Excursions by Amit Gawande

Interesting to know what makes Llamas antibodies more effective again Coronavirus. Science, respect.

This more diminutive antibody can access tinier pockets and crevices on spike proteins — the proteins that allow viruses like the novel coronavirus to break into host cells and infect us — that human antibodies cannot. That can make it more effective in neutralizing viruses.

Fri, May 8, 2020 thoughts

Tech news, especially about new products, just don’t interest me any more. Feel so futile. Superficial. Superfluous.

Thu, May 7, 2020 thoughts

In this period of lockdown, we’re avoiding every visit outside the home as much as possible. It also means there are times when I wish we had more than the single iPad we’ve today. A privileged ask, I know. But just can’t help - it has been the most used device outside of work.

Thu, May 7, 2020 thoughts

As much as we appreciate how effectively South Korea managed to contain the spread of the pandemic, the fact can’t be ignored that it involved steps that many democracies all around are just not comfortable signing up for and going through.

To expedite testing, it gave laboratories the green light to use unapproved diagnostic kits during a public-health emergency. To expand contact tracing, it gave health authorities warrantless access to CCTV footage and the geolocation data from the new patients’ phones. To increase transparency, the new laws required local governments to send prompt alerts, such as emergency texts, to disclose the recent whereabouts of new patients.

People trust the government in part because it works to keep raw politics out of public health. And the government trusts the public to act as a responsible co-partner in public health.” Each democracy should aim to achieve this delicate balance of trust” with their public.

Thu, May 7, 2020 thoughts

Even I hope work from home culture stays. But I also hope this does not. It isn’t healthy. I still log off at the same time I usually would.

The days of logging off at the end of the workday and focusing on other things until morning, already dwindling, might be gone for good.

Thu, May 7, 2020 thoughts

There’s still so much that we still do not know about the virus and the pandemic that followed.

If the timeline of when the virus appeared in Europe does change, the official efforts to combat the contagion will turn out to have been not just too late, but hopelessly too late.

Thu, May 7, 2020 thoughts

I watched (finally) The Rise of Skywalker yesterday. I am surprised I managed to stay spoiler-free till now. I have so many thoughts, but a quick review - am disappointed. Not satisfied. I will be frank, I liked both Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. This was a big let down.

Tue, May 5, 2020 thoughts

The guidelines that we follow during these days - to stay clean, healthy - is affecting me in many ways. I cringe and shudder when I look at a crowded or dusty place even in movies now. Same when I see someone cough or sneeze on screen. Or touch something in public.

Sun, May 3, 2020 thoughts

I am tired of listening to the same old rants about surveillance. I get it - the apps being used for contact tracing can potentially be used to hamper our privacy. However, such apps have proven effective in controlling the spread in many regions and nations. If you live in a democracy, you will always have a chance to curb the harm caused. If you point at the apps and shout privacy killer”, you are no better than the population that is protesting armed, asking for their freedom back.

Understand that these aren’t normal times. The normal rants won’t help in these times. Empathize with the decision-makers, especially in a democracy. This is new, an unknown territory for all of us.

Sun, May 3, 2020 thoughts

I don’t like Micro.blog’s app on iPad. The sidebar need not be sticky. It sticks out ever so more in the portrait mode. @manton.

Sat, May 2, 2020 thoughts

"I just can't do this." Harried parents forgo home school

I received a call from my daughter’s school today, enquiring if all was well with her online schooling. I was left completely clueless on how to respond to that.

My daughter’s school has enabled schooling of 5 subjects via an app. Each week, the app presents a new set of chapters, worksheets, quizzes across all 5 subjects. Besides, each week there are video conference sessions with teachers to recap what was learned in the last week.

Sorry to report, but just two weeks in, this process already seems overwhelming. It is especially so given both me and my wife are working from home.

I knew we weren’t alone. AP published a brilliant article on how parents in the US are already getting burned through this distance learning — something that is especially tricky with young kids. And they are forced to make a very difficult choice.

Amid the barrage of learning apps, video meet-ups and e-mailed assignments that pass as pandemic home school, some frustrated and exhausted parents are choosing to disconnect entirely for the rest of the academic year. Others are cramming all their children’s school work into the weekend or taking days off work to help their kids with a week’s worth of assignments in one day.

It is just not easy. Parents aren’t trained to be good teachers. The technology was never given a chance to prove it can work independently for teaching. It was always an additive. Plus nothing, nothing can replace the in-person learning from the people who are trained throughout their lives to do that. The comment below from one of the parents is very, very apt.

