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Opinion | Am I Going Blind? - The New York Times
Frank Bruni:

They say that death comes like a thief in the night. Lesser vandals have the same M.O. The affliction that stole my vision, or at least a big chunk of it, did so as I slept. I went to bed seeing the world one way. I woke up seeing it another.

This was about four months ago, though it feels like an eternity. So much has happened since. I don’t mean all the tests and procedures: the vials upon vials of blood; the mapping of major arteries in my neck; the imaging of tiny vessels in my brain; the first injection of an experimental treatment (or, maybe, a placebo) into my right, dominant eye, where the damage occurred; then the second injection; and then, last week, the third.

I mean the rest of it. I went to bed believing that I was more or less in control — that the unfinished business, unrealized dreams and other disappointments in my life were essentially failures of industry and imagination, and could probably be redeemed with a fierce enough effort. I woke up to the realization of how ludicrous that was.

Bruni’s issues are far worse than I what I’ve been through, but this really hit home for me.

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yesterday by rufous
Why Can Everyone Spot Fake News But The Tech Companies?
Charlie Warzel, writing for BuzzFeed:

The companies ask that we take them at their word: We’re trying, but this is hard — we can’t fix this overnight. OK, we get it. But if the tech giants aren’t finding the same misinformation that observers armed with nothing more sophisticated than access to a search bar are in the aftermath of these events, there’s really only one explanation for it: If they can’t see it, they aren’t truly looking.

How hard would it be, for example, to have a team in place reserved exclusively for large-scale breaking news events to do what outside observers have been doing: scan and monitor for clearly misleading conspiratorial content inside its top searches and trending modules?

It’s not a foolproof solution. But it’s something.

It’s the same reason why Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are overrun with state-backed troll accounts from Russia. Engagement leads to growth, growth is all that matters, and if the trolls and fake news are engaging, better not to look for them. The oft-quoted Upton Sinclair quote fits perfectly: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

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yesterday by rufous
Aura - Alastair’s Place
Alastair Houghton on the story behind Aura, a new utility he’s just released that allows any Mac to output 5.1 surround sound. Long story short, he spent a year working on it but was on the cusp of shelving it, unreleased, due to licensing problems. It was saved only through serendipity. I don’t want to say any more — it’s a great story.

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2 days ago by rufous
Meet Dorsen, 8, who mines cobalt to make your smartphone work
Alex Crawford, reporting for Sky News:

At one cobalt mine, children toiled in the drenching rain carrying huge sacks of the mineral.

Dorsen, eight, had no shoes and told us he hadn’t made enough money to eat for the past two days - despite working for about 12 hours a day. His friend Richard, 11, talked about how his whole body ached every day from the tough physical work. […]

The mine tunnels are dug by hand by miners who have no protective equipment. The tunnels have no supports and are prone to collapse, especially in the rain.

There are thousands of unofficial, unregulated, unmonitored mines where men, women and children work in what can only be described as slave conditions. In one group, we found a circle of children with a four-year-old girl picking out cobalt stones.

Perhaps Apple’s rumored decision to begin buying cobalt directly is less about operational strategy and more about humanitarian concerns.

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2 days ago by rufous
Soderbergh's thriller shot on iPhone premieres in Berlin | Reuters
Reuters:

Soderbergh said the overall experience of making a film on an iPhone was good, although there were some drawbacks such as the phone being very sensitive to vibrations.

“I have to say the positives for me really were significant and it’s going to be tricky to go back to a more conventional way of shooting,” he said.

Not having to make a hole in a wall or secure a camera to the ceiling are big advantages, as is being able to go straight from watching a rehearsal to shooting, Soderbergh said.

Putting this in a bit of context: the original iPhone didn’t even shoot video.

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2 days ago by rufous
The #1 reason Facebook won’t ever change – Om Malik
Om Malik:

Google’s core DNA is search and engineering, though some would say engineering that is driven by the economics of search, which makes it hard for the company to see the world through any other lens. Apple’s lens is that of product, design, and experience. This allows it to make great phones and to put emphasis on privacy, but makes it hard for them to build data-informed services.

Facebook’s DNA is that of a social platform addicted to growth and engagement. At its very core, every policy, every decision, every strategy is based on growth (at any cost) and engagement (at any cost). More growth and more engagement means more data — which means the company can make more advertising dollars, which gives it a nosebleed valuation on the stock market, which in turn allows it to remain competitive and stay ahead of its rivals.

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2 days ago by rufous
Gun Rights, ‘Positive Good’ and the Evolution of Mutually Assured Massacre – Talking Points Memo
Must-read column by Josh Marshall on how the false notion that more guns make us safer — which has now come to the absurd point where the president of the United States is endorsing the notion of arming schoolteachers — came to be.

