When You Don’t Listen To Experts

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread throughout the world, I have been thinking about the many experts I follow online. Twitter is a great place to find people from all walks of life, especially experts in various fields like science, medicine, finance, and more. There are types of experts that appear to be very smart, and likely are, but do not look good in worlds current situation. The experts I am referring to are “macro” and “geopolitical” experts, since the outbreak of Covdi-19 many of “macro” experts are revealing their inadequacies.

Macro experts are people that talk about macro events and policies. These people usually talk about geopolitics and economics. When talking about geopolitics they will discuss what entire “countries” are doing and what they should be doing. I put countries in quotes because these experts will use some data points or government policy to represent the entirety of a country’s actions. In many ways I have respect for some of the experts, they appear to have much more knowledge about various countries and policies than I do, but the pandemic we see spreading across the world has revealed major problems with these so-called geopolitical “experts”.

When Covid-19 began spreading across China, most of the geopolitical experts I follow were advocating that America do not shut down flights from China. These experts still do not advocate for Americans to prepare for a possible disruption. The experts only think in cost-benefit terms, usually on macro-economic levels. Therefore they do not want to see economic slow down at the behest of virus preparation. What the geopolitical experts fail to account for is uncertainty and the exponential nature of this viral outbreak.

Complexity researchers and people such as Nassim Taleb have warned since the initial outbreak that do to uncertainty and the downsides of inaction, the spread of a potentially very dangerous virus could be catastrophic. They understood that the virus spread will be non-linear, the spread will multiply exponentially if unchecked. Additionally, Taleb and others pointed to downstream effects of the outbreak, such as hospital overload and disruption. If too many people go to the hospital simultaneously, the public health system could break down and many more people could die. However this this type of thinking is not common among the geopolitical “experts” who believe the virus is merely “hyped up”.

Instead, the geopolitical experts have been touting the virus as “panic” and “hysteria”, but they could be wrong. If Taleb and complexity researchers like Joe Norman are wrong then people have prepared for a pandemic, and maybe their blood pressure was a little elevated. If the geopolitical “experts” are wrong then millions of people could die because they did not realize how dangerous the virus was.

Therefore I choose not to listen to many of these so-called “experts”. I would rather be ready and not use my preparations than need preparations and not have them.

Letting A Crisis Go To Waste

There was a famous statement made by former Major of Chicago and former Chief of Staff to President Barak Obama, Rahm Emanuel. He said “never let a serious crisis go to waste.” Though Rahm Emanual was talking about finance and politics, we now find ourselves in a pandemic crisis, and Americans squandered precious time to prepare for the incoming crisis caused by the Coronavirus.

Lock-downs on a biblical scale began taking hold of China back in January, just before Lunar New Year. At that time, many people outside of Asia did not know what was happening. In fact, even in Asia people were struggling with the reality, out of the blue sixty million people were suddenly locked into their homes over fears of catching a virus. As January came to an end, the lock-downs and quarantines spread throughout China. People in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and many more cities were told to stay home. Factories in most places were shut down, and schools were cancelled until further notice.

As the situation in China unfolded I was in Taiwan, but began frequently communicating with friends and family back in the United States. I continuously explained that the situation in China was very serious and people should prepare. Upon returning to the U.S. I found that most people had no idea what happening in China, and had no sense of urgency to prepare for international spread.

After several weeks the crisis in China began showing up on other countries shores, such as Taiwan, South Korea, Italy, and parts of South East Asia. At this point the world should have realized that we were in a global crisis. That was the time to seriously begin preparations, but most people let this global crisis go to waste. Instead of using other countries data and actions as an imputus to prepare, Americans simply ingnored this situation as “the flu”. Since the international crisis was wasted, Americans are now dealing with a very local one.

As of this writing, coronavirus was confirmed to have killed 9 people in in less than 5 days in America. The virus appears to continue spreading across the U.S. unencumbered as people ignore the signs of crisis. The brightest minds on multiplicative events have been warning people for weeks with little progress. Now it appears people in parts of the U.S. are beginning to panic as the virus shows up in their localities. In order to ensure this crisis does not cripple our country, Americans must take swift action to prepare to isolate for a couple weeks. At a minimum people should avoid large public gatherings. Do not spend a lot of time around a lot of people, wash your hands, and have supplies to remain in place for a bit.

So far Americans let an international crisis go to waste, let us see if we will do the same domestically.

