Rocket Bomber - Links and Thoughts

Links and Thoughts 28: 26 June 2014

filed under , 26 June 2014, 08:05 by

The B52s – Rock Lobster

Good Morning.

Today’s Long Read:
The Fall of the House of Saud : The Atlantic

Cities and Citizens:

Study claims evidence of a link between pesticide use and autism : Ars Technica

We need net neutrality to make money work better, too : Quartz

see also:
Net Neutrality: Is the Internet a Public Utility? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios

Google Odds and Ends:

With both “Chromecast” and “Android TV” now competing as brands — to say nothing of old stalwart YouTube — Google doesn’t have a TV strategy so much as a full broadside assault on your livingroom screen. I don’t know if the lack of consistent branding (or any coherent brand identity) is lazy on Google’s part, or scattered and thoughtless, or indicative of splits within and between the various Google teams, or spaghetti-against-a-wall…

or effin’ Brilliant.

Pre-existing power players can’t respond to Google if no one has any idea what the hell “Google TV” is or is going to be. Any of the three current competing brands (see also: defunct efforts Nexus Q, and the old Google TV) might show up as a branded service on Google Fiber at some point; more likely none will — but the tech (and content) is being iterated and incubated in a number of niche plays.

If you doubt the future of major tech and internet companies is in TV, you seriously under-estimate the amount of time Americans spend passively consuming entertainment on their respective couches. Additionally, Cable TV is a rare (unique?) industry where every damn consumer is practically begging for someone to come disrupt the so-called-service, because cable TV sucks.

on that note: Aereo lost.

But that’s not the real story about broadcast TV, if you ask me:
“Cable channels had a low-risk but lucrative business model: fill much of the schedule with reruns of shows that were proven hits on broadcast networks—CBS, NBC, Fox, and ABC — taking a lot of the guesswork out of programming.
“But that formula is no longer reliable. Audiences have fragmented so badly among myriad cable channels and online video outlets that broadcast networks are finding it harder to produce a hit. That means the pool of shows that can guarantee a strong audience in reruns for cable channels has shrunk drastically, driving up prices for what is available—even when audiences aren’t as strong.
“Most affected are the biggest cable channels, like TNT, TBS and USA Network, that have long aired mass-market entertainment programming most similar to broadcast networks. If those networks pay large sums for reruns that can’t bring in large audiences, ad revenue and profits will suffer.”
For TV Reruns, an Existential Crisis – Lack of Big Hits on Networks Creates a Drought Downstream on Cable Channels : Wall Street Journal (paywalled, link may disappear)

For all the press Original shows like Mad Men receive, “original series still make up just 7% of programming hours on big cable networks, factoring out their repeats, according to Nielsen”

I was also an Aereo customer myself – but cancelled months ago because the over-the-air broadcast offerings just weren’t compelling enough to justify the expense.

Amazon: Follow up -
“On the surface, Firefly also feels like a Fire phone gimmick. In reality, it’s a next generation search platform and likely to be the first significant Google challenger. I’m not suggesting Google will disappear or feel the pain anytime soon, but Firefly will force them to evolve.”
Why Amazon Firefly is important : Joe Wikert

Hot New Tech: Literally.
AMD’s new 5GHz chip runs so hot it ships with watercooling :


Today’s Book Recommendation is that oldie-but-goodie, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power by Daniel Yergin (paperback, 9781439110126). Any discussion or analysis (like The Atlantic piece on the House of Saud, linked above) really has to start with the best book on the subject. If you can’t be bothered to read 900+ pages, you’ll be heartened to hear there was a PBS miniseries based on the book, which you can watch on Netflix (or buy on DVD for about $7 — or get from your local library; pretty sure they’ve got this one)

I’ll get my to-buy links sorted out eventually. In the meantime, you can still use most readers’ preferred option.

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Links and Thoughts 27: 23 June 2014

filed under , 23 June 2014, 12:42 by

Yonder Mountain String Band – Franklin’s Tower (cover)

Good Afternoon.

Monday Morning Quarterbacking:

Amazon’s Fire Phone has had some time to sink in.

