The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Live Like a Dane

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In an excellent article by Anastasia Frugaard:

When adjusting to life in Copenhagen, I noticed that things were very different in Denmark from back home in New York City. Locals seemed more relaxed, less addicted to their phones, more present with one another. Streets were quieter, shops and restaurants played gentle music on low volume. It’s almost as if people there didn’t need distractions from their reality.

Was it just the famous work-life balance and social welfare system or were there other, lesser known, reasons for their contentment?

Its surprisingly simple - get some exercise daily, cook at home, shop less, and eat plenty of candy.

pOrtal

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Born in Vilnius, Lithuania, pOrtal is a new wave community accelerator, aiming to bring people of different cultures together and encouraging them to rethink the feeling and meaning of unity. The pOrtal brings a new approach, especially important in times like these when we are being separated by extremely viral polarizing ideas and narratives.

The pOrtal team will connect the world with dozens of pOrtals in the near future – you, your community, and your city are welcome to join us on this mission! Let's transcend a sense of separation and be the pioneers of unity!

Okay the video and description is a bit over the top - but it is an amazing idea. I am all for anything that brings communities together. I wonder how much of this was inspired by the Star Trek episode of ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’.


Camera Shutter Sounds

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Sails Chong recorded the sounds of camera 18 camera shutters. With the vast majority of the population switching to cellphone cameras - that is a sound that will be heard less and less.

For those of us born before 1990 the comforting click of a camera shutter let us know that a moment was captured. It was committed to a physical medium. It will be printed. You will be able to look at that physical, printed moment of time no matter if you cell phone dies, backed it up to that remote hard drive and uploaded it to the cloud (I really hate that term) for sharing.

Curious that the most iconic shutter sound of them all - the Leica - is not represented here.

Could This Be the Breaking Point?

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$56,000 for a drug that the FDA’s own advisors voted against due to safety reasons. Its time we overhaul the entire United States medical system.

Less appreciated is how the drug’s approval could trigger hundreds of billions of dollars of new government spending, all without a vote in Congress or indeed any public debate over the drug’s value. Aduhelm’s manufacturer, Biogen, announced on Monday that it would price the drug at an average of $56,000 a year per patient, a figure that doesn’t include the additional imaging and scans needed to diagnose patients or to monitor them for serious side effects.

The federal government will bear the brunt of the new spending. The overwhelming majority of people with Alzheimer’s disease are eligible for Medicare, the federally run insurance program for elderly and disabled Americans. If even one-third of the estimated 6 million people with Alzheimer’s in the United States receives the new treatment, health-care spending could swell by $112 billion annually.

To put that figure in perspective, in 2020, Medicare spent about $90 billion on prescription drugs for 46 million Americans through the Part D program, which covers prescription medication that you pick up at your local pharmacy. We could wind up spending more than that for Aduhelm alone.

And from Physcians Weekly:

However, none of the 11 members of the FDA advisory committee that reviewed the new treatment considered the drug ready for approval. Ten voted against approval and one was uncertain, The Times reported. The FDA is not required to follow its advisory committees’ recommendations. The committee said there was no conclusive evidence that Aduhelm could slow mental decline in people in the early stages of Alzheimer disease and noted that it could cause potentially serious side effects of brain swelling and brain bleeding.

Americas Poor Pandemic Response

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Ed Yong in The Atlantic:

From its founding, the United States has cultivated a national mythos around the capacity of individuals to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, ostensibly by their own merits. This particular strain of individualism, which valorizes independence and prizes personal freedom, transcends administrations. It has also repeatedly hamstrung America’s pandemic response. It explains why the U.S. focused so intensely on preserving its hospital capacity instead of on measures that would have saved people from even needing a hospital. It explains why so many Americans refused to act for the collective good, whether by masking up or isolating themselves. And it explains why the CDC, despite being the nation’s top public-health agency, issued guidelines that focused on the freedoms that vaccinated people might enjoy. The move signaled to people with the newfound privilege of immunity that they were liberated from the pandemic’s collective problem. It also hinted to those who were still vulnerable that their challenges are now theirs alone and, worse still, that their lingering risk was somehow their fault. (“If you’re not vaccinated, that, again, is taking your responsibility for your own health into your own hands,” Walensky said.)

It should be an embarrassment how we treat the old and the lower and middle class. Hopefully this pandemic cause us as a nation to change for the better.

The Tyranny of Time

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Contemporary society is obsessed with time — it is the most used noun in the English language. Since clocks with dials and hands first appeared on church towers and town halls, we have been bringing them closer towards us: into our workplaces and schools, our homes, onto our wrists and finally into the phone, laptop and television screens that we stare at for hours each day.

