The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Remembering Donald Rumsfeld

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George Packer in The Atlantic:

Rumsfeld was the worst secretary of defense in American history. Being newly dead shouldn’t spare him this distinction. He was worse than the closest contender, Robert McNamara, and that is not a competition to judge lightly. McNamara’s folly was that of a whole generation of Cold Warriors who believed that Indochina was a vital front in the struggle against communism. His growing realization that the Vietnam War was an unwinnable waste made him more insightful than some of his peers; his decision to keep this realization from the American public made him an unforgivable coward. But Rumsfeld was the chief advocate of every disaster in the years after September 11. Wherever the United States government contemplated a wrong turn, Rumsfeld was there first with his hard smile — squinting, mocking the cautious, shoving his country deeper into a hole. His fatal judgment was equaled only by his absolute self-assurance. He lacked the courage to doubt himself. He lacked the wisdom to change his mind.

mRNA - the Good and the Bad

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Excellent write up by Derek Lowe in Science Translation Medicine on the exciting potential and pitfalls of mRNA technology.

So mRNA-based techniques have a lot of power and a lot of promise. But there’s definitely a low-hanging-fruit area here, and that’s infectious disease vaccines. Beyond that the promise holds up, big-time, but the difficulties mount up as well. It’s going to be a long story with a lot of plot twists, but I’m glad we’re telling it.

S**t Leica Photographers Say…

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The one that makes me laugh every time I hear it:

Leica has a look. There is nothing like the Leica look.

Don’t get me started on S**t Fuji photographers say…

I Am Legend

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So, what differs Apple among many thousands of companies and competitors, allowing it to earn billions of dollars? After all, now Apple is more than new IT technologies and modern Apple products. The company has its own unique reputation, a recognizable Apple design, a successful public image and a whole culture in the industry of consumer electronics. In a nutshell, Apple and the Apple collection of devices are a legend.

I just wish Apple would go back to their 1977 logo.

The Ted Lasso Welcome Wagon

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Can’t wait for Ted Lasso season 2 to be on air. The first season was a very welcome diversion during the height of the pandemic.

I Swallowed My AirPod

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Heather drove me to the endoscopy centre, where the AirPod was got back out via my mouth using a tube with a lasso attachment. It was extremely uncomfortable, but I was sedated and so only half awake. A few minutes later, I was given the AirPod in a neat little bag.

I tried it as soon as I got home. It works fine, although the microphone is less reliable than it was. I’ll never know for certain how I managed to swallow it; my theory is that it dropped on to the pillow, ended up next to my mouth and got sucked in when I yawned. In retrospect, I’m glad the “find my AirPod” attempt didn’t work — I would have freaked out if my throat had beeped.

What is really amazing is the AirPod still worked! Now this would make a great AirPods commercial.

Linus Torvalds to Anti-vaxers

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Please keep your insane and technically incorrect anti-vax comments to yourself.

You don’t know what you are talking about, you don’t know what mRNA is, and you’re spreading idiotic lies. Maybe you do so unwittingly, because of bad education. Maybe you do so because you’ve talked to “experts” or watched youtube videos by charlatans that don’t know what they are talking about.

But dammit, regardless of where you have gotten your mis-information from, any Linux kernel discussion list isn’t going to have your idiotic drivel pass uncontested from me.

Tell us how you really feel.

Sharks From Above

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Carlos Gauna’s amazing footage of sharks from above captured off the coast of California using aerial drones.

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.”