New American Independence

As the coronavirus is spreading throughout the world, people are forgetting about second and third order effects that will hit the economy. In fact, I was not aware of the potential damage the coronavirus could cause until I read reports about large factories shutting down in China.

When I first heard of major swaths of China shutting down because of the coronavirus, I imagined the United States could face a similar fate, especially if we did not take quick action to mitigate international travel and screen people. However as the weeks have continued to pass, and many of Chinas factories remain closed another reality became clear: the factory of the world has been shut down, which means businesses around the world that depend on Chinese manufacturing will be effected.

At this point it seems inevitable that the closing of Chinese factories, even temporarily will cause ripples throughout the world economy as cars manufacturers, toy makers, and e-commerce businesses struggle to maintain supplies to operate their businesses. We also learned about a key United States vulnerability: eighty percent of American medicines are made in China and ninety-seven percent of all United States drugs rely on China for some type of manufacturing.

With this information about how dependent the United States and the world are on China, we must do everything in our power to change this dynamic. The coronavirus has demonstrated how much control China truly has over the United States. The Chinese government could disrupt manufacturing for machine parts, car parts, medical equipment, and medicines. Now that we are facing imminent supply chain problems and can see our vulnerabilities, we must act to bring back manufacturing to the United States and restore our independence.

The Coronavirus And Censorship

It has been established that the Chinese communist government attempted to cover-up the initial coronavirus outbreak. Sources show that at least eight doctors were jailed at the beginning of the outbreak for spreading “rumors” about the virus. One of the doctors, Li Wen Liang who died of the virus, is now famous for his attempts to warn the Chinese people about the outbreak while the government punished him. Chinese citizens report that people are being approached and threatened by the government for releasing information and footage about the outbreak. Many people on the biggest social media app in China, Wechat, are not comfortable openly discussing the virus because of potential legal ramifications. People are locked up in their homes with little information and the watchful eye of the communist party making sure they do not say the “wrong” or right thing. This is the environment Radical Leftists want for America.

Since the election of Donald Trump, left-wing media sites like CNN and MSNBC have openly pushed for websites like Twitter and Facebook to take down posts that publish “fake news”. The Left viciously attacks any non-Leftist website such as the Daily Wire, Steven Crowder, Prison Planet, Mike Ceronvich, and others. Companies like CNN want these non-Leftist posts taken off the platforms because they think their points of view are “fake”, dangerous and “triggering”. However, the SJW censorship brigade has ignored why censorship is so dangerous, and the coronavirus outbreak in China is a textbook example of the dangers of censorship.

When ideas, dialogue, and news is blocked because it is “fake” people fail to ask how it is fake. According to who is news fake or real? Who determines what other people should be able to analyse and determine as real? When “elites” decide what is “fake” they take away peoples ability to read and decipher facts and information for themselves. Sometimes the elites that determine a news’ “fake-ness” have benevolent intentions. Maybe they do not want unnecessary conflict to arise from a “fake” story. However when the elites get it wrong, it could be a death sentences for thousands of people. This is what we are seeing unfold in China.

Initially the Chinese communist government elites decided the population should not know about the Covid-19 virus outbreak. Maybe they thought it would blow over. It is possible they did not want to cause panic, and since they did not know how bad the virus would be, there was no reason to panic anyway. This meant they were going to stop information flow about the virus. The Party was throwing doctors in jail and probably censoring Wechat conversations over the virus. However, as the virus began running out of control and the medical system became overwhelmed, they had to sound the alarm. After waiting so long to inform the public, thousands have died and tens of thousands are infected. Meanwhile tens of millions are locked up in their homes across the country, because god forbid “rumors” and “fake news” cause panic or distrust of the government. This is what the radicals in the United States want. They want you to die.

They want to you to be unable to speak if your opinions are “dangerous”. They want you kicked off platforms for saying things that “trigger” randos on the internet. They want your family to suffer and starve because you are not espousing politically correct dogma. This is what the Chinese Communist Party wants, and this is what the Social Justice Warriors in America want. They want to hold the keys to speech so they can shut down people, even if the people they are shutting down are warning of immanent disaster. The radical left would rather you die than risk your opinion “triggering” one of their “allies”.

We should let the disaster unfolding in China be a reminder of the dangers of censorship, and stop infantilizing the public otherwise we risk blindly walking into disaster.

