We can’t make everything a priority.

Jason Kottke on death in the celebrity age:

Frankly, I don’t know how we’re all going to handle this. Chances are in 15-20 years, someone famous whose work you enjoyed or whom you admired or who had a huge influence on who you are as a person will die each day…and probably even more than one a day. And that’s just you…many other famous people will have died that day who mean something to other people. Will we all just be in a constant state of mourning? Will the NY Times national obituary section swell to 30 pages a day? As members of the human species, we’re used to dealing with the death of people we “know” in amounts in the low hundreds over the course of a lifetime. With higher life expectancies and the increased number of people known to each of us (particularly in the hypernetworked part of the world), how are we going to handle it when several thousand people we know die over the course of our lifetime?

Our brains were not built to make everything we see on TV and the Internet a priority.

Whether it’s donating to a humanitarian org, keeping in touch with real friends, or “mourning” over the loss of celebrities (read: cultural icon, artist, musician), it can’t all be important to you. You can’t donate to every disaster on every continent. You can’t keep meaningful relationships with 500 Facebook “friends”, and you won’t be able to stay sad over the deaths of more than 5-6 celebrities for more than a few weeks. There’s only 24 hours in a day.

Figure out what’s important and disregard the rest.

It’s All Optional

Donald Trump Is Said to Intend to Keep a Stake in His Business:

President-elect Donald J. Trump is considering formally turning over the operational responsibility for his real estate company to his two adult sons, but he intends to keep a stake in the business and resist calls to divest, according to several people briefed on the discussions.

Under a plan now being considered by the Trump family and its lawyers, Ivanka Trump, Mr. Trump’s elder daughter, would also take a leave of absence from the Trump Organization, in the surest sign that she is exploring a potential move to Washington with her husband, Jared Kushner. Mr. Kushner is discussing an as-yet undetermined role advising his father-in-law, and Ms. Trump plans on being an advocate on issues in which she has a personal interest, like child care.

I’m confused. I thought when a person assumes the role of POTUS, they have to put their investments in a blind trust and divest their business dealings?

Apparently this is all optional. Just like it’s apparently optional to disclose your tax returns when you go into office, something most GOP candidates since the 70s have done.

Now that I understand these things to be customs, not laws, people need to shut the fuck about them until they are actual laws, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon.



Feeding the Phenomenon

There’s an exploitation going on here that the media justifies for self-interested reasons. They recognize that most of the people in the debates are not serious candidates — they’re running to be talk show hosts, or something like that. In any case, the belief is that this stuff is not actually deciding the election.

But this stuff gets talked about, and that’s why they do it. Trump understood that and he’s exploited it masterfully. He recognized the rules of the game and took advantage of it in a way we haven’t seen.

The press is often blamed for the politics we get; what usually happens is the press exaggerates and reinforces the phenomenon that it observes. It doesn’t create the phenomenon – it makes it bigger; it feeds it. And then the phenomenon wouldn’t be able to contain itself without the press being a willing enabler.

How Trump masterfully exploited the structural weaknesses of the press, Vox, 8 Nov 2016



How Far 16GB of Memory Goes

Zdziarski explores the myth of professionals needing 16GB of RAM (via The Loop):

Apple’s latest MacBook Pro line is limited to 16GB due to energy (and likely heat) constraints, and that’s gotten a lot of people complaining that it simply isn’t enough for “real pros”. Ironically, many of the people saying that don’t quite fall into what many others would consider a “real pro” themselves; at least based on the target demographic of Apple’s “pro” line, which has traditionally been geared toward working professionals such as photographers, producers, engineers, and the like (not managers and bloggers). But even so, let’s take a look at what it takes to really pin your MacBook Pro’s memory, from a “professional’s” perspective.

First of, “myth” is a misnomer. It’s not a myth, it’s a view held by some (not all) professionals who legitimately need at least 16GB of RAM to work smoothly. Zdziarski acknowledges these people exist but I disagree in calling them “edge cases” like he does.

Zdziarski correctly points out developers need to write software that doesn’t try to eat every gig of memory your system has:

A couple apps you won’t see on this list are Chrome and Slack. Both of these applications have widespread reports of being memory pigs, and in my opinion you should boycott them until the developers learn how to write them to play nicer with memory. You can’t fault Apple for poorly written applications, and if Apple did give you 32 GB of RAM just for them, it wouldn’t matter. Poorly written apps are going to continue sucking down as much memory as possible until you’re out. So it’s reasonable to say that if you’re running poorly written applications, your mileage will definitely vary. RAM is only one half the equation: programmers need to know how to use it respectfully.

This is the Catch-22: Apple could raise the Macbook Pro’s memory to 32GB but then there’s the risk that developers just make more bloated, memory-hogging software.

This reminds me of what Robert Moses did in the early 20th century in New York City, building bridge after bridge after bridge to alleviate automobile congestion. In the short-term it worked, but eventually the number of cars increased to fill all the bridges and the congestion returned.