We discipline our lives by the time on the clock. Our working lives and wages are determined by it, and often our “free time” is rigidly managed by it too. Broadly speaking, even our bodily functions are regulated by the clock: We usually eat our meals at appropriate clock times as opposed to whenever we are hungry, go to sleep at appropriate clock times as opposed to whenever we are tired and attribute more significance to the arresting tones of a clock alarm than the apparent rising of the sun at the center of our solar system. The fact that there is a strange shame in eating lunch before noon is a testament to the ways in which we have internalized the logic of the clock. We are “time binding” animals, as the American economist and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin put it in his 1987 book, “Time Wars.” “All of our perceptions of self and world are mediated by the way we imagine, explain, use and implement time.”

Helpful to remember that no matter how much money we make, how efficient we become time is the great equalizer. We all get 24 hours. Make sure you use them to to better your soul and your relationships.

Roadrunner

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Some of you may ask ‘how is this food related?’

Truth is, for Anthony Bourdain, food was only an excuse to explore the world and the people in it. And by doing so he showed us how there is greatness in all of us. We just need to sit down and share a meal to notice it.

It is unfair he left our world the way he did and when he did. This movie will be a tear jerker from the very beginning.

Watch Typography

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The art of mechanical watches has always fascinated me. Sure, they are yesterday’s technology. A $23 Casio calculator watch will run circles around something like an A. Lange & Söhne Grand Lange 1 watch when it comes to accuracy, functionality, durability and affordability.

But what a fine mechanical watch offers is a statement of precision and art. Case in point is the extreme attention to detail placed in the typography of these watches.

Good typography should be almost unnoticeable. Blending seamlessly into the rest of the design, it should tell you everything you need to know, without you being aware of it. Despite the many restrictions that are applied to dial layout, the creativity that can be seen in typography across horology is quite staggering. To put it simply, typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible and appealing when displayed. As the dial is the mvain point of interaction with a watch, it is arguably one of its most important parts, and certainly one that can produce the most emotion. This is why typeface can play such a vital, yet subtle, role in how we experience and feel about a certain piece.

If the $130,000 price premium of a A. Lange & Söhne Grand Lange 1 is worth it to you - well thats another discussion all altogether.

Footsteps | a Short Documentary

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Foley is like percussion. When it’s really well done you really don’t know it is there. It’s hopefully really transparent.


A short documentary on Foley artists - the people who create the sound effects for movies and TV shows. Amazing beyond the curtain look at an art form that we all take for granted.

Researchers Push to Develop mRNA Vaccines for Other Diseases

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Now that it’s proven itself against Covid-19, mRNA technology will be used to develop improved vaccines for influenza and new vaccines for HIV, hepatitis C, malaria, and tuberculosis. And they will be developed at unprecedented speed and efficiency.

With traditional methods of making a vaccine against influenza, developers must modify the virus or protein being made. That modification can require changes in manufacturing. For example, the modified virus might grow a little differently than expected, which might require changes in a vaccine’s formulation. Plus, vendors usually start making vaccines against influenza six months in advance of using them, so by the time people get the vaccines, they might not provide protection against the most prominent influenza strains of the season.

With an mRNA-based approach, Dormitzer says, “swapping one gene for another with mRNA changes its properties very little in manufacturing, which is much easier than changing a viral strain.” Speed also matters, and developers can quickly make mRNA vaccines. “The closer you can move the strain selection to flu season, the more accurate you will be,” Dormitzer says. By being able to make mRNA vaccines faster, manufacturers can select the influenza strains to target later than they are able to with traditional methods, which should increase the efficacy of the treatment.

The engineering behind mRNA vaccines also allows scientists to build multi-valent vaccines. “We can go up in the number of antigens being expressed,” Dormitzer explains, “which could increase the robustness of a flu vaccine.”

The Day Prince’s Guitar Wept the Loudest

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At the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for George Harrison - Harrison’s son Dhani, music legends Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Steve Winwood, and Prince perform While My Guitar Gently Weeps. At about 3 minutes and 30 seconds in, Prince absolutely rips the place apart with a 3-minute guitar solo for the ages.

Tom sort of went over to him and said, “Just cut loose and don’t feel sort of inhibited to copy anything that we have, just play your thing, just have a good time.” It was a hell of a guitar solo, and a hell of a show he actually put on for the band. When he fell back into the audience, everybody in the band freaked out, like, “Oh my God, he’s falling off the stage!” And then that whole thing with the guitar going up in the air. I didn’t even see who caught it. I just saw it go up, and I was astonished that it didn’t come back down again. Everybody wonders where that guitar went, and I gotta tell you, I was on the stage, and I wonder where it went, too.

One of the musical greats - and a truly underrated guitar player. He left us way to early.

