The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Rolling the Tape on Nikki Haley

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Another excellent ‘Rolling the Tape’ episode by Briana Keilar. This time on Nikki Haley.

If racism is so far gone, why aren’t you using your real name - Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley. What if you hadn’t left Sikhism for Christianity? Oh thats right, you wouldn’t be elected in a post racial America would you?

Her and Bobby Jindal are a disgrace to all Indian Americans.

Is This the End of Facebook?

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Luca D'Urbino in The Economist:

But fury may matter. Facebook is nearing a reputational point of no return. Even when it set out plausible responses to Ms Haugen, people no longer wanted to hear. The firm risks joining the ranks of corporate untouchables like big tobacco. If that idea takes hold, Facebook risks losing its young, liberal staff. Even if its ageing customers stick with the social network, Facebook has bigger ambitions that could be foiled if public opinion continues to curdle. Who wants a metaverse created by Facebook? Perhaps as many people as would like their health care provided by Philip Morris.

I would say that among the young people, Facebook is already looking more and more like MySpace.

The US US Is Unprepared for the Next Pandemic

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The problem comes down to our underfunded public health system and “profoundly unequal society”.

Ed Young in The Atlantic:

“To be ready for the next pandemic, we need to make sure that there’s an even footing in our societal structures,” Seema Mohapatra, a health-law expert at Indiana University, told me. That vision of preparedness is closer to what 19th-century thinkers lobbied for, and what the 20th century swept aside. It means shifting the spotlight away from pathogens themselves and onto the living and working conditions that allow pathogens to flourish. It means measuring preparedness not just in terms of syringes, sequencers, and supply chains but also in terms of paid sick leave, safe public housing, eviction moratoriums, decarceration, food assistance, and universal health care. It means accompanying mandates for social distancing and the like with financial assistance for those who might lose work, or free accommodation where exposed people can quarantine from their family. It means rebuilding the health policies that Reagan began shredding in the 1980s and that later administrations further frayed. It means restoring trust in government and community through public services. “It’s very hard to achieve effective containment when the people you’re working with don’t think you care about them,” Arrianna Marie Planey, a medical geographer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told me.

Dutch Sidewalks

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Yet another thing the Dutch do better than we do in the US.


It’s hard to describe how much nicer it is to walk in an environment like this. It feels like the people walking are in control and that drivers are a guest in their environment, not the other way around.

Quitting Social Media

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Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor named one of the best thinkers in the field of management, said that we don’t really buy products or services. Rather, we “hire” something to get a job done. Based on this, think about why you continuously waste your talent by watching other people share their craft instead of creating something yourself. Ask yourself, for what type of job you’ve hired social media?

Personally, I think that there are two possible options:

  1. You use social media for validation. By sharing photos of what you do and where you go, you aim to fix your mood when people like your posts. Or in other words, even if your life is good, you don’t feel that your life is good enough unless others say so.

  2. You’re simply an observer. Spontaneously hopping from post to post, consuming, rarely sharing. Trying to escape the unbearable mediocrity of your actual life by watching the most magnificent moments of others. And eventually, end up living virtual life deprived of any actual experiences.

I don’t know which one is worse. Persuading yourself that other people care about you because they simply liked your photo. Or, the tendency to avoid fixing your unpleasant reality by doing something about it instead of participating in the fantasy world of social media.

Of course, that’s now how we normally think about using social media.

We persuade our minds that liking pictures and joining virtual groups gives us a sense of belonging. Connection with others. Opportunity to express ourselves and access to a wide variety of information we’ll otherwise never get.

In reality, we hire social media to distract our minds from our unpleasant, average life. And, by faking photos, to convince others, including ourselves, that our life is amazing while internally we are in pain.

We hire social media to create a virtual representation of the life we want to live, but never actually live it. We hire social media to observe the life we want, but never actually experience it.

By favoring pictures of others traveling around the world, you not only waste time. But you also invite corrupting thoughts in your head like, “Why I’m so unadvanvetorous? Why I don’t travel? Why does my life suck?” All of these questions, even if you’re not a fan of traveling.

But what if you realize that you don’t know why you use social media? That you use it just because you’ve used it before?

Then, probably, you will realize that you don’t need fake friendships online. You don’t need to see more pictures of people you don’t know. And you certainly don’t need to spend hours scrolling through updates that are not even related to your personality.

