2:00PM Water Cooler Christmas Day 2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, I had heavily hinted that I would take the day off, but then I remembered that I ran this in 2020 and 2021 (oddly, not in 2022) so here we are for 2023:

Merry Christmas, and let me now express the wish that 2024 will be boring and uneventful!

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) 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. From laughingsong:

laughingsong writes: “We throw out mixes of native wildflowers every year. After about three extremely sparse years where very few came up, this year has gone bonkers. It’s giving us a huge amount of joy to sit out in the evenings and watch birds and pollinators enjoy our tiny meadow!

Lambert here: I know I should have a Christmas tree, or at least a conifer, for today’s plant, but I don’t have any, and don’t want to use a stock photo. However, wildflower mixes have given me great joy over the years, and if, during any down time you have during this holiday week, you are planning next year’s garden, I encourage you to consider them. Just buy a pound of seed and fling it onto what used to be the lawn!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Skk

    You like it too ! I’m watching it right now on BBC IPlayer. It’s traditional to do so for me, reminds me of how as kids, the school used to traipse en mass to the church and sing the well known carols.

    This is a poor substitute but it will do ! Kidding of course.

  2. clarky90

    Jesus’ name in Aramaic is Isho or Eesho, spelled ܝܫܘܥ. Wishing all of the NC commentariat, Peace and Good Will in celebration of Infant-Baby Isho’s special day……..


  3. ChrisRUEcon

    Thanks for taking time to drop this. It made me look up Anonymous 4, whose CD I picked up while bin-diving at Tower Records in Lincoln Square NYC some twenty odd years ago. I was into the whole chanting monks things, and Anonymous 4 blew me away. I just realized while Googling that they disbanded in 2016. In the spirit of Christmas, I will share their rendition of “Gabriel, Fram Heven-King” (via YouTube). Enjoy!

  4. MichaelC

    They are beautiful and I tuned in yesterday to listen to them as I normally do on Christmas Eve.
    Until Noel, Noel which as a boy filled me with joy to sing.

    But when it came to ‘Born is the king of Israel’ my heart just broke.
    I imagine there was a lot of closer attention paid to the words of those hymns this year.

  5. upstater

    Merry Christmas to the NC community… it was 52F and beautiful sunshine in Central NewYork. I cannot remember any other Christmas like today. Stacked cut firewood and went for a run in a t shirt! Plenty of neighbors out for walks. It has been several years since we had decent snow, much less suitable for XC. Last time was 2012 (great XC!) the last Christmas with our middle daughter, the elf in charge of instilling and marshaling holiday spirit. Hasn’t been the same since.

  6. IM Doc

    I do not know if this is gospel truth. I had a patient who is now long ago passed who was in his childhood one of those choir boys at Cambridge.

    He informed me that the master in charge of the choir would tell the boy who was going to do the intro solo that he had the part literally seconds before show time. Therefore, there was no time to get nervous and screw up – ours is not to question why, ours is but to do or die. It must be something in the British culture. He also stated that this was commonly done in all kinds of things – not just Christmas performances.

    Have a MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone!

    1. JTMcPhee

      I wonder if any of the choir boys got other kinds of surprises from the master. Or if the master was concerned that one of his charges would have some kind of fit from the sudden rush of adrenalin. All kinds of wonderful stories about the activities of the British hierarchy in retail and wholesale (Boris and the p@@is mouth pig, up to Boris “scotching” the incipient settlement between Russia and Banderistan, as examples at the extremes.) Not to mention tens and hundreds of millions of dead people, some white but mostly brown in ensuring “the sun never sets on the British Empire.”Lots of evidence of all that, but “boys will be boys,” especially if they say “balCOny” rather than “BALcony.”

    2. Terry Flynn

      This sounds believable. Sir David Willcocks was choirmaster for a long period. He subsequently became conductor of the Bach Choir (London). I was a member in the mid 1990s during his tenure. He could be very impish in his humour. Imagine being in a “proper” choir alongside your first job out of University and whilst you got plenty of time to learn and practice for most concerts, there are 3 performances at Easter of a “regular piece” that are done every year and thus done on no more than 4 rehearsals. Sink or swim if you haven’t sung it before.

      I was one of two newbies in that first year of membership. We were scared enough…..and then Sir David sprang one of his infamous tricks on the choir. “It’s Bach’s St Matthew Passion and you’re the crowd. So you are set up like a crowd. NOT sitting by section.” So I, a bass, had a soprano one side, an alto on the other, with a tenor blasting out behind me. It’s frightening enough in the Festival Hall but the 3rd performance is in Birmingham Symphony Hall, renowned for its amazing acoustics – you really feel that your sound can be heard by the entire audience and is truly astonishing (and frightening) to perform in.

