Reversing the Aging Process in Mouse Eyes… and Maybe Someday, Us?

I just listened to a fascinating discussion with Dr. David Sinclair, PhD, on his lab’s recent success in reversing aging in mouse eyes. Sinclair and his team damaged the optic nerves of mice and then, using Yamanaka factors, reprogrammed the cells to “remember” their youthful vitality and regenerate. The mice could then see! The paper was recently published in the journal Nature.

This has significant potential for treating glaucoma in humans as well as someday reversing aging in general. If cells can be reprogrammed to recover the information they had when they were young, many conditions associated with aging could be reversed.

In this discussion (available as a YouTube video or a podcast), Dr. Sinclair also details some of the key things he does to try to prevent and reverse aging

  • Supplements/medication: NMN, resveratrol, oleic acid, metformin
  • Exercise, in particular weight training
  • Intermittent fasting, about 1.5 meals daily
  • Monitoring of biomarkers through regular blood testing. He uses a company called Inside Tracker and advises them. This is something I intend to look into further.
  • Wears Apple Watch and Oura Ring to track sleep, heart rate variability, etc. This and blood tests can provide an idea if certain interventions are working.

I read Dr. Sinclair’s amazing book shortly after it came out and started taking NMN on that basis. I do seem more energetic these days, although whether that’s due to NMN is anyone’s guess.

You can also get up-to-the-minute insights on aging research from Dr. Sinclair by going to his website here and signing up for his email list, Lifespan Insider (bottom right of page). I just did and am eagerly awaiting some useful tips!

I’ve Seen the Future and It’s in Israel

By Day 23, which is 2 days after the second shot, there is a 60% drop in hospitalizations among vaccinated people aged 60-plus, Maccabi revealed after monitoring 50,777 patients. 

Times of Israel

Israel is already seeing its hard work pay off. It leads the world in COVID vaccination, and new data shows a dramatic decrease in hospitalizations just a few weeks after the 2nd dose. We are, unfortunately, moving more slowly than Israel, but we’ve adopted one lesson of theirs: opening vaccinations to all older people.

This gives us a glimpse of the wonderful future we have to look forward to: an end to this pandemic. Our hospitals are strained and many are dying, but there is an end. It’s within reach, but we have to stretch a little further and grab it!

I Ate the Best Burger of My Life Outside in the Dead of Winter

Find this and eat it!

I celebrated my 35th birthday this weekend! My wife very kindly arranged for a hotel staycation in New York City, along with an outstanding meal. But there was one little problem. All indoor dining is closed in NYC. And it’s January.

I used my winter camping experience to my advantage, swaddling myself in a base layer, down jacket, winter coat, and a fur hat fit for Siberia. We hustled to the Upper West Side.

I was afraid we’d freeze solid, but we arrived at Bar Boulud to find a beautiful outdoor setup. They basically built a building on the sidewalk, with one side open for ventilation. That side faced the sidewalk, not the street, so no wind entered, and we were surrounded by huge heaters that kept us very comfortable. I was encouraged to see every table booked!

We both ordered the outstanding Frenchie Burger. The flavor of the beef was intense, especially for someone like me who rarely eats meat, and it was topped with unctuous pork belly and oozing melted raclette cheese. A triumph! If you’re in the New York area and like burgers, this is a must-have.

As we sipped coffee, I looked across the street to Lincoln Center, where my wife and I had enjoyed ballets and symphonies in the past. It occurred to me that being outside right now was not a hardship, but rather a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There will be no outdoor dining next January. This beautiful structure will be taken down and never seen again. This was our one chance to enjoy this winter wonderland. And we savored it.

I encourage you to think of today’s situation as not merely negative. To be sure, many are suffering now, and we must do what we can to help. But there are also unique experiences available today that will probably never be seen again. Get out there and enjoy them! Make some memories!

Outdoor dining, even in the 28 degrees we found ourselves in on Saturday, is very doable and really quite fun. We were only slightly chilly, which was quickly overcome by hot coffee and delicious food. The fancier restaurants in particular have amazing outdoor setups that make the experience comfortable and memorable. My friend Jim* recently had a business dinner at Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn in a private little cabana and found himself entirely comfortable.

