“And itself may be new media.”

Fun review of the Apple Watch by Craig Mod:

It is on my wrist. Do I wish it to be? Not really. Did I crave it? No. Well, maybe a little. I am human. And it is new. And it contains media. And itself may be new media. And it is good to know about these things. So it is on my wrist. This thing, black like crude oil upon Daniel Day Lewis’ brow. Quiet until it pings, so gently, like a sound from the future, bringing only a message to stand up you lazy man.

I’ll eventually have a strong(er) desire for a thing. A thing for my wrist.

But not yet.

Shameless Self-Promotion

What’s the point of contributing to a website if you can’t use it to sell your shit? With that in mind, I hereby announce that my second book, The Blasted Lands, is now available in the Kindle store for $3.99 in the U.S., and adjusted in other markets.

The Blasted Lands is a followup to last year’s Impact Winter, a sci-fi novel where the earth has been enshrouded in ejecta from a meteorite impact in northern Canada. This latest novel is a standalone tale, not a direct sequel to the first, but it does take place in the same area of central Pennsylvania, and features some of the same characters.

In writing this book and the one before, I did my best to imagine what would happen to the land and the people after a significant impact. What would the seismic effects be? How much damage would the air blast do? And what about the most lasting effect; the dust flung into the stratosphere, blocking out all light from the sun for an extended period? There are no good answers as to what would befall civilization were an event like this to take place.

In this novel, some time has passed since the impact, and dusky light has managed to penetrate the shroud, giving the land an eerie countenance. Edward Gray and his small group have weathered the worst of the collapse of society and government, and are now, like other survivors, preparing for the time when the sun will shine once more. They have claimed a small farm in rural Pennsylvania and have set about readying house and field. But, a land with no laws can snatch away plans and dreams without warning. Edward and his people learn that lesson, much to their hardship.

Check it out.




The Man Who Broke the Music Business

Over at the The New Yorker, Stephen Witt tells the story of the The Man Who Broke the Music Business, Bennie Lydell Glover. It was published late last month and I finally got around to reading it. It’s fascinating.

On how Glover smuggled CDs of out the factory he worked at in Kings Mountain, North Carolina:

At the end of each shift, employees put the overstock disks into scrap bins. These scrap bins were later taken to a plastics grinder, where the disks were destroyed. Over the years, Glover had dumped hundreds of perfectly good disks into the bins, and he knew that the grinder had no memory and generated no records. If there were twenty-four disks and only twenty-three made it into the grinder’s feed slot, no one in accounting would know.

So, on the way from the conveyor belt to the grinder, an employee could take off his surgical glove while holding a disk. He could wrap the glove around the disk and tie it off. He could then hide the disk, leaving everything else to be destroyed. At the end of his shift, he could return and grab the disk.

That still left the security guards. But here, too, there were options. One involved belt buckles. They were the signature fashion accessories of small-town North Carolina. Many people at the plant wore them—big oval medallions with the Stars and Bars on them. Gilt-leaf plates embroidered with fake diamonds that spelled out the word “BOSS.” Western-themed cowboy buckles with longhorn skulls and gold trim. The buckles always set off the wand, but the guards wouldn’t ask anyone to take them off.

And on the “ethics” of the elite underground file sharing “crews”:

Scene culture drew a distinction between online file-sharing and for-profit bootlegging. The topsites were seen as a morally permissible system of trade. Using them for the physical bootlegging of media, by contrast, was viewed as a serious breach of ethical principles. Worse, it was known to attract the attention of the law. Kali put the word out that anyone suspected of selling material from the topsites would be kicked out of the group. Thus, for most participants membership in RNS was a money-losing proposition. They spent hundreds of dollars a year on compact disks, and thousands on servers and broadband, and got only thrills in return.

It’s a long, but great read.


Music, Technology

“It was always Tim Duncan.”

Laredo Lloyd on Tim Duncan:

Shaq won three titles with Kobe, one without him, was All-NBA 1st Team eight times, and was the most dominant presence in the game. Kobe, of course, won those three rings with Shaq, two without him, was All-NBA 1st Team 11 times, and was the best post-MJ wing in the game. Ultimately, the greater basketball universe just kind of collectively shrugged and agreed Kobe was the one, and the “best players of their era” cannon was then complete: Bird and Magic, then M.J., then Kobe (and now LeBron).

Alas, we were wrong. Kobe wasn’t the one. And neither was Shaq. It was Tim Duncan.

It was always Tim Duncan.

I find this piece interesting, and I barely follow sports (although I used know a hell of a lot more about basketball in the 90s when I was in high school).



Mary Meeker Knows Wussup

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2015 Report is out.

