As a member of the satisficer club, I love a great product recommendations website. And, my favorite recommendation website thus far has been Wirecutter.
However, another place I’ve begun to love over the years is Switchback Travel. They are exclusively focused on outdoor sports gear and their aggregation is fantastic. Here are examples for bike racks or hiking shoes.
I love the breadth of their coverage, detail, and personality. They’ve become my go-to for all outdoor gear.
Thank you, Switchback Travel team, for the excellent work.
“I think 2022 will be the final year of the COVID-19 pandemic in most countries. With anti-viral pills on the way, health officials won’t need to work on vaccine adoption curves as hard as they do right now. It is futile. If data from over 3B fully vaccinated people doesn’t help, nothing will. :-) When people land up in a hospital next year, they’ll just get the anti-viral pill.” | from my post 3 days ago.
I was feeling particularly optimistic about 2022 being the final year of the COVID-19 pandemic 3 days ago. After spending some time learning about the Omicron variant, I feel less sure.
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way – the mutation pattern of the Omicron variant (21K) makes Delta look like a light appetizer.
Second, we don’t know much as it is still very early. So, we don’t know (a) how contagious it is, (b) how likely it is to evade immunity from vaccines/past variants, (c) how deadly it is.
But, thanks to some incredible work by healthcare officials, doctors, and healthcare workers in South Africa, we have a very early warning. This is huge. I am hopeful it will not be squandered.
Third, there are reasons to be both optimistic and pessimistic. Optimism makes sense because we should have variant-specific booster shots ready within 100 days. That’s awesome. We’ve come a long way since March 2020.
But, there are reasons to be pessimistic as well. The key in handling a new variant is acting quickly. This means ensuring the some restrictions are brought back (masking indoors, sadly) without going down the path of restrictions that clearly don’t work (travel bans, lockdowns – which have lost support and thus effectiveness). On that note, I thought this graphic about the ineffectiveness of selective travel bans was on point.
Fourth, spare a thought for executives working on “return-to-office” plans. Every new variant is a punch in the gut for these plans. Normalcy may be delayed again.
Finally, this development is one that illustrates just how quickly our world can change. Probabilistic thinking and agility when faced by change are among the most important skills we can develop.
There are two ideas that help me when things go wrong.
The first is a reminder that things could always be worse. The more I spend time in worse possibilities (and they exist in plenty), the more grateful I feel.
The second is an old-time belief/superstition that my mom passed on ages ago. I was told that every time something bad happens, it is a gift because it is a sign that something much worse has been averted.
It is a wonderfully optimistic superstition. :-)
Gratitude and optimism tend to be (the most?) powerful tools we have to battle challenges in this life. They help us keep perspective and ensure we’re focused on what lies ahead of us.
And, when we’re dealing with difficult situations, that perspective and focus on the future goes a long way.
The Our World in Data team put together a well explained visualization (here) of COVID data post-vaccines in the past 6 months.
It starts by explaining the importance of understanding death rates vs. the raw number of deaths to understand vaccine effectiveness.
Once we have that out of the way, we can now look at how the stats have trended. Vaccine performance has been similar to trials – J&J has a higher death rate than the Pfizer/Moderna vaccine. And, the vaccines – on average – reduce the mortality rate between 400%-800%.
It is fascinating to see an even higher delta between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated in the UK. This is a combination of the Pfizer and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. I wonder if it is driven by more severe waves driven by a more urban population.
And, finally, we only see a 200% delta in Chile where the vaccinations were done with the Sinovac vaccine (lower effectiveness).
This combination of explainer + chart is a great example of well explained data. It captures the nuance (mortality rate vs. mortality) while still keeping it simple.
If you do enjoy a more complex data visualization, Nassim Taleb had a good one. He explained that COVID isn’t an old person problem. It just acts as a multiplier on existing mortality rates. It is just that the mortality rate for older folks is higher by default.
I think 2022 will be the final year of the COVID-19 pandemic in most countries. With anti-viral pills on the way, health officials won’t need to work on vaccine adoption curves as hard as they do right now. It is futile. If data from over 3B fully vaccinated people doesn’t help, nothing will. :-) When people land up in a hospital next year, they’ll just get the anti-viral pill.
It’ll be interesting to see how long masking lives on though. As an example, folks who traveled a 16 hour flight recently were understandably complaining about feeling suffocated. But, airlines are all about the theatre (security checks, etc.) – so, some effects may linger longer than most of us hope.
Finally, as we head into the thanksgiving long weekend, I got my booster shot yesterday. I walked into a Costco, asked if it was available, filled up a form, and got my shot for free.
Someone I spoke to recently shared a fascinating story. A decade ago, both his dad’s kidneys failed and he had just a few months to live. So, his dad shared a message in an online forum sharing that he had a few months to live and that he was hoping for a donor who’d give him more time with his young son.
They got a call from a taxi driver in Germany a few days later. This gentleman said he wanted to help, flew down for a surgery the next month (his kidney was a great match), and has disappeared since.
His father recovered completely.
We found ourselves marveling at the wonderful insanity of the story. A random stranger who saved a life thanks to a message on the internet – only to disappear since.
Most of us may not experience stories as crazy as this. But, we’ve also been blessed by random acts of kindness in unexpected circumstances.
We have more to be thankful for than we often realize.
A good friend introduced us to a Hindi song – Kasoor – yesterday. We’ve listened to it at least 30 times today. I predict we’ll listen to it another 100 times as it is well on its way to becoming an all-time favorite.
There’s absolutely nothing fancy about this song. It is a guy with a guitar with simple lyrics you don’t even need to understand. You could imagine a friend humming this by a campfire.