“[W]hile Amazon’s app store has grown to 240,000 apps, that’s still about 25 percent of what an iPhone or standard Android user can choose from. The company says it will fill some holes by adding popular apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Uber, and it also says it has new developer software that makes it a snap to convert standard Android apps to work with the phone’s new features. But that depends on how eagerly developers embrace the Fire phone — a big question.
“Finally, there’s price. Despite rumors that the Fire phone would sell for much less than Apple’s and Samsung’s top models, it sells for about the same amounts: $200 subsidized, with a two-year contract, and $650, unsubsidized, with no contract.
“There is a major caveat on pricing. The base model comes with twice the memory of the base iPhone, and for an unspecified but limited, time, Amazon is throwing in a free year of its $99-a-year Prime service. But consumers are likely to focus more on the big-dollar figures.
“So, yes, the Fire phone is about buying other stuff from Amazon, for sure. But it’s also about becoming the next big smartphone platform.”
Amazon’s Smartphone Ambitions Go Beyond Making Shopping Easier : Re/code

“Bezos keeps throwing free movies, free songs, and free books at us, but I’m bored. Sure, they have the cheapest prices around and I love my Amazon Prime but if the idea is to hook me into the Amazon ecosystem through hardware, Bezos and company needs to do a lot better.”
Amazon’s phone is its biggest recent misstep : Dear Author

The big problem with Amazon’s new phone — it’s too good : Vox

“Basically, in addition to being a smartphone, it sounds like Fire Phone is like a tricorder”
Firefly: Amazon’s Fire Phone Can Identify Almost Anything : Gizmodo

Exclusivity and price cause Amazon’s Fire Phone to trip at the finish line :

The Hidden Agenda of Amazon’s New Phone : Wired Business


Today’s Book Recommendation is The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication by Heather Horst and Daniel Miller (paperback, isbn 9781845204013)

“…traces the impact of the cell phone from personal issues of loneliness and depression to the global concerns of the modern economy and the trans-national family. As the technology of social networking, the cell phone has become central to establishing and maintaining relationships in areas from religion to love. The Cell Phone presents the first detailed ethnography of the impact of this new technology through the exploration of the cell phone’s role in everyday lives.”

You might also consider Is My Cell Phone Bugged?: Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Mobile Conversations Private by Kevin D. Murray (9781934572887) or You Can Hear Me Now: How Microloans and Cell Phones are Connecting the World’s Poor to the Global Economy by Nicholas P. Sullivan (9780787986094)

Of course you can buy those on Amazon.


More Amazon:
A Rare Peek Inside Amazon’s Massive Wish-Fulfilling Machine : Wired Business

IP Farming:
Disney is reshaping ‘Star Wars’ in the model of Marvel : Quartz

The Book Binders: Rescuing Books One Spine at a Time : Lit Reactor

The 25 Best Rock Movies Ever Made : Flavorwire, via Neatorama

Ocean Plastic Is Home to a Surpisingly Large Variety of Life : Motherboard

Samsung’s bizarre, byzantine ownership structure in one incredibly convoluted chart : Quartz

Sharp solar cells can reach 60 percent efficiency : SlashGear

Don’t just learn to code—learn to keep learning : Quartz

Cities and Citizens:
“Technology start-ups, business incubators, reinvigorated neighborhoods full of renovated warehouses, platoons of dynamic young residents with disposable income and coding skills. The signifiers of urban success listed in a recent Brookings study called ‘The Rise of Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America’ all sound fairly positive. After all, isn’t this the central dream of our times, to take an underutilized chunk of capital and transform it into useful profitability, whether that’s a former train station or a really great URL?”
Does Innovation Always Lead to Gentrification? : Pacific Standard, via Planetizen – Planetizen spun the title of the article, too: “Is the Innovation Economy a Cover for Gentrification?”


Diary entry for 23 June:

I’m not sure if I should be keeping a daily diary, or pouring the thought/effort into longer columns. Obviously, for the past couple of weeks I’ve been focused elsewhere; we’ll see if the pendulum swings back.

In the long run I suppose it doesn’t matter because I’m keeping this space (and the tag) available for additional editorials on the links, when needed. [sign off] —M.

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Links and Thoughts 26: 18 June 2014

filed under , 17 June 2014, 10:48 by

CHVRCHES – Recover

Good Morning.

