Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Author Archives: David Thomas Peacock

If We Can Alter Our Genome, Why Can’t We Control Monkeypox?

We all saw this play out in March and April of 2020 with COVID, yet here we are again, making the same mistakes with Monkeypox. Caught up in the last mess as an ER nurse, It seemed like we failed completely. How could we have been so unprepared?

Watching the current crisis unfold, it occurs to me I wasn’t factoring in one important variable.

Solving problems in the lab is very different than solving them in the real world. Once your cohort becomes the entire population of the country, much less the planet, it becomes exponentially more difficult to control.

Labs are orderly. People are messy.

This is not to make excuses for the apparent failures of our government and public health agencies. Rather, it’s just an acknowledgement of why the problem of controlling viral outbreaks seems to fail with depressing regularity.

It’s true we eradicated smallpox and polio, but that was in a time before the Internet, and both of those initiatives took years, if not decades, to implement.

Of course, back then there were no social networks, no tsunami of misinformation, and no ability to attempt to fact-check epidemiology much less immunology. Two topics, BTW, that cannot be fully understood by trained medical professionals, much less the population at large.

Sadly, controlling global populations seems to be a fools game at worst, or a process taking years at best.

In the meantime, try to avoid skin on skin contact with other humans.

The Falling Price of Technology

In 1983, Yamaha released the DX7, a groundbreaking new form of synthesis. The first affordable digital synthesizer, it would help define the sound of pop music for the next decade. It cost $1,995.

In 2002, Native Instruments were the leader in developing software instruments. Some were original designs, some recreations of hardware. That year they released their emulation of Yamaha’s DX7, calling it FM7 and adding many new features that wouldn’t have been possible in hardware. It sold for $350.

Today, I got an email advertising a sale. Native Instruments FM7 is now available for $10.

Yeah, you heard right. $10.

Keep Moving

So you’re working on something, and now you’re stuck. Maybe it’s a startup, maybe it’s a book, maybe it’s just an idea and you’re not even sure where to begin.

Just keep moving. Do whatever seems to be the best choice, even if it turns out to be wrong. You can always correct course later.

Here’s why this is so important: it’s in the process of trying that the correct solution will present itself.

Stasis equals certain death.

Chaos

Honest to God chaos. No room to walk. Can’t hear yourself think. Just people everywhere in various states of need. Some patient, some quite angry. “Go away or I’ll kill you.” Mental note: needs Haldol. Five milligrams. Stat. Maybe two of Ativan for good measure. No need for anyone else to get hurt.

Who gets seen first? The sickest ones. Broken bone ain’t sick. No pulse = sick. Kidney stone not as sick as O2sat of 78. No pulse = dead but maybe we can get ‘em back. Top of the list. O2 sat of 78 next.

Angry man with homicidal intent?

Security will handle that. Mental note: fresh-baked cookies for security this Christmas.

Ever Wonder Why Nurses Leave the Profession?

”I love swimming laps for exercise and do it regularly when I can. Imagine, though, that the water at my regular pool was suddenly so cold that I could barely stand it or, alternatively, so hot I felt myself overheating to the point of being unwell. Doing laps might still be good exercise but it wouldn’t feel good and would be harder than necessary.

Imagine if I complained about the temperature of the water and was told that maintaining a working thermostat for the pool wasn’t in the budget. Then picture how I would feel if the time available for swimming kept getting shorter and shorter, and when I complained about that, I was told that I just needed to swim harder and faster in the lessened time available. Add in that every swim required a long computer assessment, and the time it took to complete the assessment came off the time allotted for my swim.

Finally, imagine that the pool fired all the lifeguards to save money and one day, another swimmer got into trouble and drowned, and I tried to save them but couldn’t get to that person in time.

If after all that, someone asked me, “Do you want to keep swimming for exercise?” I would of course answer yes, emphatically, but not in that place. The problem is, from what I hear anecdotally, working as a nurse in so many hospitals right now is very similar to swimming in that underresourced pool.”

– Theresa L. Brown, PhD, BSN, RN

Here’s an Idea

What if you just start with nothing and see where it goes?

Like maybe the best shit is just waiting to come out without you getting in the way and fucking it up?

Hmmm…

“If you’re going to work on something as long as a novel, it has to explore some unresolved aspect of you, so that even if it never sells, never makes any money, never gets any attention, you still have a therapeutic benefit of fully exploring and exhausting that unresolved part of you.”

– Chuck Palahniuk

Doing The Work

Here’s the truth: the work is the fun part.

Kinda seems counterintuitive, but there’s a fortuitous logic to it, since the work is the only part you really have any control over.

Immersion

When telling any story – whether the medium is film, literature, or music – this is the goal, right? You want a completely immersive experience for the audience. The whole thing must be so compelling they cannot look away. So compelling that time seems to slow down. So compelling that a three hour movie can seem like thirty minutes.

So how does this happen?

By layering depth into the experience that’s transparent to the viewer. By triggering memory and the senses, by asking questions that the audience wants to know the answer to – even if it’s on a subliminal level.

“You Were Never Really Here,” directed by Lynn Ramsay, is an excellent example of this. Questions are raised at the beginning that the viewer wants resolution for, but Lynn doesn’t answer these questions in an obvious way. Yet because the film engages us on so many levels, we never lose interest.

Art, like life, should leave us with more questions than answers, while at the same time giving us some resolution.

Because without the resolution, what’s the point?

