We Can Protect the Economy From Pandemics. Why Didn’t We?


The remoteness of the risk is always the hardest part to get our heads around. Our past moments of calm or our current nightmare, like the last coin flip or turn of the roulette wheel, tell us nothing about when the next one might arrive. One in 500 years isn’t a prophesy, just a probability. If anything, as Wolfe pointed out when I first met him over a decade ago, global warming, urbanization, and destruction of species habitats are only accelerating the speed at which the next pandemic may arrive.

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Evan Ratliff — Wired

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How to Keep Complaints from Spreading


Which tactic worked best? Apologies and requests to switch to a private channel generally lowered virality, as long as they were communicated right away. Offering to compensate an unhappy customer had the opposite effect—a result that took the researchers by surprise. Expert opinion is mixed regarding the use of compensation as a service-recovery tool; it might ease a complaining customer’s frustration, the researchers say, but if companies suggest compensation immediately, other members of the community may see it as an opportunity to post a complaint in the hope of receiving something from the company themselves.

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Dennis Herhausen, Stephan Ludwig, Dhruv Grewal, Jochen Wulf, and Marcus Schoegel – HBR

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What If Working From Home Goes on … Forever?


What if, just what if..

The truth, as I heard from many of the newly remote workers I interviewed, is that as much as our offices can be inefficient, productivity-killing spreaders of infectious disease, a lot of people are desperate to get back to them. At the Zoom “happy hour” at GoNoodle, when the employees talked about their newly renovated office, they sounded wistful. They yearned for the tricked-out kitchen, the plants and big dark couches, ideal for lounging. “We had this killer sound system,” Tracy Coats said, with a sigh. She’s an extrovert, she said, who longs to hang out with her “peeps.” “You know — we’re drinking coffee, or maybe, Hey, want to take a walk? I miss that.”

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Clive Thompson — The New York Times Magazine

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A Début Novel’s Immersive Urgency


Seems like a great debut novel.

Majumdar marshals a much smaller cast of speakers than Faulkner did, and her spare plot moves with arrowlike determination. It begins with a crime, continues with a false charge and imprisonment, and ends with a trial. The book has some of the elements of a thriller or a police procedural, but one shouldn’t mistake its extraordinary directness and openness to life with the formulaic accelerations of genre: Majumdar’s novel is compelling, yet its compulsions have to do with an immersive present rather than with a skidding sequence. Her characters start telling us about their lives, and those lives are suddenly palpable, vital, voiced. I can’t remember when I last read a novel that so quickly dismantled the ordinary skepticism that attends the reading of made-up stories. Early Naipaul comes to mind as a precursor, and perhaps Akhil Sharma’s stupendously vivid novel “Family Life.” Sharma has spoken of how he avoided using “sticky” words—words involving touch and taste and smell—so as to enable a natural velocity; Majumdar finds her own way of achieving the effect.

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James Wood — The New Yorker

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The Art of Being Alone


In The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, Olivia Laing tells the stories of a number of artists who led isolated lives and found meaning in their work even if their relationships couldn’t fulfill them. While she focuses specifically on visual artists in New York over the last seventy years, their methods of using their loneliness and transmitting it into their art carry wide resonance. These particular artists tapped into sentiments many of us will experience at least once in our lives. They found beauty in loneliness and showed it to be something worth considering, not just something to run from.

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Farnam Street

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Why People Loot


There was a video of some people driving in a luxury SUV and then looting. Why does looting come along with many protests?

The style and organization of a protest can also encourage—or discourage—vandalism. Fisher and Ray have found that protests that are preplanned and have coherent leadership tend to result in less vandalism than spontaneous protests that lack a central message. Without a formal structure or norms for behavior, protests can spin out, especially after dark. In fact, one way to prevent looting during a protest is just to call it a “vigil,” a word that connotes quiet and calm. Take the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C., as an example: The demonstration had a set agenda, speakers, and protest path, and was unusually peaceful. Today’s protests are more spontaneous, and the people involved have varying goals. “Some people want the three officers who haven’t been charged to be charged,” Ray said. “Some people want policing to just completely end, on the other end of the spectrum.”

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Olga Khazan — The Atlantic

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I miss the road


It is almost eighty days since I last went to my workplace. As I sit before my laptop on my dining table, logged on to Google Meet, I start feeling nostalgic.

Last 5 years, I had been commuting every weekday from Delhi to Gurgaon for work. This commute easily consumed 3-5 hours of my day. I would crib about this to all and sundry.

Initially, I tried using the Metro for my commute. But, standing in a queue at the station before boarding and then in the crowded train and finally haggling with auto-rickshaw-wallahs every day would suck the juice out of me. So, I switched to my car despite the pollution concerns in Delhi. Some days it would take me 2 hours one side, and my calf muscles would hurt after having driven in first gear for most of the journey.