Psychology: Tasty, tasty psychology, with a side of tech, and a splash of restaurant-wages-debate.
“If you come hungry and you don’t have to wait for a server and you’re looking at an enormous picture of gooey nachos… there’s a good chance you will order those nachos.”
Chili’s Is Betting You’ll Spend More Money If Your Server Is a Screen : The Atlantic – Citylab

“The only way to finance the changes needed is to drastically cut costs. The best way to do this is to move out of Manhattan, but no publisher wants to take that hit in its perceived respectability (or give up the awesomeness of living in New York). Well imagine what would happen if a major publisher announced a move that increased their reputation while dramatically slashing the cost of doing business.”
The People Aren’t the Problem : Hugh Howey
additional commentary at The Passive Voice
…And might I suggest any publisher who simply Must keep a Manhattan address could perhaps look at Manhattan, Kansas

Long thought dead, PC sales are coming back : Quartz

Our tablets have become a new class of device, and while the best of tablets are also fine computers, I think we’re starting to realize tablets do not replace computers-with-keyboards — and many were making due with PCs and laptops are at least 5 years old now.

SanDisk drops $1.1 billion to buy Fusion-io

Don’t worry if you’d never heard of Fusion-io before — I don’t think anyone not building enterprise-scale servers had. I don’t know if the tech would (or will) filter down to consumers, but Fusion-io makes very fast SSDs on PCIe cards (utilizing the latest PCIe bus speeds — theoretically.) Until this news dropped, as noted, I’d never heard of them.

Investors Pour $44 Million Into Instacart as Google Is Forced to Take Notice

The first company that can deliver a couple of cases of beer so that I don’t have to put on pants on a Saturday morning wins. And….. go!

“And lest anyone think that Tesla just jettisoned all its intellectual property, keep in mind that the company still has a wealth of IP in the form of trademarks, trade secrets and so. This means that if anyone decides to copy Tesla’s cars too closely, Musk (who is no stranger to lawsuits) will probably sue the bejabbers out of them.”
What Elon Musk did — and did not — do when he “opened” Tesla’s patents : GigaOm

“The Steamboy project team is aiming for a release next year, which may end up coinciding with the official launch of the already announced Steam Machines. And I am actually more excited about this device than Steam Machines because of the gaming-on-the-go aspect it introduces for PC games.”
Steamboy: it’s like a PS Vita, but for Steam games :

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Links and Thoughts 25: 16 June 2014

filed under , 16 June 2014, 08:05 by

Peter Murphy – Cuts You Up

Good Morning.

It’s easy to get overloaded, even if your only exposure is to the twitter streams of soccer fans. At least you can console yourself that the World Cup only rolls around once every four years. To keep up, I don’t bother with any official sites or sports sites – I just check wikipedia:

The kids are fast on the update; usually a goal scored will appear on the wikipedia match page within the minute. It’s also handy to keep open as a second screen if you do happen to be watching the games live, for team lineups and matching players to jersey numbers.

Cities and Citizens:
The Case for Tearing Down Park-and-Ride Lots : The Atlantic – CityLab

Cities and Citizens:
Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, dollar stores…
Traditional American supermarkets are being eaten alive : Quartz

“As a reader, you know I get passionate about my favorite book series. You know what drove me insane while I was reading The Dark Tower series by Stephen King? Every time a new book came out, the design changed. That meant that my collection ended up looking scrabbled-together instead of cohesive.” …
“If you share our angst and near-compulsive need to have matching books, don’t worry–I have a few hard-earned tips to help you assemble a book series and not end up with a janky collection.”
How To Collect A Book Series in the Same Edition : Book Riot

Internet Hobos:
“This, of course, begs the question: where is the tablet and laptop user to go? Internet cafes and bars, while fitting the bill, are few and far between for many in the United States, and many libraries lack the atmosphere that is a coffee shop’s biggest perk. No doubt a tech-free coffee shop has its place and holds its own special allure, but as these companies struggle to adjust to our gadget-centric world, laptop users are increasingly left wandering from one cafe to the next in search of an outlet and free table.”
More cafes ban laptops: the growing push against tech : SlashGear

Your ‘Annoying’ Customer is My Opportunity. Just sayin’ – there’s a business model here. Has anyone running a coffee shop considered expanding available seating or building larger locations? Sure, the rent is higher — but so is the possibility of selling lunch (or even dinner) to internet hobos. Build nicer bathrooms, throw in additional comfy chairs, add more outlets, put outlets in the middle of tables: Get stickier. Give them no reason to leave. Here’s another idea: a coffee shop and a copy shop — basically a shared office, but for the singletons.