If you’ve never seen her report, I encourage you to do so. You might see a lot of statistics you either already know or consider obvious, but it’s an extensive and extremely thorough look at the state of the Internet.

Here’s just a few slides that stood out to me.

The evolution of content discovery:

I know a lot of old farts who don’t let their phones leave their sides:





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It’s Not Okay to Work Yourself to Death

The other day I saw this article from the New York Times:

In Busy Silicon Valley, Protein Powder Is in Demand

Here’s a quote:

Boom times in Silicon Valley call for hard work, and hard work — at least in technology land — means that coders, engineers and venture capitalists are turning to liquid meals…While athletes and dieters have been drinking their dinner for years, Silicon Valley’s workers are now increasingly chugging their meals, too, so they can more quickly get back to their computer work.

This is absolutely ridiculous. If a person is working so hard that they can’t take a break, then they need a different job. If a person does not want to take a break, then they need to have breaks forced on them for their own good, and for the good of the rest of us.

I’ve been working in the tech industry since 2003, and as a salaried employee, at times there is pressure to work large amounts of overtime. When I worked remotely for a company in Silicon Valley, I would have to remind my supervisors and coworkers that while they were working on national holidays, I was not. The picture many people have of the working culture in Silicon Valley is one of foosball tables and being allowed to bring a dog to work everyday. What I found, instead, is a culture of workaholics who are either chasing an elusive fortune, or who are not cognizant of the fact their lives no longer belong to them, but to the company. As just about everyone who is not an hourly worker knows, there is usually no overtime pay for salaried positions. It’s not enough for companies to rent out a person’s life for 40 hours a week. They want free labor, as well.

It’s a travesty that this is the case. Past generations fought hard for fair pay and worker protections, including the forty-hour work week and breaks during a shift, that have steadily been eroded as labor unions have lost their influence. People died for these rights, at the hands of thugs hired by their employers, and from the U.S. military. They died for all of us, and the worst part about this situation is that modern-day workers have gone into arrangements where more and more of their time, for free, is ceded to their employers voluntarily.

This new fad of protein shakes replacing meals is but a small symptom of the larger problem of American workers not being fairly compensated for their labor. The people mentioned in this article should not be praised for their work ethic. They should be pitied. And the companies that employ them should be ashamed that they are, or are allowing, their talent to be exploited in such a way.


Broken Gold

I will never forget the first time I realized we were ripping people off. It’s the one and only time in my life that my older brother, a very gentle person by nature, swore at me. A pretty young woman, maybe twenty-three at the oldest, with one baby in her arm and another in a stroller, had been waiting about an hour, and I drew her number. When she came to the counter I was already sick to my stomach. She wanted to sell her diamond engagement ring and her gold wedding band. I had been taught the trick of how to buy gold. I could have weighed her ring on a gram scale and offered her that price immediately, but I knew you always bid on the biggest item first, because then the smaller offers for cheaper items feel less important, like small change.

—Clancy Martin, We Buy Broken Gold



We Operate Not On Reality, But the Appearance of Reality

Over at the AIGA, Liz Stinson on an experience by Errol Morris and Michael Bierut to determine if a font can make us believe something is true:

The toothsome paperback provides an intriguing look into an intuitive but little understood truth: typefaces can have an emotional and psychological impact on us. To appreciators of typography (and Kanye West) this probably sounds like a pretty obvious statement. Of course typography has an impact on our judgement; we’re just not always conscious of its effects. And why shouldn’t it? Typography is but one of countless environmental factors that influence our perception of truth or falsity. Morris, for his part, recently said during an interview: “It’s absurd to think that we would be nudged by one typeface over another, into believing something to be true. Something disturbing about it, I’d go so far to say.”

We judge people by their the tattoos on their bodies, the clothes they wear, and the cars they drive why not the fonts they use?

Tapping a Maple

Well I’ll be damned.

Ken Cosgrove got a story published in The Atlantic:

The south side of the tree, Fitz had once explained, gets the most direct light from the sun. The heat, day after day, would warm and soften the sap, making it more pliant, more easily yielding to our desires—as if, I thought with a chuckle, it had availed itself of Secor laxatives. Fitz held the compass in an outstretched arm, eyes narrowed toward the hovering needle. It shook like a Relax-a-cizor. He moved slowly around the narrow perimeter of the tree trunk, circling, slowly, until, with the strength of Right Guard deodorant and the confidence of Richard Nixon—

“Here,” he said.

He had found the spot for the tap. He drilled; he hammered the spile. The trunk shook with each impact. I imagined the sap—soon, the sap—slow and sweet, its trickle as voluptuous as a siren wearing both a red dress and an even redder shade of Belle Jolie lipstick.