Saturday, April 11, 2020

Weekend Links: The Things that Made Me Smile Edition

Hello from my dining room table! Or, as I call it when our meeting schedules dictate that I move out here to work, the auxiliary office.

I've decided that today's post is mostly going to be links to things that made me smile this week, because it was a tough week and I would like to revisit the smiles! Our school district started up distance learning this week, albeit as a "soft launch" in which grades won't be affected by any of the work. My children were not swayed by that pronouncement, though, and so there has been some stress here at Chez Cloud about assignments that won't load, etc., etc. The kids also (reasonably) sometimes need something explained by a person and not a website. This seems to particularly happen with math, so I've been refreshing my memory of fractions (4th grader) and geometry (7th grader). I also learned about the difference between a population and a community so that I could help Petunia with her science assignment one day. This was complicated by the fact that all of the material she was looking at was in Spanish and I don't speak Spanish. Luckily, there were plenty of resources in English just a web search away....

But the time I spent doing 4th grade science and math and troubleshooting various technology issues was time I didn't spend doing the job that pays our bills. I am quite busy at my actual job because we sell and configure software for scientists and pretty much all of my customers are either 100% working from home or only allowed into the lab on a reduced schedule for essential activities. So they all suddenly have a lot more time to focus on their informatics needs and have been contacting me about speeding up their projects or adding new projects.

When I see the pictures of long lines of cars waiting for food bank distribution events or read about what people working in essential jobs are dealing with, though, I am reminded of just how lucky I am to have the problems I have. So after just a few general links, I'll post the things that made me smile.

First, here's a more well-rounded write-up of San Diego's distance learning launch in case anyone is curious to know more about it. I think the teachers and the district are working really hard to make this a good as it can be and I appreciate all their work.

This essay about why some voters might have preferred Joe Biden to the candidates offering big changes really resonated with me, even though my preferred candidate wanted to bring big, structural change. I was tired by the demands of this era before the pandemic hit. It is only worse now. I can see the attraction of the promise of four years to catch our collective breath.

The logistical failures Gov. Inslee points out in the interview described in this piece are so frustrating. I work in a very different sort of delivery project, but one of my most important jobs is to see the potential roadblocks and risks and have plans for how to work around them so that we can get to our goal. It is really frustrating for me to read about the failure of my government to do this basic task of project management. I know the federal government has people who are good at this sort of thing, but they have clearly been sidelined. We are all going to pay the price of that.

Derek Lowe has a good summary of the latest report on the results of compassionate use of remdesivir (Gilead's drug). The short answer is we still don't know much. Actual clinical trials should start providing results soon and that will tell us more. Given the timeline to get a vaccine it would be very, very good news if one of the repurposed drugs was actually beneficial. But we'll only know that if we take the time to do a proper study. Don't even get me started on the mess that has been made in the hydroxychloroquine situation.

I also saw a write-up of Pfizer's work for the first time. A lot of us in the industry have assumed (or even heard through the grapevine) that they were reactivating work on some leads they had developed during the SARS epidemic. While this isn't as much of an acceleration as repurposing a drug that has already been approved for other uses, it is still much faster than starting from scratch. Presumably they already have data about which compounds in their series have acceptable pharmacokinetic parameters and have learned some things about specificity and the like from their past work. Given all the layoffs and other turmoil at Pfizer (and other pharmas) in the intervening years, I wonder if the scientists who know this data best are still at Pfizer. I hope so. Here's a write up on Pfizer's various efforts that includes a discussion of the compounds that came from their earlier SARS work.

OK, now for the happy things.

This was the obvious song for this period in time:
But this one is pretty damn good, too:

I loved this:

Wait for it:

This is beautiful and amazing:

Also beautiful:

This, too:


I've enjoyed watching people on Twitter discover the existence of swamp rabbits:

I don't know enough botany to do this but it is a great idea!
I am really enjoying the things people are doing to help each other through this time:

Here's your weekly bunny:
Happy weekend everyone!


  1. Alexicographer4:50 PM

    Thank you for these posts, they are a bright spot in my coronavirus-era life. The dad jokes made me laugh, and my son (Pumpkin's age) had told me about the cat, but I hadn't seen it -- even better with the picture!

  2. Swamp bunnies!!!

    The cat one was also hilarious.

    And the rock-paper-scissors one.

    Thank you, these made me smile too.


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