I was so inspired by Amanda Gorman’s poem today that I decided to write one of my own! I call it the Dawn of a New Era:

Today is a glorious day, oh, yes it is, a glorious day indeed
The peaceful transfer of power they could not impede

Try as they might, they will never succeed
We will always put up a fight, fill the need

Do whatever it will take
Even if sacrifices we must make

To ensure that our long national nightmare finally comes to an end
A country that never broke, will never break, even if we did bend

Our courage was tested, our strength put to the test
A call that we answer as we get to work, no time to rest

There is much to be done
The fight is far from won

To rebuild that which he did wreck
The time has come for a gut check

Times are tough
Conditions are rough
But we are made of the right stuff

Courage, integrity, heart, compassion
No matter what we will always win

Even with challenges on every side
Even if nowhere to go, nowhere to hide

It won’t be easy, that which is worth it never is
But we will prevail from our homes to our biz

From coast to coast, sea to shining sea
The best version of ourselves we will be

A stark contrast from the last four years
A cost we paid in blood, sweat, and tears

At times our moral compass was lost
Some of our souls sold for a cost

America made worse, not great again
Damage done with harmful words, the stroke of a pen

Logic and reason separated from truth and reality like a red sea parted
400,000 citizens lost without a war ever being started

But in the end truth and justice shall prevail
As we try to cure that which makes us ail

It’s always darkest before the dawn
But now there is light; hope its spawn

It’s a new day; so strike up the band
A country divided can not stand

And now it doesn’t have to
From Biden we will take our cue

Love trumps hate in these parts
No place for darkness in our hearts

The worst is over, the best yet to come
Now that we’ve gotten rid of that bum

22-Year-Old Poet Amanda Gorman Reads At Inauguration
Maybe I could be the next Poet Laureate

As the Trump Presidency ends (thankfully) and the Biden one begins (finally) there’s a lot on my mind. Rather than write an essay I thought I would just drop all my thoughts here:

The Pandemic:

  • I think the Trump administration’s inept handling of the pandemic and especially the vaccine rollout will wind up being a much bigger story/scandal. Once we get past it and are able to catch our breathe and analyze what happened I think we will be blown away by how poorly this was handled.
  • To counteract that I would gave the vaccine to everyone as quickly as possible without restriction. If there are high risk, older people who roll up to a vaccination center, then yes, let them cut the line. But on any given day, just round up as many willing people as you can. We should never be in a situation where doses are going unused or discarded. This should be an all hands on deck war-time situation.
  • I also don’t understand why people aren’t more angry at their fellow citizens for not wearing masks, flouting restrictions, and having this drag on so long? Like why do we need federal or state guidelines to tell us what to do? Why aren’t local communities policing themselves and just peer pressuring each other into doing the right thing? This points to a much bigger societal issue in my opinion: the fact that we’ve all become so selfish. We only think of ourselves, the individual, and not the collective good.
  • 400,000 people have died so far in America alone. That number is likely to get to 500,000 at least. The New York Times called 100,000 deaths an incalculable amount. So what does that make 400,000? 500,000? At least we’re finally getting around (thanks to Biden) to honoring those we have lost. It was yet another telling sign of the Trump administration (and how little they think of anyone but themselves) that we never held a memorial until now.
  • I don’t understand why Trump’s second impeachment is solely focused on him inciting the Capital riot. All of his other transgressions, including his handling of the pandemic, should have been included as well.

The Capitol Attack:

  • Similarly, I don’t understand why if we are talking about how his speech could incite violence, we’re only focusing on the Capitol riot, and not the previous attacks that his hate and lies have inspired such as the shooting in El Paso and the synagogue attack in Pittsburgh.
  • There is a bigger issue at play here than just this one incident. What about the 70 million plus people who voted for Trump, who believed his lies about the election? Tens of millions of people have essentially joined a cult and have been radicalized. How do you save these people? At least the more moderate ones among them? The Republican party needs new leadership, people who can get them back on track. There needs to be a war of ideas within Conservativism.