When Life Changes Your Plans

Mike Tyson has a famous quote that I’ll paraphrase, he said that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. In life it is easy to make plans and assume that things will happen accordingly. It makes sense that if we follow the guidelines we are supposed to, or the plan we make, that the outcome should be somewhere in the vicinity we expect. However, often times life throws us challenges that can completely change our trajectory. Sometimes our trajectory is changed on a micro level and sometimes at the macro, but the challenge may be significant either way. The setbacks I have dealt with over the past month have illuminated my gratitude for my life and my ability to adapt.

In October of 2019 I decided I would go to Taiwan and explore the opportunities there. I love Taiwanese culture and people, and I am addicted to learning Mandarin. My initial plan was to be in Taiwan for a minimum of fix months and possibly up to one year. When I arrived things appeared to be going great. I was meeting new people, having engaging and interesting experiences, practicing my Mandarin Chinese, and having an overall great time. However, when news of the seriousness of the Coronavirus spread, I decided it would be best for me to return to the United States for a while. Therefore I only got to live in Taiwan for a month before my plan was derailed.

Since returning to the United States I decided to take advantage of my time and go to some kickboxing tournaments. I signed up for a tournament which would take place February fourteenth, two weeks after returning to the United States. After five days of training I severely rolled my ankle and thought I would not be able to attend the event. Right after rolling my ankle I was laying on the ground laughing. I was laughing at how my plans were turning out. It was too amusing, I had these grand plans that were seemingly being disassembled right in front of my eyes. First I have to cancel my year long exploration to Taiwan, now I might not be able to compete in kickboxing or Taekwon-do for months. The only thing I could do was laugh at how fragile our plans really are, and how expectations are meaningless when fate takes a swipe at them.

After coming to terms with my potential situation I hobbled back to my dwelling and decided to keep working on my Chinese. After about a week of being very cautious and careful my ankle seemed well enough to compete… as long as it was sufficiently wrapped in athletic tape. So I decided to sign up for the kickboxing tournament. A couple days later I started to feel a sore throat and mild fever. I could not believe it! After coming back from Taipei, injuring my ankle, I get sick four days before my tournament. I proceeded to rest and recovered very quickly. Luckily I should still be able to compete. However, this experience has made me think about overcoming challenges, especially when those challenges are out of your control, and appear disrupt your plans.

Since most of the things that have happened recently were out of my full control there was no reason to be upset. After all, who could I be productively angry at? Hopefully I am learning to better cope with the craziness and unpredictability of life, but only time will tell. For now I am doing my best to adapt and overcome each challenge that comes my way, and that is all we can do.

Living In Songshan, Taipei

Before abruptly returning to the U.S. from stay in Taiwan, I was living in the Songshan district of Taipei. For the un-initiated, Taipei is divided up into districts such as Songshan, Xinyi, Zhongshan, and more. Traveling through Taipei, you will not notice you are traversing one district or the other, but people refer to these districts to narrow down the locations of various places like the best bars, coffee houses, or clubs.

San Min Road in Song Shan District Taipei

I stayed at an Airbnb with a fantastic host named Beatrice Hsu in Song Shan district. Her listing is No. 41-4 Xindong Street, Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 105. The place was a little old, but private, and the host made my stay worth while. If you get a chance to stay at her listing, ask about her church. It is a small gathering at her apartment. The whole thing is in Mandarin, though people can speak some English. Everyone comes together and has a great meal, then there is a bible study. In addition to my gracious host, I found Songshan to be quite nice and quiet. The streets are not crowded and the sidewalks are never too stuffed.

My place in Song shan was a little bit far from the MRT, but there were plenty of bus stops around which definitely came in handy. If I was not in a rush I preferred to walk to the MRT because the walk was peaceful. From my place to the MRT was about 15 – 20 minutes walk. While Songshan is more residential and quiet it has many great food spots, especially where I was on Xindong street. There were some great places to get a quick meal of rice, meat, and veggies, as well as soups, and the famous Taiwanese “hamburgers” (Guabao), plus many more delicious foods. You cannot tell from the picture below, but the whole sidewalk was filled with restaurants like this.

Speaking of food, Song Shan is also home to the famous Rao He night market. Rao He is so damn good, I wish I had visited the place more frequently. It is also extremely easy to get to. Take the green line on the MRT to the Songshan exit and you are basically there. While hanging out in Rao He, try out some Xiaolongbao( soup dumplings) and choudofu( fried stinky tofu). Night markets are usually packed so hopefully you are not claustrophobic.

