Recommentunde: Ok To Let Go | 6 May 2020

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The Recommentunde Newsletter

Sent on 6 May 2020 Edition

Hi you,

It’s me.

Today is Wednesday. Normally I send these on Tuesday, but I didn’t feel like it, and I realized I could just choose to send it on Wednesday instead. I feel good about that. I just got off the phone with a friend who shared a valuable daily question she asks herself. “What am I taking with me, and what am I leaving behind?” It’s a useful tool, especially in this time of heightened stress and hardship, to revel in the power we have to let some things go, even if it’s as simple as the expectation of when to send an email newsletter ;)

In this week’s opening, I want to take a moment to explain my text message number thing, because I suspect you might be confused. Like, “why is Baratunde pushing this weird number?” And “Is he really texting or is it a robot?” And “I already have your number dude, don’t confuse me with another one!”

These are all great concerns and questions. I put together an Instagram story for the more visually inclined. Meanwhile, here’s the deal: I’ve got this number, 202-894-8844, and yes I’m the only one who operates it. While there’s some light automation built in to help me organize conversations, this is no robotunde. It me!

When you sign up, I get to see some basic things about you that you choose to share (age, gender ID, city, state), and I use that to have more personalized and relevant interactions. I’ve sent local information just to New Yorkers about events or PPE-related fundraisers. I’ve asked people in various states how they feel about their government leaders right now. I’ve reminded people of voter registration deadlines. Odds are high I’ll send you a happy birthday text.

The text number is like these emails but shorter, more timely, more relevant to you, and I write back more easily, more often. I can’t always respond to every message, but I try, and it’s outside the performance glare of something like Twitter or Instagram, so it’s just more chill for both of us.

Give it a shot. It’s a new thing so I’ll likely change up how I use it, but the people who’ve signed up are happy, and I think it’s a great place/way to interact. Here’s how: send a text to 202-894-8844. If you’re on a mobile device right now, you can join faster by clicking here, and sending a message. In that initial text, ask me anything, and I’ll answer as many as I can today.

If you don’t like it, you can always unsubscribe and choose to leave it behind. And now for your regularly-scheduled content in these irregular times.

I chose a 202 number because DC is my original home town, and I'll always love it.

“This Is What Happens to Couples Under Stress”: An Interview with Esther Perel

Interview in The New Yorker

Well, this is good! Esther Perel offers some wise advice for couples in all stages of relationships during these stressful times. Probably good to read this a few times.

This Time, Americans Are Doing Nothing

Real talk Article in The Atlantic

The lack of U.S. leadership in this moment could have a permanent effect on the global order of things. Elections matter, people.

Giving Birth in the Middle of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Intense article in The NY Times.

Remember a month ago when I sent ? Partially that anger was fueled by the experience of my friend Poonam. She has shared some of that experience in this New York Times diary on what it was like to give birth duding the pandemic in NYC.

I Believe Tara Reade. I’m Voting for Joe Biden Anyway.

Editorial in the New York Times

Wow. This is the most honest perspective I’ve found on this challenging, inconvenient, wrenching topic of Joe Biden and Tara Reade’s allegations against him. The author makes a case for believing Tara Reade as a survivor and still voting for Biden as the better option in the upcoming election. Her ability to do this helped me see that for any of us, coming to a conclusion about who is telling the truth in this matter is not what’s required (or maybe even possible). What may be required is an honest moral weighing exercise. It’s unpleasant, but it also makes sense. Good luck with this one. I offer no easy answers myself.

We Can’t Afford to Lose the Postal Service

Inspiring / Infuriating article in The New Yorker

“if the coronavirus kills the Postal Service, its death will have been hastened, as so many deaths are right now, by an underlying condition: for the past forty years, Republicans have been seeking to starve, strangle, and sabotage it, hoping to privatize one of the oldest and most important public goods in American history.” Read. This. Please.

Louis Armstrong’s museum has gone silent, but ‘Pops’ is still talking

Uplifting article in The Washington Post

Also exists as a podcast episode in the great Post Reports. There’s a library of thousands of hours of private tapes recorded by Louis Armstrong, and those tapes are going online. If you’re tired of listening to your roommate and your mayor’s daily briefings, mix it up with this.

Call This Number 1-(833)-229-8300

Political action powered by the Reform Alliance

You might have seen Meek Mill post a phone number with #ANSWERTHEIRCALL. The Reform Alliance has set up a phone number letting us hear directly from incarcerated Americans living in fear of COVID-19. It's a powerful way to humanize a preventable tragedy. Please call the number and take the recommended actions.

The Leader We Wish We Had

Video from The New York Times

Thanks to Stacy for this tip. Here’s a 7-minute video about the first ever medical doctor to run Ohio’s department of health. Dr. Amy Acton is the hero we need, and I feel calmer just watching this highlight reel the Times made about her communication style.

Matt Foley: Van Down By The River - SNL

Classic sketch from SNL on YouTube

The algorithm served up an interview with Bob Odenkirk about how he and Chris Farley created the motivational speaker character. It’s lovely and fun and full of life giving energy.

Why Antibody Tests can generate more false positives than real ones

Video from ProPublica

This is essential viewing and under four minutes you’re welcome! We jump from hope to hope with various ideas of tests that will reassure us, but in that rush, statistics and math are ever-stable. Watch this for a great explanation of the relationship between disease prevalence and the value of antibody testing. Spoiler: with a very low prevalence of the disease, antibody testing is actually harmful to our understanding.

The 90% economy - Life after lockdowns

Article in The Economist

We are nowhere near the end of this as far as the effects on our politics and our economies. This short piece lays out some possible futures. I feel like we should be braced for them all while actively embracing the futures we want to see.


I've been adding to the Recommentunde YouTube playlist and Spotify podcast playlist just for you.

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Peace and Love.