Empathy Vacuum

Om Malik thinks Silicon Valley Has an Empathy Vacuum:

Otto, a Bay Area startup that was recently acquired by Uber, wants to automate trucking—and recently wrapped up a hundred-and-twenty-mile driverless delivery of fifty thousand cans of beer between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. From a technological standpoint it was a jaw-dropping achievement, accompanied by predictions of improved highway safety. From the point of view of a truck driver with a mortgage and a kid in college, it was a devastating “oh, shit” moment. That one technical breakthrough puts nearly two million long-haul trucking jobs at risk. Truck driving is one of the few decent-paying jobs that doesn’t require a college diploma. Eliminating the need for truck drivers doesn’t just affect those millions of drivers; it has a ripple effect on ancillary services like gas stations, motels, and retail outlets; an entire economic ecosystem could break down.

Whenever you abstract things from real, physical life, they become less real to you.

‘Technological innovation’ seems to supersede ‘societal impact’ in Silly Valley.

The GIF Survey

Fucking genius survey conducted by the godfather of CSS, Eric Meyer:

The GIF Survey is complete. In just under a week, 1,457 people gave their answers on how they pronounce the acronym, and their perceptions of the rightness of that pronunciation. I thought that, today of all days, it made some sense to share the results of a far less momentous poll.

For those who missed, it, how this survey worked was that the first question was: “How do you pronounce GIF?” To this, the choices were:

  • The obviously correct way
  • The clearly incorrect way

Upon answering this, respondents moved on to a section that asked three optional demographic questions: age, gender, and race/ethnicity, all as open text fields. These had about a 16% skip rate, and about a 4% ‘faithless’ response rate; that is, answers that were clearly jokes, insults, or other explicit refusals to answer the question as intended.

Once the demographic questions were answered or skipped, there was a final question: “How do you pronounce GIF?”, exactly the same as the first question of the survey. Only this time, the options were:

  • Hard G (like “gift”)
  • Soft G (like “gin”)

For both pronunciation questions, the answer order was randomized so as to avoid any first-choice advantage. The demographic questions, being open entries, didn’t have options to randomize.

Spoiler: The obviously correct way to pronounce ‘GIF’ is with a Hard G.

Case closed, softies.

It might make you Limp-G people sleep better at night if you think of yourselves as ‘underdogs’, but deep down, you know you’re wrong.

Microsoft Surface Studio

Microsoft Surface Studio review: a beautiful invader of Apple’s base:

It’s an engineering marvel of a monitor, but I really wish Microsoft sold it separately. I want to dock my Surface Book to it, or transform any laptop into a full Surface Studio. If I’m investing in a desktop PC at this kind of price then I also really want to be able to upgrade it and use it for gaming and more powerful work. I can’t do either of those things with the Surface Studio. If this was a monitor with a powerful GPU in it designed to complement Microsoft’s existing Surface devices and “upgrade” them, I’d probably be throwing my wallet at my screen right now. It’s hard to do so knowing that I’m not getting the latest and greatest specs for that $2,999, and that’s before you even consider the top model I’ve been testing is $4,199.

I’m both amused and happy about Microsoft’s newfound — and seemingly geniune — love for integrating software and hardware themselves. Up until they introduced Surface tablets in 2012, ‘controlling the whole widget’ was something only Apple did.

So what’s Microsoft’s endgame here? They’re going to market with a very niche product that uses last year’s hardware. Are they going to move back down the market with what they learned and develop more affordable desktops that can complete with iMacs?

I almost get the sense that they don’t care if it sells. The goal was to create a beautiful and very functional desktop computer. Even if the Surface Studio ends up being a dud, I still think what Microsoft did is impressive.

“spirals of iridescent spheres that folded in on themselves…”

A Dose of a Hallucinogen From a ‘Magic Mushroom,’ and Then Lasting Peace:

None of those possibilities fit Kevin, who had a bone-marrow transplant for acute myeloid leukemia. It sent his cancer into remission, but left him with graft-versus-host disease.

Suffering from chronic pain and fatigue, Kevin, 57, who lives in central Michigan and asked that his last name be withheld because he had been in law enforcement, had to retire. Four years after the transplant, he despaired.

“Going through a near-death illness is similar to returning from combat,” he said. “It damages who you are, to the core of what it is to be human.”

“I was hoping to get out of this funk of waiting for the other shoe to drop,” he added. “You’re looking up to the heavens, saying ‘What else can I try?’ ”

In 2013, Kevin entered the Johns Hopkins trial. During his session, he saw spirals of iridescent spheres that folded in on themselves.

The experience did not restore him to his former life, he said, “but I have a greater sense of peace of what might come. I’m very grateful, beyond words, for this trial. But you have to approach the session with the right intentions of why you’re doing it. Because you’re going to meet yourself.”

