Rail strike? President Biden said he's meeting with Congressional leaders today as the threat of a national freight rail strike—and all the other existential shit our elected leaders hedge on everyday—looms large. Last night, ol' Joe called on Congress to step in and block a rail strike before the December deadline by adopting September's tentative deal. So far, four rail unions have rejected it while eight rail unions have approved it, reports Reuters. Biden said a shutdown would "devastate" our economy. Good thing Santa rides by sleigh! 

It's the end of the line for The Willows Inn as we know it: After explosive allegations of wage theft, sexual harassment, and faking the funk came out last year, the formerly lauded restaurant on Lummi Island is officially shut down for good. According to the Seattle Times, the building has been donated to Bellingham nonprofit and Christian social service agency Lighthouse Mission Ministries, which "will evaluate the best use and value of the two parcels."

Thanks, mRNA: One silver lining of this godforsaken pandemic is that scientists could be closer to developing a universal flu vaccine relying on the mRNA technology used by Pfizer and Moderna's COVID vaccines. According to the New York Times, an experimental vaccine that could protect against 20 subgroups of influenza is in the early stages of development. It wouldn't replace the annual flu shot, but it would protect "against severe disease and death." Cheers to that. 

"Gaslighting" is Merriam-Webster's word of the year: The word—which means to intentionally manipulate another person's conception of reality—comes from the 1938 play of the same name and saw a 1,740% increase in look-ups this year. In a blog post, Merriam-Webster had this to say about "gaslighting":

The idea of a deliberate conspiracy to mislead has made gaslighting useful in describing lies that are part of a larger plan. Unlike lying, which tends to be between individuals, and fraud, which tends to involve organizations, gaslighting applies in both personal and political contexts. It’s at home in formal and technical writing as well as in colloquial use.  

We went from a weirdly warm and smoky October to a potentially snowy late November: It's looking like we can expect some snow showers between 4 pm and 1 am today "with up to 3 inches of snow possible," reports the Seattle Times. On top of that, meteorologists are forecasting winds blowing at 30 to 40 miles per hour in the area starting this evening. Anything could happen, it's a time of possibility and change. There are several daytime and overnight cold weather shelters should you need them. Stay warm!

Update: It's actually snowing!!!! Pathetically, but it's something! I'm making hot cocoa as soon as I'm done writing this!!!

Meanwhile in Hawai'i: There are now two volcanoes blowing their loads: Kilauea (which has been erupting for over a year) and now Mauna Loa, which erupted for the first time in 40 years on Sunday night. This has created a "rare dual-eruption" event that hasn't been seen since Mauna Loa spewed lava in 1984. CNN says that officials think "volcanic gas, fine ash, and Pele's Hair (strands of volcanic glass) could be carried downwind," but for now there's no immediate risk to residents in the area. 

West Seattle lower bridge fines in the millions: During the two-year closure of the West Seattle Bridge, unauthorized drivers who used the lower Spokane Street Bridge were fined $75. According to Publicola, more than 74,000 of the over 130,000 citations given in 2021 and 2022 remain unpaid, adding up to "more than $5.5 million in potential revenue, half of which goes to the city." Data shows that two vehicles are responsible for 300 citations while 35 vehicles racked up 100 tickets each. People have until the end of January to pay their unpaid tickets before they get slapped with late fees. 

Speaking of West Seattle: This week, the King County Water Taxi West Seattle route will temporarily have two fewer departures in the morning and evening due to propeller damage, reports KOMO. I recently took the water taxi from West Seattle to downtown for the first time in years right at sunset and it was beautiful—cold, windy, briny, and fast! The best mode of public transit in the city, in my opinion. 

Protests in China continue: Citizens are protesting the government's restrictive "zero COVID" policy in several cities. According to the Washington Post, protests "were primarily vehicles to vent about lockdowns and commemorate people who had died in a fire in the far northwestern region of Xinjiang last week." Though relatively small, authorities have been seriously clamping down on the protests, with the government even using porn to drum out any post about the situation on Twitter. 

Self-portrait (from really far back):  NASA's Orion capsule is built for humans, but it is currently uncrewed—with the exception of Commander Moonikin Campos, a literal mannequin. The capsule reached a record-breaking 270,000 miles from Earth. It'll eventually maneuver its way back home, but in the meantime we can enjoy the pictures. There's all of us! We look great.

New Elon Musk enemy just dropped: This time, it's Apple

I wish I had the same capacity for self-forgiveness as Will Smith: The actor—who smacked the shit out of Chris Rock while onstage at the Oscars—gave his first public interview in eight months to The Daily Show with Trevor Noah as promo for his upcoming film, Emancipation. Smith said he had to "forgive myself for being human." This is truly the last I wanna hear about The Slap™️! No more, please!

A reading recommendation: Sarah Schulman's Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York 1987-1993 has been keeping me company as I battle through this recent bout of insomnia. It's a tome—736 pages—but an unbelievably quick read. Deeply involved in ACT UP New York herself, Schulman interviewed hundreds of people who were also on the ground at the time, weaving together a beautiful, vital portrait of activists who refused to accept the status quo on HIV/AIDS treatment. It gives me hope. 

For your listening pleasure: João Gilberto and Stan Getz's "Doralice."