By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
Another one of Darwin’s finches.
Because what we laughingly call our government does not deem a pandemic sufficient cause to collect or process data over a long holiday weekend, all these charts are really screwed up, and some haven’t been updated at all. It will take a few days to return to form, such as it is. –lambert
Rebounding from Thanksgiving data problems.
59.4% of the US is fully (doubly) vaccinated (CDC data, as of December 1. Mediocre by world standards, being just below Estonia, and just above Thailand in the Financial Times league tables as of this Monday). Big jump as we catch up with the long weekend data. No change from last week, but I assume that’s a holiday data issue.
Case count by United States regions:
Rebounding after the Thanksgiving drop.
At a minimum, the official narrative that “Covid is behind us,” or that the pandemic will be “over by January” (Gottlieb), or “I know some people seem to not want to give up on the wonderful pandemic, but you know what? It’s over” (Bill Maher) is clearly problematic. (This chart is a seven-day average, so changes in direction only show up when a train is really rolling.)
One of the sources of the idea that Covid is on the way out, I would speculate, is the CDC’s modeling hub (whose projections also seem to have been used to justify school re-opening). Here is the current version of the chart from the CDC modeling hub, which aggregates the results of eight models in four scenarios, with the last run (“Round 9”) having taken place on 2021-08-30, and plots current case data (black dotted line) against the aggregated model predictions (grey area), including the average of the aggregated model predictions (black line). I have helpfully highlighted the case data discussed above:
(Note that the highlighted case data is running behind the Johns Hopkins data presented first.) Now, it’s fair to say that the upward trend in case data (black dotted line) is still within the tolerance of the models; it does not conform to the models’ average (black line), but it stays within the grey area (aggregated predictions) It’s also true that where we see an upward trend in the predicted case data (lower right quadrant) it’s much later than where we are now. It’s too early to say “Dammit, CDC, your models were broken”; but it’s not too soon to consider the possibility that they might be. The case data still looks like it’s trying to break out of the grey area. We shall see.
MWRA (Boston-area) wastewater detection, now updated after Thanksgiving:
Yikes. The students left for vacation, and brought their viral loads back?
The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) service area includes 43 municipalities in and around Boston, including not only multiple school systems but several large universities. Since Boston is so very education-heavy, then, I think it could be a good leading indicator for Covid spread in schools generally.
This would be remarkably good news, if true. I think it’s a reporting artifact.
The previous release:
Hospitalization (CDC Community Profile), also December 2:
I have helpfully highlighted the states where the “trend” arrow points up in yellow, and where it is vertical, in orange. Note that Massachusetts is vertical. We detected a rise first in wastewater data, then in case data, now in hospitalizations. So there are times when the data is good. Just not all the time!
Death rate (Our World in Data):
803,186. At this rate, I don’t think we’ll hit the million mark by New Year’s.
Excess deaths (total, not only from Covid), now updated::
Hard to believe we have no excess deaths now, but very fortunate if so. (CDC explains there are data lags).
(Adding: I know the data is bad. This is the United States. Needless to see, this is a public health debacle. It’s the public health establishment’s duty to take care of public health, not the health of certain favored political factions. Also adding: I like a death rate because it gives me a rough indication of my risk should I, heaven forfend, end up in a hospital.)
Covid cases in historic variant sources, with additions from the Brain Trust:
Remember this is a log scale. Sorry for the kerfuffle at the left. No matter how I tinker, it doesn’t go away.
“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51
“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune
“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Mice de Talleyrand-Périgord
“‘We are pulling out all the stops’: White House details strategies to combat delta, omicron variants” [WaPo]. “Biden is set to formally unveil the plan at the National Institutes of Health Thursday afternoon [that’s today!] in a speech that is part of a broader effort to reassure Americans that the nation is equipped to handle the new variant…. Another major plank of Biden’s plan is enabling Americans covered by private health insurance to be reimbursed for purchasing rapid, at-home coronavirus test kits. Officials said the plan, which calls for the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury to issue federal guidance by Jan. 15, would not apply retroactively to already purchased tests.” • Nothing — hold onto your hats here, folks — on ventilation or aerosol transmission, so the headline is false. As for the complicated and incomplete test kit plan:
Just mail the damn tests to households via the postal service and hand them out at vaccination sites and schools for free like they did in Switzerland!! https://t.co/0gVZ397xdJ
— Dr. Thrasher (@thrasherxy) December 2, 2021
“Biden nearly ended the drone war, and nobody noticed” [The Week]. “Our infamous drone war has largely faded from the headlines. Aside from one strike that went horribly wrong during the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan, there has been vanishingly little coverage of what’s going on with the signature American tactic of the war on terror: remote-controlled death robots. So I was rather taken aback to discover President Biden has almost totally halted drone strikes, and airstrikes in general, around the world. It’s a remarkable foreign policy reform, but also a remarkable failure of both government communication and media coverage. A hugely significant change in foreign policy has happened — and almost nobody is paying attention.” • One more reason Biden is better than Obama was.
