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Briefs

Saturday, May 14th, 2022

Venkatesh invites us to join him in exploring the hive mind (very meta). What a candy-maker, this one.

Saturday, February 5th, 2022

During this -26.4% period of reckoning for Facebook, David Goldman has linked to his 2012 essay What if Facebook is really worth $100 billion?

Where are the ads targeted to my tastes – harpsichords, assault rifles, kosher cookbooks, and cat toys? Perhaps I haven’t posted enough for the Matrix to process my profile. Still, I suspect that the more people use Facebook, the less the computers really will know about them … What makes Facebook so popular? The answer, I think is that Facebook exalts the insignificant.

Me, I never understood why Facebook and Microsoft are valued alongside Apple, Google and Amazon, which seem to have locks on more fundamental aspects of our lives: Apple for our increasingly central digital devices, Google for information garnered via those devices, and Amazon for fulfilling much of our material consumption. Yes, Facebook seems to have a lock on our relationships with friends and family, but it’s likely that nobody wants that intermediated by anything more than a tool; it’s the part we most want to keep keeping real.

Microsoft seems to have saved its bacon by going into gaming — which it totally deserves having developed the XBox — and by buying GitHub — and then in turn NPM! — and moving closer than any other corporation to open source, which was a scarily brilliant move that kind of upgrades its own DNA as a software maker (even as it likely somehow eventually stymies human progress). Its other big purchase, LinkedIn, strengthens M$‘s lock on the domain they’ve dominated for decades: the workplace. To me the Michael Scott social network seems more feasible to monetize than Facebook, but beyond that, the workplace feels at home with Microsoft; a Microsoft product need only be almost as good as a competitor’s to be selected. It’s a great brand that way. I guess. And being wrapped up in the Apple ecosphere one can forget that Microsoft remains the dominant player in device operating systems. Nonetheless in comparison to these other giants M$ seems a company just trying to keep up — though wasn’t it ever thus yet things continue to work out just fine for them.

Whereas Facebook’s Metaverse, without having watched the video, seems to either be a quest to dominate the online identity business, which, while suitably and juicily ambitious and evil, does not seem to be as giant a business as the others. Or else the Metaverse is a revisit of Second Life with improved resolution. Only if human existence on earth goes very pear-shaped indeed might people prefer this Virtual Reality Metaverse to a pair of Apple Vision shades, and of course if things got that bad we wouldn’t have the working infrastructure to power our Oculus Shmockuluses. Rather, perhaps Meta’s future is in analytics — even its new name suggests so — which is (hopefully) not as big a business as that of the other FAANGs.

Friday, January 21st, 2022

Inverse is a beautifully designed web magazine [should Web be capitalized?], a Joshua Topolsky joint alongside a stable of others that I’ve noticed are designwise a cut above what else is out there — Input, which is similar to Inverse and actually the two seem to unhelpfully overlap — and W, a women’s fashion mag also published by Bustle Digital Group that I normally wouldn’t have noticed but am enjoying the design.

Yet outstanding web artisanship notwithstanding, can a magazine survive if it feels ultimately corporate, which seems a danger when the job title changes from co-founder or Editor-in-Chief to Chief Content Officer, Culture & Innovation?

In Inverse the writing itself feels pretty generic, less tours-de-force by expert than relentless plodding coverage. Article after article appears on a single scroll; you never reach the end of the page, and although this is convenient, I’ve never liked this innovation, I feel overwhelmed and exhausted by it.

While the pages as a whole look great, the fact is I am not reading the articles; the san-serif body text looks like it’s less to be read than looked at. Also, it’s too far to the right on the screen. And there’s a little wobble.

From the case study by web shop Code and Theory, it appears Input and Inverse have been merged onto the same content management system, and Input was Topolsky’s technology mag baby but BDG also acquired science and entertainment site Inverse from elsewhere. No wonder the overlap.

They have a rationale for the infinite scroll:

In a world where scrolling through feeds feels second-nature, we designed Input and Inverse without traditional homepages. Upon landing on inputmag.com or inverse.com, readers see an infinite scroll of stories. Each story offers a snippet—the headline, maybe a quote, or a key stat, along with some information. The reader can then expand that story in the feed to read more, or continue scrolling.

When one story finishes, users scroll right back into the infinite stream of stories.

The stream can also be interrupted by rocks—curated content modules, e-commerce breakers and other fun interactive moments for the reader.

Maybe I’m unrepresentative of what most people like to do on the web, but I think this approch misguided. On an infinite scroll, reader becomes skimmer. Now maybe skimming is what you actually want readers to be doing on your site, not really reading the articles, thereby perhaps seeing and acting more on ads? All well and good, but skimming is less valuable and satisfying than reading an article set in a serif where the page ends when the article ends. If I read a piece, I want to feel I’ve read a piece.

One more thing: none of the subtitles has been informative but neither are they witty, rather they demonstrate that what’s leading is design not content.

Saturday, January 1st, 2022

It’s embarrassing but I’ve never really gotten the hang of the service, so I’m glad HN surfaced Tasshin & Brian Hall’s A Guide to Twitter.

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

Social media is the opium of the 21st century, and the young tech wizards who infest Silicon Valley are the moral successors of the young Etonians who forced India to grow the drug and forced China to buy it.

David P. Goldman, How the Virtual Empire Corrupted America: My January 2000 Warning

Saturday, November 6th, 2021

A note from the MetaCompany:

On October 28th, 2021, Facebook decided to commit trademark infringement and call themselves “Meta”. They couldn’t buy us, so they tried to bury us by force of media. We shouldn’t be surprised by these actions — from a company that continually says one thing and does another. Facebook and its operating officers are deceitful and acting in bad faith, not only towards us, but to all of humanity.

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021

The proper dosage of hierarchy is just barely enough to vitalize a very large collective.

Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable

I agree: There is something endemic to online communication that exacerbates the dislike of and frustration with people with different values, writes Michelle Goldberg. And there’s nothing like a simple study, as stark as a thought experiment, to sharpen the mind:

[The Polarization Lab] recruited 1,220 Twitter users who identified as either Democrats or Republicans, offering to pay them $11 to follow a particular Twitter account for a month. Though the participants didn’t know it, the Democrats were assigned to follow a bot account that retweeted messages from prominent Republican politicians and thinkers. The Republicans, in turn, followed a bot account that retweeted Democrats.

“Nobody became more moderate,” said Bail. “Republicans in particular became much more conservative when they followed the Democratic bot, and Democrats became a little bit more liberal.”

Sunday, October 3rd, 2021

What a great piece on the dysfunctionality of online advertising at the now-defunct The Correspondent, “The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising” [2019] by Jesse Frederik and Maurits Martijn.

Picture this. Luigi’s Pizzeria hires three teenagers to hand out coupons to passersby. After a few weeks of flyering, one of the three turns out to be a marketing genius. Customers keep showing up with coupons distributed by this particular kid. The other two can’t make any sense of it: how does he do it? When they ask him, he explains: “I stand in the waiting area of the pizzeria.”

Sunday, September 12th, 2021

Gordon Brander thinks seriously about the Web vis-a-vis mobile.

By now, the web’s network advantage had evaporated. The iPhone’s native apps were internet apps, sandboxed, and talking HTTP, just like a web app. The iPhone was designed for a world that included the web. The web was not designed for a world that included the iPhone.

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

I wanted a way in Apple Mail to list all emails from VIPs to which I’ve not yet replied. After googling, I found a nice solution at MakeUseOf: “4 Mac Mail Productivity Tips All Professionals Must Know” (2019).

So I made a Smart Mailbox “VIP Unreplied” with all the following rules:

  • Sender is VIP
  • Message was not replied to
  • From does not contain donotreply
  • Message is not in mailbox “Already Replied”

And in the “Already Replied” Smart Mailbox:

  • Message has flag: Green

This second one because sometimes a message is handled in some other way than a reply or doesn’t need one.

Monday, July 19th, 2021

I think the author’s almost actually serious in his call to ditch HTML for PDF:

PDFs are page-oriented. This is another fundamental freedom – toknow unambiguously which part of the document you are looking at.Compare to infinite-scroll HTML pages which are disorienting bydesign. This may sound trivial, but seriously: with infinite scrolling,you are fundamentally not in control of the reading experience.

Ha, since he posted the mainfesto as an actual PDF, when I copied that quote it pasted full of triple-spaces and some non-spaces, which I’ve kept for effect — so much for that! Still, the author does bring up many important issues.

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days

Jessica Livingston

♦♦♦♦

I transcribed more of this book than any other, quoting these great guys who’ve been there and done that; it’s one for dipping in to when seeking inspiration.

The author — wife and Y Combinator partner to Paul Graham — gets out the way as much as possible and lets these guys speak; think Studs Terkel but only with hugely successful tech people.

Friday, July 9th, 2021

A reminder of the marvel and fragility of the Web by Jonathan Zittrain, law professor and computer science professor at Harvard, and a co-founder of its Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

What a sinking feeling, reading the announcement that Marginal Revolution is launching on Facebook’s Substack ripoff Bulletin”:https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2021/06/a-more-than-marginal-boost-for-marginal-revolution.html (I get a blank screen in Firefox, and naturally there’s no RSS feed). It’s interesting that trillion-dollar Facebook feels so threatened by Substack.

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

Chaos Monkeys: Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine

Antonio Garcia Martinez

♦♦♦♦

As author Antonio García Martínez battles away as an eager newcomer at Facebook, his account jolts one awake to the somewhat forgotten power of literature: we are reminded that what will survive these times will likely not be the mammoth trillion dollar company but instead this book.

And shame on Apple, caving to those who campaigned to have Martinez fired recently from his new job there because of some gross and silly yet heartfelt generalization in the book of San Francisco womenfolk; such philistine snowflakes do little more than buttress his point, as well as forcing our author to remain up on these more commanding if perhaps less remunerative cultural heights.

Friday, June 25th, 2021

I just logged on to Facebook for the first time in a while for a few minutes. This piece, full of zingers, captures the feeling of sickly irritation well.

[Facebook] exists as a weird kind of social museum, where I exist as an observer watching people I knew 5, 10, 15 years ago grow up, get married, have children, all the while saying nothing in the silence. Intersperse the family announcements with memes and ads and other nonsense, and my newsfeed is nothing but a wasteland, a place I’ll find maybe one relevant, engaging update from someone I know for every fifty I couldn’t care less about.

To be fair, I have a friend who finds his Facebook feed uplifting and enjoyable.

Saturday, June 5th, 2021

We are so used to saying “The internet changed everything” that we have forgotten it changed everything.

Peggy Noonan, What Drives Conspiracism

Monday, May 10th, 2021

Elle Griffin is serializing her novel on Substack and here lists others also publishing fiction on the platform.

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

A bit mindblowing: put the browser itself in the cloud: Mighty [Hacker News discussion].

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s effect on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.

Paul Krugman

Friday, November 27th, 2020

Metatags.io, a very nice tool to test your metatags. Bravo, makers.

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

“Indie developers need protection from monopolistic and anti-competitive practices from larger players in the market through strong government regulation, not a discount on their first $1m in sales.” “Apple’s 15% Deflection Tactic” by John Luxford.

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

CEO Chris Best talks Substack with Eric Johnson of Recode. Email as a reading medium, I’m not drawn to it, but maybe because I still live with spam.

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Thursday, August 20th, 2020

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

technovelgy.com, where science meets fiction, and a glorious taste of the old web.

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

An anonymous employee beneficiary of Twitter’s IPO: “I think a lot of [people in Silicon Valley] care about basic income for everyone, because we’ve lived with it ourselves.”

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

“More news, less junk. Faster.” Brent Simmons has just released the free and open source RSS reader NetNewsWire app for iOS. This may well be a visible dent in the universe.

