Bruce Davidson

One of my favorite albums from my youth is Ill Communication by the Beastie Boys.

This is the cover:

The photograph was shot by Bruce Davidson. I didn’t know about him until now, but after some quick Google Image searches, I’ve discovered he’s an amazing photographer (he’s still alive at 84):

Podfasters

Meet the People Who Listen to Podcasts at Super-Fast Speeds:

Rachel Kenny started listening to podcasts in 2015 — and quickly fell behind. “As I started subscribing to more and more podcasts, they started stacking up, and I couldn’t keep up at normal speed,” the 26-year-old data scientist in Indianapolis told BuzzFeed News. “I also had to listen to the backlist of all the podcasts when I subscribed to them.” So Kenny began listening faster: first at 2x, then she worked her way up to 3x. She stopped only because “that’s just as fast as the Downcast app allows.” She estimates that she listens to five to seven hours of podcasts a day (which equals 15 to 21 hours at normal speed), “so maybe 20 to 40 episodes a day or 100 to 250 a week,” she said. She tracks her listening habits on a spreadsheet.

Ok, that’s a shitload of podcasts.

The article says a lot of these speed listeners are “completetists” who have to listen to the entire backlog of podcast once they’re committed. It strikes me as a form of obsessive-compulsive disease.

I’m definitely not a completetist. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m forty and with each passing year I grow more aware of my mortality. I don’t want to waste my remaining time listening to shitty podcast episodes just so I can mark them as “completed” in my head.

I’m a regular listener to The Joe Rogan Experience, but I find episodes all the time I have no interest in finishing and I when I make this realization, I delete that epsiode immediately.

With regard to speed, I do listen to podcasts from 1X to 1.5X, depending the the general cadence of the show. For audiobooks, I’ve gone up to 2X if it’s a slow narrator.

Automobile News From Around the Web

Below are some automobile-related links I’ve accumulated over the last few months.

Where Self-Driving Cars Go to Learn:

Arizona has since built upon the governor’s action to become a favored partner for the tech industry, turning itself into a live laboratory for self-driving vehicles. Over the past two years, Arizona deliberately cultivated a rules-free environment for driverless cars, unlike dozens of other states that have enacted autonomous vehicle regulations over safety, taxes and insurance.

Too much regulation leads to stifled innovation, but too little regulation can lead to more dangerous roads for us humans. It sounds like Arizona is closer to the latter scenario.

Cadillac’s hands-free feature fixes the worst parts about driving:

Because you can leave your hands by your sides, the system uses an infrared camera mounted on the steering column to make sure you’re still ready to take over if things go south. It tracks your eyes, nose, mouth and ears and figures out where you’re looking. If you’re looking forward out the windshield or checking your mirrors, you’re fine. But let’s say you start staring out the side window or worse, at your phone, the car prompts you to start paying attention by flashing the green steering wheel light. If you ignore that, the flashing light on the wheel and accompanying audible warning for too long, the car will slow down, stop, turn on the flashers and call the authorities via OnStar.

We’re still in the awkward phase of autonomous vehicles. Roberto Baldwin notes in the link above that even though you still have to actively pay attention, being completely hands-free did drop his stress levels and fatigue. So while it’s not full autonomy, it’s progress.

Tesla Unlocked Florida Drivers’ Batteries Before Irma:

Since last spring, Tesla vehicles purchased with a 60kWh battery option have actually come with a 75kWh battery. The company’s software electronically limited the range to 60kWh, though it gave drivers the option to upgrade to full capacity at any time—for several thousand dollars.

On Saturday, the blog Electrek reported that some drivers of 60kWh Teslas in Florida suddenly found their cars showing 75kWh of range, even though they hadn’t paid any more money. A Tesla spokesperson confirmed to Electrek’s Fred Lambert that the company had unlocked the batteries’ remaining capacity remotely, via software update. That would give them about 30 miles of additional driving on a single charge. The move reportedly came in response to a request from at least one Florida driver who needed the extra range to get out of danger.

Telsa is walking a fine line here. What are their guidelines on what are acceptable situations for unlocking additional range on their vehicles? This feels a little too much like a puppet master pulling strings.

It’s All Made Up

Mashable Sold at Fire-Sale Price of $50 Million to Ziff Davis:

Digital-media firm Mashable has clinched a sale for the company — and it’s not for a price that founder Pete Cashmore or investors including Turner were looking for.

Ziff Davis, a tech, gaming and healthcare publisher, is buying the New York-based company for about $50 million, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous sources. That’s 20% of Mashable’s valuation of $250 million following a $15 million round of funding last year led by Time Warner’s Turner.

People need to remember “valuation” is a euphemism for “made up number”. Companies, like money, have no inherent value. They only have value because we all agree they have value.

Unlike dollars and cents though, company valuations are way easier change.

Then there’s the endowment effect hypothesis that states we ascribe more value to the things we own than the things other people own. Mashable’s investors thought it was worth $250 million last year. Ziff Davis didn’t agree.

