Gone but Not Deleted

06/17/2018

This piece really hit home with me on this Father’s Day.

via Boston Magazine:

I don’t remember the final conversation I had with my father. Toward the end of his life, he was hard to understand on the phone, as years of substance abuse and failing health had garbled his voice. He’d call at inopportune times—from a rehab center or hospital on the Cape, or the home of a friend in Florida he had somehow charmed his way into—and I’d hurry to get off the phone. Sometimes I’d find myself annoyed by his attempts to reconnect and let the call go to voicemail. It had been more than 15 years since we’d had anything resembling a normal relationship, and more than 30 since he and my mother had. Even in my frustration, though, it was hard not to think of his looming existential deadline. I may never get the chance to talk to him again, I’d say to myself. I always did. Until, of course, I didn’t.

[…]

I do, however, remember the exact day and time of our final few text exchanges, because they’re still on my phone, where, for at least as long as the cloud exists and I stay current on my bill, they’ll live forever.

We lost my dad in 2011, but I probably have every text message and email we ever exchanged. It’s still hard to look back at them, even the conversations from the better times, before he got sick. Our typical messages about sports or farming became mostly one-sided in the latter part of the year as I encouraged him to keep seeking treatment and continue fighting. He lacked the strength to respond.

I have a text history with my wife, one that extends back to 2008 (the first year of our marriage, and when I got my first iPhone; not that the two are equal in any way, but staying in the iOS ecosystem has allowed me to maintain message continuity through the years.) Our thread contains everything from the past decade — kids, family, photos, reminders, jokes.

Look, they aren’t the romantic letters full of carefully drafted prose that previous generations might have exchanged, but it is an intimate record of our shared experience. They might not be on paper, but they’re still precious.

Sometimes I Read Things, May 21, 2018 Edition

05/21/2018

Your Saddest Desperation Cocktails, Ranked: As usual, Matt Ufford made me laugh.

I Went to a Flat Earth Convention to Meet Flat Earthers Like My Mom

RIP Margo Kidder: She will always be associated with that one big role and truthfully, that’s the only one I really know her from. She deserves as much credit for the success of Superman as Christopher Reeve. Kidder will always be the definitive Lois Lane.

In Siberia in 1908, a huge explosion came out of nowhere: The Tunguska incident has always fascinated me. It leveled everything for miles, but we know almost nothing definitive about how it happened.

The Hutch closes in on a cancer cure: Some groundbreaking work being done at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

How Dangerous Are The Northwest’s Volcanoes?

What is the most sophisticated piece of software/code ever written? I was familiar with the Stuxnet worm, but this piece did a good job of explaining just how sophisticated it really was. A lot here I didn’t know.

Washington’s New Apple Could Be an Industry Game-Changer

Sometimes I Read Things, May 13, 2018 Edition

05/13/2018

The Long Way Round: The Plan That Accidentally Circumnavigated The World: This was an incredibly gripping read.

Gammons: Ichiro was never unprepared, and that won’t change now

Study: Seaweed in Cow Feed Reduces Methane Emissions Almost Entirely

The Billion Dollar Bank Job

Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer long wondered if he’s related to JFK. At 72, he learned the truth.

Paul Simon vs. The World: This was a well-written examination of Paul Simon and his legacy. I love Graceland (and Simon) as much as anyone, but you can’t ignore the way the album was made.

Essential Apps

05/10/2018

This is an ordered list, but it really has no particular order. I use all of these apps every single day and are essential to my productivity.

  1. 1Password: I addressed this app earlier in the week.

  2. Bear: A note-taking and writing tool. I’m using it to compose this post. I use it to take meeting notes, write memos, and blog.

  3. BBEdit: I’ve been using this app since at least 1996, making it the oldest program I use (yes, this dates back to classic Mac OS.) This is just a text editor, but what a text editor it is. I use it for composing HTML, CSS, and editing Python and JavaScript. It handles very large text files with speed that few other editors can match. It has powerful find and replace functions (want to do a find and replace with regular expressions? Want to do it across dozens of text files simultaneously? With BBEdit, you can.)

  4. Soulver: This is the best calculator I have ever used. It allows you to work through math functions just like you would do on paper — building out your functions and calculations, and even giving them text annotations and headers. It fills a niche for me that would be cumbersome with a spreadsheet. I use Soulver dozens of times per day to calculate advertising spends for my clients. I use it on my Mac and on my iPhone.

  5. Things: My second brain. All of my tasks, to-dos, shopping lists, and projects go in here. An email comes in that I need to act upon? It gets forwarded into Things. We need more dish soap? Into the shopping list in Things. I receive a Slack message that requires a follow-up? Thanks to Zapier I can star the message and it will be automatically dumped into Things.

Subscription hell

05/07/2018

via TechCrunch:

I’m frustrated that the web’s promise of instant and free access to the world’s information appears to be dying. I’m frustrated that subscription usually means just putting formerly free content behind a paywall. I’m frustrated that the price for subscriptions seems wildly high compared to the ad dollars that the fees substitute for. And I’m frustrated that subscription pricing rarely seems to account for other subscriptions I have, even when content libraries are similar.

This piece is a mess, though I agree with a few of Danny’s points. While he does mention it, I think he loses sight of the fact that these services cost money to operate. This cannot be emphasized enough. There are only two ways to make money in content: ads and/or subscriptions. If you feel that ads are too gross, then you are left with the subscription model. Content costs money. In some cases, very serious money. Netflix could never (at least not in a timeframe that would satisfy investors) recoup their content costs using ads alone.

