Choose an expert

I think about this quite a lot. I do my best to educate myself on subjects. But I’m no expert. At the end of the day all I’m doing is trusting an actual ‘expert’ and hoping I chose wisely. (via Alexey Guzey)

By the way, as of yesterday, I am now double vaxxed 🙂

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‘Ben Franklin’s bitter regret that he didn’t immunize his 4-year-old son against smallpox’

Washington Post [c]:

Five weeks had passed since the death of Benjamin Franklin’s son, and rumors were swirling. Four-year-old Francis “Franky” Franklin had died after being inoculated for smallpox, the rumor went, and now his pro-inoculation father was trying to hide it.

The gossip reached such a point that on Dec. 30, 1736, the grieving father, then 30, confronted it in the pages of his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette.

“Inasmuch as some People are, by that [rumor] … deter’d from having that Operation perform’d on their Children,” he wrote, “I do hereby sincerely declare, that he was not inoculated, but receiv’d the Distemper in the common Way of Infection.”

It must have been hard to admit — Franklin had long advocated inoculation as a “safe and beneficial practice” — that his own son had gone unprotected.

“I intended to have my Child inoculated,” he explained, “as soon as he should have recovered sufficient Strength from a Flux [diarrhea] with which he had been long afflicted.”

More than five decades later, in his autobiography published posthumously, he said he had “long regretted bitterly, and still regret” that he had chosen to wait.

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‘How Many Microcovids Would You Spend on a Burrito?’

Wired [c]:

Olsson thinks about risk for a living—she works for a Silicon Valley foundation on projects that seek to mitigate the potentially catastrophic effects of advanced AI—and is in the habit of assessing her daily life with data and models. A few years ago, after a close friend told her about a scare she’d had while cycling, Olsson decided to reevaluate her own bike commute. Was her life span more likely to be cut short by a fatal crash biking to work or by the increased chance of heart disease from sitting idly on the train? She was happier riding her bike than squeezing in with fellow passengers, but sometimes feelings need a fact check. She did the math and was pleased that it validated her choice to cycle.

Olsson had begun applying this approach to living with the new coronavirus. The task was far more comprehensive. Unlike the risk of a bike accident, the risks posed by the virus radiated off of everything, turning the littlest things—a burrito!—into a gamble. At first, managing those risks was easy, if unpleasant. When the pandemic arrived in March, lockdowns constrained life and therefore made decisions simple. It was all of us together, in the interest of keeping hospitals from becoming overrun. But then, gradually, the world reopened, and life got more confusing.

So she and her friends created microCOVID. It’s an amazing site. You enter a bunch of variables about the activity you want to do, and it will tell you how risky it is. I love stuff like this.

And be sure to read the whole Wired piece. It’s certainly my favourite article of the week.

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January 26th, 2021

If You Squeeze the Coronavirus, Does It Shatter? New York Times. Was that headline thought up by a stoner at 3 AM?

Sauna culture in Finland is now part of UNESCO’s ‘Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’. UNESCO. I love saunas. Believe it or not one of the biggest downsides of the COVID-19 pandemic from a personal point of view has been that I can’t use my gyms sauna. I love saunas so much that I have to set myself a time limit otherwise I spend too much time in there and end up making myself light-headed and giving myself a headache for the rest of the day. I have little interest in travelling. But spending some time in a pukka Finnish sauna is certainly on my list of things to visit.

UNESCO has also made a video about Finnish sauna culture. I find it interesting that they introduce babies to the sauna. I suppose as long as it’s not too hot it’s fine but I just never have imagined babies going into the sauna before. [via MetaFilter]

Looks like McDonalds UK is attempting to buff up its ‘healthy’ image by this addition to its online menu:

It’s kind of ironic that The NoSurf Activities List of things to do away from the internet includes lots of links to the subreddits for all the different activities.

Today I discovered that cucumber and red cabbage is a far better burger topping than lettuce and tomato. Honestly I can’t believe how nice red cabbage is.

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‘Their Noses Paid the Bills. Then COVID Took Their Sense of Smell’

Wired UK [c]:

Anxiety about this ailment [loss of smell] is creeping into wine and fine dining. In the wine industry, losing your sense of smell is so taboo that several sommeliers interviewed for this piece did not want to be identified. One sommelier at a top London restaurant likened the symptoms to a star athlete injuring their anterior cruciate ligament – a knee injury used to routinely put an end to professional athletes’ careers. They warned that those with a compromised sense of smell could be branded as “damaged goods” or unfit for work in the eyes of the profession. Others have questioned whether it could be a factor in future hiring decisions. One well-known former wine buyer for high-end restaurants, who is still suffering from parosmia six months on, said they aren’t able to function correctly in the business because they have “lost the way to detect nuance in wine”. They have stopped buying expensive wines for their own enjoyment as a result.

[…] Researchers and medics now think smell loss happens due to the virus damaging what they call the supporting cells of the olfactory epithelium – the area high in the nose where we detect odours. This area contains both the nerve cells, and supporting cells that make the nose work. If damaged by a virus, these have to regenerate and forge new connections to the brain. Some think that parosmia is an indication of nerve cells healing and making new connections to the brain.

Losing your smell is pretty awful. I haven’t checked, but I’m guessing COVID-19 doesn’t actually affect your taste in any way, despite reports. It’s just that scent is such a vital part of taste that it actually feels like you’ve lost your taste.

Here’s a quick fun game for you to try. Get someone to open a random flavour of crisps for you. Close your eyes, pinch your nose and then eat a crisp and try to guess what flavour it is. It’s close to impossible. Your nose is so important for taste.

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