This is a very crude bandage we’re putting on a very big wound. We’re just doing the best we can. A video can’t look at your child’s face and see the confusion. A teacher can do that.

Sat, May 2, 2020 thoughts links

It is only April and I already hate 2020. In times like today when the world is already engulfed with a sense of hopelessness, the news like these won’t help for sure. May God have mercy on us all and bless us with the strength to ride through these challenging times.

Thu, Apr 30, 2020 thoughts

I am really surprised by the sheer amount of heartfelt tributes pouring in for #IrrfanKhan from his fans all over the world. He never attained the conventional stardom” - he had no quality to do so. But all he focused on was to master his craft and excel doing it. He just sincerely did what he loved. I remember he had said in one of his interviews - just avoid getting bored with yourself”, doing what you like to do and you shall achive that you want. Yep, I guess that is all it takes to be recognised. And loved. Sincerity.

Thu, Apr 30, 2020 thoughts

How am I doing right now?

I recently came across this brilliant article at Quartz at Work suggesting to move beyond how are you doing?” and get more serious about the questions we’re asking our colleagues, friends, and family”. It presented a list of questions that one should lead with while talking to others.

I thought I will try and attempt to answer a few of these myself. Maybe you can give it a try too. And if you do, I would like to read how you are dealing with this challenging moment. Here’s my attempt.

How are you taking care of yourself today?

Listening to music — spending some time with myself. It’s been some time that I did that. I used to do that very often. Of course, it was a lot easier to find some lone time. Not that easy any more.

What part of your shelter-in-place residence have you come to appreciate the most?

The corner with my study table, I am happy that I spent some significant time designing it while I was renovating my home. And another room I like to go relax in now and then is the bathroom.

What surprising thing have you been stocking up on (that isn’t toilet paper)?

Body lotion — I do not know why, but I have got many of them now. And biscuits. I never knew I liked biscuits so much.

What’s a story — from a book, a movie, an article, a conversation — that you’ve been gripped by recently? Why did it capture you?

All the stories of sacrifices that get published every single day — when the humans have behaved just the way they should. It has been rare to read about recently.

What habit have you started, or broken, during the quarantine?

I have fallen out of the habit of writing the morning pages. I know I shouldn’t have. But for some reason, there isn’t much that’s different that every new day dawns with.

I have fallen into my old habit of listening to the music — lots of varied music.

I am not listening to podcasts. Or Audiobooks. I am reading lots of books.

Which specific place in your neighborhood are you most looking forward to visiting once this is all over?

Every part of the neighborhood. Everything that’s outside. That’s crowded. The streets. The restaurants.

What’s the easiest part about the quarantine?

Finding stuff to idle the time away with.

What are some things you have realized that you don’t really need?

Air conditioners. Cash.

What’s something you own that feels useful?

Internet. Kindle. Plants and Garden.

What is your COVID-19 nickname/alter-ego?

The chatty, social one. I have been part of many zoom meetings, few even those where I knew no one on the other side.

What problem—either yours, or something more global —do you wish you could solve?

Illiteracy. Stupidity. Rebelism.

Sun, Apr 26, 2020 thoughts covid

After Trump talked about medical usage of UV light exposure and injecting disinfectants in his press conference, Dave Pell says, Stop live-broadcasting these batshit political rallies masquerading as press conferences. Stop the crazy coverage”. I agree.

I always wondered why the leader of the government, in turn a country, needs to drive these press conferences. Sure, it gives press a chance to question the government. But I think US is a live example of what a shitshow this can turn into.

I somewhat like how it is done in India. The relevant ministry officials and the assigned experts lead the press conference - experts doing majority of the talking.

Politicians better be kept away from mics in these trying times. They tend to get into their old habit of addressing their vote banks.

Sat, Apr 25, 2020 thoughts

I read this brilliant tweet from Evan Greer highlighting how cynical the techies have been left as the result of the last few years.

Medical experts: we need testing, PPE, & social distancing

Tech bros: so surveillance, right?

Medical experts: testing, hand washing, masks & ppl staying home plz.

Tech bros: got it, fever seeking drones

Medical experts: TESTING! PPE!!!

Tech bros: facial recognition?

I understand, all the efforts that the governments all over the world are rolling out towards containing the spread of virus can potentially affect our privacy. Or the way we are used to control our privacy. But I believe it is not just this issue that we will have to live with and fight against after this pandemic has passed.

Fri, Apr 24, 2020 thoughts

Summer is setting in — stays too hot throughout the day. And is equally bad in nights too. It is going to be a trying May ☀😰 — especially so without the regular niceties of the months of summer 🏖🍧🍹

Thu, Apr 23, 2020 thoughts