Tuesday, March 31, 2020

2744 : Game theory applied to Covid-19 possible infection

I work amongst some very gifted mathematicians and game theorists.  So some of that rubs off on me, or so I so desperately wish :-).

India is about 4-5 weeks behind US. US today is at the stage (today) where the health professionals are rejecting or questioning work because there are 160000 cases, 3000+ deaths and over 50 of these are doctors/nurses.

Doctors and nurses are worried that they are also taking a brunt of the virus.

India today is at a very early stage - 1200 cases, 45 deaths.

Now here is the game theorist in me hoping for something strange. That if I must indeed get infected, then it must be now. Strange wish na :-). Here goes.

1) If I am in the early cases, I get the entire system to focus on me. They are still raring for a battle and not battle weary yet. And since the chances of me dying are 0.5-1%, am ok with that probability.

2) If I am in the early cases, I get the natural strain of the virus. As time progresses, the virus mutates to become a more and more efficient fighting machine. (The concept of vaccines is that broadly....they inject you with natural strain for which most of us have herd immunity.....and that prepares our body with antibodies...and when the new variant comes....instead of finding a simple sitting duck...it confronts a war zone with deadly antibodies ready.)
The more mutated or sophisticated the strain, the more difficult it is to fight. So the long tail or hump is really fighting an evolving enemy.

Now my dear friends, please debate with me and help me reflect on this. Is my selection biased?

For now, I am really leaning on the early side.

Come for me Covid-19 :-). I have probability and time on my side.

2743 : The Temptations - Papa was a rolling stone

If you have grown up on the "George Michael" - Papa was a rolling stone (and loved it, like I did, and still do) then listening to The Temptations, its a bit like going back to be 70s, and yet I love it.

Do listen to that version. This is Jazz at its best :-)

2742 : Blues Traveler

If you have not heard Blues Traveler, and you are still a fan of Blues, then I would recommend you listen to The Hook.
And if you don't feel lighted and in love again, something must be wrong with you :-). I remember listening to a bootleg of this many many moons ago, and the first time I heard it - I was truly hooked.

The song gets insane around 2:50. Hang in till then.

Blues Traveler remains one of my all time favorite bands.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

2741 : The Kominsky Method

There is something oddly uplifting about this series. This is my second watch of it, and I would rate it very highly. The writing is atrociously good. So many contemporary tricks and references that you will lose track trying to keep pace with it.

I have loved both Season 1 & 2. I look at Alan Arkin, Michael Douglas, the character Mindy...the list is endless. You love all of them. You really do.

But most of all - you love Michael and Alan.

I was so sad to see Season 2 end. Almost similar to the feeling you have when a good book ends. (Like Sara Baume's A line made by Walking).......

I would upgrade this series on my overall rating. Here Goes. Go watch it, and treasure what good writing looks like. And what great acting looks like. And what insane production looks like.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

2740 : Does isolation or social distancing work?

I have been investigating, as a scientist would - trying to learn for myself the core and the truth around all the hoopla surrounding the virus. I don't mean to be an expert, think of me as a novice, but the scientific learner. I am bringing the some rigor that I bring to my Zen.

Does isolation or social distancing work?
I am no expert, but based on all that  I have read (I rely on NYTimes, The Atlantic, Guardian, BBC Science News, Science, Washington Post)- yes, it does to seem, but more so in flattening the curve. Almost delaying the onslaught.

Let me take an example - if we were going to get 3million critical infected patients...then the scenario could be

  • Total critical patients 3MM
  • Of which we expect to save 50% if we had enough health care for all
  • Which means we expect 1.5MM to die and 1.5MM to survive (if we had health care for all 3MM)

If all these 3MM patients came in, in about 3 days and we have health infrastructure for only 0.5MM people, then we would have
  • 2.5MM dying due to lack of health care and another 0.25MM due to probability
  • Total deaths 2.75MM
If these 3MM came spread over 3 months, with a health infra of 0.5MM at a given time,
  • We would have 1.5MM die due to lack of health care
  • 0.75MM due to probablity
  • That means 2.25MM deaths
In summary, isolation and slowing down are great if you have health infra to deal with patients and you are essentially flattening as a mechanism to control the eventual flow - and hence potentially save many more lives. On the other hand, if you don't have health infra, then all bets are off.

Do N95 masks work?
Again, I am not an expert, but a virus is about 10^-6 to 10^-8 (in size), that's about 10-1000 times smaller than N95 pores. A believer says, that an N95 blocks or stops about 80% of virus from the air. The cynic in me is worried about the inexact fitment of the mask. The gaps around your face are enough for you to ingest a good billion viruses. 

So overall N95 does slow down the virus, but that's if you can find the perfect fitment. Almost airtight around your mouth and nose.

Does touching an elevator switch pass me the virus?
Of course it does. But not only that, if you are in an elevator that is infected, just breathing the air risks you. When an infected person exahles, he exhales a lot of particles with moisture and possibly some virus. The virus is not heavy enough to settle down quickly. Remember this is 1000-100000 times lighter than a gram.

In summary, a good chance that you sit in a car/ or an elevator which earlier had an infected patient, you shall be infected too.