      Another little anecdote was that I got to chat to to HRH the Duchess of Kent who sang in the choir during that period. She insisted that nobody use her title and was lovely and down to earth.

  7. chris

    I think we can play a game over the next year with various news headlines. Let’s see how many people being held as political prisoners the US and Five Eyes will mention before they say anything about Julian Assange being held because the US has reasons.

    Complementing that, let’s see the US media trot out Navalny and others as all the reasons why Putin is horrible and should not be negotiated with everytime people discuss the mistakes in Ukraine.

    I can nearly write the script for future conversations now…

    Me: the US has lost in Ukraine, Taiwan, and Essiquibo, and NATO is not a force for good in the world. We need to transition to a multi-polar system of organizations now while we have some say in how that’s done.

    All the good people: why do you want Putin to win?

    M: I don’t care if Putin “wins”, whatever that means, or loses. I care about reality and the continuing loss of life. We need to support a cessation of hostilities now in all the various theaters while we still can.

    ATGP: but Putin is an awful person and is holding his political opponents as prisoners!

    M: so do we. We also help our less savory allies assassinate their opponents.

    ATGP: name one time we did that!

    M: Julian Assange, Reality Winner, Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou…

    ATGP: I mean recently.

    M: ok, how about when we leaked information to the Saudis so they could kill Jamal Koshogi?

    ATGP: who? Why do you bring up things that don’t matter?

    M: you keep moving the goal posts for this conversation. What we want or don’t want doesn’t matter. There is an objective reality we have to contend with here. We have lost in Ukraine and Taiwan and further attempts to “win” will result in horrible losses of life.

    ATGP: so you do want Putin to win!

  8. The Rev Kev

    Merry Christmas to everyone at NC. Strange weather here the past few days with temperatures in the 30s (in the 90s in Fahrenheit) then of an evening lots of rains and massive storm activity. Forecast says the same for today. Hope that everyone has a great day today and gets to chill out a bit so Merry Christmas.

    1. Lunker Walleye

      Never remember rain falling on night of Christmas Eve nor during Christmas day like here today on the Great Plains. It is needed. Hope you all have had a wonderful celebration. Grateful for NC and gang.

    2. skippy

      Been a hot soggy – ***month*** – Kev … doing almost 10l of water a day at work.

      At least at home I have the dehumidifier on, guess where the dogs hangout in the lounge lol. Even at dawn and dusk the dog walks are soggy affairs.

      Wellie its going to be interesting to see how the rest of cyclone season plays out as everything is well and truly soaked, anything south of rocky will be quite the event.

      Anywho … well wishes too all during the season, purveyors of fine information that is NC …

  9. John D.

    No snow here in Toronto, either. That’s always a rather eerie touch to the proceedings, especially when I remember what the weather was like when I was a child.

    I have this vivid memory of standing on any icy road when I was a wee one, and the wind was strong enough to blow me across the street without my having to move my legs or do anything at all. Looking back, I can’t help wondering if that really happened or did I imagine it? It sure seems unreal now.

    Have a happy Xmas, y’all…or as happy a one as you can, at least.

  10. Glen

    Merry Christmas everyone!

    It’s mid-forties and raining in the PNW here on Puget Sound. Snowing in the mountains.

    Here’s hoping everybody can find some peace in the coming year.

  11. CA

    The year is about over, and this will be easily the warmest year since 1880 when modern measurement begins. James Hansen built a model that explains why, and I can set down the abstract. Also, Hansen finds that the rate of warming is increasing and the levels hoped for by United Nations climate representatives will be significantly exceeded.

  12. CA


    December, 2008

    Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?
    By James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Pushker Kharecha, David Beerling, Robert Berner, Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Mark Pagani, Maureen Raymo, Dana L. Royer and James C. Zachos


    November 14, 2023

    Global Warming Acceleration: El Nino Measuring Stick Looks Good
    By James Hansen, Makiko Sato and Reto Ruedy


    December 7, 2023

    “A Miracle Will Occur” Is Not Sensible Climate Policy
    By James Hansen, Pushker Kharecha and Makiko Sato

  13. Kali El

    By nothing more than your desire for a memory the memory then appears in your mind. Whatever is causing that to happen must:

    1. Be aware of and comprehend your desires for memory.

    2. It must therefore be intelligent to be able to understand your desires and then respond with memory data.

    From: The Way Our Memory Works Proves The Existence of God

    Merry Christmas!