Tech: sounds more like a rumor; the linked article is light on details.
Google’s satellite plans may include Virgin Galactic investment : SlashGear

Say hello to the new boss, same as the old boss.
“Between all that news, continually declining music sales and a dramatic increase in streaming users, one thing is clear: There’s a massive arms race over music is streaming. But it’s more specific than that: Tech giants aren’t just buying streaming services — they’re buying music curation tools, and they’re about to change how we listen.”
Three Giant Corporations Are Now Fighting to Control How You Listen to Music : Policy Mic

I try to avoid overt politics on the blog, but this is a mess:
I fear this will lead to the collapse of the current government and the partitioning of Iraq. Actually, I would hope for that outcome if I thought it would lead to regional stability, but that’s like setting a house on fire to fix the water leaks — sure, the fire will dry out the water damage but…

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Links and Thoughts 24: 11 June 2014

filed under , 11 June 2014, 08:05 by

Prince & Larry Graham, North Sea Jazz Festival 2013

Good Morning.

Republican Congressman Demolishes The Supreme Court’s Rationale For Killing Campaign Finance Laws : Think Progress
[I chose Light as the tag – a light in the dark, a light at the end of the tunnel, a single candle to pierce the dark – I may be using it for a lot of political posts.]

American-style War : Mother Jones

“Even if we had a perfect mental health care system, that is not going to solve our gun violence problem. If we were able to magically cure schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, that would be wonderful, but overall violence would go down by only about 4 percent.”
Myth vs. Fact: Violence and Mental Health : Pro Publica

Living Wage: Follow up -

This will no longer go down on your permanent record.
EU ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Ruling Will Corrupt History : MediaShift

Opponents shouldn’t blame Common Core on Obama and the federal Dept. of Ed. — the villain of this drama isn’t who you’d expect:
“The idea that the richest man in America can purchase and—working closely with the U.S. Department of Education—impose new and untested academic standards on the nation’s public schools is a national scandal. A Congressional investigation is warranted.”
I’m going to hide the surprise for another 2 seconds, click the link for the reveal : AlterNet

Common Core doesn’t seem all that bad to me, but I readily admit to not being educated on the topic.

Food and Foodies:
A Paean to Government Cheese


Lots of ‘ifs’ in this article… so about 20 years out from manufacture tests, 30 years to market.
Exotic, Highly-Efficient Solar Cells May Soon Get Cheaper : MIT Technology Review

Solar is more than photovoltaics, of course:

See also:
Warren Buffett’s $30 Billion Wager on Clean Energy Is One of His Safest Bets Yet : Motherboard
Buffet is only a Market Messiah when he supports M&A and the usual banking nonsense. When Buffet gets into clean energy, the response on The Street is… [*crickets*]

This seems further along than exotic solar: 5-10 years until implementation. Hope you like eating pickleweed and wearing cloth made from seashore mallow.
“Indeed, Glenn points to a possible synergy between aquaculture and halophyte agriculture. Shrimp farms produce copious amounts of ‘effluent’ – waste-laden water from the shrimp. … But for halophyte-based agriculture, it is perfect: free irrigation plus free fertiliser.”
Enter halophytes: We are running out of land for traditional agriculture. Time to figure out what saltwater plants can do for us : Aeon


No book rec or diary today; it’s a link post only. There’s plenty here for readers to chew on, though. —M.

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Links and Thoughts 23: 10 June 2014

filed under , 10 June 2014, 08:05 by

The Alan Parsons Project – The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether.
(For the video, the song is matched to art from Dark Horse’s Creepy and Eerie archive editions)

Good Morning.