The benefits of staying off social media are insanely generous. Not only your time is salvaged, but also your attention – which is far more precious.

If you’re on the fence about using social media – which I believe is the case since you’re reading this post – let me give you not 10 reasons to quit social media. But 20 reasons to quit social media.

You Have More Free Time

On average, people spend 145 minutes per day liking photos and interacting with memes. In some countries, this number is close to 4 hours per day

Imagine how your life will look like with two extra hours per day?

Probably you can finally start reading the pile of books collecting dust on your counter.

Or, start writing the book you’ve always wanted. Or, even better, just rest more after a busy day at the office.

You Compare Less With Others

“Jim just purchased a brand new BMW. Tiffany got a new job at Google. Roger, an old friend from high school I never see, is traveling, again. And here I am. Sitting in my small rented flat. Covered in darkness. Sweating. Unable to move. Wondering why my life is so unimpressive.”

Subconsciously or not, we always compare ourselves to others. This is an in-built human characteristic.

We want what others have because this can help us improve our life and thus survive for longer.

Comparing with others can be a good thing because it can inspire action. Motivate us to make changes in our lives.

However, when we are continuously exposed to the perfect life of others by scrolling through Facebook and Instagram. When we compare our average days with the perfect days of others. We feel pain. We feel behind. We feel that we’re not enough and instead of feeling motivated, we feel lost, and it’s like our life is utterly unfixable.

You Stop Buying Things You Don’t Need

Senator Orrin Hatch, in relation to the antitrust investigation, asked Mark Zuckerberg the following: “How do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?” To which Mr. Zuckerberg responded, widely smiling, “we run ads.”4

Mathematically, the more you use social media, the more ads you will see. The more ads you see, the more money you spend.

Marketers all over the world brag about how they increase their revenue by running ads on social media. Who do you think the buyers are? That’s right, people who use social media.

If you don’t use social media, you’ll see fewer ads. You will know about the existence of fewer products. Therefore, you will purchase fewer things.

But it’s not only the ads that are making you go crazy with your credit card. There is something else…

You Stop Doing Things You Don’t Want To Do

Admit it, you’re not really traveling because you want to visit every corner of the world. You’re doing it because all of your friends have the unrealistic goal of traveling the whole world.

Peer pressure can be quite beneficial. If you see your friends working out daily, you’ll probably motivate yourself to do it.

But let’s be real, people who are super enthusiastic. Self-help nerds, rarely use social media. They understand why leaving social media is the right choice.

This means that you’re left in a virtual pool full of folks who want to prove to other folks that their life is better than what it actually is.

So, what eventually happens is that everyone on the social media train is pursuing an unobtainable carrot. Even worse, carrot they don’t really need/want.

The more you spend time looking at what others are doing, the more you’ll want to do these things. Sadly, this will prevent you from figuring out what you, yourself, want to do.

You Focus On Your Goals

Quitting social media removes the desire to do what every one of your online friends is doing.

When you no longer crave to watch pictures of strangers, something magical happens. You start thinking about what you really want out of your life.

Since there are no more pictures to like and no more people to follow, you start to follow your own desires.

You take the time you previously spent (wasted) observing how others live their lives and use it to create the life you want.

Sound too self-helpy (?), I know. It does. But it’s completely true.

You have a void to fill. Why not fill it with activities you like? Not activities other people like?

You Get More Social

Quitting social media makes you more social.

Counterintuitive, right? Social media sites are supposed to make us more social, more connected? Then how quitting social media will help me have better relationships?

Hear me out.

Facebook and Instagram give you a fake sense of belonging. You think that you’re interacting with others, but that’s just dust in the eyes.

You don’t feel the presence of other people. You receive emojis and carefully curated messages.

When you delete your social media accounts, and when the fake connections are gone, you crave actual interactions. You’ll naturally want to meet others. See them in person, not just chat with them.

You Start Looking For Having Meaningful Dialogues

It’s hard to imagine that you can find a meaningful discussion online. Sure, there are some channels where you can interact with others on topics that are different from the usual memes and likes – like AMAs with Bill Gates – but they are outliers, they are not the norm.

Replacing words with emojis can’t ignite a meaningful conversation. It’s good only for an afternoon chatter.

Imagine having to keep a conversation going without access to storage full of smiling faces and hearts. You will have to actually talk with the person and express your feelings.

You Stop Dehumanizing Humans

In a virtual world, you are not judged based on who you really are. You are evaluated based on how you present yourself.

