Malaria and RNA vaccines

In 2019, malaria killed over 400,000 people. 94% of those deaths were in Africa. The best vaccine available today is only 30% effective.

That may change in the next two years.

Building on mRNA techniques used in the COVID-19 vaccine, researchers have identified a promising candidate. It marks the highest ever protection studied in lab mice.

Malaria is a difficult illness to treat. And, traditional vaccine methods haven’t cut it. RNA based vaccines, however, are promising (this article has more on this). Success with the COVID-19 vaccine has ushered in a promising wave of vaccine research for HIV, Cancer, and Multiple Sclerosis among others.

mRNA technology represents a giant leap forward. I think we’re going to see many more such promising vaccine candidates in the next 3-5 years.

In the long run, it may well be the single biggest positive outcome from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Problems have solutions

“Problems have solutions. That’s what makes them problems. A problem without a solution isn’t a problem, it’s simply a situation.” | Seth Godin in “The Practice”

This articulation made me chuckle.

It reminded me of the serenity prayer “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The queen, king, and context

Take 1: The Queen died. The King died.

Take 2: The Queen died. And the King died of a broken heart.

A few extra words of context have the power of transforming our perception of the facts.

One implication in our day-to-day – it is nearly always worth taking the first couple of minutes of every meeting we drive to set the context.

Context matters.

Replacing walking 1:1s

In the first few months of working-from-home, I used to miss the ability to take a walking 1:1 meeting. Our offices are in the suburbs and walking around a park nearby always lifted spirits and stimulated good conversation.

Zoom made that challenging. Attempts at walking on a video call just didn’t feel as comfortable.

So, over the past months, I’ve been taking most catch up calls via an old fashioned audio/phone call. The downside is that we don’t see each other on video. But, the upside is that I can take these calls while going out for a walk.

There’s no replacement to walking side-by-side. But, the call + walk combination combines good conversation with air and exercise to the day – a winner.

Riding shotgun and joy

We discovered George Ezra’s song “Shotgun” a few weeks ago. We’ve listened to it at least a hundred times since. It inspires dancing more often than not.

And joy.

Lots of joy.

Good music frequently reminds me about the power of enjoying the simple things. It is so amazing to be alive at a time when it is so easy to listen to great music – no matter where we are.

Joy needn’t be expensive.

There’s so much magic around us.

Prince Philip and the astronauts

“The Crown” – a Netflix show – has a fascinating episode on the moon landing. It shows Prince Philip’s (Prince Philip = Queen Elizabeth’s husband) obsession with the astronauts’ feats as he confronts a mid-life crisis himself.

The story progressively shows him both at awe at the achievement of the astronauts and simultaneously disappointed at the progress he’s made in his own life. He wonders if looking at the earth from the moon gave them insight into life’s big questions and/or helped them better understand their purpose.

Eventually, he gets the opportunity to engineer a 15 minute meeting with the astronauts when they visit London.

When he asks them about their experience, their response is unanimous – they were obsessed with the safety procedures and protocols. Within minutes, he realizes that they wouldn’t have the answers he was seeking.

And, as his questions stop, they begin peppering him questions about the palace. After their time together, he watches them racing each other up and down the stairs of the palace.

Clearly, they were as awestruck by him and his life as he was by theirs.

Grass. Not always greener.

And, we all have our own paths enroute to our attempts to find and live our purpose.

On the clock

A colleague working on product initiatives for Frontline workers recommended “On the Clock.” The full title of the book is “On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane.”

I experienced an unsavory incident recently. In retrospect, it was a good opportunity to test how much of stoic philosophy I had actually learnt after weeks of study.

I think I probably earned a “B.” I passed in a few key areas but have more work to do. Overall, the effects of the incident didn’t last long. And, after some time and space, I had resolved any remaining emotion and moved on.

Part of the process of gaining perspective was reminding myself that life at work in a “white collar” job are occasionally challenging, sometimes difficult, and never hard.

It is an idea that hit home again as I listened to the first 90 minutes of the book today.

It is an idea that I’m sure will hit home many times as I continue reading this book.

More reflections to follow.

The store credit card deal

We were at an outlet store buying a collection of clothes the other day. As we were billing our clothes, the cashier asked if I’d be interested in a store credit card. It’d save 40% off our purchase.

After I declined, the other cashier made the same pitch to the other customer who was getting ready to pay. Within a minute, she was providing her details for the credit card.

Encouraged, our cashier asked again. “It’s a great deal.” – she said.

I explained that I had no doubt it was a great deal. I just preferred the simplicity of having just two credit cards. Fewer cards, lesser monitoring, lesser problems.

I miss many a great deal from time to time. But, I value simplicity in all things personal finance.

And, a value isn’t a value until it costs us money.

A small boil

I had a small boil pop up a week ago. It was probably the size of a grain of sand.

But, it popped up in the corner of my right eye.

So, I experienced two days of continuous, sometimes excruciating, pain. Every blink hurt. It was a result of being out of balance.

Thanks to warm compresses and a return to normalcy, it became smaller and eventually disappeared.

The same boil in a different part of my skin wouldn’t even have registered. But, in my eye, it dominated my thinking.

Context matters.

The video interview whiteboard

In an interview recently, the candidate did something I haven’t seen folks do. When faced with the hypothetical prompt, she asked for a minute to think, started sharing her screen, and began typing out her thoughts in the Notepad.

This did two things at once. She had me engaged as she thought about the problem. In the absence of a whiteboard, this would otherwise have led to an awkward pause in the conversation.

She also laid out her structure on the shared note. This allowed her to demonstrate how she thought about the problem without needing to talk about the structure and kept us on the same page throughout.

While I still miss the experience of working on a problem on a whiteboard, this was a great video alternative.