Overworking in the Age of Technology

Silicon Valley would be wise to follow China’s lead:

These topics are absent in China’s technology companies, where the pace of work is furious. Here, top managers show up for work at about 8am and frequently don’t leave until 10pm. Most of them will do this six days a week — and there are plenty of examples of people who do this for seven. Engineers have slightly different habits: they will appear about 10am and leave at midnight. Beyond the week-long breaks for Chinese new year and the October national holiday, most will just steal an additional handful of vacation days. Some technology companies also provide a rental subsidy to employees who choose to live close to corporate HQ.

In California, this sort of pace might be common for the first couple of years of a company, but then it will slow. In China, by contrast, it is quite usual for the management of 10 and 15-year-old companies to have working dinners followed by two or three meetings. If a Chinese company schedules tasks for the weekend, nobody complains about missing a Little League game or skipping a basketball outing with friends. Little wonder it is a common sight at a Chinese company to see many people with their heads resting on their desks taking a nap in the early afternoon.

Fuck the editor who wrote the title of this article, and fuck Michael Moritz for writing the article.

Silicon Valley or anywhere else in the first world would be wise to not follow China’s lead. The whole (empty) promise of computers and the Internet was that we would be able to work remotely! And work more efficiently! Oh joy of joys!

It’s a cliché but it’s true: the goal is to work smarter, not longer. It’s also true that humans fill their work week to the allotted number of hours. If we worked four 8-hour days per week (32 hours) instead of five 8-hour weeks (40 hours) the vast majority of people at desk jobs would get just as much work done.

America would be wise to follow the lead of a country where tech companies installed safety nets to save people trying to commit suicide by jumping out of windows? This is a load of shit.

Mix Tapes

Guardians of the Galaxy Is Leading The Unlikely Cassette Tape Revival:

All of that is to say that cassette tapes, an audio format we all thought died an ignominious death in the ‘90s, are back, baby. According to Nielsen Music’s sales numbers, the format is having a quiet revolution. Just in 2017, sales for cassette tapes were up by 35% over 2016, with 174,000 new cassettes sold. Which isn’t, like, huge, but for a retro format that’s not vinyl, that’s pretty incredible.

And leading that revolution is the superheroic maestro of ‘80s nostalgia, Guardians of the Galaxy. The top three selling tapes are all Guardians joints: the first and second volumes of the Awesome Mix and the first volume of the Cosmic Mix. If you’re looking for proof that Marvel and Disney are reshaping pop culture in their image, look no further. Star Lord is so powerful he can revive dead media formats.

This is cute. My guess is this surge in cassette sales is driven by Millennials, but I have no idea.

As someone who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, I was deep into the mix tape culture. One of my favorite things to do was not only arrange great collections of songs, but I took it a step further. I figured out how to to take the white ‘left’ and red ‘right’ audio cables from the VCR (combined with the yellow ‘video’ cable this was know as ‘component cable’) and feed them into the left and right AUDIO IN inputs in the back of my stereo so I could sample my favorite clips from movies between tracks.

Then I bought the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction and realized Quentin Taratino did exactly what I was doing. My mind was blown.

As John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity explained perfectly, there are many rules to making a mix tape:

The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules.

The fact that cassette tapes were an analog format meant it took time to make these mix tapes. They weren’t something you could slap together in 5 minutes like you can with a playlist on Spotify.

I’d be curious if kids spend thoughtful time creating playlists like we did with mix tapes. They probably don’t.

In-display fingerprint sensors. Great idea, but we’ve moved on.

Over at The Verge, Vlad Savov tried the first phone with an in-display fingerprint sensor on phones made by Chinese company Vivo.

It seems to work great, and I always appreciate the refinement of old tech (even in the face of newer, better alternatives), but now that I’ve gotten used to FaceID, TouchID feels antiquated.

It’s great when I pick up my iPhone X and generic notifications expand to reveal their full transcripts when my face has been authenticated. I don’t have to touch anything.

My guess is companies like Vivo will tout in-display fingerprint sensors as a differentiator to the iPhone, but it will be interesting to see if people bite.

Gutters are for pussies.

Apple’s flagship Chicago retail store wasn’t designed to handle snow:

Apple’s new flagship retail store in Chicago, the one with a MacBook-shaped rooftop, is nothing short of an architectural marvel. At least, that’s how some news reports put it when the store opened back in October. Beyond standing out among the less inspired buildings of the downtown Chicago area, the new Apple Store also happens to be very poorly thought through considering its thin roof now has dangerous icicles hanging perilously over public walkways.

