July 7, 2020

Readings of Interest 4


  • Just a reminder to do the real thing. But doing the real thing matters. Days wasted on fake activity may keep you busy, but they never seem to go anywhere. A life spent on real work may not always be the easiest or most entertaining, but it’s the one that adds up in the end.”

  • What makes people stop caring? While most of us will see a single death as a tragedy, we can struggle to have the same response to large-scale loss of life. Too often, the deaths of many simply become a statistic.”

  • What is the definition of success? According to Ryan Holiday it is, In a word: autonomy. Do I have autonomy over what I do and think? Am I free?”


  • I’ve heard people talking about thinking that more people have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 than we know about, and using that as a reason for re-opening. After sampling over 61k people (35k households) in Spain, this paper found that only about 5% of the population likely has been infected, with a range of about 3-10% depending on geographical location.

  • COVID Exit Strategy added some new map visualizations.

  • Still a preprint, but an interesting study looking at testing frequency and speed vs. sensitivity. These results demonstrate that effective surveillance, including time to first detection and outbreak control, depends largely on frequency of testing and the speed of reporting, and is only marginally improved by high test sensitivity. We therefore conclude that surveillance should prioritize accessibility, frequency, and sample-to-answer time; analytical limits of detection should be secondary.”

  • The racial inequity of the coronavirus continues to be evident in the data. Latino and African-American residents of the United States have been three times as likely to become infected as their white neighbors”


  • Finished White Fragility. Tough read with some good points and areas to think about, despite some controversy around the book (see Readings 3).

  • Next up and already about 25% completed is Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg. I always gravitate to these books with actionable advice, but as always, it is remain to be seen if the advice sticks. So far, I’m finding BJs methods very simple and logical.

  • Finally checked out Cool Beans by Joe Yonan from my local library. Every recipe I’ve made has been delicious so far, so I’m looking forward to cooking more from this book.

June 30, 2020

Readings of Interest #3


  • Amazon creates a $2 billion climate fund, as it struggles to cut its own emissions. But Amazon still has plenty of work to do on reducing its own emissions, which rose 15% last year to more than 50 million metric tons…Amazon—which posted nearly $12 billion in profit last year and has nearly $30 billion in cash on hand—could easily afford to invest far more than $2 billion on these problems.” We all love Amazon and find it hard to shop elsewhere while at the same time knowing there are many issues.

  • I discovered Nick Wignall’s (a clinical psychologist) blog recently (thanks Om) and found his list of 4 Things Happy People Don’t Do to be fascinating and things we all could spend more time thinking about. He frames some of them as things to stop doing, and I’ve tried to re-frame them in a more positive light here:
  1. If you can’t control or influence something, it’s not worth worrying about.
  2. Talk to yourself compassionately like you would to a close friend.
  3. Let your expectations be flexible.
  4. Live by your values rather than feelings.


  • The Rt was only above 1 in 5 states two months ago, as of June 24th, it was above 1 in 29 states. (Max Roser)

  • The amount of testing in the US is starting to increase relative to the size of the outbreak, but we could still be doing much better. (Our World in Data)

  • A very data rich and interesting discussion on emerging COVID-19 success stories.


  • While I’m still working through White Fragility, there is quite a bit of criticism around the book. See this Twitter thread by Rhea Boyd MD, MPH. So far my impression is that there are a few key ideas that could be covered in many less words.

  • I’ve been baking bread for a year or so now, and most of the sourdough recipes (Tartine is a favorite) make a huge amount of dough. I’ve experimented with saving the dough to avoid having to freeze bread, but haven’t had a ton of success until I recently discovered New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I’ve managed to greatly increase my whole grain content as well as have fresh bread every few days.

June 22, 2020

Readings of Interest #2

  • KAYAK is sharing their flight search trends, interesting to dig into to see how air travel dropped off and is coming back.

  • After ending subscriptions with Elsevier, The University of California system has signed a open-access deal with Springer Nature. This is a win for open-access and a big deal because Nature is one of the most prestigious journals worldwide.

  • Scientific American has published a detailed visual guide to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus if you are interested in learning more about how the virus infects the body, replicates, and how the body responds, as well as some drug and vaccine strategies.

  • Before you look at this COVID-19 case data, know that the population of the US is 330 million and the EU is 446 million. (Thanks Max Roser)

  • A paper from Harvard asked the following question: How do COVID-19 mortality rates vary by age across US racial/ethnic groups?”. The answer? In all age strata, COVID-19 mortality rates were higher for racial/ethnic minorities compared to whites, with extremely high rate ratios (5-9-fold higher) among younger adults (24-54 years) more than 3 times the age-standardized rate ratio. More years of potential life lost were experienced by African Americans and Latinos than whites, although the white population is 3-4 fold larger.”

