Categories
Events and Life Science and nature Wellbeing

Possible oral vaccine for COVID-19 in months

An Israeli research team has developed an oral vaccine for COVID-19 that seems to be heading for testing, and could be distributed in a matter of months.

According to The Times of Israel:

Chen Katz told The Times of Israel that the new oral vaccine for adults and children could “turn this disease into a very mild cold.” He said that for many people who are inoculated and then infected by COVID-19, “potentially it will not affect them at all.”

The rapid potential progress by the state-funded Migal Galilee Research Institute stems from the fact that the institute has been working for four years toward a vaccine that could be customized for various viruses, and has now adapted that work to focus on the coronavirus, he said.

Israeli-made oral vaccine for coronavirus on track, but testing will take months | The Times of Israel

What’s particularly exciting about this development is that the research team was able to adapt research they had been doing into a vaccine for a related virus for four years, into a potential vaccine for COVID-19.

[Dr Chen] Katz clarified that the 90-day time frame in the February 27 statement was until the product is ready for human testing, and said he still believes this is realistic. He said that skeptics should understand that his team is not working on new research, but rather customizing an existing innovation, meaning that a fast turnaround is realistic. He stated: “The important thing is that we were working on a vaccine, unrelated to this outbreak, and this is a great advantage.”


Update (2020-03-12): According to The Times of Israel, the Israeli Ministry of Defense has announced that the vaccine isn’t quite as advanced as it seemed yesterday:

“There has been no breakthrough in the efforts of the Institute for Biological Research to find a vaccine for the coronavirus or to develop a testing kit. The institute’s activities are being carried out on an orderly schedule and they will take time,” said the ministry.

Defense Ministry denies ‘breakthrough’ on vaccine for COVID-19 | The Times of Israel

Still, I’m encouraged, and optimistic. 😊

Categories
Events and Life Science and nature Wellbeing

Facts and rational advice about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19

There is a lot of hype about the current coronavirus pandemic, much of it coming from the media. In times like these, you really want to focus on facts and rational advice about the virus, and precautions you can take.

To slow the virus down, you need to act as if you already have it …

Why fighting the coronavirus depends on you

Obviously, I’m not a doctor, so I won’t offer advice other than urging you to look to science for your information, not rumours and media outlets looking for more clicks.

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

What are COVID-19 and the coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organization:

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19)

Useful resources

I’ve come across a number of helpful, and informative resources about this current virus:

World Health Organisation

The WHO has a useful FAQ that’s worth reading: Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19).

Israeli Ministry of Health information page

Here in Israel the Ministry of Health has advice for Israelis that can also be helpful for non-Israelis: The Novel Coronavirus, Ministry of Health.

Israel has adopted a pretty aggressive approach to the coronavirus in order to limit the spread of the virus in Israel.

Reddit megathread in r/askscience

Here’s a comprehensive thread in r/askscience:

Ars Technica guide to the coronavirus

Ars Technica has also published a pretty comprehensive guide to the coronavirus, and sensible precautions to take: Don’t Panic: The comprehensive Ars Technica guide to the coronavirus | Ars Technica.

nCoV2019.live

This site contains data scraped from multiple sources.

There’s a really interesting story about the young man who created, and maintains this site here.

SciShow

The SciShow channel on YouTube has an interesting video about whether this is a pandemic, and what that term means:

World Health Organisation’s Twitter feed

Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction

This is a podcast by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr Sanjay Gupta about facts and inaccuracies about the coronavirus:

Coronavirus Tech Handbook

This is an interesting crowdsourcing initiative:

a crowdsourced resource for technologists building things related to the coronavirus outbreak

COVID-19 Dashboards

This site has a collection of data dashboards about COVID-19 that are updated hourly. You can also subscribe to a feed from the site, although it doesn’t seem to load for me.


unsplash-logoFeatured image by CDC
Categories
Events and Life Politics and government

Highest Israeli voter turnout since 1999

Regardless of the results of yesterday’s Israeli elections (the 3rd in a year), we saw the highest voter turnout since 1999, according to The Times of Israel:

The Central Elections Committee said that 65.5 percent of registered voters cast their ballots by 8 p.m. — the highest figure for the hour since 1999.

