Can't pick and choose

Welcome to our new subscribers over the weekend! Thanks for being here. I hope you’ll find Understandably worth your time … and maybe even tell a friend or two or three about it.

Welcome to Gratitude Week! But first, I keep thinking of the Latin phrase “annus horribilis,” meaning horrible year.

Queen Elizabeth II famously used it to describe 1992, during which several royal marriages ended, and there was a giant fire at Windsor Castle. Probably some other things, too. (Yes, we’ve been watching The Crown.)

But it’s funny. With 28 years of distance (gulp!), none of those things seem as if they matter in the least—well, not to the rest of us. And of course, for a lot of people, 2020 might count as an annus horribilis—but I wonder how much the pitfalls of this year will still weigh on us years from now.

Thanksgiving is this week, and that’s got me thinking about gratitude, even during tough times. I guess this is a recurring theme for me, as a year ago I wrote about what Stephen Colbert, the late-night TV host and comedian has to say about the idea.

Colbert suffered some very difficult tragedies during his childhood, including the fact that when he was 10 years old, his father and two of his brothers died in a plane crash. But, he’s said he’s learned that he has to be grateful even for the toughest, most painful parts of his life.

You can't pick and choose what you're grateful for.

What do you get from loss? You get awareness of other people's loss, which allows you to connect with that other person, which allows you to love more deeply and to understand what it's like to be a human being, if it's true that all humans suffer.

So, this is my writing prompt for the week, and perhaps you can help. Both here on Understandably, and on, I’m going to write about gratitude.

I’d be interested to hear what you’re grateful for — and whether it’s in spite of everything that’s happened during 2020, or because of it, or even if it has nothing to do with all the world’s issues right now.

I’ll figure out the format once I’ve thought a bit more and see what the replies look like. But, you can either simply comment on this post, or reply to this email and let me know your thoughts.

If you reply I’ll assume it’s OK for me to quote you unless you say otherwise. Please be sure to let me know if you don’t want me to use your name.

In keeping with all of this: thanks in advance. I’ll look forward to reading what you have to say.

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7 other things worth your time

  • Names you’ll probably hear a lot about over the next little while: President-elect Biden is set to nominate his advisor Anthony Blinken to be secretary of state, and Linda Thomas Greenfield to be UN ambassador. (Axios x2)

  • Health officials across the country are begging people not to travel for Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, hundreds of bodies are still in frozen storage from the Covid-19 surge last spring in New York City, because officials either can’t find their next of kin, because relatives were estranged/can’t afford a burial, or because the next of kin also died. (WashPost, WSJ, $)

  • Some masks protect you better than others; all masks are better than nothing. Short version: N95 > KN95/FFP2 > surgical mask > cotton mask > scarf/bandana. (WSJ, $)

  • Notwithstanding whatever claims there are that this is still a disputed election, Twitter and Facebook say they’ll hand over their @POTUS accounts to Biden on January 20. Also, the election result means Air Force One won’t be getting the makeover President Trump asked for. (NBC News, Axios)

  • In-N-Out Burger opened its first restaurants in Colorado, and the result was a 14-hour drive-through line in one case. It would have taken less time for some Coloradans to drive to Nevada, go to an In-N-Out there, and return. (Daily Mail)

  • I wrote about Southwest Airlines decision to proudly call the Boeing 737 MAX by its official name, rather than try some kind of rebranding campaign, when it starts flying the plane again next April. (

  • OK, it’s rare I can debunk a news story from personal experience, but there’s a report that “rats as big as bunnies are roaming the streets in broad daylight” in New York City, specifically on the Upper West Side and near Central Park. Well, I was literally there yesterday (my daughter is really into dinosaurs now, so we took her to the American Museum of Natural History). We were on the lookout for rodents because we’ve also been reading A Cricket in Time Square, and didn’t see a single one. I hate to use a phrase like “fake news,” but… (NY Post)

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