“Symone Sanders, Top Aide to Harris, Will Soon Leave White House” [Bloomberg]. “Symone Sanders, a top aide to Vice President Kamala Harris will depart the White House by the end of the year, according to people familiar with the matter. She has served as Harris’s spokeswoman since the beginning of the Biden administration, and has spent considerable effort in recent months beating back reports of dysfunction and disarray in the vice president’s office.” • Without success, it would seem. I wonder why?
Democrats en Deshabille
Lambert here: Obviously, the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself. Why is that? First, the Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). ; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. . (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community. (Note that voters do not appear within this structure. That’s because, unlike say UK Labour or DSA, the Democrat Party is not a membership organization. Dull normals may “identify” with the Democrat Party, but they cannot join it, except as apparatchiks at whatever level.) Whatever, if anything, that is to replace the Democrat Party needs to demonstrate the operational capability to contend with all this. Sadly, I see nothing of the requisite scale and scope on the horizon, though I would love to be wrong. (If Sanders had leaped nimbly from the electoral train to the strike wave train after losing in 2020, instead of that weak charity sh*t he went with, things might be different today. I am not sure that was in him to do, and I’m not sure he had the staff to do it, although I believe such a pivot to a “war of movement” would have been very popular with his small donors. What a shame the app wasn’t two-way.) Ah well, nevertheless.
For an example of the class power that the PMC can wield, look no further than RussiaGate. All the working parts of the Democrat Party fired on all cylinders to cripple an elected President; it was very effective, and went on for years. Now imagine that the same Party had worked, during Covid, to create an alternative narrative — see Ferguson et al., supra, to see what such a narrative might have looked like, and with the unions (especially teachers) involved. At the very least, the Biden Administration would have had a plan, and the ground prepared for it. At the best, a “parallel government” (Gene Sharp #198) would have emerged, ready to take power in 2020. Instead, all we got was [genuflects] Tony Fauci. And Cuomo and Newsom butchering their respective Blue States, of course. The difference? With RussiaGate, Democrats were preventing governance. In my alternative scenario, they would have been preparing for it.
And while we’re at it: Think of the left’s programs, and lay them against the PMC’s interests. (1) Free College, even community college. Could devalue PMC credentials. Na ga happen. (2) MedicareForAll. Ends jobs guarantee for means-testing gatekeepers in government, profit-through-denial-of-care gatekeepers in the health insurance business, not to mention opposition from some medical guilds. Na ga happen. (3) Ending the empire (and reining in the national security state). The lights would go out all over Fairfax and Loudon counties. Na ga happen. These are all excellent policy goals. But let’s be clear that it’s not only billionaires who oppose them.
Showing the PMC’s inability to govern, as a class they seem unable to expand their scope of operations into new fields. Consider the possibilities of the “Swiss Cheese Model.” Layered defenses include extensive testing, contact tracing, ventilation systems (not merely blue collar HVAC work, but design and evaluation), and quarantines. If we look at each layer as a jobs guarantee for credentialed professionals and managers, like ObamaCare, the opportunities are tremendous (and that’s before we get to all the training and consulting). And yet the PMC hasn’t advocated for this model at all. Instead, we get authoritarian followership (Fauci) and a totalizing and tribalizing faith in an extremely risky vax-only solution. Why? It’s almost as if they’re “acting against their own self-interest,” and I don’t pretend to understand it.
* * *
“Democrat Stacey Abrams announces 2022 bid for Georgia governor” [NBC]. “Abrams, a former Democratic leader of the General Assembly, has worked on issues related to voting rights for a decade. She became a household name in 2018, when she lost her bid for governor, accusing Republicans of engaging in voter suppression mostly affecting Black voters.” • 2018 is a long time ago. I wish I liked Abrams better, but anybody who rushes off to Washington to get on Neera Tanden’s payrolll…. Anyhow, more news from Georgia:
Democrats flipped at least seven local races across Georgia tonight, including in Warner Robins, where voters elected the first woman and first Black mayor to lead the city. #gapol pic.twitter.com/Eog62mfqH0
— Greg Bluestein (@bluestein) December 1, 2021
She might have a shot.
