A new variant of coronavirus is upon us. As is its wont, Omicron is more infectious and is spreading fast. While, in the past, the virus impacted only a handful of close friends and family, the recent spike has impacted quite many friends. A few of them are struggling, despite having been vaccinated. 

As I was researching the possible impact of the new variant, I couldn’t help but notice how difficult it was to find accurate, actionable information about Omicron and how to deal with it. Except for a handful of writers — Ed Yong of The Atlantic, for example –, one gets quickly sucked into a quagmire of hot takes and incremental information.

It leaves you even scratching your head, perhaps highlighting the problem we have in an Internet-centric information economy. Information is easy to produce, but intelligence remains in short supply. 

In the end, I ended up emailing a few friends — who are experts, doctors, or both, and they all pointed me to a handful of sources to make an informed decision. On their recommendations, I have been following Bob Wachter of UCSF on Twitter and Katelyn Jetelina (aka YourLocalEpidemologist) on Substack. They are pretty direct and clear in their communication about the virus and its reality.  

I was planning to travel for the holidays, but instead, I have gone into a self-imposed lockdown. Sure, I have been vaccinated and received the booster, but why take unnecessary risks. I hope you are doing your bit to keep yourself safe! 

December 21, 2021. San Francisco

San Francisco undercover. Made with iPhone 12 Pro Max

What’s so great about summer? Quite a few things, but for me, it is Fogust: the foggy month of August that we get to enjoy in San Francisco. August is the perfect staycation month for me. 

First of all, I am extra cautious about the emergent strain of the virus — and see no reason to take any risks by traveling. Secondly, I’m not too fond of hot climes. While most of the northern hemisphere enjoys hot days and balmy nights, I much prefer my backyard—daytime highs of 65 degrees and nights that dip down to the low 50s. 

The fog is also a chance to exercise my camera. And spend a lot of time reading — long articles, books, and of course, research papers. I hope that with the arrival of the new month, I will find my writing rhythm. Over the past two weeks, I have probably scribbled more notes in my journal than on the old blog. 

Anyway, this being the weekend, I thought I would share some gems I found on the Internet to make you smile. 

A short recap of my Tweek (aka my week on Twitter)

July 29: Every earnings report is a reminder that year-over-year percentage growth numbers are pretty much worthless, except they do make for pretty graphs, nice headlines & hide reality. Good thread to follow. 

July 28: “Yup, he’s a great leader! He motivates us to do great work.” Who is “he?” 

July 27: The most interesting thing about Apple earnings for Q3FY2021: About 1/2 of the customers who purchased a Mac or iPad in the quarter were new to the product. Mac and iPad grew 16% and 12%. The last 4 Mac quarters have been the top 4 quarters ever for Mac.

July 27: Hello Twitter friends— which Is your favorite Weather app on iOS. I currently use Dark Sky. But hoping for something different/better. (So many great replies in the thread. I am trying out the Carrot app.) 


August 1, 2021. San Francisco

It was an unusual week. Unusual in part because of how normal it felt, like the days before the pandemic. And yet, by the time the weekend rolled around, it was clearly anything but ordinary.

My schedule was packed to an extent it hasn’t been in quite a while. I had a couple of board meetings (still completely on Zoom). I did quite a few everyday pre-pandemic things, like getting a haircut and a straight razor shave. I even visited my local tailor, because I lost enough weight in the pandemic to get my pants taken in. I have had enough of living in easy pants at home. I want to wear grown-up trousers, proper leather shoes, and shirts with collars. 

I popped over to have lunch with Brad Stone of Bloomberg Businessweek and talk about his book, Amazon Unbound. I am halfway through the book, and I find it much more interesting than his previous effort, The Everything Store. I am finding it more revealing and informative, mostly because I lived (and covered) the world of Amazon in the early phase of the company’s history. As a civilian, I find the new book to be chock-a-block with new details, stories, and insights about a man who has surpassed success. I am sure I will eventually write a full review. 

We talked about billionaires in planes — sorry, in rockets — and how many people from far-off places recently pinged me about the “space economy” and space stocks. Nothing like hype from the king of hype to get the normals betting their dollars on rockets — which, by the way, come down as fast as they go up. We will be talking about Bezos in a couple of days when his rocket takes to the skies.

Speaking of books, it took me less than two days to finish The Ugly Truth, Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination by Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang. I will be posting my review shortly (though, now that I’ve alluded to two upcoming reviews, I should admit that I am not very good with the book review format). Generally speaking, at this point, I am getting a little tired of technology books. They all seem to stick to variations on the same theme: tech is evil. I happen to disagree with this premise, but perhaps it is what sells. On Twitter, Eric Newcomer highlighted his ever-growing list of forthcoming books, and they all seem to be grasping at opportunities to spotlight the bad apples. I mean, do we really need a book about WeWork? 

Next on my reading list for this summer will be a real work of fiction: The Vanishing Point by Elizabeth Brundage. This should provide a good break from the heavy diet of technology-centric nonfiction books. 

As I sit here in my apartment on a relatively warm Sunday, I wonder if this past week will come to feel like the beginning of my return to normalcy or — more likely, I fear — an oddly pleasant blip. Despite leaving my apartment multiple times, I feel the anxiety triggered by thoughts of yet another wave of the deadly virus. Local governments in parts of California (including San Francisco) sent out health advisories. The virus is starting to infect even those who are already vaccinated, an unwelcome development.

A handful of friends and acquaintances have recently been infected by the new Delta variant. It is not as commonplace in my closest circles — most of us are still wearing masks and avoiding indoor gatherings. Nevertheless, the uneasiness still lingers. And if you believe the experts, there isn’t going to be a clear, easy end to this pandemic. It really is a permademic!

July 18, 2021. San Francisco

Geeta Dayal, a well-respected art critic and music journalist, is helping organize a music concert, Music for India, on Saturday, June 5th. She announced the news about the concert on Twitter. All proceeds from the concert, which will stream online, will go towards COVID relief efforts in India. Headlining the event is legendary musician Terry Riley. Indian classical violinist Kala Ramnath and pedal steel guitar explorer Chuck Johnson are going to join Riley. Several other musical acts are likely to join the concert. I am going to watching this concert and doing my best to support the relief efforts.  You can follow Geeta on Twitter to get updates on the concert.

Over the last two days, I have been talking to old friends and family members, and no matter how you put it, the situation is grim. Except for my parents, the virus has impacted many extended family members. A couple of friends have lost family members. The stories I have heard, including shortage of resources and crematorium problems, bring tears to the eyes. 

Whether you read in the papers or hear over the social networks, this is an enormous tragedy. The scale of devastation is never going to be understood because the government is busy playing games with numbers. I mean, instead of being focused on solutions, you have powers that be spending energy on getting social media platforms such as Twitter to take down tweets.

In my long experience, playing or fudging the numbers is not a sign of a healthy democracy. No matter how you look at it, this is a failure of foresight. Short-termism is a disease not just for stock markets and can be an Achilles heel for countries too.

I keep saying this again and again — lies cost lives

April 25, 2021, San Francisco.

“…absolutely devastating, and doesn’t feel like our country is doing everything it possibly can to help.” Scott Belsky

Also: Can US do more to help India in its term of crisis?