Give it a shot and make a happy memory in this unique time!

*Not his real name

The Sleep Hack I’m Loving

Yesterday, my wife gave me a gift that will keep on giving: a sleep mask. She recently started using one and noticed the quality of her sleep improved enormously. I observed her, intrigued.

Just before dinner, she presented me with a sleep mask of my very own! I took it for a, err, test drive, last night. I slept more deeply than I have in a long time, with less tossing and turning. I woke up an hour earlier than usual, dramatically more refreshed and energetic. My wife said she could easily tell I had much more energy than usual.

Sleep has an enormous impact on health. Lack of sleep demolishes the immune system, doubles cancer risk, and can cause Alzheimer’s, coronary artery disease, obesity and diabetes. The list of conditions lack of sleep can cause is enough to keep you up all night!

But for just a few dollars, you have a shot at really feeling rested in the morning. I don’t find the mask uncomfortable, and it’s very easy to put on. Anything that covers the eyes and is comfortable should work. The one I have is here.

Sweet dreams!

What I Learned From an Investor Who Turned $100,000 into $100,000,000

Above: Angel investor Jason Calacanis

The angel investor Jason Calacanis got in on the ground floor of Uber, Thumbtack, and other highly successful software companies, multiplying his $100,000 investment into $100,000,000 in just 6 years. With results like that, you know I had to read his book!

The idea of helping, even in a very small way, to build the future appeals to me a great deal. And if my investment multiplied many times over, well, I wouldn’t mind! 🙂 In this superb and brief book, Calacanis lays out a detailed game plan on how to achieve results like his.

He suggests beginning with syndicate deals, in which an angel investor invests alongside more experienced angels. You can begin with as little as $1,000 per investment, and such syndicates can be found at AngelList, SeedVest, and elsewhere. In fact, the author has his own syndicate, here. Unlike most investment managers, the syndicate lead only gets paid if he scores for you. There is no management fee at all, but the lead does keep 20% of any profits for his/her trouble.

You can build your skills, experience and connections in those syndicate deals, and then move on to deals on your own. Calacanis explains that you have to evaluate the founder himself/herself more than the product. It’s the person behind the company that will make or break it. Products can change a lot more easily than people can. What are is the founder’s chances of suceeding in this business, and in life?

I was struck by how similar the approach to finding investments is to podcasting, journalism, or for that matter, blogging. Calacanis advises asking short questions and writing down the founder’s answers at length. Then, you write deal memos when you invest, to lay out the thinking behind the investment. These could help remind you of your reasoning if times get tough for the company, and also guide future investments.

There’s a ton of actionable details in this book, and I won’t get into all of them here. But if you’re even remotely considering investing in early stage companies, I strongly suggest giving this entertaining and highly readable book a look!

How I Improved My Sleep and Protected Myself from COVID for $34

Tell me why can’t this be love?

This fall, I bought what might be the strangest anti-COVID device yet…a humidifier.

Two, actually. I set them up in the living room and bed room and then went to work turning my dry apartment in the chilly New York area into a tropical paradise.

Indoor humidity tends to fall in winter. Air is drier to begin with, and then it’s brought indoors and heated, drying it further. This has a significant impact on how long viruses live and how your body responds to them. Our cilia, whose job it is to keep invaders out of our respiratory tract, don’t work as well in dry conditions.

Estimated virus half-life was more than 24 hours at 10 degrees C (50 degrees F) and 40 percent relative humidity, but only 90 minutes at 27 degrees C (80 degrees F) and 65 percent relative humidity.

Prof. Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, Yale School of Medicine

I got these to keep my wife and I safe from COVID, but I noticed a very pleasant side effect immediately: I was sleeping much better! My nasal passages would dry out overnight and my breathing would get more labored, causing me to wake. I mentioned the improved sleep to my wife, and she immediately agreed that my breathing sounded much nicer and I seemed to be waking less overnight.

