What's Going On: September 1, 2021

The Delta Variant, pregnancy with a toddler, and the Texas 6-week abortion ban

Welcome to meteorological fall!

From the break that I took writing over the summer, you can tell that we worked on getting out of the house for the first time with a toddler during a pandemic. Things felt safer once Matt and I were both vaccinated, so we traveled out of state to see (mostly vaccinated) family between Memorial Day and the end of July.

Then, as the Delta variant spread and we started learning about friends with breakthrough Covid cases, we decided to start locking down again since Toddler H is unvaccinated and I am once again pregnant!

So yes, we will end up with two pandemic babies, hopefully bookmarking the start and end of everything (or at least the beginning of the endemic phase of the current pandemic).

The Texas Six-Week Abortion Ban

Today, a new state law goes into effect in Texas that effectively bans abortions after 6 weeks gestation, which is just two weeks after a missed period (assuming a normal 28-day cycle with no irregularities) and before many women even think to take a pregnancy test.

Additionally, it rewards private citizens for reporting anyone involved with helping a woman obtain an abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy, from the person giving the pregnant person a ride to a clinic to the receptionist checking the pregnant person in at the clinic. The “bounty” for a report like this (essentially, a private citizen suing another private citizen for aiding an abortion) is up to $10,000.

For those of us who got pregnant with the help of a fertility clinic (my first and second pregnancies were assisted with Letrozole medication while this third was a “spontaneous” conception), it was still unlikely that we had our first ultrasound before 6 weeks gestation, since, as they tell you, there’s not much to see before 6 weeks.

Additionally, I experienced a miscarriage of my first pregnancy at 8 weeks after a heartbeat was already found at 6 weeks. Under this new law, I would likely have been investigated for losing this very wanted pregnancy and would have had trouble removing the remaining “products of conception” via surgery after failing to pass everything on my own. I wrote in detail about this on a thread of Twitter (click to see the full thread).

This is a difficult day for all women and people with a uterus, as even doing everything “right” could still land you in hot water.

The Delta Variant (And Others)

Schools around the country have begun in-person classes again while we await vaccination approval for those under 12. While this did not seem to be as much of a problem with the original strain and Alpha/Beta variants, the Delta variant has hospitalized and even killed many children.

Statistically speaking, yes, children are at lower risk of having a severe case of Covid, but we are still uncertain what type of long-term impacts the disease will have on their development (or on adults, for that matter).

Thankfully, vaccinations decrease your likelihood of catching a “breakthrough” Covid infection, and those that do occur are less likely to result in hospitalization. Those who have caught these cases, however, will tell you that they do not want to catch another case! “Mild” Covid in the clinical sense may not feel very mild when you are experiencing it.

So how about our unprotected children?

At the time I am writing this, it looks like we are still at least a couple of months away from approving EUA on a vaccine for those aged 5-12, while those under 5 will likely not have a vaccine available until 2022. In the meantime, Covid is still spreading and mutating (largely among the unvaccinated) into additional variants that may eventually be able to evade our vaccines.

In one scary instance, an infected teacher took off her mask to read aloud to her class and infected many of the students in her classroom (the study also suggests there were other opportunities for her to infect the students before she got tested). There was also a high-quality HEPA filter being run in the classroom and windows were open, which indicates the higher transmissibility of the Delta variant as well (compared to the original strains of the virus).

So what can we do?

Get vaccinated, first of all.

As adults, we should continue masking, vaccinated or not, to prevent spreading the virus to vulnerable communities that cannot be vaccinated (which includes many immunocompromised people in addition to children) or that are too young to wear masks (under 2).

For children who are able to wear masks, some places are beginning to make better quality child-sized KN95s and KF94s (the South Korean equivalent to the Chinese KN95) that protect both the wearer and those around them when worn properly.

We are likely beyond the point in the pandemic that cloth masks alone are worth using. Invest in higher-quality masks to protect yourself as well as others.

One website that I have successfully gotten quality masks from is BeHealthyUSA, since there are now fake masks popping up on Amazon that do not have the correct filtration in place to protect you.

This has the potential to be a difficult fall and winter…again. Stay informed, stay updated, and get a booster Covid shot when it becomes available to you.

What's Going On: Mother's Day 2021

Children's vaccine timelines, Musk on SNL, & late takes on The Crown

This is a biweekly-ish round-up of new scientific research, links, and more.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

I’ve been MIA for a month now, thanks to my fresh “fully vaccinated” status. That means I’ve been catching up on non-essential medical and other appointments that I didn’t feel comfortable tackling over the past year.