In an interview with Kelly Gulmont on MacObserver, he says in an interview that one of the things he’s most proud of is that search is really fast (in a 20-minute podcast, this, remarkably, is the only bit of substance; I won’t be listening again).

There’s a review up at MacStories, “NetNewsWire for iOS and iPadOS Review: The Perfect Complement to the App’s macOS Counterpart” while Cult of Mac has “NetNewsWire is reborn on iOS”. Also 9to5Mac.

Sunday, March 1st, 2020

Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of an Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader

Brent Schlener and Rick Tetzell

♦♦♦

Although the simple thesis gets repeated interminably, nonetheless it’s a nice one: that Steve Jobs’s greatness stems muchly from his constant becoming, constant learning, constant trying to overcome himself (hence the title, which can be read as descriptive).

It’s great to be in his company, which you feel you are, as one of the authors was himself repeatedly so for decades.

One thing new to me was Pixar’s role in maturing Jobs; we don’t often read about who and what shaped the shaper.

Monday, January 27th, 2020

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

Matt Layman’s handy Failed SaaS Postmortem — too much tech tinkering; I need to take heed. Plus it’s great he’s getting right back in the saddle.

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

Install bullshit.js as a bookmarklet. Your insides will thank you.

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

“Please just leave me alone when I cross streets.” Richard Stallman’s terms of service for speaking engagements come to light [via The Register] surrounding his forced terminations. A couple of observations: for 66 his skin looks amazingly moist and smooth, like a healthy 25-year-old’s, which perhaps says something about his lifestyle and choices. And his exactingness regarding these terms is both ridiculous and admirable; few things are more important than knowing who we are and what we want and expressing these clearly.

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

Monday, March 11th, 2019

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

itshello.co — clientless, open-source video chat in the browser.

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

Now that’s a web site: New York City tree map — every last one, including street view, species, diameter. [via Kottke]

Monday, October 8th, 2018

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

Tim Berners-Lee announces his startup Inrupt to support and popularize Solid, a platform to enable people to regain control of their own data.

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

I miss the days of forums, when any issue about a product was discussed on its own site and nowhere else. I do believe issues are better resolved online with posts, not chats.

Inappropriate use of chat software erodes mental health, at least, mine. Here’s a fun articulate essay on why the author hates Slack (and you should too).

And Slack is proprietory. I just scrolled up and was stopped and told I need a paid plan! And Discord: why?! Trendiness happens.

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

“Breaking Smart” by Venkatesh Rao. This is the first collection, “Software is Eating the World”, inspired by a residency at Andreessen/Horowitz.

“The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial” by Venkatesh Rao is the best thing I’ve read on the internet all year. I especially love his notion of being “above or below the API line”.

For more mediocrity theory, see his “Survival of the Mediocre Mediocre”: “Evolution is survival, not of the most mediocre (that would lead to paradox), but survival of the mediocre mediocre.”

Friday, August 24th, 2018

“Modelling Process Intensive Scenarios for the Smart City” [PDF]. In this paper by professors at the computer science department at the University of Camerino in Italy, the authors discuss BPMN (and bpFM, which I’d never heard of before) in the context of municipal services, specifically bike-sharing.

Another perspective on bike-sharing, this time re usability, by mobile-first thought leader Luke Wroblewski.

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

Why does tech have so many political problems? A list of 17 answers by Tyler Cowen. I love the phrase “Robespierrean social justice terror”.

Friday, July 20th, 2018

We have a bunch of companies that are comprised of a sales department and a tech department, because every other job has been outsourced to a website run by another company composed of a sales department and a tech department.

Peter Welch, “How to Worry Less About Being a Bad Programmer”

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

A German court has issues the first GDPR ruling, reports The National Law Review. It concerns ICANN, the American non-profit that oversees the global WHOIS database of registered internet domain names, and German registrar EPAG.

index topics internet internet

Arab Insanity Eroding

What shame, to have tainted with one’s own madness such benevolent bodies as civil aviation, non-combatant status in war — even United Nations human rights bodies.

Denver Met

My intent here is not only to participate in a conference but to suck up myriad Americana as a thirsty exile catapulted back in for a primer.

Yes

It’s a Somewhat Rauschenberg World

I don’t like this use of animals, like Damien Hirst’s. The artist could not have asked the goat for permission so should not have assumed it was granted.

Black Tracks the Presidents

The great virtue of Conrad Black’s Flight of the Eagle is its steady track across the entirety of the nation’s history, treating each president equally under its own law and order.

Homepage Design 2016

Even if a web site appears differently at different screen sizes, it should still feel like itself. On a larger canvas more expression abounds; distill this into the smaller screen and get more personality; do “mobile first” second.

Yes

From iPhone 4S to 6S: An Appreciation

The increased size, something I was so hesitant about, feels fine to me now. And because it’s thinner it feels less obtrusive in my pocket.

Spectreview

With the villain’s quasi-sibling bond to the hero, 2015’s 007 movie deflates to an incestuous Möbius Strip.

In Gaza, Israel Should Own its Terrible Tactic

Although such excoriating labels as “collective punishment” and “state terrorism” aren’t entirely wrong regarding Israel’s application of the Dahieh Doctrine in Gaza, history does suggest that the method is effective in fighting a fundamentally defensive war.

Go Deny Yourself

This four-letter little word undermines our modern values of tolerance and presumption of innocence.

Some Consumer Affairs

I’ve tried to enjoy schlepping water, thinking that it serves to keep us to some human roots.

Yes

From Nokia N95 to iPhone 4S

Annoyances and upsets with the iPhone 4S have been more than offset by its screen, the silkiness of its surfaces, the camera, and the third-party market for both software and hardware.

2001: A Space Odyssey: Dry, Juicy, Linear, Luminous

The dancers in the ape-suits; how they move is an incredibly energetic output for us. Contrast their physical reaction when witnessing the monolith to that of the astronauts in the newly-minted 21st century.

