#2 - Moving to Substack, A Diabetic Life, and Pandemic Part 2

Just when we were getting our hopes up...

I hope you are staying safe and following all the health safety protocols to keep your loved ones safe as well. It's been a long time since I sent out my last email newsletter. In fact, I didn't find enough things to write about that would be worthy of your inbox. I promised I'd send a maximum of two emails per month at most, but as you know, I ended up sending none.

Writing for the sake of writing didn't make sense to me (although, strictly speaking, forcing oneself to write regardless is the best way to practice this craft — but whether they are worthy of publication is another matter entirely).

Let's get right into today's issue! If you’re new here, don’t forget to subscribe! I write about consumer tech, remote work, writing, and how it all ties into life.

This newsletter is now powered by Substack

The eagle-eyed of you may have noticed that the email is now coming from Substack instead of Mailchimp. I've moved all subscribers from Mailchimp to Substack for a variety of reasons. I've researched and tried quite a few different tools over the past few weeks — namely Substack, Buttondown, Twitter-owned Revue, and even the WordPress competitor (to some degree) Ghost.

After weighing in all the pros and cons that those different newsletter options, I've decided that for the type of newsletter that I'm going for, which should focus only on content, subscriber-building, and some simple analytics, Substack is the platform of choice.

Side note: Facebook is coming up with its own newsletter publishing tool too, but I don't trust Facebook to run this newsletter through them. So that's out of the picture. (But I will test this and may run a separate Bangladesh-focused newsletter there. So if you're interested in finding out how that works once the platform is launched, let me know and I can share insights.)

Mailchimp is an excellent option for anyone building a newsletter. I think their free tier is the best in the business, offering a generous 2,000-subscriber limit before you need to pay them anything. While I don't think I could ever reach that number with this personal newsletter of mine, I did the move for one main reason: simplicity and ease of use when creating content.

I really disliked how complicated Mailchimp's interface was. It had a ton of features, yes, but I didn't need most of them. More importantly, Mailchimp's email writing tool really didn't inspire joy in writing. Although I write the first draft outside of any of these tools (I currently use Notion), it felt like a chore navigating all those things around on Mailchimp. That's what compelled me to look for alternatives.

Mailchimp itself has a great alternative, believe it or not. It's called Tinyletter. It's free, and it offers an even more generous 5,000-subscriber limit before you are required to move to a paid subscription on Mailchimp itself. But Mailchimp seems to be neglecting this platform. And I suspect it won't be too long until Mailchimp calls it quits on this tool.

I didn't try Tinyletter. Instead, I went for something that was thriving and had a promising future.

Substack seemed to be the best although Ghost and Twitter-owned Revue also have a promising future ahead. I created accounts on all three platforms, and my preference landed me on Substack.

Why? That's the topic of a detailed blog post of its own, one that I will write and publish on ais.blog soon. As a subscriber, you can rest assured that you'll get a link to that post shortly after it's published.

But if you have any specific questions or want me to run any tests, feel free to reply to this email.

A Diabetic Life

In October last year, just a week before I was preparing for the longest road trip in Bangladesh (~1000 km), driving by myself, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

As some of you may know, I had a long episode of pain in my hands last year. When I went to a doctor, he first gave me several tests, including a blood test. When the test results came back, they showed very high blood sugar levels.

The doctor was pretty surprised that I was showing no other symptoms of diabetes at that time (like lack of sleep, overly thirsty, etc.). He asked for a liquid profile test, and the result was just as surprising. My blood sugar level was 16 mmoL/l (288 mg/dl) when fasting and 22.5 mmoL/l (405 mg/dl) two hours after breakfast.

Of course, he then wrote further tests to zero in on the pain in my hands (none of them zeroed in on anything, so it's still a mystery what happened, but I got to know I didn't have Arthritis). He also referred me to an endocrinologist whom my parents were already seeing. He prescribed me one month's medication for diabetes, and of course, told me to halt further sugar intake.

The next day, I drove ~500km to Cox's Bazar, the world's longest sea beach.

