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Bookworm (but I sometimes go on real adventures) · Obsessive thinker · Inconsistent writer · “You live and learn. At any rate, you live.” — Douglas Adams

It might not feel like it, but there’s a good chance you are richer than 99% of the world.

The hedonic adaptation theory suggests that humans quickly revert to a stable level of happiness after any positive or negative life changes. For example, you might be pleased with a raise for a while, but it will soon become the new norm, wiping away any gains in happiness¹. While generally comparing yourself to others is a bad idea, it’s a great way to put your financial well-being into perspective. So, how rich are you really?

Merriam-Webster defines rich as “having abundant possessions and especially material wealth.” It’s a good dictionary definition, but it’s somewhat lacking in specificity. …

Photo by Romualdas Požerskis.

30 years ago, my Dad taught me what freedom meant.

I remember little of that Sunday. But I can imagine it to the minute detail — the story, repeated by Mum every year, gradually changing like a Lithuanian fairy tale, is my favourite. Dad left, probably on one of those buses that transported thousands of people from every corner of the country. What took place inside the Parliament has remained a mystery to me, mixed with fragments of stories I once heard, black-and-white snippets from patriotic films, portraits hanging on the walls at school, and my imagination in which heroic Lithuanians withstand the onslaught of an evil enemy.

Years ago…

Photo by CDC.

Vaccine shipments and doses administered.


Vaccine shipments

Lithuania has ordered around 9 million doses. Here is the current breakdown by supplier:

  • AstraZeneca: 1.86 million
  • BioNTech/Pfizer: 1.856 million
  • Sanofi Pasteur/GSK: 1.5 million
  • CureVac: 1.38 million
  • Janssen Pharmaceutica: 700,000
  • Novavax: 616,000
  • Moderna: 506,000
  • Valneva: 186,000

Doses administered


January 8: daily COVID-19 vaccination data is now available from Statistics Lithuania.

January 9: daily COVID-19 vaccination data is now also available at Our World in Data.

January 12: COVID-19 vaccination shipment data is now available from Statistics Lithuania.

My ten favourites of 2020.

From Beloved to A Theory of Justice — and everything in between.

This year sucked. So I read — to forget the mess we are in, the mess we made while trying to get out, and the mess that is surely yet to come. Some of the 58 books I read in 2020 also sucked. Candide by Voltaire was ridiculous, and not in the positive sense of the word. The most fun I had while reading the widely-acclaimed classical parody was when it finally ended. Startide Rising by David Brin has the dubious honour of being the only book I have ever thrown away. …

Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde.

In 2020, I donated €12,725.

Just like last year, in 2020 I gave away around 10% of my net income. My strategy is to distribute this amount across three cause areas:

  1. 60% to saving lives and improving health outcomes of the world’s poorest.
  2. 20% to finding long-term solutions to global poverty and inequality.
  3. 20% to spreading happiness.

This year, I donated €12,725:

Against Malaria Foundation    €6,433
Malaria Consortium €1,132
J-PAL €2,580
StrongMinds €2,580

In addition to that, Google kindly matched my donation to the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF).

AMF has been on GiveWell’s list of most effective charities for years. The organisation provides free mosquito…

Photo by Mitul Grover.

The world is wonderful. The world is terrible. Let’s choose again.

The world is richer, healthier, and more educated than it has ever been. In the last 150 years, we broke out of the Malthusian trap; eradicated smallpox; invented sliced bread, the automobile, the Internet, and the smartphone; and put a man on the Moon. And yet the awe-inspiring scientific, technological, and social progress has not benefited everyone equally.

Today, 737 million people are extremely poor.

821 million are undernourished.

2.2 billion do not have access to safe drinking water.

1 billion cannot read or write.

The unprecedented inequality is a choice. Extreme poverty is a choice. We, the rich, healthy…

Photo by Kyaw Tun.

The covert battle between the ethical and the conventional.

I’ve been thinking about fish lately. I am not a fan of fish as food. I love cheap kaiten sushi and my Mum’s pike and carrots in foil. But that’s it, all other fish is yuck.

My Dad’s not a fan of fish as food either. But he loves fishing. A few days ago I woke up to our WhatsApp chat filled with big, dead, bloody fish he had caught that morning. He looked so happy and proud.

But my heart skipped a beat. …

Shibuya, Tokyo.

I was about to hop on a plane and start a new life in Europe. Then a global pandemic hit.

6 AM. My alarm rings. It’s Tuesday morning, and I am not going to work. So I snooze. For an hour. All’s fair in wars and pandemics.

7 AM. My alarm rings again. It’s still Tuesday. I snooze for another hour, but my well-honed sense of guilt and duty finally gets the better of me. I browse my Twitter feed sleepily. Email before breakfast is taboo. There’s no telling what sort of news The New York Times broke to me overnight. “Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain…”, says the notification. Oh God, he’s dead, isn’t he? (Don’t worry, he’s fine.)

Photo by Liuda Brogiene.

I was born in Šiauliai, Lithuanian SSR. My first memory is playing kanklės (a traditional plucked string instrument) and singing my then-favourite lament about heartbreak and the brutality of the sea. My mum was clinging to the TV. It was January 13, 1991, and my civilian, unarmed dad was defending the Vilnius TV tower against Soviet tanks.

Oh mother, oh sea
How cruel you are
Uniting the hearts
Just to tear them apart

I call my dad on January 13 every year to remind him how proud I am to be his daughter. We giggle at the memory and tell…

Photo by Rajeshwar Bachu.

I know better now.

February 2015, Scotland. Otherworldly, just the right setting for Ridley Scott’s aliens. For us humans, it’s too “brutal, cold and wet,’’ says Scarlett Johansson. And yet here I am, dancing in my room to the sound of the howling wind outside. A Google recruiter has just told me I’ve been accepted to the APM program. That day 5 years ago, everything changed.

I moved to Zürich, quickly learning that 1) you can reach every corner of Switzerland by train, and 2) not doing grocery shopping on Saturday means starvation on Sunday. In the Maps Transit team, I developed a life-long…

Ernesta Orlovaitė

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