The deadly ice daggers have forced the closure of those spaces, as pointed out by local blogger Matt Maldre and reblogged by Daring Fireball’s John Gruber. As Maldre explains, the fancy building design, while seemingly in service of Apple’s new “town square” ideal for its retail stores, doesn’t seem to have been designed for the actual city it’s located in. “Maybe next time Apple will consider the actual community where their stores are built,” Maldre writes. “Y’know, basic things like in Chicago, the weather gets cold. It snows. The snow falls off the roof. Don’t design a slopping roof where the snow can’t be caught or guttered off somewhere.”

This article brings to mind a great quote from Steve Jobs, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

It also brings to mind another quote from Jobs, “Gutters are for pussies.”

Alright, I made up that last one.

Apple Offers iPhone Battery Replacements

Apple apologizes for iPhone slowdown drama, will offer $29 battery replacements for a year:

Apple just published a letter to customers apologizing for the “misunderstanding” around older iPhones being slowed down, following its recent admission that it was, in fact, slowing down older phones in order to compensate for degrading batteries. “We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down,” says the company. “We apologize.”

Apple says in its letter that batteries are “consumable components,” and is offering anyone with an iPhone 6 or later a battery replacement for $29 starting in late January through December 2018 — a discount of $50 from the usual replacement cost. Apple’s also promising to add features to iOS that provide more information about the battery health in early 2018, so that users are aware of when their batteries are no longer capable of supporting maximum phone performance.

It’s bullshit Apple had to be called out this, but they’ve apologized and offered a reasonably priced solution.

I just upgraded from an iPhone 6 Plus to an iPhone X, but I think it’s still worth it to replace the battery on my 6 Plus.

Japanese Rent-A-Friends

In Japan, you can pay an actor to impersonate your relative, spouse, coworker, or any kind of acquaintance:

Morin: When you’re working, is it purely acting, or do the feelings ever become real?

Yuichi: It’s a business. I’m not going to be her father for 24 hours. It’s a set time. When I am acting with her, I don’t really feel that I love her, but when the session is over and I have to go, I do feel a little sad. The kids cry sometimes. They say, “Why do you have to leave?” In those instances, I feel very sorry that I’m faking it—very guilty. There are times, when I’m done with the work and I come back home, where I sit and watch TV. I find myself wondering, “Is this, now, the real me, or the actor?”

Morin: How do you answer that question?

Yuichi: I don’t think I have an answer. The person that used to be me—is he me now? I know that it’s common for actors to feel that way. If you’re a really good actor—if you’re in it all the time—it feels very unsettling.

The Japanese continue to operate on a completely different level than the rest of the planet.

See Also: Making Friends Over 30

Schnatter is the one who should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.

The papa of Papa John’s is leaving the CEO seat:

Papa John’s is a major NFL sponsor, and Schnatter wasn’t shy about sharing his thoughts about players who took a knee during the national anthem to protest the treatment of black Americans, particularly by police.

President Trump earlier this year publicly criticized players who chose to kneel, ratcheting up the controversy.

“This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago,” Schnatter said on a conference call with investors in November. “The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country.”

Fuck that guy. Good riddance.

Confirmed: Apple Slows Down Older Devices

Ever notice – like I have – that your iPhone gets slower when you update to the latest version of iOS? A comment thread on Reddit started a few weeks ago on this topic and it hit the tech news sites this week.

Apple has since responded (via iMore):

Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices”, Apple told iMore. “Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.

Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.

This is a shitty way for Apple to get busted doing something they claim is by design.

I agree with what Marco Arment said on Twitter yesterday:

For years, we’ve reassured people that no, Apple doesn’t secretly slow down their older iPhones to make them buy new ones.

If this must be done, it should be a setting. If it’s on by default, the user should be alerted the first time it happens.

I have a 6-year-old Retina iPad 3 running iOS 9 and it’s for this very reason I haven’t updated it. And it’s also for this reason that it’s performance is still fairly snappy.

I’ve never needed confirmation from Apple that my devices were slowing down when I updated them.