The Mouse and the Cantilever

Steve Jobs we lost at the age of 56; when Frank Lloyd Wright reached that age it was 1923, the time of merely his second comeback with Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel.

Friendship is for Weenies

It’s amazing, given the adulation he enjoyed elsewhere, that the Israeli public knew from the start not to trust US President Obama.

Before the Setup

It’s 1983: Go for the Apple IIe with 64k that could be opened up as a hobbyist machine? Or the smaller, sleeker and newer IIc with double the memory but a closed case?

At Modi’in Mall

There’s nothing else around here except empty desolate pretty hills. The Israel Trail passes by a bit to the west. The shops are mostly franchises, almost all homegrown: Super-Pharm, Aroma, Tzomet Sfarim, Cup O’ Joe’s, LaMetayel, Mega, Fox, Castro, H&O.

Yes

The Israel I Love, the Bad So Far

If the signage were a bit more effective, the staff’s diction and demeanor more professional, then we might have avoided this testy altercation.

Shanghai Europe

So, finally, we stopped yesterday; the Israeli assault on Gaza of late 2008/early 2009 is over. With it, Israel lost moral purity and made vital strategic gains.

Yes

Panning for MacBook Pro

Even if it did nothing, was just a prop in a futuristic movie, the MacBook Pro would be impressive; it’s like a sculpture of my previous computer, the MacBook, except it’s actually an improved computer!

Stop Yesterday

Is the goal of Israel’s current assault on Gaza to discourage Hamas from firing rockets or to render them incapable of doing so? These are two quite different projects.

Short-circuiting Place-based Longing

If there’s one tangible benefit to having lived in a variety of places it’s that it furnishes evidence of the futility of longing to be elsewhere.

A Crawl Across Crawley, Part 1

Irit, the Jam and I walk from Brighton to Gatwick Airport.

Clash of the Midgets

I was annoyed to have my sauna moments despoiled and dominated, reverberating with this old geezer’s most naff yap.

Yes

Israel’s Greatest Victory Since Osirak?

If Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was part of a masterplan to staunch the damage done by the victory of the Six Day War in 1967, then today we see another step in its unfolding.

The Small Adventures, Part 2

There in the empty restaurant by the water at Dieppe I had toast with foie gras, a carafe of red wine, a huge plate of mussels and chips, and finally a crème brûlée. Somehow, though I’ve eaten in restaurants hundreds of times, I felt grown up.

Yes

The Small Adventures

Late for the 11pm train to Milan, we enquired frantically among the taxis for one who’d accept the two dogs and take us to Termini Station so I could begin our journey to Britain.

Tony Blair and the Four-State Solution

Ariel Sharon’s disengagement policy reflected an understanding that ownership of the Palestinian issue is shared with Egypt and Jordan. If Tony Blair were to acquire this view, perhaps he really could help facilitate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A Restoration and Return

There she was, sitting outside the apartment block! How did she do it? Dogs—or at least Jam—must have some sort of navigational sense we don’t understand.

Curs to Fate

Yesterday I lost Jam in Villa Borghese, the central park here in Rome, some five miles from Talenti, the neighborhood where we’re staying. She has not turned up since.

Yes

Jam and Bread, Jam and Bread!

My dog Jam has spent over a third of her time here in Italy as her fixtures have fallen away—first Maddie, then me. But now I’m back!

Yes

This Trip’s Last Day

I went to Astor Place Haircutters. I crossed Manhattan Bridge on foot. I walked west along Canal St, seeking a bamboo steamer.

I, Thou and Pastor Bob

At the Calvary Church here in Fort Lauderdale the Biblical locations feel so far away that they can be abstracted and spiritualized. There is religious energy here.

Yes

The Big and Easy

The American stage is grand, as are the achievements and ambitions, but daily life seems lamed by a compulsive denaturing.

A Drop in Time

The camera hit the ground lens first, bashing it in so that it would no longer wind in and out, and couldn’t switch on. Without it, my perception of an important personal era was degraded.

A Ride to Gatwick Airport

Airports. They’re so charged, so symbolic, and so empty once you’re at one; I dream of them so often.

Only the Rustle in the Trees

Grief, loss — these are the great teachers surely. What one has will pass.

A Cabaret, Old Chum

It’s a last bastion of civility, being allowed to drink at Penn Station, Brian mused ruefully as we carried our beers to his train home to Great Neck.

Fatahland and Hamastan

Now Israel has a dog in a real Palestinian fight: the nationalists rather than the Islamists.

Yes

Stars, Stripes & Superlatives

Here in Los Angeles I am bombarded with superlatives. Daniel’s record collection. The Bikram Yoga College of India world headquarters. Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. All mixed in with the most ravaging mediocrity.

Shite on Brighton

“Like many provincial towns,” the Private Eye reviewer stabs, “Brighton, as depicted in this hacked-together tribute, defines itself more by what it isn’t than by what it is. It’s not London, for one thing.”

Daily Yin

For my first test of the day as day, I open the back door and step outside to the little patio to see the sky and feel the air. I realize not everybody does this, so if people tell me I’m a miserable bastard then perhaps this little habit will correct their impression.

Mind the Dream

Dreaming about our passed companions as if they are alive requires tricks to the dreaming mind to overcome what it believes and knows to be true.

The Dharma Tits

Buddhism is the philosophy and psychology closest to Cognitive Therapy and vice versa.

Yes

Still Got the Jam

Jam was one of Maddie’s nine puppies, the one who remained after the others were all taken. That was always my plan, to keep the runt.

Such a Tramp

Maddie, who died 18 months ago today, was a mangy mutt and stank, but she was also among the most beautiful dogs I’ve ever seen and for me the longest, richest, widest, deepest streak of feeling lucky.

So You Noticed

I have had something very flattering: a request. Juan Carlos has asked me for comments on Casino Royale.