If anybody asks you why Democrats never embodied Roe v. Wade as legislation:
I'm sorry you ordered the basic Democrat package what you need is the Pro Plus package which actually does shit you want and also removes these ads https://t.co/n8D1WA0Ys2
— Moon Tweets (@bombsfall) December 1, 2021
Somebody else who needs the Pro Plus package:
There's A LOT of workers fighting around the country and it's hard to keep up—but people shouldn't forget the David versus three Goliaths battle going on between Staten Island Amazon workers and a company doing EVERYTHING to stop their union drive https://t.co/9tnnjvMDKK
— Jordan (@JordanChariton) December 2, 2021
More Obama jokes:
Realignment and Legitimacy
If you want an AR because you picture yourself using it against the "government" some day… please pause and reflect that this fantasy entails shooting American soldiers and police officers.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) March 8, 2018
Yin and Yang:
I’d argue it’s inevitable when there’s been pretty much solid political/media consensus on “The Iraq war is a good idea”, “The Afghan war is going well”, “The financial crisis was everyone’s fault”, “Austerity will create a big society” and “Johnson is the best choice for PM”. pic.twitter.com/gUxd2oFel6
— Flying_Rodent (@flying_rodent) December 2, 2021
Both can be true.
Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose to 222 thousand in the week ending November 27th, from a five-decade low of 194 thousand in the previous period and below market expectations of 240 thousand. Still, the number of new claims came in near their pre-pandemic 2019 weekly average of about 220 thousand, reflecting the continued recovery in the US labor market.”
Employment Situation: “United States Challenger Job Cuts” [Trading Economics]. “Job cuts announced by US-based companies fell 34.8 percent from a month earlier and 77 percent from a year earlier to 14,875 in November 2021, the lowest monthly total since May 1993, as companies try to keep workers amid tight labor market.”
Shipping: “Ships in California logjam now stuck off Mexico, Taiwan and Japan” [American Shipper]. “The decline in ships waiting just offshore of Los Angeles/Long Beach continues to be touted as a sign that port congestion is easing — despite the fact that the true number of waiting ships has not actually declined…. The number of container ships at anchor or loitering within 40 miles of the ports has indeed diminished. The reason: Since mid-November, a new queuing system has encouraged ships to wait outside of a specially designated Safety and Air Quality Area (SAQA) that extends 150 miles to the west of the ports and 50 miles to the north and south. The overall queue, including container ships both inside and outside the SAQA, has not diminished. It reached a new milestone on Tuesday. For the first time, there were more container ships waiting outside the SAQA than inside the ports’ 40-mile zone. According to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, there were 44 container ships waiting within the 40-mile zone as of midday Tuesday. Based on Marine Exchange data, American Shipper estimates that there were 50 container ships waiting outside the SAQA. The total — 94 — was just shy of Monday’s all-time record of 96 (including ships outside the SAQA), and up 27% from the count on Oct. 25, the day the excess-dwell penalty plan was announced by Seroka and Cordero.”
Shipping: “Ocean Timeliness Indicator”:
The data is clear: Delays in shipping on the Transpacific corridor are at their peak and continue to get worse. pic.twitter.com/6MovHJUOtj
— Ryan Petersen (@typesfast) December 2, 2021
The Bezzle: “Apple loses key autos engineer to electric aviation startup Archer” [CNBC]. “Michael Schwekutsch, a director of engineering in the Apple Special Projects Group that’s reportedly working on self-driving cars, has left to join electric air taxi start-up Archer as its senior VP of engineering. Schwekutsch noted the change on his LinkedIn page on Wednesday. The move is the latest example of staff turnover in Apple’s secretive car project. Former VP of special projects Doug Field left in September to lead Ford’s emerging technology efforts, a priority for the legacy automaker under its new Ford+ turnaround plan. The move also indicates that tech start-ups attacking climate issues can attract the most qualified engineers. ” • Or it indicates grifters moving on to fresh fields and pastures new.
