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A year that will live in infamy.

As 2020 comes to a close and we all take our collective sigh… we made it I guess, I find myself pensive as thoughts swirl around the absolute insanity of this past year and what 2021 is shaping up to be. High’s and low’s, abundance of sadness and opportunity all wrapped into a year unlike any other in my lifetime.

Sitting down to write this end of the year newsletter, I couldn’t help but laugh at the oddity of timing. Dipping my toes into the expanse of public writing. Only a few newsletters in, holiday break and now sitting down to write a synopsis of the year. Looking for inspiration I thought I would see what was trending on twitter to set some initial tone…

Trending: Dick Cheny. Not because he did something great or did something evil. Not because he died. He’s trending because tens of thousands of people wished he had been on a hunting trip with Ted Cruz and had shot him. That about sums up the lows of where people are.

Ethically, intellectually, politically, the U.S. is in such an amazingly awkward chapter in it’s continuing story. The populace is as energized as it has ever been, record setting voting turn out; not in cultural camaraderie or unity but vitriolic decisiveness. Historical feats demonstrating the absolute depth of ingenuity and intellectual will, disregarded. Foundational cornerstones that should unite U.S. citizens and global citizens, challenged and decried.

Do you have a clue what happens now?

Love him or hate him, President Donald Trump is wrapping up his tenure and preparing to turn the keys to the castle over to President Elect Joe Biden. The final passage of four years that have shown that civility and discourse in politics died many years ago.

Thankfully, the final year and perhaps series finale of his presidency is TV gold. Action, suspense, shocking revelations, this season had it all. So many enticing stories the murder hornet subplot never had a chance to be fully fleshed out. Ratings have never been higher.

161 MILLION people voted in 2020 according to Bloomberg.

Let that sink in, 161 MILLION people. Absolutely historic high turn out.

Due to the presence of two magnanimous candidates ushering in the next golden era of American life… a celebration of excellence? Not so much.

The sitting President. The dark horse winner of the last election, fresh faced newcomer to politics. A man whose political policies pre-pandemic had him slated to be a run a way favorite for re-election has such a repulsing personality that a record amount of Americans voted for the other candidate. His future memoirs, Foiled by an Over Active Twitter Account.

The challenger. Former 2 term vice-president to the first Black president in U.S. history (We still aren’t counting Bill, right?). A man literally the antithesis of the type of person the founding father’s envisioned as President. Someone who has held government office for so long, that his vice president elect challenged his voting record.. on segregation. When Joe Biden is inaugurated it will be 50 years since his first election win.

It’s hard to believe that these two individuals are the best that the United States could muster.

Extreme polarization aside, this year has shown that erosion continues for the credibility of foundational institutions. Government, media, communications, education, and halls of science are shells of their former self. Safe harbors of the American way of life, former beacons of freedom and independence for people around the world, have tarnished and disappointing reputations.

Apparently the future history textbooks wanted a very spicy chapter in the 21st century.

Do you know how hard it is to lead?

John F. Kennedy, one day in May, 1961 challenged the United States, in front of both houses of congress, to be more.

The Constitution imposes upon me the obligation to "from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union." While this has traditionally been interpreted as an annual affair, this tradition has been broken in extraordinary times.

These are extraordinary times. And we face an extraordinary challenge. Our strength as well as our convictions have imposed upon this nation the role of leader in freedom's cause.

No role in history could be more difficult or more important. We stand for freedom.

Above is the beginning to his speech to put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth by the end of the decade (1960’s). If you have ever heard his iconic voice, you are reading that passage, hearing his voice in your head.

July 20th 1969, the United States did just that.

January 20th, 2020. The United States records its first confirmed case of Covid-19.

In total, in an unmitigated epidemic, we would predict approximately 510,000 deaths in GB and 2.2 million in the US, not accounting for the potential negative effects of health systems being overwhelmed on mortality.

From the Imperial College original models. Now, the likelihood that the U.S. would do nothing as millions died is just to the right of zero. However, the number is legitimately in the right tail of the model.

December 14th, 2020. The United States deploys the first vaccine to non-trial patients.

An extraordinary challenge indeed. Less than a year after the first confirmed case of Covid-19, the U.S. is administering a vaccine. The ingenuity and creativity required to attack this threat to human life is inspiring. I am humbled by the women and men responsible for this incredible feat.

Let that sink in.

How can you now be filled with awe.

August 2020. Israel and United Arab Emirates agree to full normalization of relations. September 2020. Israel and Bahrain agree to full diplomatic relations.

The last time peace was brokered between Israel and an Arab country (Jordan) was 1994, before that it was 1979 with Egypt. 2 countries in two months.

2020 has certainly seen its fair share of heartache and sadness. No denying that.

Cures and Peace. Hard not to marvel at the awesomeness.

