The Premonition

The Premonition

At the end of one crunch-time project, I noted (or complained, I don't remember) that we could have done some things better, and my manager said "Well, it all worked out in the end." That's par for the course in software project management, but it all works out until it doesn't work out, which is one of the lessons in Michael Lewis's The Premonition (other lessons: schools are too crowded, exponential doesn't just mean "a lot", you shouldn't have voted for Trump you dummies, etc)

It's a timely piece on the pandemic, but as I finished it just before a bout of stomach flu which I'm still recovering from ("24-hour flu" my ass), it's particularly fresh in my mind. Like, OK now we have covid vaccines, how about one for gastroenteritis?

The book is a lively read, somehow instilling what would normally be the drudgery of math and public health policy with suspenseful drama by vividly chronicalling the warriors (they are depicted as warriers) who presciently warned of a pandemic and the consquences of acting too slowly before this pandemic and who warned of this pandemic  and the consquences of acting too slowly when it seemed everyone else was still downplaying it.

As expected with a Lewis book, it's ready-made for film, even though we've been living this movie, replete with heroes (if there wasn't a superhero named Charity Dean there should be one) and villains, and not just the Trump administration. In particular, the CDC appears almost criminally negligent, and Sonia Angell comes off as an incompetent health professional (health director of California) and a political hack propped up by the politics of the Newsom administration.

I'd like to see some other treatments for a possibly more balanced view (Angell does have a distinguished track record as far as I can tell, and the complaints that she was selected for her ethnicity is always a suspicious complaint).

Case in point, Lewis does single out another author for doing a hatchet job on former CDC director David Sencer for his role in the swine flu epidemic that didn't happen, who was maligned for mounting a vaccination effort that turned out to be unnecessary, because, you know, it all worked out in the end.

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