Cities and Citizens:
Some of these ‘anti-homeless’ solutions look like they’d make excellent bike racks — so long as we also address the needs of the homeless: that’s a trade-off I’d be more than willing to make.
Anti-public bench : Isabelle Rolin – dizagneur critique

Living Wage:
“Conway did find a way to make up for lack of tip money going towards his servers, however, by creating a system where servers can make either $10 an hour or 20 percent of their individual food sales each shift.”
Restaurant Issues Ban on Tipping : Foodbeast



The Economics of Entertainment:
“I first saw this discussed in an entirely different context as the ‘blue vacuum cleaner’ problem. A door to door vacuum cleaner salesman goes door to door. Even when the door is not slammed in their face, the prospect does not seem to be interested. Finally the prospect asks, ‘what’s color is it available in’, and the vacuum cleaner salesman says, ‘its available in white, beige, red, brown and black.’ And the prospect says they aren’t interested, because its not available in blue.
“And the vacuum cleaner salesman reports that they could sell a boatload of the vacuum cleaners, if only they were available in blue. So the company comes out with a blue model … but without the promised explosion in sales. The only change is now people say they want it in green.
“Obviously, what those people were really saying was they had no interest in buying a vacuum cleaner, but they expressed it by picking a feature that they had learned was not available.
“And this happens in online discussion spaces too. Lots of people advance what seems to them to be the more reasonable reasons … but those aren’t always the real reasons.”

“Because the reality is that there are a number of people hanging out in the online discussion spaces where you find out where to get bootlegs whose real reason for using bootlegs is that ‘I’m a freeloader who takes a free ride on the work of others just because I can get away with it’.”

“So as far the royalties-paying operation is concerned, they are phantasms. They just don’t matter, no matter how much noise they may make on some discussion forum. In this particular case, they do not offer any potential benefit to the creators of anime, and so whatever reasons they may offer as to why they bootleg instead of using legit content are of no particular relevance to the market.”

What It Takes for Crunchyroll to Satisfy Bootleg Consumers : Voices on the Square

— In the article linked above, I like how Bruce ties it back not just to ‘online’ pirates, but specifically to the subset of users who are highly conscious, high-information, very active online, and tied into a community. It just happens that the whole community is into getting things fast-and-free online. It’s a polar opposite to the “No Spoilers” crowd, who are also online but not fully engaged (‘I’ll watch it later, or maybe catch up once it’s out on DVD.’) — the anime pirate often places a higher value on the online discussion of the media even over ‘trivialities’ like proper payments to creators or legality.

see also: Copying Dickens : B&N Review


following up on that:
Today’s Book Recommendation is Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates by Adrian Johns (U. Of Chicago Press, 2010 paperback, 9780226401195), which covers how the ability to make copies eventually had to be reconciled with the new-fangled idea of copy rights — when copies are cheap, who gets to make money on cheap copies? [You might have noticed, we still haven’t figured that one out — or we feign ignorance or wrap ourselves in other conceits to get out of it.]

After you’ve digested 600+ pages of that, if you find yourself still hungry I’d follow up with The Empire of Mind: Digital Piracy and the Anti-Capitalist Movement by Michael Strangelove (U. of Toronto Press, 2005 paperback, 9780802038180) which despite the subtitle isn’t so much about piracy, but rather how the very democratic and very distributed nature of the web, where everyone can be a creator, has the power to disrupt the old commodity economy entirely. (YMMV; I like the concept, but I also gotta eat).

If you’re still not done with the subject, Lawrence Lessig is the obvious next stop: of his books, the ones on-topic would be The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World (2002), Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity (2005), and Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (2009).

I’ll get my to-buy links sorted out eventually. In the meantime, you can still use most readers’ preferred option.


Diary entry for 10 June:

Does anyone pirate video content in a vacuum?

We find out about the content because other people talk about it (to praise it or condemn it), and link to it, and index it, and make copies available — upload sites, torrents, IRC bots, and even old fashioned FTP archives. (I hadn’t heard of anime downloads available via terminal using Gopher, but I’m about 40% sure you might be able to get some episodes via Usenet binaries — yes, in 2014).

In a pinch, I suppose fans would hand around USB thumb drives and SD cards in much the same way that the 1980s anime fans handed around VHS tapes.