Its Much Harder When its all your Call

Over the years I’ve been called out by friends, co-workers, and loved ones many times. You are much too logical. Yet there is a simplicity in logic, things that are logical. So, let’s do an experiment.

Let’s say there are 2 populations, each with a million people. A virus is spreading and it is going to infect all 2 million people.

Population A will have a fatality rate of .36 %, so less than half of a percent.

Population B will have a fatality rate of 11.5 %, so much more than half a percent.

Which population makes the most sense to vaccinate first?

Now the math for the Covid-19 vaccine is a bit more complicated, but the central premise is the same. The CDC’s original goal was to vaccinate not based on an age tranche, which is insanely skewed toward older patients. Instead, because minorities are under represented in older populations, populations that demonstrate racial diversity were considered higher value.

At what point does the politicization of science become too much for a society to bare? This type of grandstanding and dot connecting has no place in scientific pursuits. An absolute ethical farce. Shame on the CDC.

Da da da da da…

Ups and downs. Highs and Lows. If anything this year is a prime example of how rise and ruin, joy and tragedy do really walk hand in hand. There is certainly sadness from the past 12 months.

Yet there is also hope that even as this remote way of life became a norm, the bonds we all have with our friends and family have grown. The anticipation of what 2021 will yield, the excitement of returning to an in person community is swelling.

I think 2020 is a good reminder of the randomness of this world and that there are events and ideas, like lunch at a cafe with a friend, that won’t be quite as taken for granted when we start doing stuff like that again.

Happy New Year everyone, let’s seize the opportunities that 2021 brings!

Why is New Year’s between December 31st & January 1st?

Technically it could be between any two days, so why those two?

Well, the January 1st date can be credited to three individuals. First up, Julius Caesar originally established the new year’s day on January 1st as January was rooted in the god, Janus, the god of doors and gates. January acted as a door to the new year. And in celebration of the new year, Romans did what they do best… orgies! A ritual carried down to New York Time’s square in per-pandemic years.

Yet, all good things must come to and end. Enter the medieval Christians who saw Annunciation Day , March 25th, as the beginning of the year. This ushered in a new norm for the start of the new year. And there it stayed until….

William THE Bastard AKA William the Conqueror AKA William of Normandy hit the scene and is crowned king of England on December 25th, 1066 (Always the worst, birthdays and coronations falling on Christmas… only one set of gifts). Ole Billy moved the New Year’s Day back to January 1st. William’s plan was to ensure Jesus’s birthday, William’s coronation day and…Jesus’ circumcision all aligned. Huh, that has got to be an awkward party theme.

Sadly, the Bastard did not get his way as the circumcision party theme lacked any staying power. Eventually England came to its senses and returned to March 25th.

500 years later along came our third and final player, Pope Gregory XIII. Now pope Gregory hated the Julian calendar and after some funky math involving making October 4th 1582 transition into October 15th 1582 (NO BIRTHDAY FOR YOU 5th - 14th), he invented the Gregorian calendar! As it happens this new calendar, among many other things, reinstated the January 1st date as the first day of the year.

So if you enjoy New Year’s Day being on January 1st, you can think a Catholic Pope celebrating a pagan god of doors known for orgy parties.

What is with all the smooching on New Year’s Eve?

No surprise here… the Romans are involved again.

Before Janus’ crazy new year time another festival was happening right in front of it, Saturnalia! This was a celebration of the winter solstice, about 7 or 8 days before the New Year. Given that the Roman’s loved to party though, the Saturnalia celebration was open to all with relaxed social norms (you can imagine how relaxed social norms are in Rome during their relaxed social norms time).

In addition to being open to all, these celebrations bled into the New Year’s festivities. The Saturnalia was known for a great time for kissing. This theme carried over.

Additionally, another excellent celebration, Hogmanay was an excellent Scottish/Viking celebration focused on friendship and family. Given the Scottish way, an important element of the Hogmanay is hospitality and a kiss to wise all a good new year (imagine a Scottish accent… Gud ne yea).

From the mail bag: Why do the Chinese wear Red at New Year’s?

My 8 year old asks, Why do the Chinese wear red at New Year’s?

You might think that a country with more people than any other might have a Roman like reason, the Chinese wearing red comes from another popular theme.

Battling Monsters!

Ancient Chinese legends say that villages were attacked by a monster called Nian that would come out on New Years Eve and devour villagers! (Gotta do you when Champagne is all the way in France) However, these crafty villagers discovered that Nian was afraid of the color red.

As an aside, Nian also hated loud sounds and firelight. Thus firecrackers at New Years Eve.

From the industry…

Every damn time!

Looking for more, excited to support this endeavor? Feel free to follow me on Twitter. As Johnny Rose would say, Tweeter me @JWilcoxData.