You don’t have enough followers and likes on your posts? Well, then, my friend, your opinion doesn’t count. You’re just a random avatar.

To be perceived as important, and not even as important, but just a person with an opinion, you need influence. You need to turn into an influencer.

This means that you should purchase courses that will help you gain more followers. The more followers you have, there more you will matter.

But this also means that the fewer followers you have, the less you matter.

This dehumanization is dangerous. We blindly obey the so-called gurus who are just regular folks who simply spent more time building an audience. However, this doesn’t mean that they are smarter. They are simply playing the social game better.

You Avoid Groupthink

As the saying goes, “If you keep doing the same things, you will keep getting the same results.”

But there is one important variation of the above statement: “If you keep interacting with the same people, you will have the same thoughts.”

Online, we form a tribe that revolves around our interests. Going out, traveling, photography, etc. There is nothing wrong with that. We all have interests that, when shared, can turn into blossoming friendships.

But when we keep interacting with the same people, we will never see different points of view.

We will accept what our tribe is suggesting without digging around looking for alternative views. And worse, we’ll rarely search for an outside view. Making us stuck inside a box. Inside a bubble. Never upgrading our thought processes in a world that is constantly changing and looking for out-of-the-box ideas.

You Transition From FOMO to JOMO

FOMO stands for fear of missing out. JOMO is the joy of missing out.

When I abandoned social media. I thought that I will go crazy. Miss out on so many important things that I will quickly jump back on the liking ship. None of that happened.

After the habit of scrolling and liking wears off, you suddenly find yourself in a joyful place. A quieter, calmer, less demanding place where you don’t want to know what others are doing. You focus on what you want to do.

Getting anxious because you think that others are doing super exciting things without you means that there is nothing in your life to be excited about.

If this is the case, escaping the social media train is the perfect opportunity to find something in your life to be excited about.

You Start To Use Social Media

You’re no longer used by social media when you escape social media. You start to use social media for your own gains.

I know why a lot of people can’t even consider not checking Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter constantly. Objectively speaking, there is a ton of value inside these platforms. I can’t argue against this.

Still, quitting social media doesn’t always mean that you have to delete the app and never return.

Personally, I still keep my profiles active with a little twist. I’ve unfollowed everyone online. This means that when I open Twitter, for example, I don’t see an infinite scroll where gurus are lining up to “tell me” how to get better.

There is nothing when I enter. A blank page.

When I want to check something, I access my Twitter and do my research. Or when I want to see what people are talking about in relation to something I’m interested in, I search for a Facebook group and I read the comments.

Or in other words, you can use social media deliberately. Only enter the sites when you want to find something. Not enter to find something to need. Two completely different things.

You Get Your Attention Back

“The whole world is infected. Zombies everywhere. No sign of hope!”

That’s not a poster of a new movie. It’s the current reality.

In the pre-Facebook era. We had face-to-face time. Now we have face-to-phone time.

It’s hard to talk to people, connect with them when their face is always facing a bright screen with popping elements.

I fully understand why people feel pressured to stay online all the time. There is no ending. The Infinity pools are constantly fed with new stuff to show you. Consuming not only your time, but your attention as well.

Something I don’t believe a lot of people get is how lousy your attention becomes when you scroll through pictures (and the new fad now: videos) during your whole day.

It deteriorates quite fast

Disconnection from the always-on world will help you remember that there is more.

Not more places to go. Not more pictures to like. But more ways to focus and concentrate on what matters more to you personally.

You Start To Seek Finite Resources

A newspaper from a small corner shop on a busy street might not have all the news inside. But it has something we all want – an ending.

With a newspaper, you can understand what’s happening today while drinking your morning coffee and move on with your life.

We keep scrolling and scrolling online because we know that there is more. But more doesn’t mean better. Seeing all variations of memes online won’t upgrade your skills. It will destroy them.

When informational resources have edges, it will help you focus on what you’re reading right now, not on what you could be reading a moment later.

You Become More Present

Since you’re no longer thinking about, “gosh, probably I have new likes on my photo, I should check so I can feel good.” You focus on the thing you’re doing without constantly disturbing your flow.

Removing the thoughts on what “I’m potentially missing out on” helps you get calmer. More grounded. More present. More focused on what “I’m doing right now.”

Instead of going out with a friend so you can both stare at your phones, you enjoy each other’s company.