Artemis

The Verge interviewed Andy Weir, author of The Martian, about his new book, Artemis:

I started by developing the city itself. I really wanted to write a story that takes place on humanity’s first off-world home, the beginnings of humanity’s colonization of the Solar System, that kind of thing. I wanted to define the city on the Moon. First thing, I had to ask myself why there’s a city on the Moon. Why would anybody go live there? What’s the point? There’s a lot of fiction out there about this, and there are a lot of unsatisfying answers: “We’re there to mine it!” So send robots. “Earth is overpopulated!” Well, colonize the Sahara or the ocean floor. Literally every location on Earth is easier to colonize than anywhere on the Moon.

So I asked: what about tourism? Tourism is by definition people being somewhere. Okay, so that will only happen when the price to low Earth orbit is low enough that little people can afford to go. That’s kind of the conceit of Artemis, where the commercial space industry has driven that price down far enough that it’s affordable. It’s not not cheap, by any stretch of the imagination, but doable. So I designed the city with that in mind. I built it from the ground up, figuring that they’d need to be efficient, they wouldn’t want to waste a huge amount of money or resources. Once I was done with that, I had a setting, then set about working on story ideas. The contents of the book are actually the third story revision. I came up with two completely unrelated stories with different characters before this version.

I read The Martian a few years ago. It’s very suspenseful but it’s also deeply flawed. The narration/internal dialog of the main character is extremely annoying and corny.

But hey, who the fuck am I? The Martian hit #1 on The New York Times Best Seller List and was turned into a movie with Matt Damon.

Maaatt Daaaamon.

Chiara Obscura

California Today: An Analog View of California:

John Chiara does his photography from scratch.

Even as taking pictures has gotten simpler, Mr. Chiara, 46, constructs his own box cameras — known as camera obscuras — that draw in light through a small hole onto photographic paper.

His biggest camera is the size of a small elephant, which he hauls on a trailer and positions in front of his subjects.

To take a photograph, he squeezes his body inside the camera and pulls a trap door behind him. He positions a sheet of photographic paper as large as four feet by six feet and then manipulates the light and length of exposure.

A single picture takes about half a day.

Chiara’s photos have an amazing, imperfect, analog feel to them.

They’re not even square. I love it.

Making Friends Over 30

Over at The New York Times Alex Williams explores why it’s so hard to make friends over 30:

As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.

No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now.

But often, people realize how much they have neglected to restock their pool of friends only when they encounter a big life event, like a move, say, or a divorce.

I’m keenly aware of this problem as a 40-year-old dude.

My wife is initially surprised how dismissive I am of the boyfriends and husbands of her friends and co-workers. Then I explain to her that if the guy in question is cool, I’ll make a few concerted efforts at reaching out to them (grab a drink, hit a concert, meet my other friends) but I’m usually met either with radio silence or reasons they can’t hang out. At this point I write them off.

If I run into them again I’ll usually replace my previously genuine conversating with vapid smalltalk. If they’re not making an effort, why should I?

America’s Retail Apocalypse

America’s ‘Retail Apocalypse’ Is Really Just Beginning:

The reason isn’t as simple as Amazon.com Inc. taking market share or twenty-somethings spending more on experiences than things. The root cause is that many of these long-standing chains are overloaded with debt—often from leveraged buyouts led by private equity firms. There are billions in borrowings on the balance sheets of troubled retailers, and sustaining that load is only going to become harder—even for healthy chains.

The debt coming due, along with America’s over-stored suburbs and the continued gains of online shopping, has all the makings of a disaster. The spillover will likely flow far and wide across the U.S. economy. There will be displaced low-income workers, shrinking local tax bases and investor losses on stocks, bonds and real estate. If today is considered a retail apocalypse, then what’s coming next could truly be scary.

Not every mall can get an Apple Store to lift sales by 10 percent.

Arch Motorcycle

Who knew Keanu Reeves has been customizing bikes since 2007.

A lot of celebrities serve as figureheads or brand ambassadors for companies they contribute little to, but it’s clear from Wired’s video that Reeves is very hands-on in the design process.

Prior to this bike discovery, Reeves was impressing me with his weapons and martial arts training for his John Wick movies.

He’s getting cooler with age. You don’t see that happen very often.

Louie

Louis C.K. Crossed a Line Into Sexual Misconduct, 5 Women Say:

In 2015, a few months before the now-defunct website Defamer circulated rumors of Louis C.K.’s alleged sexual misconduct, Ms. Corry also received an email from Louis C.K., which was obtained by The Times, saying he owed her a “very very very late apology.” When he phoned her, he said was sorry for shoving her in a bathroom. Ms. Corry replied that he had never done that, but had instead asked to masturbate in front of her. Responding in a shaky voice, he acknowledged it and said, “I used to misread people back then,” she recalled.

The call confounded her, Ms. Corry said: not only had he misremembered the incident, which made her think there were other moments of misconduct, he also implied she had done something to invite his behavior. “It is unfair he’s put me or anyone else in this position,” Ms. Corry said.

When you’re misremembering the times you’ve sexually harassed women you definitely have a problem.

Update: Louis has responded: ‘These Stories Are True’