All posts by tremendousblog

Why I Am Confident the FDA Will Make the Right Decision on COVID Vaccines

Despite the speed at which COVID vaccines were developed, I am confident the FDA will only approve a safe and effective vaccine. In this interview with the eminent Dr. Eric Topol, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn explains that the decision will be made by career scientists at the FDA. It will not be made by politicians or political appointees, including Hahn himself.

Hahn and Topol note that these clinical trials are among the largest ever conducted. Any employee can raise concerns re. efficacy and safety.

And frankly, if a doctor with Topol’s track record is confident in the FDA’s decision making, that gives me enormous confidence as well.

AstraZeneca’s COVID Vaccine is Either 62% or 90% Effective. Which Is It?

AstraZeneca has produced confusing results for its COVID vaccine. The trial had two groups with two very different results. The first group got two full doses. In that group, the vaccine was 62% effective. The second group got a half dose and then a full dose, which proved 90% effective.

The first half of this excellent podcast by STAT News explains the situation in detail. The difference in effectiveness may be due to the smaller size of the second group. It could also be due to the lower average age in that group. A third possibility is that since the first dose was smaller, it may have been easier for the body to express the spike protein needed to prevent COVID.

The different dosing in the second group was due to a manufacturing error, which makes me question exactly how careful AstraZeneca is being. However, even a 62% percent effective vaccine has very real value at a time when daily COVID deaths worldwide are often exceeding 10,000.

Did the NFL Just Create the Best COVID Test in the World?

There are two types of COVID tests:

  • PCR Tests. The most accurate available, but the turnaround time is often several days. That makes the result less useful because we don’t know to isolate or how to treat as soon as we need to.
  • Antigen Tests. Fast (about 15 minutes) and reasonably accurate, but less so than PCR. In particular, it can fail to pick up asymptomatic infections.

Until now. The NFL, in cooperation with BioReference Laboratories and Mesa BioTech, has created a PCR test that can be resulted in 30 minutes. In a study of 917 people, the results on this rapid PCR were identical to those of a traditional PCR.

If this is used in combination with rapid antigen tests (more widely available) to confirm the test result (likely when there’s a positive result and no symptoms, or a negative result with symptoms), it could make accurate diagnosis much faster.

This is not available to the public currently, but here’s hoping it will be soon!

How I Kept Laughing in 2020

If we ever needed a laugh, this is the year. Lately, I’ve been relaxing with videos by two different very funny men:

  • James Blackwood – Raccoon Whisperer, a nice man from Canada who feeds dozens of raccoons hot dogs in his back yard nightly. They love hot dogs, cookies, and grapes, and even let him pet them! Sure to bring a smile to your face.
  • Uncle Joey’s Joint by my favorite comedian, Joey Diaz. Not for everyone and certainly not safe for work. But the laughs and his inspirational messages and life philosophy have brightened a challenging year for me. If you’re all in, as I am, go to Joey’s Patreon, where for $3 a month you can get an exclusive podcast (The Joey Diaz Project, highly recommended), daily motivational messages, and more.

Leave your recommendations in the comments for funny videos, comedians, or anything else that makes you smile. I look forward to discovering new things! Stay strong everyone!

Bonus: I’ve been listening to this background music channel regularly during periods of focused work, including while writing this post. I find myself calmer and more productive for it. Give it a listen!

Why You Should Tell Your Boss You’re Not Coming in on Friday

In my prior career in medical software, I worked both five and four day weeks. Guess which one I preferred?

Correct! But I was also rested and refreshed on Monday when I worked 4 day weeks. 5 day weeks? Not so much.

Late in my tenure in software, I was asked to create a feature that was the most complex work I had ever done in 14 years in the field. I made almost no progress for months despite a lot of effort. I was beginning to think it was impossible. I also hadn’t taken a vacation day in 6 months.

Then I went here (highly recommended) for 3 weeks and came back. I looked at the task again, saw it with new eyes, and got to work. I accomplished more that 1st day back than I had in the prior 3 months.

