The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Yo-Yo Ma Plays Impromptu Cello Concert at Covid-19 Vaccination Clinic

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When Ma had first visited the clinic for his first shot, he did so quietly, taking in the surroundings, staff said. But brought his cello when he returned for the second shot.

Staff described how a hush fell across the clinic as Ma began to play. “It was so weird how peaceful the whole building became, just having a little bit of music in the background,” said Leslie Drager, the lead clinical manager for the vaccination site, according to the Washington Post.

A Silly People

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Well we are the silly people now. You know who doesnt' care that there's a stereo type of a Chinese man in a Dr Suess book? China. All 1.4 billion of them could give a crouching tiger flying fuck. Because they are not a silly people. If anything they are as serious as a prison fight.

Look we all know China does bad stuff. They break promises about Hong Kong autonomy, they put leaders in camps and punish dissent. We don't want to be that. But there has gotta be something between authoratarian government that tells everyone what to do and a representative government that can't do anything.

Tina

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Tina an upcoming documentary Tina Turner, with interviews with Angela Bassett, Oprah, Kurt Loder, and Tina Turner herself. Airing March 27th on HBO.

Private Schools Have Become Truly Obscene

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In a just society, there wouldn’t be a need for these expensive schools, or for private wealth to subsidize something as fundamental as an education. We wouldn’t give rich kids and a tiny number of lottery winners an outstanding education while so many poor kids attend failing schools. In a just society, an education wouldn’t be a luxury item.

We have become a country with vanishingly few paths out of poverty, or even out of the working class. We’ve allowed the majority of our public schools to founder, while expensive private schools play an outsize role in determining who gets to claim a coveted spot in the winners’ circle. Many schools for the richest American kids have gates and security guards; the message is you are precious to us. Many schools for the poorest kids have metal detectors and police officers; the message is you are a threat to us.

Public-school education—the specific force that has helped generations of Americans transcend the circumstances of their birth—is profoundly, perhaps irreparably, broken.

Through a Nurse’s Eyes

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So many Americans have died in hospitals without family by their side, but they were not alone. Nurses brush patients’ teeth, change their catheters and hold their hands in their final moments.

The true heroes of this pandemic. Thank your a health care workers when you see them. Wear your mask. Write your senators and representatives to give these nurses and physicians the support they need.

Why Are COVID-19 Cases Dropping?

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Derek Thompson in The Atlantic:

One month ago, the CDC published the results of more than 20 pandemic forecasting models. Most projected that COVID-19 cases would continue to grow through February, or at least plateau. Instead, COVID-19 is in retreat in America. New daily cases have plunged, and hospitalizations are down almost 50 percent in the past month. This is not an artifact of infrequent testing, since the share of regional daily tests that are coming back positive has declined even more than the number of cases. Some pandemic statistics are foggy, but the current decline of COVID-19 is crystal clear.

What’s behind the change? Americans’ good behavior in the past month has tag-teamed with (mostly) warming weather across the Northern Hemisphere to slow the pandemic’s growth; at the same time, partial immunity and vaccines have reduced the number of viable bodies that would allow the coronavirus to thrive. But the full story is a bit more complex.

Everyone is looking for a good answer and ignoring the obvious. Sure the vaccine, seasonality, partial immunity are all a contributing factor. However, the easiest explanation tends to be the right one. We don’t need to overthink this. As scientists have said all along - wearing a mask and social distancing is the best defense we have against this pandemic.

We Are Not Afraid

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Volkswagen CEO Deiss is not afraid of an Apple Electric car.

Germany’s Volkswagen is not concerned by any Apple plans for a passenger vehicle that could include the iPhone maker’s battery technology, its chief executive Herbert Diess said.

[...]

“The car industry is not a typical tech-sector that you could take over at a single stroke,” Diess was quoted as saying an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. “Apple will not manage that overnight,” he added.

