I’m Vaccinated

Early pandemic meme from March of 2020.

I heard a joke that the biggest side effect of being in a COVID vaccine clinical trial is the inability to stop talking about being in a COVID vaccine clinical trail. Last week I got a call from the Kaiser clinical trial folks letting me know that the shots I got back in September were a placebo. They offered to give me the vaccine this Monday and I took them up on the offer.

By Monday evening I had a sore arm and the next day I had moderate flu-like symptoms that lasted around 12 hours. Around noon on Tuesday I just needed to lay down and watch dumb TV for the rest of the day. I woke up on Wednesday feeling back to normal if a little tired. The discomfort was a small price to pay, in my opinion, for helping stop the spread of COVID.

When I got the call last week I went through a few phases of emotion. First was a sense of hope that this pandemic will end someday. Then I had worries that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to leave the house and see people. Then I realized that the fatiguing risk management that we all do on a daily basis isn’t over yet. Having had open heart surgery not all that long ago, Kelly is vulnerable to COVID and we have no idea when she’ll be able to get the vaccine. I can’t resume normal activities until more people are vaccinated. Vaccines are a we not me thing.

I’m still in the clinical trial. They will continue to monitor my blood for antibodies for the next two years and I check in every week via an app to report any possible COVID symptoms. Lastly, I want to thank the nurses and doctors who run the vaccine trial at Kaiser for their work, dedication and kindness.

Saturday Linkages: First as Tragedy, Then as LARP

From lockdowns to pool parties: how Covid rules vary around the world

As Kate Wagner of MacMansion Hell put it, “None of you are ready for this real estate listing.”

You have until 6:30 p.m. today EST to view Der Fliegende Holländer, the last Met opera filmed before the pandemic

Car Lanes to Become Bike Lanes on 2 Major New York City Bridges

Those Mysterious Dark Helicopters Were Landing On Multiple Downtown LA Rooftops Last Night

The Strangest Operating Systems Ever Released

Facebook is bombarding rightwing users with ads for combat gear. See for yourself

Wende Museum virtual tour

Neom – The Line to Oblivion

A Simple and Life Changing Bagel Recipe

Based on Jeffrey Hamelman’s recipe in Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes

453 grams (16 ounces) bread flour
263 grams (9 ounces) water
9 grams (.3 ounces) salt
2 grams (.07 ounces or approximately 3/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast

Malt syrup or molasses for boiling

Optional: sesame, poppy, flake salt or other seeds for topping.

Yield: 6 bagels

1. Throw all the ingredients except the malt syrup or molasses into a stand mixer and mix on the first speed for three minutes. Turn up to second speed and mix for an additional 6 minutes. If you don’t have a mixer you can knead. Dough will be very stiff.

2. Bulk fermentation: 1 1/2 hour in a covered bowl at room temperature.

3. Divide the dough into 113 gram pieces and shape into bagels. Here’s how you do that:

4. Place shaped bagels into a covered container and put in the refrigerator overnight.

5. The next day, take the bagels out of the fridge and check to see if they are ready to boil and bake. Put one in a bowl of water. If it floats you’re ready to boil your bagels. If it doesn’t float leave the bagels out at room temperature until they pass the float test.

6. Preheat your oven to 500ºF (260ºC). Put a big pot of water on the stove to boil. Add enough malt syrup or molasses to make a dark tea colored water (around a 1/4 cup). Once the water is boiling place two or three bagels in the pot and boil for 45 seconds. Flip halfway through boiling. If you’re adding seeds let the boiled bagels cool on a rack for a few minutes and dredge them through a plate with your sesame, poppy or other seeds.

6. Placed the boiled bagels on a baking sheet and bake for around 15 minutes at 500ºF (260ºC). Shoot for a light golden brown.

If you have a large mixer you can double this recipe to make a dozen bagels.

Deep Bagel Thoughts
Why did it take me so long to getting around to making bagels? It turns out bagel baking is much easier than the sourdough loaves I sometimes attempt. These homemade bagels are soooooooo much better than store bought or even bagels from specialized bagel bakeries. Why? First off, the boiling step gives you that perfect chewy bagel not found in supermarket bagels. But as Hamelman notes, hand shaping also gives you a better texture than commercially made (extruded) bagels. It may sound like hyperbole but I mean it when I say that this recipe has the best ROI of any baking project I’ve ever attempted.

Trust me, these homemade bagels will open your third eye.

Conspirituality

I’ve set aside part of my evenings the past few weeks practicing ink drawing mostly in an attempt to regain the patience I used to possess before my brain got fried by too much internet. While I draw (slow, poorly and painfully) I listen to old Art Bell shows from the 90s through the aughts from a large mp3 data dump. If you don’t know who Art Bell is he was a talk show host who devoted several hours every night, broadcasting solo from a desert compound in Pahrump, Nevada. His topics were a grab bag of the paranormal, everything from aliens, to Bigfoot to ghosts to bottomless pits.

I’ve been struck by just how innocent Art’s show now seems. It was just good fun, like the newspapers of the 19th century that could mix the news of the day with a few stories about flying bat people or underground lizard men. As a listener to Art’s show you knew that you weren’t supposed to take it too seriously, rather, you should just let Art’s voice lull you into a dreamland where the humdrum laws of the universe didn’t apply. Art’s show only makes sense in the deep, irrational darkness of night.

But this same paranormal and parapolitical material no longer seems so innocent in the age of Alex Jones and QAnon. This month I’ve witnessed someone fall deep into a QAnon hole as well as a homesteader on YouTube go full Militia LARP. What once could be appreciated as a paranoid if creative imaginarium now has real world consequences. People have been shot and bombs have detonated. Art had a brush with real world consequences when the Heaven’s Gate cult committed suicide after listening to a segment of his show but that’s a long way from January 6th’s Q-Shamannacht.

Silicon Valley’s predatory capitalism, with its feedback loops and addictive algorithms have led many down the Q Shaman’s bottomless pit in recent years including, unfortunately, many members of the “wellness” community. This is especially worrisome at a time when we need people to get vaccinated to stop this horrible pandemic. Here in Los Angeles there’s been so many Covid deaths that they’ve suspended air quality rules so they can deal with the cremation backlog.

But do you lead people out of conspiratorial, anti-vax movements? Successful rhetoric, in my opinion, doesn’t involve belittling people or telling them they’re stupid. This is one of the reasons I find most “skeptic” type science popularizers unhelpful. They’re just preaching to the choir at a time when we need to find ways to talk to people we have differences with.

The Conspirituality Podcast offers an thoughtful alternative to snarky skepticism. It’s hosted by Derek Beres, Matthew Remski and Julian Walker who describe themselves as, “a journalist, a cult researcher, and a philosophical skeptic” who get together to, “discuss the stories, cognitive dissonances, and cultic dynamics tearing through the yoga, wellness, and new spirituality worlds.” What I like about the show is that it’s done in a compassionate and civil way that, I think, has the potential to speak to people who might be heading down a self-destructive path. It respects the positive parts of the wellness movement while taking a critical look at the unhelpful parts.

They are much better at this sort of communication than I am. Early in the pandemic I got triggered by Charles Eisenstein’s promotion of some dubious ideas about vaccinations. Rather than get angry, the hosts of Conspirituality had Eisenstein on their show to model both civil discourse and to challenge his post-modern relativism. Their long two part discussion (part 1, part 2) is well worth listening to as both a model for productive dialog and if you have doubts about the vaccine.

If any of you listen to this show I’d love to hear your opinions, specifically if you think it speaks outside the choir.