Concentration: “Amazon’s strategy to squeeze marketplace sellers and maximize its own profits is evolving” [Recode]. “The new [Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR)] report [in yesterday’s Water Cooler]. found that Amazon’s seller fees accounted for an average of 19 percent of sellers’ earnings in 2014. That’s almost doubled to 34 percent in 2021. And while seller fees accounted for 14 percent of Amazon’s entire revenue in 2014, that figure is up to 25 percent in 2021. Amazon will pull in $121 billion from seller fees alone, ILSR estimates…. That revenue translates to a lot of profit — more than even Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s cloud computing platform typically believed to be the company’s most profitable arm. AWS netted $13.5 billion in 2020, according to Amazon’s financial data. ILSR estimates seller fees netted $24 billion. (Amazon says these figures are inaccurate but did not provide its own; the company’s public earnings statements also don’t combine seller fees in this way.) ‘Everyone thinks AWS generates all of Amazon’s profits,’ [ILSR’s Stacey] Mitchell said. ‘But in fact, Marketplace is this massive tollbooth that gushes profits.’ Seller fees primarily come from three things: sales, fulfillment, and ads. Every item sold is subject to a referral fee, which is Amazon’s commission. Over the years, that’s stayed pretty consistent at 15 percent (it may be lower or higher, depending on the product category). According to ILSR, those referral fees made up the majority of seller fees as recently as 2017. Since then, however, the majority of fees come from Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), Amazon’s service that stores, packs, and ships sellers’ items to customers. Ad revenue is steadily gaining ground as more sellers pay for more ads to get prominent placement on Amazon’s site, including on product pages and search results.”
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 25 Extreme Fear (previous close: 22 Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 64 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 2 at 12:34pm.
“A Breath of Virus-Free Air” [MedPage Today]. “In a hospital setting, however, most infection control protocols focus on contact transmission. As its name implies, contact transmission refers to the spread of diseases through contact with infected surfaces. To mitigate this type of transmission, we wash our hands, aggressively clean surfaces, isolate sick patients, and wear personal protective equipment (PPE).” This is where Walensky comes from, and this is what she believes. More: “But the problem with these measures is they have limited ability to combat airborne pathogens, especially those that are the smallest and deadliest. In March 2018, we embarked on a 3-year journey to test a theory: that mitigating the airborne transmission of viruses and bacteria is just as important as, or more important than, measures to reduce contact transmission. St. Mary’s Hospital for Children was the laboratory for this experiment. We had no idea at the time that we would soon find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic. Three years later, the results are in: the deployment of advanced air purification measures significantly contributed to a 45% reduction in healthcare-associated infections, according to the study recently published in the Journal of Hospital Infection. If we extrapolate those results nationally, it could mean 765,000 fewer hospital infections each year.” • Original study linked on 7/28, but worth repeating.
“KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor: September 2021” [KFF]. ” Non-elderly adults without health insurance also continue to report one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates of any group (54%).” • Often lost in the noise, oddly enough. Commentary:
So this is actually a major driver of US vaccine hesitancy. If people’s only experience with a for-profit medical system meant to find secret ways to cheat them, SURPRISE! Some people who’ve been burned will be wary of engaging with a suddenly free form of service! https://t.co/fcjflek1tC
— Dr. Thrasher (@thrasherxy) November 27, 2021
“Omicron’s Message” [Nonzero]. “[T]he acceleration of global vaccination… is something the world’s most powerful leaders aren’t focused on. If they were focused on it, we’d be seeing the unfolding of a project that looked something like this: (1) loosening the intellectual property rights enjoyed by vaccine makers; (2) compelling them to share the know-how that would allow factories around the world to take advantage of this loosening and ramp up vaccine production; and (3) making sure, with subsidies if necessary, that (a) the vaccine makers who thus sacrifice profits are rewarded amply enough to preserve their incentive to innovate; and (b) the newly abundant vaccines are inexpensive, especially in low-income countries. So incompetent are the world’s leaders that they can’t even get to step 1 of this project.” • Incompetence is the charitable explanation.
“Why don’t we just open the windows?” [British Medical Journal]. “The world is finally coming to terms with the realisation that transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is airborne. First came the modelling studies, sizing up airborne particles, their trajectories, and viral load; and then came examples from the real world, completing the gaps in the models and confirming that the pandemic virus is chiefly spread through tiny aerosolised respiratory particles. Trying to validate this by detecting live virus, however, is fraught with technical difficulties.6 Hence, the frenetic attempts at measuring the quantity of infectious virus in breath as well as revisiting knowledge on ventilation sciences.78 While keeping your distance, wearing a mask, and getting vaccinated have provided much protection, one intervention that would have a significant impact is adequate indoor ventilation. Healthcare, homes, schools, and workplaces should have been encouraged to improve ventilation at the very beginning of the pandemic, but tardy recognition of the airborne route by leading authorities in 2020 stalled any progress that could have been made at that stage. This was compounded by controversies over the terms “droplet” and “aerosol,” as the definition of these dictates different infection prevention strategies, including type of mask. Inserting the term “ventilation” into a covid-19 policy document might appease readers, but ensuring people get enough fresh air in indoor environments seems to have fallen by the wayside.12 Why is this? Can we establish the reasons for this seemingly lethargic response to improving indoor air quality?” • Summarizing: Entrenched gatekeepers and cost. Just spitballing here, but perhaps what we need to do is establish a market in air.