The Trump Presidency:

  • Trump may not have started any wars but he still managed to kill over 400,000 Americans and turn Washington, D.C. into a war zone. And technically he did start a war: a war against information; a war against the truth.
  • I think a lot of people will have an epiphany and wind up realizing how foolish they were to follow him. People will try to distant themselves from him very quickly once he is no longer in power. There will be a very noticeable and high profile “reckoning” that will happen almost like another version of the Me Too Movement where people announce on social media that they too were duped.
  • On the other hand I can also see some people doubling down on aligning themselves with the Trump brand; even officially splitting from the Republican party and forming a Trumplican party. According to rumors Trump himself wants to start his own party called the Patriot Party.
  • We need to do something about the idea of Presidential Pardons. How is it fair to have someone pardon their accomplices in the crimes they committed?
  • A prediction: History will judge his presidency very harshly. He will be remembered as the worst President of all-time and will very likely wind up penny less and in jail.
  • At the very least we need to go through with Impeachment. It doesn’t matter that he is no longer in office. There are other reasons to impeach: financial considerations, taking away his secret service detail, removing his ability to ever run for public office again, setting a precedent for behavior regardless of when it occurs, etc.

The Inaguration:

  • I heard a great idea online the other day: if Trump won’t attend and partake in a peaceful transition of power than have George Bush and Barack Obama both do it in a bi-partisan way.
  • In a way Joe Biden is inheriting a terrible situation: a global pandemic, rising domestic extremism, Climate Change, a depressed economy, etc. But on the other hand this is also the easiest/best time to be President. By simply doing what is logical or by just reversing everything that Trump did, you would accomplish a ton and go down in history as one of the greatest presidents of all-time. There’s never been more opportunity to do good than right now. And Biden is already making great moves such as elevating science to a cabinet level position, rejoining the Paris accords, stopping the keystone pipeline, reversing the racist Muslim travel ban, rolling out a comprehensive vaccine plan, etc. All moves that were obvious to make.
  • Amanda Gorman’s poem was amazing. If you haven’t heard it yet you should check it out.
  • I think we need to move up the date of the Inauguration. The lame duck period between Election Day and Inauguration Day was way too long. That transition should be almost simultaneous.
Joe Biden inauguration: Washington prepares for historic day
There’s a lot going on right now.

COVID-19 may not be all doom and gloom after all. In fact, it may even lead to the creation of a new kind of pain medication. I know this sound counterintuitive considering how painful getting the coronavirus actually is but the research seems to indicate that it’s possible.

Scientist Rajesh Kanna from the University of Arizona explains in Discover Magazine:

“You might be wondering how my lab began to probe the connection between SARS-CoV-2 and pain. We were inspired by two preliminary reports that appeared on the preprint server BioRxiv that showed that the infamous spike proteins on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus bound to a protein called neuropilin-1. This means that the virus can also use this protein to invade nerve cells as well as through the ACE2 protein.

For the past year, some six months before the pandemic took hold, my colleagues and I had been studying the role of neuropilin-1 in the context of pain perception. Because neuropilin-1, like the ACE2 receptor, allowed spike to enter the cells, we wondered if this alternate gateway could also be related to pain.

Under normal circumstances, the neuropilin-1 protein controls the growth of blood vessels, and as well as the growth and survival of neurons.

However, when neuropilin-1 binds to a naturally occurring protein called called Vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A), this triggers pain signals. This signal is transmitted via the spinal cord into higher brain centers to cause the sensation we all know as pain.

Staring at this jigsaw puzzle – neuropilin-1 and VEGF-A and neuropilin and spike – we wondered if there was a link between spike and pain.

Previous research has shown a link between VEGF-A and pain. For people with osteoarthritis, for instance, studies have shown that increased activity of the VEGF gene in fluids lubricating joints, like the knee, is associated with higher pain scores.

Although activity of the neuropilin-1 gene is higher in biological samples from COVID-19 patients compared to healthy controls and activity of the neuropilin-1 gene is increased in pain-sensing neurons in an animal model of chronic pain, the role of neuropilin-1 in pain has never been explored until now.

In in vitro studies done in my lab using nerve cells, we showed that when spike binds to neuropilin-1 it decreases pain signaling, which suggests that in a living animal it would also have a pain-dulling effect.

