Monthly Archives: July 2021

Daily Covid

From WaPo:

“I think the central issue is that vaccinated people are probably involved to a substantial extent in the transmission of delta,” Jeffrey Shaman, a Columbia University epidemiologist, wrote in an email after reviewing the CDC slides. “In some sense, vaccination is now about personal protection — protecting oneself against severe disease. Herd immunity is not relevant as we are seeing plenty of evidence of repeat and breakthrough infections.”

Yes, CDC is acknowledging what is becoming very obvious.  The vaccine does a great job of protecting against infection initially, but that protection wanes – rapidly.  75% at three months, 67% at four months, 44% at five months, and 16% at six months.  Anyone who says that people have a moral obligation to get vaccinated to prevent the spread of Covid is not looking at the numbers.

That doesn’t mean there is no moral obligation to get vaccinated.  The real risk of Covid is straining hospital capacity, resulting in substandard care not just for Covid patients, but for the heart and cancer patients – both diseases which kill far more people than Covid does annually.  80% protection against hospitalization at 6 months is excellent for anyone under 65 who’s reasonably healthy.

Israel is now providing boosters to all its citizens who are 5 months out from their vaccine and age 60 or older.  My parents got their vaccine 6 months ago.  My Dad is pushing 80 and has a host of health issues.  Same for my MIL.  When is the FDA and CDC going to get their act together and offer him a booster?

Other thoughts: I was a big advocate for “persuading” people to get vaccinated.  The persuasion has been done, and I am sure a lot of people got vaccinated as a result.  But it’s over.  No one is getting persuaded any more.  It’s time for vaccine mandates.  I think what’s being done in NYC and with federal workers is a great model.  Get your vaccine or get tested (at least) weekly.  Or find a new job.  Naturally, such rules haven’t been enacted in Washington.  It’s also no surprise that the national teacher’s union has come out against it.  NYC unions want to get paid overtime to go get their Covid test.  You must be kidding me!

In fairness, I did read today that the likelihood of myocarditis in teens is six times higher as a result of Covid than as a result of the vaccine.  I figure in many areas, including where I live, a teen has substantially less than a 1 in 6 chance of contracting Covid, especially if they lead a relatively tame lifestyle (no clubbing or hookups).  My teenage self would never have caught Covid.  Anyway, this implies that it is more dangerous for a teen to get the vaccine than not.  And I don’t think it’s right to mandate vaccination in this scenario, given that the vaccine is still considered experimental.  So, if I were king, I’d be very aggressive about mandating vaccination in workplaces and educational institutions, but only for ages 25ish and up.  But WA’s attitude with regard to Covid is “suffer the children” so you can be sure that we’ll be leading the way mandating vaccines for kids when adults are still happily lallygagging about vaccine free.

swim team

First of all, we got the girls’ swim pictures back.   I love the picture the photographer took of the pair of them together.

I think that one is going up on our wall somewhere.

I am also very humored by the team picture.

Notice any one swimmer looking different from the rest?

Why Bri is raising her hand is anyone’s guess!  But I think it’s pretty funny.

Swim season is over, and we haven’t gotten the results of the last meet, but I’m so proud of both girls.  Bri could swim a length of the pool at the beginning of the year and not much more.  By the end of the season she had managed to compete breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly without being disqualified.  Swimming a 25 butter is no joke!  Her fastest time was 32 seconds for the 25 free, which is not bad at all.

Isla drastically improved her swim times.  In freestyle, she came with a 27 s PR for the 25 free, and finished with a 19 s PR for the 25 and 46 s PR for the 50.  She improved her backstroke PR from 34 s for the 25 to 52 s for the 50.  She improved her breaststroke PR from 34 s for the 25 to 1:01 for the 50.  She went from being DQ’d in the butterfly to swimming 23 seconds for a 25 butter.  And she swam 1:45 for the 100 free and 1:54 for the IM.  She learned how to do a freestyle flip turn and did it in most of her meets.

Both girls had a blast and loved their wonderful coaches.  Swim team is intense in the summer, but it’s one of the most fun things we do.  For about eight weeks, it seems like we’re constantly at the pool, but the girls (mostly) love it, and I really enjoy watching as well.


