Various things and stuff, Episode 3

We got class, Rockin' the uke, Sir Duke for five-piece rock band

I mentioned Paso Robles wines earlier this week. Here’s a fine example of Paso Robles syrah, sold at Trader Joe’s for about $10 (if you can find it), that punches way above its price point.

Writing about things other than impeachment was a challenge, but I largely succeeded. Thanks to Tom Campbell for posting yesterday’s newsletter about how the 17th Amendment may enable senators to be weak-kneed on the website.

Back-to-school deal

Gov. Roy Cooper announced this week new COVID vaccine guidance. It moves teachers and school staff higher in the queue … as the General Assembly was passing bipartisan legislation to reopen classrooms to in-person instruction.

How convenient. The governor needed to throw the N.C Association of Educators a bone. They’ve stridently insisted on keeping schools 100% virtual, and they strongarm Democrats constantly. Moving school staff ahead of other “frontline” workers may ease some of the union pressure against reopening schools. It also signals he won’t veto Senate Bill 37, which should reach him early next week. (The House and Senate have to work out a few differences in a conference committee before the bill goes to Cooper.)

The governor and state health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen cite a forthcoming medical journal article by UNC and Duke researchers to justify the timing. But parents and students have run out of patience. A Civitas Poll released in late January showed a plurality of voters oppose his handling of schools during COVID-19.

It also found a whopping 69% of parents said COVID-related changes in instruction had a negative impact on their children — 70% would take their kids someplace other than their traditional K-12 school if they had the means

(On point: A story today at Charlotte Axios reporting on enrollment numbers dropping in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.)

School districts will have 15 days after S.B. 37 becomes law to get kids in class, either full-time or part-time with some days virtual. Districts that aren’t ramping up for that now — or seem to be getting their reopening plans from the mayor of Crazytown — deserve all the flak they’ll get.

It won’t be easy meeting social distancing, masking, and cleanliness guidelines everywhere. I heard that a few months back some school officials were suggesting they could manage if they could use larger buildings for younger kids — middle schools for grades K-5, high schools for 6-9, for instance — but that won’t be an option.

Classrooms almost certainly will reopen by mid-March. Better be ready. And careful.

The Rock always delivers

Dwayne Johnson is awesome. And his mom is even cooler. Check out this clip from “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” (skip to 4:25 for the prime material).

If anyone can make the ukulele cool again, it’s The Rock. And his mom.

Personal stuff

• If you can spare a few minutes each Wednesday morning, please tune in to WPTF 680 (streaming live if you’re out of range!) at 7:40, when I join Scott Briggaman on “The Triangle’s Morning News.” We have fun.

• Weekend read: Tim Alberta’s profile of Nikki Haley is getting plenty of traffic for the soundbites about Donald Trump. But the whole thing is worth your time. Eye-opening reporting and storytelling. Enough twists and turns that you might want to pop a Dramamine.

• We aren’t TV bingers. We haven’t been hooked on a scripted show in … forever. (I watched the first season of “Broadchurch” solo. Great show, but couldn’t hang in for the second season. Maybe we don’t have the attention spans for scripted video programming. Dunno.)  I’m only four episodes into “MST3K: The Gauntlet,” and that was designed to be binged in a single weekend.

Other than live sports and NatGeo-like history stuff on Curiosity Stream, we don’t watch much TV.

We’ve made an exception Saturday nights. PBS NC’s Explorer Channel is re-airing the first season of Ken Burns’ Jazz, and it’s really good. This week’s episode is “John Hammond goes to Kansas City and discovers Count Basie, Jimmy Rushing, etc.,” and that’s right in my wheelhouse.

The second episode introduced Duke Ellington, and the closing credits featured Ellington’s orchestra playing the 1927 recording of “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo.” Steely Dan covered it in 1974, and it’s … great. Walter Becker’s talk box, Skunk Baxter’s pedal steel, Donald Fagen’s piano — everything works.

Enjoy your weekend!