trip (that turned out to be epic.) But then we didn’t use the Kindle for years.
The other day we found it on a shelf, and opened it, and I read the first few chapters of “Istanbul: Memories and the City,” by Orhan Pamuk, who has become one of my favorite (contemporary) writers.
Then I got the bright idea of recharging the device. I used the proper plug but it all went dead. I had no booklet of instructions so I went on line and read about the sudden mortalities of Kindles, how they just stop working.
From reading the wisdom of consumer-survivors, I determined that you first try re-booting it, and then give it a sharp smack with your hand, If that low-tech stuff doesn't work, and you possess the skills of a cat burglar, then you buy a little kit, pry the case apart, make your own repairs and replace the battery. Or, you “find someone” who repairs Kindles.
Unless, of course, the “motherboard” (whatever that is) goes. Then it’s over. Go buy a new one, sucker.
The great maw of Kindles has swallowed our few Turkey books, but my wife came up with a great solution – books, with pages and covers. Our house is full of books, plus, they just may be making a comeback against the novelty of gadgets that depend on batteries and kits and motherboards.
Plus, in my town of Port Washington, L.I., we have have the Dolphin Bookshop, right near Manhasset Bay, and a few blocks up the hill we have the Port Washington Public Library (with a reading room overlooking the aforementioned bay.) The library is connected to a consortium that delivers books from libraries all over Long Island.
The defunct Kindle? One more gadget to toss at the next electronic cleanup at the town dump.
Holden Caulfield would not be surprised.
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.