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The High Maintenance Man-Baby with Tiny Hands

Inside Donald Trump’s Last Stand: An Anxious Nominee Seeks Assurance:

Mr. Trump’s campaign is no longer making headlines with embarrassing staff shake-ups. But that has left him with a band of squabbling and unfireable advisers, with confusing roles and an inability to sign off on basic tasks. A plan to encourage early voting in Florida went unapproved for weeks.

The result is chaotic. Advisers cut loose from the campaign months ago, like Corey Lewandowski, still talk to the candidate frequently, offering advice that sometimes clashes with that of the current leadership team. Mr. Trump, who does not use a computer, rails against the campaign’s expenditure of tens of millions on digital ads, skeptical that spots he never sees could have any effect.

Trump doesn’t use a computer and his campaign staff took control of his Twitter account. It seems like he spends half his time on Twitter. Where is he channeling all his angst?

His head might explode in the next 48 hours.



Apple and McLaren

Financial Times: Apple in talks on McLaren supercars takeover:

Left to right: Eddy Cue sits on the board of Ferrari, Sir Jonathan Ive has fondness for Aston Martin, and Phil Schiller owns a McLaren

Apple has approached McLaren Technology Group, the British supercar engineer and Formula One team owner, about a potential acquisition, in the clearest sign yet that the iPhone maker is seeking to transform the automotive industry.


I’m envisioning a very, very affordable car.

UPDATE: Nevermind.



The Useless Machine

Over at The New York Times, Mark O’Connell talks about his Useless Machine, created by computer scientist Marvin Minsky in the 1950s at Bell Laboratories:

There is something charming, and even inspiring, in the paradoxical efficiency of this machine that does nothing, that fulfills its entire purpose by bluntly refusing to fulfill any purpose at all. When I reach over to flick the switch on my Useless Machine and then watch it rouse itself, with patient defiance, to switch itself off again, I wonder whether this is what it might mean for a technology to be truly intelligent: to receive an order and to respond by politely but firmly declining to follow it. The plain contradiction here, of course, is that in refusing to do what it’s told, the machine is stoically following its explicit commands. In this sense, the Useless Machine is like a battery-operated koan: a playfully profound riddle on the relationship between humans and technology, and on the nature of intelligence.

I think O’Connell shows us The Useless Machine is far from useless in the questions and thoughts it arouses in people who see and interact with it. Sometimes seemingly silly things can effect us profoundly.

The article also points out the other useful things that came out of Bell Laboratories: the transistor, the solar cell, the laser, and the UNIX operating system (which is the foundation of iOS and what Linux is based on).

Project Ara Scrapped

Reuters: Google shelves plan for phone with interchangeable parts:

Alphabet Inc’s Google has suspended Project Ara, its ambitious effort to build what is known as a modular smartphone with interchangeable components, as part of a broader push to streamline the company’s hardware efforts, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The move marks an about-face for the tech company, which announced a host of partners for Project Ara at its developer conference in May and said it would ship a developer edition of the product this autumn.

The company’s aim was to create a phone that users could customize on the fly with an extra battery, camera, speakers or other components.

I called this two years ago. It’s a fun idea, but it’s not practical.

What nerds (egineers) tend to forget is most of the population doesn’t like to tinker with their electronics. They just want them to work.




Pebble 2, $12.8 Million

Pebble’s third Kickstarter ends with $12.8M raised, $7.5M less than last year:

Smartwatch maker Pebble wrapped its third Kickstarter campaign today with $12,779,754 in preorders for the company’s upcoming products: the Pebble 2, the Time 2, a little Spotify streaming box, and a refresh to the Time Round line.

Pledges this year fell short of last year’s milestone of more than $20 million, but surpassed the company’s 2012 campaign, when it collected about $10 million.

Let’s start with the obvious: Enthusiasm for new Pebble watches appears to have slipped. Pebble has a history of breaking its own records — as well as Kickstarter’s — and that didn’t happen this year. It took the company a mere 48 hours to surpass $10 million in preorders in February 2015. This time around, it took Pebble more than twice as long.

I wish I had problems like raising 12.8 million dollars.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens to Pebble in the long term with Apple likely debuting a new Watch this fall and Google updating their Android Wear. I wonder if Pebble can hold on to and grow their loyal customer base or if they’ll get squeezed out.




Self-Driving Employment Snatchers

A group of ex-Google engineers have just launched Otto, an autonomous trucking startup:

Otto’s first vehicle is twice as long and six times as heavy as Google’s cute prototype car, but has exactly the same number of drivers: zero.

Founded by four ex-Google engineers — including Anthony Levandowski, the man who built Google’s very first self-driving car — Otto is applying Google’s all-or-nothing approach to commercial big rigs: ditch human drivers, avoid thousands of road deaths, help the environment, and if all goes well, make a ton of money along the way.

I can tell you who won’t be getting ‘a ton of money’—the drivers that used to drive those big rigs.

Are technology companies putting enough thought into ramifications of phasing out entire sections of the workforce?

[Side thought: I wonder if they got the name of their startup from the idealized thermodynamic cycle that describes the functioning of a typical spark ignition piston engine]