The thread that connects all this activity isn’t the technology (even though the tech makes it all-too-easy) but rather the constant chatter about content between fans — online, around the water cooler (does any office still have a water cooler? are we still allowed to hang around one if it exists?) — in print media, in movie trailers and TV commercials, in the tweets of celebrities and in the darkest depths of fantumblrdom.

Today it’s called ‘viral’ marketing; it used to be known as ‘word of mouth’ — the best kind of free advertising any major media company could hope for.

The new trick is: the companies get the free, near-universal advertising they always hoped for, but then their customers help themselves to ‘free’ content. —M.

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Links and Thoughts 22: 7 June 2014

filed under , 7 June 2014, 17:40 by

Bread – Make It With You

Good Afternoon.

“After all, next year, we’ll be as far removed from 1985 as the filmmakers were from 1955.”
Entire Back to the Future town to be recreated for anniversary screening :

You Are What You Recommend: Publishers Must Be Vigilant with ‘Related Links’ Revenue : Mediashift

“Earlier this week, I was talking with a fellow journalist about three sites that everyone lumps together, for better or worse: FiveThirtyEight, The Upshot, and Vox. After running through the things I liked and didn’t like about each, I circled back to Vox and said that evaluating it at this early stage felt a little unfair. Unlike the other two, which benefited from a relatively long period of buildup, Vox was born quickly.”
How was built in 9 weeks, not 9 months : Nieman Journalism Lab

Four Lessons Libraries Can Learn From Amazon : Digital Book World

Cities and Citizens:
How TV Predicted America’s Moves From City to ‘Burbs and Back Again : Next City


Today’s Book Recommendation is Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now by Douglas Rushkoff (paberback isbn 9781617230103) — the title is an obvious riff on Future Shock, written by Alvin Toffler in 1970, and I was reminded of both by the article on Back to the Future [linked above] — especially the intriguing little factoid: We are as far from Marty McFly’s 1985 as Marty was from the 1950s.

We are always marching bravely into the future, most of the time blindly; occasionally running forward while looking resolutely back. Rushkoff differs from Toffler in that he says we suffer not from anxiety in some far-off, imagined future, but instead from the problems of the future now — we live in a sci-fi world (flying cars and jetpacks notwithstanding). Everyone’s favorite example is the smart phone: how do we explain to Marty in 1985 about accessing Google Maps, Wikipedia, and YouTube on the computer we all carry in our pockets? Marty doesn’t even know about the internet and web browsers yet. (Since Marty owns a walkman, maybe he’d get grounded if we started with Spotify or Pandora). State of the Art in ’85 would have been the very first generation of Macs: 8MHz processor, 512K of memory (up from the 128K in ’84s Mac), and a built-in 9” monitor with a resolution of 512×342.

The ‘thing’ about the web, and tablets, and a procession of gadgets and apps, is that everything largely uses the same vocabulary introduced by the Mac — even when we go from keyboard-and-mouse to touchscreen tech, we still point to pick, drag to move, tap to open. A double-tap replaces the right mouse button, but that’s about the only adaptation we’ve had to make. (We’ve all seen the youtube videos of toddlers—and cats—sitting down to use iPads. So long as this remains the UX goal of future designers, we will never experience ‘Future Shock’ with consumer technology ever again. The joke about seniors and VCRs will have to be explained to our great-grandkids; they just won’t get it)

So while a time traveler from 1985 would have to learn how to use a computer, or a smart phone, odds are good that anyone travelling from today to 2045 will likely be able operate just fine. We already know the ‘tech vocabulary’ of screens, menus, apps, windows — a world without obvious buttons, tech we now use even when we watch TV — on Tivos, DVRs, and Netflix. (In some ways, the future will be easier because the only store left will be Amazon, all the food will be Soylent, the GoogleUber cars will drive themselves, and they’ll be more than happy to drive you to the spaceport so you can board the Axiom.) Your toaster has a computer chip in it, your fridge is connected to the internet. The change we’ve seen in just the last 10 years has been enough for lifetime.