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2 days ago by rufous
Hey, things:/// - Things Blog - Cultured Code
Cultured Code:

Things now supports a special kind of link (or URL) that starts
with “things:”. These links are just like the ones you use every
day on the web, except they allow you to send a variety of
commands to Things.

Here’s an example: . Tapping this link will
open Things and tell it to show your Today list. Try it now if you
already have Things 3.4 installed.

This is pretty neat, and they’ve gone out of their way to make these URLs easy to create and understand, with a nifty helper tool and ample documentation.

And this is in addition to solid AppleScript support on the Mac, which I think Things has had for years. But there is no AppleScript on iOS, so for cross-platform automation, these URLs are an interesting alternative.

The Omni Group has gone even further, creating their own JavaScript-based automation system that works on both Mac and iOS.

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2 days ago by rufous
The AR-15 Is Different: What I Learned Treating Parkland Victims - The Atlantic
Radiologist Heather Sher, writing for The Atlantic:

In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?

The reaction in the emergency room was the same. One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle which delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim. There was nothing left to repair, and utterly, devastatingly, nothing that could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal.

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2 days ago by rufous
www.washingtonpost.com
Alexandra Petri, in an op-ed for The Washington Post:

There are certain sorts of people whom we once thought we should give respect and space to. Gold Star mothers. Gold Star fathers. The victims of unthinkable tragedies, in the few days after those tragedies. But that was when they had the grace to be silent and let us determine, for ourselves, the moral of what they had lived through. That was when they did not demand that we take responsibility.

Now, if you don’t want to hear from any more high schoolers traumatized by gun violence, then you either decide to try to create a world where high schoolers are not traumatized by gun violence, or decide to create a world where you do not have to listen to the high schoolers. It looks like we’re picking the latter!

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2 days ago by rufous
The Life and Death of Twitter for Mac - YouTube
Rene Ritchie had me and a few special guests on his show to talk about the late great Twitter for Mac. Forget about the fact that I’m on it — I’m really intrigued by what Rene is doing with this show and the video format.

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2 days ago by rufous
Apple in Talks to Buy Cobalt Directly From Miners - Bloomberg
Jack Farchy and Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is in talks to buy long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners for the first time, according to people familiar with the matter, seeking to ensure it will have enough of the key battery ingredient amid industry fears of a shortage driven by the electric vehicle boom.

The iPhone maker is one of the world’s largest end users of cobalt for the batteries in its gadgets, but until now it has left the business of buying the metal to the companies that make its batteries.

I am assuming this just means Apple is buying out/taking over an existing cobalt brokerage or two, just to have total control over the whole process, as opposed to sending Jeff Williams out to the mines with suitcases full of cash.

But this idea feels very Apple-y: one of the keys of the Cook/Williams operational success has been staying a few years ahead of the curve for in-demand resources, like the deal they made to secure ample supply of flash storage back in 2005, which they announced just weeks after Apple unveiled the first iPod that used flash storage instead of a hard drive.

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3 days ago by rufous
Inside The Federal Bureau Of Way Too Many Guns | GQ
Jeanne Marie Laskas, writing for GQ in 2016:

“It’s a shoestring budget,” says Charlie, who runs the center. “It’s not 10,000 agents and a big sophisticated place. It’s a bunch of friggin’ boxes. All half-ass records. We have about 50 ATF employees. And all the rest are basically the ladies. The ladies that live in West Virginia — and they got a job. There’s a huge amount of labor being put into looking through microfilm.”

I want to ask about the microfilm — microfilm? — but it’s hard to get a word in. He’s already gone three rounds on the whiteboard, scribbling, erasing, illustrating some of the finer points of gun tracing, of which there are many, in large part due to the limitations imposed upon this place. For example, no computer. The National Tracing Center is not allowed to have centralized computer data.

“That’s the big no-no,” says Charlie.

That’s been a federal law, thanks to the NRA, since 1986: No searchable database of America’s gun owners. So people here have to use paper, sort through enormous stacks of forms and record books that gun stores are required to keep and to eventually turn over to the feds when requested. It’s kind of like a library in the old days — but without the card catalog. They can use pictures of paper, like microfilm (they recently got the go-ahead to convert the microfilm to PDFs), as long as the pictures of paper are not searchable. You have to flip through and read. No searching by gun owner. No searching by name.

The legislation that keeps the ATF from computerizing these records is lunacy, based entirely on the fever dream that such a database would lead to mass confiscation.

See also: Guns Found Here, a bracing, compelling 10-minute short from MEL Films that really hammers home how insane the constraints on the ATF National Trace Center are. All they’re trying to do is help law enforcement solve gun crimes and they’re forced to do it in the most inefficient way possible.