Research is emerging that rest is a necessary precondition for productivity. Microsoft Japan went to a 4 day workweek and saw productivity go up 40%. Perpetual Guardian, a financial services firm in New Zealand, did the same and their profits increased by 12.5%.

If we’re rested, we’re healthier, happier, more creative and more productive. In my investment business today, where I have no one to answer to other than myself, I alternate brief periods of focused work with long stretches away from that work. My actual active time can be as little as a few hours per week, and the results are beyond what I expected.

So with that in mind, I think I’ll go test out my new hiking boots!

What I’ll Be Doing The Next Time I Fail

Sometimes, we all miss the mark. When I do, I have the tendency to yell at myself in the most hectoring tones imaginable. Maybe you do too. Most of us would never talk to a friend that way. If we did, we wouldn’t have many friends for long.

Enter Kristen Neff, Ph.D., a professor at UT-Austin who researches self-compassion. In an interview with Dr. Peter Attia, she explains how to take the compassion we routinely extend to others and extend some to ourselves.

One practical technique I will be trying the next time I fail is to put my hand over my heart and say something supportive to myself. Who wants to try it with me?

My natural inclination is to think this is the road to laziness and failure. However, Dr. Neff cites research showing that performance actually improves as people learn to both give themselves a break and give themselves constructive, rather than bullying, criticism. And our lives get a lot more pleasant too!

Some interesting moments:

This podcast is also available via Apple Podcasts.

The Swami Who Taught Me About Politics

If I want to bring about positive change during these turbulent and polarized times, then first I’m going to have to deal with the turbulence and polarity within me.

Swami Asokananda

I have a lot of friends and family whose political views are quite different from mine. In normal times, that might be barely noticeable. But during a contentious election and several highly politicized national crises, these differences in views can come to the forefront and even overshadow the wonderful relationships I have with them. If I’m not careful.

Enter Swami Asokananda, the Spiritual Director of the Integral Yoga Institute in New York City. I recently received an outstanding message from him via the Institute’s newsletter.

His message made me consider to what extent I’m really listening to those whose views are different from mine. Where might they be right? And aside from correct or incorrect, how can I listen to them in a way that conveys respect and care? I cannot change the overall situation, but I can work for unity rather than division in my own personal relationships. Maybe if I can do that, it can start a chain reaction of respect rather than divisiveness.

Some key points:

  • “Though it seems obvious to me that my point of view is accurate and true, it’s vital for me to keep in mind that in all likelihood I’m often overlaying the facts with assumptions, judgements, and opinions that have been fed into me from who knows where and when.”
  • “How am I reacting to points of view different from my own?”
  • Am I creating further division, or am I fostering more unity?
  • “To see our conditioning is not easy. To shift it is even harder.”
  • “We have an opportunity to play a role in the evolutionary shift in the consciousness of the planet.”

I have included his entire message below. You can get more messages like this by signing up for the Integral Yoga Institute’s newsletter here.

Message from Swami Asokananda
The election is over, but we are still undergoing
turbulent times in a divided nation. And it won’t
take much to polarize us even further. When Sri Swami
Satchidananda (Sri Gurudev) arrived on the shores of
New York City in 1966, our country was also going
through seismic cultural shifts. I know that, for me, the
teachings and practices of Integral Yoga arrived at just
the right time to guide me in a positive direction and a
life purpose.

One of my main sadhanas (spiritual practices) at this time is to be more
aware of what energy, what intention, what motive I am bringing into each interaction. Why am I speaking with this person? What outcome am I looking for? Have I thought about it? As I watch more closely, I’m
discovering that there are different forces at work within me that are going on in pretty much all my conversations.

Even in our own sangha (spiritual community) there are people with very diverse points of view—as is often the case in any family. How am I reacting to points of view different from my own? How well can I listen and take in what the person is saying? What can I learn about myself from this interaction and my own behavior? Am I creating further division, or am I fostering more unity? If I want to bring about positive change during these turbulent and polarized times, then first I’m going to have to deal with the turbulence and polarity within me.