This is incredible news for people who suffer from anxiety and depression.

The last time I ate ‘magic’ mushrooms (aka ‘shrooms’) was over 16 years ago in college. It was truly a mind-opening experience.

Even Steve Jobs raved about the profound effect LSD had on him:

Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.

To be clear: shrooms and LSD, while both hallucinogens, have widely varying effects on different people.

If you think an orange-faced, New York billionaire has the common peoples’ interests in mind I have some things I’d like to sell you.

Trump voter lost home, blames incoming Treasury secretary:

When Donald Trump named his Treasury secretary, Teena Colebrook felt her heart sink.

She had voted for the president-elect on the belief that he would knock the moneyed elites from their perch in Washington. And she knew Trump’s pick for Treasury — Steven Mnuchin — all too well.

OneWest, a bank formerly owned by a group of investors headed by Mnuchin, had foreclosed on her Los Angeles-area home in the aftermath of the Great Recession, stripping her of the two units she rented as a primary source of income.

This woman’s face — along with every other person who voted for Trump and truly thought he’s a “Washington outsider” who’ll “shake up the establishment” — is now in the dictionary under the word ‘gullible’.

Seriously, how much of a sucker can you be? You think an orange-faced, New York billionaire has the common peoples’ interests in mind? If so, I’d like to sell you some things after I get off the phone with the Tooth Fairy.

Smartwatches

Moto pushes off smartwatches indefinitely:

Lenovo Moto today confirmed that it will not be releasing a new smartwatch for the launch of Android Wear 2.0, due early next year. The company had earlier said it would not be releasing a new smartwatch in 2016, but it is now saying that it doesn’t plan to put out a new device timed to the arrival of Google’s newest wearable platform, either.

I’ll never understand why they launched the Moto 360 with a circular display that was cut off at the bottom like a flat tire (aka the Moto 270). Supposedly Moto needed an area to place hardware components? I call bullshit.

This is happening only 2 months after the Verge reported Microsoft was ending sales of its wearable, the Band.

At the same time, yesterday I posted the news FitBit was acquiring Pebble Technology. Fitness trackers seem much more popular than smartwatches. The batteries usually last a whole week, they’re cheaper than smartwatches, and more people have them.

Before my wife and I got Apple Watches in October she wore her Fitbit all the time. The other day she mentioned she missed being able to track the progress with her friends. Apple Watch lets you easily share your fitness info with friends, but there just aren’t as many people with Apple Watches.

After wearing my Apple Watch for 2 months and from what I’ve seen of Android Wear it seems to me Apple is the only company putting serious thought into what a smartwatch should do.

Let’s take my favorite company to beat up on, Samsung. Look at the hero image on their smartwatch landing page:

This is Samsung’s opportunity to showcase what a smartwatch can be and they decide to disguise every one of them as a traditional watch. “Call. Text. Play.” Where, exactly?

No wonder Android Wear isn’t catching on.

Google created their Pixel Phone to showcase what they feel is the best Android phone you can make—and blantantly rip off the hardware design of the iPhone, sans Home button.

Perhaps they should do the same with smartwatches.

Holy shit, Facebook Messenger has Pac-Man

Facebook Messenger launches Instant Games:

Bored while you wait for someone to text back? Now you can challenge friends for high scores on Facebook Messenger’s new Instant Games, like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Words With Friends Frenzy. Available right from your message threads, they load in seconds since they’re built on the HTML5 mobile web standard, rather than having to be downloaded like clunky native apps.

Pac-Man and Space Invaders?

I grew up with these games over 30 years ago (ow, that hurt) and I can appreciate that it’s more important how fun a game is, not how high the graphics resolution is, but does bragging you have Atari games help your sales pitch?

FitPebbles

Pebble Supporters Are Pissed Over Rumors It Will Sell Itself:

Pebble, the maker of the original e-ink smartwatch, has a lot of passionate and loyal customers, and those customers are pissed. Following the rumors that Pebble is about to crumble under the heel of Fitbit, the company’s many Kickstarter backers are in an uproar.

As we shared earlier today, rumor has it fitness tracker maker Fitbit is in talks to buy Pebble, dismantle the business, and take all the tech. It’s a smart move for Fitbit, and an ouch move for Pebble, which would be selling for a tenth of what watch maker Citizen offered it last year.

Hey, this is business. Too bad. I was never a fan of Pebble. The design of the user interface is interesting, but I still think the hardware designs are ugly.

I always like it when greedy startup founders reject huge offers only to end up settling for a fraction of the amount later on. At the same time I can understand why Pebble rejected the offer. Citizen would have had no idea what to do with Pebble if they had acquired them.

