Earth Day 2020

Today is Earth Day. Whatever the fuck that means.

Over at The Verge, Barbara Krasnoff shares with us some ways to celebrate Earth Day online while were in the middle of COVID-19 sheltering-in-place.

I’m skipping Krasnoff’s recommendations. Instead I’d like to celebrate how much less damage we’re doing to the Earth and how much less we’re depleting it’s resources right now. Oil production has dropped, manufacturing has slowed, and many fewer cars are pumping out exhaust (what website is this again?).

At LA Magazine, Jason McGahan reports L.A.’s Air Quality Is Better Than It’s Been in Decades:

The March 2020 air quality index compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency confirms what millions of Angelenos can see just by looking out the window: ‪the brownish haze that customarily settles atop the city on weekday afternoons has lifted and visibility has cleared for miles in every direction since the “safer at home” order was imposed.

‪Last month, Los Angeles experienced the longest stretch of days of “good” air since at least 1980. The federal agency’s online data goes back no further, but one expert suspects that L.A.’s air hasn’t been this clean since around the time the United States entered the Second World War. Cody Hill, an energy company executive based in the Bay Area, posted a graphic of the EPA data to his Twitter account and wrote that, in terms of air quality, March may well have been “one of the best months at least since the 1940s, when there was huge migration as we ramped up aircraft production in the L.A. basin to fight WW2.”

So I say, Happy Earth Day, Earth! Enjoy this brief reprieve. We’ll be back soon, unfortunately.

Crownless

Tom Maxwell, reporting for Input Magazine, says Apple may lose the digital crown on next year’s Apple Watch:

While most rumors corroborate the idea that Watch Series 6 will be an iterative update, there’s also been talk of Apple making big changes with the next iteration, Series 7. It’s been reported by several outlets that Apple is considering bringing Touch ID to the Apple Watch so that users can unlock their Watch and authenticate purchases without an iPhone nearby. In one mock-up published by EverythingApplePro, the new Series 7 even sees Apple drop the iconic Digital Crown in favor of a touch-sensitive strip that accepts fingerprint scans and can also be swiped for navigation. With the Series 7 likely still a full generation out, though, we’re not going to hold our breath on that one.

Input Editor-in-Chief, Joshua Topolsky, tweeted out on April 13th, “Horrible”, in reference to the above article. Of course disgust, confusion, and anger are common responses to things people don’t (yet) understand.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Topolsky decried the removal of the Home button on the iPhone X. If Twitter had search functionality worth a damn I’d look.

The point is, don’t knock it ’till you try it. Until then, shut the fuck up.

Categories:

Product, Technology

Quibi and mindshare versus marketshare

Quibi, the newest video-streaming kid on the block launched yesterday:

Quibi, the oddly-named mobile streaming service founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg, was downloaded over 300,000 times on launch day, according to preliminary data from app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower. That’s only 7.5% of the approximately 4 million installs Disney+ saw when it launched in the U.S. and Canada on November 12, 2019. However, it was enough to send Quibi’s app to nearly the top of the charts on the App Store. Today, Quibi is the No. 3 app on the Apple App Store, but only No. 29 on Google Play.

The disparity once again highlights iOS’s mindshare versus Android’s marketshare. Sure, Android’s install base towers over iOS’s but iOS users spend more. How many millions of shitty, budget Android pocket computers are out there, not being used by people because they’re not fun to use?

Related news: This morning, Philip Elmer-DeWitt referenced a Piper Sandler survey revealing (not surprisingly), “A record 85% of U.S. teens own an iPhone, a record 88% want one.”

UFC Fyre Island

UFC 249 could still be happening on April 18th.

That is, if Dana White secures a private island:

As other sports search for solutions on how to carry out events in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, UFC president Dana White believes he has come up with a creative resolution.

The upcoming UFC 249 event on April 18 was originally scheduled to take place in New York City but was forced to move because of the spread of Covid-19 and bans on public gatherings.
After much speculation about whether the event will go ahead, White told TMZ Sports on Monday that he is a “day or two away” from securing a private island which will host the upcoming event, and subsequent fight nights.

“We’re getting the infrastructure put in now so I’m going to start doing the international fights too,” he said.

UFC Fyre Island, anyone?

Categories:

Sports

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“Some church members said their health is in God’s hands.”

Coronavirus deniers and hoaxers persist despite dire warnings, claiming ‘it’s mass hysteria’:

Sunday unfolded with relative normalcy in tiny Wellsville, pop. 1,809, even as Franklin County officials declared a “state of local disaster” and shut the schools until March 30. Restaurants were open and the hardware parking lot was full. A nearby Dollar General had steady business, with one lone toilet paper roll left on the shelves.