Does food or other surfaces risk carrying the virus ?
Yes of course. Food via deliveroo or swiggy of course carries the risk of transmitting the virus. Same for common surfaces like toilet seats. 

So in summary, not ordering food or not sharing at all - will increase some probability of your safety. But no means NO....which means no vegetables from outside too. And don't tell me, I build vegetables, because vegetables don't jump into the cooking pot. You have to handle them in......so that much touch is enough. And NO meat too.

Will it only infect me via ears, nose, mouth or eyes?
I believe the science around this is sketchy. Yes easier to infect via an orifice, but I believe (caveat science is sketchy) you can get infected via skin too.

So as long as you have contact with anything organic (or surfaces that can harbor organic), you run the risk of infection.

Will I suffer?
In all probability if you are fit, have enough sunlight....chances are low down to single digit percentages. Most might show no symptoms too.

Will I die?
Of course some will die.....but that will be less than 0.5%. My (limited) scientific estimate is about 1 per thousand infections, in steady state shall die.
Thats almost same as flu. Same as malaria. 
Vehicle accidents in India kill more than 10000+ every day. We lost about 1000 people to hunger and malnutrition possibly. 

Hopefully that puts in context.

2739 : Something is deeply bothering me

It's not the virus, it's our response to the virus.

How it is bringing out the reptilian responses in each of us.


2738 : Decency (and civility)

I was having a freewheeling chat with my mother yesterday. I do enjoy talking with her. We were both aghast (almost a shared startlement) of the world around us. Almost in the same breath, we were asking, "Is this what we have become? is this what it finally comes down to?".

We both lamented for what we saw as a breakdown in our social civil structure. Implicitly we said, "it's being civil, that makes us human."

And then I read this from Albert Camus' Plague. I believe it will resonate with my mom :-) quite a bit.

Camus writes: ‘This whole thing is not about heroism. It’s about decency. It may seem a ridiculous idea, but the only way to fight the plague is with decency.’ A character asks Rieux what decency is. Doctor Rieux’s response is as clipped as it is eloquent: ‘In general, I can’t say, but in my case, I know that it consists in doing my job.’

Friday, March 27, 2020

2737 : Ethical harakiri

I am deeply troubled by my own ethical choices. I am part of the Indian middle-class bogey, and every single day I am part of one or the other conversation - where the chat is "racial" - read my lips, its not one with racial undertones - it's racial. Period.

Like the complex I live - has banned maids, drivers, cleaners (during these times) from entering the complex - because they live in ghettos. The assumption being that the ghetto is a more vulnerable place to carry and come in contact with the virus.

There is some merit in that argument, and yet, it seems to me that this is a "suit me" argument. I will use the services, until it works for me, and then I shall "dump and walk away.".

I sit in circles where friends refer to "slums as dangers to our city". They want to government to completely lock down the movement of folks from within the slums (as in no in and out).

There is the vitriolic vigilante whose only focus is to make sure that "he/she is safe".

And then the neighborhood aunt who is paranoid and is imagining death hunting her down from the beyond. She believes my talking some sunshine in the play area of my complex - is an act of plotting to have her bundled dead.

In all of this, no one seems to see the real other crisis. Which is humanitarian. Daily wage employees who also have spouses, kids and mothers - and who have to borrow just to buy simple food.

Scroll has some fantastic coverage here. I am reproducing images from the same article. Stunningly devastating. Broken me. Ethics be damned.

If you cant see fear and despondency in these images, you may just be missing the point.

2736 : When is the right time to bid goodbye?

It's an existential question that I ponder upon often. A large part of my life is about living and working with folks who are always on the frills of living. These folks are not necessarily old or young.....but all the same, they are on the edge.

I read this today morning and was truly moved. Moved to broken pieces.

Read here.

The quality of writing @ NYTimes always makes me feel so humbled. It makes me realize that good writing and great journalism are never ever going to go out of fashion.

2735 : What a mix up....

I loved this sentence

“I mix up movies and memory,” says Marissa Dahl in Elizabeth Little’s PRETTY AS A PICTURE 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

2734 : Humbled by NYTimes

Trust NYTimes to do cutting edge reporting.
I saw this video from NY Times and it left me shaken. More than NY Times I was more shaken and empathetic by Dr. Ashley Bray. I am truly humbled.

I can only fathom what it takes for Dr Bray to spend day on day - putting their own lives as danger.

I too want to contribute to the "dying", almost like a volunteer/support. Can I? May I? That's my calling. Should I? Should I not?

Fascinating video here https://nyti.ms/33JVFaC

Broader story at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/25/nyregion/nyc-coronavirus-hospitals.html

My heart beats for NyTimes and my soul beats for Dr. Bray.

Take a bow. These are my real heroes :-). They always will be.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

2733 : Joe Bonamassa + Beth Hart

I have been listening to Joe Bonamassa + Beth Hart quite a bit in recent times. I must have been trapped in a wormhole. I have/had never really listened to a lot of Bonamassa or Hart in my life. (How the mighty have fallen).

And look at what I have been missing. These two (as a combo) as well as individually are combustible. I have listened to them for over 10-20 hrs in the past few days.......and am hooked.