While Apple’s plans are not public, Diess said its intentions as such were “logical” because the company had expertise in battderies, software and design, and that it had deep pockets to build on these competencies.

“Still, we are not afraid,” he said.

Hmm. Where have we heard this before? Lets back track to 2006, a few months before the announcement of the iPhone. Palm CEO Ed Colligan’s remarks:

We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in

Let us not forget Microsoft CEO on the introduction of the iPhone.

$500 fully subsidized? With a plan? I said that is the most expensive phone in the world and doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard. Which makes it not a very good email machine.

We have a video of trail of that one:


Both Palm and Microsoft left the mobile cell phone business soon after.

Whatever Apple’s first electric car introduction is, it will probably won’t be the best. That misses the big picture.

When Apple enters a market, they rarely have the best product. In many key specs, it is inferior. The very first Apple II computer, it wasn’t the cheapest or the fastest. But it was a completely assembled machine that was well designed and worked out of the box. For the Macintosh, they re-imagined how users interacted with the computer. With the iPhone, they didn’t release a new phone. They released a Unix based pocket computer with a phone app.

Apple just does not enter a market, they re-imagine the market place and tilt it to their advantage . Volkswagen CEO Deiss should be afraid. Very afraid.

Flipping Red States

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Stacey Abrams & Lauren Groh-Wargo on how they increased Democratic votes in Georgia:

Georgians deserved better, so we devised and began executing a 10-year plan to transform Georgia into a battleground state. As the world knows, President Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in November, and the January runoff elections for two Senate seats secured full congressional control for the Democratic Party. Yet the result wasn’t a miracle or truly a surprise, at least not to us. Years of planning, testing, innovating, sustained investment and organizing yielded the record-breaking results we knew they could and should. The lessons we learned can help other states looking to chart a more competitive future for Democrats and progressives, particularly those in the Sun Belt, where demographic change will precede electoral opportunity.

We realize that many people are thinking about Stacey’s political future, but right now we intend to talk about the unglamorous, tedious, sometimes technical, often contentious work that creates a battleground state. When fully embraced, this work delivers wins — whether or not Donald Trump is on the ballot — as the growth Georgia Democrats have seen in cycle after cycle shows. Even in tough election years, we have witnessed the power of civic engagement on policy issues and increases in Democratic performance. This combination of improvements has also resulted in steady gains in local races and state legislative races, along with the continued narrowing of the statewide loss margin in election after election that finally flipped the state in 2020 and 2021.

The task is hard, the progress can feel slow, and winning sometimes means losing better. In 2012, for example, we prevented the Republicans from gaining a supermajority in the Georgia House of Representatives, which would have allowed them to pass virtually any bill they wanted. We won four seats they had drawn for themselves, and in 2014 we maintained those gains — just holding our ground was a victory.

The steps toward victory are straightforward: understand your weaknesses, organize with your allies, shore up your political infrastructure and focus on the long game. Georgia’s transformation is worth celebrating, and how it came to be is a long and complicated story, which required more than simply energizing a new coterie of voters. What Georgia Democrats and progressives accomplished here — and what is happening in Arizona and North Carolina — can be exported to the rest of the Sun Belt and the Midwest, but only if we understand how we got here.

Trump Acquitted

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Former president Donald Trump was acquitted Saturday of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, becoming the first president in U.S. history to face a second impeachment trial — and surviving it in part because of his continuing hold on the Republican Party despite his electoral defeat in November.

That grip appeared to loosen slightly during the vote Saturday afternoon, when seven Republicans crossed party lines to vote for conviction — a sign of the rift the Capitol siege has caused within GOP ranks and the desire by some in the party to move on from Trump. Still, the 57-to-43 vote, in which all Democrats and two independents voted against the president, fell far short of the two-thirds required to convict.