“This Company Has Applied For Authorization In India For Its Nasal Spray That Prevents Covid” [Forbes]. “A team of researchers from Brazil, London and Australia collaborated with the one-year old biotech to develop the nasal spray, which is named pHOXWELL. It’s a fluid mixture that mimics the natural environment of the cells combined with a proprietary herb derivative which has natural virucidal properties, says Angela Russell, professor of medicinal chemistry from Oxford university, one of the project’s consultants. ‘You have got this dual protection action. Viruciadals that kill the virus but also it acts as a layer of protection which stops viruses from adhering and entering the cells,’ she adds. The first human trials, which were double-blind placebo studies, were conducted in India among health care workers between April and July 2021, just when the country experience a deadly second wave caused by the delta variant. The participants, none of whom were vaccinated, used the spray three times every day for 45 days. In a press release, pHOXBIO claimed the clinical trials found that among the participants who used the spray, about 18% got a symptomatic Covid infection compared to around 35% in the placebo arm. At the end of the study, 13% of participants who received the spray had antibodies for Covid, indicating they’d been infected during the trial, compared to 35% in the placebo arm. ” • Here is the press release. If the study exists, I can’t find it.
“Up all night with a Twitch millionaire: The loneliness and rage of the Internet’s new rock stars” [WaPo]. “At 26, Tyler is a millionaire and one of the Internet’s most popular streamers. For 50 hours a week, he broadcasts himself playing video games from his cramped living room in his 900-person Missouri hometown to 4.6 million followers, watching from around the world. He earns more than $200,000 a month in Twitch ads and viewer subscriptions. Sponsorships with Nike and Doritos, contracts with giant esports teams, fan donations and merchandise sales have earned him millions more. When he dropped out of college to stream, Tyler cast himself as an alpha among dweebs, known for crude banter and wild gameplay. To a generation raised by the Internet, he became bigger than a rock star: Fans pay him every month for access and intimacy, which he provides in great amounts, allowing nearly every day of his life — from his virtual battles to his most personal real-world moments — to be dissected and criticized. Streamers like Tyler form the backbone of tech giants’ ‘creator economy,’ and with their lives on permanent display, they’ve pioneered a raw form of entertainment. While Instagram and TikTok value viral perfection, Twitch fans flock to more unpolished streamers; no one can stay perfect on a 10-hour marathon. (Twitch was bought in 2014 for nearly $1 billion by Amazon, whose founder, Jeff Bezos, owns The Post.) But the punishing need to stay relevant in a supersaturated market is also fueling severe burnout. After five years of building an unapologetically aggressive persona for an audience of mostly young men, Tyler is exhausted by the expectations of an unforgiving crowd.”
“Gardening and games converge in Genius Loci, a new book about digital landscapes” [Eurogamer]. “Nobody else is doing quite what Rob Dwiar is doing. Dwiar, who works at GamesRadar as a commissioning editor, has spent much of his life as a games writer thinking about gardens. Or maybe he’s spent much of his life as a gardening writer thinking about games…. Now, Dwiar has written a book about the intersection of games and landscape. It’s called Genius Loci, and it’s currently running a campaign on Unbound. Genius Loci promises ‘a grand tour of video game landscapes and gardens.’ It’s a richly illustrated thing, a lovely chunky hardback, by the looks of it, covering everything from Assassin’s Creed to Dragon Age as it takes in the best of video game landscapes, making sense of the design choices, picking through the flora and fauna, and providing a wonderful sense of context….”
“Everywhere, America” [Men Yell at Me]. “I go home that night and dress in a skeleton costume and drink with a friend in a bar that looks like another bar I was just in in Charlottesville. People aren’t dressed up for Halloween anymore, instead, I’ll think how all the white men, also kind of look like Nazis.”
Groves of Academe
A new element (DJG):
Conceptually, seems close to quantum bogodynamics.