Services went on as scheduled at Wellsville Baptist Church, though Pastor Bill Hendricks is trying to move the gatherings online. Hand sanitizer was placed on tables in the back, and residents jokingly tried to bump elbows rather than greet each other with hugs.

In his sermon, Hendricks said he had but one message for his flock this day — turn off the television.

“What’s being played over and over again,” he said, “is stoking fear.”

Some church members said their health is in God’s hands.

“We just need to trust the Lord to solve this,” said Ted Buckley, 73, a retired salesman. “I don’t know anybody personally with coronavirus. We shouldn’t be thrown into a state of panic because of what we hear, rather than what we see and witness.”

Religion can bring out the worst and most ignorant in people, can’t it?

But hold on, let’s get nuanced. I don’t disagree with everything this fuckwit pastor said. I do agree in limiting your exposure to media, be it social or mass. Don’t spend your entire day watching CNN, Fox, Facebook, or Twitter. The term I use for my routine is, “dip in, dip out”. I launch Twitter, I skim my feed, maybe like or reply to something, and close the browser window. I dip in and I dip out.

Now for what the rocket scientist Ted Buckley said, if anyone believes in “trusting the lord to solve this” then they need to stop using modern medicine and see how long they last. They are no longer allowed to visit pharmacies, ERs, or use bandages.

If Buckley develops throat cancer, he needs to gargle with “holy” water. Leave it in god’s hands.

“such a tool is barely in its trial stages”

Gizmodo: Google Scrambles to Make the White House Seem Competent:

Google has announced that it’s partnering with the White House to create a national coronavirus website, which is totally related to whatever the hell the administration was talking about at Friday’s press conference. There, President Donald Trump vastly oversold and misattributed an upcoming, supposedly Google-run project to build a “nationwide” coronavirus screening site to direct people to nearby “drive through” testing depending on their symptoms.

In reality—as Google clarified in a frantic tweet just hours later—such a tool is barely in its trial stages at Verily, Google’s sister-company under the Alphabet umbrella, and it will only be useful for people in the San Francisco Bay Area for the foreseeable future. It purportedly wasn’t even intended to be publically available until White House staff dropped the ball.

A person familiar with the matter told the New York Times that Verily’s pilot program (not a website—that’s still yet to be announced) is planned to launch Monday and can direct Bay Area residents exhibiting flagged symptoms to a total of three testing locations. While still absolutely commendable, don’t get me wrong, that’s still significantly different and scaled-down from what Trump and co. were selling.

Anyone who works on websites and apps knows no one, not even Google, can launch a nationwide website in few days, or a few weeks. There’s many moving parts: design, development, databases, security, redundancy, HIPAA Compliance, and testing/QA to name just a few.

Categories:

Health, Product, Web Design

“He says he quit opioids, but he clearly has other vices.”

Ashley Carman, writing for The Verge, has a fascinating profile on the man behind the crowdfunded ‘iBackpack’ project, Doug Monahan.

Amazingly, Monohan invited Carman down to where he lives in Texas so he could clear his name:

Ochs remembers in the early 2000s, when Monahan first learned about Segway tours, Monahan wanted one for a party he was hosting but was told he’d be put on a waiting list. Instead, according to Ochs, he wrote a blank check to get one delivered to his house and paid two or three times what it should have cost. “It was a disgusting display of wealth,” Ochs says.

It’s hard to picture that life when I visit Monahan’s home now.

Nothing about his current living situation seems enviable, except for maybe his 2005 red Mercedes 500SL. His one-level Houston house smells like cigarettes. He says he quit opioids, but he clearly has other vices. He keeps margarita mix and wine in bulk. He pours one glass of wine while I’m there but then leaves it somewhere and pours another. I can’t tell if he has a bad memory or just can’t be bothered to fetch his glass. An ashtray sits next to his dozen or so computers, which he owns so he can “communicate with the world.” (Monahan mentions he used the dark web to purchase drugs in the past.)

Monohan sounds like a textbook con man.

“Congratulations, kids.”

Via CNN: Marie Osmond isn’t leaving her money to her children:

Marie Osmond says none of the money she’s made over her lifetime will be left to her children.

The 60-year-old performer appeared on “The Talk” recently, where she explained that leaving her kids a fortune would be a “great disservice” to them, and that they need to make their own money.