When the spike protein binds to the neuropilin-1 protein, it blocks the VEGF-A protein from binding and thus hijack’s a cell’s pain circuitry. This binding suppresses the excitability of pain neurons, leading to lower sensitivity to pain.”

In fact, this may explain why the disease has been spread so easily as a ton of people who may have had it may have not felt any pain or discomfort, thought they were fine, and continued to go about their business. So if this is true that could be a significant game-changer, both for how we understand and treat the disease, and also for the chance that it could lead to something positive like a new pain medication.

What explains the non-respiratory symptoms seen in some COVID-19 patients?
Could COVID-19 lead to a new way to treat pain?

#2,066 – Brand-Aids

On the one hand I hate advertisements. How purposely catchy they are. How pervasive they are. The repetitive nature. Whether it’s watching TV, listening to the radio, taking in a baseball game, or standing at the gas pump advertisements are everywhere we go. A trend that’s likely only going to get worse thanks to Augmented Reality and the ability for targeted micro ads to follow us while we shop Minority Report style.

But on the other hand I also wonder why if this is common practice…why if we accept advertisements in our daily lives….why we don’t have even more advertisements in other places. Like on Toilet Paper. On the conveyor belt at the Grocery Store. On table cloths when we dine out. On our cars or clothes. On literally any and every flat or exposed surface we can think of. Well, soon there may be one more place that we’ll see an advertisement: our arms. Thanks to the idea of Brand-Aids. Special brand sponsors band-aids that would accompany your vaccination shot.

Danielle Baskin who achieved fame earlier this year designing masks that look like your face designed these as concept art but the idea is too good not to be real. As she writes on Twitter (@djbaskin): “Rolling out the vaccine is expensive. That’s why some countries are opting into the BRAND-AID® program. Corporations subsidize government costs by paying for a tiny ad that goes on people’s arms after the injection, so their brand can reach audiences at vaccination sites.”

She adds, “So many people will be Instagramming their bandaged arm right after they get the vaccine, so this is very valuable ad space. 1 vaccine = 1000s of potential impressions.”

Valuable indeed. If only they were real.

Are Brand Aids the Greatest Idea Ever?

Hallelujah! Praise the lord! Unlike the last four years, today there is reason for hope!

Not just because the horrifically corrupt and morally bankrupt Trump Administration is finally coming to an end after nearly destroying democracy. And not simply because the Presidency of Joe Biden is beginning. But rather, because science is returning to the forefront as well.

This means that a competent pandemic strategy and vaccination rollout plan is coming soon. As is a plan to combat Climate Change starting with the U.S. rejoining the Paris accords and shutting down the Keystone pipeline that not only violated the environment but also the native lands that it went through.

But the most important news of all is the news that science is getting elevated to a cabinet level position. Something that I’ve been calling for. As the New York Times puts it:

“Mr. Biden will nominate Eric S. Lander, the director of the Broad Institute of M.I.T. and Harvard, to serve as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and also appoint him to serve as presidential science adviser. For the first time, the position will be elevated to the cabinet level.

The appointments signal a drastic switch from the role of science in the Trump administration. President Trump left the position of science adviser empty for 18 months, while his administration routinely ignored the guidance of government scientists on issues including the coronavirus pandemic, chemical pollution and climate change.

Mr. Biden has made other White House appointments that could elevate the importance of science in decision-making, such as naming John Kerry, the former secretary of state and a Democratic senator, a special presidential envoy on climate change, and creating a new White House Office of Climate Policy led by Gina McCarthy, who served as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama.

‘Eric Lander is a true Renaissance scientist in his broad grasp of the many fields of science and their interrelationships,’ said Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences. ‘At a time when the nation and the world face complex challenges that will require harnessing the full power of physical, life, environmental, social, biomedical and engineering sciences, Eric is an inspired choice of a scientist of international stature to ensure that science guides sound policy.'”

And the idea itself of elevating science in the first place was an inspired choice as well. Inspired by how far we’ve fallen. How quickly we’ve lost our way. How much we still need to do. Hopefully this is just the beginning. The start of science and technology coming to the forefront, taking its rightful place in the public consciousness. Staying top of mind and at the head of government.

Biden elevates presidential science advisor to Cabinet-level position –  Ballotpedia News
The return of science is a big deal.