Bad news from Israel

Have you been watching the news out of Israel?  It’s not good.  Here’s the source from the Israeli government.  And here’s the money plot:

The two numbers of greatest interest are:

  • After six months, the Pfizer vaccine is 16% effective against symptomatic Covid infection
  • After six months, the Pfizer vaccine is 82% effective against hospitalization.

First, the 16% number.  This is supposedly adjusted for age, but the bottom line is that the Israelis just don’t have that much data for people who’ve been vaccinated for six months and then had Covid.  We’ll have to wait and see if this is consistent for younger folks with potentially stronger immune systems.    But the trend seems very clear from the chart.  Until we get better news, I think the most likely outcome is that your vaccine is starts losing effectiveness against symptomatic infection almost immediately, and it starts dropping off sharply at four months.  This is extremely troubling.  Because vaccinating the bulk of even a highly willing population (like Newcastle) every four months is impractical at this point, barring technology innovation, herd immunity is not possible with this disease.

The newspapers are not citing the 16% number.  It’s dishonest of them not to given who excited they get about citing case numbers.  (Oddly, I haven’t seen any coverage of the UK’s dropping case numbers either.)  They’re also not citing the 82% number, which is also very important.  There is a big difference between 95% (20x) protection and 82% (5x) protection.   For those of us in the 18-49 age-group, our risk from Covid is about 10x that of the flu.  In other words, with an 80% effective vaccine, we’re back in flu danger territory.  We’re safe.  But for the 65+ set, Covid is at least 36 times as dangerous as the flu.  Divide that by 20, and you’re in good shape (though the flu is a lot more dangerous for 65% than for younger people.)  Divide that by 5, and you’re still at seven times as dangerous as the flu, which for older folks is not great news.  Not terrible news, but not great news.

There’s always a worse road than the one you’re traveling on, though.  Australia just extended it’s Sydney-area prison-like lockdown until the end of August.

Simone Biles

I’ve been a gymnastics fan for a very long time – since Brandy Johnson was the best US gymnast.  (Think mid-80s.)  My sister and I were very passionate fans in the mid-90s in particular – Lilia Podkapaeva, Simona Amanar, Shannon Miller, Mo Huilan, Gina Gogean, even Svetlana Khorkina.  (We were not fans of Khorkina.  And even less Svetlana Boginskaya!  And can we all agree that the orphan from the Ukraine was overscored from time to time?)

I started following Nastia Liukin when she was about 9, and was obviously thrilled to see her win all-around gold, though I like Shawn Johnson as well.  At that point, the gymnasts all started to run together a bit.

But Simone Biles is on another level.  She’s unambiguously the GOAT.  Not only is she the greatest of all time in women’s gymnasts, she’s one of those transcendent athletes that stand out among all the sports – like Michael Phelps or Michael Jordan.  She is exceptional among the exceptional and only a gymnastics fan can truly appreciate how extraordinary she is.  Not only does she do the hardest skills, she does them better than others.  She had a couple botched landings on the first day of the Olympics, and some people questioned her still being at the top of the standings, but a gymnastics fan knows that what happens in the air is just as important as what happens on the ground.  Most gymnasts will be just slightly piked, or go out of layout early, or land a little short.  Biles FLIES.  She just takes things to the next level.  And her skills ARE harder.

(It’s worth noting that the gymnastics code was changed about a decade ago to reward difficult skills over “perfection,” a change which made things a little less subjective, rewards athletes like Biles, and I think overall is very good for the sport.)

I’ve been watching the Olympics when I can.  (My class is still dominating my life, so I haven’t been able to watch as much as I’d like.)  I’ve been a little troubled by how often I’ve seen Biles featured for two reasons.  First, there’s been this attitude that she’s so much better than everyone else that she is guaranteed to win.  That’s not how gymnastics works, and the Olympics sees a lot of queens dethroned.  Second, and most importantly, it just seems like an impossible amount of pressure for her to bear, especially in combination with the Covid lockdown situation in Japan.  She can’t have any friends or family there with her to provide support.  I’ve honestly just found it troubling.  Couldn’t they spread the pressure around a little more?  Also, NBC is profiting off her, and she’s not getting paid for it.  She obviously has a lot of sponsorships that she does get paid for, but I still find it troubling.