“I’m not leaving any money to my children. Congratulations, kids,” Osmond said, adding, “My husband and I decided that you do a great disservice to your children to just hand them a fortune because you take away the one most important gift you can give your children, and that’s the ability to work.”

I’m sure Marie’s kids were very thankful when they found out about this wonderful fucking news.

Categories:

Finance

Icons

Windows 10 Icons

Windows 10 Icons

Looking at the evolution of the Mail icon, it appears this is the first version of Windows to not feature shitty icons.

Every version of Windows prior to 10 had icons that looked like they were bought for a dollar from a stock image site, lacking any taste or sophistication.

Categories:

Image, Interface

Solid State Watch

Currently on Kickstarter:

Solid State Watch is a Casio F-91W movement permanently cast into a transparent resin case. It’s in there forever. No buttons, no functions, no light, fully waterproof and no changing that 10 year battery.
It just tells time.

Solid State Watch

I love the idea, but as my friend Jory pointed out, the $160 price tag is hefty as shit considering you can buy a Casio F-91W for $11.

At the time of this posting, they have 308 backers who have contributed over $50,000 towards their $8,000 goal, so clearly there’s a market for this watch.

I can’t help but wonder when the project creators are going to grow tired of resin-coating and vacuum-sealing 300+ watches by hand? I think I’d grow annoyed after making ten.

Categories:

Crowdfunding, Product

WXOU Radio Bar

Katherine Lewin, writing for The Infatuation, on WXOU Radio Bar:

This is as straightforward a bar as you’ll find in the city. DGAF attitude, dad rock, and beers & well drinks are the key components here – it’s all familiar, and that’s a good thing. It’s the perfect place to take a break from the routinely expensive, sceney, and packed bars that you keep going back to. You’ll leave wishing you had this place on your corner.

It doesn’t matter that I lived in New York for 12 years. There will always be bars I haven’t visited. This is one of them, and it looks great.

“we will end up creating a dystopic information environment”

David Kaye, writing for The LA Review of Books on, The Digital Deluge and the Age of AI:

The public’s impression of AI is that it is machines taking over, but — for now, for the foreseeable future, and certainly in content moderation — it is really human programming and the leveraging of that power, which is a massive one for corporations. The machines have a lot of difficulty with text, with all the variations of satire and irony and misdirection and colloquial choppiness that is natural to language. They have difficulty with human difference and have facilitated the upholding of race, gender, and other kinds of biases to negative effect. Even worse, as the scholar Safiya Noble argues in her book Algorithms of Oppression, “racism and sexism are part of the architecture and language of technology.” And all of this is not merely because they are machines and “cannot know” in the sense of human intelligence. It is also because they are human-driven.

We often do not know the answers about meaning, at least not on a first review. The programmers have biases, and those who create rules for the programmers have biases, sometimes baked-in biases having to do with gender, race, politics, and much else of consequence. Exacerbating these substantive problems, AI’s operations are opaque to most users and present serious challenges to the transparency of speech regulation and moderation.

When systems scale, shit gets crazy.

“the first at a major tech company to unionize”

The Verge: Kickstarter employees vote to unionize:

Kickstarter employees voted to unionize today with 46 people voting for the union and 37 against. The decision makes Kickstarter employees the first at a major tech company to unionize. The employees are represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), and the unit is made up of 85 engineers, directors, analysts, designers, coordinators, and customer support specialists.

Mike Monteiro has also been an advocate of organizing unions, specifically for designers.

Categories:

Career

I haven’t seen a compelling argument for why a mobile computer with a folding screen is better than one without a folding screen.

Android pocket computer manufacturers can’t hold back their excitement over folding screens. Samsung was so excited, it aired a Galaxy Z Flip commercial during the Super Bowl before it even announced the phone.

Motorola has taken the nostalgic angle with folding screens and reintroduced the RAZR. I remember when the original RAZR debuted in 2004. There was a ton of buzz surrounding it and its ~$350 pricetag (a hefty price for a folding phone at the time).

I know fashion moves in cycles, and old things become new again, but I’m not convinced the kids today are both nostolgic for a folding phone and really want a touchscreen that folds.

As far as other 40-somethings like me, I don’t see anyone rushing out to get either of these devices. After watching MKBHD’s unboxing and review video for the new RAZR, it’s clear Motorola put nostallgia and form ahead of function, doing everything they could to keep the same shape as the original RAZR in order to create a subpar device compared to other Android mobile computers.

I like seeing gadget experiments, but I haven’t seen a compelling argument for why a mobile computer with a folding screen is better than one without a folding screen. Just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done.