What I Think of Bitcoin

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Ray Dalio channels my thoughts on bitcoin:

As an extension of Bitcoin¹ being digital are the questions of how private it is and what the government will allow and not allow it to be. Regarding privacy, it appears that Bitcoin will unlikely be as private as some people surmise. It is, after all, a public ledger and a material amount of Bitcoin is held in a non-private manner. If the government (and perhaps hackers) want to see who has what, I doubt that privacy could be protected. Also, it appears to me that if the government wanted to get rid of its use, most of those who are using it wouldn’t be able to use it so the demand for it would plunge. Rather than it being far-fetched that the government would invade the privacy and/or prevent the use of Bitcoin (and its competitors) it seems to me that the more successful it is the more likely these possibilities would be. Starting with the formation of the first central bank (the Bank of England in 1694), for good logical reasons governments wanted control over money and they protected their abilities to have the only monies and credit within their borders. When I a) put myself in the shoes of government officials, b) see their actions, and c) hear what they say, it is hard for me to imagine that they would allow Bitcoin (or gold) to be an obviously better choice than the money and credit that they are producing. I suspect that Bitcoin’s biggest risk is being successful, because if it’s successful, the government will try to kill it and they have a lot of power to succeed.

The House That Tim Cook Built

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John Sculley was the Pepsi guy.
Gil Amelio was the leaking ship.
Steve Jobs was the visionary.
Tim Cook is the builder.

Apple’s turnaround in the ensuing years has generally been attributed to Jobs’s product genius, beginning with the candy-colored iMacs that turned once-beige appliances into objets d’office. But equally important in Apple’s transformation into the economic and cultural force it is today was Cook’s ability to manufacture those computers, and the iPods, iPhones, and iPads that followed, in massive quantities. For that he adopted strategies similar to those used by HP, Compaq, and Dell, companies that were derided by Jobs but had helped usher in an era of outsourced manufacturing and made-to-order products.

Catching the Virus From Surfaces?

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Derek Thompson, in The Atlantic:

Six months ago, I wrote that Americans had embraced a backwards view of the coronavirus. Too many people imagined the fight against COVID-19 as a land war to be waged with sudsy hand-to-hand combat against grimy surfaces. Meanwhile, the science suggested we should be focused on an aerial strategy. The virus spreads most efficiently through the air via the spittle spray that we emit when we exhale — especially when we cough, talk loudly, sing, or exercise. I called this conceptual error, and the bonanza of pointless power-scrubbing that it had inspired, “hygiene theater.”

My chief inspiration was an essay in the medical journal The Lancet called “Exaggerated Risk of Transmission of COVID-19 by Fomites.” (Fomites is a medical term for objects and surfaces that can pass along an infectious pathogen.) Its author was Emanuel Goldman, a microbiology professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. At the time, Goldman was a lonely voice in the wilderness. Lysol wipes were flying off the shelves, and it was controversial to suggest that this behavior was anything less than saintly and salutary. Other journals had rejected Goldman’s short essay, and some were still publishing frightening research about the possible danger of our groceries and Amazon packages.

But half a year later, Goldman looks oracular. Since last spring, the CDC has expanded its guidance to clarify that the coronavirus “spreads less commonly through contact with contaminated surfaces.” In the past month, the leading scientific journal Nature published both a long analysis and a sharp editorial reiterating Goldman’s thesis. “A year into the pandemic, the evidence is now clear,” the editorial begins. “Catching the virus from surfaces — although plausible — seems to be rare.”

Folded Map Project

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Tonika Johnson’s Folded Map Project explores the differences and similarities across this boundary by comparing an addresses on the North Side with the corresponding addresses on the South Side of Chicago.

In an interview by Paulette Beete for Colossal:

The ultimate point that I was trying to get across was that Chicago’s history of segregation is still with all of us today. I wanted to prove this point for people who might not make that connection [between] the disparity that exists and the history behind it. I wanted the project to be an entree into expanding people’s minds of Chicago’s history of segregation through thinking about their own lived experience. I really appreciated being able to do that through art, through photos and portraits and video because I wasn’t blaming people who live on these different sides. I was offering them insight into the larger question of, “did you really choose this? Does our segregation reflect how we want to interact? And if it doesn’t, then you have to question why is it this way?”