Although I have my preferences for who will form a coalition (and my strong hope that someone actually forms a coalition this time), I’m proud of Israelis for turning out in these numbers to have their say.

Categories
Devices Mobile Tech Sports

A few more thoughts about my Garmin Vivoactive 4

I’ve had my Garmin Vivoactive 4 for just over two months now, and I thought I’d share a couple more thoughts about this device.

To begin with, I still really enjoy using this watch. I’m very glad that I bought it, and I find it enormously helpful, day to day.

I’ve been running pretty regularly, and the experience of using this Garmin device to track my runs, and sync with Strava is really smooth, especially compared to my Fitbit Charge 3.

The data

On the whole, the data seem fairly accurate, and useful. There are some exceptions, though.

I mentioned in my initial post that sleep data was a little hit and miss. This remains the case. I’ve noticed that the Vivoactive 4 will think I’m sleeping even if I’m awake, but still lazing in bed.

It also seems to think that I’m sleeping while watching TV some nights (I’m clearly pretty relaxed).

I realised that a possible explanation is that I’ve set my Data Recording option (in System settings) to Smart, and not Every Second to preserve battery life. I suspect this may be the reason for the inaccurate data that I see, so I’ll test sleep tracking with the Data Recording option set to Every Second.

Interestingly the Body Battery feature tends to give me values that correspond fairly well to how I feel at a given point in time. It’s also a little stingy with recharges though. It seems to expect me to get about eight hours of sleep before it regards me as pretty well charged for my next day. 😜

Touch screen

The touch screen works pretty well for the most part. I noticed one app or screen where it’s not that reliable, the coaching app.

I’m using the Garmin Coach feature to train for 5km races (I’m enjoying the program so far). I usually go running in the mornings, and often can’t seem to activate the touch target on the coaching app screen unless my fingers are warm.

I’ll find myself tapping with different fingers, in different positions, just to get it to progress to the next screen where I can tap to start the workout (no issues on the second screen).

From there, the UI works just fine for me.

I haven’t really had an issue with any other screens, just this one. At the same time, this has me wondering if a Garmin watch without a touch screen (and more buttons) like the Forerunner 645 may be a way to go when I upgrade down the line.

Still, it’s not a major issue for me at the moment, just a little frustrating when I want to get started with my coaching-guided runs in the mornings.

The running experience

I started connecting my headphones directly to the watch for my runs because my phone seems to have a dislike for sustained Bluetooth connections, and frequently cuts the connection at random intervals.

I use the built-in Spotify support to sync my playlists, and off I go. Here’s my current, preferred playlist:

I would like to buy a lower profile Bluetooth headset for my runs.

An Aftershokz headset would be great given that they don’t block your ears, and seem a safer option when running around the city. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be readily available in Israel, and can be a little pricey. Still, they may be worth the investment.

Overall, I really enjoy running with the Vivoactive 4. I’m running more frequently, seem to be improving as a runner, and that’s largely thanks to the motivation on my wrist.

I know it’s a bit materialistic because obviously you can run well without a watch, but this works well for me.

Categories
Games Mindsets People

Jocks playing Dungeons and Dragons

When you think about the types of people who play the game, you probably don’t think of jocks playing Dungeons and Dragons, but they do.

The stereotypical DnD player is probably a pimply teenager in their basement, or something, but this doesn’t give you an accurate picture of who is playing the game these days at all.

I’ve started getting back into Dungeons and Dragons in the last few weeks, and I really like how the game has evolved, and is very much going strong.

The people who are championing the game are diverse, and passionate about it.

I’ve just started watching some streamed DnD games, and really enjoyed this streamed game featuring Jocks Machina from June 2018:

There’s a great background interview for this game here, too:

I love this paradigm shift where people like these burly actors and sports professionals, who you wouldn’t expected to be into DnD, are super passionate about it.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Alex Chambers
Categories
Devices Sports Wellbeing

Switching from a Fitbit Charge to a Garmin Vivoactive 4

Change happens

As you may remember, I bought a Fitbit Charge 3 in October 2018. I hadn’t worn a watch, let alone a fitness tracker like this, before that. I soon came to enjoy having it, and the data it gave me.