This detail about the yet-to-be-shipped Pebble 2 Kickstarter rewards is infuriating:

Things are bleaker for Pebble Time 2 backers. Those backers were expecting an update in November with an anticipated ship date of January 2017. Instead, many woke up this morning to find that there was still no news on shipments. (Pebble last communicated to backers October 26.) However, there was news of Pebble possibly disappearing completely.

They raised $12.7 million dollars and still have unfulfilled rewards.

That’s bullshit.

Martin Scorsese, Rejected

Cardinal Hayes is a high school in the Bronx, and after a year of minor seminary — a tryout for the priesthood; once a regular stop for bright Catholic boys of limited means — Scorsese went there. (Don DeLillo, the novelist, was a few years ahead.) Rejected by Fordham University because of poor grades, Scorsese enrolled at N.Y.U.’s Washington Square College and its film program. From there, he plunged into the ’60s: a concertgoer at the Fillmore East, an expatriate in England and Holland, an assistant director at Woodstock (he became an editor on the concert film) and then a maker of his own movies — “Who’s That Knocking at My Door,” about a young man in the suddenly liberated ’60s whose Catholic principles keep him out of bed with his girlfriend, and “Boxcar Bertha,” a film about a female rabble-rouser “free’er than most.”

The Passion of Martin Scorsese, The New York Times Magazine, 21 Nov 2016

I always find it interesting (and validating) how many successful people were crappy students.

“No Sleep ‘Til No Hate in Brooklyn”

Rolling Stone: Beastie Boys’ Ad-Rock Speaks Out at NYC Anti-Hate Rally:

The election “felt very personal because … I’m a brown, female immigrant,” says Maria Paz Alegre, a U.S. citizen and New York resident who was born in the Philippines. “It’s been very painful to hear that half the country doesn’t want me here. It doesn’t matter that I do charity work, it doesn’t matter that I’m a teacher – it matters that I don’t look like them.”

She adds that “MCA was always my favorite Beastie Boy. His discussion of violence against women and his regret over misogynistic lyrics in the past always moved me,” she says. “For this park specifically to be defaced since he was [Jewish] was painful.”

Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz expressed a similar sentiment while addressing the crowd Sunday. “We’re all here today because we’re thinking the same thing: Painting swastikas on a children’s playground is a messed-up thing to do,” he said. “And for many of us, it has special meaning, because this park is named for Adam Yauch, who was my friend and bandmate for over 30 years, but he was also someone who taught nonviolence in his music, in his life, to all of us and to me. But this is more about someone in New York City” committing a hate crime in the name of Donald Trump, he noted.

I lived in Manhattan from 2000 to 2012. My younger brother lives in Brooklyn. My father was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Queens. Swastikas on a children’s playground is not a New York City I recognize at all.

For the people who voted for Trump who don’t consider themselves racists, I ask them, “Why do you think Trump attracts the KKK and white supremacists?”

You can’t cherry-pick the qualities you agree with in the candidate you voted for. You have to accept everything about them. If you’re choice for President of The United States was officially endorsed by the KKK, you have to own that.

You’re part of the problem, not the solution.

It’s not a joke anymore.

In the bowels of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, three blocks from the White House, members of the so-called alt-right movement gathered for what they had supposed would be an autopsy to plot their grim future under a Clinton administration. Instead, they celebrated the unexpected march of their white nationalist ideas toward the mainstream, portraying Mr. Trump’s win as validation that the tide had turned in their fight to preserve white culture.

“It’s been an awakening,” Richard B. Spencer, who is credited with coining the term alt-right, said at the gathering on Saturday. “This is what a successful movement looks like.”

The movement has been critical of politicians of all stripes for promoting diversity, immigration and perceived political correctness. Its critics call it a rebranded version of the Ku Klux Klan, promoting anti-Semitism, violence and suppression of minorities.

Intellectual leaders of the movement argue that they are merely trying to realize their desire for a white “ethno-state” where they can be left alone. Mr. Trump, with his divisive language about immigrants and Muslims, has given them hope that these dreams can come true.

White Nationalists Celebrate ‘an Awakening’ After Donald Trump’s Victory, The New York Times, 19 Nov 2016

First off, “white culture” is mentioned in the quote above. What the fuck is that? It sounds like an oxymoron to me.

In the 10+ years I’ve been running this site, I’ve posted very few entries on politics. I’d rather post on graphic design, web design, art, culture, cars, and technology, but I’m both scared and fascinated by Donald Trump, especially now that he is our president-elect.

Sure, it might be fun for some people to see Alec Baldwin portray him on Saturday Night Live, but I don’t find myself laughing that much. It’s not a joke for me anymore.

I’m concerned both with what Trump is capable of doing with his power as president, and with what white nationalists — a euphemism for racists, in my opinion — are capable of doing.