June 15, 2020

Readings of Interest #1

Rather than posting articles of interest as I come across them, I’ve decided to collect them and share them in batches weekly(ish). I plan to focus on text (articles and books), because I often find written opinions more concise and well thought out than podcasts.

Articles & Data

  • Plastic rain is the new acid rain shared some numbers from a shocking study about how microplastics not only pollute our oceans, but also the rain and air, as well as how much of the synthetic material collected came from clothing. After collecting rainwater and air samples for 14 months, they calculated that over 1,000 metric tons of microplastic particles fall into 11 protected areas in the western US each year. That’s the equivalent of over 120 million plastic water bottles. We just did that for the area of protected areas in the West, which is only 6 percent of the total US area,” says lead author Janice Brahney, an environmental scientist at Utah State University. The number was just so large, it’s shocking.””

  • Michael Pollan is a great writer, so it stands to say that I could have quoted most of his article, The Sickness in Our Food Supply. Our food system has been and remains broken, and the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing more weaknesses and vulnerabilities in how we grow and produce food in the US. Most of what we grow in this country is not food exactly, but rather feed for animals and the building blocks from which fast food, snacks, soda, and all the other wonders of food processing, such as high-fructose corn syrup, are manufactured.”

  • Quite the condemnation of foodie culture here. One simple point made a big impact on me. Watching so many Americans die, and realizing that so many of them were made sicker and more vulnerable in large part because they had no access to nutrition made the recipe revelers of foodie culture seem not just slightly ridiculous but outright insufferable.”

  • If you want to take a deep but practical dive into LED lighting for your house, Ben Brooks took us there in this week’s Member Journal (paywall).

  • Some refute the serious nature of the COVID-19 pandemic with the argument that more people die from x than COVID. This visualization should refute that. (Thanks Patrick)

  • Some COVID-19 data sources I’ve been finding useful: How We Reopen Safely, NY Times Dashboard.


  • Finished up Ballistic by Marko Kloos the second book in The Palladium Wars series. I enjoy throwing an easy sci-fi read occasionally, and I’ve enjoyed all of Marko’s books (check out his Frontlines series as well).

  • Started White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. I’m only about 20% of the way through, but found it interesting how she defines racism. Everyone has prejudices and when acted upon, those prejudices become discrimination. Racism has a societal definition: When a racial group’s collective prejudice is backed by the power of legal authority and institutional control, it is transformed into racism, a far-reaching system that functions independently from the intentions or self-images of individual actors.”

June 11, 2020

MIT Libraries End Contract With Elsevier Over Open Access

MIT Libraries:

Standing by its commitment to provide equitable and open access to scholarship, MIT has ended negotiations with Elsevier for a new journals contract. Elsevier was not able to present a proposal that aligned with the principles of the MIT Framework for Publisher Contracts.

This is a big deal for the academic publishing world. Journal publishers have retained their old fashioned business models from the days of printing and distributing paper journals to the detriment of open dialogue in the scientific community. Elsevier has even gone as far as fighting open access policies for publicly funded research. Unsurprisingly, the MIT Libraries has a great page with details.

July 3, 2017

Weather Apps

If you haven’t heard of it, Forecast Advisor rates the accuracy of many weather services forecasts over the past month and year. In my case, Weather Underground (WU) is almost always the best. In my search for weather apps, I’ve limited it to those that use WU.

Official WU Apps

Weather Underground - Was my default weather app for years until I discovered Hello Weather (see next section).

WU Storm - I use Storm to look up historical weather data. Provides some additional layers on the radar.1

Apps With WU as a Data Source

Hello Weather - Hello Weather has become my favorite weather app as the interface is data dense but still very clean. If you subscribe to the Fan Club, you get the option to use WU for the forecast and Dark Sky for rain. This is a very unique (and useful) combination.2

The only other two apps that I’ve found that use WU data are Clear Day and Weather Mate Pro, but I haven’t tried either as their interfaces look awful from the screenshots. If you know of any others, I’d love to hear about them.


CARROT Weather has released a huge update that includes an option to use WU + Dark Sky (you must have the Ultrapremium subscription to access this option). The widget isn’t quite as good as the one from Hello Weather, but I do really like the customization options for Watch complications and the widget.

  1. If you really want a powerful radar app, RadarScope is the best.

  2. Hello Weather also has an excellent widget.