Unfortunately, the screen stopped working soon after the warranty expired on the device, and I made the decision to switch to a Garmin Vivoactive 4. I’ve had the Vivoactive 4 for a few weeks now, and I’m really enjoying it.

My failing Fitbit Charge 3

My Fitbit worked really well for most of the time that I’ve owned it. I found the data I received from it when I exercised (whether that was running, walking, or something else) to be great motivation to get back out there and do more exercise.

I noticed that the device started becoming a bit sluggish when I swiped the screen while running sometime in November. I would swipe the screen to switch to a different option, and it would take a moment longer to change.

I went for a run after my 5km race, and the device just stopped responding to my gestures, and I basically lost the tracking on the run between trying to get it to respond, and just giving up.

My disabled Fitbit Charge 3

Following the recommended troubleshooting steps helped the first time, and seemed to restore the device to normal functioning. Unfortunately, it failed again, and this time the screen stopped responding altogether.

Troubleshooting steps for the Fitbit Charge 3

These are the troubleshooting steps the Fitbit Support team recommended:

  1. Connect the device to the charging cable.
  2. While the device is plugged into the charging cable, press and hold the button down for 15 seconds.
  3. The device turns on and shows a battery icon. Two vibrations occur: first a short vibration, then a medium vibration.
  4. The device turns off.
  5. The device turns on and shows a progress bar and short vibrations occur. The progress bar completes. Note: A total of 7 short vibrations occur.
  6. Remove the device from the charging cable. The device shuts down.
  7. Important: Plug the device into the charging cable again.

I reached out to the Fitbit Support team on Twitter. They were pretty responsive, and were clearly trying to help me out. Ultimately, though, the device was out of warranty, so they couldn’t really do much more.

They suggested that I purchase a new Fitbit device. I considered going for the Fitbit Versa 2, but I was reluctant to buy another device that could die just outside its warranty period.

Researching alternatives to the Fitbit Charge 3

As you may gather, by this point I wanted something more than a simple tracker, so I started exploring something closer to a smart watch/fitness watch.

In the meantime, the Fitbit was still tracking my biometrics passively, so I still wore the device for step, and sleep tracking until my new device arrived.

I narrowed my options down to the Vivoactive 4, and the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. In the reviews I watched, both received great feedback. Here are some of the reviews that I found helpful:

Galaxy Watch Active 2

Vivoactive 4

I made my choice

I ultimately decided to go for the Vivoactive 4 because it seemed like a more robust fitness tracker, with smart watch features. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 seemed to be a smart watch first, with fitness tracking features.

I also liked that the Vivoactive 4 seemed to have better battery life, and offers a lot more data. The data really appealed to me.

So I ordered the device earlier this month from a local reseller, and switched over to it almost right away. For the most part, I really like this device, and I’m glad I chose it.

I won’t go into specs, and details. You can find plenty of that information in the reviews I shared above (and many others). Instead, I’ll share some thoughts and experiences.

Nitpicking the Vivoactive 4

As much as I like the device, there are a couple small issues that detract from the experience a little. To begin with, the sleep tracking doesn’t seem to be as accurate as the Fitbit. I wore both devices one night, and noticed a few differences between the data I received.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 sleep tracking data
Garmin Vivoactive 4 sleep tracking data
Fitbit Charge 3 sleep tracking data
Fitbit Charge 3 sleep tracking data

Subjectively, the Fitbit seemed to be more accurate. I’ve noticed that my Garmin seems to regard anything short of actually getting out of bed and walking around to be part of the sleep cycle. If I lie in bed reading, for example, it tends to think I’m still sleeping.

I’ve started manually editing my wake times for a little more accuracy.

I like the Vivoactive’s Stress Tracking and Body Battery features (tracking stress levels, and energy levels, respectively), although I’m not sure how accurate they are. They roughly correspond with how I feel at a given point in time, but they either seem to exaggerate levels, or understate them.

Still, as general indicators, they can be helpful.