Reminds Me of Tel Aviv

You get to a stage in life where you are already formed by the past. Thoughts and dilemmas about place are either central questions or a distraction from real issues.

Fly the Blag

Ryanair has brought wretchedness to the skies. Rather than existing on a privileged plane, you stew in a poisoned atmosphere.

Approaching Infinite Justice

Immediately after 9/11, the burgeoning war on terror was named “Operation Infinite Justice”. Within days it was renamed “Operation Enduring Freedom”, but is the new name a mere cloaking of the first?

On the Seventh Day

The Mrs is skeptical of David Allen’s Getting Things Done self-management system because it eschews the rigors of time management in lieu of what feels right. But GTD is about informed feeling.

Don’t Panic!

An academic romp through Jewish American comedy starts out as a veritable rollercoaster ride, but grinds to halt with its obsession with one Bob Dylan.

Photographing a Handsome Old Man

I want to get people in my pics, but it’s tougher when you’re no longer a wide-eyed teenager, because people generally don’t like to think they are a spectacle.

The Beauty of Rain

Rain makes the rocks shine. It puts in motion things that are otherwise static. It illustrates gravity most prettily.

Ode to Salame

It’s supposed to be the arsehole of Tel Aviv, Salame Street, running east-west at its southern tip, but it always does me darn good.

I Love Laundry

How pleasing it is to have my own washing machine. If all isn’t right with the world, not even in my world, at least the laundry cycle is functioning.

Lovely Scenery, But Walks Getting Boring

Unless I drive somewhere new, it’s not much fun to just step out the door and wander. But driving to go for a walk seems a tad ridiculous.

For Love of Economy

It disturbs me to be driving a car that gets fewer kilometers to the shekel than did my previous.

Shinui and the Seven-Year Itch

How refreshing to see Asian faces out shopping in Tel Aviv, or Africans riding the bus to Ra’anana. With them Israel is given fresh wellsprings of culture.

Allah Help the Jackals

While it’s obvious that overplaying your power can result in a downfall, it’s less obvious that underplaying it also leads to trouble. America did this in the 1970s under Carter. Israel seems to have done it almost perennially.

Yes

For Tel Aviv, Better a Skylift Than a Subway

Rather than copycatting a transportation system from the 19th century, Israel could inject into its civic planning the same audacity and resourcefulness that it has historically brought to agriculture and defence.

Yes

Canada Obscura

There’s not a patch of water to be seen—the most liquid thing is the word “Coffee” on one of the low-slung strip-mall buildings. It’s a scene more artful than art itself.

Tour of Kitchen Duty

There was yelling and spray and I raced to keep up. One can enjoy, briefly, the company of men.

Shiny Bright Toadstool

In Israel’s case, burgernomics don’t add up because significant factors contribute to the 30%-odd surcharge on a Big Mac.

The Fresh Jewels of Spring Mound

Quality of life in Tel Aviv is fundamentally enhanced by two simple factors: trees are everywhere, and so are apartments.

Independence Park Up for Grabs?

To this day men of many ages walk these bushes, they delicately lurk these bushes, and stand in places odd to choose.

We Tri Harder

A land could be governed not only by the three separate arms of government, but by three sovereign states.

Yes

Tira Saunters

The one-lane road is empty; down below is the Sharon Plain, looking vast. Israel may be a small country but we’re still speaking here of land.

A Call to Thumbs

When you hitchhike it’s out of your hands, and that’s therapeutic. Paradoxically, you also see how much control you do have.

 

Briefs (cont’d)

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

Some 45 years after his victory, Kan tweets Menachem Begin’s historic victory speech [Hebrew].

We analyzed 9855 children from the USA who were part of the ABCD dataset with measures of intelligence at baseline (ages 9–10) and after two years. At baseline, time watching (r = − 0.12) and socializing (r = − 0.10) were negatively correlated with intelligence, while gaming did not correlate. After two years, gaming positively impacted intelligence (standardized β =  + 0.17), but socializing had no effect.

It’s not only news that Israeli company Watergen is installing its drinking water generators in Syria, but that (opposition web site) Syria TV reported the fact.

Hispanics: the new world-historic anchor whilst America’s Whites flounder.

Religious liberty, always. Parental rights, always. Right to life, always. Free markets, always. Compassionate but firm on immigration, always.

Saturday, May 14th, 2022

Venkatesh invites us to join him in exploring the hive mind (very meta). What a candy-maker, this one.

Thursday, May 12th, 2022

Elon Musks has said the problem with flying cars is the noise. (I think he’s also said he’d love to be working in the field.) Meanwhile Joby has just announced its eVTOL aircraft registered the equivalent of 45.2 A-weighted decibels (dBA) from an altitude of 1,640 feet (500 meters) at 100 knots airspeed. According to eVTOL.com’s article, “NASA said it also plans to conduct similar acoustic testing with Wisk Aero”.

A reminder to just ship it:

I was scrolling their landing page and I was happy and furious at the same time. Someone solved the problem that I was solving. It was like someone literally read my mind and started coding. WHAT.

I have previously sent a video of my app to a couple of people (closest I came to shipping it) so I started getting suspicious if someone actually shared the video of my app with these people because they were solving literally the same problem, and they most of the features that I had.

I started getting this overwhelming happy, sad, and panicky feeling. I literally cannot explain how I felt while scrolling their page.

At 1:03, this transcendent moment of moviemaking, John William’s theme counterpointing Alec Guinness’s delivery of George Lucas’s creation. “It surrounds us, penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together.”

So right now all the James Bond movies are available on Amazon Prime, and with the sudden plethora I was stumped which I’m due next to rewatch. When in doubt, it’s back to Goldfinger, just the first few minutes this time. Once again I’m blown away by just how good it is; it’s definitely arguable that both preceding and all subsequent movies lead to and emanate from it. The post-credit opening scene with the swoop down to the diving board and the cut to Felix watching the dive from the glass window — what delicious glamorous filmmaking. “Into Miami / Pigeon Game” is the 1-minute musical accompaniment.