There is this narrative that people think [Chicagoans] don’t interact. But we do, a lot, especially through art. That’s how we know the city is segregated. (laughing) We know that we’re disrupting this segregation when we come together. And that’s why I think art is such a beautiful common denominator.

This project is a reminder of the economic inequality and the effects of America’s historical segregation policies far reaching effects. Which are still on display, for anyone who cares to notice.

Apple and Hyundai-Kia

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Phil LeBeau and Meghan Reeder over at CNBC:

After years of speculation that it will eventually get into the auto business with its own vehicle, Apple is close to finalizing a deal with Hyundai-Kia to manufacture an Apple-branded autonomous electric vehicle at the Kia assembly plant in West Point, Georgia according to multiple sources who briefed CNBC on the plan.

The so-called “Apple Car,” which is being developed by a team at Apple, is tentatively scheduled to go into production in 2024, though people familiar with the talks between Apple and Hyundai-Kia say the eventual rollout could be pushed back.

[…]

Sources familiar with Apple’s interest in working with Hyundai say the tech giant wants to build the “Apple Car” in North America with an established automaker willing to allow Apple to control the software and hardware that will go into the vehicle.

In other words, this will be an “Apple Car,” not a Kia model featuring Apple software.

Prince - Super Bowl XLI

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The best Super Bowl halftime performance is Prince’s performance during Super Bowl XLI in 2007. Anil Dash’s excellent write-up:

Prince’s halftime show wasn’t just a fun diversion from a football game; it was a deeply personal statement on race, agency & artistry from an artist determined to cement his long-term legacy. And he did it on his own terms, as always.

Opening with the stomp-stomp-clap of Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, Prince went for crowd participation right from the start, with a nod to one of the biggest stadium anthems of all time — and notably, is one of the songs in the set that he never performed any time before or after. Indeed, though his 1992 song “3 Chains O’ Gold” was clearly a pastiche of the then-rejuvenated “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Prince had rarely, if ever, played any Queen covers at all in his thousands of live shows.

But with that arena-rock staple, Prince was signaling that he was going to win over a football crowd. He launched straight into “Let’s Go Crazy” at the top of the set. As one of the best album- and concert-opening songs of all time, this was a perfect choice. Different from any other Super Bowl performer before or since, Prince actually does a call-and-response section in the song, emphasizing that this is live, and connecting him explicitly to a timeless Black music tradition.

Watch the full show here.

The Slabs

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Danny MacAskill visits the Isle of Skye with his mountain bike to find an impossibly steep route down the Dubh Slabs.

That was pretty scary.

I’ll say.

Hello, Douchebags!

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Though the latest episode of “Real Time” was the first of the Joe Biden era, Bill Maher used his “New Rules” segment to talk not about the newly minted administration, but instead about Republicans.


On Josh Hawley:

Oh, he’s an up-and-comer. Washington insider says he’s among 2021’s most punchable faces. Handsome, youthful and vigorous, he’s the far-right JFK with a little dash of KKK. And as the son of a wealthy banker and a graduate of Stanford, Yale and a private prep school, Josh knows what he hates most in this world: elites. Loathsome and transparently ambitious, Josh was the first editor to formally choose Trump’s baseless election fraud conspiracy over his pledge to uphold the Constitution. But before you say he’s anti-democratic, Josh wants you to know that he’s just asking questions. Questions like, ‘Why does the winner of an election always have to be the guy who gets the most votes?'