Lost in the Weeds

(Muttering to self)
There’s a goddamn book in here somewhere…

(Sound of objects being roughly slammed against a hard surface, agitated male voice trying but failing to suppress rage)
It’s time to get a little order around here!

Yet Another Benefit of Blogging

A blog is to writing as a speech is to talking. Which is to say, one form of communication is labored over and refined and one is not.

When I started this five years ago, I didn’t overthink it. I just jumped in, wrote something everyday, and moved on. Even when I started writing fiction, it took a while before the penny dropped and I understood what I was missing.

Editing? What’s that?

Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

The thing is, though, spontaneously writing down your thoughts into cohesive sentences exercises a very specific muscle. When you do it a lot, the process begins to feel quite natural.

Writing short stories or long-form fiction, on the other hand, would seem to be an entirely different animal. Or is it? The first draft is similar in the sense that (at least for me) there’s not a lot of pre-meditation. After that, the disciplines diverge. Rewriting and editing are slow and laborious, requiring significant left-brain engagement. Iteration after iteration, the thing slowly begins to take shape. The more you do it, the more you realize how crude the first draft was.

And if that’s all you did, one might be left feeling quite insecure about one’s ability to write anything worth reading. It’s not a good place to find yourself.

But after writing and posting well over 500,000 words on my blog, that’s not where I’m at. Is everything I’ve posted good? Probably not. Am I ashamed of any of it? Hell no. Do I think some of it is really interesting, maybe even better than good? Yes, I do.

At the end of the day, this is where I became a writer. And the whole glorious mess is there for the public to see.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Scratch That Itch

You know you want to. The more you ignore it, the more you’re going to think about doing it. Perseverating. The desire rolling around in your mind like a persistent fly you can’t seem to get rid of.

Do it.

You don’t have to tell anyone – it’ll be our little secret.

You only live once.

RRR

Alright, I’m going out on a limb here – for the sheer density of absolute balls-to-the-wall thrills and spectacle, this might be the most entertaining movie ever made.

Writer-director S. S. Rajamouli’s Telugu-language 2022 epic RRR (Rise, Roar, Revolt) is about two India freedom fighters rising up against British colonialism in the 1920s. It’s streaming on Netflix, I heard about on Joe Dante and Josh Olsen’s film podcast, “Movies That Made Me.”

Holy fuck – I don’t even know where to begin. How about here: it’s three hours long and seems like thirty minutes. You don’t want it to end.

Classic mythic storyline involving the oppressed rising up against their oppressors, incredible fight sequences, CGI used for maximum delight, singing, dancing, beautiful set/costume design, two blindingly charismatic lead actors, and some very evil antagonists. I probably left something out, but you get the idea.

If you can, just watch it. If you’re not entertained, check your pulse. You must be dead.

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls

Holy shit is this a great book. It’s poetically indelible in a way you won’t soon forget.

I don’t mean great like “That’s a pretty great (movie, album, book, art piece, etc.).

No, I mean jaw-dropping great. Great like a poetic literary writer who writes about the pain and beauty of being alive and about the universal experiences we all share.

Seriously — looking for a good book? If you’re human, you won’t be disappointed.

In Defense of Joe Rogan

I listened to The Joe Rogan Experience for years. Not all of them – mainly the ones with comedians and people from different fields of science. MMA and hunting? Not really a topics of interest for me.

I discovered Sam Harris, Rhonda Patrick, Nicholas Christakis, William von Hipple, Lex Fridman, Eric Weinstein, scientists from the fields of evolutionary biology, A.I., and medicine. I’ve read many books from interesting people I discovered on his podcast.

I think it’s fair to say that one’s true nature will quickly be exposed in long-form conversations. By that metric, Joe Rogan is a thoughtful man, aware of his own limitations, someone who promotes love and empathy toward his fellow humans. He is quick to admit mistakes, and I’ve never heard him promote himself as an expert in anything other than MMA and comedy.

Yet I had to stop listening. Why? Because of COVID.

At first, chalked it up to my apocalyptic experience working on the frontlines at an ER on the border of Manhattan and the Bronx. What I and my fellow nurses and docs went through was beyond explanation. Death on a scale we’d never seen – and we were used to seeing death on a daily basis. We ran out of space for the corpses, wheeling one dead body out of a room only to have the next patient die.

I didn’t expect a comedian to understand that.

But look, here’s the thing. Public health isn’t an intuitive topic for Americans. We’re not a very caring nation as it is, so I get it.

Rogan’s massive popularity coinciding with the pandemic created a perfect storm for yet another failure of our ability to handle COVID. His tone-deaf ignorance on the subject led to the mess he’s in now.

Whether he fully understands it or not, his massive popularity comes with a responsibility to disseminate accurate information when it regards public health. But that’s a tall order for a comedian, isn’t it?

There is so much malicious disinformation in the world spewed by people with an agenda, I just don’t think Joe Rogan is one of them. Misguided? Yes, but who among is isn’t? Malicious? No.

Do I agree with everything he says? Of course not. But I don’t want to just listen to people I agree with. That’s not how life works. If I believe your heart’s in the right place and you try to be a decent person, that’s good enough for me.

His greatest sin was getting too popular – which gave him more power than he ever asked for. So I wanted to go on the record and stand up for someone I genuinely believe is a good person. I may not listen to his podcast much anymore, but I respect and like him.

Life is complicated. Some times we find ourselves in over our heads and then say things we shouldn’t.

Let’s have a little understanding here.