Almost two years into COVID-19, there are some parts of the pandemic that don’t seem to be going away. Yes, variants. But also the way we spend our money. We’ll talk about why grocery stores are still capturing the majority share of stomach and what that means in the days of omicron. Plus, a successful spacewalk, and we nerd out over today’s date.
Here’s everything we talked about:
- “President Biden Announces New Actions to Protect Americans Against the Delta and Omicron Variants as We Battle COVID-19 this Winter” from the White House
- “Covid vaccines: WTO chief very concerned about unequal distribution” from CNBC
- “Kroger lifts profit, sales forecast on sustained grocery demand” from Reuters
- “NASA astronauts conduct spacewalk postponed due to debris risk” from CNN
- Kimberly’s space junk series Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3
- “Today’s date is rare: it reads the same forward, backward and upside down” from the Detroit Free Press
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Make Me Smart December 2, 2021 transcript
Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.
Kimberly Adams: It’s always this weird awkward moment right before, it’s like, what are you supposed to say? Hi, I’m Kimberly Adams. Welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we try to make today make sense. Kai’s out today but joining me is Marketplace’s Justin Ho. Welcome to the show.
Justin Ho: Thanks for having me, Kimberly. Good to be here, I guess, on hollowed out shell Thursday. Nice day to start the show on. How’s you shell feeling today?
Kimberly Adams: Pretty, pretty hollow. I’ll say I’m worried about this latest variant, which I guess is a good segue to getting to the news, which is that today President Biden laid out his strategy and new actions, as the White House briefing says, new actions, to protect Americans against the Delta and Omicron. Gosh, we got guidance on how to say this today. What was it?
Justin Ho: Oh, yes. I think you had it right. I think you had it right. Omicron.
Kimberly Adams: Omicron variants as we battle COVID-19 this winter, which is basically everybody get a shot. Everybody, everybody, everybody get a shot and a booster shot. Kids get shots. And it really seemed to indicate that the Biden administration has the opinion that we can’t take any more lockdowns. Like, I think emotionally we can’t take it. I think economically, we can’t take it. And it doesn’t seem to, you know, have gotten us to where we needed to be in the first place. But at the same time, you had, you know, the head of the WTO, the World Trade Organization, complaining today on CNBC about these global inequities in the distribution of COVID vaccine, which is why we, you know, many scientists would say we’re having all these new variants pop up in the first place, and that you just cannot have one country with everyone vaccinated and other countries with almost no one vaccinated and expect it’s just gonna all be fine.
Justin Ho: Yeah, I mean, it’s funny, because I don’t know, I got the booster shot about a month ago, maybe. And I had no problem going right in, they clearly had tons of, plenty in the back. And, you know, there’s obviously this big push today that we’re talking about. So it’s interesting. We certainly do have a lot here in the US.
Kimberly Adams: Yeah. I think that it’s not necessarily like, the shortage here. It’s, it’s the people who don’t want to get the shot. But I, I don’t know, I guess I just didn’t–and this is like full hollowed out shell Kimberly–I just did not think we’d still be here heading into this winter and that people would still be getting sick and dying of something that we can fix. And yet, here we are. So I hope that the people who can–and I don’t know, like months ago, when, when the vaccines were first rolling out and people started, they started talking about the boosters, I remember we had this discussion of like, is it okay for us to get booster shots when so much of the rest of the world doesn’t even have access to shots? And I feel some kind of way about it. I don’t know.
Justin Ho: Yeah, that’s what I mean. I mean, like, we do have a lot here. And that’s part of our strategy, I guess. But I mean, to your point, I mean, like you’re saying a lot of this feels like we’re just back, right back in March and April of 2020. And minus the mandates, this is kind of the same message. It’s please get vaccinated, please get vaccinated. Businesses, tell your employees to get vaccinated. It seems like they’re running out of options here.
Kimberly Adams: But I wonder like, are people going to be willing to be as serious about it moving forward? Like, I went for the first time, I think, since the pandemic to like, an indoor comedy show last night. And lots of people were unmasked eating and drinking in this kind of tightly packed venue. And I was like, this is probably not great. And if it had been a year ago, there’s no way I would have done this. And given that the pandemic is not over, why is my brain acting differently? And that is cause for concern because I think a lot of us are just so exhausted that even those of us who’ve been vigilant most of this time, we’re starting to slip up a bit. Anyway, you probably have news fixes as well.