The best part about CES is seeing what the next generation of tech may look like. These products aren’t necessarily on the verge of coming out. Sometimes they’re just prototypes. But despite their uncertainty there is often a sense of inevitability. Such as with the new class of rollable phones that debuted this year.

Wired sums it up best:

“For more than a decade, smartphone designers have stuck closely to the humble rectangular slab. Yet of late, manufacturers are experimenting with wilder forms. We’ve seen devices with multiple displays, phones of different shapes, and handsets of varying sizes. Last year, Samsung and Motorola made clamshell-shaped flip phones that opened up to look like normal smartphones. Even Microsoft waded into the weird end of the pool with the Duo, a book-like phone with dual displays connected by a vertical hinge in the center.

And now there’s a new trend in phone design: handsets with flexible screens that unroll to become larger. This week at CES 2021, TCL and LG both unveiled concepts for new phones with rolling screens.

What exactly is a ‘rollable’? The form can vary, but imagine having the ability to expand a phone’s display by pulling on it vertically or horizontally to increase its surface area. Think of it like removing plastic wrap from its container. That’s what TCL and LG showed off. It’s not hard to recognize the benefits. Unlike folding phones, which are thick in their closed state since the rigid screens stack on top of each other, a rollable phone can start out slim. An ultra-compact phone with a rollable screen can grow into the size of a traditional smartphone and then shrink back down with a gentle two-handed tug or push.”

Personally, I’m a big fan of this concept, especially as the technology continues to advance, as we could one day get to the point where our phones our virtually miniscule and then unfurl into a variety of sizes to fit our needs. Let the good times roll!

Foldable phones are so 2020 — LG's stunning rollable just revealed | Tom's  Guide
Is a rollable phone the Greatest Idea Ever?

The other day I wrote about the MaskFone, a mask that helps you make phone calls. Now comes Project Hazel from video game accessory maker Razer which will help project your voice so that people can more easily hear you when you have a mask on, often people’s #1 complaint about wearing masks.

The Verge explains:

“Razer claims to have made the world’s smartest mask: its new reusable N95 respirator called Project Hazel. It’s a concept design with a glossy outside shell made of waterproof and scratch-resistant recycled plastic, which is transparent to allow for lip-reading and seeing facial cues when you chat with people.

Currently, there isn’t a price or release date attached. Razer refers to Project Hazel as a surgical N95, but it hasn’t yet earned any of the necessary approvals and certifications from the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In a statement to The Verge, Razer said it is working with a team of medical experts and scientists who are helping to develop the mask.

The main features of this mask lie within its two circular zones that flank your mouth. They’re used for ventilation, giving the device an almost futuristic gas mask look. Razer claims Project Hazel will use active disc-type ventilators, filtering air that’s breathed in, as well as the CO2 that’s being exhaled. The company adds that it will be certified to filter 95 percent of airborne particles, including the COVID-19 virus and other common pathogens.

These ventilators are detachable and rechargeable, though Razer is still hammering out the details on two very important factors: how long they’ll be effective and how Razer will alert the user when it’s time for a new one. A spokesperson told The Verge that the ventilators’ longevity is still being tested, and when the filters need to be changed, Razer envisions users being notified via a mobile companion app.

Microphones and amplifiers embedded in the ventilators will project your voice through the mask, so you won’t have to worry about sounding muffled…Razer told us that it’s working with THX sound engineers to find a balance in terms of how loud the speakers should be for accessibility purposes.

Razer asserts that Project Hazel is comfortable despite all of the tech inside. The mask makes a seal around your nose and chin with a silicon guard, and it uses adjustable ear loops so that most people should be able to find the right fit (though it is likely quite a bit heavier than your average mask).”

My favorite part of the mask is one that the Verge didn’t mention: the fact that it automatically lights up when it’s dark out. Now we can be safe and look cool doing it. Thanks Razer!

Razer Project Hazel
Is Project Hazel the Greatest Idea Ever?

On the one hand automation is bad as it takes jobs away from humans who need them. But at the same time it also could be a good thing, especially if it frees up humans to do other more meaningful jobs or pursue their creative passions. Which is exactly what might happen thanks to Samsung’s new line of household chore robots.