This issue will be a bit shorter than the last couple, because I’m realizing I need to pare this newsletter down a bit to make my “biweekly-ish” publication goal feasible. As is the case with most new publications, I have to find the happy medium between what I’d like to accomplish and what I can actually accomplish with a toddler and full access to the outside world again.

(As part of my own Mother’s Day presents, I’ve been gifted a few hours to catch up on my own reading, writing, and random to-do list items that are difficult to do with a toddler underfoot.)

“New research shows….”

Speaking of toddlers, there is good news on the vaccine front as children aged 12 and up will soon have access to a Covid vaccine via emergency use authorization. By September, it is expected that children aged 2 and above (!) may be given that same access. This, of course, is excellent news as parents continue to worry about schools reopening in the same manner as they did in the Before Times.

Toddler H, and others below age 2, will have to wait a bit longer for their vaccine, as ages 6 months to 2 years will be the last to receive vaccination authorization. Additionally, discussion is ongoing about whether fully vaccinated adults will require boosters by this summer/fall.

Finally, on the Covid news front, the CDC has finally admitted that Covid is an airborne virus. This, of course, has been discussed and expected for a year now, but the admission confirms what research has already been showing about activities such as dining in restaurants. Even when spaced 6 feet apart, interior ventilation can transport virus particles from one side of the restaurant to the other, infecting maskless diners in the path of the air flow. One specific study released back in December indicated that two diners were infected by a Covid-positive person 21 feet away with whom they were in the same room as for just five minutes.

This remains relevant this summer as fully vaccinated people make their way to indoor dining with the unvaccinated masses, as the vaccine does not necessarily fully protect against all Covid variants (although, importantly, it does seem to protect from most variants and it still protects from hospitalization and death).

What your Very Online friends are talking about

I don’t know if the fact that I’m unaware of what’s happening online says more about me being back out in the real world or about everyone online being back out in the real world.

Regardless, everyone has been talking about Elon Musk on SNL.

The Elon Musk conversation is a bit self-explanatory: he’s a billionaire hosting SNL—why? And why did SNL think that was a good idea? Especially given his Covid takes over the past year.

If you’re not Very Online, however, you may not also be aware that Musk has a bit of a cult following on Twitter and Reddit, where “fanboys” will swoop in to comment on any perceived slight against their “everyman billionaire.” Musk himself is also known for tweeting questionable takes and taking questionable action on global issues.

Overall, however, the episode did not have as much negative feedback (*so far: I’m writing this less than 24 hours after the episode) as anticipated. I wonder, of course, if that’s because everyone is back out of the house in the real world again.

What I’m reading

So frankly I’m not reading very much these days, but I am watching The Crown, finally. I needed something low commitment that I wouldn’t necessarily want to binge. Since it’s based on real life, I figured I couldn’t get too terribly sucked in.

Well it turns out I don’t know nearly as much about the royal family as I thought I did. Not that I’m some superfan by any means, but it’s impossible to escape the media coverage (especially if you’re Very Online with the Harry/Meghan situation unfolding).

If you need something solid to watch and, for whatever reason, haven’t gotten around to it yet, I recommend throwing it on to learn things like:

Among other surprising Wikipedia rabbit holes each episode sends me down. Again, none of this may be new to any of you, but if you’re only a casual royalty watcher like me (and perhaps younger than Gen X, like me), there may be enough to catch you off guard.

Thanks again for joining me this week; follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@mallierydzik) for more commentary.

What's Going On: April 3, 2021

Summer travel and the Zola Twitter movie

This is a weekly-ish round-up of new scientific research, links, and more. Each issue breaks down as follows:

  1. “New research shows….”

  2. What your Very Online friends are talking about

  3. What I’m reading

  4. Link/tweet round-up

1. “New research shows….”

Last week I discussed the emerging research indicating that breastfed babies and toddlers are likely receiving some degree of immunity from the breastmilk from their lactating parent after that parent is vaccinated.

This week, more promising research indicates that the first of two shots from Moderna or Pfizer may provide 80% immunity in real-world situations (in other words, not just those created in a lab setting) and that vaccinated people may be less likely to spread the virus and are lower risks for travel (note that this statement was later walked back by the CDC since research is still in its early stages).

This is great news for the Biden deadline of the Fourth of July as a date by which most Americans can safely visit with their loved ones. Of course, this is also good news for the travel industry. My own father is an airline captain who has not flown customers for over a year now, having taken a leave of absence last April once the airlines offered it to the more senior workers given the lower demand for flights. Since my dad is in a high-risk group (over 60), he has only been to work for training and other FAA demands for the past 365+ days.

