Last month, despite being 4 days after the US election polls closed it was too early to say conclusively what the result was. 4 weeks later, I guess that’s still the case. Even though *most people* would assume that in January Joe Biden will be inaugurated, stranger things could happen.
This article (written in September) explains how so much the election-to-inauguration timeline is based on convention rather than clear cut rules. Following conventions (that undermine his ego) is not something President Trump does, so it might still be a while before everything is settled.
On the work front, I’ve been mainly working on putting together a team for a climate change podcast and producing another show all about dogs. I will, of course, share links once they are published.
Otherwise, it’s been trying to figure out Christmas plans and getting blown around Copenhagen on my bike owing to some truly miserable weather.
Things I’ve been thinking about this month
Getting an opinion on lockdowns
- Denmark has thankfully been pretty “light” when it comes to coronavirus restrictions (though less so than neighbouring Sweden). Nevertheless, stories, especially in the UK, of people affected by lockdowns are hard to ignore
- The rationale for locking down seems to be that, because the negative effects of Covid-19 are unknown, “it’s better safe than sorry”
- Early in November I listened to a really interesting interview with a scientist called Dr Mike Yeadon. In it he makes the bold claim that surging case numbers are basically a result of misguided statistics, and that draconian lockdowns are disproportionate to the underlying effect of Covid-19
- His view is that with a mortality rate of 3% (as it was in February) it’s best to adopt a cautionary approach. Now that the rate is 0.2% (influenza is 0.1%) then some of those initial policy responses should be reassessed
- Another statistic subsequently cited in “lockdown sceptic” circles is that the total number of deaths in the UK in October 2020 was only 8 people higher than October 2019. If Covid-19 was truly devastating the population, then surely this number would be higher?
- Anyway, I’m sure this only part of the picture, but it’s interesting nevertheless to consider an alternative perspective
- I must note that I don’t know anyone who has been seriously affected by Covid-19, and as such can take quite a dispassionate stance on it. I’m sure if I had close relatives who had passed as some consequence of the disease, my views could sway
- In any case, it feels like the “post match analysis” of the world’s response to Covid-19 could be just as much to do with psychology/ sociology as it is biology.
Reasonable people who I “disagree” with
- More generally, I’ve been trying to understand the nuance in situations that are often presented as binary
- As I’m sure we all know, the incentive for news providers/ aggregators (esp. social media) is to promote the most provocative stories. As such, the extreme perspectives get the most attention
- This means that in the case of, for example, people who believe people shouldn’t wear facemasks at the moment, the main viewpoints heard are ones that a lot of people find disagreeable (i.e. “Covid is a hoax… It’s my God given right to breath fresh air…” etc.)
- If this becomes the only impression one has about the question of masks or no masks, then many people will feel that “anti-maskers” should be treated with disdain
- With a bit of digging though, there are other reasons why people don’t believe wearing masks is a good idea
- For example, they worry that the scientific basis for wearing masks is shaky, and then this is the first step on a slippery path of governments encroaching on people’s individuals’ liberties with minimal basis
- Or that putting a mask on means people become psychologically “zombified” compared to being out and about and smiling at each other
- I’m not trying to say that one view is “right” and the other is “wrong”, but more that beyond the inflammatory headlines lies more nuance
- Anyway, the thing I’ve been trying to do more of recently is to find reasonable people who have opposing views to me. By nature, this can be difficult, as they don’t always exhibit the behaviour that performs best in the algorithms, but it’s been really enlightening to get a more measured rationale on contentious issues.
- A couple I’ve found to be good are Scott Adams (who voted Trump) and Matt Ridley (who voted for Brexit)
- If you have any other accounts/ sources etc. that you follow of people who hold opposing views, please let me know
Artists you’re a “true fan” of
- On a more light-hearted note, I had a conversation this month about any actors, musicians, directors, authors etc. where you will always see/ listen to what they do, no questions asked
- This seems to be the yardstick for fandom – liking someone so much that you automatically consume what they do next
- My initial list was so-so (Bombay Bicycle Club; Daniel Day-Lewis)
- Who would be on your list?
A selection of podcasts I’ve enjoyed this month
- Dolly Alderton | Out to Lunch with Jay Raynor: I discovered this after speaking to a friend who’s a not-so-closet Dolly Alderton fan. The concept is great: Jay Raynor (restaurant critic) goes for lunch with someone interesting and records the chat, along with giving some thoughts about the restaurant. All the restaurant background noise is kept so it really feels you’re listening in on two people having a chit chat. Jay and Dolly have a really good rapport, so that’s nice to listen in to
- The hygge conspiracy | The Guardian Long Reads: as the nights draw in in Denmark and people start lighting candles and wearing woolly socks, it’s all starting to get “hyggeligt” (hygge-ly). This episode is from a few year ago about how hygge suddenly became vogue around the world, much to the perplexion of Danish people, and also how it has a more sinister side compared to what is portrayed in the glossy interior design magazines
- The senses: Touch | The Compass: really well put together show that explores how the body interprets touch.
- Sir Keir Starmer | Desert Island Discs: Sir Keir is the leader of the Labour Party in the UK. Despite his prestigious title, he grew up as the son of a factory worker. This is his life story, along with some good music. It was interesting to get to know a bit more about someone who will likely feature in British politics for a number of years
As an aside, I appeared as a guest on The Silicon Valley Podcast last month (though I was talking about business in East Africa, rather than Silicon Valley…)
- 6 Healthy Relationship Habits Most People Think Are Toxic | Mark Manson: you may recognise Mark’s name from his delicately titled book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Despite the provocation his articles do seem to live up to the promise of being “life advice that doesn’t suck”. A friend shared this article about relationships which was interesting
- Climate change is NOT a collective action problem | Matto Mildenberger: this was a thought-provoking (and motivating) insight I learnt about from a great newsletter (Matt’s Thoughts in Between). Traditionally people have said we can only save the planet if country’s act together to solve climate change (hence the need for intergovernmental treaties a la the Paris Agreement). This empirical study suggests that it’s much more important what a country’s internal politics are, meaning even if some countries don’t sign up to international agreements, climate positive policies can still happen
- Utah Monolith: this is a bizarre story of some park rangers who discovered a large metallic pillar in the middle of the desert when flying over on helicopter. They posted a picture with no other information and the internet was abuzz with people trying to figure out where it was…
- Matador | Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR): this month my girlfriend and I finished a coronavirus project of watching all 20 episodes of this classic Danish TV series. It follows a town in Denmark from 1929-47 and seemingly everyone in Denmark over the age of 35 has seen it (the former Prime Minister has seen it 20 times). It got me thinking about other programmes that have such cultural significance… In the UK, the closest I could think of was Only Fools and Horses. What do you think? Are there any classic TV shows where you’re from that *everyone* has seen?
- The Island and the Whales: a really balanced documentary about the communities in the Faroe Islands who slaughter whales every summer. To me at least, after watching the issue not quite as black and white as it may first seem. If you end up watching it, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.