Almost an year ago, I moved to Shuttl. I could book a seat on an AC bus for my ride. My travel time did not reduce but everyday exertion did. The best thing about using Shuttl was that it allowed me to slip into my own private zone.

I would reach my pickup point everyday at a fixed time. The bus driver Bhagwan, had started recognizing me. He would stop the bus and open the automatic bus doors and welcome me aboard with a smile. I would press the chirp button on my app and walk towards my more or less fixed window seat.

Once seated, I would put on my headset and listen to podcast related to daily news, business or spirituality. In the evenings, on my way back, I would prefer listening to audio books. I managed to listen to more than 10 audio books in last one year. One was The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection, which was almost 70 hours long and took me more than 2 months to complete.

On many days, I would doze off listening to these stories. At the start of my journey when I would be awake, a murder would occur and all suspects would be introduced one by one. And then I would be sleeping during the entire investigation by Holmes and Watson. I would wake up 10 minutes before my drop point and manage to listen the final revelation – the name of the murderer. That was enough for me, mystery solved, time to move to another story.

I would see regular faces on the bus everyday. Some would acknowledge my presence with a smile. It was a nice small community of fellow travelers. I got to know some through the journeys and became good friends. Sometimes, I would overhear people talking loudly on their phone and get a peak into their lives outside the bus. I was even witness to love blossoming between two fellow commuters. Like many such stories, it reached a crescendo and then withered away.

But today, I am missing my bus seat and the hustle-bustle of the traffic. The one and a half hour I had to myself in the morning helped me recharge for the full day’s work. And the two hours in the evening, helped me forget about the day, slipping into my dreams. What I miss most is the human connection, I felt with fellow travelers and strangers on the road.

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That wonderful pen


I have always been very fond of pens. But, my taste and sensibilities have changed over the years. I have been in love with ball point pens, gel pens, roller ball pens, pilot pens and use & throw pens at various stages of my life. When any of my relatives asked my choice for a gift, I would invariably ask for a pen.

When I prepared for my engineering entrance exam, I would use cheap use & throw pens and would practice solving problems on the blank side of used papers. My father would bring loads of these waste papers from office. I would judge my preparation for the exam by looking at the number of used pens and the stacks of paper I had filled.

Using fountain pen was mandatory in our school. At that time, I would crave for ball point pens as they would help me write faster in exams. Fountain pens leaked a lot creating blue spots on my fingers and sometimes on my clothes.

But, ever since I became a salaried professional, I have started writing with fountain pens. I yearn for that old world charm of writing mindfully on a piece of paper in this age of touchscreen.

About 25 years ago, my father had taken me to the best stationery shop of the small town that we lived in. My heart had gone out to a fountain pen priced at Rupees 120. But, my father bought me a much cheaper pen as the pen was not affordable and I might have ruined it quickly.

The image of that pen is still imprinted on my mind. I have tried to look for it but have been unable to find it.

Today, I bought a nice German pen priced at Rupees 2,700 for myself. As I write this piece in my notebook with the ultra smooth German pen, my heart pines for that wonderful pen from my childhood.

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The heavy burden of social suffering


The sad reality

This is one of the worst man-made crisis in recent history.

There is something wrong with this world, and gravely, astonishingly wrong with our moral indifference to this daily denial of humanity to others. How is it that we, corporeal beings, equally vulnerable to pain and anguish, allow others to experience states that we will not accept for a minute? How can we accept a process of self-formation that simply fails to make us moral? How can a nation be built without sahahridyata (shared feelings, empathy)?How can a social structure exist that renders superfluous those very people who put their life and blood in maintaining it? Are we engaged in an archaic ritual of violence which we know to be incomplete without the sacrifice of the most precious, the most indispensable amongst us?

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Rajeev Bhargava — The Hindu

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Yes to Life, in Spite of Everything


“Viktor Frankl’s Lost Lectures on Moving Beyond Optimism and Pessimism to Find the Deepest Source of Meaning.”

Let us imagine a man who has been sentenced to death and, a few hours before his execution, has been told he is free to decide on the menu for his last meal. The guard comes into his cell and asks him what he wants to eat, offers him all kinds of delicacies; but the man rejects all his suggestions. He thinks to himself that it is quite irrelevant whether he stuffs good food into the stomach of his organism or not, as in a few hours it will be a corpse. And even the feelings of pleasure that could still be felt in the organism’s cerebral ganglia seem pointless in view of the fact that in two hours they will be destroyed forever. But the whole of life stands in the face of death, and if this man had been right, then our whole lives would also be meaningless, were we only to strive for pleasure and nothing else — preferably the most pleasure and the highest degree of pleasure possible. Pleasure in itself cannot give our existence meaning; thus the lack of pleasure cannot take away meaning from life, which now seems obvious to us.

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Maria Popova — brainpickings

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