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Back to microblogging

A brief experiment with Drummer reminded me how fun it was to write short, untitled, tweet-like posts throughout the day without having to be exposed to social networks. Drummer itself was too high-maintenance for the 2020s me, but is a (paid) service whose focus is — and the name does give it away — short, untitled, tweet-like posts with a light layer of social networking.

Which is to say, my old domain is now resurrected as a micro blog with a snazy Edward Tufte-inspired design. The RSS you get there should include updates from this blog, so subscribe to either but not both.

January reading

So far so good. If the first month is anything to go by, I will have the 2022 reading list licked by September.

One last thing about Don’t Look Up

After two failed attempts to explain why exactly I wasn’t thrilled with Adam McKay’s Netflix movie — brevity will only get you so far — I found this review by Scott Alexander to perfectly capture my doubts about the movie’s message. I agree with Alexander only about 60% of the time, but I can agree with 100% of his review.

22 books for 2022

This is the bare minimum of non-medical books I should read this year. The last two years were abysmal in that regard, and I look forward to making excuses for why 2022 was no different.

  • The Scout Mindset (Julia Galef)
  • How to Live (Derek Sivers)
  • Understanding Nonlinear Dynamics (Daniel Kaplan and Leon Glass)
  • Light (M. John Harrison)
  • Safe Haven (Mark Spitznagel)
  • Pieces of the Action (Vannevar Bush)
  • The Demon-Haunted World (Carl Sagan)
  • Where Good Ideas Come From (Steven Johnson)
  • Calculated Risks (Gerd Gigerenzer)
  • Making Things Work (Yaneer Bar-Yam)
  • The Morning Star (Karl Ove Knausgaard)
  • Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow)
  • Where Law Ends (Andrew Weissmann)
  • The Fifth Risk (Michael Lewis)
  • Checkpoint Charlie (Ian MacGregor)
  • Checkmate in Berlin (Giles Milton)
  • The Complacent Class (Tyler Cowen)
  • Craft Coffee: A Manual (Jessica Easto)
  • The Complete Father Brown Stories (G. K. Chesterton)
  • Foucault’s Pendulum (Umberto Ecco)
  • Scientific Freedom: The Elixir of Civilization (Donald W. Braben)
  • Adventures of a Computational Explorer (Stephen Wolfram)

Science and scientism

A big reason Don’t Look Up didn’t sit right with me was its simplistic view of the scientific consensus. “Listen to the goddamn qualified scientists…” bellows Ariana Grande paternalistically.

Meanwhile, qualified scientists from reputable institutions of higher education act as petty and vindictive prima donnas. The linked article is one scientist’s story of having to suffer through years of academic harassment for publishing a paper that rubbed some of her fellow researchers the wrong way. From the abstract:

A naïve researcher published a scientific article in a respectable journal. She thought her article was straightforward and defensible. It used only publicly available data, and her findings were consistent with much of the literature on the topic. Her coauthors included two distinguished statisticians. To her surprise her publication was met with unusual attacks from some unexpected sources within the research community. These attacks were by and large not pursued through normal channels of scientific discussion. Her research became the target of an aggressive campaign that included insults, errors, misinformation, social media posts, behind-the-scenes gossip and maneuvers, and complaints to her employer. The goal appeared to be to undermine and discredit her work.

Goddamn scientists indeed.

Happy New Year

Infinite Regress HQ wishes a Happy New 2022 to all those who celebrate.1

  1. By the time this gets published, it will be January 1, 2022 in all time zones. The earliest someone has wished me a Happy New Year this season was mid-December (!?). Yes, yes, we won’t see each other until the next year, but let’s see the old year out the door before celebrating the new one. I’m superstitious like that. 

Newsletters of note

Most of these also make an appearance on my list of blogs. All are recommended, though some of the more prolific ones are best consumed in moderation.

Goodbye, Drummer (for now)

Drummer is an online outliner that enables quick, easy, and near real-time posting of text both long form and short — what we used to call blogs back in the good old days of two years ago. Dave Winer created it for his own purposes, but it works beautifuly with just your Twitter account as a login. Here is my page.

As things are still very much in progress, Dave recommended doing daily backups. Sadly, I didn’t, and as of today’s updates a few weeks’ worth of half-baked notes are wiped out from the Drummer server (but thankfully not from the website they helped create). That’ll teach me.