…and that’s the point of Rushkoff’s book: we’re drowning in the now, “the dissonance between our digital selves and our analog bodies”. We can always unplug, but for many of us, being offline just doesn’t seem like an option anymore. I take my laptop with me to pubs and bars; I’m a bit anachronistic that way, as most people are happy to sit there with their phone. Check messages, check email, send a text, check email again, if the rest of your friends are running late (someone is always running late) then check your Twitter or Tumblr or Facebook. And when it’s time to ‘have fun’ the phones get put away for a minute, but come back out so we can Instagram, Snapchat, and Tweet about all the fun we’re having. Sometimes you know where you’re going next, after the bar; sometimes you don’t: “When’s the movie playing?” “I feel like pad thai” “How late are they open?” “Here, let me Google that…”

I’ll get my to-buy links sorted out eventually. In the meantime, you can still use most readers’ preferred option.


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Links and Thoughts 21: 6 June 2014

filed under , 6 June 2014, 08:05 by

X OST, Sadame (Satou Naoki)

Good Morning.

Moving Mountains.
China’s Mountain-Flattening Experiment Is Not Going Well : Motherboard

*I’m filing this one under Don’t Be A Dick
These Are the Words You Gotta Stop Using : The Bold Italic

Cities and Citizens:
“Garrick says that some cities, such as Cambridge, Massachusetts, and more recently Washington, D.C., have made good headway in reversing the trend toward massive parking lots that overwhelm the human scale and lead to downtowns devoid of people. ‘It’s very hard for people to realize, and it’s very hard to prove that planning is the reason,’ says Garrick. ‘But this is the result of planning.’ Better planning, he says, could mean a restoration of cities where the streets are for people, not cars.”
How Parking Lots Became the Scourge of American Downtowns : Citylab, from The Atlantic

Years after the first prototypes were displayed at trade shows, Qualcomm may finally have solved their Mirasol problem — the next question is how much the new tech costs, and if they can make it work at manufacturing scale.
Qualcomm’s Mirasol display just got a lot more interesting :

…but don’t cut up your credit cards, yet.
Why American Express Wants to Kill Credit Cards : Wired

The estimates are from a PricewaterhouseCooper report, so the numbers are probably better than the usual white paper, but are still projections.
Video streaming services could make more money than the US box office by 2017: Report says video on-demand will make up 43 percent of US film industry : The Verge

The ‘magic number’ in 2017 is $14 billion. You know which part of the entertainment industry clears $14 billion right now? Book Retail. (good old fashioned books – and that’s retail trade, not the total publishing number) — well, OK, so I just checked the
Census retail numbers and bookstores only cleared $11.8 Billion in 2013. Total US ‘box office’ receipts for the movie industry in 2013 was $10.3 billion, for comparison.

I love numbers — so plain, black & white, hard to argue with (we do it anyway). Books are boring, movies are sexy (and so is TV again, in this new ‘golden era’) — so of course the books get no respect.

Books might actually be quite a bit more than $14 billion, but Amazon doesn’t break out and report sales numbers on their book (or ebook) business. (Census Bureau reporting on retail does not include online sales.)


No one is giving me flack for the steady diet of non-fiction, so I’ll stay the course. Today’s Book Recommendation is Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs by Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson (Wiley paperback isbn 9780470934326). The book seems thin for this price, but includes a lot of case studies and plans and nuts-and-bolts — not just theory but some solid ideas that really should work. In fact, I’d say it is more solidly aimed at architects as opposed to city planners or the lay reader, but if you want ideas on how to re-use the now-emptying shopping malls that litter the suburban landscape: I’d start here.

I’ll get my to-buy links sorted out eventually. In the meantime, you can still use most readers’ preferred option.


Diary entry for 6 June:

Netflix got snarky, and instead of an error message, sent some Verizon customers a notice that ““The Verizon network is crowded right now,” placing (I believe) appropriate blame for any degradation in quality or pauses in service.

Verizon didn’t like that. In fact, Verizon just sent a Cease and Desist letter to Netflix, asking them to knock-off all that bad-sounding truth-telling — of course, the technical details are more complicated than that…

But the base argument that Verizon makes is that their network is just fine, there are no clogs, there’s no reason Netflix’s data shouldn’t be streaming just fine over Verizon’s network — so the problems are obviously Netflix’s fault.

Here’s my take: Netflix provides data to any customer who asks for it over the internet. Presumably, this includes Verizon’s customers, and since millions of people subscribe to Netflix, there really isn’t any surprise here. Verizon emphatically states (to the point of getting lawyers involved) that there is *no* problem with their service.

