Maddie is a high school senior this year.

Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those time-flies diatribes. You already know that. 

But she’s applying for college. It’s riveting – and virtually nothing like my own admissions experience. I more or less sleep-walked through it until Rollins landed in my lap

This is different.

Maddie is only applying to musical theater programs. She basically decided that when she was six. She’s been laser targeted – on not just Broadway, but winning Tony Awards – since she was in a booster seat. 

Her young life (and ours) has revolved around an epic string of weekly (really, daily) acting, dance, and voice classes, camps, private lessons, auditions, shows, and countless hours practicing and studying at home. She started singing Anthems at pro sporting events when she was 11 – because her voice teacher thought it would be good experience in front of a crowd. Never mind the years it took off our life watching her.

The list of sacrifices she made is nearly as long. The parties, playdates, and family events she missed – and eventually invitations, because she was presumed to be a ‘no’ – were often heartbreaking. She’s never had a significant other (I’m not remotely heartbroken over this) because, as she says, “It’s not part of the plan right now.”

It has always been about “the plan.”

Before I get any finger-wagging emails about pushing her too hard, this has always been Maddie’s plan. We’ve never pressured her, even nudged her, dragged her to a lesson, or reminded her to practice. Not once. We were chauffeurs, organizers, and check-writers. Little more.

She’s truly the most focused person I’ve ever met.

Which is why this process is so nerve-wracking. All that focus, effort, and sacrifice pointed to this mile marker. Sure, she could achieve her dreams without going to an elite school, but if you get into Michigan, Carnegie Mellon, NYU, or a couple others, your road to Broadway is infinitely more smoothly paved. 

CMU would be awesome. But they only take twelve new students a year. Six women. Seriously. Six. Out of thousands.

What’s worse is the process. Good grades and SAT scores are table stakes, almost irrelevant. It comes down to an audition. After all that work – it’s essentially one audition for a four-year role and a lifetime of easier sailing.

Wish her luck.

Wait. Yikes. Don’t do that. 

Tell her to break a leg. 

Here’s what we’re seeing:

Americans are locked into their tribes on COVID. We seem to have hit a plateau, or maybe a ceiling, in our collective COVID concerns. Even as hospitals overflow across the country, a remarkably consistent one in four adults say they have no intent of ever being vaccinated. Thirty percent say they are perfectly comfortable being in public spaces right now and that number hasn’t wavered a single percentage point in three weeks. And, indeed, the people least likely to be vaccinated are the least likely to be worried about COVID at all. No amount of news or evidence seems to be able to penetrate the deep calcification of our views. What I see in my personal Facebook laboratory is that any information that runs counter to someone’s existing dogma is quickly cast aside as wrong, biased, or fake. I have no idea how we break that cycle. Sigh.

In a similar vein, Republicans are more than twice as likely as Democrats to gather in person for Labor Day this year. If you’re in the hot dog or charcoal business, take note. Channel your ad dollars to conservative outlets over the next several days because righties are more likely to be hosting cookouts on September 6th. Obviously by now this makes all kinds of sense, given what we know about the correlation between party affiliation and COVID fears. Another interesting finding in this study is that labor union households are more likely to gather in person (if more cautiously). That might seem counterintuitive because labor unions are traditionally left-leaning. But in the new populist era of Republican politics, those lines are blurring by the minute.



Solar energy is the number one choice for renewables, but nuclear is slowly gaining ground. That’s it. That’s the story. I would just add that nuclear is much more popular among current homeowners than non-homeowners. And solar is way, way more popular among people who are worried about climate change. OK. Maybe there’s way more to the story. See for yourself.

The frozen food category is having a renaissance. Like a lot of CPG, the freezer section at the grocery store saw renewed traffic in the peaks of COVID, as more people were eating at home. That trend didn’t seem to slow even as people ventured back out. And now that people are reporting eating at home more than they did before the Delta surge, expect DIY meals and convenience to color the food landscape for the foreseeable future. As an (a)side, frozen vegetables are the dominant item in the category. Get it?

As people ramp up their pace of doctor visits, interest in telemedicine is rising in parallel. Americans have been making it back to their myriad healthcare providers – elective and otherwise – now that they’re vaccinated and leaving the house again. It could be reminding people that sitting in a doctor’s office sucks, because the percentage of Americans who haven’t tried telehealth but plan to has risen 21% since April. Virtual medicine is going nowhere but up, folks. 

We also took a quick look at people who haven’t seen a doctor at all in the past year and they’re much less likely to watch Grey’s AnatomyThat and some other random facts here.

I’ve written way more than usual by this point so you should just read our fascinating study about opinions on whether kids should have cell phones and social media. Needless to say, those opinions vary widely among different groups of people.

And a few more studies too:

Here were the most popular questions this week:

 Answer Key: Iron Man; Hell no; None of it; If you don’t, you’re not humble enough; Most of the time.

Hoping you’re well.

JD