You Focus On The Important Things

Nintendo recently released a new video game. Netflix just launched a new documentary. Your grandma is sharing pictures of her on the beach, again.

There is always something new happening online. Something fun. Something exciting. Something that makes you feel like your world is super awesome.

Sadly, when you put the phone away, it’s still you. The same you, inside the same condo, doing the usual things.

Fun things online don’t mean important things.

When social media is removed from your life, you create the time you need to focus on the important things. For instance, spending more quality time with your family and friends.

You Have More Time To Think

Thinking is often overlooked. Even though we do it all the time, we don’t ever talk about it. We don’t think that thinking is important.

Just a few moments of alone time, with nothing but your naked thoughts, can drive you insane. That’s what usually happens when you’re used to constantly observe the lives of others.

But more uninterrupted time for thinking is like doodling. You try different ideas in your head. You stress test a concept. You carefully consider your words before you write them on a piece of paper. Plainly, it’s helpful.

Thinking more about a certain thing will help you better prepare when you actually start doing the thing.

You Realize Who Your Real Friends Are

I remember when I was younger. I stared at my Facebook friends count and I was delighted by the number: 700+ friends. “Man, I must be sensational,” I thought.

With time though, you realize that this is just a metric social media sites use to force you to stay. “Reconnect with your friends. Share your memories. Join more groups…” Like we need more Facebook groups in our lives.

When I abandoned social media, I realized that my real friends are no more than a dozen. And instead of trying to maintain relationships that don’t matter. I focused on the ones that do.

You Stop Supporting Monopolies

If you’ve ever played the game Monopoly, you know that it sucks when one person holds all the streets. All the railroads. And has a damn hotel on every piece of property on the map.

But with our combined efforts – or simply our usage of neglect. We help big social media platforms become even bigger.

While we play the game of Monopoly hoping to win, we have the best time at the beginning of the game – when everyone is playing. Not when one of the players obtains every property on the field.

If we stop using Facebook and Instagram. Or if we start using them more deliberately. We might inspire others to do the same. And when this happens, we can prevent the global expansion of the dogmatic social media platforms trying to interfere with every part of our lives.

You Focus On Yourself

A large portion of social media scrolling involves watching what everyone else is doing. “Hey, a cute dog…”; “Gosh, my neighbor is really working these muscles…”; “Jenny just started a newsletter, good for her…”

But how is watching the glamorous life of others helping you make your life better?

In short, it doesn’t.

It only distracts you from what you want to do.

When you close the window to the lives of others, you open widely the window to yours.

You Transition From Consumer to Creator

In one of my recent posts on how my life changed after abandoning social media, I wrote: “I don’t want to consume the life of others. I want to create a life worth consuming.”

In the age of information overload, it’s easy to end up drowning in facts and stories of people you don’t know – and will never get to know.

I mean, getting updates of your favorite celebrity feels exciting. But for who?

The people social media websites recommend us to follow have things already figured out. They have money. Status. Fancy lives. Why spend our time looking at their gorgeous lives instead of creating a better life for ourselves?

Why not use the tools that allowed people to become famous and valued, the ones we so obsessively follow, to create something worth following?

Some Closing Thoughts

Regardless of whether we hate it or love it, social media platforms are here to stay.

Of course, there are plenty of benefits to social media. A lot of open jobs related to managing social media accounts. Easy video calls to see your friends who live in another country can be done with just a push of a button. Some people even create businesses solely on platforms like Instagram – not that I think it’s a good thing, but that’s another story.

But like everyone else in life, balance is key.

You either use social media, or you let it use you.

The decision is up to you. You can either bombard your brain with endless distractions. Or you can use the time to dig deep on topics that actually interest you.

And if you do want to quit social media, but you don’t know how to start, you can begin with these books:


Hope the information was helpful here.

A Cook’s Tour

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Anthony Bourdain’s First Travel/Food TV Show, for free - A Cook’s Tour. Here is the very first episode.


The genius of Anthony Bourdain was that 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.

Lydia Tenaglia-Collins on how it all started:

So that was the start of our relationship and our time together. We, fortunately, were able to pitch and sell that idea, A Cook’s Tour, to the Food Network. Me and Chris, my husband, and Tony, just the three of us, all went out on the road together for that first year, and we shot 23 episodes of A Cook’s Tour, and we kind of figured out the format of the show on the road. It was really Tony tapping into the references he did have — you know, films and books and things he had seen and knew about only through film and reading.