Tuesday, May 10th, 2022

What a penetrating look at an earlier Israel by the recently-departed neoconservative scion Midge Decter. A paragraph chosen truly at random:

How was I to be prepared for the discovery that a kibbutz, salvation or damnation, transcendent new society or dustbin of failed transformations, was . . . a farm? I was, to be sure, quite aware that the kibbutzim engaged primarily in farming—that, too, was crucial to their ideology and mine—but from such awareness I had not even come near the image of those flat monotonous fields, unbroken by any visual mark of the drama that had created them, stretching to their termination at a dusty road or property line—the same as must be required anywhere in the world for the growing of cotton or corn or wheat. Degania Aleph, weeping Rachel of the whole movement, sits somnolently by the side of the road (for some reason, I can never envision History as taking place alongside an ordinary thoroughfare, accessible to any passing mortal; History must be climbed up to or stumbled down upon) near the Sea of Galilee, giving no physical hint of anything but a usually drab farm life—with neither marker nor monument to set her apart.

Sunday, May 8th, 2022

A limited but at least scientific study of fasting for 8 days among middle-aged males in Poland.

After 8 days of WF, all subjects were found to remain safe and feel the sense of well-being. However, the appearance of the above-mentioned adverse metabolic effects [decreased serum Ca and Mg++ concentrations, more acidic urine], despite partially effective renal compensations, suggests that the further continuation of fasting intervention by the subjects would be detrimental to their body.

The occasional juice with celery and spinach should help with calcium and magnesium depletion. Or pop a supplement?

Saturday, May 7th, 2022

Tony Fadell from his new Build book:

And you have to hold on to that “why” even as you build the “what”—the features, the innovation, the answer to all your customers’ problems. Because the longer you work on something, the more the “what” takes over—the “why” becomes so obvious, a feeling in your gut, a part of everything you do, that you don’t even need to express it anymore. You forget how much it matters.

When you get wrapped up in the “what,” you get ahead of people. You think everyone can see what you see. But they don’t. They haven’t been working on it for weeks, months, years. So you need to pause and clearly articulate the “why” before you can convince anyone to care about the “what.”

Monday, May 2nd, 2022

Rich Dad Poor Dad

Robert T. Kiyosaki

♦♦♦♦

Perusing the library, I realized I had not read this classic. Well, it’s exciting, and successfully inculcates the importance of assets vs earned income. The author’s preference is to avoid the hard work of running a business and instead use salaried income to buy stocks, and with any winnings, buy real estate — or finding other creative ways to finance the purchase of real estate. That’s the financial technique, but there are personal techniques as well, such as differentiating between poor (an identity) and broke (a situation), and exchanging the thought “I can’t afford it” to “How can I afford it?”. Nice, and one I wouldn’t mind to have available permanently.

Some choice quotes:

Savings are used only to create more money, not to pay bills.

I use my desire to consume to inspire and motivate my financial genius to invest.

Saturday, April 30th, 2022

Blue Moon

Lee Child

♦♦

The great Reacher TV series led me to try a Kindle sample, which read well. Feeling in safe hands, I searched the local public library for whichever they had in stock. They had three, and I picked Blue Moon. I began with enjoyment, reflecting on the fictional dream created as we move from little setpiece to little setpiece (a Greyhound bus, a bar, a rundown suburban home). I so enjoy that imaginative experience of fun fiction and love inducing it in others. But after a while this story becones preposterous. The waitress he meets turns out to be a superwoman, and her friends become Reacher’s special forces army as the book climaxes with attacks on the gangsters’ lairs, the body count like that of a one-person shooter. It ends up being… daft, so I think that’s it for me.

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

Jonathan Haidt is wise enough to note that it is mainly America, not necessary the rest of the world, that has gone particularly mental the past decade. Haidt blames social media. But the word “marriage” does not occur even once in the article, despite the decade having seen same-sex marriage transformed from oxymoronic absurdity to self-evident cudgel. If a human institution so deep — deeper than the nationstate, than monotheism, even than history itself — can be so decidedly upended, then what chance has anything else of standing, the collective subconscious must wonder.

Monday, April 11th, 2022

Screenwriting — and acting — genius: Billions, Cory Stoll as Mike Prinz, after a bluff that apparently puts Chuck Rhodes in prison, is watched by the replacement attorney general as he leaves to go to the elevator. Feeling faint and queasy from moments ago losing $3.5b in crypto while pretending to know nothing about it, he leans on the wall in a way a person just wouldn’t normally do. And she knows he was lying. On this subtle display of body language rests so much. Plus, the episode ends with Jerry Garcia singing “Don’t You Let That Deal Go Down”.

Tuesday, April 5th, 2022

Testing entire BPMN process paths — a Camunda blog article. I guess I’m being hopelessly naive but it seems to me BPMN could be used to test software logic; software doesn’t just power processes, software itself is comprised of processes, ie, the transformations that happen to variables.

Cool — Bloomberg’s Pret Index shows that coffee sales at UK airports are now higher than pre-pandemic.

Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

Niall Ferguson’s important and much-quoted Bloomberg piece of March 22nd on the cynical/optimistic Biden strategy for Ukraine:

It is, when you come to think of it, archetypal Realpolitik to allow the carnage in Ukraine to continue; to sit back and watch the heroic Ukrainians “bleed Russia dry”; to think of the conflict as a mere sub-plot in Cold War II, a struggle in which China is our real opponent. … The optimism, however, is the assumption that allowing the war to keep going will necessarily undermine Putin’s position; and that his humiliation in turn will serve as a deterrent to China. I fear these assumptions may be badly wrong and reflect a misunderstanding of the relevant history.

Monday, March 28th, 2022

It’s time to catch up: the UAE’s foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed (a son of the UAE’s founder) speaks in his rather nice English accent at the close of the Negev Summit in Sde Boker.