Xiaolongbao (Soup Dumplings)

Since Song Shan is more residential, you will easily find super markets to get anything you need. There were a few major super markets within 5- 10 minutes walk from my apartment, very convenient. So if you are looking for a quiet place to stay with plenty of food and cafes, Song Shan is a great place to look. Take some time step back from the hustle and bustle, walk the streets and relax.

Wuhan Pneumonia Paranoia

When I first heard about the Wuhan Pneumonia( Coronavirus), I could not have imagined what appears to be happening now. When Chinese authorities realized something had to be done, the world learned that the most populace country would implement strict and immediate mobility controls. This meant that China locked down multiple cities of tens of millions of people. Some estimate that nearly sixty million people are now being quarantined inside of China. In addition to the strict quarantine zones, cities like Beijing, shanghai and others are encouraging people to stay home. Students and workers across the country do not know when they will be allowed to return to their normal activities.

As the situation began to unfold in China one thing became immediately clear: China’s medical system was not ready to handle the masses of people flooding hospitals to get tested and treatment for the virus. Just before Lunar New Year, videos and pictures of lines stretching for blocks began emerging online. Some videos appeared to show people dying while waiting in line to be treated. This is how I realized an essential issue in any pandemic situation. If masses of people become ill, or are worried about illness simultaneously, then medical resources will be severely stressed, and may not be able to deal with large influx of new patients. This could cause many deaths as many people who need treatment would not get it.

While the lines at Chinese hospitals were filling up so were lines at the grocery store. As quarantines began spreading across China, people rushed to the stores to buy up as much food as possible. The most desperate of circumstances showed people fighting over the last few bags of rice at a grocery store. This was my next pandemic lesson: when people realize the gravity of the situation, food and water resources will be severely stretched if they can even handle the situation. In the United States this has been demonstrated multiple times during hurricane season. As hurricanes approach, effected areas regularly run out of supplies at the grocery store. In a deadly flu pandemic the same situation may unfold at is has in China.

As the coronavirus has continued to spread throughout China and the world two factions have emerged with opinions on the matter. One group thinks the world should immediately take a precautionary approach. This means we should view this virus like it has the potential to wipe out many people, as it has already demonstrated. Therefore we should implement mobility controls such as banning flights from China, and encourage people to isolate as much as possible. The other group believes we should treat the outbreak in China as nothing more serious than a typical flu. These people do not advocate for flight bans or mobility controls, but instead do their best to down play any potential threat as merely “hysteria”. While I do not believe people should run around hysterically, it is better to err on the side of caution and paranoia when the world faces a systemic risk. Additionally, I advocate for paranoia because the situation is China looks terrible.

Anyone who studies China knows how important economic growth is for the communist government to remain in control. The government must demonstrate it can grow the economy or people might lose faith. The fact that industries across the entire country have been effectively halted is a gigantic risk to economic growth and the legitimacy of communist party rule, but they are taking that risk. This suggests that whatever is going on in China is extremely serious. Beyond official data points, there videos and pictures emerging of very concerning scenes in China. Videos of body bags piling up at hospitals, police patrolling with hazmat suits and automatic rifles. Nearly everyday I am reading about new facilities the government is building or utilizing to house increasing numbers of sick people.

In many respects the scenes that are coming out of China look like they are coming straight out of a movie. Except this situation is not a movie, and the world should be ready to deal with what is happening inside China.

“The central rule in life is that it is much, much better to panic early than late. ” – Nassim Taleb

I Am Leaving Taiwan Because Of Coronavirus

A few weeks ago when I heard about a mysterious virus from Wuhan, I did not anticipate entire cities with tens of millions of people being quarantined. I did not anticipate the virus spreading throughout China, and talking with students who were clearly afraid of the situation. However, as the virus has continued to spread, it spread to Taiwan and has so far infected about eight people.

After visiting a local night market, I was reminded of the perfect conditions for a virus to spread here. I love night markets and the public transportation in Taiwan, but it seems perfect for an infection to obtain targets. People are in close quarters talking, breathing, and eating on top of each other. The atmosphere in night markets is awesome, just not during an unknown epidemic from China. Since I do not have a long-term place with good food and water supplies, I have decided to return to United States in case the outbreak here becomes worse.