As Mashable puts it:

“Would you rather: Have a robot that completes all your household chores or one that keeps track of your work schedule? Well, thanks to Samsung, you might be able to have both. At CES, the company unveiled two new robots called Bot Handy and Bot Care

Bot Handy is capable of recognizing and grabbing all types of objects throughout the house. That means you can assign it to load the dishwasher, put away groceries, and pick up laundry. Best of all, it can pour you a glass of wine.

Then there’s Bot Care, which has a flip-up display attached to its head so that you can stream video calls. Sure, it’s helpful to have a personal assistant around to keep up with virtual appointments. But its reminders to stand up and stretch kind of make it a buzzkill.”

Of the two concepts I much prefer Bot Handy on account of how useful it could become. Almost like a real-life version of Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons.

The Gadget Flow explains how it works:

“Most of us need some more help around the house. But to avoid hiring a professional to enter your property, Samsung Bot Handy uses AI technology to recognize and grip objects. This provides an extension to helping you with chores around the house. Bot Handy can even differentiate between different materials and objects. Therefore, it applies the perfect amount of grip to avoid breaking glass or items slipping out of its ‘hands’.”

It’s always seemed inevitable that robots would one day live among us or even beside us. For some this is a scary proposition, a reason for fear. But if these robots are going to clean up after us, provide us with companionship, and generally make our lives easier then I’m all for them.

CES 2021 brings Samsung Bot Handy and Bot Care : Are robots here to stay?
Is Bot Handy the Greatest Idea Ever?

What do you do when you feel like the world is falling apart? When everything around you is full of dread and despair with no hope in sight? Something that’s been a daily occurrence so far in 2021? Well, if you’re anything like me you eat ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream. A go to comfort food for anyone whose ever gone through a breakup or dealt with bad news. And soon, we’ll all be able to enjoy ice cream, and a whole host of other treats, quickly and easily, thanks to ColdSnap.

USA Today sums it up best:

“Here’s a reason to us all to scream for ice cream: a new device showcased at CES 2021 that can whip up frozen treats just like a Keurig does for coffee.

The ColdSnap looks and works just like the popular coffee makers, featuring pods users place to create desserts like soft-serve ice cream, frozen yogurt and frozen smoothies.

Here’s how it works: You place a single-serving pod into the machine, select ice cream, smoothie or cocktail, then wait roughly one or two minutes for your treat to freeze and dispense. The pods don’t require refrigeration, and have a minimum shelf life of about nine months.

The machine can also make frozen coffee, frozen cocktails and slushies, according to a description on the company’s website.”

Sounds good to me. Now if you’ll excuse me, all this talk about ice cream has got me craving some the old fashioned way: two scoops of chocolate/vanilla best of both worlds from Fry’s!

Finally you can have ice cream at home thanks to ice cream pods - The Verge
Is ColdSnap the Greatest Idea Ever?

There were a ton of mask innovations in 2020 as we saw masks made from bacteria, masks that sanitize the air around them, and masks that translate languages. Not to be outdone, 2021 has now introduced to us a mask that enables you to make phone calls.

As Wired puts it:

“Surely we’ve all had the experience over the past 10 months of trying to take a phone call while wearing a protective face mask, and sounding garbled the whole time. (And if you haven’t been wearing a face mask out in public, well, you should.) Hong Kong–based electronics company Binatone thinks it has a solution. 

A product called MaskFone—which was teased last fall but is making its ‘official debut’ during CES this week—combines a machine-washable fabric mask with an N95 filter, a built-in microphone, and attached earbuds, so you can pop them in as needed and experience clearer-sounding phone calls. If you don’t want earbuds dangling alongside your mask when they’re not in use, you can attach them to the mask’s magnetized cable clip. And if you sync the mask to Binafone’s mobile app, Hubble Connected, you can bark your Alexa or Google Assistant commands directly into your mask.”

As unnecessary as this probably is it’s also a lot better than the alternative I’ve been seeing: people taking off their masks in order to facilitate calls. This is the world we find ourselves in now. One in which we risk our lives to do simple tasks. So, if this is going to be our new normal we might as well make it fit our needs.

Maskfone is a facemask that lets you make phone calls - Domus
Is MaskFone the Greatest Idea Ever?