Friday, March 25th, 2022

Top-flight series of Hebrew animated shorts חדר וחצי about a bachelor clown and his home.

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

The prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia have met with President Volodymy Zelenskyy. The glimmerings perhaps of a significant new bloc.

The BoJo Doctrine: Exploit the potential of all renewable energy technologies in this country, from tidal power to hydro to geothermal … Make a series of big new bets on nuclear power.”

Thursday, March 10th, 2022

In the new inflation, the water-cooler is gone, the press serves as water-cooler, the government as press. This does have the fortunate effect of leaving the people available to govern.

Tuesday, March 8th, 2022

At TidBits Adam Engst points out that there are other professionals using Macs beyond “developers, photographers, filmmakers, 3D artists, scientists, music producers” who may not necessarily need such giant power but could nonetheless do with some improvements.

I remain flabbergasted that the FaceTime cameras in even Apple’s latest Macs are so pathetic. Even the cheapest iPad and iPhone put the newest Mac cameras to shame, and quite a few iPad and iPhone models have Face ID support for authentication. We’re talking about technology that Apple has used numerous times. So why isn’t it in Macs?

You can get an iPad with cellular connectivity, so why not a MacBook? The lack of a cellular option for Apple’s laptops has been a glaring omission for years and is yet another example of how Apple doesn’t acknowledge the needs of mobile professionals.

I hadn’t thought of any of these things, but they are obvious.

Full transcript of Mohammed bin Salman’s interview with Graeme Wood of The Atlantic — and JCPA’s take on it:

This is the first time the Saudi crown prince has publicly referred to Israel as a “potential ally.” He also spoke about Iran in a different tone. In an Atlantic interview four years ago, Bin Salman compared Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to “Hitler” and said Iran was leading the “axis of evil.” This time such talk was replaced by calling the Iranians “neighbors” of Saudi Arabia.

Friday, March 4th, 2022

As an antidote to the war in Ukraine, not far away, in Germany, development of the Lilium eVTOL continues apace. It’s perhaps the most exciting of the upcoming electric planes. The eVTOL Innovation YouTube channel has just dropped a video The Insane Engineering behind The Lilium Jet.

Thursday, March 3rd, 2022

Bari Weiss seems bigger than the NYT! Her sponsor is Disney+, her panel is Ferguson, Mead and Fukuyama, no less.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2022

Russia, as parlance goes, is too big to fail; we need to forge it an off-ramp from this horrific self-inflicted disaster, as Commentary’s Noah Rothman argues in “What if Russia loses”, Sam Altman of YCombinator tweets, and presumably plenty of other smart people are saying.

Putin though is probably not quite ready to take it, thinking he may yet regain the military upper hand, as attested by the lengthy convoys headed today to Kyiv. He may then as Putin biographer Anita Hill fears, savvily offer the delectable compromise of partitioning Ukraine, wherein he gets the east and others can divvy up the rest. Joe Biden has after all a predilection for territorial break-up — he thought it right for Iraq.

Fortunately it seems we are well beyond Europe countenancing such temptations; Germany has reoriented around the danger emanating from Russia, the UK is acting on what it called it “a catastrophe on our continent” [emphasis mine], and a myriad of surprising others are joining the fray each in their way (Switzerland, Finland, etc).

Also, it does seem self-evident that Vlad the Mad has lost some of the faculties he’s had up to now, so that such diplomatic savvy might never be forthcoming from him. As of now, Russian diplomatic efforts in such forums as the United Nations are of the Baghdad Bob sort even as the Ukrainians are performing masterfully, not just spreading the word but showing Westerners (and probably everyone else): we’re your sort of people — more, we’re the sort of people you hope you are.

Once again, the West must win firmly, though this time — unlike after the collapse of its Soviet Union guise — there should be effective stroking of Russia’s vanities.

Cogent interview with Putin biographer Fiona Hill. She floats the notion that he’d be happy to have Ukraine broken up:

In 2015, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was at the Munich Security Conference after the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas. And he talked about Ukraine not being a country, saying pointedly that there are many minority groups in Ukraine — there are Poles and there are Romanians, there are Hungarians and Russians. And he goes on essentially almost inviting the rest of Europe to divide Ukraine up.

So what Putin wants isn’t necessarily to occupy the whole country, but really to divide it up. He’s looked at Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other places where there’s a division of the country between the officially sanctioned forces on the one hand, and the rebel forces on the other. That’s something that Putin could definitely live with — a fractured, shattered Ukraine with different bits being in different statuses.

Partitioning the country; that’s a solution Biden always goes for. And if Putin suggests it, the Europeans may pressure the Ukrainians to accept it. Though it could well be that the European mood has changed sufficiently so that even the newly feckless United States could accept that, they won’t.

Monday, February 28th, 2022

At last, Mark Steyn is writing again.

I take faint glimmers of a new seriousness in the chancelleries of Europe not as a sign of Nato “unity”, but as the dawning realization that the US has blown the last thirty years and they’re now in a post-American world, and, absent course-correction, ultimately on the same grim trajectory as Ukraine.

In Tablet, Lee Smith writes lists the plethora of wickedly poor decisions that led to the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

Ukraine gave up its nuclear arsenal in 1994 in exchange for U.S. security guarantees in the event its neighbors, Russia in particular, turned hostile. What kind of strategy dictates that a state hand over its security vis-a-vis local actors to a country half the world away? No strategy at all. Ukraine was not able to transcend its natural geography as a buffer state — and worse, a buffer state that failed to take its own existence seriously, which meant that it would continue to make disastrously bad bets.

By tying itself to an American administration that had shown itself to be reckless and dangerous, the Ukrainians made a geopolitical blunder that statesmen will study for years to come: A buffer state had staked its future on a distant power that had simply seen it as an instrument to annoy its powerful neighbor with no attachment to any larger strategic concept that it was willing to support.

To sum it up in few words: “10% for the big guy”.