Then, she had a little bit of a rough first night.  The US was in second, but honestly, that had a lot more to do with Jordan Chiles, who had a terrible night, than Biles.   But with all the pressure, was she just unable to handle being less than perfect?  She’s still so young – 24 – and she’s been built up as infallible.  She’s also bearing the weight of trying to change all of gymnastics from what has been basically an abusive system in which the athletes have no power, to one in which athletes have a voice.  And she’s had the ability to do that because she’s so good – more pressure.

When Simone Biles exited the arena, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team’s gold medal chances plummeted. The world’s best gymnast later returned to the sideline, but she withdrew from the competition for what USA Gymnastics cited as a “medical issue.”

Afterward, Biles made clear the issue was not physical.

“I just felt like it would be a little bit better to take a back seat and work on my mindfulness,” she said.

As for whether she would compete again in Tokyo, where she is next scheduled to perform in Thursday’s all-around, Biles replied: “We’re going to see about Thursday. We’re going to take it a day at a time. I know tomorrow we have a little bit of a break for training, so that’ll be really nice to have a mental rest day. And then injury, no. Just my pride is hurt a little bit.”

I don’t know what she’s going through.  Perhaps she should have soldiered through for her team, even if it meant skipping the individual championship and event finals.   I do feel like she let down her teammates – not by making mistakes, but by electing not to compete.

With that said, we obviously don’t know what she’s going through.  She has one day off, and then it’s time for the individual championship.  I hope she’s able to compete.


King County just reissued a mask mandate.   I am so fucking sick of this nonsense.  Not vaccinated and get sick?  NOT MY PROBLEM.  We have a 75% rate of being fully vaccinated anyway.  Newcastle, where I live, has a rolling average of 1.6 cases per day and a vaccination rate over 90% in the 12+ cohort.


There have been two hospitalizations this year, for one day each.  Two days.  Total.

People in South King County aren’t vaccinated and are getting sick?  NOT. MY. PROBLEM.

I recently learned that my kids will miss two weeks of school this fall due to Covid quarantine.  Why?  We’re going out of state in late August, the week before school starts, and again in October for Fall break.  According to the CDC, if you leave the state and are unvaccinated, you must self-isolate for 10 days, or take a Covid test and self-isolate for 7 days.

Have kids?  Left the state lately?  For the next week after you get back, that means no daycare, no school, no camp, no grocery store, no camps, no trips to the park.  No interaction with other humans of any kind for your kids.

If you live in a “free state” you’re probably not even aware of this.  But if you live in King County, it impacts your life directly because schools and daycares adopt and enforce the rule.

Soon they’ll probably start asking women for proof of birth control before they let you drink at a bar.  Except that in King County, the bar will probably be closed.

I have to say that I would not move to King County at this point if I lived elsewhere and had a job opportunity here.

I’m still wondering if they’re actually going to open schools full time this fall.  With Delta, it seems likely that Covid levels will be higher than in the spring (when they opened less than 6 hours per WEEK for the last month for middle and high school).  And the vaccine was highly effective against the variant circulating at that time.

Covid exposure thoughts

I’m curious about what people think about self-isolating if you have been exposed to Covid.  I have a friend who is married with two kids.  He and his wife are both vaccinated; his kids are too young to be eligible.  One of his two kids was exposed to Covid at daycare.  Both his kids and his wife ended up testing positive.  Neither child had any symptoms whatsoever.  His wife had moderate cold symptoms.  Because all of the three who tested positive did not do so simultaneously, because it took time for the kids to test negative (despite not showing symptoms), and because it took a while for the wife’s cold to go away, their total “self-isolation” time is a month.

Now, if you’re in the UK, self-isolation means you do not leave your property – at all.  Not for any reason.  You don’t have anyone over to your house for any reason.  You do not answer the door.  If you have housemates, you may not be in the same room as them (non-family members – if family, all should isolate), and you must clean the bathroom “thoroughly” after each use before anyone else can use it.

