Blog

Current Beliefs About Covid-19

UPDATE 2020-10-28. As of right now, I think that the points below on herd immunity are pretty wrong. Unfortunately, the progression of the disease in Madrid (among other examples) indicates that herd immunity hasn’t really taken hold as much as I had thought. Stronger case that no indoor dining and closing schools were the primary drivers of fewer cases in NYC and Madrid over the summer...

Dynamic Super Computing in R

I have for a long time believed that it was a waste to spend a lot of money to have a powerful computer for home and office use because it’s more efficient to dynamically use cloud compute resources rather than rely on my local machine. However, I have also for a long time not actually done that and run all of my jobs on my local machine because I couldn’t actually figure out a good way to make...

American Institutions

If you’ve spoken with me in the last few months about public policy in the United States (and, given everything going on in the world, that includes pretty much everyone I’ve spoken with), you’ve probably sensed a rather unpleasant tone of defeatism and exasperation in my voice. I find myself starting lots of sentences with the phrase “if we had functional institutions we could…” and I really...

Against the World Health Organization

During the COVID-19 crisis, World Health Organization (WHO) has failed us in a truly spectacular manner. Throughout the crisis, the WHO has repeatedly published misleading information that has at-best generated confusion that reduces people’s faith in experts and at worst actively driven people to avoid common-sense safety measures. From initially recommending against the obviously common...

White Noise

This year I re-read my favorite novel — White Noise by Don Delillo. It’s one of the very few novels I’ve read more than once, and I think this was my third or fourth time through. I won’t recommend it to you, because, and for good reason, there are very few other people who enjoy this novel as much as I do. Most people hate it. However, I’d like to write a bit about...

Book Notes: Against the Grain

This year I read both Seeing Like a State and Against the Grain, two books by anthropologist James C. Scott. Seeing Like a State showed how governments systematize and abstract information about a populace in order to make it visible, measurable, and above-all administrative — in particular, Scott talks a lot about how that process of abstraction necessarily loses important on-the-ground...

Some Facts About the Police

Edit 2020-06-01: Check out Samuel Sinyangwe for more information on what actually does work when it comes to reducing police violence. I, like many others, have been absolutely heartbroken this week after seeing a black man murdered in broad daylight by uniformed police offers, yet again. For obvious reasons, lots of folks are talking about the role of police in our society. In conversations with...

Tech Wages After Covid

In a few of the tech-oriented slacks I’m a member of there’s been a lot of back-and-forth about what might happen to tech wages in a post-COVID (and during-COVID) world where lots of tech jobs (prominently including more and more major players like Twitter and Facebook) are moving to fully remote. Before getting into this topic, I want to acknowledge what a privilege it is to...

Getting Infected

I, like pretty much everyone else, have been spending a lot of time thinking about the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. My particular line of thought tends to drift along two tracks: what the policy response to the crisis should be and what our moral obligation as individuals is. I’ve come to the conclusion that intentional self-infection, ideally though not necessarily as part of a human-challenge...

Books: Dreamland

So I finally read the book Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic and just as everyone had said: it’s very, very good. The book tells two stories in parallel: the first is the tale of the development and marketing of Oxycontin by the now-disgraced pharmaceutical giant Purdue and the second is the story of how a relatively unsophisticated (or at least loosely-organized)...