So he was able to bring all of those cultural references to the table, and the three of us together were able to kind of play with the format of what those visuals would look like, so that it wasn’t just about him eating food at a restaurant. It was really about everything that was happening around him — or the thoughts he was having internally as he had these experiences or the references that he had seen through film that he loved and books that he had read, like The Quiet American, and how those things related to what he was experiencing.

So it became this kind of sort of moving, evolving format that was very much based on, predicated on the location that we were in and those references that he could call up. The show just kind of began to take shape. I mean, really there was no format of the show going into it. We just said, “Hey, we’re going to travel around the world, and this guy … he’s a chef, and he’s written this great book, and he’s going to try food in other countries.” And that’s what sold the project to the Food Network at the time. Then, as we went and actually made the show, we really started to play with the format and turned it into something else.

I would say that 17 years later the show has gone through various iterations. We did the two seasons of A Cook’s Tour on the Food Network, and then we did eight seasons of No Reservations on the Travel Channel, and now we’re on Parts Unknown. And the show has evolved as Tony has evolved, as the crew has evolved, as the technology has evolved. The show has sort of turned into this kind of, you know, one man’s initial foray into the world, and I think today, 17 years later, he’s really kind of evolved into more of a cultural anthropologist.

The show’s very sociopolitical — it’s about people and characters. The food and the people are just the entry point. It’s really about all the context around it. The more you can bring story to that and the more you can bring references to that — film references … character references — the more you can introduce interesting, unique characters into the equation, I think that’s what keeps the show very fresh and why it’s continuing to evolve all these years later. Each show is very different from the one before it.

Being a Good Photographer

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Be consistent, dedicated and don’t give a f*ck what others think!


Lets stop worrying about who or who won’t see our photography. Or how we can get it to a wider audience and instead remember why we are taking photographs in the first place.

[…]

Never let this idea of having to show your photographs again to be considered a real photographer ever take hold in your mind.

Elizabeth Holmes Defense - He Made Me Do It

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Facing the possibility of up to 20 years in federal prison, Holmes has been charged with 12 felony counts including wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and defrauding patients and investors. She has already previewed her defense in court filings: She alleges that Theranos — the blood testing startup that she started at the age of 19 after dropping out of Stanford University — was a complicated business but was not a fraud, and that she was emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by her former business partner and boyfriend, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.

Danny Cevallos on a piece over at NBC News:

Recently unsealed federal court documents in Elizabeth Holmes’ wire fraud trial revealed a creative legal strategy her defense team may use to try to beat the charges to be weighed by a Northern California jury, whose selection began Tuesday. The documents argue that Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, at one time her boyfriend and the former president and chief operating officer of Theranos, deceived Holmes about the company’s financial models and subjected her to intimate partner abuse.

[…]

Blaming your co-defendant isn’t, itself, a novel defense theory. It has been around for as long as there have been co-defendants. It’s especially popular in drug possession cases. Four guys in a car plus one baggie of drugs often equals a whole lot of: “That ain’t mine — it’s his.” The strategy of one defendant blaming his or her partner in a romantic relationship isn’t new, either. But Holmes faces particular hurdles.

For starters, it was Holmes whom the world saw Forbes name as the youngest-ever self-made female billionaire in 2014. Holmes — not Balwani — took to the airwaves to fire back at The Wall Street Journal when it began publishing stories raising doubt about her business, exposing Theranos’ flawed technology and how the company covered up its own failures. Soon after, the Justice Department charged her and Balwani with defrauding investors, as well as patients of Theranos.

Is it possible that Holmes was in the thrall of her older, more forceful, romantic partner the entire time? Maybe. But the jury might not buy it. And even if jurors think she was swayed by Balwani, is it enough for them to absolve her of responsibility if she knew what was really going on?

Basically it’s a ‘He made me do it’ defense. I’m no lawyer, but this doesn’t sound like a very good defense.

Fear & Loathing in America

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Hunter S. Thompson was prescient:

The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.

It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerrilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy. Osama bin Laden may be a primitive “figurehead” — or even dead, for all we know — but whoever put those All-American jet planes loaded with All-American fuel into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon did it with chilling precision and accuracy. The second one was a dead-on bullseye. Straight into the middle of the skyscraper.