In this interview, Francis Fukuyama points out:

One of the things that’s happened over the past couple of weeks is that Russia has effectively reabsorbed Belarus. It had been an independent country, after 1991, but it’s effectively become part of Russia.

Israel’s Channel 12 News has tweeted out this video of an Israeli Ukrainian soldier, saying in Hebrew:

It’ll be ok. All the world is with us. They are finished regardless. And Putin won’t be able to do anything with this. This was his last war. And that’s it, we will win regardless. We already beat them actually, even if we die, we beat them. It’s incontrovertible.”

Saturday, February 26th, 2022

At /r/interestingasfuck, President of Ukraine Zelensky plays piano without his hands. As humanity rallies to ballsy Ukraine, it seems Putin has lost already?

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022

I just had to read this one entitled “Why Putin didn’t invade Ukraine during the last U.S. administration”. The question should be a discomfiting one indeed for people of the author’s ilk. His response, prefaced by a prudent “perhaps”: “because Putin was so pleased to see Trump pursuing goals in line with Moscow’s agenda”. Steve Benen is a producer for The Rachel Maddow Show.

He really was the best: P. J. O’Rourke on Israel. I could excerpt any damn paragraph, but here’s just one:

There was no sign of war. Plenty of soldiers were to be seen, carrying their weapons, but this is no shock to the frequent traveler. For all that the world looks askance at America’s lack of gun control, foreigners love to wave guns around. Nothing about the Israeli Defense Forces is as odd as Italian carabinieri brandishing their machine pistols while grimly patrolling that flash-point Venice.

The kids wanted a Nintendo Switch. I thought — and was advised — a used Wii would be wise. Because kids, we now have both. Ever since my first computer, an Apple //c, your churlish host has considered a gaming console redundant and wasteful. But, like Apple, Nintendo it seems is a universe of excellence into which to dive. Yamauchi No. 10 Family Office is the website of the Nintendo founding family. Cool scrolling, ambitious mission, constant motion, and the music sounds like Son of Jeff Lynne.

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022

The happiness superpower.

For our study, we followed almost 1 million U.S. Army soldiers for nearly five years. We first asked them to rate their well-being — their happiness, if you will — along with their optimism, and then tracked which soldiers later received awards based on their job performance … We saw four times as many awards earned by the initially happiest soldiers (upper quartile) compared with those who were unhappiest initially (lower quartile) — a huge difference in performance between those groups.

Sunday, February 20th, 2022

America today: the fractious school board meeting. I blame, well, so many things. Corn subsidies? No-fault divorce? The lack perhaps of a dietary component in Protestantism? But despite the madness this video shows that the will to civility still remains, which is a tendril for hope.

Pierce Brosnan watches Goldeneye for the first time since he made it. We got lucky that as a child his first great cinematic experience was Goldfinger. Like any red-blooded boy he had the toy Corgi car. Has anyone suggested as a successor… Russell Brand?

Saturday, February 19th, 2022

Following Tyler Cowen’s growing presence of a web-surfing morning, I note that although the elite is Leftist, the most eminent and influential public thinkers are not. As well as TC I’m thinking of Peter Thiel, Marc Andreessen, Niall Ferguson, Elon Musk. Maybe now even Joe Rogan?

Perhaps it’s a question of age; these guys are all Gen Xers more or less, and all would probably have considered themselves socially liberal and economically conservative by the standards of their youth and early adulthood in the 80s and 90s. There is also a large swathe of others in their wake.

Who on the dominant Left has their stature? Paul Krugman? Is it still Noam Chomsky?

Three of the five I mention are or were known first as builders of enterprises, and TC is now getting into that game, as is Ferguson with the new University of Austin.

Monday, February 14th, 2022

Oh, the minor yet multitudinous wonders of our age! I just discovered Yarn, where you “search by word or phrase for TV, movie and music clips”. What a fun business to have created!

Marc Andreessen has just tweetstormed a section of an Ayn Rand lecture on the contrast between the tribes of Apollo 11 and of Woodstock. Whilst I commend his pro-Deplorables stand, I do feel that as one of the fathers of the age he could be utilizing his mystique to do more, starting perhaps with banging heads in San Francisco. During a recent podcast interview with I forget whom, he dismissed laughingly the prospect of running for office; perhaps he should reconsider. Also, just for some rounding, he might want to read Mailer’s Of a Fire on the Moon, surely an Apollonian who yearns for the Dionysian.

Friday, February 11th, 2022

Goldman is moved by Reacher:

Radical Protestantism leads the pilgrim from the “howling wilderness” and the “enchanted ground” of the Old World and leads him to the Canaan of the spirit. The question is addressed to, and answered by, the individual pilgrim. The Jew is born into the people of Israel; the Christian seeks adoption into the Israel of the Spirit. American Christianity retains the radical individualism of its Protestant forebears, who chose as individuals to become Americans. We have become Americans by adoption, and we have adopted the history of Israel as our national common memory. A profound parallelism is involved. The biblical Election of Israel was not a prize that God awarded to an unlikely nation of shepherds, but rather the outcome of Israel’s free choice to accept the Torah and the responsibility of election. It is our free choice to become Americans that is the cornerstone of our culture.

Thursday, February 10th, 2022

A web-based treasure, Alexey Guzey’s Theses on Sleep, in which he makes the obvious yet original parallel between sleeping and eating, and that we should probably be sleeping less than we do.

Experiencing hunger is normal and does not necessarily imply that you are not eating enough. Never being hungry means you are probably eating too much. Experiencing sleepiness is normal and does not necessarily imply that you are undersleeping. Never being sleepy means you are probably sleeping too much.

Wednesday, February 9th, 2022

From the JET Lab, a new record has been set in nuclear fusion. Tellingly, the BBC news item covering the story has only a single tag: climate change.

Tuesday, February 8th, 2022

No nominations for The French Dispatch. Huh. Variety is also surprised.

 
 

•••

Newsroll

A quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian C. Anderson.

experiments in refactored perception

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