How do you run world-class newsrooms which are doing real investigative journalism, paid for by advertising alone? Prior to the rise of the web, publishers were able to use revenue from classified ads to fund those operations — subscriptions and commercial advertising were secondary revenue streams in many cases. Classified ads were small and highly profitable. Craigslist took that revenue away from the publishers, leaving them high and dry.

The rise of dedicated streaming services for video are forcing traditional broadcasters to launch their own streaming services compete for viewer eyeballs. Having solid back catalogs of content gives each of them a compelling reason to exist.

The biggest mistake made by publishers on the early web was giving their content away for free, setting the expectation that this would always be the case. Now that they desperately need that subscription revenue, consumers are starting to feel pinched.

This is all a matter of perception though. Subscriptions aren’t new, and people had plenty of them prior to the web. My parents had two daily newspaper subscriptions, 5-6 monthly magazines, and satellite TV service. In our home today, I pay for three news subscriptions, one music, and seven video services. I value the content and I am willing to pay for it, just like my parents did in the 1980s and 90s. If a service is not providing me enough value out of the $5-12 per month, then I will cancel it (and it’s a lot easier to cancel a streaming service than it is to cancel Comcast…)

This is the future, and it’s really not that different from our past.

Passwords

05/05/2018

Via: The Verge

Like sunscreen, it can be a hassle to apply, but it’s an easy way to stop yourself from getting burned.

The reasons are simple: you need strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts, otherwise the chances they’ll get hacked by some unscrupulous character are much higher. If your passwords aren’t strong (e.g., if they’re one of these , or if they use information like your spouse’s name and birth year) then hackers can guess them. And if you use the same ones for different sites, when some big company gets hacked ( like they do all the time ) your digital keys are basically available online for anyone to grab.

The Verge needs to pin this article to the top of their site every month as a reminder for everyone: do not use the same password for everything.

I’ve been a user of 1Password for 5 or 6 years. All of my passwords are stored there. If you held a gun to my head, I could not tell you the passwords for any of my email accounts, my Amazon account, or the dozens of others that I might have to use in a week. They are all unique and very secure.

I have a single password that unlocks my 1Password information and then the software does the rest whenever I need to log into something. I can rest easy knowing that if any of those services are compromised that it won’t mean the rest of my accounts are also in peril.

If you are using the same 1 or 2 passwords for everything that you do online, then your information has probably already been compromised. That is no exaggeration. Do yourself a favor and get a password manager, and start living a more secure life.

Definitive Ranking of Nuts

04/22/2018

This will likely be the most divisive thing that I have ever written here, but it’s time to get this off my chest.

In Order of All Around Awesomeness

  1. Macadamias
  2. Cashews
  3. Pistachios
  4. Peanuts
  5. Brazil Nuts
  6. Almonds
  • And sometimes, hazelnuts.

Pecans are trash. Come at me.

Mas Subramanian’s Quest for a Billion-Dollar Red

04/18/2018

via Bloomberg:

The world lacks a great all-around red. Always has. We’ve made do with alternatives that could be toxic or plain gross. The gladiators smeared their faces with mercury-based vermilion. Titian painted with an arsenic-based mineral called realgar. The British army’s red coats were infused with crushed cochineal beetles. For decades, red Lego bricks contained cadmium, a carcinogen.

More than 200 natural and synthetic red pigments exist today, but each has issues with safety, stability, chromaticity, and/or opacity. Red 254, aka Ferrari red, for example, is safe and popular, but it’s also carbon-based, leaving it susceptible to fading in the rain or the heat. “If we sit out in the sun, it’s not good for us,” says Narayan Khandekar, director of Harvard’s Straus Center for Conservation & Technical Studies and curator of the Forbes Pigment Collection. “That’s the same for most organic systems.” One red is stable, nontoxic, and everlasting: iron oxide, or red ocher, the ruddy clay found in Paleolithic cave paintings. “It’s just not bright in the way that people want,” Khandekar says.

I imagine that back at my parents house there are a few buckets of highly toxic old Legos. Who knew red was so difficult?

Ancient Roman Bathrooms – What Did They Do Without Toilet Paper?

04/05/2018

via Sapiens.org:

In the same way that we use an American-style toilet, a Roman user would sit down, take care of business, and watch number two float blissfully away down the sewer system. But instead of reaching for a roll of toilet paper, an ancient Roman would grab a tersorium (or, in my technical terms, a “toilet brush for your butt”).

Experience: I’ve played a game of tag for 23 years

03/26/2018

via The Guardian:

Since we had busy lives and lived hundreds of miles apart, we agreed on three rules. First, we would play it only in February each year; second, you were not allowed immediately to tag back the person who had tagged you; and finally, you had to declare to the group that you were “it”.

Now we are grown men, we don’t run like Usain Bolt, so subterfuge and collusion have become our weapons. Eleven months of the year are spent planning. Collaborating with a friend is where the fun is – we can spend hours discussing approaches.

I was tagged spectacularly a few years back when a friend popped round to show me his new car. As I approached it, Sean sprang out of the boot where he’d been hiding and tagged me. He’d flown 800 miles from Seattle to San Francisco just to stop being “it” – to shrug off the “mantle of shame”, as we call it. My wife was so startled she fell and injured her knee, but she wasn’t angry; she was pleased to see Sean. All our partners are good-natured about the game – they even get involved in the sting operations.

How wonderful is this?