Nothing — even George Bush’s $350 billion “Star Wars” missile defense system — could have prevented Tuesday’s attack, and it cost next to nothing to pull off. Fewer than 20 unarmed Suicide soldiers from some apparently primitive country somewhere on the other side of the world took out the World Trade Center and half the Pentagon with three quick and costless strikes on one day. The efficiency of it was terrifying.

We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. Who knows? Not even the Generals in what remains of the Pentagon or the New York papers calling for WAR seem to know who did it or where to look for them.

The Matrix Resurrections

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Whoa.

Microsoft Mandates Vaccinations

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Paul Roberts in Seattle Times:

In a sign of growing momentum for vaccine mandates, Microsoft has reversed course and will now require employees to be fully vaccinated to enter the company’s U.S. offices and other worksites, starting next month.

The Redmond-based tech giant told employees Tuesday it will “require proof of vaccination for all employees, vendors, and any guests entering Microsoft buildings in the U.S.”

The company also said it will have a process to accommodate employees “who have a medical condition or other protected reason, such as religion, which prevent them from getting vaccinated.”

Why the exclusion for religion? Its very simple, if you choose to work here, you must be vaccinated. We don’t allow children to skip vaccinations for say Polio to attend school. Regardless of religion. Unless a valid medical reason from a physician is obtained, vaccination for Covid-19 should be a requirement for work.

Algorithmic Based Triage

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Vishal Khetpal & Nishant Shah in an opinion piece for Undark:

In the midst of the uncertainty, Epic, a private electronic health record giant and a key purveyor of American health data, accelerated the deployment of a clinical prediction tool called the Deterioration Index. Built with a type of artificial intelligence called machine learning and in use at some hospitals prior to the pandemic, the index is designed to help physicians decide when to move a patient into or out of intensive care, and is influenced by factors like breathing rate and blood potassium level. Epic had been tinkering with the index for years but expanded its use during the pandemic. At hundreds of hospitals, including those in which we both work, a Deterioration Index score is prominently displayed on the chart of every patient admitted to the hospital

[..]

The use of algorithms to support clinical decision making isn’t new. But historically, these tools have been put into use only after a rigorous peer review of the raw data and statistical analyses used to develop them. Epic’s Deterioration Index, on the other hand, remains proprietary despite its widespread deployment. Although physicians are provided with a list of the variables used to calculate the index and a rough estimate of each variable’s impact on the score, we aren’t allowed under the hood to evaluate the raw data and calculations.

Blind trust in an algorithm that is create and maintained by a for profit institution without transparency of the data or calculations performed is insane. How do we know what assumptions are made? What the actual characteristics of the calculations are? How are they validated?

We don’t just trust the word of researchers findings without peer review - why should we treat an algorithm any different?

What Makes a Good Life?

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…many of our men when they were starting out as young adults really believed that fame and wealth and high achievement are what they needed to go after to have a good life. But over and over, over these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships - with family, friends and community.

[..]

The good life is built with good relationships

The Cost of the Afghansitan War

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Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road. the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Dwight David Eisenhower, “The Chance for Peace”

We spent 2.3 trillion dollars - to put it into a bit more manageable number - $300 million dollars a day for 20 years. And what did we get for that investment (I am not even going to get into the lives of US soldiers and the Afghan population that were sacrificed)? Nothing. The middle east is still a hotbed of terrorism, countries are still committing human rights violations on a daily basis, and the Taliban is still in charge.

What could we have done with $300 million dollars a day here at home? Here is a breakdown of cost for each of these possible government programs and the equivalent cost in days of the war in Afghanistan:

Program Days Cost (in Billions)
End hunger 84 $25
End homelessness 66 $20
Universal preschool 667 $200
Fix roads, bridges and dams in the US 1,960 $588
Provide clean drinking water 500 $150
Eliminate tuition at public colleges 3967 $1,190
Totals 7,244 $2,173

If the United States paid for all of these federal programs, we would still have $230 billion left over. Let that sink in for a moment - we could have solved all of our major social problems at home and it would still be cheaper than the 20 year war in Afghanistan. $230 billion dollars cheaper. Was it really worth it? How can anyone possibly justify this?

Why is it that when a plan is proposed to secure the social safety net or to help the US middle class we always ask how are we going to pay for it? Yet we as a nation spend trillions on never ending ideological based wars without blinking an eye. If we can fund a war for 2.3 trillion dollars for two decades, we as a country can find a way to house the homeless, feed the poor and educate our children.