Justin Ho: Yeah, well, I have a sort of similar one. I mean, on the theme of like, is this March of 2020 or ss this December 2nd of 2021? So Kroger, the, the supermarket chain they came out with, I think was their third quarter earnings today. And the takeaway was that sales grew last quarter. And they grew pretty well mostly because people are like, buying stuff to cook at home. And that got me thinking like, okay, this is what, what, what, what year is this? Is, is the start of the pandemic, like, are we still talking about cooking at home? I thought people were going outside and eating, like you just said.
Kimberly Adams: You were the bread person at the beginning of the pandemic.
Justin Ho: That’s right.
Kimberly Adams: You had so many bread things. How many of–you were like, sourdough expert at the beginning, weren’t you?
Justin Ho: Yeah, and I mean, to my credit, I’ve been doing it before the pandemic. So I was like, you guys, you guys are all just jumping on my hobby. No, I’m just kidding. I mean, it’s just, it’s funny, because, you know, yeah, it makes total sense that we’re still cooking at home. I mean, it was just the holidays, it was Thanksgiving. I mean, there was probably some, you know, higher numbers because of that. But we’re also hearing everyday about how spending is apparently coming back in in-person services, like comedy shows, and like, you know, restaurants and in theaters, or whatever. And it struck me as a moment where there just seemed like there are some parts of this pandemic that haven’t gone away and might never go away. Maybe this is maybe, you know, Kroger’s suited to do pretty well because we’re going to be cooking a lot home, you know, or we’re going to be cooking at home a lot more. And that’s just the new reality.
Kimberly Adams: I guess people don’t really unlearn how to make bread when you went on a, like, not you because you were doing it before it was cool, but when everybody else went on their breadmaking kick, and like, I also realized I was spending way too much getting ramen delivery. And so like, a couple of weeks ago, I figured out how to make my own ramen noodles, which is, you know, I’m probably going to be buying those ingredients for the foreseeable future because, you know, that’s, that’s, that’s my life. But yeah, I think all of us–it’s been very interesting to see what of the pandemic habits are permanent. And, you know, apparently not caring about other people enough to get vaccinated is one of them. But, yeah.
Justin Ho: Yeah. And there was also a funny line I want to bring up because in, in Kroger’s earnings call, so the CEO came out and made that point that like, hey, you know, this is, this is not going away, we’re still capturing, you know, a lot of people spending, and his line, which I thought I’d paraphrase was, we believe grocery stores are continuing to capture the majority share of stomach, share of stomach. I’ve never heard that phrase before. But it’s apparently like this like, this, this retail phrase. I’m sure some listeners have heard of it. But I had never heard of that, like competing for space in your stomach.
Kimberly Adams: Not even share of your plate or share of your food budget. Share of stomach. Yes.
Justin Ho: Share of your stomach. They’re like, competing with pizza and bagels or whatever you’re eating.
Kimberly Adams: Well, that’s good. That’s a good segue to the make me smile, because you actually found a way to go from full hollowed out into a smile. I love it.
Justin Ho: Well, you take it first, I think I want to hear yours.
Kimberly Adams: Okay, mine is a full, full nerd, nerd just thing. So today is like, the date is not only a palindrome, it is also an ambigram, which means that if you write out today’s date, it reads the same from left to right, right to left, and also upside down. And, of course, we will have links to this image on the show notes page. Isn’t it cool?
Justin Ho: That’s, let’s just, let’s just spell it out. So I have it open here. 1-2-0-2 for December 2, 2-0-2-1, 1-2-0-2-2-0-2-1. That’s so crazy. That is insane.