What I really like about the Vivoactive 4

In general, I really like this device. It looks great, it’s comfortable to wear, and I find it pretty easy to operate.

Garmin Vivoactive 4
Garmin Vivoactive 4

I’ve had some fun switching between watch faces to find a watch face that offers me enough data points. The one above is called Crystal. It’s pretty customisable, and gives me all the data points I want to have at a glance.

I’m currently using Simple TDB that has a cleaner look, and with enough data points to persuade me to stick with it.

Simple TDB watch face
Simple TDB watch face

Using the Vivoactive 4 to track my runs is really easy. I push the top button, wait a few seconds for the GPS to start tracking, and then run.

It’s really easy to see a number of data points when running, at a glance, and my watch quickly sends my activity data up to Strava when I finish a run. By contrast, the Fitbit Charge 3 had to connect through my phone for GPS tracking, and that didn’t always work.

If my phone’s Bluetooth wasn’t working well at the time (which happens at times), I’d had to restart my phone to get it to sync correctly. My Garmin still uses the phone to send data to Strava, but it seems to sync more reliably.

I also really like that I have built-in GPS!

Performance

The device’s battery life really depends on what you’re using. If you’re running with music, and GPS, you’ll probably need to charge in a day or two.

On the days when I’m not running (and using GPS), the watch goes for a few days before I need to charge it. The battery life isn’t quite like the Fitbit Charge 3, but it’s ok.

It takes an hour, at most, to charge the Vivoactive 4, and then I’m ready to go again. I’ll often charge it while I’m working, or watching TV.

Is it right for you?

Just based on what I know about Garmin’s fitness trackers/watches in this price range, the Vivoactive 4 seems to be a sort of “general” use device. It handle fitness tracking for a large number of activities pretty well, and it’s a good fit for me.

If you’re a dedicated runner, it will probably be great for you, too. At the same time, I found this comparison between the Vivoactive 4 and the Forerunner 245 to be really interesting from the perspective of additional features that the Forerunner has for, well, runners:

I’m really happy with my purchase, and I’ve been for a few runs with it already. As I had hoped, being able to track my activity is motivating me to get out there more often (which is the point).

Categories
People Photography Travel and places

Serendipitous discovery leads to David Tewes photographic exhibition

Your Shutter bug

Chris Finke, a colleague at Automattic, discovered a box of slides that were taken by the late David Tewes, Chris’ father-in-law’s cousin while Chris and his wife were going through his late father-in-law’s things.

According to MPR News

On a spring day three years ago, Chris and Christina Finke were clearing out a building on the hobby farm near Mayer. It belonged to Christina’s dad, Doug Tewes, who had died a few years before.

“We’re deciding, you know, what stuff is going to go to Goodwill? What are we going to try and sell? What are we going to get rid of?” Chris Finke recalled.

Then he spotted something different on a shelf, in the back of the attic, where the roof met the wall. It was a hard-sided case. Inside were hundreds of old photographic slides.

Hidden for decades, work of Minnesota photographer gets its own museum exhibit | MPR News

Chris’ discovery prompted him to scan the slides, and publish them on a website, David Tewes, Shutterbug – The Mid-Century Photography of David Tewes, where the staff at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona noticed them, and reached out to Chris about exhibiting them.

The collection is a wonderful series of snapshots of mid-20th century America.

This collection appeals to me because it’s a wonderful reminder about the importance of preserving our memories as we travel through this life.

It also reminds of of my goal of digitising my late father’s slides. My Dad’s photography may not be exhibition-worthy, but they contain priceless memories from my family.

Chris has licensed the photographs under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license:

Creative Commons Licence
Shutter Bug by David Tewes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://davidtewes.com.
Categories
Events and Life Mindsets

The challenge of sending kids to school when you work remotely

This tweet basically encapsulates the challenge of trying to persuade kids to go to school when you work remotely (and from home):

8 yr old this am: I don’t want to go back to school.

Me: Everyone would rather stay home in their pajamas, kiddo. Me too.

Him: But you do stay home all day in your pajamas. Plus they pay you.

Me: ... Here comes the bus!

In discussions like these, you just need to resort to your authority as the parent … 😂

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