I don’t ever want to hear a politician ever ask how we are going to pay for it.

Why Can’t We Just Make More Chips?

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The global chip shortage is battering everyone - automakers, tech giants and reaching out to everyday individuals. Goods we rely on are getting scarce and prices are going up.

So why can’t we just make make more? The usual and simple answers - build more foundries, hire more people, give tax incentives to chip makers and loosen regulations - just won’t work. Chip manufacturing is a complex and high risk proposition. Bloomberg has an excellent article on why the semiconductor industry is so hard to break into and expand:

The more complicated answer is that it takes years to build semiconductor fabrication facilities and billions of dollars—and even then the economics are so brutal that you can lose out if your manufacturing expertise is a fraction behind the competition. Former Intel Corp. boss Craig Barrett called his company’s microprocessors the most complicated devices ever made by man.

This is why countries face such difficulty in achieving semiconductor self sufficiency. China has called chip independence a top national priority in its latest five-year plan, while U.S. President Joe Biden has vowed to build a secure American supply chain by reviving domestic manufacturing. Even the European Union is mulling measures to make its own chips. But success is anything but assured.

Manufacturing a chip typically takes more than three months and involves giant factories, dust-free rooms, multi-million-dollar machines, molten tin and lasers. The end goal is to transform wafers of silicon—an element extracted from plain sand—into a network of billions of tiny switches called transistors that form the basis of the circuitry that will eventually give a phone, computer, car, washing machine or satellite crucial capabilities.

[..]

Yield—the percentage of chips that aren’t discarded—is the key measure. Anything less than 90% is a problem. But chipmakers only exceed that level by learning expensive lessons over and over again, and building on that knowledge.

The brutal economics of the industry mean fewer companies can afford to keep up. Most of the roughly 1.4 billion smartphone processors shipped each year are made by TSMC. Intel has 80% of the market for computer processors. Samsung dominates in memory chips. For everyone else, including China, it’s not easy to break in.

The amount of resources required and the time frame for profits to emerge is just to vast of a risk for the private sector to bear. The only way a country can guarantee chip independence with direct partnership chip manufacturers. Each country is going to have to treat its chip supply chain just as important to invest in as its defense industry.

We Make Monsters

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Jessica Wildfire has a great post on the recent trend of supposedly educated people railing against science and common sense:

They came from college, the kind run by boards of trustees stacked with millionaires and billionaires. We serve the children of privilege.

My own university used to focus on educating less-privileged students. Then they got it in their heads that poor people didn’t belong in college, and they didn’t really deserve an education. Since then, they’ve systematically defunded every program that was designed for them. They’ve piped that money straight into the business school and athletics, because that’s what all the rich white kids are interested in. Before the pandemic, they were throwing giant parties in the middle of campus.

The world has bent over backward to give privileged idiots college degrees, and put them in positions of money and power. That’s why we have a bunch of “educated people” who don’t believe in basic science. We’ve forced people to work for them. We’ve forced people to care for them when they get sick. We’ve sold the fiction that somehow their aggressive behavior is our fault, because we weren’t nice to them.

No, this is what happens when you let someone win at Monopoly. They don’t play fair on their own. They get entitled.

They get loud and obnoxious.

What we’re seeing across the country isn’t the result of misunderstanding or miscommunication. It’s the product of an education system that rewards affluent people without challenging them.

[..]

So you want to understand where all these anti-vaxxers and neo-Nazis are coming from, and why they don’t fit the stereotype of the backwoods redneck. You want to know why they dress well and don’t speak with deep accents. You want to know where they come from.

Well, I know

They come from the monster factory.

I work there.

Why Do We Have Lawns?

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Kathryn O’Shea-Evans writing for The Atlantic

The Falvos are among the many homeowners who’ve decided to investigate green alternatives, deeming a perfect carpet of classic grass too taxing on such resources as time, water and money. Others don’t want to use chemical fertilizers and weedkillers and prefer to provide a habitat for more diverse fauna than a monoculture lawn supports.

Why do we even have lawns? With water resources being stretched thin and climate change causing wide spread droughts throughout the country - having a lush green lawn today is simply not sustainable. I mean really - why not just have a dry garden?

Dry garden

Low maintenance, minimal water usage and great at fighting climate change. Not to mention it is much cheaper. In my opinion it looks nice too.