My grandson on one of my favourite beaches.
Quote of the Day
The worse the villain, the better the film”
- Alfred Hitchcock
Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news
J.S. Bach | Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring | in the arrangement by Myra Hess | P. Barton
I once heard Leo Kottke play this at the Cambridge Folk Festival and the guy sitting next to me started to whistle the counterpoint — perfectly. It was one of those perfect moments.
Long Read of the Day
What Critics Don’t Understand About NFTs
A brave attempt by Jonathan Zittrain and Will Marks to explain the inexplicable — in this case the unfathomable lure of “non-fungible tokens”or NFTs. Their argument is that the complexity and arbitrariness of non-fungible tokens are a big part of their appeal. Go figure.
Footnote:If you’re the kind of reader who likes technical detail, the Blockchain company Ethereum even has a technical standard for NFTs.
The Brazilian variant and its implications
Worrying Twitter thread. The current obsession with the AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK is absurd compared with the catastrophe currently unfolding in Brazil. But nobody seems to be paying attention. Big mistake. It’ll be here eventually. The truth about this virus is that if a variant turns up anywhere, it will eventually be everywhere. And this variant seems particularly lethal.
After Working at Google, I’ll Never Let Myself Love a Job Again
I used to be a Google engineer. That often feels like the defining fact about my life. When I joined the company after college in 2015, it was at the start of a multiyear reign atop Forbes’s list of best workplaces.
I bought into the Google dream completely. In high school, I spent time homeless and in foster care, and was often ostracized for being nerdy. I longed for the prestige of a blue-chip job, the security it would bring and a collegial environment where I would work alongside people as driven as I was.
What I found was a surrogate family. During the week, I ate all my meals at the office. I went to the Google doctor and the Google gym. My colleagues and I piled into Airbnbs on business trips, played volleyball in Maui after a big product launch and even spent weekends together, once paying $170 and driving hours to run an obstacle course in the freezing rain.
My manager felt like the father I wished I’d had. He believed in my potential and cared about my feelings. All I wanted was to keep getting promoted so that as his star rose, we could keep working together. This gave purpose to every task, no matter how grueling or tedious.
You can guess what happened. In a way she reminds me of the heroine in Dave Eggars’s The Circle. All large companies (and indeed most large organisations) are intrinsically sociopathic. When will that penny drop?
Cycling is ten times more important than electric cars for reaching net-zero in cities
Good piece by Christian Brand.
Globally, only one in 50 new cars were fully electric in 2020, and one in 14 in the UK. Sounds impressive, but even if all new cars were electric now, it would still take 15-20 years to replace the world’s fossil fuel car fleet.
The emission savings from replacing all those internal combustion engines with zero-carbon alternatives will not feed in fast enough to make the necessary difference in the time we can spare: the next five years. Tackling the climate and air pollution crises requires curbing all motorised transport, particularly private cars, as quickly as possible. Focusing solely on electric vehicles is slowing down the race to zero emissions.
This is partly because electric cars aren’t truly zero-carbon – mining the raw materials for their batteries, manufacturing them and generating the electricity they run on produces emissions. Yep. And even when one ignores the emissions involved in manufacturing EVs, they’re only green if the electricity that charges them comes from renewables. There’s no such thing as a free lunch in this area.
Homeless in the Shadow of Apple’s $5 Billion HQ
Superb piece by Brian J Barth on OneZero about the astonishing inequalities in the epicentre of the tech industry.
At the corner of East Homestead and North Wolfe Road in Cupertino, California, stands a large oak tree planted by one of the most successful companies in history — Apple. The tree is a landmark at the entrance to Apple Park, the company’s $5 billion spaceship-of-a-campus, which surrounds a circular headquarters set in an entire city block, not unlike the home button in the rectangle of an early-model iPhone. At least three or four stories tall, the oak is one of the larger specimens among the 9,000 trees planted in this 175-acre Garden of Eden. There are 37 varieties of fruit: plums, apricots, persimmons, cherries, and of course, apples.
Outsiders are not allowed in the 2.8 million-square-foot steel building at the center of campus, which is protected by a tight wall of vertical beams reminiscent of the barrier at the U.S.-Mexico border. Inside, the office furniture, according to an employee who leaked photos on Instagram, includes “custom-made high-grade leather seats from Louis Vuitton.”
If you walked south down Wolfe Road in early 2020, past the hummocky meadows of sedge, penstemon, and yarrow — the “ecologically rich oak savanna” that Steve Jobs envisioned for Apple Park — you would see another side of Silicon Valley. Just half a block from Apple’s campus, tents and tarp homes lined the sidewalk in front of The Hamptons apartment complex. A half-block further, more tarp structures peeked from the bushes along the I-280 off-ramp. These scattered abodes were the satellites of the main Wolfe Camp, which sits another block south, in front of a Hyatt hotel.
Many years ago I had a conversation with Manuel Castells, the great scholar of Cyberspace. We were talking about Silicon Valley and he suddenly asked me if I knew about the astonishing levels of inequality in San Jose, right in the heart of Silicon Valley. Shamefully, I hadn’t — until that moment. This piece beautifully illustrates that sordid reality.
Tim Hunkin on connectors
Another one of his lovely videos. Everything you didn’t know you wanted to know about connectors. It’s 45 minutes long, so make some coffee first.
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