Facebook Still Sucks

On Facebook’s news blog David Ginsberg and Moira Burke ask if Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us?:

The bad: In general, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information — reading but not interacting with people — they report feeling worse afterward. In one experiment, University of Michigan students randomly assigned to read Facebook for 10 minutes were in a worse mood at the end of the day than students assigned to post or talk to friends on Facebook. A study from UC San Diego and Yale found that people who clicked on about four times as many links as the average person, or who liked twice as many posts, reported worse mental health than average in a survey. Though the causes aren’t clear, researchers hypothesize that reading about others online might lead to negative social comparison — and perhaps even more so than offline, since people’s posts are often more curated and flattering. Another theory is that the internet takes people away from social engagement in person.

The good: On the other hand, actively interacting with people — especially sharing messages, posts and comments with close friends and reminiscing about past interactions — is linked to improvements in well-being. This ability to connect with relatives, classmates, and colleagues is what drew many of us to Facebook in the first place, and it’s no surprise that staying in touch with these friends and loved ones brings us joy and strengthens our sense of community.

So Facebook has concluded social media sucks if you use it the wrong way. Wow, thanks for the advice.

That’s like a car dealership selling cars that all pull to the right without turning the steering wheel and the dealer telling you, “The driving experience is better if you drive straight.”

Facebook created a platform that encourages the passive consuming of information garbage. If people are engaging in this incorrect usage, maybe Facebook should rethink how Facebook is designed, which it sounds like they’re doing.

Another way of feeling better about yourself is not using Facebook at all. I admittedly have an account that I check once or twice a week and I’m usually reminded as soon as I log in why I don’t like using it for more than a minute or so. If I spend any significant time on Facebook, it’s in the private group my best friends and I set up to talk.

The main Facebook newsfeed feels like I’m having a political debate in an isle of Walmart, with someone handing out pizza bites next to me and a row of TVs playing clips of stupid home movies and dogs tricks behind me, all the while hearing everyone else’s rants around me. Bleh.

Reading Aloud to Yourself

The production effect is the memory advantage of saying words aloud over simply reading them silently. It has been hypothesised that this advantage stems from production featuring distinctive information that stands out at study relative to reading silently. MacLeod (2011) (I said, you said: The production effect gets personal. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18, 1197–1202. doi:10.3758/s13423-011-0168-8) found superior memory for reading aloud oneself vs. hearing another person read aloud, which suggests that motor information (speaking), self-referential information (i.e., “I said it”), or both contribute to the production effect. In the present experiment, we dissociated the influence on memory of these two components by including a study condition in which participants heard themselves read words aloud (recorded earlier) – a first for production effect research – along with the more typical study conditions of reading aloud, hearing someone else speak, and reading silently. There was a gradient of memory across these four conditions, with hearing oneself lying between speaking and hearing someone else speak. These results imply that oral production is beneficial because it entails two distinctive components: a motor (speech) act and a unique, self-referential auditory input.

—Noah D. Forrin & Colin M. MacLeod, Memory (via Wired)

Trump’s Name as a Racial Jeer

‘Trump, Trump, Trump!’ How a President’s Name Became a Racial Jeer:

According to several scholars of American history, the invocation of a president’s name as a jaw-jutting declaration of exclusion, rather than inclusion, appears to be unprecedented. “If you’re hunting for historical analogies, I think you’re in virgin territory,” said Jon Meacham, the author of several books about presidents, including a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Andrew Jackson.

Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian, agrees. “If you’re looking at modern presidents, fill in the blank and see if it can be used in the same way,” he said. “You will see it has not. Hoover? Or Eisenhower? Can you imagine a situation like that?”

What horrible piece of shit we have as president.

LeBron will never be as iconic as Jordon.

Scottie Pippen: LeBron James’ Stats Have ‘Probably’ Passed Michael Jordan’s:

“The numbers don’t lie. He’s right there,” he said. “He probably will never catch him in terms of MVP, but in terms of statistics, LeBron is right there. And when you look across the board—not just scoring—check his assists, check his rebounds … he’s probably ahead of Jordan.”

Jordan averaged 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.3 steals and 0.8 blocks across 15 seasons in the NBA (13 with the Bulls and two with the Washington Wizards).

James currently checks in at 27.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks per game as he takes part in his 15th campaign at the professional level.

LeBron is an amazing athlete (says the guy who doesn’t watch sports), but even if (when) LeBron passes Jordan’s stats, he’ll never be as iconic as Jordan. Sure, “LeBron” is a brand, but “Jordan” is a bigger brand, at least at the level of the company that has been putting his silhouette and name on their shoes for over 30 years – Nike.

I’d go so far as to say Michael Jordan is at the level of a pop culture icon like Mickey Mouse.