My friend Jim* came over for New Year’s and happened to take the seat right next to the humidifier. He liked it so much, he immediately ordered the exact same one for himself, right there on his phone! I hope he’s enjoying it.

If you want to do the same, you can find it here. It was very easy to set up. I suggest one that warms the water, because it’s very pleasant. You want to avoid no-name manufacturers, because those humidifiers tend to leak. This one fits both criteria.

You can even put some essential oils or Vicks into the included medicine cup. I haven’t done it yet, but it’s on my list. Sounds like heaven!

You’ll also want hygrometers such as these to measure the humidity in your home. 40-60% is a good target. This way, you’ll know when you need to run the humidifiers and when you shouldn’t, to avoid mold growth.

Enjoy in good health!

*Not his real name

Why a Cloth Mask Isn’t Enough…Plus the Lowest Price I’ve Ever Seen on FDA Approved KN95’s

Above: Me, an FDA Approved KN95, and a snowman.

I am starting to see more and more people on the street wearing N95, KN95 and surgical masks, rather than cloth ones. That makes me really happy, because I know they’re a lot more effective. With a more contagious COVID variant from the UK spreading here, we need all the protection we can get. And with that in mind, I did a little Googling last night.

The eminent Dr. Eric Topol encourages us to use better masks, like N95/KN95, to confront the new UK variant of COVID.

My supply of KN95 masks, which filter much better than a cloth mask (and likely much better than most surgical ones also), was running low. I found an incredible deal on an FDA approved KN95 mask by Powecom at, of all places, Office Depot!

I ordered 100 last night and they should be here by Friday, with free shipping. $1/each is unheardof. The lowest I’ve paid before is about $1.35. I was very pleased!

You can see that these masks are FDA approved by going here. Go to Appendix A: Authorized Imported, Non-NIOSH Approved Respirators Manufactured in China (Updated: October 15, 2020). Then, see the manufacturer name, Guangzhou Powecom Labor Insurance Supplies Co. LTD, in the list.

Happy hunting! I suggest ordering a larger quantity because this price is unusual.

My View on Markets in 2021

My main business is investment, and some recent developments have gotten me thinking about where markets are headed this year. An end to the pandemic by Q2 2021 is predicted by multiple models (here and here). We’ve seen a substantial increase in personal income in 2020, largely due to the CARES Act. Much of that was saved and might fund consumption in 2021. More stimulus is likely forthcoming from the new administration and a Democratic Congress.

The combination of an end to the pandemic, increased personal income/saving/pent up demand, and further stimulus seems to set up a great scenario for stocks this year.

Meanwhile, Treasury yields dropped substantially in 2020 despite massive stimulus (and thus borrowing). The same may not occur this year, but suffice it to say the Treasury market seems to be able to absorb quite a lot of new issuance (see page 3 of this document).

My investments are heavily weighted toward equities, and I am expecting a good year. Perhaps we’ll revisit this in a year and see if I was right!

Intuition, Boxing and Freedom

I recently received an intriguing short essay from a friend of mine. It gave me a different perspective on what we consider freedom. I’ve published it in full below. Enjoy!

It’s when thought and action form a single whole that you’re free to be something

Freedom

I know a boxing instructor who used to tell his pupils to evade incoming blows intuitively, to block intuitively, to throw punches intuitively.

This, I think, was an elegant shorthand for saying: Think carefully about what’s really intuitive, and do that. To this boxing instructor, intuition was not just whatever first comes to mind, but above all whatever makes the most sense.

No one is born a boxer. There may be those who pick it up with remarkable speed, but they, too, must first be shown what to do, and will only progress, maybe to greatness, with years of teaching and practice. For the rest of us, our first reactions to an incoming punch are often wrong: His fist is moving to my right, so I should duck my head to my left. This is fine—if you mean to use your head to block the punch. Otherwise, do what’s truly intuitive: move your head ahead of the punch, in the same direction. Evade the punch intuitively. Then bob back up and give him a left hook to the jaw.

