That time I scooped the New York Times

Faithful readers of this blog (all three of them) will recall that more than a week ago, I wrote about colleges that are announcing they’ll be open this fall, and surmised that it was driven by dollars, not sense.

Lo and behold, check out the lead story in the New York Times “The Morning” daily briefing today:

Colleges have come rushing forth to announce that they will be inviting students back to campus this fall. But as I’ve spoken to college officials over the past few weeks — usually not for quotation — I’ve been struck by the difference between their public optimism and their private uncertainty.

Many university leaders aren’t sure how well on-campus living and in-person classes will work during this pandemic. Some acknowledge it may not work at all.

It will require radical changes to the normal campus experience, like canceling many activities, rotating which students can return (to keep dorms from being too full) and continuing to hold classes online (to protect professors).

This approach is likely to frustrate students — and it still might not prevent new coronavirus outbreaks. Nearly all distinctive parts of a campus experience, including parties, meals and extracurriculars, revolve around close social contact, often indoors.

So what explains the surge of “We’re open!” announcements? Competitive pressure, in part. Many colleges will face serious financial problems if they lose a year of tuition and other revenue.

Now professors and administrators have begun publicly criticizing reopening plans:

  • “My suspicion,” Susan Dynarski, a University of Michigan economist, wrote on Twitter, is that “colleges are holding out hope of in-person classes in order to keep up enrollments.” She added: “If they tell the difficult truth now, many students will decide to take a year off,” which “will send college finances into a tailspin.”
  • Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington, noted that the new class of Army recruits at Fort Benning recently suffered a major outbreak, despite universal testing there.

There are no easy answers. Telling students to stay home in the fall also has big downsides. And it’s possible that students will do a better job wearing masks and remaining socially distant than skeptics like Steinberg expect.

But the path that colleges are choosing comes with big risks. American higher education is about to embark on a highly uncertain experiment.

Geez, they even cribbed their final sentence “experiment” language from my blog post header:

Maybe the Giant Cheeto in D.C. is telling the truth for the first time ever… the Times must be “failing” if they are getting story ideas from this blog. Sad!

Looks like it’s time to sic my law firm on the Old Gray Lady…

And we’re adding a tagline to the Dubbatrubba masthead: All the news you’ll find elsewhere a week later.

(To be fair, while all the other articles and tweets linked in the NYT briefing were published after my post, the Atlantic piece, by Michael J. Sorrell, the president of Paul Quinn College in Dallas, was published in mid-May. So he really scooped the rest of us.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to the hard-hitting, insightful, industry-leading journalism for which this blog is now known.

Release the hounds!

I have two cats. They sleep all day, require zero attention and poop tidily.

My wife, however, has somehow hoodwinked me into allowing two dogs into the house. The first one was a Christmas gift, allegedly for one of our kids, but in hindsight that was just a good cover story. The second one was a service-dog-in-training. We “socialized” him for six months, then he went back to the nonprofit for several months of hardcore training. He didn’t pass the rigorous testing required of service dogs, so we (i.e. my wife) adopted him. I have a sneaking suspicion that my wife waved a raw steak in front of him when he was going through the final test, to ensure that he would drop out.

The dogs require daily walks, like to beg in the kitchen, sleep in our beds, nap on our couches and poop all over the yard.

I’ve told my wife that I’m going to build a big doghouse in the backyard, so the pooches can be outside dogs. But if I actually built it, I have no doubt who would be banished to it, and it wouldn’t be Bibo and Hope.

All that glitters…

Are you familiar with the Nextdoor platform? It’s like a localized version of Facebook. In other words, you’ll find less posts about conspiracy theories, and more about lost cats. Here’s the official description:

Much like Facebook, it doesn’t take much time for even the most innocuous discussion to disintegrate into a flurry of name-calling, trolling, shaming and bullying. So I tend to avoid it for the most part (much like Facebook).

That said, I really want to party with this person:

Glitter in bulk – now there’s a new one. Perhaps this person is an in-demand party planner, and they’re looking to reduce costs with volume purchases. Or s/he could be the proprietor of a “gentleman’s club”… or perhaps just the world’s biggest Mariah Carey fan.