Not everyone has been so fortunate with furloughs or staffing issues. The cruise industry, in particular, has been rather crippled, and the employees of cruise lines have been in a tough situation as well. Many of the staff hail from less developed/poorer countries and are on long-term contracts that have isolated them in a unique way this past year, leading to many suicides.

Further, it’s unclear what families with young children are going to do about travel this summer. Moderna, Pfizer, and others have already begun trials for children as young as 6 months old (the age at which a child can receive their first flu vaccine), but these are unlikely to be approved until 2022. The consequences of keeping families locked down for any longer seem to outweigh the risks for most, but others remain concerned not just about their children catching Covid but of being prevented from returning to the U.S. with a positive PCR test the morning of their return (the New York Times provided a good article about this conundrum).

For now, the dilemma continues to be delayed as adults still work to secure their vaccinations. Both South Park and SNL have parodied the fact that older Baby Boomers and those in higher age brackets are back to almost normal lives (anecdotally, our local Golden Corral has been packed again since February). Popular evidence-based parenting blogger Emily Oster has come under fire for downplaying the concerns of parents with respect to traveling this summer (and for creatively and perhaps misleadingly using the data to support her argument). And 20-something singles across the country are calling for another “hot girl/boy summer” as the vaccines continue to be doled out.

Matt and I won’t be getting on a cruise anytime soon, but we’ll continue watching the research about the degree of protection Toddler H should be getting from his extended breastfeeding at 13 months old. And you’ll keep hearing about it from me here.

2. What your Very Online friends are talking about

Back in ye olden days of Twitter, it was difficult to create the now-very-popular “tweet threads” that take a deep dive into a topic or tell an engaging story. Nevertheless, people would still get creative with their character limit and turn the Twitter “micro-blog” concept into a straight-up blog format.

As confusing as this could be before Twitter introduced the threading functionality, people still went viral from their sagas. One of these threads was from Zola, a stripper who told an insane but tantalizing 148-tweet story about her trip to Florida with another stripper whom she met while working as a waitress. The story devolves into much more than a simple trip, with unexpected relationship chaos, prostitution, guns, and more.

Now, that Twitter thread has been turned into a feature film.

Naturally, this set the Twitter-sphere abuzz, as many of us long-haul tweeters remember first reading the story in bite-size pieces years ago. Thankfully, you can now read everything in a somewhat reader-friendly (but not family/work friendly!) format online.

Along with a Reddit comment that is allegedly being turned into a full-length movie called “Rome Sweet Rome,” in which today’s military vehicles are in use in ancient Rome, the Zola movie has given online creators more evidence that their next tweet could become their next paycheck.

3. What I’m reading

Sometimes I need a book I can pop in and out of without much commitment when Toddler H is really active. I usually have a few of those in rotation at a time. The one currently on my phone (which is great for naptime reading if the baby wants to be rocked) is The Language of Letting Go. Despite its name, it’s really useful for people in a variety of circumstances that have difficulty setting boundaries that protect themselves from other people’s emotional baggage or manipulation. As a recovering perfectionist/people-pleaser, these daily meditations can help me focus on being there for my friends and family without sacrificing my own emotional wellbeing.

The book follows the 12-step program style, which is a bit offputting for me as a reader (you can do a little Googling about issues with the program), but I acknowledge that the system has been very useful for many people getting out of unhealthy relationships, either with other people or substances. For this reason, I take what I need and leave the rest.

If you’re looking for some bite-sized personal development and you struggle with how to set boundaries for yourself without hurting other people, I’d recommend this book.

4. Link/tweet round-up

Thanks again for joining me this week; follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@mallierydzik) for more commentary.

What's going on: March 28, 2021

The vaccines and babies, Cinnamon Toast Shrimp, and more

This is the start of a weekly (ish) round-up of what’s going on in the world. I’ll be summing up some new research, explain something that’s happening in the “Very Online” world, tell you what I’m reading this week, and provide a few relevant links you may enjoy.

“New research shows….”

Good Covid vaccine news is coming out for parents and parents-to-be. A handful of preliminary studies have shown that breastfed babies and toddlers are receiving antibodies from vaccinated mothers (or other lactating people); further, people who are vaccinated while pregnant appear to be passing antibodies through the placenta/cord blood.

Clinical trials are ongoing for children aged 12 to 17, and some trials for even younger children, toddlers, and infants have begun as well. While the older group may have an approved vaccine as early as Fall 2021, the younger cohort is unlikely to have a vaccine until at least 2022. This makes the research on nursing babies/toddlers all the more prescient as parents decide whether to receive the vaccine themselves.