Since posting to that page is on hold until everything is back in order, expect more — dare I say daily — updates here. Managing markdown files is not nearly as intutitive or pleasant to use as Dave’s outliner, but he seemes to be working on an OPML to markdown converter. That will be well worth the wait.

Voices in my head, 2022

Listen to podcasts long enough and you are bound to develop tastes. After 15-some years, mine are these: conversations over stories, with minimal to no editing, and lasting no longer than a couple of hours per episode. Even within these constraints, the list of podcasts I could listen to is near-infinite. Yet these are the few to which I keep returning:

  1. Omnibus, which survived John Roderick’s attempted cancelation to continue providing two poorly-researched topics per week. Highlights of 2021: Mobile Jubilees, The Bottle Conjuror, Officials General, Merkins (yes, those), and The Phantom of New Guinea in which the curious popularity of an obscure Canadian detective show in Serbia makes an appearance.
  2. EconTalk, which continues to be the best general-interest interview show for people who’d rather avoid snake oil salesmen. Highlights of 2021: Dana Giola on poetry (which is in fact the best episode of 2021), Julia Galef on her book Scout Mindset (which I am yet to read, but oh well), Anja Shortland on lost art, Bret Devereaux on ancient Greece and Rome, and Johann Hari on lost connections (which reminded me of a particularly sad episode from my tenure as a heme/onc attending).
  3. Healthcare Unfiltered is the first new healthcare-related podcast I’ve started listening in years. Chadi Nabhan is a good interviewer with an even better access to relevant guests, particularly when he attempts to bring together both sides of a twitter-heated medical debate. Highlights of 2021: Bishal Gyawali on clinical trial design, Aaron Goodman and Matt Wilson on CNS prophylaxis for DLBCL, Barbara Pro and Mehdi Hamadani on PTCL, Mikkael Sekeres and David Steensma on mid-career transition, and Aaron Goodman versus the world, supposedly about randomized clinical trials.
  4. Plenary Session was back on my playlist this year, and mostly Covid-free. Highlights of 2021: Chris Booth, Adam Cifu, Manni Mohyuddin, Bapu Jena, and again Aaron Goodman (who should really start his own podcast instead of squatting in other people’s).
  5. The VPZD Show is the one about Covid. Prasad and Damania have their hearts in the right place and fairly sharp minds; they can evaluate evidence on merits and are willing to admit past mistakes. Without mourning days past when these characteristics were more common — because in fact they weren’t — I’ll just note that in times like these, they are essential. Highlights of 2021 include the entirety of the show, which has only just started.

Previous editions: 2021202020192018The one where I took a break from podcastsThe very first one

A brief chronology of my employment

  • 1994: Fifth grade; I am charged with editing the school newspaper. There is an Intel 386 PC at home that is about to be upgraded to a 486 and do something more than run Lands of Lore.
  • 1996: Seventh grade; I typeset a book of poems1. The school newspaper becomes the school magazine — in layout only; the publishing schedule remains haphazard — as I upgrade from Word 6.0 to QuarkXPress
  • 2000: High school starts again after a freshman year interrupted by NATO bombing. I make the town library’s official website. It is a php hack job laid out in tables instead of the newfangled and to me unknown CSS; it still wins an award.
  • 2002-2008: Med school; I typeset a book here and there and occasionally help out with the library website.
  • 2009: Teaching assistant, Institute for histology and embryology, Belgrade School of Medicine.
  • 2010: Resident, Internal medicine, JHU/Sinai, Baltimore MD.
  • 2013: Chief resident, Internal medicine, as above; I understand the benefits of not being invited to a meeting.
  • 2014: Clinical fellow, hematology/oncology, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda MD.
  • 2016: As above, but also Chief fellow ex tempore for the joint NCI/NHLBI fellowship; my hatred of poorly-run meetings intensifies.
  • 2017: Staff clinician, later to be renamed Assistant research physician, Clinical Trials Team, Lymphoid Malignancies Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda MD; the 1994 me marvels at the word salad trailing the title.
  • 2021: Chief Medical Officer, Cartesian Therapeutics.

  1. Someone else’s, to be clear. 

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