Or maybe, just maybe, this person is workshopping a Rip Taylor tribute act, and already purchased enough confetti at the Confetti R Us superstore, and now needs to mix in some glitter for a bit more pizzazz. A guy can dream, can’t he?

I think we can all agree that a Rip Taylor tribute act is something the world desperately needs right now.

I sure hope that Nextdoor neighbor finds their glitter… and turns it into comedy gold.

Funny Fred

Comedic actor Fred Willard passed away this weekend at the age of 86. I loved his Jerry Hubbard character on Fernwood 2-Night.

He was funny in every part he played, even if it was only a bit part like in This is Spinal Tap.

He was consistently amusing in his many appearances on Letterman.

His characters in the Christopher Guest improv movies (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind) were outstanding.

And he kept us laughing later in his career, with roles on Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family, as well as appearances on The Tonight Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live. He really elevated the laugh factor on every project he did.

“He was absolutely, unconditionally original. He worked so spontaneously. He had such a closet that he could go to. It was just remarkable. You never where he was going to go. He didn’t tip it.”

Fred’s longtime acting pal Martin Mull in this Variety article

By all accounts, he was a very nice person as well.

“He was as kind and as gentle and as warm and generous a person as you could ever want to meet.”

Martin Mull

R.I.P. Fred… here’s your somber exit song

And here’s your will:

I’m down. 89 down to be exact.

The weekly community newspaper in our area is thin on hard news and heavy with press releases from the volunteer PR people for the local schools and Rotary Clubs.

But I still subscribe, because each week they reprint the New York Times Sunday Crossword puzzle. As a hardcore cruciverbalist, I love trying to crack the code each week. There’s something very satisfying about filling in all those blanks.

And a few weeks ago, I finally was recognized for my dedication:

OK, sure, the clue is bogus. But a guy can dream, can’t he? Here’s the unedited version:

Hey, at least Damian Marley got top billing over his brothers Ziggy and Stephen!

And it’s still a thrill to see my name in the NYT crossword. When I was a kid, I didn’t really like my name that much because it was so unusual, and difficult for others to spell. But after meeting a million Johns and Bobs and Mikes, I started to warm up to it. It was different and weird… just like me!

Now here’s “that other Damian” with some tunes for you.

Lockdown is boring

My big sis Jeanne lives in Brooklyn with her husband Michael and their youngest child, Chris. They’re safe and sound, thank goodness, but my sister’s work shut down, so she’s had plenty of time to ponder the mysteries of the universe (and perhaps her Netflix queue).

She’s come up with a list of “Things to ponder when you are bored”:

  • You are a bit disoriented when you wake up like that was a terrible nightmare and then you realize that you’re waking up to live the nightmare. 
  • You hear sirens all day long. On weekend nights when your kids were young and out late, you prayed they listened when you said “don’t drink and drive.” Now you pray for other reasons.  
  • Your husband doesn’t know which bandanna to choose (thank goodness you ordered them before “currently unavailable”). He ponders whether to align with the Crips or Bloods and opts for both. 
  • You used to skip lunch at work now it’s a five star production.  
  • Your unwind beverage of choice was a nice glass of Cabernet.  Now it’s straight Gentleman Jack. 
  • You eccentric father who never believed in doctors believed peroxide could fix most ailments: teeth, skin, etc.  Who knew?  
  • How can you not purchase a Dr. Anthony Fauci bobble head?  
  • Amazon Fresh says they update delivery availability throughout the day.  They lie. Fresh Direct doesn’t even offer a future delivery date to choose.  
  • I always wanted to live in Montana.  
  • I forgot my ID on my last walking adventure to NYC.  I was not able to get an Ezra Keats Snowy Day library card. My husband brought his ID and got his. He doesn’t even know who Ezra Keats is. I read, he bought the kids candy.  
  • I have a drawer that must have 10,099 buttons.  
  • J Crew sent me a spend $100 get $50 free coupon.  That’s not happening.  
  • A liquor store is considered an essential business.  Go figure.   

Hang in there, sister. Things will get better someday…

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