Personally, I have committed to extended breastfeeding (breastfeeding beyond 12 months) to pass on some protection to Toddler Rydzik once I’m vaccinated. That will make us feel more comfortable traveling this summer as more research confirms these findings (and determines the risk of exposure from non-vaccinated people in the wild). While I haven’t looked into it in detail, I also wonder if the research on pregnant people passing on some degree of immunity if they are vaccinated while pregnant will lead doctors to begin recommending a Covid booster vaccine to people in the second/third trimester, as is currently the best practice with the seasonal flu shot and TDaP vaccine since some degree of immunity is transferred to the child before they can be vaccinated after birth (a child must be a minimum of 6 months old for the flu shot, for example).

What your Very Online friends are into this week

A popular tweet format on Twitter is “imagine explaining X to your friends who aren’t on Twitter.” There is an entire world of news and viral activity that does not translate well offline. I thought it might be fun to tell people about some of these things once a week here.

This week’s “Twitter Main Character” was Cinnamon Toast Shrimp guy (CTS guy), who, curiously, has the topical seafood-adjacent last name of Karp.

CTS guy is a comedian, podcaster, and otherwise somewhat known person in certain circles. He is married to Topanga from the 90s TV show “Boy Meets World,” who also has the seafood-adjacent surname of Fishel.

Earlier this week, he posted a picture of shrimp tails (and, eventually, other items….) he claimed to have found in a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Normally, in circumstances like this, a brand’s social media manager will apologize publicly and ask the poster to direct message them with more details (for example, about the lot number of the box, where the box was purchased, and so on).

For some reason, the official Cinnamon Toast Crunch account decided to publicly state that they had determined that the shrimp tails were not, in fact, shrimp tails, but instead a conglomeration of sugar at the bottom of the bag.

This sent the internet into a tailspin that created more buzz than it would have had the brand just admitted this was a problem or taken the conversation offline.

The interesting twist, however, was that as the story picked up steam, CTS guy himself came under fire for allegedly being abusive to women in his past. Once these allegations arose, people became less interested in the story and the buzz died down.

And that’s the life cycle of Twitter fame. An interesting story arises that everyone wants to know more about, allegations about their past come out to haunt them, and you never get a satisfying conclusion to the story.

What I’m reading

I like to have a variety of fiction and non-fiction books in rotation at any one time to ensure I can’t get too bored with something.

One of the books I recently finished was BRINGING UP BÉBÉ: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman.

Now, I’m not into a lot of “wow, Europeans have it all right and we have it all wrong!” takes, but I am very intrigued about how different cultures choose to parent. The fact that the author was a journalist living in France while having her children was the type of fish-out-of-water/travel memoir/parenting book mix that caught my attention.

While, like many people, I took what I needed from the book and left the rest, my favorite thing to come back to is the idea that at French daycares the children enjoy a full multi-course meal crafted by on-site chefs each day, including a cheese course with more sophisticated choices like brie or blue cheese.

As foodies, Matt and I took that as the go-ahead to keep feeding H the fancier foods we sometimes eat. The funniest thing is that sometimes he will ignore the standard mac ‘n cheese in favor of some fancier type of dish on his plate; other days, he subsists almost entirely on fruit and crackers. C’est un bébé.

Link round-up

My intention is normally to provide a link round-up here of interesting articles I’ve read; however, H is about to wake up from his nap, so I have to wrap this up if it’s going to get published.

Thanks for stopping by!


Welcome to my world

Getting back online after burnout

It’s been a few years….

I burned out in academia from the overwhelming workload.

I burned out in the online business world from the overwhelming expectation to be “on” all the time.

For some reason, that always leads me to give up on writing and turn inward.

Not that the past few years have been unproductive. I’ve been working as a scientific/academic editor for ESL scientists working to publish their research in high-impact English academic journals. I have a toddler now. We’ve been locked in the house for a year.

As the light at the end of the Covid tunnel appears, I’m ready to open back up as well.

My intention is to write more regularly on my site again (mallierydzik.com) and to send out regular updates here.

Ideally I’ll be able to send out unique content here that summarizes the things I’ve been reading and thinking about recently.

In all things, I try to balance the right- and left-brained perspectives on the news and on life. I think that type of “gray,” middle-of-the-road thinking is underrepresented online right now, and I’d like to cut through the black-and-white thinking that dominates everything.

So join me here for science-guided perspectives to what’s happening in the world, and I’ll link you out to my site from time-to-time as I use the same brain (imagine!) to process what’s happening in my life.

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