Hello, Happy New Year and welcome to Five Great Reads, a compendium of weekday summer stories curated by me – Alyx Gorman – Editor-in-Chief of Guardian Australia.
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NSW entered 2022, with the highest Covid test rate in the world (haha, I’m terrified). What does “positive test rate” mean? Here is a practical explanation from Michael McGowan. You can follow all of the day’s Covid developments, as well as other breaking news on our live blog.
And in World News, the chairman of the US Home Intelligence Committee says Russia is “very likely” to invade Ukraine and proposes “huge sanctions” to deter them.
Now on to the readings, which to give you a good break is the topic of today’s resolution.
1. If you’ve decided to read less Covid content, but crave high stakes medical reports
Discover the mysterious cluster of neurological diseases affecting young people in New Brunswick, Canada.
Notable quote: “I am really concerned about these cases because they seem to be moving so fast,” said the whistleblower, who disclosed the cluster and spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “I’m worried about them and we owe them some sort of explanation.”
How long will it take to read? About three minutes.
Bonus to read: If it’s a little dark for this morning, you might find Tory Shepherd on some great poo, designer gut bacteria, and the quest to grow a poo dumpling that you can swallow some more, ah, palatable. ?
2. If you have decided to improve your concentration
Read Johann Hari about how your attention was stolen from you and, critically, how to get it back again.
Who stole it? Who else? Great technology. But there are other villains as well.
Notable quote: Here is James Williams, a Google engineer turned philosopher of attention, explaining why turning off your phone is “not the solution”: “For the same reason that wearing a gas mask two days a week outside doesn’t is not the answer to pollution.
How long will it take to read? About eight minutes. Come on, you can do it!
3. If you have decided to make more money this year
Read what happens when you let your house out as a production set, from blood splatters that never completely fade, to “riches … to literally be out of the house for a day” (that was 300 $, and the movie was rated X).
Have I seen any of the houses? If you’ve seen Animal Kingdom, Mr Inbetween, or ABC’s Hardball, then yes.
Do you meet celebrities? Yes too ! If you’re really lucky, Ben Mendelsohn will feed your dog some bacon.
4. If you have decided to broaden your social horizons
Here’s Sophie Black on how the pandemic has normalized the “pruning” of friendship: whether by accident or on purpose, and whether the connection can return to normal.
Thought to meditate: “It helps to start by asking what exactly are friends for.
How long will it take me to read? About five minutes, much faster than the estimated 90 hours it takes to make a new close friend.
5. If the resolutions are too hard
How about an easy win instead? Like writing a list of what not to do.
Tell me more? No, you can read the whole story in under a minute, but I’ll tell you about two other easy wins: lengthening your commute slightly; and reach out to an old friend.
Is it a thing now? Yes, the Guardian Australia team will be writing every day in January about a new easy-to-reach goal.
I just want to read them in bursts: Well you can’t, but here’s a British piece in a similar vein – 100 Ways To Slightly Improve Your Life Without Really Trying.