So instead of providing ‘internet access’ as promised, and what their customers are paying for, Verizon is inserting bottlenecks between their network and the rest of the internet. We can be charitable, perhaps, and say Verizon didn’t install the bottleneck, they just refuse to upgrade their network to fully support the customers they have. If you don’t have enough connections to handle the traffic, Verizon, I suggest you build more — or if you won’t, you should at least be honest with your customers as to which ‘internet’ and how much of it you actually provide access to. Maybe Verizon should stop accepting new subscribers until these connections are up to snuff — after all, consumers don’t pay Verizon for fast speed to the local neighborhood sub-router, people pay lots of money every month for access to the internet and last time I checked, Netflix is part of the internet.

Be honest about what you supply, and what is happening here, Verizon. Netflix is big, sure, but Netflix is not at fault. At least, that’s my take on it. —M.

I am not a Verizon customer. I’d gladly pay for FiOS speeds, actually — yes, even knowing what Verizon is doing (or not doing) in the Netflix matter — but Verizon hasn’t been particularly eager to expand their fiber to enough neighborhoods; mine certainly isn’t included.

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Links and Thoughts 20: 5 June 2014

filed under , 5 June 2014, 08:05 by

Punjabi & Hindi Nonstop (15min) Bass Mix by DJ Gill

Good Morning.

Yes, my musical tastes are… eclectic. (Of course, sometimes I’m just pulling your leg with the daily music embed, but there’s no way for anyone to tell the difference.)

“[A]t some point you stopped focusing on delivering things that people really wanted. You have lost focus on the people using this platform, and that’s the first step toward losing touch and becoming obsolete.”
An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg : Re/code

The future of mobile phones doesn’t include phone calls : Quartz

If they really want to expand, maybe they should run a Kickstarter

“Logistics experts have questioned whether a decentralized model that uses retail stores designed for shopping can really work as substitutes for warehouses designed for shipping. But ultimately logistics is a math problem, and math is something Google is really good at.”
With New Overnight Delivery, Google Confirms It Wants to Be Amazon : Wired

“I submit that the unifying core, the essence of jerkitude in the moral sense, is this: the jerk culpably fails to appreciate the perspectives of others around him, treating them as tools to be manipulated or idiots to be dealt with rather than as moral and epistemic peers. This failure has both an intellectual dimension and an emotional dimension, and it has these two dimensions on both sides of the relationship.”
A Theory of Jerks: Are you surrounded by fools? Are you the only reasonable person around? : Aeon


Today’s Book Recommendation is to first, read this review, Jill Lapore writing for the New Yorker, Away From My Desk: The office from beginning to end

Nominally the review is of Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace by Nikil Saval (hardcover, April 2014, isbn 9780385536578) though in covering both the book and the topic, Lapore also gives us background on the 1951 book, White Collar: The American Middle Classes by C. Wright Mills (available used in several editions, Oxford University Press’s ’56 paperback is 9780195006773, which might be the best place to start your search). The book review covers (in part) the life of Mills and the reaction to his work, along with the scope of Saval’s book and a wide ranging essay on ‘cube life’ in the modern office. This essay-masquerading-as-a-book review is an excellent read and makes me eager to follow up on the topic with both Saval and Mills.

I’ll get my to-buy links sorted out eventually. In the meantime, you can still use most readers’ preferred option.


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Yes, all the links are broken.

On June 1, 2015 (after 6 years and 11 months) I needed to relaunch/restart this blog, or at least rekindle my interest in maintaining and updating it.

Rather than delete and discard the whole thing, I instead moved the blog -- database, cms, files, archives, and all -- to this subdomain. When you encounter broken links (and you will encounter broken links) just change the URL in the address bar from to

I know this is inconvenient, and for that I apologise. In addition to breaking tens of thousands of links, this also adversely affects the blog visibility on search engines -- but that, I'm willing to live with. Between the Wayback Machine at and my own half-hearted preservation efforts (which you are currently reading) I feel nothing has been lost, though you may have to dig a bit harder for it.

As always, thank you for reading. Writing version 1.0 of Rocket Bomber was a blast. For those that would like to follow me on the 2.0 - I'll see you back on the main site.



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