It pains me to leave Taiwan after being here for merely a month. My plan was to stay for at least six months. While here, I planned on working on my Mandarin, meeting interesting people, and having novel experiences. I have successfully been accomplishing those goals, but the Coronavirus has changed my trajectory. For now I will assess the situation until I leave, and I hope to return soon.

The Coronavirus Is Unleashed…And I’m In Asia

About a week while taking a break from work I saw an article, at first glance I did not think much of it. The articles title had something to do with some kind of illness possibly spreading from a city in China. I briefly took another glance at the article and noticed the illness had originated from a city in China called Wuhan. Wuhan is located near the Central-Eastern region of China, in a province called Hubei. I have never visited Wuhan, but while living in Chengdu I met several foreigners who had studied in Wuhan before arriving in Chengdu, they all had very good things to say about Wuhan. This time the news about Wuhan was not so positive.

After reading the article about a small and unknown illness allegedly originating from a seafood market in Wuhan, I had basically forgotten about it. A couple days later “Twitter World” started chirping more frequently about this mysterious illness, I started to pay a more attention, but was not very alert. Fast forward one week, and the situation has drastically changed.

Since first reading about the virus, news has come out that is a “novel coronavirus” which I believe means this form of the coronavirus is new, but this type of virus is known and somewhat common. Some research on the coronavirus revealed that it shows symptoms like the flu, but this outbreak appears to be more dangerous. This virus went from being reported as something minor the first week, to reporting that 17 people have died since being infected, and there are several hundred people infected with the virus within China. In fact, the situation has escalated so quickly in China, the entire city of Wuhan is being reportedly locked down. Eleven million people are not allowed to leave the city as the government is closing down roads, plane, and train travel out of the city. There are reports of the virus in Japan, Thailand, The United States, and Taiwan.

While this outbreak is occurring I cannot help but wonder whether or not Taiwan will be able to control the few cases they have found. Since Taiwan is a small country, and the people seem culturally cohesive, with access to advanced medicine, I have faith they can take care of it. However, since East Asia is center of this viral outbreak, I am not in an ideal location.

As the Lunar New Year comes, I hope the authorities can manage this situation. We will learn more in the coming days.

Getting Around Taipei(Purchase An Easy Card)

If you are planning on visiting Taipei, and you should, don’t worry about your transportation. When you come to Taipei, you will find that public transportation is heavily utilized. This is quite a contrast to the lifestyle in my hometown of Houston, Texas. In Houston you need to have a car, otherwise you will turn your thirty minute commute into a three hour commute. However, here in Taipei the subway, bus system, and taxis are all very accessible and fast.

If you will be in Taipei for a week or more, I highly recommend getting an easy card. They look just like a credit or debit card, and can be used to take subways, buses, and pay for things at many stores like 7-11, and Family Mart. 7-11’s and Family Marts are everywhere in Taiwan. For most foreigners, these convenience stores will provide you with many things you need like snacks, water, and toiletries if necessary. All these things can be bought on a Easy Card. But to pay for things with an Easy Card, you must first purchase one, then load it with money.

Getting an Easy Card is simple. You can walk into any subway station and you will see a machine (looks like an ATM) that will allow you to purchase an Easy Card, they will be designated with the Easy Card logo that you see above. The instructions on the machine are English enabled for those that do not speak any form of Chinese.

After you buy the card you will need to load it with money. If you will be in Taiwan for at least a week, I would recommend $500- 700 NTD to start. This should last you at least a few days of convenience store usage plus transportation. If you need to add more, you can always add more money at any 7-11, Family Mart, most branded convenience stores, and subway stations.

Once you have your Easy Card you just need to decide where you are going, and what route to take. The subway system in Taipei is extensive and will take you to most places. However, if you find yourself inconveniently far form a subway station, use your Google app to check if a bus route would suite your travel. Using Google to coordinate my local travels has been fantastic. When I am in a hurry I can easily check if it is faster to take a bus, subway, or even walk.

And If you feel lost, do not be afraid to ask a local. People in Taipei are friendly and will generally try to help you if they can.

If you do not want to buy an Easy Card I would recommend sticking to the subways and taxis. You can use cash for single trip tokens on the subway, and taxi drivers always have change. However, I do not recommend getting on a bus without an Easy Card. From my experience there may not always be change if you do not have an exact amount, and it is a general pain in the ass.

I hope this helps your travels in Taipei. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.