My day kept getting longer as it went on in a way that people living through the pandemic will understand. So I didn't have time to read any of these yesterday:
Finally, Jon Oliver has put out a line of Last Week Tonight stamps to help support the US Postal Service. So naturally I bought some.
Welcome to day 31 of the Illinois shelter-in-place regime, which also turns out to be day 36 of my own working-from-home regime (or day 43 if you ignore that I had to go into the office on March 16th). So what's new?
Finally, via Bruce Schneier, the Dutch intelligence service had an unintentional back door into several other countries' communications. (Scheier says, "It seems to be clever cryptanalysis rather than a backdoor.")
More than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week (including 178,000 in Illinois), following the 3.3 million who filed the week before. This graphic from The Washington Post puts these numbers in perspective:
Hotel occupancy has crashed as well, down 67% year-over-year, with industry analysts predicting the worst year on record.
In other pandemic news:
Finally, unrelated to the coronavirus but definitely related to our natural environment, the Lake Michigan/Huron system recorded its third straight month of record levels in March. The lake is a full meter above the long-term average and 30 cm above last year's alarming levels.
I had a lot going on at work today, so all I have left is a lame-ass "read these later" post:
I'd say "back to the mines," but I believe I have a date with Kristen Bell presently.
First event: Last night around 7pm, my main data drive seized up after storing my stuff for a bit less than 4 years. Let me tell you how much fun Micro Center is at 9pm two days before Christmas. After 12 hours it looks like it's about 75% restored from backup, and I didn't suffer any data loss.
Second event: Just look at this lovely, peaceful scene:
That's the cemetery in my neighborhood a few minutes ago. And that's what we call "dense fog," with about 200 m visibility and what they call "indeterminate" ceilings at 100 m.
Which is exactly what you want in Chicago on Christmas Eve, the second-biggest travel day of the year:
Amid dense fog reducing visibility in Chicago, the Federal Aviation Administration early Tuesday grounded incoming flights at Chicago’s O’Hare International and Midway airports until at least 8 a.m.
For a short time Tuesday morning all flights were grounded, according to the FAA, but as of 7:30 a.m. the agency’s website noted the “ground stoppage,” or halting of flights, was indicated only for airplanes arriving at the city’s two airports. Flights were departing regularly at Midway, according to travelers at the airport.
Still, the ground stoppage for incoming flights means not all departing flights will leave on time and travelers could miss connecting flights, leading to a chain-reaction of air travel delays during a traditionally peak period for travel.
Have a safe and fun travel day, and if you're going to or through Chicago, enjoy your airport time.
My 5-year-old Microsoft Surface, which I use at work to keep personal and client concerns physically separated, has died. I thought it was the power supply, but it seems there is something even more wrong with it. Otherwise I would have posted earlier.
This means I have to make an expensive field trip tonight. Regular posting should resume tomorrow.
The Guardian gave a group of London teenagers five technologies from the distant past to see if they could use them:
1 Phone home… with a rotary dial telephone
They recognise the old phone from movies (and from watching The Sweeney in media studies – I want to go to Mr Rushworth’s media studies classes). Do you have to call the operator first, wonders Jannugan? Is the operator even still there?
But obviously they don’t know their numbers, although Jannugan knows his mother’s ends in 202. Hang on, he does know his landline number, amazingly, for emergencies, and there’s always someone home. So let’s dial it.
This is when the fun begins. Someone knows you have to turn the dial, but how far? They put their fingers in, then dial a teeny bit, then dial back, is that it? It’s hopeless, none of them dials right round to the stopper, then releases before moving on to the next number. And they haven’t taken the handset off the cradle, so they wouldn’t be getting through anyway. Sad, worried parents, not to mention the lonely operator, would remain unrung.
The kids then had to work out how to use a wind-up alarm clock, a radio, an encyclopedia, a Nintendo Game Boy, a turntable, a Sony Walkman, a 35mm camera, pen and paper, and...a map.
Since this group of kids—the college class of 2027—has never known a world without Facebook and whose earliest memories may be the financial crisis of 2008 or Boris Johnson being elected mayor of London, they just don't understand.
Via Bruce Schneier, Irish writer Maria Farrell explains how a feminist perspective leads to some creepy realizations about smart phones:
Here are some of the ways our unequal relationship with our smartphones is like an abusive relationship:
- They isolate us from deeper, competing relationships in favour of superficial contact – ‘user engagement’ – that keeps their hold on us strong. Working with social media, they insidiously curate our social lives, manipulating us emotionally with dark patterns to keep us scrolling.
- They tell us the onus is on us to manage their behavior. It’s our job to tiptoe around them and limit their harms. Spending too much time on a literally-designed-to-be-behaviorally-addictive phone? They send company-approved messages about our online time, but ban from their stores the apps that would really cut our use. We just need to use willpower. We just need to be good enough to deserve them.
- They betray us, leaking data / spreading secrets. What we shared privately with them is suddenly public. Sometimes this destroys lives, but hey, we only have ourselves to blame. They fight nasty and under-handed, and are so, so sorry when they get caught that we’re meant to feel bad for them. But they never truly change, and each time we take them back, we grow weaker.
Feminists are often the canary in the coalmine, warning us years in advance of coming threats. Feminist analysis of Gamergate first exposed the online radicalization of legions of angry young men for whom misogyny was a gateway drug to far-right politics. More practically, when the US military finally realised the enemy could use running app, Strava, to track the habits and route-maps of soldiers based in hostile environments, domestic violence activists collectively sighed. They’d been pointing out for years that the app is used by stalkers and aggrieved exes to track women. I’m not the first person to notice that in cyber-security, feminism is a secret super-power. Checking every app, data-set and shiny new use-case for how men will use it to endanger women and girls is a great way to expose novel flaws and vulnerabilities the designers almost certainly missed. So, while looking at our relationship with our phones through a feminist lens may be disconcerting, it’s incredibly useful, and in a deliciously counter-intuitive way.
I'll be mulling her thoughts over for a while.
I mentioned earlier today Aaron Gordon's evisceration of Uber's and Lyft's business model. It's worth a deeper look:
The Uber and Lyft pretzel logic is as follows: Drivers are their customers and also independent contractors but cannot negotiate prices or any terms of their contract. Uber and Lyft are platforms, not transportation companies. Drivers unionizing would be price-fixing, but Uber and Lyft can price-fix all they want. Riders pay the driver for their transportation, not the platforms, even though the platforms are the ones that set the prices and collect the money and allocate it however they want, often such that the driver does not in fact receive much of the rider’s fare.
There is a version of Uber and Lyft that might be profitable even if drivers are employees, but it is a much humbler one. It is one that uses the genuine efficiencies of app-based taxi hailing—the very ones Uber and Lyft claim is their actual secret sauce other than widespread worker exploitation—to get a smaller number of drivers more customers for each of them.
Exactly. If Yellow Cab in Chicago had created an app to find and direct taxis, it would be just as good as Uber or Lyft, but it would cost consumers more to use because taxi fares are regulated. That would be OK by me.
I can't wait to see the effects of California Assembly Bill 5 on the two companies.
It's the last weekday of summer. Chicago's weather today is perfect; the office is quiet ahead of the three-day weekend; and I'm cooking with gas on my current project.
None of that leaves a lot of time to read any of these:
Now, to find lunch.