Intuition must be learned, paradoxical as it sounds. The elegance of a good boxer is nothing other than mastery of a boxer’s intuition. It is not just a mechanical matter of moving quickly and economically; the boxer learns a way of looking, which is as much a way of tuning out what he doesn’t need to know as it is a way of zeroing in on what he needs to react to, or exploit.

Probably the hardest thing for the intermediate boxer to learn is to look his opponent hard in the eye. If you can deliver your punches without even glancing at where you want them to land, all the better: This is the poker face of boxing. Where poker is all about detachment and nonchalance, in boxing, you avoid betraying your intentions best by locking your gaze on his. The intuitive way to look at someone, in boxing, is the most aggressive, but also the most intimate. It’s a weird invitation: Let’s box.

Until the pupil achieves a certain dexterity and a certain ease with these psychological demands of the game, he will not be able to integrate what he already knows into an adequate response to his opponent. Maybe he can punch a bag well. The bag swings in predictable ways, never making a fuss. Maybe his footwork looks good in a mirror. You don’t have time to look at your own technique when your opponent is about to punch your liver in.

To be able to surprise your opponent, you mustn’t give any indication where you’re going to punch. At the same time, you must be alert to whatever your opponent may be planning, which he’s likeliest to betray with his eyes, a split second before he makes his move. And so, there’s only one thing to look at directly: The eyes of your opponent. This, in turn, means you need to split your perception of visual stimuli: You must get used to seeing the motions of his body out of the corners of your eyes. You can’t try to focus on whatever you have to react to or whatever you’re about to do, as you might in everyday life. That’s everyday intuition; what you need is a boxer’s intuition.

There is, in other words, no way to box but to box intuitively. In the absence of this intuition, you have no way of assessing dangers or opportunities, and your approach to your opponent becomes nothing but an overwhelming sequence of options, which you need to think about consciously, one at a time. In the time it takes you to do that, you’re already on the canvas.

I think skilled practices like boxing—I could, instead, have written about playing an instrument—give important lessons about the nature of human freedom generally. Because I never feel as free as when the need to make conscious, considered choices drops away, when I no longer need to maintain any kind of split between thought and action. It’s when thought and action form a single whole that you’re free to be something, fully, and being fully human, acquiring a full and human intuition of what you’re on earth to do, is, for me, the only way to be truly free.

Contrast this with the freedom so often held as an ideal today: The freedom to choose. The more choices you have, the freer you are—so it’s insinuated. But the kinds of choices whose number can be arbitrarily increased—How many vacuum cleaners are on the market? What’s the best ham at the deli? How many men are on the ballot?—are the kinds of choices whose proliferation will crowd your thinking and add noise to your life. And soon you will find yourself accommodating your life to your acquired need to make these choices, over and over again, to feel in control of things, rather than living in order to become who you truly are.

I think it’s people who view freedom this way who fear death the most. – Think of what I’ll be missing! – Whereas if you’re sure of who you are, of what you’re on earth to do, you can’t help but do it, intuitively, and the time when it must end will always be far off.

New Study Predicts End to Pandemic in Q2 2021

Photo: Dr. Maciej Boni, Associate Professor of Biology, Pennsylvania State University, study co-author

Assuming high vaccination coverage (> 28%) and no major relaxations in distancing, masking, gathering size, or hygiene guidelines between now and spring 2021, our model predicts that a combination of vaccination and population immunity will lead to low or near-zero transmission levels by the second quarter of 2021.

I came across a new study posted on January 15 that analyzes data from Rhode Island and Massachusetts to find optimal vaccine policies and predict when the COVID pandemic will end. With reasonably optimistic assumptions, the authors conclude we may be out of the woods by the second quarter of this year.

I find their 28% vaccination target plausible. It’s ambitious, but we need to be ambitious right now. Getting to 28% coverage would take about 1.1 million shots a day, 7 days a week, which seems achievable at current rates. ((330 million Americans * 2 shots each * 0.28)/163 days until July 1 = 1,133,742 shots/day).

We’ve recently passed 1.2 million shots in a day:

The study also finds that it’s best to vaccinate health workers first and then the elderly, which is what we’re doing.

In a time when the news is often grim, I find this study very hopeful!