I've been avoiding sugary food since then. I found it's not that difficult once you get past several weeks without sugar. As per the most recent check on the Glucometer, the blood sugar level is now under control. The good news is, I'm not a foodie, so I don't miss food a ton, but I dearly miss soft drinks.

I was a heavy soft drinker. Mostly, I would drink lemon juice and other fruit punches with a lot of sugar. I guess that's one of the main things contributing to such high sugar levels in my blood. Of course, the fact that diabetes runs in the family, and it was a matter of time before I too would get it, was well known in advance.

Today, I miss juices/soft drinks the most. My friends and colleagues have suggested alternatives — like making homemade juice with a hint of salt instead of sugar or using a sugar substitute like zerocal — but let's be real, nothing tastes as good as sugar. 😅 NOT-A-THING.

I try to avoid zerocal because there doesn't seem to be any unanimous opinion about whether it's harmful or not. I only take zerocal when drinking tea or coffee. But I'm not a heavy tea or coffee drinker, so I'm not taking zerocal regularly either.

But in this heat, reaching temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius almost daily, I could really use a glass of lemon juice when breaking fast at sunset (It's the month of Ramadan when Muslims around the world fast from dawn to dusk). And frankly, even zerocal tastes bitter with lemonade.

In short, I miss sugar. 😒

Pandemic Phase 2

Everyone warned that a second wave was imminent. It wasn't a matter of if, but when.

Many of us didn't want to believe that the pandemic could take a turn for the worse. With the arrival of vaccines and the government's widespread vaccination program underway, we thought, or should I say, we hoped, better days were on the horizon. The tide was turning. The terror that was the year 2020 was finally vanishing into the rearview mirror.

Little did we know, around the same exact time as last year (the second half of March), we'd be back exactly where we were a year ago, only this time, things would be much deadlier.

I don't trust the government's data on how many people are contracting the coronavirus and how many are dying from it. I think, their daily count is far lower than the actual number. But these days, even the government's official count is now frighteningly high.

For four days in a row, more than a hundred people are dying from Covid-19 infections, daily.

Of course, if you're in India, that is a small number compared to the enormous death toll that seems to be still rising. But I'm in Bangladesh. And we never saw the number of Covid-19 related deaths this high, not even the first time around.

After a week of what can only be described as a ridiculous parade passed as 'lockdown' at the beginning of April, the government enforced stricter measures beginning on April 13. However, that doesn't seem to be helping. People's movement has definitely been reduced by a huge margin, but the coronavirus spread is not following suit. Instead, it's rising at an unprecedented rate.

And recent reports suggest that with the lockdown in place, people can't get tested, so the number of people getting tested daily has decreased, proving the earlier point that the actual number of infected people could be several times higher than what's currently being reported.

We've had a lockdown for months last year. We really can't have the same length of stay-at-home this time around. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want the lockdown to be lifted so I could at least move freely in my own car (therefore maintaining social distancing).

At the same time, I can't neglect the fact that the pandemic is far from over. I don't think the lockdown will be lifted anytime soon, but even if it is, that could bring even more disastrous consequences.

What all that means is we're really stuck this time around, and at the rate people are dying left and right, I'm feeling far more hopeless this time than I did when the pandemic started.

On new year's eve, there was a general vibe among people that with 2020 over, things would get better. I told a friend I had a feeling that 2021 was going to be worse. I didn't have that feeling thinking the coronavirus outbreak would get worse. I just felt it wouldn't be the unicorn year we were hoping it to be.

For the first two and a half months, I thought, man, was I wrong! We really seem to be getting better. Even the vaccines are here in this third-world country. Perhaps, I was hopelessly pessimistic for no reason.

As days go by, I can't help but think about my gloomy prediction at the turn of the year.

Perhaps, I was right.

How is the coronavirus situation in your country? How are you personally coping with it if it's getting worse where you live? If you have something to share, feel free to reply. The least we could do is support each other in times of a crisis like this.