The Amazon 'Flywheel'

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The oldest anti competitive tactic - use your advantage in part of the market to crowd out and marginalize your competitors. Look I like Amazon as much as the next person - but they really need to be reigned in. Mat Stoller as an excellent writeup:

To understand why, we have to start with the idea of free shipping. Free shipping is the God of online retail, so powerful that France actually banned the practice to protect its retail outlets. Free shipping is also the backbone of Prime. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos knew that the number one pain point for online buyers is shipping - one third of shoppers abandon their carts when they see shipping charges. Bezos helped invent Prime for this reason, saying the point of Prime was to use free shipping “to draw a moat around our best customers.” The goal was to get people used to buying from Amazon, knowing they wouldn’t have to worry about shipping charges. Once Amazon had control of a large chunk of online retail customers, it could then begin dictating terms of sellers who needed to reach them.

This became clear as you read Racine’s complaint. One of the most important sentences in the AG’s argument is a quote from Bezos in 2015 where he alludes to this point. In discussing the firm’s logistics service that is the bedrock of its free shipping promise, Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), he said, “FBA is so important because it is glue that inextricably links Marketplace and Prime. Thanks to FBA, Marketplace and Prime are no longer two things. Their economics … are now happily and deeply intertwined.” Amazon wants people to see Prime, FBA, and Marketplace as one integrated mega-product, what Bezos likes to call “a flywheel”, to disguise the actual monopolization at work. (Indeed, any time you hear the word “flywheel” relating to Amazon, replace it with “monopoly” and the sentence will make sense.)

G.E Smith - One of the Real Cats

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G.E. Smith on Dylan, SNL, Clapton, Van Halen and and his time with SNL.

He claims to not be that talented. Well I call BS -G.E. Smith is the real deal. One of the real cats.

What Does U.S. Health Care Look Like Abroad?

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To know that I can get sick, I can get injured but I will still be able to get taken care of - that is freedom. This is not freedom.

On U.S Elections:


On America’s response to climate change:


The American Dream is dying. Our country is quickly turning into a third world country. The really sad part is that it isn’t the government, corporations or hoards of immigrants at boarders - it’s the ignorance and irrational fear of government by the citizenry.

The End Is Near

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The end is near. Normally, that sentence does not portend anything good. Then the times we live in are not normal.

Every interaction is both precious and an opportunity to delight. %}
Herd immunity is not a moment in time. President Biden is never going to say: “Today, at 9:04 A.M., on the deck of the U.S.S. Moderna, the virus known as SARS-CoV-2 signed our general terms of surrender.”

Instead, this virus is slowly becoming endemic: something we live with.

We will probably have bad seasons and good seasons, as we do with flu. We may have annual shots with a blend of the South African, Brazilian, Indian or whatever variants are circling the globe that year. Luckily, because coronaviruses mutate more slowly than influenza viruses, they will probably be better matches than flu shots are.

1000 Musicians Play Rock Songs

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I came across Rockin'1000 full concert at Stade de France of 1000+ musicians playing rock classics from past and present. Rock music was ment to be a communal experience. Just you and 20,000 thousands of your best mates head banging and reveling in the sonic chaos. Hundreds of drums, guitars, bass and singers in sync. Musicians from all walks of life - no politics, no religion, no race or color, no nationality, no gender, no age difference, no national boundaries, just pure music where everyone is beautiful.

Be excellent to each other and rock on!

The Great Wave of Kanagawa

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For all you Seiko watch fans - ever wonder what that wave in the back of your watch is? Host James Payne has a great series in which one the videos explaining it:

New Remote

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I have been an Apple TV user for the last 7 years. And I absolutely love the little black box. However, I hate the remote. For a company that consistently designs fantastic UI and physical products - the black Siri apple remote is a horrendous design. Just use it for a few minutes and its obvious whats wrong with it:

  • It’s easy to pick up backwards because the buttons are centered.
  • It’s easy to click the trackpad inadvertently - because you picked it up backwards.
  • The bottom is a smudge magnet - and quite frankly disgusting looking after a few hours of use
  • It’s black - how are you supposed to know what you are clicking in the dark?

You have to wonder how it ever made it out of the prototype stage like this. The new aluminum Siri remote fixes every single one of these problems. Just look at it:

This alone justifies upgrading to the new 5th generation Apple TV. You have to wonder what the hell took six years to fix this mess.

The Apple Silicon Era

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But then a funny thing happened.

[..]

With the new M1 iPad Pros, Apple has achieved equilibrium. It’s literally the exact same chip. The iPad Pro has the speed of the Mac and the Mac has the incredible power efficiency and thermals of the iPad Pro. I saw this coming years ago, yet it’s still hard for me to believe.

Believe it. Apple is about to do to the CPU industry what it did to cell phone industry. The upcoming M2 chips will be the nail in the coffin for x86 dominance.