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  • Writer's pictureJosh

August 2021 (Updates, Links, NMR)

Hello! It's been a while. Hope you are healthy and happy.

I've been busy with life things and haven't made time to write. What time I have spent writing has consisted in making deep dives into complicated topics, like Israel/Palestine and vaccine history; these things are not only complicated but also especially politically-charged, so I'm nervous to finish them. But I will, when I have time again.

Other excuses: I'm traveling in the US now, visiting family but also working, and I'm applying for jobs along the way. The whole thing is very stressful, not to mention the pandemic in the background. But I'm hopeful this month about writing more.

I thought briefly about starting a podcast (much like this blog, it would be for me more than for other people). It sounds like a lot of work and I'm not sure it's the right time, though I have ideas for how it would go. We'll see.


There won't be much, but here goes.


  • The news is super complicated and I'm not the right person to summarize. You should be reading Zvi's weekly COVID updates (latest one here) for excellent summaries of the latest news. But the main issue right now is the rise of the Delta Variant, and from what I can gather:

    1. Delta is much more contagious than COVID 1.0 (or the other variants);

    2. Delta may not be more deadly than the others;

    3. The vaccines, especially Pfizer and Moderna (these have conducted dedicated studies already), seem to retain a large fraction of their efficacy: For symptomatic illness, 95% for COVID 1.0 drops to maybe 85-90%, but for hospitalization / death the protection remains 90+%. (From memory, check the sources please.)

    4. There are lots of stories about "X community had a COVID outbreak and Y% of the cases were vaccinated!" and as usual, people use their favorite statistic to back up what they already believed anyway. Matt Yglesias noted that this has largely been a "circus of base-rate errors" (can't find the original tweet). If you look, for example, at the UK as a whole and compare third-wave (pre-vax) to fourth-wave ("post-vax"), the cases go up at least as high but the death/hospitalization numbers are way down in the latter; this seems like strong evidence for vaccines preventing the worst outcomes. But if you look at individual communities, you find anything you like. Note of course that if 100% of people were vaccinated/unvaccinated, then 100% of cases/deaths will be in the vaccinated/unvaccinated group. This, plus the fact that there are hundreds of countries containing tens-hundreds of thousands of communities, I expect under the null hypothesis lots of breakthrough cases and even lots of vaccinated deaths. We need to be numerate about these things.

  • Ivermectin still may be interesting for COVID, but there are some high-profile retractions that should probably call the most extreme advocates' positions into question.

  • I enjoyed this podcast with Eric Weinstein about the pandemic, Ivermectin, and the state of institutions in America.

Real World

  • Check out Finer Grains on PTSD for a summary of some fascinating correlations. I also particularly enjoyed the summary of the evidence against coffee dehydrating you.

  • How The Hell took on China, but now the post has been taken down (I know it’s real because I got an email when the post went up! See below!). Do I put on a tin foil hat and say SubStack is suppressing anti-China sentiments? Or, maybe, he just changed his mind about writing on such a dangerous topic? The world may never know. (For what it's worth Sergey, I really appreciated the post and largely agreed with its content.)

  • Julia Galef at Rationally Speaking asks: are Lyft/Uber drivers being exploited by the rideshare business model? This was among my favorite podcasts in a long time, truly an excellent and broad exploration of the topic. (Spoiler: As with everything else in the world, the answer is: maybe kinda, depends on how you think about it.)

  • Interview between Katie Herzog and a psychiatrist about race and "the psychopathic problem of the white mind". Kudos to Katie for remaining very composed while having a very difficult conversation regarding... let's call it an extreme thesis.

  • Related: a few weeks ago, I ran across an article arguing that "Whiteness" should be classified as a mental disorder, one which particularly targets people who are racially white but can also afflict people of color. I thought for sure I could dig it up to point to here, but it turns out there are hundreds and hundreds of similar papers on JSTOR, so I consider the point made. Yes I am white, but I have no sense of "what it means to be white", and I have no pride in my historical heritage or my race or my ethnicity; I don't know what any of that feels like, and also I don't care to know beyond my desire to understand fellow humans who seem to think this is a big deal. Therefore I have trouble figuring out why we need so many academic papers teasing out the "white experience", beyond the important-but-banal goal of ending racism in the world. Happy to listen to someone who knows more about this.

  • Surprising no-one, perceived physical attractiveness is found to predict dating success in an online-dating context; I cited this in my recent dating post. Race was the other predictive variable. (Paywall)

Just for Fun

New Month Resolution

In June 2021, I resolved to

1. [Body] ...stick to the Whole 30 diet (worth 3 points rather than just 1).

I stuck to it very strictly for 20 days, then broke the diet. This was largely because I felt hung over all the time, had trouble sleeping, and generally suffered from low energy throughout the diet. My working theory is that I was eating too few carbs, hovering on the border of (but never quite passing into) ketosis, and therefore suffering "keto flu". Still, I learned a lot and there were some sticky changes to my diet. If I try the diet again, I will likely keep some grain in the mix just to ensure the downside the ended the experiment doesn't happen again. I award myself 2 out of 3 possible points for completing a Whole 20 diet.

2. [Mind] ...complete at least four MLU posts (including this one).

Fail, I completed only 2 and then didn't blog during all of July. I will try again.

3. [Spirit] ...meditate at least twice per week.

I also failed this, in both June and July. I will keep trying this month.

August 2021:

This month, I resolve to:

  1. [Body] Do 15 pushups and 30 sec of planking every single day. If I miss a day, I will do 2 sets of that which I missed, and add 1 pushup or 5 sec of planking to the resolution going forward.

  2. [Mind] I will complete at least four MLU posts (including this one). [2 points if I complete 4 posts, 1 point if I complete only 3.]

  3. [Spirit] I will meditate at least twice per week.

Current tally: Body/Mind/Spirit = 6.5/2.0/4.5 points.

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