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3 days ago by rufous
the economist
The Economist:

It is impossible to say whether erasing the Second Amendment would bring down gun deaths in America. But this is an academic query: changes to the constitution require the unlikely assent of two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate and three-quarters of the states. The better question is whether repealing the amendment is a must for pursuing gun control. It is not. The Heller majority opinion did not, in the words of its author, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, secure an “unlimited” right to buy or carry weapons. The Second Amendment would not, for example, scuttle bans on concealed weapons or machine guns. And Justice Scalia emphasised that nothing in Heller “should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings”. Nearly every gun regulation under discussion today — from expanded background checks to bans on military-style weapons — would seem to pass constitutional muster.

It’s remarkable how effective the NRA has been at convincing people that the 2nd Amendment means something that it does not. We almost certainly cannot repeal the 2nd Amendment in the foreseeable future, but we absolutely can pass meaningful new gun regulations with the 2nd Amendment in place.

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via:daringfireball 
3 days ago by rufous
Why Apple Is The World’s Most Innovative Company
Robert Safian, interviewing Tim Cook for Fast Company after the magazine named Apple the world’s most innovative company:

Fast Company: What makes a good year for Apple? Is it the new hit products? The stock price?

Tim Cook: Stock price is a result, not an achievement by itself. For me, it’s about products and people. Did we make the best product, and did we enrich people’s lives? If you’re doing both of those things–and obviously those things are incredibly connected because one leads to the other — then you have a good year.

FC: Do you look back at some years and say, Oh, that was a good year, that year wasn’t as good?

TC: I’ve only had good years. No, seriously. Even when we were idling from a revenue point of view–it was like $6 billion every year–those were some incredibly good years because you could begin to feel the pipeline getting better, and you could see it internally. Externally, people couldn’t see that.

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3 days ago by rufous
Apple Maps vs. Google Maps vs. Waze – arturrr
Artur Grabowski (no relation, presumably, to [Steve]):

In early 2017, a conversation with yet another Waze fanboy finally nudged me to start a navigation app experiment. I was skeptical that the Alphabet owned company could meaningfully best its parent’s home grown Google Maps. I was also curious whether Apple Maps had discovered competence since its iOS 6 release.

I thus set out to answer three questions:

Which navigation app estimates the shortest travel time?

How does each app over/underestimate travel times?

Which navigation app actually gets you to your destination most quickly?

This whole comparison was interesting, but particularly interesting to me was that Apple Maps was the only one of the three to under-promise and over-deliver on estimated time.

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via:daringfireball 
3 days ago by rufous
Gingrich says arming teachers only long-term solution to school shootings | TheHill
This is fucking insane:

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) on Tuesday argued that the only long-term solution to school shootings is to train teachers and administrators in the use of guns.

Gingrich offered the remarks in an interview on “Fox & Friends.”

“I think the only long-term solution, depending on the size of the school, is a minimum of six to eight teachers and administrators who are trained in the use of firearms and have conceal carry permits and are prepared to defend the kids,” said Gingrich, a Fox News contributor and former CNN “Crossfire” co-host.

It’s funny when an Onion story on five-blade razor cartridges becomes a real product just a few years later. It’s fucking insane when an Onion story on arming schoolteachers becomes a Republican talking point just a few years later.

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via:daringfireball 
4 days ago by rufous
Switzerland makes it illegal to boil a live lobster
Jason Kottke:

Come March 1, it will be illegal to throw a lobster into a pot of boiling water. Chefs and home cooks alike will need to quickly kill the lobster first and then cook it. […]

But really, this is just an excuse to revisit a sublime piece of journalism that David Foster Wallace wrote in 2004 for Gourmet magazine called Consider the Lobster (later collected in a book of the same name). In it, Wallace travels to the Maine Lobster Festival and comes away asking similar questions that the Swiss had in formulating their law.

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4 days ago by rufous
Welcome to Azure China 21Vianet | Microsoft Docs
Microsoft:

Microsoft Azure operated by 21Vianet (Azure China 21Vianet) is a physically separated instance of cloud services located in mainland China, independently operated and transacted by Shanghai Blue Cloud Technology Co., Ltd. (“21Vianet”), a wholly owned subsidiary of Beijing 21Vianet Broadband Data Center Co., Ltd.

The services are based on the same Azure, Microsoft Office 365, and Microsoft Power BI technologies that make up the Microsoft global cloud service with comparable service levels. Agreements and contracts for Microsoft Azure in China, where applicable, are signed between customers and 21Vianet.

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4 days ago by rufous

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