It is important to remember that we are all products of our experiences.
Though it seems obvious to me that my point of view is accurate and true, it’s vital for me to keep in mind that in all likelihood I’m often overlaying the facts with assumptions, judgements, and opinions that have been fed into me from who knows where and when.

To see our conditioning is not easy. To shift it is even harder. One of the
reasons that Sri Gurudev founded the Integral Yoga Institute was this
recognition that spiritual growth is difficult without a supportive
community. As we watch our own thoughts and try to live with integrity, sangha means that we are also looking for ways to support and lift up one another. Also, our being a part of the IYI gives us the field where we are able to move from a small self-interest to a larger, shared interest. We come together so that we can connect to something bigger than ourselves. We have an opportunity to play a role in the evolutionary shift in the consciousness of the planet.

COVID-19 safety precautions have changed how we connect with each
other and share the teachings. There are still plenty of ways you can be of service to IYI and deepen the benefits you can receive from coming
together as a sangha. Think: What can I offer? What skills or experience
can I bring to the table? If you can’t think of what would be useful, reach out to me or our interim executive director, Hamsa, or any board member. We will find just the right Karma Yoga for you, according to the time you have available.

Through this mutual caring for this beloved organization, we will bring out our own potential and keep IYI shining bright for our city long after this pandemic ends.

Spiritual Director

The Nut Butter Cups I Don’t Hate Myself for Eating

I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but given the nutritional profile (22g of sugar), I can’t justify eating them on a regular basis. I recently discovered Evolved’s Keto Cups at Whole Foods, which are now an after-workout staple for me.

The chocolate is higher quality than the Reese’s, and the fillings are delicious and healthy. I particularly recommend the Coconut Butter flavor, which was my favorite among the many I’ve tried.

I recommended these to a relative recently and she ordered a large assortment online and found them outstanding. With just 1 gram of sugar, and no added sugars, it’s something I can enjoy any time.

These nut butter cups are designed to fit a ketogenic diet, which I do not follow, but they’re delicious regardless. Enjoy!

The Best Discussion of COVID and Vaccines

Today, we are all thinking the same thing. Where are these vaccines? And are they safe? In this podcast, Dr. Peter Attia (Stanford Med, NIH, Johns Hopkins) interviews Dr. Paul Offitt (CHOP, vaccine expert, on the FDA committee that will approve any COVID vaccine). This is the best discussion I’ve heard on the topic.

Some things I got out of this episode:

  • Vaccines are coming soon
  • Many vaccines have good safety profiles
  • There are numerous vaccine candidates, with a variety of approaches. Our bets are spread, which gives me confidence something will work.

I listened to this episode at 0.7x speed, given the technical nature of the topic and the speed at which the guest speaks. Enjoy!

The FDA Approved Mask I Wear

With evidence indicating that cloth masks may be less effective than surgical/N95/KN95 masks, what type of mask should we choose? And how do we know that the one we’ve chosen is safe?

I’ve been wearing these KN95 masks for several weeks and have come to love them. They only touch your face at the edges, which I find more comfortable. The earloops are thick and cushioned, providing better comfort. And as someone who wears glasses, I find that these fog my glasses less than anything else I’ve tried, provided I fit the adjustable nose piece carefully.

I’ve done yoga classes in this mask and walked all over town in it, and I actually forget I’m wearing it sometimes. I never thought that would happen. I find myself handing these out to friends and family in the hopes it will protect them as well.

This mask is on the FDA approved list. Go to Appendix A: Authorized Imported, Non-NIOSH Approved Respirators Manufactured in China (Updated: October 15, 2020). Then, see the manufacturer name, Guangzhou Nan Qi Xing Non-Woven Co., Ltd. This gives me greater peace of mind that it will work as advertised.

If you’re ready to dive in and buy a box of 50 at a lower price, the link is here.

Stay safe and stay strong everyone!