Rationally optimistic in the new year

Come Heller high water …

∫ My whole life, it’s taken me three months each January to stop thinking it was still the old year. This year, I immediately started writing 2019 on checks (yes, I still write a few of those) and saying 2019 when I’m talking about … 2019. What I can’t figure out is why. I didn’t suddenly get smarter. Clearly. So what’s going on here?

∫ What I also notice as the old year ends and the new one begins is how many people — almost by reflex — say “good riddance, it was awful” about the old year. I find that odd. If you always think the old year stank, then maybe it’s not the year, but you. Not trying to be harsh. Just saying.

∫A possible antidote: A book that’s on my reading list, “The Rational Optimist,” by Matt Ridley, makes the case that humanity, by almost any objective measure, is doing far better than ever before. I could argue that he’s wrong in that, hundreds of years ago, we didn’t have hip-hop music or slim-fit jeans. But his point is well-made when it comes to poverty, disease, the potential of being swallowed by dinosaurs, etc.

∫ You won’t believe this, but I just saw an article about a study that said — get this — Michigan’s roads are the worst in the country. Knock me over with a feather. I wouldn’t have known that. Would you?

∫ I mean, c’mon, isn’t that like doing a study that says water is wet, summers are swell, and Kathie Lee Gifford is one of the most annoying human beings ever?

∫ This week, NBC’s Lester Holt interviewed Colin O’Brady, the first person to cross Antarctica solo, unassisted. I didn’t watch it, but I hope he asked, “What was it like?” Because I’m guessing the answer would have been “cold.”

∫ I always wonder why people make trips like that. I get why European explorers crossed unknown oceans and why man went to the moon. But did Antarctica really need to be crossed solo, unassisted? Seems kinda pointless and self-involved, like becoming the first person to hop on one foot backward across the Sahara while wearing a suit made of thumbtacks. Is that any dumber?

∫ The U.S. Department of Agriculture (pre-shut down, of course) says America is experiencing the biggest cheese glut in history. I don’t know about you, but I’ll do my part to address this crisis by eating much more pizza. You’re welcome, dairy industry.

∫ This week, I had my first Impossible burger, the new, much-hyped meat substitute. My expert assessment: Pretty darned good. It did indeed have the texture of ground beef, which is the biggest test, as far as I’m concerned. The taste is only vaguely beef-like, but that’s almost a secondary consideration because of the condiments and cheese.

∫ A writer for Wired magazine rated sticks, string, boxes, cardboard wrapping paper tubes and dirt as the top-five toys of all time. I think that’s close to perfect. I would replace string with a ball, though. You?

∫ I’m not being political about this, but I think that we need a law to prevent the president from closing the government for any reason. Why is this allowed? And why has this become a go-to bargaining tactic for presidents?

“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.” — Anton Chekhov.