This combo is just as lovable as Joan Baez + Bob Dylan....

There is something alluring about musicians who collaborate together. Something very romantic (in a classic sort of way). It does not have to be a boy or a girl with each other, it can even be as simple as 4 jammies creating Beatles together, or Queen for that matter.

I really miss collaborating with another artist or someone who shares my interests. Like I have been thinking who in this world could I sit and debate about Joe Bonamassa with? And was that not the point of life? Or actually, the only thing in life that matters?

Or talk Buddhism?

I miss these imaginary conversations. I really do.

BTW, thanks Vivek Aloor :-).

images from youtube.com

2732 : Struggling to read

I am still struggling a lot to read. To read and write you need a composed mind, and these days I am anything but composed.

Need to listen to more blues :-)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

2731 : What if

What if by protecting ourselves from the virus we reinforced our "own individual" lives and egos, but......BUT.....we reduced our immunity as a collective.

Does it not make sense? So herd immunity is a function of the survival of the fittest, in addition to other things. What if, by protecting the weaker/more vulnerable/fragile parts of our population - we have actually crucified the future generations of our race.

Still not with the drift? Today with our tough quarantine procedures lets say you protected me - who as an example is a potential claimant by the Covid-19. This means under normal circumstances, the virus would just kill me and move on. But I am quarantined......or in a safe house.

By letting me be....you have not only reduced our overall chances of herd immunity (or slowed down that curve), but you have also conferred a huge genetic disadvantage on my entire genetic pool. For the next 500 years whoever emerges out of my gene pool, will be working with a disadvantage.

Now does this make sense?

A similar thought bothers me around cancer when we allow people to fight it and prolong life? Are we meddling in evolution?

Makes sense now?

Finally, this is not just a thought experiment, but an ethical/moral dilemma, that each of us should grapple with?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

2730 :Lost Girls by NetFlix

I watched this stand-alone movie (I mean it's not a series) and in the same moment, I was both devasted by this individual tragedy and the hopelessness of it; at the same time, on the other hand, I felt immense solidarity with the mother of the Ellenville girl.

Watch it, it will remind you of how low we might have sunk as a collective.

Finds a mention on my overall list....

2729 : My new home

Today evening on a whim, I jumped onto a public transport vehicle. Through dusty roads, the journey lasted a good possible two hours. The vehicle bumped, grunted, fumed smoke, inhaled dust, jostled its passengers around and yet finally it came to a halt.

The place looked unfamiliar to the place I had originally started from. It was completely different, but yet strangely similar.

The faces looked new, the food smelled familiar, the roads looked alien, the people looked just the same.

This will be my new home. Food looks manageable. I have to scourge for food like I always have to. I am supposed to be your ancestor. Maybe that's why I am so much freerer and wiser than you are. Kaw Kaw :-). I must go. My beak needs some sharpening.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

2728 : Swimming naked

I have a different version of Warren Buffet's swimming naked analogy. Slightly different. I know when the tide is low, a lot of fish surrounding you disappear. The fish you are left with are the fish you never measured you by your ability to seek deep waters. They just are around.

I have seen high waters, low tides, and ebbing currents. In all of that, I have been stark naked.

I know the fish who hang around by their fins.

One thing Buddhism has taught me - is that the tides they definitely will change, again, and again. And that no matter we all eventually return to the ocean.

Pray for all the fish, but never ever lose count of the fish who stayed around. And thank them and thank the universe. The tides they are ever-changing. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

2727 : What not to think in the morning....

I have a pact with myself not to think about money in the morning. I am like a teenager trying not to think about sex. But I am also trying not to think about sex.

Lovers and Writers, by Lily King

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

2726 : John Mulaney

On my list of stand up - great acts - I would add John Mulaney.
If there is only one piece of his which you should listen to....it should be.....

On my all time list (yes I just creating one) it would be......
George Carlin
Devesh Dixit (From India)
John Mulaney
Tig Notaro
Punit Pania (From India)

2725 : Karen Miller and being a guide to my life

In the last 4 years, everytime I have felt lost, stressed or just fatigued, I have picked up Karen Miller's two books - Paradise in Plain Sight and Hand Wash Care - have become my constant companions.

I have read these book six times already and now I am on my 7th read.

Of course I am so used in the ways of the world, that these fantastic books hardly make a dent in my spiritual practice.

Am I wiser? Nah. Am I a little more peaceful? Yes.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

2724 : Zazen

I rode the motorcycle after almost 3 months today. I have been pre-occupied and distracted. Very actually.

Not just on the personal front, but on the work front too. Too much happening....and usually when weekends come up - I almost just want to sleep and recharge.

Yesterday night especially I was very disturbed. My lack of wisdom, and my inherent insecurities coming back to haunt me. Then today - I rode it, not too long, but a good 2 hr ride.

And along the way, my mind cleared. Like it always does. Driving (solo especially) clears up the mind into some clear insights and sights.

Sitting on the motorbike is like Zazen for me. Sit, drive ahead and do nothing. Watch the world pass by. And most importantly find your open thoughts settle down like sand in a jar, like tetris bricks.