Kimberly Adams: Yeah. And if you’re one of those, like people who puts like the year first for whatever reason, it also works that way. If it’s like 2021, 12/02 it still does it the same thing. Very cool and nerdy. Yeah, and I–the Detroit Free Press has a story with like all sorts of cool stats about this particular date. Hold on, let me pull it up. Okay, so let’s see, right. It’s an eight-digit Palindrome which only occurs 12 times this century. The next one doesn’t come until March 2nd 2030. And then let’s see, 2021 has 22 Palindrome dates of at least 4 digits, which won’t happen again for 90 years, in 2111. And that’s so weird to think about that date, 2111. Wait. 21, yeah, 2111 it feels weird saying, okay.
Justin Ho: I had no idea what an anagram was. So that’s when you can flip it upside down, and it’s the same?
Kimberly Adams: I look this, these words up today. Today.
Justin Ho: Well, I’ve got, I’ve got a another nerdy one. I think some listeners might know that Kimberly is a gigantic space enthusiast.
Kimberly Adams: I love that you said enthusiast instead of nerd. Thank you.
Justin Ho: Well, I think it’s really cool. And there was actually a spacewalk today, and I figured that was right up your alley. But important to note, this is not one of those like, billionaire like space adjacent things where people space don’t–exactly, this is an actual spacewalk. So I guess a couple of NASA astronauts had to replace a bad antenna on the International Space Station. And they did it this morning, it took like six and a half hours and two of them went out there, fixed it up, installed a new one. And that was that. And it was also crazy because apparently there was some drama earlier in this week. On Tuesday they were supposed to do it. But NASA got word that there was a, like some debris, they got a debris notification, like space junk, I guess, and figured it was too risky to send the astronauts out there.
Kimberly Adams: Yes, just like in that Sandra Bullock movie. It’s literally that. So the Russians did an anti-satellite test two weeks ago that basically blew up a satellite in space and created this debris cloud that literally put the astronauts at risk. Fun fact, one of my very first stories when I came to Marketplace was like, I think it was a three-part series on space junk. Because I was very fascinated by it. And the, I talked to the guy who’s the origins of this theory called the Kessler syndrome, which he came up with this idea like decades and decades ago, and he was like, look, if we keep having all this junk in space, eventually the junk is going to hit each other and create more junk and that’s going to create, hit more junk. And eventually we’re going to have this huge cloud of space junk around the planet and it’s gonna be a problem and everyone’s like, no, that’s never gonna happen. And it did. And, and also, because I’m going to go full nerd here, in that series I did on orbital, orbital debris, I also use clips from an anime series that is literally about astronauts living in space who are like, space garbage collectors whose job it is to clean up orbital debris from around the Earth.
Justin Ho: Amazing. Amazing. We should pull that up. That’s a great, that’s a great series.
Kimberly Adams: Okay, okay, I’m done.
Justin Ho: Do you have any more or are you done?
Kimberly Adams: No, I’m done, that’s it. I think I’ve shown more than enough of the nerd today.
Justin Ho: Well, you should let us know if there’s something that’s making you smile. You can email us, we’re at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call us, our number is 508-827-6278. That’s 508-UB-SMART. And you can also write to us on our website, marketplace.org/makemesmart, and then you can attach an audio file.
Kimberly Adams: Yes, we ask people to do this all the time. It really does make your voice sound so much more rich. That is it for us today. I will be back tomorrow with Marketplace’s Samantha Fields for economics on tap and the YouTube live stream. That’s going to be at 3:30pm Pacific and 6:30pm Eastern over here, it will be pitch dark already. And if you don’t want to miss a show, please be sure to subscribe to this podcast so that you can get new episodes straight to your feed. Yes. I love this music. Isn’t it fun?
Justin Ho: It’s good. It’s really good.
Kimberly Adams: Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera with help from Marque Greene. Today’s episode was engineered by Brian Allison.
Justin Ho: Bridget Bodnar is the senior producer and the director of on demand is Donna Tam.
Kimberly Adams: I think considering it’s hollowed out shell of a Thursday, like we did alright. I feel less hollow now.
Justin Ho: You know, I was gonna say the word shell reminds me of Mario Kart and Mario Kart makes me happy. So there you go.
Kimberly Adams: Why does shell remind you of Mario Kart?
Justin Ho: You can shoot shells at other carts in Mario Kart, you can like, shoot a red shell, get in front of them. We’ll play some time.
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