On Colorado congresswoman Lauren Boebert:

Not to be outdone in the area of hating government from the inside, freshmen Colorado rep and high school dropout Lauren Boebert is some of you may have already thought of — if you ever thought — ‘What would happen if Michelle Bachman smoked bath salts?’ This sassy gal was taking her hoops out to fight the libtards and she, and she wants everyone to know she has exactly one issue: guns. Spoiler alert, she likes them. She is from a town named Rifle and owns a restaurant called Shooters, where the waitstaff, no kidding, are encouraged to carry loaded weapons on the job. My suggestion if you eat there, make sure you tip at least 20%! I ate there once, I asked the waiter ‘How fresh is the fish?’ He said ‘I don’t know, you feel lucky, punk?'

Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Green, a QAnon supporter:

The true mayor of crazy town, and everyone’s favorite Karen. The congresswoman who makes most people say, ‘How is she not a teacher from Florida who f—s her students?’ I don’t know, but holy s— is this lady crazy? She does not listen to lobbyists and special interests. No, she listens to microwaves. I’m talking dogs. She is an all-in QAnon believer who thinks science and reason are a conspiracy to trick people into thinking. Reagan saw a shining city on a hill, this chick sees spiders on her arms. Move over AOC, say hello to WTF.

Yea - the newest members of the Republican Class of 2021. Sit tight, its going to be a long 4 years.

Intel Should Be Worried

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Tom Warren reporting in The Verge:

"We have to deliver better products to the PC ecosystem than any possible thing that a lifestyle company in Cupertino” makes, Gelsinger reportedly told Intel employees. “We have to be that good, in the future."

The Apple M1 chip is out. It has proven to be faster than Intel’s best - both in performance and power consumption. To make matters worse, Apple has already transitioned its OS and vendors are quickly porting their Intel based software over to the new architecture.

Traditionally, Intel would have some time to play catchup as the software needs to be upgraded to the new silicon. Thanks to Apple’s Rosetta technology, Intel native apps run without modification on Apple silicon - with little or no performance hit. Lets not forget, this is Apple fourth transition (68K -> PowerPC -> Intel -> Apple Silicon). They have successfully done it three times before, and the fourth is already proving to be no different.

Intel’s new CEO Pat Gelsinger seems awfully arrogant calling Apple a “life style company.” The introduction of Apples ARM silicon in their computer line is as industry shaking as the release of the iPhone. Just ask how things turned out for Nokia, RIM, Microsoft and Palm.

Intel shouldn’t be making wise cracks. They should be scared to death. Pat Gelsinger should be paranoid.

Don’t be this guy:

New Administration, New Website.

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Change is everywhere. Even the new The White House website is more inclusive, focused and hopeful.

As the great American poet Bob Dylan once said - The Times They Are A-Changin'. This time for the better.

Wake Up Call for Republicans

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Matthew Cook in a plea for Republicans and Trump supporters to wake-up.


This is a wake-up call for Republicans. America elected Joe Biden by over 7 million votes, and you’re confused because you didn’t see us flock to his rallies and cheer his smackdowns like we were at a pro wrestling event during a global pandemic. We don’t wear matching hats or have “no more malarkey” flags waving from the backs of our trucks. Do you know why? Because Biden is not our tribal warlord. We believe the job of a U.S. President is to represent more than one interest group. That’s why 81 million of us turned out to stop a narcissistic personality cult that embodies all seven of the deadly sins — most of all pride, which you’ve taken to levels of blasphemy, claiming your political leaders are handpicked by Jesus Christ.

This country is called the United States and we have multiple converging crises that need adult supervision but we are being distracted trying to get control over a critical mass of you who no longer believe in reality.

This took a psychotic narcissistic President, with what is essentially a state run media outlet in Fox, two of the largest tech companies (Facebook & Twitter) in a perfect storm with Republican leaders such as Ted Cruz & Josh Hawley 4 years to spread lies and disinformation that eventually led to an insurrection by American citizens. I fear it’s going to take a lot more time to bring the Party of Lincoln back to its roots.

That is if the party survives at all.