In the US, self-isolation probably has a definition, but I don’t happen to know what it is.  My friend has not stayed home.  They go out, just not around other people.  They might go to a deserted park or whatever.  They haven’t gone to work or out to eat or had any visitors.  So not as bad as the UK version by a long shot.

Still, for a family of four, having no contact with other humans is a lot.  Especially for my fully vaccinated friend who has not even tested positive.

This makes me wonder – is all this really necessary?  If there is a vaccine available, why should anyone without symptoms isolate?  Vaccination reduces hospitalization 97%.  That means the already relatively low percent of Covid patients who require hospitalization is further reduced by 97% (or thereabouts).  And if you aren’t vaccinated, and you get sick, tough luck, as far as I’m concerned.  Obviously, if you’ve had a Covid exposure, you shouldn’t go visit a nursing home or your friend who has cancer.  It probably makes sense to stick to outdoor socializing and wear a mask at work.

What do you think?

I think this is a very pertinent question because Delta is spreading so rapidly, it seems inevitable we’ll be exposed sometimes in the next year or two.  Granted, a booster is coming, but by then there will be a new variant.

From the WSJ:

If you haven’t had Covid yet, you will. If you’ve had it once, you’ll have it again. If you’re vaccinated or were infected previously—which will one day be most people except the very young—your symptoms will likely be mild or nonexistent, but it’s not guaranteed. Words the CDC says about the flu it will say about Covid: “Vaccination is especially important for people 65 years and older because they are at high risk of developing serious complications from flu. Flu vaccines are updated each season as needed to keep up with changing viruses.”

reflections on bio and ageing

I just had my fifth biology lab.  Since we are virtual, this basically consists of online group work, usually some type of data analysis.  Taking this class has helped me see how I’ve changed in the last 20 years, since I last took undergraduate classes.  There have been good changes and bad changes.

On the down side, I find it harder to focus.  The internet is a constant temptation when you’re watching your lectures online.  I’m tempted to take care of this or that errand or just read the news instead of focusing 100% on the professor.  This, to me, is reason enough alone to take classes in person, as a child or an adult.

I also don’t think I’m as sharp as I used to be.  I’m slower, and my memory, though still good, is probably not as good as it was when I was younger.

I am less savvy on some software than my peers.  Think various chat programs, Zoom, etc.

On the flip side, I think I’ve definitely gained interpersonal skills.  I was chatting with Jonathan about it, and during my short management tenure, I’d estimate I ran 500 to 1000 meetings, not even counting my stint at Hyper.sciences.  I’ve learned, in the context of active group work, how to set and manage an agenda, manage time, keep people on task, and respond to people’s concerns.  I’ve also learned that in a work setting – and an academic setting among highly motivated people is really no different – that if you listen to people and figure out what they want and try to be responsive, they will like you professionally.  It’s all about meeting people’s needs while meeting your own at the same time – getting the project done, making people feel respected and included, being willing to do more to help others.   I’ve also learned that running a meeting doesn’t necessarily have much to do with what you know.  It’s about drawing people out, getting the experts to share what they know and figuring out what the root conflict or the heart of the problem is, and working through that.  (Or if there is no problem, just getting information on the table so you can determine what to do next.)  As a manager at Blue, most of the time, I was managing people on projects that they had more technical expertise on than I did.

As a result, I find myself interacting very differently and far more assertively than I would have done 20 years ago in my online Bio labs.  It’s interesting.

The other thing I’ve noticed, though, is that even though I can lead in a meeting or a lab, I really don’t like it.  I find it absolutely draining and exhausting.  And working with four other people intensively for three hours on a lab reminds me of how I used to feel after work when I was a manager  I would feel satisfied if I felt I’d done a good job facilitating everyone on my team that day.  But I would be absolutely just wrecked.  My introverted self just does not enjoy that type of work.  The odd thing is that I really do like people, and I loved informal social interaction at work – chatting with various friends I’d made through the years when I had the chance.  I always seemed to form friendships with at least one person sitting near me.  But interacting with colleagues hour after hour?  Just exhausting.

All of this makes me think about what to do next.