    1. skippy

      Please don’t … existence will never be proven … there is a reason its about faith and belief …

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > existence will never be proven

        This is the only approach that makes sense to me. If the existence of God can be proven, then the tools of the method used to create the proof are equal to or greater than the powers of God. But God is supposed to be infinitely powerful, so how does that work? (For example, an all-powerful God could move you to a timeline where your method no longer works. What then?)

        Of course, we believe a lot of silly things without proof; witness our society-wide reaction to Covid.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s an interesting argument (reminds me of Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius). From your source:

      Scientists are perplexed and have good reason for that. They all blame the brain by saying that somehow an unknown unconscious biological process is behind the creation of our thoughts and memories. The big problem with that is — the brain would have to be an intelligent and conscious being in its own right to be aware of and then respond to our desires for memory.

      I don’t think consciousness is “located” in the brain, but let that pass. I think a simpler explantion is that the “intelligent and conscious” being supplying “us” with memories is indeed “us,” but the architecture of the brain does not permit “us” to be aware of the process. That would be highly maladaptive, since we’d screw up out memory if we had access to it.

      1. Michaelmas

        Lambert S. But the architecture of the brain does not permit “us” to be aware of the process.

        Even that’s not true. It’s possible for individuals to not only be aware but to have near-absolute mastery of the process.


        The method of loci is a strategy for memory enhancement, which uses visualizations of familiar spatial environments in order to enhance the recall of information. The method of loci is also known as the memory journey, memory palace, journey method, memory spaces, or mind palace technique. This method is a mnemonic device adopted in ancient Roman and Greek rhetorical treatises (in the anonymous Rhetorica ad Herennium, Cicero’s De Oratore, and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria). Many memory contest champions report using this technique to recall faces, digits, and lists of words.

        It is the term most often found in specialised works on psychology, neurobiology, and memory, though it was used in the same general way at least as early as the first half of the nineteenth century in works on rhetoric, logic, and philosophy ….

        This isn’t even to get into outliers like |John von Neumann who, besides having an 175 IQ, was able on request to recite any number of pages of a book he had read, say, thirty years before word for word till he was asked to stop.

        Or see, forex —

        The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map
        by O’Keefe, John; Nadel, Lynn; Oxford University Press, 1978

  14. Morincotto

    I don’t see any reason why if God existed he/she/it would care about faith or why it should be impossible to prove that existence.

    Why would God make it impossible or even difficult instead of making it’s existence obvious?

    Early Christians thought that God’s existence was obvious and certainly never in a million years expected that science would find the kind of universe it did, that God would ever have to hide in gaps or that forced, convoluted “proofs” of his existence would be necessary.

    Still, I think the basic attitude of wanting to prove her existence IS preferable over fideism.

    It’s just that up until now this has only resulted in bad philosophy and worse science.

    1. Morincotto

      Just to add:

      The argument is actually inspired by Hindu philosophy, fitting with the link provider’s handle, so I don’t want to unfairly call out only Christians for making bad arguments for God’s existence.

      It spreads far beyond them.

    2. vidimi

      indeed. if god exists, believing in him would be just about the least important thing. he gave us a rule to follow: be good.

      presumably, believers would have an easier time following the rule, since they should believe more in its importance, but in practice, this is not the case. i cannot accept that people who are truly good – the rarest of all qualities, especially in the west – would end up worse than some shitty believer simply because they don’t believe in the ‘right’ thing.

      1. vidimi

        the definition of good that I use are people who act for the benefit of others at a cost to themselves. simply loving your kids, or even donating some money to charity once in a while do not count.

  15. Pat

    Proof. We live in a timeline where gaming the data is far too common to accept any definitive word on the existence of God.

    For me there are too many things that indicate some kind of defining presence, or higher order to discount the possibility of a God or Goddess or some combination thereof. Just watching an octopus take on the patterns of a reef shows some rules of development. Where things get wonky is when humans insert themselves in the mix. Too often it isn’t just about trying to explain what they see but to shape other’s beliefs in order to empower themselves.

    Meanwhile I think of this season as a celebration of light. I fully admit to taking what I want from Christmas and leaving much of the rest behind. The lights, the gatherings, presents to those we love and those who have helped us over the year, and most of all the hope of new beginnings. The solstice started this long before Christianity and other religions piggybacked onto it, so it really is fair game.

    Happy Boxing Day, everyone.

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