We've been bargaining our contract for almost 2 years, but BuzzFeed won't budge on critical issues like wages — all while preparing to go public and make executives even richer.
— BuzzFeed News Union is walking out! ✊ (@bfnewsunion) December 2, 2021
“Longer-Run Economic Consequences of Pandemics” (PDF) [Working Paper 26934, NBER]. The Abstract: “What are the medium- to long-term effects of pandemics? How do they differ from other economic disasters? We study major pandemics using the rates of return on assets stretching back to the 14th century. Significant macroeconomic after-effects of pandemics persist for about decades, with real rates of return substantially depressed, in stark contrast to what happens after wars. Our findings are consistent with the neoclassical growth model: capital is destroyed in wars, but not in pandemics; pandemics instead may induce relative labor scarcity and/or a shift to greater precautionary savings.”
What’s wrong with this picture:
Come with me, and you’ll see, a world of OSHA violations.. pic.twitter.com/FDXakRiNrB
— ☈ Chris Jackson ☈ (@ChrisJacksonSC) December 1, 2021
News of the Wired
“A big fuss over a little word? New French pronoun ‘iel’ sparks debate” (video) [France24]. “France’s prominent Le Petit Robert dictionary, considered a linguistic authority in the country, recently added a new pronoun to its online edition. The word is ‘iel’, a gender-neutral merging of the masculine ‘il’ (he) and the feminine ‘elle’ (she). This new pronoun, intended for those who identify as neither male nor female, is already used online and by younger generations.” • I do think this is better than repurposing “they.” (“They left their skis.” How many skis? Yes, I can write around it.) To be fair, “iel” is combines euphony and meaningfulness in a way no combiation of “he” and “she” seems able to do.
Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (SC):
The following may be of interest to readers who are dealing with Autumn leaves and yard cleanup. Here are two aerobic/”hot” compost piles set up from new grass/weeds and old (2020) chopped leaves. The foreground bin is a hoop of 3′ wide hardware cloth (chicken wire can also do, though it is flimsier and less good at retaining small particles) pinned at the “seam” with twigs. The background bin, a 1 yard cube, is hand-made from cedar balusters, hardware cloth, and sundry fasteners, following the “Classic Compost Bin” instructions in the Storey Publishing book, “Vegetable Gardener’s Book of Building Projects”. The four sides of the “classic” bin clip together with hook/eye latches. Both bins easily come apart and can be set up next to the pile to turn it by forking it back into the bin. There are piles of sticks and twigs at bottom, between the blocks, to provide some air intrusion into the bottom of the piles.
These were recently filled following (crudely) the “3-successive-layers-pile” recipe of a layer of carbon-rich material (“browns”), a layer of nitrogen-rich material (“greens”) and a layer of soil or mature compost; rinse and repeat. My “soil” layer is soil-like compost from cold piles that probably have weed seeds in them; hopefully these hot piles will kill the seeds.
The piles are getting hot, in spite of the cold weather. The smaller hardware cloth bin at this writing is at 135F and the bigger “classic” bin a shade below 140F. The air temperature is 50F (mid 30s the night before), so these are closing in on 100F above ambient. In Summer I imagine they would “cook” rapidly. The thermometer (2nd photo) is the low-cost backyard model from ReoTemp, a very handy tool.
Out of laziness, I have in past relied on slow/cold moldering piles — even though I made the effort to assemble the “classic bin”, I didn’t use it for years — but this experience of piles heating up and cooking down (the piles visibly shrink from day to day, I’m sure that’s mostly just settling, but I suspect it’s also partly breakdown of the materials) is very satisfying and is much quicker. My first experience, more than 20 years ago, of using badly composted material as top dressing was a disaster — it just spread weeds massively — and I have not done much with compost since then (other than to let the cold weedy piles molder). I’m looking forward to a happier outcome in Spring 2022. This year’s leaves will be ground up and stored for use as “browns” with next year’s lawn clippings as “greens” and I may be able to generate fresh compost throughout the Spring and early Summer for veggie plantings. I also expect to have masses of bamboo and Bermuda grass stolons to destroy, and hot piles may help with that. My veggies have not done well in recent years and it may be due to soil depletion. We’ll see if infusions of organic matter helps.
Readers, I could still use more plants, so if you could send some photos to the address below, that would be great! I’d really like to see photos of harvests or completed projects, to inspire people to plan for spring over the winter. Also fall foliage? Thank you!
Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the recently concluded and — thank you! — successful annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:
Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.
If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!